The jojoba plant (Simmondsia chinensis) occurs naturally as a sprawling bush in south western USA and the western coast of Mexico, in areas where rainfall rarely exceeds 250mm per year – it is truly a desert plant.
The tribes indigenous to this region were using jojoba long before the Spanish Invasion. They used it to condition their skin and hair and to treat skin ailments. They also used the leaves as a tea. The Spanish were the first people to record its name, hence the difference between its spelling and its pronunciation.
Jojoba came into widespread use in cosmetics in the western world when it was considered no longer ethical to hunt sperm whales. It was also about this time that the use of cosmetics based on non-renewable petrochemicals was being questioned. Jojoba’s unique chemical structure has many similarities to spermaceti wax. It was realised that jojoba could be a more than adequate replacement, thus freeing the cosmetic industry of its strong links with whale hunting.
At this stage jojoba was mainly harvested from the wild and supplies were variable. Most jojoba plants now come from commercially cultivated improved varieties. In Australia it is grown in our inland farming areas where it is considerably less dependant on water than grain, cotton and other tree crops such as olives and nut trees.
Although it’s use as an additive to cosmetics is still increasing, more and more people are maximising the benefits of jojoba by using it on its own, knowing it is a completely natural product.