Cosmeceutical Critique: Jojoba
Dr. Leslie Baumann
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 that grows up to 15 feet. More impressively, this evergreen plant also known as goat nut or coffeeberry, lives 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. It is the oil of this shrub that is of keen interest as one of the many popular botanical products available in cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. Jojoba is now also cultivated for commercial purposes, such as treatment for psoriasis, dry skin and dandruff, in Argentina, Australia, Mexico, Israel, and India. The oil from jojoba nuts or seeds has been used for centuries to promote hair growth and alleviate skin conditions. In the early 1800’s, botanist H.F. Link identified the jojoba shrub in the Mexican state of Baja California and named it after fellow British botanist T.W. Simmonds. Link added this species mischaracterization (chinensis means “of China”) after mixing jojoba seeds with those of plants he collected from China. The first scientific name associated with a newly “discovered” species is given preference according to the rules of botanical nomenclature, so this misnomer remains despite the fact that jojoba is native only to North America (though, as mentioned above, it is now cultivated elsewhere).
As implied above, jojoba oil is derived from the cold-pressed seeds, 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, when it is found as an ingredient in cosmetics and cosmeceuticals, and also confers a protective film over the skin that aids in retaining moisture (Cosmet Toiletries. 1997;112:47-64). The skin’s natural sebum is readily compatible with the wide range of fatty acids (e.g., oleic, linoleic, linolenic, and arachidonic) and triglycerides that are key components of jojoba oil (J Am Oil Chem Soc. 2000;77:1325-8; J Agric Food Chem. 1997;45:1180-4). Some authors speculate that its efficacy as a non-greasy lubricant gives the oil, pure or in hydrogenated form, potential to be effective in a variety of formulations – creams, lotions, soaps, lipsticks, etc. – intended to be spread onto the skin or hair (J Cosm Sci. 1998;49:377-83). Jojoba oil has been found to impart a wide range of 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 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 1970’s 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 a pair of hair products containing jojoba oil. Their 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. Switzerland’s Colosé Beauty also produces a wide array of formulations that contain jojoba oil for the purpose of protecting against dehydration. Colosé’s range includes Daycream Sensitive ($18/50 mL), Daycream Multi-Active ($32/50 mL/1.7 oz.), Cream Egalisante (collagen cream; $36/50 mL/1.7 oz.), Miracle Cream (anti-wrinkle cream; $24/15 mL/0.5 oz.), Night Cream Multi-Active (anti-aging; $34/50 mL/1.7 oz.), and Treatment Cream with AHA ($37/50 mL/1.7 oz.). Jojoba oil is also included in the ReAm Violetta line of products for the intended purpose of imparting moisturizing benefits. (Their Daycream, Nightcream, and Anti-wrinkle Cream are packaged in 50 mL containers; the Eye Contour Cream, 30 mL.) The Thymes Dry Oil ($17/4.25 oz.) is a light cream containing jojoba oil for hydration. Peter Thomas Roth Botanical Buffing Beads ($30) 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 a several topical skin creams, lotions, and soaps. Macrovita includes jojoba oil in its Olive Oil and Vitamin A Skin Reinforcing Complex. Jojoba oil is one of the key ingredients in products intended for the lips. Weleda’s Evron Lip Balm ($5) is said to be made from pure natural ingredients such as jojoba oil and shea butter.
The preponderance of current jojoba research is focused on the potential health benefits of jojoba seed meal. Nevertheless, the seeds of the jojoba plant typically are not consumed but are predominantly used to confer anti-inflammatory benefits to cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. One of the primary challenges in the realm of cosmeceutical products is formulating a product so that it retains the intrinsic benefits of the raw botanical or its extract. Further, numerous companies rely on sales of their products by including natural ingredients with known traditional uses without any regulatory body requiring 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 OTC 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 necessary to compare jojoba-containing products with other formulations established as effective anti-inflammatories.
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