Thursday, November 26, 2009

Jojoba oil - not really an oil!

Jojoba oil (INCI: Simmonsia Chinensis Oil) isn't actually an oil - it's a wax ester with 40 to 42 atoms! Its fatty profile is all about the weird and wacky fatty acids we rarely see in other oils - 2% palmitic acid (C16), around 7% stearic acid (C18), 14% oleic acid, 57% gadoleic acid (C20:1), and 20% erucic acid (C22:1).

Oleic acid tends to be well absorbed by our skin, helping to moisturize and soften it. It offers anti-inflammatory properties as well. Stearic acid offers improved moisture retention, flexibility of the skin, and skin repair. But what do those other fatty acids bring to the mix?

Erucic acid - found in my least favourite family of vegetables, the brassica family - is used as an anti-slip agent in industry because it is a very grippy fatty acid. It doesn't offer slip and glide to your products - quite the opposite in fact! Gadoleic acid is found in cod liver oil - but I have no idea what it does in jojoba oil. (I have found nothing on this fatty acid and its benefits for skin and hair in all my research - and I've done a ton.)

Jojoba oil sinks quickly into the skin in an interesting way - it penetrates through hair follicles - but it does not block those follicles. And jojoba actually mixes with the sebum on our bodies to create a thin non-occlusive layer of jojoba oil and sebum. This is one of the reasons it is said jojoba allows our skin to "breathe" - it isn't occlusive, and mixes with the sebum. Because of this feature, jojoba can help with scalp problems - it can penetrate the hair follicles and loosen oils, which can be washed away.

It contains only a titch of Vitamin E (in the form of tocopherols) at 50 ppm (compare to about 400 ppm in hazelnut oil or 700 ppm in soybean oil), so it's not a great oil for those looking for maximum Vitamin E! We don't really need to add extra Vitamin E to a jojoba oil creation as it does have a very long shelf life - possibly up to 24 months!

Jojoba contains some lovely polyphenols - about 3% tannins - which accounts for the dry feeling of jojoba oil when used neat. And it contains about 0.5% phytosterols, which penetrate into the skin, rather than occluding it, which can reduce inflammation and itching, as well as moisturizing.

Studies of jojoba oil - of which there have been few, it seems! - show it might alleviate the effects of psoriasis and acne, but there is no indication of how much to use or how to use it (in a lotion, neat, and so on.) Studies have also shown jojoba oil can significantly soften skin.

Jojoba oil has a shelf life of about 2 years, and a HLB value of 6. It is used in hair and skin care at up to 25% - because it is considered a dry emollient, it might feel too dry at higher levels. It is considered non-comedogenic and non-allergic. It is, despite its weight, a non-occlusive oil that will sink into skin and hair follicles for extra moisturization. And it is considered an excellent emollient.


Susan said...


Where do you learn this stuff???

I imagine you as the super computer "Cray" spitting out all this scientific data every morning:)

Frenchie said...

Hi Swift, since jojoba prices have jumped significantly - what do you propose as an alternative or another oil to compliment it? I was thinking in terms of another light oil. Thanks!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Frenchie. I'm not really sure what to suggest as a replacement because jojoba oil really is a unique oil. I would go with a medium weight oil - olive, rice bran, sesame, wheat germ, hempseed oil - if you want to replace it. It also depends on how much you're replacing. If it's 2%, replace it with anything. If it's 10%, you'll want to consider the skin feel of the product and see what works.

Sorry I can't be more helpful, but it really is an individual thing about skin feel and viscosity!

LabMuffin said...

I love your concentration on chemistry, and I have a slight correction to offer - 40 to 42 CARBON atoms, you forgot to count the implicit hydrogens! ;)

silvana said...

Hello Susan,
Loved, loved ur blog! It's really hard to find an info about accurate ingredients/chemistry about oils when u want to understand their benefits:( it's, most of the time,regular beliefs or what u here or there rather than scientific information with proofs. I can't imagine how much searching and reading u have to do to get all these informationSo, thank u for this blog and sharing all these knowledge;) I wanna ask u about one particular oil, blue anemone or poppy anemone which the anti-aging ingriedient Kinetin is being derived. Kinetin is being used as a main component at one of the big pharmaceutical companies. And I know kinetin is derived from blue anemone. But I couldn't find any information about this oil or it's benefits. However, blue anemone oil is on the market. And as I see, u'r a lot better than me at research:))

Dianne said...

Susan: I just found your blog and am loving it so far...I am trying to understand what ingredients are best for what I want and saw your comment on gadoleic acid. I did some research and found that pumpkin seed oil, which I want to use, is also high in it. What are your thoughts on pumpkin seed oil? I also found this: Gadoleic acid mimics human sebum making it excellent for the control of sebum overproduction and acne

That sentence probably makes way more sense to you!!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Dianne. I just wrote a post on pumpkin seed oil, so I'll refer you back to the blog from last week about pumpkin seed oil. Or do a search on the oil as it's one of my favourite things!

Dianne said...

Thanks Susan:

I think I found what I was looking for - have had a bit more time exploring your site...great info!!