Jojoba Oil, It’s not Your Mother’s Oil

It is hard to find a base oil with a better reputation for the skin than Jojoba oil. Prepared from the seeds of the Jojoba tree (Simmondsia chinenis), an evergreen tree that is native to the Sonoran desert, this oil is considered safe to use on both dry and oily skin, a rare combination. Most oils that treat dry skin can result in blockages of the skin pores and resulting acne. Everyone can feel good about Jojoba oil!



Jojoba oil is famous for applying to the skin of patients with acne as well as for patients with dry or cracked skin. The natural wax esters found in the oil are classified as emollients. Emollients penetrate the epidermis (outer layer) of skin and make it softer and more pliable and thus less likely to crack when stretched. They also create a layer of protection for the skin against wind and sun, both of which cause water to evaporate from the surface of the skin, drying the skin out. By sealing in the moisture and at the same time making the skin more pliable, it is difficult to imagine better oil for dry skin. Because of its extraordinary hydrating ability, jojoba is also on the front lines of oil that are being used to reduce small wrinkle lines on the face.

Scientists believe that its unique biochemistry makes it very similar to the natural oil secreted by the sebaceous glands within our skin. These oil secreting glands produce oil called sebum. When jojoba oil is applied to the skin, it is believed that the homeostatic regulatory system of the body perceives that adequate oil has been produced. As a result, the local sebaceous glands produce may secrete less oil making the oil safe to use on oily skin. And, because the jojoba oil is not exactly the same as sebum, it is less likely to participate in the formation of acne.

From an Ayurvedic perspective, jojoba oil has a cooling, moist and light nature. This makes it most beneficial for skin that tends to be red or dry as well as skin that is prone to boils and cysts. It pacifies all three doshas but is best for vata and pitta dosha. Because it is lighter than many other oils (jojoba is a monounsaturated oil) it is safe for kapha dosha even though it increases moisture in the body. The light quality of the oil prevents blockages within the skin pores that are common to heavier oils.

Liquid wax esters have played a very important role in our history. They are the basis of lubricants used in the gears of most machines, most notably, the automobile. The gears of machines need to be lubricated to avoid excessive friction, which leads to breakdowns. Liquid wax esters are protective against heat and against oxidation. For this reason, most oils have some liquid wax esters added to them. This prevents the oils from going rancid (oxidation) and increases the lubrication factor. For decades, the most common source of liquid wax esters was sperm whale oil. After its use was outlawed in 1972, scientists went looking for new sources. Some tried to synthesize it. Others found natural alternatives. Jojoba oil is the only known plant source of liquid ester. Its oil is more than 97% wax esters, the highest known percentage of any plant or animal oil. (1)

Because the jojoba tree is difficult to grow in regions outside of the Sonoran Desert, jojoba seed oil has not become a replacement for Sperm whale oil in mechanical devices. Most machines now use synthetic oils instead of sperm whale oil. Today, jojoba seed oil mainly comes from cultivated trees grown on farms. The cosmetic industry consumes most of the production of jojoba oil, namely for its remarkable healing effects upon the skin.

A 2012 peer-reviewed study, published in Germany, showed that a facial mask (clay) prepared with jojoba oil applied 2-3 times per week for 6 weeks resulted in a greater than 59% reduction of lesions in patients with mild acne vulgaris. (2).
I highly recommend jojoba oil, and products containing jojoba oil for anyone looking to improve the complexion of their skin.

1. Studies on Wax Esters in Fish:
2. Clay jojoba oil facial mask for lesioned skin and mild acne—result of a prospective observational pilot study. Immanuel Hospital, Department of Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Charite’ University Medical Center, Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, Berlin, Germany. Forsch Komplementmed 2012;19(2):75-9. Epub 2012 Apr 19.

by Dr. Marc Halpern, Cal College of Ayurveda

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