The jojoba (pronounced ho-ho-ba) plant (Buxus chinensis or Simmondsia chinensis) is a shrub endemic to the Sonoran Desert of northwest Mexico and adjacent areas in Arizona and southern California. This evergreen plant, also known as goat nut or coffeeberry, grows up to 15 feet high and can live for up to 200 years. Clearly, it is well adapted to thrive in the arid heat of the desert. Native Americans are known to have eaten the smooth-skinned, odorless, oil-rich nuts or seeds of the jojoba.
The oil from jojoba seeds is prized for its moisture-retention and anti-inflammatory effects.
It is the oil of this shrub that is of keen interest as a botanical product for use in cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. The oil from jojoba nuts or seeds has been used for centuries to promote hair growth and alleviate skin conditions. Jojoba is now cultivated for commercial purposes, such as treatment for psoriasis, dry skin, and dandruff, in Argentina, Australia, Mexico, Israel, and India.
Jojoba oil is derived from the cold-pressed seeds, which are the size of peanuts or small olives (Phytother. Res. 2003;17:987-1000). It is actually a polyunsaturated liquid wax. This rich extract is typically used as a humectant in cosmetics and cosmeceuticals and confers a protective film over the skin that aids in moisture retention (Cosmet. Toiletries 1997;112:47-64). The skin’s natural sebum is readily compatible with the wide range of fatty acids (oleic, linoleic, linolenic, and arachidonic) and triglycerides that are key components of jojoba oil (J. Am. Oil Chem. Soc. 2000;77:1325-9; J. Agric. Food Chem. 1997;45:1180-4).
Some authors speculate that its efficacy as a nongreasy lubricant gives the oil, pure or in hydrogenated form, the potential for use in a variety of formulations that are designed for the skin or hair – creams, lotions, soaps, and lipsticks (J. Cosm. Sci. 1998;49:377-83). Jojoba oil has been found to impart significant beneficial properties as an analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiparasitic, and antipyretic (Phytother. Res. 2003;17:987-1000; J. Cosm. Sci. 1998;49:377-83).
Very similar in consistency to human sebum, jojoba oil is considered to be a natural moisturizer and is thought to be highly conditioning, softening, and healing for all skin types. Although primarily used in skin and hair products now, jojoba oil first gained industry interest and support not for its reputed traditional benefits, but for its viability as a replacement for sperm whale oil, the use of which was banned by the U.S. government in the early 1970s as a result of the Endangered Species Act.
Aubrey Organics (a company that uses botanicals organically grown and processed in accordance with the California Organic Foods Act of 1990) offers two hair products containing jojoba oil. Its J.A.Y. (Jojoba/Aloe/Yucca) Desert Herb Shampoo and Jojoba & Aloe Hair Rejuvenator & Conditioner are said to hydrate and revitalize especially dry and brittle hair. According to the manufacturer, the humectant activity of jojoba oil generates a protective film over the hair and scalp that helps retain moisture. The Swiss company Colosé Beauty also produces a wide array of formulations that contain jojoba oil for the purpose of protecting against dehydration. Colosé’s product line includes Day Cream Sensitive, Day Cream Multi-Active, Cream Egalisante, Miracle Cream, and Night Cream Multi-Active. Jojoba oil is also included in the ReAm Violetta line of moisturizing products. Botanical Buffing Beads from Peter Thomas Roth Labs combine whole-leaf aloe vera with jojoba beads. Shampoos and conditioners comprise the majority of products containing jojoba oil as the primary active ingredient, but the oil is often included among other ingredients in topical skin creams, lotions, and soaps. Olive Oil and Vitamin A Skin Reinforcing Complex from Macrovita includes jojoba oil. Everon Lip Balm from Weleda utilizes jojoba oil for lip protection.
Currently, jojoba oil is used primarily to confer anti-inflammatory benefits to cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. One of the primary challenges in formulating cosmeceutical products from jojoba and other botanicals is to retain the intrinsic benefits of the raw botanical or its extract. Development of jojoba-containing formulations may continue because of the commercial preference for ingredients with known traditional uses that do not require regulatory proof of efficacy.
The versatile botanical extract jojoba oil has not been shown to be harmful or to elicit significant adverse effects. At the very least, then, its presence in over-the-counter products is innocuous. There is a small but growing body of evidence to suggest that the inclusion of jojoba oil in topical formulations does impart salient anti-inflammatory effects. Much research, in the form of blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trials, is needed to compare jojoba-containing products with other formulations established as effective anti-inflammatories.