It wasn’t that long ago that oil was the bogey man in skin care, especially if you’re prone to breakouts or tend to get shiny. So, it probably sounds like the polar opposite to use oil when you want to clear up zits and breakouts. But it isn’t so far-fetched with jojoba oil.

It’s been used for centuries in folk medicine for its wound healing properties. It was also as a hair conditioner and restore as well in medicine, cooking, and rituals. It’s one of those multitasking workers that help with everything regarding beauty.

Where does jojoba oil come from?

What we commonly call jojoba oil is extracted from the jojoba plant. It’s a shrub that grows in the dry regions of the southwestern United States, northern Mexico, and some parts of Africa. Jojoba, pronounced “ho-ho-ba” refers to both the plant and the extract derived from its seed.

Jojoba plant with a capsule, photo by Katja Schulz

It can take the plant up to 3 years to flower. After the female jojoba flowers are pollinated, they harden and make a capsule in which the seeds grow. When ripe, it splits open and reveals the mature acorn-shaped seeds. Jojoba extract is made by cold-pressing the seeds.

What is jojoba oil?

Despite its name, strictly speaking, what’s extracted from the jojoba seeds isn’t an oil. It’s a wax ester, a liquid wax. When you look at its chemical structure, it has a different makeup than other oils. Which is why it feels less greasy on the skin as compared to oils. At room temperature, jojoba oil has a clear or yellow tint and can have a slightly nutty smell.

Even if it looks like an oil, it’s almost (ca 97%) made up of waxes, mainly fatty acids and alcohol. The upshot of its composition – that it actually isn’t an oil is that it has a very long shelf-life, is more stable and highly resistant to high temperatures.

Another upshot is that it plays well with most other ingredients. So it’s really no surprise that it can be found in many beauty products, in makeup, skin, hair, and personal care. Especially since selling sperm whale oil was banned in the 1970s, the cosmetic industry turned to it for use in shampoos, moisturisers, sunscreens, and conditioners.

What does this mean for your skin?

Remember that jojoba oil is not technically an oil? It’s a liquid wax with a molecular structure and composition similar to human sebum. The main component in human sebum is also wax ester. Sebum is what’s responsible for keeping your skin cells plumped, maintaining open pores, and deep cleaning the skin.

So jojoba oil mimics natural sebum, conditioning, and sealing moisture in the skin. Even its PH level is close to that of sebum. In other words, jojoba oil is as close to your skin’s natural oil as you can get.

This means it can play the same role as sebum in supporting your overall skin health by maintaining moisture and protecting your skin from infection. Moreover, it’s very soothing while not clogging your pores or exacerbating acne.

There you have it: This is the reason why it feels so lightweight and non-greasy. And also why it helps balance out sebum production in your skin.

Unfortunately, as we age, the wax ester content in our skin begins to decrease, leading to dry skin and eventually wrinkles. Since jojoba oil is so similar to the wax ester in human sebum, it can replenish the missing esters. Your skin recognises it as its own naturally produced sebum and allows it to absorb deeper into the skin.

Besides its unique molecular structure, jojoba oil also has essential vitamins and minerals for the skin like vitamin E and B, as well copper, and zinc. Hence it helps in restoring the natural condition of your skin (and hair). There’s also plenty of research supporting its role as a remedy for acne, dry skin, and more.

Improve your skin barrier

Jojoba oil is mainly made of fatty acids, which are essential components of your skin’s barrier. It also acts as a humectant. This means it water to the top layer of the skin and increases the water content in the skin cells.

Both tighter combined with the anti-inflammatory effects of the vitamin E can provide relief to dry, flaky, or itchy skin. Since jojoba oil speeds up wound healing, it helps improve the integrity of your skin. As a natural moisturiser, jojoba oil is great both for your skin and hair.

Balance your skin

Since jojoba oil is close to the sebum produced in your skin, it’s both great for dry and oily skin. Similar to other natural oils, it soothes dry skin, helping to tame chaffing and flaking as well as reduce the redness that’s often going hand in hand with dry skin.

The balancing effect also works on oily skin. When you apply it, your skin thinks it has produced enough sebum and doesn’t make more.

Clear acne

Regardless of your skin type, jojoba oil has the ability to normalise the oil in your skin without plugging up your pores. The other part that helps clear spots is its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. These properties help calm inflammation and reduce breakouts.

Protect your skin and delay signs of ageing

The vitamin E content works as an antioxidant, so jojoba oil can help your skin fight oxidative stress caused by everyday exposure to pollutants and other toxins.

Vitamin E also helps to strengthen the capillary walls in the skin while improving elasticity and hydration. There’s even evidence that shows that jojoba oil stimulates collagen production in the skin. This protein is important since it’s responsible for the firmness of your skin. And lower levels mean loose and sagging skin.

Who can use jojoba oil?

Jojoba oil is suited for every skin type, but it’s especially beneficial for people who want to soothe dry or irritated, chaffed, or red skin. Since it’s pressed from a seed and not from a nut, it’s safe for people with nut allergies.

Jojoba oil is classed as hypoallergenic so it means it’s generally considered safe to apply on the skin. Still, it’s better to stay on the safe side and to patch-test before using it all over.

How to use

Jojoba oil doesn’t need to be diluted and can be applied directly to your skin. So you can use it as a facial oil towards the end of your routine. Since it works well with other ingredients, you can also opt to add a few drops to your favourite moisturiser, masks, or, conditioner to boost their effects.

How to find and store jojoba oil

Jojoba oil is a popular ingredient and can be found in a myriad of products, including makeup, shampoo, lip balm… and the list goes on. But if you want the most benefit, use it as pure jojoba oil in your routine.

To get the most out of using jojoba oil, make sure to buy organic jojoba oil that is cold-pressed and unrefined. Usually, cold-pressed oils retain more of the plant’s antioxidants.

Pure and unrefined jojoba oil usually looks yellow or gold. Pure, unprocessed jojoba oil will absorb quickly into your skin. If it doesn’t, it means it’s somehow tampered with.

Avoid oils on display other than in dark glasses bottles. Sunlight easily breaks down and degrades jojoba oil, so you’ll want the container to be a dark blue or amber to shield its content from light.

Even if jojoba oil has a long shelf life, it’s better to buy in small quantities. Large bottles may appear like a bargain but are most likely to be low-grade or diluted.

You can keep your bottle of jojoba oil at room temperature but store it away from sunlight.


Doesn’t it seem like beauty oils are having their moment? You can find them as face oils, body oils, hair oils – they’re just everywhere. And with good reason. Especially jojoba oil. It’s soothing and can give instant relief during angry flare-ups or dry spells.

You can use it in the morning and night, once or twice daily. It’s lightweight and doesn’t bog your skin down. You can even use it as a natural oil-based cleanser when double-cleansing. Just apply a few drops of jojoba oil on a pad and it’ll remove dirt, makeup, and bacteria.

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