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By Joseph Maine

Can Jojoba Oil Help Clear Up Acne?

An oil for oily skin is not as counterproductive as it sounds, according to dermatologists.

Cover - Oil

Facial oils are popular for good reason. Not only is the application process of massaging one into your skin incredibly soothing, but face oils also give your complexion an instant and very satisfying glow while helping to lock in moisture. Among the plethora of oil blends on the market right now, one humble oil is sometimes forgotten: jojoba oil. Often marketed as a good option for people with acne-prone skin, this scent-free oil acts as an emollient that helps to smooth and moisturize.

But is jojoba oil actually good for acne-prone skin? According to the experts we spoke to, yes. "It may help acne by normalizing your skin's own oil production, and it has anti-inflammatory properties," says Michele Farber, a board-certified dermatologist based in Philadelphia, adding that "additional acne-fighting ingredients may also be necessary for acne treatment." 

My personal experience with using jojoba oil during an acne breakout is that the lightweight facial oil feels soothing to apply and gives me immediate relief during particularly angry flare-ups. Plus, it gives my skin an instant and satisfying glow and feels luxurious enough to make me feel like I'm showing my skin a bit of extra love when it needs it.

It's always good to be armed with the facts when introducing a new ingredient or product into your skin-care regimen, particularly if you have sensitized or acne-prone skin. Ahead, we're breaking down exactly what jojoba oil is, what it does, and whether it'll likely be a good fit for your daily routine and acne-fighting arsenal.

What is jojoba oil?

The first thing to know about jojoba oil is that it technically isn't an oil at all. "Jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax, which is why it feels less greasy on skin compared to oils," says cosmetic chemist Ron Robinson of BeautyStat.

Specifically, jojoba oil is extracted from the seeds of the Simmondsia chinensis plant and earns its classification as a wax because of how it chemically differs from other oils. Jojoba oil is composed of 98 percent pure waxes, mainly fatty acids, alcohol, and hydrocarbons, unlike a true oil. "For this reason, it can help provide moisture on the skin's surface without clogging the pores," explains Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

It's the combination of fatty acids in jojoba oil that makes it a great option for moisturizing dry skin. "It acts as both a humectant to draw moisture in and an emollient that softens and smoothes the skin," says Garshick.

Farber seconds this, adding that as a good source of vitamin E, jojoba oil also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. "While it can be used in any skin type, it is best for dry skin and for red or sensitive skin," she says. "In a moisturizer, jojoba oil can help maintain the skin barrier."

Is jojoba oil actually good for acne-prone skin?

Jojoba oil shouldn't cause any issues for people with acne, and it may even have some benefits, too. The main reason is because of its status as a wax, which makes it less occlusive and easy to tolerate for most skin types. Garshick explains that jojoba oil's wax esters make it very similar to the major constituents of human sebum, which is 58 percent triglycerides and fatty acids, 26 percent wax esters, and 12 percent squalane.

Garshick tells Allure that because of the way it mimics the natural sebum in the skin, jojoba oil can actually help with mild to moderate acne by normalizing your skin's own oil production. "Jojoba helps with moisture on the skin's surface in the same way natural sebum would — without clogging the pores," she says. "Additionally, its formulation is lightweight, so it won't leave the skin feeling greasy; it's noncomedogenic and won't clog the pores, and it's also anti-inflammatory, which can also help with acne."

But its sebum-like chemical structure isn't the only reason jojoba oil is so well-suited to people with acne. The biological basis for treating acne with jojoba oil may be explained by the documented anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties of the extract, as well as its wound-healing effects. This was backed up by Garshick, who added that these additional benefits may help to calm inflammation and reduce breakouts.

Who shouldn’t use jojoba oil?

Before you start slathering jojoba oil on your face day and night, there are a few skin types that might want to think twice before embracing it with open arms. All of the experts we spoke to agree that jojoba oil is generally well-tolerated and, as Farber explains, when used appropriately, should not exacerbate acne. But like everything else in life, it's not perfect, and there are exceptions to the rule.

Farber and Garshick both stress that anyone with sensitive skin should always proceed with caution when introducing a new product into their daily skin-care regimen. "It's always a good idea to patch-test before using [jojoba oil] all over, particularly for people with very sensitive skin or those prone to rashes," says Farber. Garshick adds that if you're dealing with acne, it's also important to see a board-certified dermatologist to determine the best management options before you go out and buy any new products.

Other instances where jojoba oil may not be a good addition to your skin-care routine include if you have an allergy, very oily skin, or moderate to severe acne (as opposed to mild). Garshick explains that individuals with deeper nodulocystic acne may be a candidate for prescription medicines, including topical creams or oral medications, as this type of acne is notoriously resistant to topical oils alone; that means products like jojoba oil are not recommended in this instance. "In general, for cystic acne, it is known that salicylic acid — which is an oil-soluble beta hydroxy acid — helps to unclog pores and reduce oil production, as does the use of topical retinoids," she says.

How can you add jojoba oil to your skin-care routine?

If we've all but sold you on bringing jojoba oil into your life, you'll be pleased to know you have plenty of options in choosing where it best slots into your existing skin-care routine. According to Garshick, jojoba oil is safe for daily use in your skin-care routine and can be used in its pure form or as part of formulated products like cleansers, moisturizers, and serums.

"To get the most benefit, it can be used as 100 percent pure jojoba oil," Garshick says. "But because it works well with other ingredients, it is often combined with humectants, emollients, or other oils, to especially target dry skin." If you do opt for using pure jojoba oil, Garshick recommends using an unrefined and cold-pressed oil, like the Kate Blanc Jojoba Oil, as it's affordable and also maintains the oil’s antioxidant-rich properties. She adds that it can be applied directly to the hair, skin, and nails without being diluted.

Garshick explains that your goals will determine how you apply jojoba oil and where it belongs in your skin-care routine. "If it is being used for dry or cracked lips, it may be able to be repeated a few times per day," she says, recommending the Coola Classic Liplux Organic Hydrating Lip Oil Sunscreen for a double hit of moisture and sun protection.

However, if you're incorporating jojoba oil into your skin-care routine as a moisturizer or as part of an anti-acne regimen, it may be used once or twice a day. "When jojoba oil is incorporated to serve as a moisturizer, it is best to use as the last step in a skin-care routine to help lock in any moisture," Garshick says. Her pick is Romer Moisturize for its lightweight texture and combination of shea butter, jojoba oil, and hyaluronic acid to soften, smooth, and moisturize the skin.