For years now, the coconut oil craze has raged on—and rightly so. It’s a true natural beauty staple that does everything from fight frizz to whiten teeth.
But amid the cuckoo-for-coconut craziness, another workhorse oil has been somewhat unfairly eclipsed, despite its presence in countless beauty products: jojoba oil.
“Jojoba is really unique because it has a different structure than all other oils out there,” says Abbott Stark, co-founder of organic brand Ogee, which uses the oil in its entire line (you’ll also probably find it in your current regimen, and in numerous products from natural beauty brands like Tata Harper, Osmia Organics, and S.W. Basics).
“It’s an oil that’s beneficial for almost every skin type and age, and is super versatile.”
“Many oils can be too heavy and occlusive for some people, which causes breakouts and greasy skin,” he explains. “Jojoba is actually biocompatible with your skin’s cellular structure,” which means it’s absorbed super easily.
Plus, it’s universally flattering. “It’s an oil that’s beneficial for almost every skin type and age, and is super versatile,” says Sara Ellis, ingredient guru and head of marketing at The Detox Market, a natural beauty outlet. “You can use jojoba as hair oil, a light moisturizer, makeup remover, cuticle treatment, lip balm—the list goes on.”
The oil, which is made from seeds of the jojoba shrub, hasn’t enjoyed the same acclaim as coconut oil in part because it’s an ingredient in a lot of so-so drugstore beauty products—but in its pure form, jojoba is definitely deserving of the kind of adoration its more tropical cousin gets.
Keep reading for 5 surprising facts about one of the beauty industry’s true MVP ingredients.
1. It’s a serious healer
The woody shrub grows in hot, warm climates, like Arizona, southern California, and Mexico— and indigenous people have been using jojoba seeds for beauty and health purposes for thousands of years, says Stark. “Its antibacterial quality made it great for a skin salve and healing treatment,” he explains. Modern science affirms that ancient wisdom—studies have shown jojoba oil noticeably accelerates the rate at which wounds close.
2. Its unique molecular properties mimic your skin
Facial oils are definitely having a moment, but they can be tough on acne-prone skin. “Plant and nut oils—like coconut, argan, almond—are all triglycerides, which is a three-strand molecule that can be a bit heavy,” Stark explains.
Jojoba, on the other hand, isn’t even technically an oil; it’s a crystalline wax that’s liquid at room temperature. And its molecular structure closely mirrors the building blocks of your skin, he says, which means it’s absorbed way more easily. “Because of the similarities, it’s great for all skin types,” he says. “It balances your natural oil production.”
Not only that, but it’s also a masterful regulator. “Jojoba helps to heal dry skin by stimulating oil production when needed, and controls overproduction of oil by signaling to our body when there is sufficient oil present,” says Ellis.
3. It’s a major multitasker
Jojoba isn’t just a moisturizer; it’s a potential wrinkle reducer as well. “The top layer of skin cells is almost like bricks and mortar—an interlocking cellular matrix—and as we age, it all starts to collapse and we see fine lines and wrinkles,” Stark says. “Jojoba oil helps to strengthen and bolster that matrix and can help prevent the formation of really deep wrinkles in the skin.”
Studies have shown that, when used on the skin, it inhibits the effects of UV exposure on collagen expression, which gives it its anti-aging reputation.
Ellis, who notes that it’s rich in vitamin E, zinc, iodine, and other nourishing antioxidants, adds that “jojoba serves as a humectant that draws water to the skin and is readily absorbed deep into the dermis. It also acts as a two-way barrier: sealing in the skin’s own moisture, while also protecting it from external environmental stressors.” (Score!)
Plus, its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties make it a fuss-free, one-ingredient face wash. “It naturally cleanses the pores, which is why it’s good for acne-prone skin types,” says Stark. “That also makes it great for cleansing residue build-up in your hair.”
4. Jojoba’s part of an environmental success story
In the 1970s—when people finally understood that killing whales for oil was unconscionable and the classic “Save the Whales” campaign kicked off—jojoba oil saw a surge in interest. “Horrific whale slaughters were taking place because whale oil was commonly being used in cosmetics,” Stark explains. (Gross, right?) “Environmental activists were protesting this cruelty and [tapped into] jojoba oil’s potential as the only other oil that had a similar molecular composition.”
The discovery led to the creation of sustainable jojoba farms throughout the desert, making jojoba oil a key part of a major environmental victory in the United States.
5. Speaking of: Jojoba’s extremely low-impact to source
“Jojoba oil probably has the lowest environmental burden out of any natural ingredient out there,” Stark claims. “It thrives in the desert climate and has a light ecological impact.”
Also helping its rep is the fact that the renewable plant is typically grown on marginal soils, and is super low-maintenance. “Jojoba has a long life span and is pretty pest- and drought-resistant,” Ellis adds. “Also, only the seeds are harvested, so re-planting is not needed—[plus] jojoba grows in arid climates, requiring less water than other plants.”
Good for skin and hair, and low-impact environmentally? That’s definitely worthy of some bathroom shelf space.