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Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Oil review

Is Drunk Elephant’s Virgin Marula the Perfect Facial Oil for All Skin Types?

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Between my love of a facial oil (so dewy!) and my addiction to Drunk Elephant, it was really only a matter of time before I tested out what it possibly the line’s most famous product; their Virgin Marula Oil.

According to Healthline, “Once considered sacred, the marula tree was linked to fertility and happy marriage in ancient times. The fermented fruit of the marula tree was also thought to intoxicate elephants, who seem to adore its delicious taste as much as people do.”

“Because marula oil is lightweight, it absorbs easily. This makes it an effective moisturizer for dry or aging skin. It may be beneficial for smoothing and softening fine lines, preventing stretch marks, and keeping skin hydrated and well-nourished,” it adds.

But given that there are plenty of more affordable versions of marula oil available, how does Drunk Elephant’s product stand up?

Read on to find out.


Is Drunk Elephant's Virgin Marula the Perfect Facial Oil for All Skin Types?

Image – Drunk Elephant



This is new, up-to-date information. We updated this article in April 2024 to add our further thoughts on the oil, complete with updated prices.


What is Virgin Marula Oil?

Containing just one ingredient – Sclerocarya Birrea seed oil (or Marula oil as it’s most commonly known) – this oil is high in antioxidants (to protect skin against free radical damage), as well as amino acids and essential fatty acids (omegas 3, 6 and 9 to help repair and protect the skin’s moisture barrier).

As an added bonus, Marula oil also packs in anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, which help protect against breakouts and makes this a great oil for almost all skin types (yes, even oily ones – although acne types might still find this a little rich).

Healthline backs this up, saying “Marula oil makes a good moisturizer for oily skin and treating acne because it’s non-greasy. It also has antimicrobial properties and may be effective against the bacteria that contribute to the formation of pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads.”


Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Oil review

Among Drunk Elephant’s (now pretty large) range of products, this oil stands out as something of a flagship – since it’s the myth that elephants get sozzled after eating fruit from the Marula tree that gives the company its name.

Offered here in its purest, cold-pressed form, Drunk Elephant claims the omega 9 here (oleic acid) is what makes this one of the most effective face oils for *all* skin types because it absorbs easily.

They say: “Of the unsaturated fatty acids, research demonstrates oleic acid is the most effective penetration enhancer, allowing other ingredients to better penetrate by making the lipid surface of skin more permeable and the active ingredient more soluble.

“This is also why DE’s Marula Oil absorbs quickly – the high content of oleic acid won’t “sit” on skin’s surface.”


Is Drunk Elephant's Virgin Marula the Perfect Facial Oil for All Skin Types?

Image – Drunk Elephant


The company also claims that the polyphenols (antioxidants) here are in huge concentrations. Drunk Elephant says: “In independent testing, we found that DE’s Virgin Marula Oil contains greater levels of polyphenols than green or black teas, dark chocolate, or blackberries.”

On my own skin, the result of all that goodness is the sort of yoga glow my dreams are made of- especially when mixed with a pump of D-Bronzi Anti-Pollution Sunshine Drops, the brand’s tinted antioxidant serum.

Over time, my skin also feels generally more nourished and soothed (particularly useful for any sensitive skin moments like the change of seasons).

This means it’s particularly brilliant for helping to restore the skin’s barrier after overdoing it with retinol or acids.


How to use Drunk Elephant’s Virgin Marula Oil?

According to Drunk Elephant, 2 to 3 drops of this is enough to smooth the face, neck and pretty much anywhere else (and that’s how I tend to use this myself).

Of course part of the beauty of face oils is quite how versatile they are; helping with everything from standing in for regular moisturiser to glossing cuticles with just a few drops.


So here are some of our favourite ways to use Drunk Elephant’s Virgin Marula Oil.

  • As an overnight treatment over regular moisturisers/serums/eye creams to really lock in moisture (particularly useful for very sensitive skin or during the change of seasons)
  • Mixed with foundation/liquid highlighter/liquid bronzer for a really dewy no-makeup-makeup look (just make sure the makeup you mix it with isn’t too water-based as the two won’t get on well together).
  • On its own when skin has been battered by too many retinols or acids (the soothing antioxidants and essential fatty acids here help to repair the skin’s natural barrier).
  • In place of an eye cream (Drunk Elephant recommends 1 to 2 drops if you’re doing this but I think half a drop is enough) for a really moisturising, fine-line plumping effect.
  • Mixed with body lotion or combed through the lengths and ends of hair to add shine and moisturise


Is Drunk Elephant's Virgin Marula the Perfect Facial Oil for All Skin Types?

Image – Drunk Elephant


The alternatives

While Drunk Elephant’s Virgin Marula Oil is genuinely a lovely product, it is also (sadly) a pretty pricey one. The company says that this is because their own extraction process yields the purest, highest quality results – and is consequently also the most expensive.

That may make for a particularly high concentration of omega oils and antioxidants, but you may want to simply benefit from the general moisturising properties here without worrying too much about the exact quantities of the nutrients… So are there any cheaper dupes out there?

Well handily, there are. And possibly the most famous one is The Ordinary’s 100% Cold Pressed Virgin Marula Oil, a really quite reasonably priced alternative (at £10.80 for 30 ml) that offers exactly the same ingredient as Drunk Elephant’s option and still in a high quality, cold-pressed form.

Slightly thinner in texture than Drunk Elephant’s, this oil is almost an exact dupe (although I do find Drunk Elephant’s option has a slightly smoother finish, possibly down to the filtration system used).

There are also several pure, cold-pressed Marula oil alternatives from lesser-known brands via Amazon (just make sure to double-check the ingredients and reviews before buying to get the highest-quality product for your money).


The takeaway

Particularly well-suited to anyone who wants to add a highly moisturising step to their winter routine, this will also work well for those faced with pollution or UV on a regular basis who want a little extra antioxidant protection.

But while I do love this Drunk Elephant product, there certainly are cheaper alternatives out there which still offer a quality oil – like The Ordinary’s 100% Cold Pressed Virgin Marula Oil.

Great for: Moisturising, soothing, and getting skin glowing.

Not-so-great for: The wallet, since this is pretty expensive. Also, acne skin types may find this a little too rich.

Drunk Elephant’s Virgin Marula oil is from £36.00 for 15 ml, Cult Beauty UK and from $38 for 0.5 oz/ 15 ml, Sephora US



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Sally Underwood is a journalist, *serious* beauty fan, and Editor-in-Chief of Live That Glow. Formerly Editorial Director of one of Europe's largest newspaper groups, Sally has been a beauty obsessive since her teen years spent dragging her long-suffering (but immaculately-groomed) friends around every beauty counter in London. She now leads Live That Glow's editorial operations.

Expertise: Skincare, Body care
Education: University College London

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