Asking Dr. Ashton Kaidi About Marula

Oils. For the face, for the body, for the hair. No doubt by now, if you haven’t heard about it from the major beauty books, you’ve been slumbering under a rock for far too long. And, if a tiny little blog dedicated to the brilliance and ease of oils doesn’t convince you to try one, put your faith in Dr. Ashton Kaidi and his research.

In addition to being certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (and sharing my love for astronomy), Dr Kaidi is also an active member of the American Society of Plastic Surgery and the California Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons. And, beyond these serious creds, he’s also conducted a study of the efficacy of Marula Oil to evaluate its use in treating traumatized skin after a serendipitous meeting with the founders of The Leakey Collection, a Fair Trade company built upon a commitment to create lifelong entrepreneurial opportunities for rural Kenyans without disrupting their culture or environment.

Impressed with the results of Marula, Dr. Kaidi partnered up with the Leakeys to unleash the joys of this oil in the all natural Omega Rich Pure Marula East Africa Oil ($78) to the American market. Since then, the sweet tinged treatment has won the award for Sage Beauty Product at Cosmoprof in Las Vegas (2012) and Best Natural Organic Product at New York Gift Show Extracts in New York (2012).

I asked Dr. Kaidi to share with you what makes for a great oil and why Marula may just knock Argan off its reigning position:

How long has Marula oil been around? When was it first used in skincare and how?

Dr. Kaidi: In Africa, Marula oil is known as the “miracle oil”.  Findings in Pomongwe Caves in Zimbabwe and East Africa point to the use of Marula oil for at least 10,000 years. Also, the Marula tree plays a major role in the local economy of towns throughout Africa; every part of the Marula tree has been incorporated in various foods, furniture manufacturing, medicinal and cosmetic industries.  It is a precious commodity in Africa.

Marula oil is one of the earliest discovered scar remedies.  African women apply Marula to their skin as a moisturizer and also to promote better scars. Africans have higher tendencies to form poor scars following cuts, burns or skin trauma (aka keloids).  It is also popular in reducing stretch marks.

Within the last few decades our understanding of extrinsically-induced free radicals damage to the skin has significantly increased.  Our daily routines such as smoking, sun exposure, frequent make up application, stress, and poor diet can all trigger a release of free radicals that alter the DNA of skin cells (fibroblasts).  This cascade leads to a lower production of collagen by the fibroblasts, loss of elasticity and premature aging.  Think of collagens as tiny rubber bands.  Higher amounts of collagen fibers lead to better elasticity and skin tightness.   Marula oil is very rich in antioxidants and is able to reverse a lot of the free radical-induced damage.  The use of Marula oil as an ant-aging product has become popular in the last couple of decades.

What makes Marula so very special given the recent attention and accolades given to Argan?

Dr. Kaidi: Marula oil comes from the kernels within the nut of the Marula fruit.  It is very high in antioxidants and Vitamin C.  The Marula fruit is roughly the size of a golf ball.  Yet, the amount of vitamin C in it is equivalent to FOUR grapefruits.  What makes our Marula-TLC oil special is the higher level of antioxidants than Argan oil with a special blend of natural essential oils formulated for face and neck without the greasy feel.
We had an external, independent lab test the levels of antioxidants in our oil versus a leading brand of Argan oil.  Ours had 16% higher antioxidant than the best Argan out there.

Another important property of the oil is its healing power.  I recently conducted a clinical study on patients with breast cancer who needed radiation as part of their adjuvant therapy.  Radiation-induced dermatitis is a clinically significant consequence of this treatment. Patients end up with red and irritated skin.  In some of the severe cases, there is even a breakdown of skin.  This is a very uncomfortable condition. Marula oil was found to be very soothing to the skin and reversed a lot of the radiation-induced changes. The paper was present at the Southern California Chapter of the American College of Surgeons in February of 2012.  With October dedicated to raising awareness of breast cancer, many of my colleagues are advocating the oil for their patients. We have gotten a lot of testimonials from patients on how wonderful the oil is.

The dual action of our Marula-TLC oil is what is very unique.  It has both cosmetic and healing applications.  Radiation dermatitis is like getting a sunburn times FOUR.  If the oil works on radiation cases, you can imagine its benefits for sunburned skin.

How can a consumer tell they have gotten a good quality bottle of Marula?

Dr. Kaidi: This is an excellent question.  Unfortunately it is very difficult for the average consumer to know, especially if they are new to oil.  I would have to say there two ways to tell.

  1. The oil should feel light with a rich quality to it and it should be clear at room temperature.  When applied it should easily penetrate the skin after 60 seconds of rubbing with minimal greasy residue. 
  2. The more important way is to research the integrity and background of the company.  Many of the Marula oil companies will tell you that they have a selective process of picking the kernels and preparing the oil.  In reality a great majority of these companies purchase their oil from a supplier in Africa and are not there for quality control.
So many production facilities mass crush the nuts to produce the oil and remove the impurities with chemical treatments.  This is a cheap way of producing the oil, but it leads to lower quality of oil with less healing benefits and less amounts of antioxidants.  Many companies also tell you that they are wild harvesting in an eco-sustainable fashion.  This is hard to confirm if you are not on the ground to constantly supervise the field workers.  Our company only uses the fruits that have fallen from the tree and never picks the fruit from the tree itself.  Fallen fruits are the most ripened and best source of vitamin C and E.

Our difference is that we not only manufacture the product, but we also manufacture the oil in Africa.  We do NOT rely on independent companies to supply us the oil.  Two of our co-founders, Katy and Philip Leakey, actually live in the tent among the Massai tribes of East Africa and run our oil production facility.  They are out there with the workers and supervise every step of the oil production to ensure the highest quality.  Philip Leakey is a botanist and personally inspects the kernels only allowing the lightest kernels to be pressed for oil. Lighter kernels are known to have higher levels of antioxidants.

Our company is also actively involved in humanitarian efforts and women’s initiative on the ground.  For example, with proceeds from sales, we have reduced mother/infant mortality rate to near zero in Kenyan communities and have lowered the teacher student ratio.  The Leakey’s are also the founders of TRADE, an organization that has helped many in their region.  Philip is the son of the famed anthropologist, Louise Leakey, who made many significant scientific discoveries of early man and worked with Jane Goodall and Dian Fossy.

Unlike many of the other Marula oil companies in the US that drop in for a week or two a year to handle mainly the business side of operations and rely on independent manufacturers to supply them with oil, our company has production facility on the ground in Africa.   When we say, we hand pick every kernel, we can guarantee it and have the highest quality check of any company producing the oil.

Women still seem so fearful of using oil on their face. As a physician, how can you re-assure women that an oil will NOT break them out?

Dr. Kaidi: Oil and skin are very compatible. Anatomically, our skin is made up of a lipid bilayers that are very selective in what they allow in.  This is important as a defense mechanism and also for adequate hydration of the skin.  Because the skin is made up lipid layers, “fatty” or “oily” (called “lipophilic”) products penetrate the skin better.  This led to the popular rise in use of oils in Europe and Argan oil by Josie Maran here in the US.  Although, oil does penetrate the skin better, some can leave a greasy residue on the skin.   What determines the greasy residue feel is the composition of omega fatty acid contained within the oil.

We have found that the higher the concentrations of omega-9 (aka Oleic Acid) fatty acid in an oil, the easier it penetrates the skin and the more rapidly it is absorbed by the skin. Argan oil contains 40% omega-9 fatty acid versus our Marula-TLC oil that contains 70-80%.  Faster penetration means less clogging of your pores and less comedogenic reactions and acne breakouts.  There are also anti-microbial properties in the highly pure and clean form Marula oil.  This will lead to a better skin hygiene as fewer bacteria can build up.  Omega-6 fatty acids also help in reducing acne and Marula oil has a healthy amount of this in it.

Oils are essential to your skin’s health because they hold together your skin cells, giving off that “youthful” healthy glow. As skin ages, less of these oils are produced, so it is vital to add them back into your skin to maintain good skin.

Can you a beauty tip on helping women add Marula oil to their existing beauty regimes?

  1. Add a drop or two of the Marula-TLC oil to your favorite cleanser for better moisturizing. 
  2. For patients using products like Retin-A, glycolic acid products on their skin or post facials, these topical treatments are great at exfoliating the skin and building up collagen to maintain good skin elasticity.  However, these products can leave your skin irritated, dry and red.  Applying 3-4 drops of Marula-TLC oil twice daily can help soothe skin by reducing redness and calming inflammation, while hydrating skin and fighting free radicals (one of the major causes of skin aging).
  3. For pregnant women, Marula-TLC oil provides an excellent balance of moisture and fatty acids to keep the skin hydrated and moist.  It improves skin elasticity during pregnancy and helps reduce skin tearing. Good fatty acid balance is important in the overall health and elasticity of your skin. Apply 3-4 drops two to three times day to reduce stretch marks. 

My gracious thanks to Dr. Kaidi and the team at The Leakey Collection for sharing such wonderful insights.