Jojoba--pronounced "ho-ho-ba"--oil comes from the bean fruit of the Simmondsia chinenis shrub, which is native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It's not really an oil but rather a liquid wax--with properties very similar to human skin oil--so it normally doesn't cause an allergic reaction, even in people with very sensitive skin. Filled with vitamins and other nutrients, it can protect and heal skin and restore damaged hair.
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Native Americans of the southwestern United States have used jojoba oil as a medicinal aid for centuries--as a salve for healing wounds and burns, a balm to soothe sunburn, a dietary supplement, a hair treatment and an appetite suppressant when food was scarce. After the United States banned the use of sperm whale oil in 1974, jojoba oil became a replacement for use in shampoos, soaps and other cosmetics.
The secret of jojoba's healing properties lies in its content. It's full of nutrients such as B-complex vitamins, silicon, chromium, copper, vitamin E and zinc. Jojoba oil also is high in iodine, which helps to fight infection. It contains myristic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Its structure contains a large percentage of unsaturated fatty acids, which are natural lubricants and esters--a combination of organic acids and alcohols.
Jojoba oil forms a non-greasy, waterproof layer on skin or hair that serves as a two-way barrier. This barrier protects your skin from harsh elements and microorganisms that can cause infection and, at the same time, prevents moisture from escaping from your skin or hair follicles. In addition, jojoba oil has antimicrobial properties, which means it can fight off bacteria and fungus. This combination action promotes an ideal environment for skin's natural healing properties to function to their fullest.
Because its structure is very similar to human skin oil--sebum--jojoba can help heal dry skin by replacing oil production lost as a result of aging or environmental factors. It can help control overproduction of sebum by signaling the body there there is sufficient oil present and, unlike sebum, it doesn't clog pores. Its lubricating properties also help to remove residue on skin and hair, promoting a clean environment for healing.
Jojoba oil is an effective dry skin treatment, both as a moisturizer and as a protectant against drying. It also has demonstrated the ability to help reduce fine lines. For this reason, it's a popular base ingredient for lotions, cleansers, bath products, nail treatments, makeup and sunscreens. Jojoba oil can help heal acne by reducing sebum production and shielding against bacteria. Some treatment products for cold sores, canker sores and athlete's foot contain jojoba oil as well.
Jojoba oil's remarkable stability under high heat and high pressure conditions has prompted researchers to explore other uses for this natural product. One such possibility is for use as an alternative fuel. United Arab Emirates University researchers discovered that jojoba oil-based fuel causes less engine wear and emits fewer pollutants than traditional petroleum-based fuels.