Marula Oil for Hair: Benefits and How to Use It

marula oil for hair

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These days, it seems brand-new ingredients pop up by the minute—all promising to give you shinier hair, softer ends, and a healthier scalp. Remember when beauty lovers everywhere could be found running to their local Trader Joe’s to stock up on coconut oil by the boatload? Then came argan oil, and everywhere you turned, there was another product infused with the buzzy ingredient. But no matter how many new discoveries hit the beauty industry, we can’t not look into an ingredient that promises softer, longer, stronger hair.

One of the latest ingredients to land on our radar is marula oil. With the rise of its popularity, chances are you’ve already run into some marula-infused products on your last trip to Sephora. But how much do you really know about the trendy ingredient? Allow us—and experts Gretchen Friese, Lindsey Gess, and Cybele Fishman—to give you a crash course.

Meet the Expert

  • Gretchen Friese is a BosleyMD-certified trichologist, an Element 5 stylist, and the salon director at Foushee SalonSpa in Denver, Colorado.
  • Lindsey Gess is the customer care manager for hair and skincare brand InstaNatural.
  • Cybele Fishman, M.D., is a board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology, P.C.

Read on for the full lowdown on what marula oil is and why it’s good for your hair.

What Is Marula Oil?

Marula oil is an oil extracted both from the kernels and the nuts of the marula fruit tree, which is native to parts of southern Africa.

Marula Oil

  • Type of ingredient: Moisturizer
  • Main benefits: Strengthens hair, enhances shine, and fights frizz
  • Who should use it: Those with dry, damaged hair and/or an irritated scalp
  • How often can you use it: Daily, or as often as needed
  • Works well with: Other essential oils
  • Don’t use with: There are no known ingredients that negatively interfere with marula oil.

Benefits of Marula Oil for Hair

Alison Czinkota/Byrdie
  • Lightweight texture: While applying oil to your hair may seem counterintuitive (dry shampoo doesn’t grow on trees, you know), marula oil’s lightweight texture and fast absorption mean it leaves a satin finish on your strands without making them look greasy or weighing down your style. "Marula oil is lightweight and absorbs easily, so it’s great for dry hair and adds shine," adds Friese.
  • Rich in antioxidants: "Marula oil is rich in vitamins C and E, protective antioxidants that nourish and add moisture to the hair follicles," says Gess. "This helps repair damaged hair and prevents split ends."
  • Smooths frizz: A few drops seal and coat your hair cuticle, eliminating frizz and adding tons of shine. It can also help promote a healthy scalp. Fishman says, "It has a lot of fatty acids, which lock in moisture in the hair shaft."
  • Balances your hair’s natural oils: "Marula oil will help balance your hair’s natural oils and both hydrate and protect the scalp against free radicals," Gess explains.
  • Protects hair from damage: Marula oil is a great ingredient for damaged hair. "It also protects the hair from moisture loss," says Friese.
  • Promotes hair growth: "It is high in L-arginine, which is the precursor for nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator. Vasodilation of the blood vessels that feed the hair may promote hair growth. This is one of the ways Minoxidil (the main ingredient in Rogaine) is thought to work, by increasing blood supply to hair follicles," explains Fishman.

Hair Type Considerations

As far as hair texture goes, Gess says those with dry, brittle, or damaged hair or those struggling with an irritable scalp will benefit the most from marula oil. Your hair texture can also play a role in the best way to apply the oil. "Those with thick, coarse hair may prefer to incorporate a shampoo and conditioner that contains marula oil into their routine, whereas those with fine and brittle hair may choose to apply the oil directly onto hair," Gess explains. Friese adds, "Marula oil works great on dry, frizzy, and curly hair types, but it can be used on all types of hair."

How to Use Marula Oil for Hair

Marula oil is used in a variety of ways. Since the ingredient has recently gone mainstream, there is a slew of beauty buys that help you incorporate marula oil into every aspect of your hair routine. Or if you’re a crafty DIYer, you can add it to your current hair care products or whip up something new entirely. And, of course, you can also use it by itself.

  • Use it on its own: Marula oil can be rubbed onto your hair to treat dry, parched strands and prevent split ends. Friese says, "If hair is dry or frizzy, apply either while hair is damp, and if more is needed, add to dry hair. For fine hair, it’s usually best to add a few drops when hair is wet. With thicker or curly hair, you may want to apply to wet hair and then add more when dry to increase smoothness and shine."
  • Massage into the scalp: Additionally, you can massage it into the scalp (remember, it absorbs quickly and doesn’t clog pores) to promote healthy hair. "If you’re applying it as a scalp treatment or an allover treatment, you can rinse with shampoo and conditioner after about 10 to 15 minutes," says Gess.
  • Use before heat styling: You can also apply it from roots to ends before heat styling or use it to tame frizz in high humidity. "If you want to leave the oil on the ends of hair, you will want to apply it to washed, damp hair," says Gess.
  • Add to your existing products: You can put a few drops of marula oil in your current shampoo, conditioner, and styling products. It’s especially helpful for those who want to continue using their current products but reap the soothing and nourishing benefits of marula oil.

The Best Products With Marula Oil

InstaNatural Marula Oil
InstaNatural Organic Marula Oil $11.00

This pure marula oil is certified organic and can be applied starting at the ends of the hair working toward the scalp for a leave-in treatment that will leave hair vibrant and moisturized. To make the most of this versatile beauty ingredient, apply a few hydrating drops to revive a dull, dry complexion.

Paul Mitchell Marula Oil Rare Oil Treatment Light
Paul Mitchell Marula Oil Rare Oil Treatment Light $43.00

This leave-in oil is one of Friese’s recommendations for all hair types. It doubles as a styling and conditioning treatment while reducing frizz, taming flyaways, and adding shine. And don’t worry about weighing down your hair—this lightweight formula is even suitable for thin hair types.

Paul Mitchell Marula Oil Rare Oil Replenishing Shampoo
Paul Mitchell Marula Oil Rare Oil Replenishing Shampoo $20.00

This oil shampoo washes away dirt, sweat, and product buildup without stripping your hair of all its moisture. And if that's not enough, it leaves a yummy, fruity, floral scent on your freshly washed hair. For strands that are seriously dry and damaged, follow up with a nourishing conditioner.

OGX Hydrate + Marula Oil Serum Elixir
OGX Hydrate + Marula Oil Serum Elixir $9.00

A few drops of this potent marula oil serum on damp hair will eliminate all traces of frizz on heat-styled or air-dried hair. Plus, with continued use, your strands will feel softer, smoother, and healthier over time.

Managé Marula Oil Hydrating Mist
L’Ange Managé Marula Oil Hydrating Mist $24.00

You keep a face mist at your desk (and if you don’t, we suggest you do!), so why not keep a hair mist on deck as well? This on-the-go mist hydrates, revives, and nourishes dry, damaged hair whenever you need it. It even comes with a built-in UV protectant to shield your precious locks from harmful rays.

Keranique Marula Oil Hair Treatment Mist
Keranique Marula Oil Hair Treatment Mist $35.00

This hair mist is designed with thin, fine hair in mind. The incredibly light spray gently coats your hair to give it both a soft shine and feel, without the heaviness of traditional creams and oils. Need we say more?

  • Are there any side effects to using marula oil?

    Generally speaking, marula oil is safe to use on all hair and skin types; however, if you experience an adverse reaction, see a doctor immediately.

  • Does marula oil make your hair curly?

    Marula oil doesn't actually make your hair curly, but its hydrating properties will work to combat frizz and define curls, improving their overall appearance.

  • Is marula oil good for natural hair?

    Marula oil is great for all hair types, but if your hair is kinky or coarse, it may be best to infuse it into a deep conditioner for better penetration.

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