One of the more common questions we have been asked over the past couple of years has been: Is Jojoba an oil or a wax? And when one of our editors for the Botanical Body Care Products course asked me “Why don’t you include Jojoba in the wax palette?”, I knew I needed to research this! I must admit, I have always thought it a bit peculiar to call jojoba oil: jojoba wax, but it seemed to be a recent trend. I have also noticed a few companies that use the term ‘jojoba wax’ for their jojoba oil. And all of this seems to have made some people insecure as to what to call it, so they just say ‘jojoba’. But, no, really, I am not sure who in the aromatherapy field first began calling jojoba oil: jojoba wax, but I don’t think it is helpful in the least nor is it correct. So, is Jojoba (hohoba) an oil or a wax? Let’s explore….
The earliest written record of jojoba, by the Italian Jesuit Clavijero (1789, 1852, 1937), detailed use of jojoba “berries” by the inhabitants of Baja California. “This berry has become celebrated for its medicinal value, especially for curing the suppression of the urine arising from mucus concretions, for facilitating childbirth, and for wounds. The oil which is derived from it is an excellent remedy for cancer; and, on the other hand, as it has good flavor, some in California are accustomed to use it in salads instead of olives.” (Clavijero, 1789).1
Is Jojoba really a wax?
When I think of a wax, I think beeswax, candelilla wax, or carnauba wax. The word ‘wax’ conjures up images of solid substances (such as beeswax). I think of a substance that will thicken a salve or support emulsification of a botanical cream. I think of salves and body balms, creams and lotions. We could not use jojoba oil as a wax in this same manner.
Let’s call it by its name: Jojoba Oil
When I think of Jojoba, I think of an oil. I think facial oils, body oils, vanilla-infused oil, and all the above too (salves, creams, lotions) because I can add jojoba oil into the formulation as an oil! Yes, jojoba oil is made of mostly of wax esters, but it is still used as an oil and technically, it is called jojoba oil.
According to International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook, 12th ed: Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil (CAS No. 61789-91-1) is defined as the fixed oil expressed or extracted from seeds of the desert shrub, Jojoba, Simmondsia chinensis. It is also known as Buxus Chinenesis Oil, Jojoba Oil, and Jojoba Seed Oil. Its chemical classification is ester.2
Miwa (1971) defines Jojoba (Simmondsia californica) oil as a liquid wax ester mixture extracted from the seeds of a desert shrub native to Arizona, California and northern Mexico.3
According to the International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook Sixteenth Edition 2016:
The term “oil” may be used to name non-triglycerides when it applies to ingredients that are commonly recognized. (e.g., Simmonsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Lanolin Oil, Mineral Oil, Tall Oil, Tar Oil.)4
What makes Jojoba oil different from other vegetable oils used in aromatherapy applications?
Most of the vegetable oils used for aromatherapy applications and cosmetic formulations are called triglycerides.
Jojoba oil is not a triglyceride. Jojoba oil (from the deserts of Arizona) is composed almost completely (97%) of wax esters of monounsaturated, straight-chain fatty acids and alcohols with high-molecular weights. These components include “C40 wax ester (30%), C42 wax ester (50%) and C44 wax ester (10%); along with 6% octadecenoic acid (oleic acid); 35% eicosenoic acid (Omega 9 fatty acid), 7% docosenoic acid (Omega 9 fatty acid), 22% eicosenol, 21% docosenol and 4% tetracosenol”. (Miwa, 1971)5
So what is Jojoba Wax?
According to International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook, 12th ed: Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Wax (CAS No. 61789-91-1, same as the oil) is defined as the wax obtained from the seed of the jojoba plant, S. chinensis. Its chemical classification is wax, and it comes from plant sources (Gottschalck and Bailey 2008). Jojoba wax is made from jojoba oil.
Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil (no CAS No.) is defined as the end product of the controlled hydrogenation of Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil. Its chemical classification is wax. It has both plant and synthetic sources (Gottschalck and Bailey 2008).
Synthetic Jojoba Oil (no CAS No.) is defined as a synthetic oil intended to be generally indistinguishable from natural jojoba oil with regard to chemical composition and physical characteristics. Its chemical classification is wax and it only has synthetic sources (Gottschalck and Bailey 2008).
Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Wax is a hard crystalline material with properties that are comparable to carnauba and beeswax, and it is miscible with polyethylene glycol in all proportions.6
NOTE: Jojoba wax is considered to be on par with (and perhaps stronger than) carnauba wax.
I think this pretty much summarizes that the jojoba we use is NOT a wax, per se. It is a liquid wax, yes. But it is technically called: Jojoba oil.
Notation for Reference on Gottschalck, T.E. and J.E. Bailey, eds. 2008. International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook. 12th ed. Washington: CTFA.
as cited by: Cosmetic Ingredient Review (2008). Safety Assessment of Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Wax, Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, Isomerized Jojoba Oil, Jojoba Esters, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Butter, Jojoba Alcohol, and Synthetic Jojoba Oil. Cosmetic Ingredient Review, Washington, DC.
- Wade C. Sherbrooke, W.C. and Haase, E.F. (1974). A WAX- PRODUCING SHRUB OF THE SONORAN DESERT Literature Review and Annotated Bibliography. University of Arizona OFFICE OF ARID LANDS STUDIES. Tucson, Arizona. https://tinyurl.com/y883g57w
- Cosmetic Ingredient Review (2008). Safety Assessment of Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed
Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Wax, Hydrogenated Jojoba Oil, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, Isomerized Jojoba Oil, Jojoba Esters, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Butter, Jojoba Alcohol, and Synthetic Jojoba Oil. Cosmetic Ingredient Review, Washington, DC. Retrieved from: https://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/115_buff3f_suppl.pdf
- Miwa, T. K. (1971). Jojoba Oil Wax Esters and Derived Fatty Acids and Alcohols: Gas Chromatographic Analyses. The journal of the American oil chemists’ society, 48(6), 259-264.
- Gottschalck, J, and Nikitakis, B. L., eds. 2015. International Cosmetic Ingredient Dictionary and Handbook. 12th ed. Washington: Personal Care Products Council. http://webdictionary.personalcarecouncil.org/ctfa-static/online/FrontMatter_Vol1%20Edited%20for%20Websites.pdf