Jojoba: The lies I’ve read and the benefits I like.

   O'odham portraits, photographer unknown 


O'odham portraits, photographer unknown 

Jojoba Oil

I don't know how many times I've seen or read articles, blog posts, product websites where the author touted the wonders of Jojoba and how "Native American Indians who lived in rough climates for many years [used it] in order to keep their beards moisturized and radiant." Do a random search for beard oil and you will always see something similar written.

History of Jojoba Oil

The name “jojoba” (pronounced ho-HO-ba) originated from O’odham Hohowi (an indigenous Uto-Aztecan peoples), who are credited with the name.  The O’odham people, from the Sonoran Desert in the southwest United States, treated burns with an antioxidant salve made from the paste of the jojoba nut (Edited by Steven J. Phillips & Patricia Wentworth Comus, 2000). Mark Nesbitt, the author of The Cultural History of Plants, cited that the first written mention of the tree is from the early 1700's by a Jesuit Priest exploring the Sonoran desert. The unnamed priest cited that the Southwestern tribes used Jojoba extensively as medicine, food, and an appetite suppressant to alleviate hunger; they also used Jojoba as a hair growth promoter, and as a hairdressing (Prance, 2012). 

Jojoba is native to a triangle of the Sonoran Desert whose corners are roughly Los Angeles (California), Phoenix (Arizona) and some of the Southern tip of Baja California (Mexico). This area encompasses some of the earth’s most inhospitable land: in some places, rainfall is as sparse as 3 inches a year and temperatures soar as high as 130 F (Council, 2002). The reason I mention this information is not to bore you as a reader, but to point out that Jojoba is a desert plant, its hot in deserts (rough climate for sure.) But if you have ever been to the southwest you don’t typically see Native Americans sporting beards, right? Knowing I could be wrong, I looked at other books and articles.

Thinking maybe these original Native tribes did have a tradition of growing beards because after all, they had Jojoba to “keep their beards moisturized and radiant.” Needless to say, I didn’t find much on the subject. Culturally it appears that a large majority of Native American tribes plucked their facial hair with the exception of the Costanoan, (located around South San Francisco and Monterey Bay) and the Kwakiutl tribe (located around the Queen Charlotte Strait off the central coast of British Columbia). The Costanoan had some of their men wear beards but most of them plucked their facial hair with wooden tweezers or a pair of mussel shells. If you were truly a go-getter you singed your facial hair with a hot coal (Pritzker, 2000). 

Besides the grossly erroneous claims concerning early Native Americans using Jojoba as a beard oil, there is a lot of truth in the propaganda. Jojoba, a renewable source of unique high-quality oil (chemically it’s a wax,) has a myriad of benefits to the hair and skin.  I read some debate on this, but Jojoba and human sebum are virtually identical. Our sebum or the oil our body naturally produces protects and moisturizes our skin and hair, but it is stripped away by chemicals, pollutants, the sun and the aging process. This often results in dry skin and hair. Using Jojoba oil replenishes what skin and hair loss and restores them to their natural pH balance (Rabasco AAM, 2000).  Jojoba oil has been shown to enhance the skin's barrier repair properties and has the ability to heal damage (Skin Research and Technology, August 2012, pages 364–369; Journal of Ethnopharmacology, March 2011, pages 443–449). As a plant oil that's a rich source of fatty acids, skin recognizes and can use, jojoba oil also seems to stimulate collagen production and help skin better defend itself against UV light damage (Source: Der Hautarzt, July 2008, pages 557-562). Jojoba oil can also provide topical anti-inflammatory benefits (Source: Journal of Italian Dermatology and Venereology, December 2013, pages 687–691).

What is Jojoba Made of

Jojoba oil components are important in healing and/or inhibiting degeneration. The properties of tocopherols (family of vitamin E compounds naturally found in vegetable oils, nuts, fish and leafy green vegetables) as healing agents are well-known, particularly reduction of scarring and stretch marks. Tocopherols also have anti-inflammatory and anti-degenerative properties, as does ferulic acid. Tocopherols are also known to facilitate cell nourishment (E. Reiter, 2007).

“Jojoba oil’s skin-moisturizing properties correct dryness and improve skin elasticity and, as previously stated, jojoba oil also has many antioxidant benefits. Jojoba liquid wax esters and tocopherols are also proven emollients with the added advantage that they are rapidly absorbed transcutaneously; they are excellent candidates for topical applications. The combined anti-free radical, emollient properties and rapid absorption properties of these substances make them highly effective ingredients in topical photoprotective applications. Jojoba oil is versatile and its external use is not limited to the skin, but also commonly extends to the treatment of damaged, dry or brittle hair. Jojoba oil helps hydrate hair and scalp very effectively by forming a semi-permeable protective layer around the hair thereby sealing in moisture, but still allowing the scalp to “breathe” and actually penetrating into hair shafts and follicular interstitial spaces. The moisture retained in the hair naturally gives hair an attractive and healthy glow, providing instant shine, smoothness and frizz control and also helps strengthen the hair shaft by promoting elasticity, thus preventing any form of hair brittleness from occurring. Jojoba oil also ameliorates many scalp problems relating to hair follicle blockage and potential consequent and scaling due to hardened sebum accumulations.” (Nadim A. Shaath, 2012)

So you see, even though this blog post started with information that was incorrectly stated, Jojoba ended with lots of positive energy that includes many health benefits that you can utilize for yourself. From its humble beginnings, Jojoba has proven to be the rock star of oils (or wax). In case you were wondering, yes, Thirteen Thieves Beard Oil uses Organic Jojoba in the formulation of their products as well. Please take a look at our product line and pick up some of our products; they are safe and healthy for you and your beard.


Works Cited:

  • (August 2012). Skin Research and Technology, pages 364–369.
  • Council, N. R. (2002). Jojoba: New Crop for Arid Lands, New Raw Material for Industry. Books for Business.
  • E. Reiter, Q. J. (2007). Anti-inflammatory properties of alpha- and gamma-tocophero. Mol. Aspects Med.28(5-6) , 668-691.
  • Edited by Steven J. Phillips & Patricia Wentworth Comus. (2000). A natrural history of the Sonoran Desert. Published in collaboration with The University of California Press.
  • Nadim A. Shaath, P. (2012, August 31). The Wonders of Jojoba. Retrieved May 12, 2015, from Happi:
  • Prance, G. a. (2012). The Cultural History of Plants. Taylor & Francis.
  • Pritzker, B. (2000). A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford University Press.
  • Rabasco AAM, G. R. (2000). Lipids in pharmaceutical and cosmetic preparations. Grasas y Aceites 51 , 74-96.