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Moby Dick and the Finest Oil in Skincare
One hundred and sixty odd years ago, as Herman Melville penned the last chapters of Moby Dick, whaling was a global business dominated by the United States. At its peak, whaling was the States’ fifth largest industry, a perch held by manufacturing today. Why were whales pursued to end of the earth? The butchered whale provided ambergris for fine perfumes, baleen for everything from umbrellas to corsets, meat for eating, bones for trophies and tools, and oil for lubrication and, most importantly, illumination. Before widespread electrification, oil lamps were the primary means of bringing light to the dark. Whale oil fueled the lamps.
Despite the great bounty of the gentle whale, it is not unlimited. By the 1930’s many species of whale were nearing extinction. Humans had become too technologically advanced in pursuit of the leviathan, and the oceans offered little shelter. Sadly, whaling ground on like a death march until activist environmental groups launched one of the most successful environmental campaigns ever. Groups such as Greenpeace pestered whaling boats and publicized the shameful butchery of these gracious mammals. This campaign led to widespread revulsion at the practice. In 1986, the International Whaling Commission, responding to public outcry, halted commercial whaling. The ban remains in effect today.
The most precious of all whale oils- there were many types and grades- was spermaceti oil. Only found in the spermaceti organ of the Sperm whale, this organ assists in echolocation and gives the sperm whale its familiar extended forehead. Spermaceti was valuable. It has a sweet smell, long shelf life, and many excellent benefits ranging from skincare to industrial applications. Interestingly, spermaceti oil is not technically an oil; it is a liquid wax. As whaling threatened the gentle Sperm whale with extinction, the supply of this valuable resource grew limited.
In 1935, as the supply of spermaceti oil was drying up, researchers at the University of Arizona discovered that the oil from the seed of the jojoba plant, a shrub indigenous to the Sonoran Desert of the Southwestern US, is chemically different from other seed and nut plants. Olive, almond, sunflower, argan, and other seed oil plants create oils by producing triglycerides. Triglycerides are metabolized readily as an evolutionary measure to encourage animal consumption. The jojoba plant followed its unique evolutionary path; its cells do not produce triglycerides. Instead, jojoba seeds produce liquid wax esters. In an interesting evolutionary quirk, jojoba wax is chemically remarkably like spermaceti oil and sebum- the natural oils produced by healthy skin.
Triglyceride oils react clumsily when applied to the skin. They are greasy, non-breathable, and retain less moisture. Because jojoba evolved for protection from a harsh climate instead of ingestion, it behaves differently that triglyceride fats when applied to the skin. Jojoba oil reduces transepidermal water loss without blocking the exchange of gases and water vapor. Absorption studies at the Universities of Arizona and Michigan demonstrated that jojoba moisturizes and softens skin through the dual action of forming a breathable ester layer and diffusion of jojoba into the deeper layers of skin tissue. Jojoba even affords some protection from light.
At Drew’s Honeybees, we scoured the globe for the finest carrier “oil” to anchor our products. As cultivation is still limited, jojoba remains more expensive than triglyceride oils. However, we shun shortcuts to bring our customers the best. Rest easy knowing you have found the finest in natural, organic skincare.