Cosmeceutical Critique


September 22, 2010

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.


Photo: Anna Yu/

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.