Have you reaped the potential benefits of castor oil yet? Even if you already slather it on your hair, brows, and eyelashes, you may be in for a vitamin-rich treat. Nope, castor oil isn't just praised for reviving brittle hair, it's also praised by many experts for providing a healthy, hydrated complexion as well.
While we’ve long touted the wide-ranging benefits of coconut oil, argan oil, rosehip, macadamia, and others, good old castor oil and its long list of uses have been left out of the healthy oil buzz. Well, we’re here to change all that.
Meet the Expert
Read on to learn more about the potential beautifying benefits of castor oil.
Type of ingredient: Hydrator.
Main benefits: Hydrating, soothing, detoxifying.
Who should use it: In general, people with problematic skin or people who want to prevent wrinkles. Pregnant women should avoid castor oil as it is used to induce labor.
How often can you use it: Once a week.
Works well with: Other oils like almond and jojoba.
Don't use with: Any other possible irritants.
What is Castor Oil?
Pressed from castor seeds found in the tropical Ricinus communis plant, castor oil is thicker and goopier than argan or coconut oil, which may make it an effective replenisher for skin and hair. But the story doesn’t end there. The medicinal properties of castor oil are thought to have been harnessed as far back as ancient Egyptian times when the oil was regarded by many as an immunity-boosting elixir. It's still a mainstay of Ayurvedic medicine. Upon reviewing its properties, we get why.
But what do dermatologists think? Well, it's mixed at best. "Castor oil is sometimes credited with helping the absorption of other products into the skin, as well, it has purported other benefits: anti-inflammatory/antibacterial/moisturizing, however, there is minimal data or studies showing these claims, and there is a significant divergence of opinion among skin experts, so it’s rarely considered a first-line agent," says Hirsch.
Rabach has a slightly different take: "Castor oil is a moisturizer for the skin, hair, and nails, and can be used alone or with other products. I would not recommend it for people with acne-prone skin, because oils go into the pores and clog them, exacerbating acne. The moisturizing effects are beneficial for chapped lips and super dry hands and feet in winter. There are some reports that it may have some anti-inflammatory properties, although it has not been well tested or established."
Benefits of Castor Oil
While our dermatologists caution us that castor oil's purported benefits have not been proven through studies. Herbal education specialist Pande still believes castor oil can help you. Regardless of who we choose to listen to, we all know that truly radiant skin starts on the inside. But Pande says applying castor oil topically may help you reap the rewards, too.
- Supports the liver: “It’s easy to give yourself glowing skin with castor oil by using it to help support your liver,” claims Pande. “Apply the oil to a flannel, and then place it on your skin over the liver region under your right breast. Try to leave it there for a minimum of an hour. Wrapping it in cling film can help. Overnight, it can work wonders.”
- Protects against wrinkles: Get ready to hear something groundbreaking: Castor oil is believed by some to be the answer to fighting signs of aging without super-strength serums or injections. To help moisturize skin, Pande suggests you “dip a small cotton ball into castor oil, and then apply it to your skin before going to bed.”
- Speeds hair growth: Yes, castor oil is believed to help speed up hair growth, making it a favorite for homemade brow and lash serums. “For longer lashes, replace your eye-makeup remover with castor oil and wipe away the day’s mascara while allowing the castor oil to delicately coat your lashes, lengthening and protecting them,” says Pande.
- Soothes problem skin: As if protecting against wrinkles and speeding up hair growth weren’t enough, castor oil is also traditionally used for its supposed healing properties against eczema, dermatitis, rosacea, psoriasis, and other skin conditions. “Inflamed skin is crying out for castor oil,” says Pande.
- Fights bacteria: Being especially rich in naturally antibacterial ricinoleic acid, castor oil has the advantage of a potential dual-action approach. The oil might hydrate skin and fight bacteria at the same time, helping to end the cyclical nature of itching and irritation.
- Aids digestive issues: We’ll get straight to the point: If you’re prone to sluggish digestion or constipation, castor oil is your friend. Thanks again to that high concentration of ricinoleic acid, castor oil has long been used as a natural laxative to help with digestive issues.
- Fends off split ends: Packed with replenishing acids, castor oil may help to keep hair strong and healthy, delaying the arrival of those dreaded split ends. In fact, an older 2003 study found that castor oil increased hair shine.
Use a clean spoolie to brush castor oil through your brows and lashes before bed for an overnight serum.
Side Effects of Castor Oil
Doctors often advise against consuming castor oil during pregnancy, as it can have a contracting effect on the uterus. A good rule of thumb is to consult a GP or pharmacist for guidelines on how to take castor oil. However, some product labels suggest beginning with a 15-milliliter dose (if you're using it for constipation) before adjusting as you need and never exceeding 60 milliliters.
Castor oil can cause skin irritation when applied topically. Some reported side effects from topical use of castor oil indicate an allergic reaction and include skin rashes, itching and irritation, swelling, and hives. It's always recommended to do a 24-hour patch test when trying new ingredients to rule out any possible allergies.
How to Use Castor Oil
For inflamed skin in need of extra nourishment, Pande recommends dabbing a little oil on affected areas morning and night.
For split ends, it can be used similarly. “When it comes to sneaky split ends, put a quarter-sized drop of castor oil in the palm of your hand, and then warm it with your other hand before smoothing through the ends of your hair,” advises Pande. “For the ultimate restorative hair mask, blend with coconut oil and leave it on overnight to work its magic on your mane.”
Can You Use Castor Oil On Your Face?
Yup, you can totally use castor oil on your face—however, it's recommended that you dilute it 1:1 with another oil (olive oil is a great option). Castor oil can take a while to absorb, so mixing it with another oil can help it sink into the skin just a bit faster.
Is castor oil good for dry skin?
According to Pande, castor oil is moisturizing, making it a good choice for those with dry skin.
Is castor oil good for oily skin?
Castor oil is antibacterial, so it might help those with excess oil and bacteria-clogged pores. However, it is not recommended if you have acne-prone skin.
Is castor oil good for sensitive skin?
Castor oil can help those with inflamed skin, according to Pande. If it's too strong, though, it can be diluted with water.
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Park CG, Kim JJ, Kim HK. Lipase-mediated synthesis of ricinoleic acid vanillyl ester and evaluation of antioxidant and antibacterial activity. Enzyme Microb Technol. 2020;133:109454. doi:10.1016/j.enzmictec.2019.109454
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