Jojoba oil in a nutshell

July 2006

Jonathan Regev – Jojoba Israel

Jojoba oil is very similar to the natural oil our skin produces, though it is technically a liquid wax produced from the seed of the Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) shrub.

Usually, it is pressed but can be solvent extracted. For better stability, it is best to use Jojoba oil that has not been decolorised. Botanist H. F. Link recorded the Jojoba plant in 1822 in Baja California and named it after a fellow British botanist/explorer, T. W. Simmonds.

Jojoba oil is naturally moisturising, healing, and beneficial for all skin types. It is an excellent scalp treatment. The best claim to fame for Jojoba oil is that it has been accepted as a substitute for sperm whale oil, formerly often used in the manufacture of cosmetics (the US Government banned whaling in the early 1970s).

It is the best oil for all skin types. It nourishes the skin and is rich in Vitamin E and minerals. It is very good for inflamed skin presenting as psoriasis and eczema. Jojoba oil comes from a desert plant that survives heat and drought with its own built-in survival system.

The pores of the plant seal over with its wax like substance, which reduces evaporation of moisture.

Jojoba oil is harvested from the bean of the plant. In our products, Jojoba is used for its ability to lay down a coating on the skin or scalp that attracts and retains moisture. It is thought to also regulate the flow of sebum, which in beneficial for many hair and scalp problems. Jojoba lubricates the hair shaft, helps prevent split ends and has been found to help the condition of over-processed hair.


A little bit of history. It was recorded as early as the 18th Century that Indians in Baja California were aware of the special properties of the Jojoba plant, and used its oil for a range of cosmetics and medical treatments such as treating skin cancer and wounds. They also used it as a hair restorer and even to induce labour in childbirth. Naturally, Jojoba oil aroused the interest of the modern cosmetic and medical industries all over the world.

Simmondsia chinensis produces a marvellously consistent mixture of liquid esters. Extraction of Jojoba oil from seeds that are in optimal condition results in a very pure and clean initial product that requires minimal processing and/or refining producing a very high quality, consistent end product.

After mechanical extraction, Jojoba is generally screened to remove tiny pieces of sediment called “footes” and then filtered. The Jojoba is then placed into an insulated processing tank, where it is pasteurised to further ensure product safety and quality. Four grades of Jojoba can then be produced:

1 Pure, natural, golden grade.

2 Refined and bleached grade.

3 Decolorised/deodorised grade.

4 Molecular distilled grade.

All grades are also produced as organic grade if the source of seeds is recognised and approved as an organic supplier. With the pure, natural, golden grade, no further processing is needed after filtration and pasteurisation, although for some enduse applications removal of phospholipids is preferable. The Jojoba is simply packaged for storage and shipment. This grade of Jojoba has a golden-yellow colour (Lovibond of approximately 50-60 Yellow, 3.0-5.0 Red). Organoleptically, this grade has a very slight, pleasant odour peculiar to Jojoba. From the early 1980s refined and bleached grade Jojoba has also been available. The colour bodies are removed with bleaching earths and filtration. Various degrees of decolorisation can be attained by this method with Lovibond readings that are typically between those of pure golden Jojoba and decolorised/deodorised grade. This grade of Jojoba retains a slight odour. More recently, many cosmetic manufacturers are requiring a colourless and odourless Jojoba for fine cosmetic formulations with delicate colour and scent schemes.

The decolorised/deodorised grade of Jojoba was developed specifically for these applications, but can be used in a more diverse range of cosmetic products. It is deodorised under an effective vacuum at certain “retention” times and temperatures that do not modify the liquid wax esters. The organoleptic odour characteristics of this grade are virtually eliminated and colour is reduced to almost water-clear with Lovibond colours of = 1.0 Yellow and = 0.2 Red. Molecular distilled grade Jojoba is produced in only minimal quantities today. Molecular distillation is very expensive and losses are considered high. In years past, this grade was produced for formulations requiring an odourless and colourless Jojoba. With great strides in refining technology, this expensive physically refined grade is being replaced by the more economical decolorised/deodorised grade the characteristics of which, on the whole, are not significantly distinguishable from those of molecular distilled Jojoba.

Jojoba in cosmetics

Many of the most effective ingredients for skin care formulations are those with chemical composition and physical properties similar to the skin’s own surface layers. Since Jojoba is completely miscible with sebum, when it is applied to the skin, a very thin, non-greasy lipoid layer of Jojoba and sebum forms. This partially porous layer provides exceptional trans-epidermal respiration and moisture control. Unlike greasy occlusive materials such as petrolatum, mineral oils and some lanolin products, Jojoba provides an absolutely non-tacky and non-greasy, dry emolliency.

At the same time Jojoba significantly reduces transepidermal water loss without totally blocking transpiration of gases and water vapour. This function is enhanced by the kinking at Jojoba’s cis configuration that helps avoid tight packing of hydrocarbon chains. Jojoba oil serves as an excellent moisturising agent with exceptional spread and lubricanty, and leaves a rich velvety non-oily feel on the skin while retarding water loss and enhancing the flexibility and suppleness of the skin.

Through continued research work, there is growing evidence that Jojoba quickly permeates the skin and exhibits softening ability from within. Pharmacodynamic studies of the penetrability of lipids have shown that there are six general factors that influence the rate of permeation into the stratum corneum:

Viscosity: low viscosity oil poses higher rates than high viscosity oils. Jojoba oil has a low viscosity.

Degree of unsaturation: unsaturated oils exhibit higher rates of permeation.

Saponification value: the lower saponification value, the higher the rate. Jojoba oil has a low saponification number.

Carbon chain length: the shorter the chain length, the higher the rate.

Lecithin content: the lesser the amount of lecithin in the oil, the greater the rate of penetration. Jojoba has no lecithin.

Molecular configuration: straight chain and branched esters penetrate better than do triglyceride oils.

Jojoba oil is comprised of monounsaturated fatty acids and monounsaturated fatty alcohols. It has a comparatively low saponification value and contains little to no lecithin. The iodine value is a measure of unsaturation specific gravity that indicates the heavy feel of an oil.

Percutaneous absorption studies at the University of Michigan demonstrated that Jojoba is quickly absorbed into the skin. Absorption is apparently via the transappendegeal mechanism and occurs through the pores and hair follicles. Additionally, because Jojoba is rapidly absorbed, the pores and hair follicles can remain open and thus maintain their proper functioning ability. From the pores and hair follicles, Jojoba diffuses into the corneal layer of the skin probably via a pilosebaceous mechanism. Viscoelastic diametric tests have registered a 37% increase in skin compliance only 30 minutes after application.

Moisturising efficacy experiments have demonstrated that Jojoba can effectively reduce superficial facial lines by 26, 28, and 11% after one, four and eight hours respectively. Gas bearing electrodynamometer studies have shown that “neat” Jojoba, and Jojoba incorporated in cosmetic formulations, significantly increases skin softness well in excess of eight hours. In short, it appears that Jojoba effectively moisturises and softens the skin by a dual action of forming a lipid layer which is partially occlusive and by the diffusion of Jojoba into the intercellular spaces of the stratum corneum to soften this tissue.

The incorporation of Jojoba into the oil phase of skin care formulations is a straightforward process. Jojoba oil has a required hydrophilic/lipophilic balance number (HLB) of approximately 6. It is considered compatible with almost all anionic, cationic, amphoteric, and nonionic cosmetic ingredients.

Not only can multi-functional Jojoba be considered as a replacement for mineral oil, triglycerides, lanolin, squalane and synthetic esters, but it can bring a whole new level of functionality to products.

Jojoba and hair care

Jojoba is an extremely functional ingredient in hair and scalp preparations. Many scalp related problems are caused by a hardened build-up of sebum that clogs the hair follicles and may cause some types of scaling. If this hardened build-up is not removed, it can eventually obstruct the hair follicles ability to function properly, which can lead to a loss of the hair shaft, and ultimately, death of the follicle. Jojoba rapidly penetrates down to the scalp and hair shaft, and readily loosens and dissolves this hardened build-up. The scalp and hair follicles are left clean and free to continue their normal function. Jojoba is also an excellent soil solubilising agent which can remove sticky build-up on the hair from many modern hair preparations as well as airborne particulates. Jojoba will leave the hair clean and supple.

Jojoba exhibits a matchless keratoplastic effect which leaves the hair shimmering and brings out the hair’s natural colour overtones and brilliance. Jojoba can be used with confidence in most hair preparations at a level ranging from 0.5-3%. One of the essential functions of lipids on the hair is moisturising to improve texture and manageability.

Keeping the hair fully hydrated is a guarantee of manageability, softness and shine. This is exactly what Jojoba oil does: it conditions the hair, and prevents it from becoming brittle and dull when exposed to unfavourable conditions.


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