You might be thinking “not another natural oil!”, and you may have a point. It seems a number of fruits, seeds and their oils have burst into the media as of late, with claims that they help to improve skin texture and reduce wrinkles. It’s easy to be sceptical, but while fads come and go, nature does has a way of providing us with a number of useful resources that care for our skin and overall health. And because of this, marula oil may well be worth a try.
Marula oil is sourced from the hand-picked fruit of the Marula tree, indigenous to Southern Africa and Madagascar. You may be forgiven for confusing it with Baobab, the fruit of the Baobab tree which is known in Africa as the “Tree of Life” for its ability to survive in harsh, dry climates and provide a number of health benefits to those who eat it.
Unlike baobab, however, marula fruit isn’t powdered, but has its kernels pressed for oil and bottled. Natural oils such as olive and coconut are well known for their overall health benefits, especially in skincare, and marula oil is no different. In fact, with its high concentrations of a number of beneficial vitamins and minerals, it may even outperform similar oils.
What’s in marula oil that’s so good for us?
Marula oil, like plenty of other healthy natural oils and fruits, is packed with vitamins and minerals which deliver their benefits to the body. Marula contains:
Vitamin C- 4 times that of an orange, vitamin C is a crucial vitamin for maintaining healthy skin and reducing the appearance of ageing and wrinkles. Vitamin C helps in collagen production which improves the elasticity of skin.
Antioxidants- Marula oil is full of high levels of anti oxidants such as vitamin E. These help to maintain a fresher, younger appearance by neutralizing free radicals which damage skin cells and can cause premature ageing.
Fatty acids Omega 6 and Omega 9- while marula oil is packed with the vitamins and anti oxidants of a healthy fruit, it also delivers the nourishing properties of an oil through its concentration of fatty acids Omega 6 and Omega 9. These allow the oil to hydrate deeply into the skin, leaving it feeling smooth and comfortable. Fatty acids have anti inflammatory properties, helping to leave the skin free of redness or irritation, making it ideal for use on sensitive, dry, sunburned skin or even scars or stretchmarks.
How is marula oil used in cosmetics?
The light texture of marula oil makes it incredibly versatile when used in cosmetics, and there are plenty of ways to benefit from this nutrient-rich, natural product. Probably the best way to deliver the benefits of marula oil directly to the skin is to use pure marula oil, which can be bought in small pump bottles and used every day as a moisturiser. For more specific uses, African Botanics create a number of skin products for a variety of skin needs, all of which make use of the healing effects of marula oil. These include aftersuns, eye serums, exfoliators and fading creams for scars and stretch marks.
Leading high street cosmetics retailer The Body Shop have always been known for their strong ethics and environmental awareness. They make use of marula oil, both in skin care products in order to make use of its ability to intensely nourish the skin, and as a base ingredient for some of their make up, such as their moisture foundation, bronzers and eye shadows. In a world where palm oil is still the oil of choice for food and cosmetics producers alike in order to save money, choosing a sustainable and eco friendly alternative is a step in the right direction towards preserving the rainforests which are being exploited for palm oil cultivation.
Benefits for communities
Much like baobab, marula has become a sustainable form of income for those living in southern Africa. It is frequently sourced through Fair Trade programmes which ensure a good wage for the women who pick and produce the oil, allowing them to sustain themselves and their families.
The marula tree has allowed many previously unemployed people in Africa to empower themselves by becoming a part of the marula trade. One of these groups is the Edufano Women’s Co-operative, a group of women in Namibia who pick marula, process the oil and now supply some of the largest cosmetics companies in the western world.
Leading cosmetics companies The Body Shop and African Botanics both support the marula trade, and as well as safeguarding a decent wage for African workers, also work to ensure that the environment and the trees themselves are protected, to allow the trees to remain a part of the community and be cultivated by the locals, rather than have to introduce intensive cultivation which could see an end to the community benefits that this tree currently has to offer.
Image sourced: Rotational