Does the world really need another face oil? My guess would be no. I mean, if even I, a stickler for velvety creams, have landed on a couple of oils elegant enough to make a convert out of me (Pestle & Mortar Superstar Retinol Night Oil turns a nightly retinoid ritual into a much more gentle experience, and Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra Clarifying Face Oil feeds my skin breakout-fighting salicylic acid without sucking it dry), then certainly the 1,600-or-so options on Sephora’s site alone are enough to satisfy all the dull, dry, sensitive, and acne-prone skin out there. Or at least that’s the assumption I’d been operating under — until Instagram got in the way.
Specifically, it was Mara Universal Face Oil, in its beautiful sea-blue glass bottle, that started to populate my feed with unavoidable frequency a few weeks back. There it was in hairstylist Jen Atkin’s post, and in a #shelfie by Who What Wear founder Katherine Power. Then I spotted it being unwrapped by Too Faced founder Jerrod Blandino, and in makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes’ tutorials on Instagram Stories — not a single one marked as #sponsored.
As it turns out, Mara was founded by Mane Addicts editorial director Allison McNamara, so it’s no wonder that those bottles have found their way to so many big names in the biz (and ahead of a full retail launch, to boot). But with so many insiders raving about its calming, restoring, and illuminating effects, it's tough to tell whether Mara is truly a hype-worthy face oil, or if McNamara is simply blessed with very supportive friends that also just so happen to be in high places.
After getting my hands on a bottle and pressing six drops into my face, everything became clear. To start, my complexion instantly became more luminous after I smoothed the formula over my skin — though, admittedly, that’s an instant effect that loads of face oils bring. What I didn’t expect was its smooth disappearing act: The lightweight blend sinks into the skin, instead of slime-ing up its surface. It’s something I’ve always wanted in a face oil.
The other thing that’s got me sold on the formula: its cocktail of nutrient-dense star ingredients, which include moringa, baobab and watermelon seed oils, along with plankton (which helps retain moisture in the skin) and brown algae extracts (which are thought to aid in slowing down cellular aging). You don't see these ingredients used in face oils often, but their benefits couldn’t seem more promising.
"Thanks to a high concentration of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, brown algae can aid in the development of collagen and elastin,” says Debra Jaliman, a New York-based dermatologist and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist. “Plankton are also high in important fatty acids and can provide lasting moisture to the skin.”
So maybe there’s room for one more face oil in the world — and my own Instagram feed. Because, like McNamara’s friends (who, it turns out, weren’t just being sweet), I can’t wait to share this sucker with everyone I know.