Dry, Acne-Prone Skin? Marula Oil Is the Soothing Ingredient You Need

Quick—when you think of oily skin, what comes to mind? For many people, grease-prone skin is synonymous with unwanted breakouts. Excess sebum in the skin can certainly lead to acne, but that’s not the only factor contributing to the formation of breakouts, meaning those with dry skin aren’t exempt from developing the skin condition. In fact, many acne treatments are incredibly drying, making treating pimples a tough feat if your skin is already parched. Enter marula oil, an ultra-moisturizing, inflammation-reducing skincare ingredient that experts say is a solid choice for treating angry breakouts—especially if you have dry skin. “The anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and moisturizing properties of marula oil can help to calm dry, acne-prone skin,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose. Below, W tapped the experts to learn all about the ingredient, including how to incorporate it into your skincare routine.

What is marula oil?

Marula oil is derived from the kernels, seeds, or fruit of the marula tree, which is native to southern Africa. The oil has a rich antioxidant profile and is loaded with proteins, vitamins, and fatty acids that can help soften the skin and reduce dryness. It’s also great for those experiencing inflammation, and because of its hydrating properties, it is a superstar ingredient specifically for dry, acne-prone skin types. “While it’s more common for oily skin to be acne-prone compared to dry skin, both oily and dry skin can certainly develop acne,” Murphy-Rose says. “Acne is caused by a combination of bacteria, clogged pores, inflammation and/or hormonal triggers, and while oily skin is more prone to clogged pores, any combination of the aforementioned causes can lead to acne.”

What are the benefits of marula oil?

As an anti-inflammatory ingredient, marula oil can help diminish redness, itchiness, and pain associated with inflammation. “Inflammation is a natural part of your body’s healing process— swelling, redness, and tenderness are signs that your body is functioning properly,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Geeta Yadav. That being said, it can be damaging if your skin is experiencing chronic inflammation, as this can lead to accelerated signs of aging as well as dullness and dryness. Marula oil is high in oleic acid, an omega-9 fatty acid that has been shown to improve inflammation and accelerate wound healing. It also contains the antioxidants vitamin E, C, and flavonoids—these help to protect the skin from free radical damage, which can lead to premature aging and worsen inflammation, says Murphy-Rose.

But what sets marula oil apart from other acne-friendly ingredients is the fact that it’s highly moisturizing. Acne treatments, in general, can be drying and even irritating for those with dry skin, which can exacerbate breakouts. As Murphy-Rose explains, when it comes to the treatment and prevention of acne, the goal is to clear the pores of acne-promoting oils while also making sure the skin is properly moisturized. Marula oil has a lower comedogenicity profile (meaning it won’t clog pores), plus helps lock in moisture to prevent transepidermal water loss.

How to use marula oil

Depending on the type of product you’re using, usage for marula oil will vary. It’s always best to follow the specific product’s instructions, but only generally speaking, Yadav recommends always applying skincare products in order from lightest in weight to heaviest. So if you’re using a marula oil serum, apply it after cleansing and toning and before applying a dense cream—if you’re using 100 percent marula oil, apply it after moisturizing. Also, when applying a face oil, Yadav says to press it into the skin rather than rubbing. “Not only can rubbing be harsh on the skin, but using a pressing motion will help a face oil absorb nicely, without disrupting any prior layers of skincare products,” she says.

In terms of other ingredients that play well with marula oil, Murphy-Rose lists hyaluronic acid (to draw water) and ceramides (to further aid in minimizing irritation) as good options. If you have oily skin and are looking for an acne-busting equivalent, Yadav praises squalane. “What makes squalane so ideal for those with oily skin is its texture— it’s very similar in consistency to your skin’s natural oils, to the point where your skin ‘recognizes’ it and begins to balance its own oil production,” she says. “Squalane also offers hydrating, antibacterial, and antioxidant benefits.”

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