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Castor oil is another beauty secret coming to us from Ancient Egypt. It's jam-packed with vitamins and essential fatty acids and is, therefore, a one-size-fits-all ingredient found in many nourishing formulas for the skin – from cleansers to moisturizers.
Perhaps, it doesn't quite conjure that beauty-ingredient image since it carries a slightly negative reputation due to its unpleasant taste and laxative effect. But, trust, castor oil is an excellent ingredient for both your skin and hair – as long as you apply it topically.
In this article, we'll dive deeper into the origin of castor oil, its amazing skin benefits and share some tips on how to add it to your beauty routine.
What Is Castor Oil?
Castor oil is a vegetable-derived oil made of pressed castor beans (Ricinus communis). Today, castor beans are grown in tropical regions throughout the world but are most commonly found in the Mediterranean Basin, Eastern Africa, and some parts of Asia. It's a thick and translucent oil with a yellowish tint.
Castor oil is mostly made up of fatty acids, with more than 90% of its content being ricinoleic acid. Other significant components of castor oil are oleic and linoleic acid.
Generally, castor oil and its derivatives are used for manufacturing a variety of products, including soaps, brake fluids, lubricants, inks, dyes, nylon, and perfumes. However, it developed a negative reputation because larger doses of castor oil can induce nausea and diarrhea. For this reason, it was abused as a form of humiliating punishment for political opponents as well as for disobeying soldiers during WW2.
But its use dates even further back. Ancient Egyptians used it as lamp fuel, eye irritation remedy and even gave it to pregnant women to stimulate labor. Moreover, Cleopatra herself, the most popular skin-fluencer of all time, was perhaps the first one to use castor oil for beauty. Namely, she used it to make the whites of her eyes whiter.
So, even though castor oil is widely used for making nylon and dyes, it shouldn't scare you as it's perfectly safe to use on your face, skin, and hair (unless you're pregnant or allergic – we'll cover all the possible side effects and precautions of using castor oil later in the article).
Benefits of Castor Oil for Skin
Castor oil owes almost all its properties to ricinoleic acid, which is an unsaturated hydroxy acid. In addition, castor oil contains many other fatty acids, phytonutrients, and vitamins, essential for healthy skin, scalp, and hair. It provides the following benefits:
#1: It's Moisturizing.
Filled with monounsaturated fatty acids, such as ricinoleic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid, castor oil is a natural humectant, restoring the skin's moisture by preventing water loss. In addition, castor oil contains triglycerides or neutral lipids, keeping the skin well-hydrated and supple, and is especially suitable for dry skin [source].
#2: It Promotes Wound Healing.
The ricinoleic acid in castor oil has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, promoting wound healing and preventing the sores from drying out [source]. In addition, castor oil encourages tissue growth, creating a barrier between a wound and the environment, preventing infection, and aiding the healing process.
#3: It Helps With Acne.
As we already mentioned above, ricinoleic acid has strong anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, fighting inflammation, reducing bacteria-induced acne, and soothing irritated skin [source]. Furthermore, studies suggest that people with acne-prone skin usually have a low level of linoleic acid on the surface of their skin. So, since castor oil contains linoleic acid as well, it may help with essential fatty acid deficiency and, therefore, treat and reduce acne.
#4: It's Antioxidant.
According to a 2012 study, Ricinus communis plant extract contains powerful antioxidant activity, scavenging free radicals and reducing oxidative stress [source]. Therefore, castor oil has potential anti-aging effects, preventing and reducing skin damage caused by pollutants, UV radiation, and other environmental stressors.
#5: It Promotes Scalp Health.
According to some experts, the fatty acid content of castor oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, which may help fight off bacterial and fungal overgrowth on the scalp. Some believe that this, in turn, helps cultivate a suitable environment for nurturing and supporting healthy hair follicles and fibers, leading to faster-growing and thicker hair.
However, there's not enough evidence to support that castor oil promotes hair growth, and any testimonials regarding this are anecdotal. Nevertheless, some people swear by it and even suggest that castor oil helped them get thicker brows and lashes.
How to Use Castor Oil
Since castor oil is pretty thick in texture, it might take a while for your skin to absorb it. Therefore, we would suggest diluting it with other oils and using it as a part of your nighttime skincare routine.
Here are some suggestions on how you could add castor oil to your beauty routine:
As a Moisturizer
It would be best to use castor oil instead of your night cream or after applying your moisturizer in the evening to seal all that hydration in. Also, even though castor oil isn't comedogenic, it's not that readily absorbed by the skin. Hence, it's best only to use it for your whole face if you have exceptionally dry skin. Simply mix castor oil with another facial oil you like, in a 1:1 ratio, and press it into your skin or use it as massaging oil.
As a Cleanser
If you're a fan of a good old double cleanse in the evening to make sure you remove all the excess dirt, makeup, and sunscreen from your face, you can use castor oil as the first step in your cleansing routine. First, apply enough oil to your skin and rub it in using gentle circular motions. Then remove all the excess oil from your face using a cotton pad and continue with your cleansing routine with a gentle face wash, then a toner.
For Brows and Lashes
Even though only anecdotal, some swear castor oil helped them get thicker brows and denser and longer lashes. Use a cotton bud or a clean mascara wand to apply it all over your brows. Similarly, you could use a cotton swab and apply only a tiny amount of the oil to the root of your lashes. Be mindful not to get any oil into your eyes, so use the tiniest amount.
Peeling cuticles not only destroys your fresh mani but can also get quite painful. So apply a generous amount of castor oil to your cuticles in the evening before bed, put on a pair of gloves, and let it do its magic overnight. The emollient fatty acids from castor oil will nourish and hydrate your hands and nails, leaving your skin supple and smooth in the morning.
Essential acids rich content of castor oil is a godsend for split ends and damaged hair. Simply apply several drops of oil to your hair ends and leave it on for several hours before washing.
Potential Side Effects of Using Castor Oil
Although generally safe when used topically, there are some risk factors you should take into account if you want to start using it. It can cause specific adverse reactions in some people, including:
- It can cause allergic reactions: If you're allergic to castor oil, you may experience swelling, rashes, itching, and redness after you've applied it to your skin. Therefore, do a small patch test 24 hours before using it on your face. Apply a small amount of oil to the inner side of your arm and wait until one day has passed. If none of these reactions occur, it's safe to use;
- It can induce labor: If you're pregnant, don't use castor oil, not even topically, as there's a chance you might accidentally ingest it and induce birth. So, no matter what stage of pregnancy you're in, avoid using castor oil.
All in all, castor oil is a generally safe and relatively affordable all-natural product for keeping your skin supple, moisturized, and smooth. However, always choose pure, cold-pressed castor oil without hexane for skin care. Hexane is a chemical solvent (containing a lot of impurities) that's used for extracting castor oil and can cause a number of adverse effects.
Even though there is still some research to be done to determine the full benefits of castor oil, there's no harm in trying – sometimes, word of mouth turns out to be enough. So while it certainly will give you healthier and smoother skin, it just might also give you thicker brows and longer lashes along the way!
Can I use castor oil on my face?
Yes, you can apply castor oil to your face instead of a moisturizer or after you've applied your night face cream. It would be best to use it in the evenings because the oil is not quickly absorbed by the skin and can make you look shiny.
Is castor oil good for wrinkles?
Castor oil exhibits antioxidant activity, hampering the damage caused by free radicals and preventing premature skin aging. Therefore, in the long run, it may help reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Can castor oil grow eyebrows?
Even though there's no research confirming the ability of castor oil to support hair growth, some people claim it helps. The word of mouth is, it can help you get longer and dense lashes as well as thicker brows.
Is castor oil good for your lips?
Castor oil can help you with chapped and dry lips thanks to its content of monounsaturated fatty acids, including ricinoleic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid. These compounds hydrated and moisturize the skin.