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The Fascinating Reasons You Need Castor Oil in Your Life

Have you reaped the benefits of castor oil yet? Even if you already slather it on your hair, brows, and eyelashes, you’re in for a vitamin-rich treat because this stuff isn’t just great for hair growth. Nope, castor oil for your skin is praised by many experts for providing a healthy, hydrated complexion as well.

Meet the Expert

  • Ranella Hirsch, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and cofounder of Atolla.
  • Morgan Rabach, MD, is cofounder of LM Medical NYC in Greenwich Village and a board-certified dermatologist.
  • Katie Pande is a medical herbalist and senior herbal advisor at Pukka Herbs.

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. Read on to learn more about the 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 can 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. But as its texture suggests, it’s also far richer in vitamin E and fatty acids than most plant oils, 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 (keyword) 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."

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Benefits of Castor Oil for Skin and Body

OHLAMOUR STUDIO / Stocksy

Regardless of who we choose to listen to, we all know that truly radiant skin starts on the inside. But experts say 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,” says 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 could be your 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.”
  • Plumps the skin by stimulating collagen production: “Castor oil penetrates the skin and helps to stimulate the body’s production of collagen and elastin, which can soften and hydrate the skin,” explains Pande. As you might know, reserves of collagen and elastin (which keep skin looking plump) deplete as we age—especially in delicate areas such as around the eyes, mouth, and forehead, where fine lines tend to appear first.
  • 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 boosting collagen and speeding up hair growth weren’t enough, castor oil is also traditionally known for its 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 and anti-inflammatory ricinoleic acid, castor oil has the advantage of a dual-action approach. The oil hydrates skin and fights bacteria at the same time, helping to end the cyclical nature of itching and irritation.
  • Aids digestive issue: 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 omega-6 fatty acids, repairing amino acids, and enriching vitamin E, castor oil may help to keep hair strong and healthy, delaying the arrival of those dreaded split ends.

Use a clean spoolie to brush castor oil through your brows and lashes before bed for an overnight serum.

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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.

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.”

The Best Products With Castor Oil

One of the most accessible brands to find, Tropic Isle has been producing and selling castor oil from Jamaica for almost 20 years. The 100 percent natural, pure Jamaican black castor oil is made from the highest quality castor beans, which are gently roasted and traditionally processed by hand to preserve their natural magnetism.

You might recognize Pukka for their tea or their herbs, but they also make and sell cold-pressed oils like this castor oil. Their castor oil is made from 100 percent certified organic herbs and ethically sourced castor seed oil. Pukka is a member of the 1 percent for the Planet organization, meaning a portion of each sale is donated to environmental causes globally.

Natural hair-oriented brand Bomba Curls made this oil for hair, but they suggest using it on your whole body. Castor oil is a huge component, but so are black cumin seed oil and coffee seed oil, the latter of which the brand calls a “true Dominican hair secret.”

Few body oils excite editors more than this classic, which boasts grapeseed oil and squalane as two of its top active ingredients. Also on the list? Castor oil. It's super nourishing and conveniently comes in a spray, so not a single drop is wasted.

Another bottle of castor oil, pure and cold-pressed, this time from beloved haircare brand Briogeo. It's even fair-trade, so you know you're getting an ethical product.

Who knew one simple ingredient could hold so much beauty power? This overnight oil is made to rejuvenate the skin while you sleep. While castor oil is a hero ingredient, the formula also includes lavender and marula oils to firm the skin, and rosehip, jojoba, and sweet almond oils for brightening.

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Castor oil is moisturizing and helps boost collagen production, making it a good choice for those with dry skin.

Castor oil is antibacterial, so it can help those with excess oil by dissolving clogged pores.

Castor oil can actually help those with sensitive skin, by fighting bacteria and helping to soothe rashes or conditions like eczema. If it's too strong, though, it can be diluted with water.

Quintis Sandalwood highlights Indian sandalwood oil as an alternative to CBD oil following a review of the scientific literature.

The company sought to assess the benefits of each and according to the company, Indian sandalwood oil showed similar scientifically proven benefits to CBD oil. The company’s review identified five key benefits and claims, which are important for skin care formulations.

Wound Healing

Both CBD oil and Indian Sandalwood Oil have been found to act on keratinocyte proliferation to facilitate wound healing. They do this by stimulating the calcium channels on keratinocytes; however, Indian sandalwood oil acts specifically on the receptor OR2AT4, 4 while CBD oil acts specifically on the CBD CB-1 receptor. 6

Skin Brightening

Studies showed that Indian sandalwood oil inhibits the tyrosinase enzyme, which is responsible for uneven skin tone, dark spots and pigmentation. 5 Conversely, the company found no research to suggest CBD inhibits tyrosinase or reduces melanin production; its brightening claims instead stem from the ingredient’s antioxidant properties.

Antioxidant

A recent study published in the Cosmetics Journal, commissioned by the company, found Indian sandalwood oil to be a potent antioxidant that works on the keratinocytes to protect the skin from reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by environmental stressors such as blue light and pollution. These ROS cause damage to cell structures and break down collagen, reducing elasticity and causing an uneven skin tone. 1 As noted, CBD oil shows similar antioxidant properties, working on the keratinocytes to protect the skin from ROS. 6, 7

Anti-inflammatory

Indian sandalwood oil also has demonstrated the ability to inhibit the production of cytokines/chemokines (IL, TNF-α) and prostaglandins, all of which cause inflammation in the skin — resulting in pigmentation and collagen degradation. The oil also up-regulates 11βHSD1 enzyme to covert inflammatory cortisone to inactive cortisol. 2-4 CBD was shown to stimulate the CB-2 receptors in skin to reduce cytokine chemokine altough the mechanism remains ambiguous. 6, 7

Anti-aging

Finally, Indian sandalwood oil was found to inhibit the MMP1 enzyme generated in the skin upon exposure to certain internal and environmental stressors. This enzyme is responsible for breaking down collagen. 1 In contrast, according to the company, to date there is no research to suggest that CBD can inhibit the MMP1 enzyme. Again, CBD’s anti-aging claims stem from its antioxidant properties.