Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Oil is a cold-pressed facial oil made from the kernels of the marula tree. It is light and moisturising and can be mixed with all of their other skincare products.
- What does Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil do?
- Official Product Description
- Tiffany’s Reasons for Creating
- What’s in a name
- Why is Drunk Elephant Marula Oil so expensive?
- Drunk Elephant vs. The Ordinary
- How do you use Drunk Elephant Marula Oil
- Drunk Elephant Marula Oil and retinol
- Drunk Elephant Marula Oil and acne
- Consumer Testing Results
- How long does Drunk Elephant Marula Oil last?
The Drunk Elephant Marula Oil was one of the original products that Tiffany launched. Marula oil is known for its emollient properties as it softens and smoothes the skin. It’s the key ingredient you can find in each of the Drunk Elephant products.
What does Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil do?
On the official Drunk Elephant websites, Marula oil is officially listed under their moisturisers. So Marula oil is a facial oil that can be used as a moisturiser or together with your moisturiser.
It will soften and smooth your skin and will temporarily give you nice glowy radiant skin. As the Drunk Elephant philosophy does not believe in skin types, the oil is suitable for sensitive skin as well as oily or acne-prone skin. As it’s a simple formula (only containing that one ingredient) I can see why it would be universal and not sensitizing to any skin type.
This is also confirmed in a 2013 blog post where Tiffany says: “It increases hydration and also acts as a carrier oil for the serums to get down deeper, right where I want them! Since it is so “small molecule”, it can easily penetrate our skin, unlike other facial oils on the market that will clog your pores.”
Official Product Description
On the official Drunk Elephant site, they explain in detail that their Marula Oil is unique due to its proprietary/patented extraction method. They don’t actually explain concisely what the oil is. So in summary, I would say their Marula oil is a highly absorbable cold-pressed oil with antioxidants that defend against pollution and environmental damage whilst intensely nourishing the skin.
In the original 2013 product description was a little more concise: “This wonder-working, luxury facial oil, high in critical antioxidants (tocopherol (vitamin E), tochotrienol [sic], phenolic compounds and flavinoids [sic]) and Omegas 6 and 9, hydrates, preserves and heals your skin, while restoring its youthful glow.”
The following statements are made regarding the product. It:
- restores a youthful glow
Drunk Elephant also states that you will see a “noticeable reduction in the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, redness and blotchiness, with a marked improvement in skin’s elastic feel.”
Originally the product description said, “This amazingly absorbent oil delivers clinically proven anti-ageing benefits and advanced protection against environmental stressors and free radicals.”
But this has since been adapted. Most likely because of the ‘clinically proven’ claim. I found one study that examined the anti-ageing properties of marula. However, it used the stems, leaves and fruits, not the kernels. Additionally, the oil was extracted using a Methanol solution which would mean this is not the same extraction method as the Drunk Elephant oil and could, therefore, have other properties.
Tiffany’s Reasons for Creating
In the introductory video on the Drunk Elephant Marula Oil Tiffany does not specify why she decided to ‘create’ and use marula oil in all of her products specifically. She does say that the oil has been used in Africa for centuries for it’s “restorative and nourishing benefits”.
In a 2013 blog post, Tiffany said” Marula oil got the ball rolling for me. You can find it in every product and it’s the inspiration behind the name “Drunk Elephant”. I didn’t choose it for trendy reasons, I chose it because I think it’s the best oil that I’ve ever used on my skin and I’ve used them all.”
Oils have indeed been part of the original concept since Tiffany starting working with labs. I found a Facebook note written by Tiffany which explains the benefits of marula oil:
Marula Oil: Heals, providing more advanced protection against environmental stressors &
free radicals, which can lead to wrinkles, fine lines & other signs of premature aging.
Leaves skin soft & supple with increased elasticity & firmness Suitable for all skin types.
- Omega-rich with exceptional moisturizing benefits
- Fast absorbing, light, non-greasy texture
- Provides long-lasting hydration
- Naturally healing to reduce inflammation and redness
- Leaves skin soft, supple and glowing
- Can lead to noticeable improvement in skin’s elasticity and firmness with consistent
- Anti-microbial properties make it appropriate for all skin types
But here’s the interesting part – this post was referring to an essential oil blend with marula oil.
Additionally, in a Facebook post from 16th of August 2012, Tiffany hosted a giveaway for a bottle of Marula Oil or the Essential Oil Blend. And on 8th of November 2012, she says “We have completed the Essential Oil Blend for the body.” Even a lengthy Facebook Notes (remember those?) was posted on Drunk Elephant African Marula Essential Oil Blend with Noni Fruit Extract.
This product was never seen again. In fact, essential oils were shortly after placed on the ‘suspicious six’ list!
My personal assumption is that either there was negative customer feedback regarding the product or that in researching more Tiffany found that essential oils can be very irritating to the skin. Whilst perhaps the body would be more tolerant towards the essential oils if she was to have a ‘clean clinical’ line, essential oils would need to be excluded.
I did email Drunk Elephant to ask about the essential oil blend but first they denied having an essential oil blend. After I sent a screenshot, they said they could not help. Which I think is a shame. It would have, in my opinion, been a much stronger response if they had clarified that indeed it was an initial product concept but it was abandoned.
What’s in a name
The name Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil is pretty straightforward to examine. There is no trademark for ‘Virgin Marula’ even though back in 2013 the product was marketed with the symbol ™. It seems that another brand protested this trademark, and the attorneys did not follow up which is why the trademark is currently abandoned.
The name is straightforward and explains what it is – a facial oil. Facial oil is an oil that is in most cases non-comedogenic and can, therefore, be safely used on the face without fear of blocking the pores. This as opposed to for example coconut oil, which often is used as a cleanser but rarely as a moisturiser.
Why is Drunk Elephant Marula Oil so expensive?
There is a little controversy surrounding this issue, which I’ll get to a little later. Drunk Elephant explains why their price point is higher than other brands on numerous occasions throughout their history.
According to Tiffany in an early 2013 blog post: “We use unrefined Marula Oil, which doesn’t go through the same bleaching processes that most other oils on the market do. Ours has a faint, nutty smell and is devoid of any essential oils, which we believe are a primary cause of skin sensitivities. No thanks. Our Virgin Marula is orangey-golden in color.”
She also has an entire post dedicated to refined vs. unrefined, which you can read if you are interested. And in an interview with Charlotte’s Book, she cited a few reasons for the price. I’ll list them here:
- Patented process for unrefined oil
- Opaque powder-coat glass
- Last-dropper packaging
And on their Facebook post from July 30th 2016:
Q: What makes our Marula oil better (and yes, more expensive) than others?
(PS. Have more #FAQFriday questions for us? Submit ’em in the comments below!)
A: our Marula is wild-harvested & then cold-pressed using a unique process of unheated water extraction, in order to keep the oil more nutrient-dense. This means your skin will receive higher levels of omega fatty acids and antioxidants than they would from others on the market. The process also keeps the oil from going rancid, so that it has a longer shelf-life. We also don’t cut, bleach or deodorize, or add scented essential oils, which disrupt the benefits. Even better, our Marula oil is packaged in a bottle that protects the antioxidants from light, and is outfitted with a “last-drop” dropper technology. In short, it’s one of those things that might seem a teeny bit more expensive now, but ends up costing you less over time while giving you a better value product.
It’s probably a question they are often asked as a year later, an even more detailed explanation is posted on Facebook on January 26th 2017:
This week’s #WhyDEWednesday ✨ we’re spotlighting #MarulaOil, our line’s star ingredient. Specifically, we want to talk about why our Marula oil is pricier than others. Lets get real, shall we?
DE’s Marula comes from a patented process that yields a more nutrient-dense, omega + antioxidant-rich, unrefined product. The typical “refining” process (that we avoided) involves caustic soda and sodium hydroxide being added to the raw oil, followed by bleach. The oil is then “deodorized.” At this point, in many cases, the oil is “cut” with a less expensive oil, thereby cutting the overall cost. Once a manufacturer receives it, essential oils can be added to make it fragrant, or it can remain in its refined, odor-neutral, light and clear form. All Marula oils are not created equal!
We definitely could have gone with “refined” oil. It’s much less expensive, plus, as one supplier pointed out early on, “you can control the odor and color that way”. We said no thanks. Our founder has expensive taste when it comes to ingredients, packaging, formulating, processes and manufacturing. She wanted to deliver a luxurious product, so no corners were cut and no expenses were spared. It was an easy choice, albeit a more expensive one.
They’ve used it for centuries in Africa, straight from the pip…we’ll take it like that, please! Pure virgin Marula oil has a rich, nutty, sometimes smoky smell + a golden yellow-amber color. Depending on the batch, it can even be darker. It’s more nutrient-dense than its refined counterpart and is higher in antioxidants due to the way we extract the oil from the pip and our process yields an oil that won’t go rancid in even 3 years. On top of that, our bottle is custom-designed to protect the product and has a last-drop dropper technology. After using both side by side, the difference is real. 👌
Drunk Elephant vs. The Ordinary
This article wouldn’t be complete without discussing the infamous Drunk Elephant vs. The Ordinary ‘fight’ on social media. You can read through this entire reddit thread but I’ll summarise it.
Deciem’s brand The Ordinary also has a cold-pressed virgin marula oil which is also from Namibia. In 2017, when launching this product on social media they posted that “one would have to be drunk to overpay for Marula”. This is an obvious jab at Drunk Elephant’s pricing.
The skincare community discussed this in detail and it event prompted Tiffany to create a reddit account address the matter:
“Hi! This came up on my google alerts and I just wanted to clear things up. We had never seen the post by Deciem and our eblast was in no way related. We won’t ever become engaged or speak negatively of another brand. That’s just our brand style. We have admired Deciem and the entire brand portfolio. I have to agree though that it’s a very funny coincidence!!”
Eventually, the owner of Deciem adjusted the post and apologised to Tiffany and all was well in the world of skincare again.
How do you use Drunk Elephant Marula Oil
Marula oil can be used alone or mixed with any of the other Drunk Elephant products (if you want to stick to the range, which has been tested together for compatibility).
Use the dropper to drop 2-3 drops into the palm of your hand. Depending on your preference, either pat or rub into the skin. Because it’s lightweight and not greasy it will absorb quickly into your skin.
Drunk Elephant Marula Oil and retinol
Can you use the Drunk Elephant marula oil together wit retinol? Drunk Elephant also has a retinol, A-Passioni. They say that this can be mixed with any other Drunk Elephant product, including the oil. So yes, you can mix marula oil with retinol.
Drunk Elephant Marula Oil and acne
Because marula oil has anti-microbial properties it might be beneficial for acne-prone skin. However, there are mixed reviews on whether the product helps or hinders. As with using all skincare, feel how your skin reacts.
Consumer Testing Results
On the official DE websites, they list the results of a consumer test that was done on 104 women ages 25 to 55. The results were positive with skin feeling moisturised with a healthy glow and the product was not found irritating.
While this seems great on the surface, you don’t have any more information to judge whether or not this was good testing. What did these women use before the marula oil? How is their skin naturally? What skin concerns did they have?
It’s likely that this test was not done as a blind study (or better yet blind study, where neither the
How long does Drunk Elephant Marula Oil last?
According to Nathan Rivas, Director of R&D at Drunk Elephant, there are 200-300 applications per 30ml bottle. He explains on Instagram that one application is around 2-3 drops, which is roughly 0.05ml. This means there are 600 ‘drops’ per 30ml bottle. For the 15ml it would be half this, so 300 drops or 100-150 applications.
How long it will last depends on how often you use the marula oil. If you use it both in the morning and the evenings it will finish quicker. I personally mix my marula oil twice a day into lala retro. A 15ml bottle will last me around 2 months, longer if I use less / less often.
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On their packaging Drunk Elephant says that the main ingredients are:
Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula) Seed Oil
On their website, Drunk Elephant highlights specific ingredients and what their benefits are. This is handy!
For the marula oil, the benefits are: This super-absorbable oil, high in critical antioxidants, such as tocopherol (vitamin E), tocotrienols, phenolic compounds, and flavonoids, as well as omegas 6 and 9 fatty acids, helps moisturize, nourish, and rejuvenate skin for a youthful glow.
Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil
According to the CosIng, Sclerocarya Birrea Seed Oil (marula oil) is an emollient and a humectant. The emollient properties mean that it will soften the skin. A humectant will pull in moisture from the surroundings. It will help to plump your skin.
Marula Oil Extraction Process
Drunk Elephant claims that their marula oil is created by using a patented process. This process uses the cold-pressed method to extract the oil from the kernels. This means that no heat is applied during extraction so as to better preserve the oil’s properties.
In my research, I was unable to find any patents owned by Drunk Elephant. This means that the patented process is likely owned by the manufacturer and other brands could potentially also purchase the exact same marula oil. This seems to be confirmed in the introductory video in which Tiffany explains that she found a supplier.
I did, however, find other patents specifically for the extraction process of marula oil. Notable this one from a French company. Also, a particular type of marula oil is sold under the registered trademark Maruline.
Ingredients: Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula) Seed Oil
Play the official Drunk Elephant introductory video below:
Official name: Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil
Please click on the tags below to learn more about the individual ingredients: