Examining the Use of Jojoba Oil for Seborrheic Dermatitis

In the past decade, jojoba oil has rapidly grown in popularity for cosmetic use.

It’s touted as the solution to not only dry skin but a large variety of skin conditions (from eczema to psoriasis). Accordingly, it’s usage as a treatment for seborrheic dermatitis occasionally comes up as well.

Now, let’s investigate some of these claims and see if there is any evidence that would support its use.

Examination outcome: The unique properties of jojoba oil is likely the main driver behind its recent rise in popularity. Evidence to support its benefit is minimal. While it may be of benefit for some aspects of seborrheic dermatitis, there isn’t enough data to give a clear recommendation at this time.

Small bowl of jojoba oil surrounded by several leaves and beans

What is jojoba oil

As the name suggests, jojoba oil comes the seeds of the jojoba plant. A small shrub native to desert climates; such as those found in the southern states of American and northern Mexico [1].

By weight, jojoba seeds contain roughly 65% oil.

When it comes to natural oils, Jojoba oil is very unique. While the large majority of oils are primarily composed of triglycerides, jojoba oil consists of mainly long-chain fatty acid esters. This makes it a very light oil and technically a liquid wax instead of a conventional oil.

Bottle of jojoba oil beside block of text noting its unique properties - the high amount of long-chain fatty acids and esters

Without going into the technicalities, the big difference between triglycerides and fatty acid esters is as follows:

  • Triglycerides have three fatty acids molecules that are held together by a glycerol backbone
  • Fatty acid esters are made up of a single fatty acid and a fatty alcohol

The most common wax esters you’ve likely heard of are solid, such as beeswax and palm wax. What makes Jojoba wax esters unique is that they are liquid at room temperature.

Being liquid allows for easier topical application, while being a wax results in a less greasy feel with a matted appearance of the skin. And this is where much of the cosmetic appeal of jojoba oil comes from.

The proposed benefits of jojoba oil in skincare

Across the internet, a slew of Jojoba oil benefits are reported for a variety of skin ailments. Adding to this borage are various products that emphasize the inclusion of Jojoba oil as being a big benefit.

Unfortunately, it seems the actual scientific examination on many of these claims is either lacking or vague at best.

For example, even the most prominent benefits that appear to be founded on minimal evidence

  • Wound healing – in the lab setting, cultured skin cells (HaCaT keratinocytes and human dermal fibroblasts) showed a response to Jojoba oil that is characteristic of improved repair capabilities [2]
  • Skin inflammation – in animal models (rats were used), Jojoba oil was shown to down-regulate the inflammatory response (“decreased paw oedema, PGE2 content in exudates, CAM granulation tissue formation, ear oedema, myeloperoxidase activity, nitric oxide generation and tumour necrosis factor alpha formation as well as amelioration of inflammatory histopathological changes”) of the skin to externally applied irritants [3]

Additionally, many are quick to point out potential anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. Yet, searching did not reveal the evidence to back these claims. There was data that showed a supplementary effect of Jojoba oil when used in tandem with active agents:

  • Enhanced antimicrobial activity – the addition of Jojoba oil to a Chitosan film improved its antimicrobial action against gram-positive bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus subtilis) [4]
  • Improved antifungal activity – when used as a carrier for clotrimazole, Jojoba oil was shown to improve its antifungal activity in comparison to two commercially available creams (Candistan and Canesten) [5]

But nothing that investigating the use of Jojoba oil on its own.

Unfortunately, the lack of evidence hasn’t stopped from exaggerated claims being made. And this is possibly the result of raw material suppliers that have over-emphasized the limited existing evidence (when researching, lots of producer supplied materials cropped up).

Applicability in the use for treatment to of seborrheic dermatitis

Concerning seborrheic dermatitis, several online claims suggest that jojoba oil may be of use. But unfortunately, there is no direct evidence to support these claims.

The best we can do is theorize the properties which could be of benefit and warrant further investigation.

Could help offset sebum abnormalities seen in seborrheic dermatitis

As previous studies have shown, seborrheic dermatitis affected skin is characterized by abnormal sebum profiles.

The lipid profile of jojoba oil much better resembles that of healthy skin than most other natural oils [6]. Theoretically, this could mean that topical application may help bring the sebum profile back into balance, eventually leading to symptom resolution.

A unique fatty acid profile can reduce the chance of a negative reaction

Oleic free fatty acids appear to be the major culprit in driving seborrheic dermatitis symptoms.

Jojoba oil has a very unique fatty acid profile primarily consisting of long-chain fatty acids and relatively low oleic acid content.

In comparison to more commonly used oils, only a relatively small amount of these fatty acids (about 10%) are present in jojoba oil. And its possible jojoba oils occlusive properties (acting to moisturizer the skin and help restore the repair process) with a reduced chance of negative side-effects could be of benefit.

Plus, while long-chain fatty acids abnormalities haven’t been implicated in seborrheic dermatitis, this has been noted in rosacea [7]. And since rosacea often overlaps with seborrheic dermatitis, it may be of even further benefit to those individuals who are impacted by both conditions simultaneously.

Anti-inflamattry properties

A major part of seborrheic dermatitis is driven by an abnormal immune response, characterized by run-away inflammation. And if the lightly documented anti-inflammatory effects of jojoba oil hold up in real-world use, this could be of great benefit.

Topical application could dampen the usual inflammatory response to the oleic acid present and further enhance the applicability of the oil’s occlusive properties.

Essentially, if the anti-inflammatory properties are sufficient enough, it would under the same principles of a corticosteroid. However, it’s unlikely that the anti-inflammatory of jojoba oil can compete. And even when compared to other natural anti-inflammatory agents, the others at least have more evidence to confirm their effectiveness.

Conclusion

Bottle of jojoba oil with a dropper top beside a few jojoba branches and beans

Thanks to its growing reputation, it’s easy to theorize why and how jojoba oil may benefit seborrheic dermatitis. Reviewing the evidence, its unique lipid composition and anti-inflammatory properties appear to be most relevant. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough evidence to neither confirm nor deny the possibility that jojoba oil could resolve seborrheic dermatitis symptoms.

References

  1. Jameel R Al-Obaidi, Mohammed Farouq Halabi, Nasser S AlKhalifah, Shanavaskhan Asanar, Abdulrahman A Al-Soqeer, M F Attia "A review on plant importance, biotechnological aspects, and cultivation challenges of jojoba plant." Biological research 50.1 (2017): 25. PubMed
  2. Elia Ranzato, Simona Martinotti, Bruno Burlando "Wound healing properties of jojoba liquid wax: an in vitro study." Journal of ethnopharmacology 134.2 (2011): 443-9. PubMed
  3. R HABASHY, A ABDELNAIM, A KHALIFA, M ALAZIZI "Anti-inflammatory effects of jojoba liquid wax in experimental models" Elsevier BV 51.2 (2004): 95-105. doi.org
  4. Osiris W. Guirguis, Mahmoud F.H. Abd Elkader, Andrew A. Nasrat "Enhancing antimicrobial activity for chitosan by adding Jojoba liquid wax" Elsevier BV 93 (2012): 353-355. doi.org
  5. Mostafa Shahin, Seham Abdel Hady, Mohammed Hammad, Nahed Mortada "Novel Jojoba Oil-Based Emulsion Gel Formulations for Clotrimazole Delivery" Springer Science and Business Media LLC 12.1 (2011): 239-247. doi.org
  6. Anue Orchard, Sandy F. van Vuuren "Carrier oils in dermatology" Springer Science and Business Media LLC 311.9 (2019): 653-672. doi.org
  7. Flavia Alvim Sant'Anna Addor "Skin barrier in rosacea." Anais brasileiros de dermatologia 91.1 (2016): 59-63. PubMed
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About Michael Anders

After being affected by seborrheic dermatitis, I have made it my goal to gather and organize all the information that has helped me in my journey.

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