When it comes to natural skin and body care, oils like coconut and olive are very popular. Though not quite as well-known, the benefits of castor oil for skin and hair are just as powerful.
In fact, castor oil has been used for thousands of years for health and beauty. It was used in Ancient Egypt in the wicks of lamps and to induce labor in pregnant women. Castor beans have even been found in 6000 year old tombs. (1)(2)
Today, castor oil continues to have many medicinal and cosmetic uses. Here's more about the benefits of castor oil and why you would want to use it for your skin and hair.
What is Castor Oil?
Castor oil comes from the beans or seeds of the castor plant (Ricinus communis). The plant is native to the Mediterranean and tropical parts of Africa and India.
Castor oil can be extracted from the beans either by a cold-pressing method or by using chemical extraction. The final product is a thick, colorless (sometimes pale yellow) oil.
Many of the benefits of castor oil come from its chemical composition. About 90% of its fatty acid content is ricinoleic acid, which is a rare compound not found in many other plants. (3)
Ricinoleic acid can help to soften and hydrate skin and hair, calm inflammation, and fight bacteria. In addition, castor oil is full of omega-6, omega-9, vitamin E, flavonoids, and other fatty acids. (3)
All of these compounds and nutrients make castor oil extremely nourishing and beneficial for skin.
Here's more about the specific skin and hair benefits you can get from using castor oil.
Benefits of Castor Oil for Skin
Because of its fatty acid content, castor oil is a natural moisturizer. Applying it to skin will soften and soothe skin as well as prevent water loss.
Castor oil is often added to lotions and cleansers for its moisturizing properties. It's also used as an ingredient in natural soap bars because it hydrates skin and helps create a better lather.
You can use castor oil on its own as a completely natural moisturizer. Or, since castor oil is very thick, mix it with other skin-hydrating oils like sweet almond, olive, or jojoba.
Apply a small amount of your oil or oil mixture after getting out of the shower or bath. You can also rub it directly into dry or cracked skin throughout the day as needed.
The ricinoleic acid in castor oil is a potent anti-inflammatory that can reduce skin inflammation and pain. (4)
Along with aloe vera, castor oil is a good choice for a natural sunburn remedy. Applying it directly to sunburned skin provides relief and will help your skin to heal.
It can also be used for other kinds of skin irritation, itchiness, and rashes.
Supports Wound Healing
Along with having anti-inflammatory properties, castor oil also acts as an antimicrobial. It has been found to be effective against several types of harmful bacteria. (5)
These properties explain why it promotes the healing of wounds, cuts, and scrapes. The moisturizing nature of castor oil prevents wounds from drying out, which can slow healing, and the antimicrobial agents help to disinfect wounds.
Castor oil has also shown benefits for healing pressure ulcers on the skin. (6)
Combats Acne and Skin Conditions
The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial nature of castor oil gives it the potential to fight acne and other skin conditions caused by inflammation or bacteria.
While not all types of acne will respond to castor oil, it can be a good natural moisturizer for those with breakout-prone skin.
The anti-inflammatory nature of castor oil makes it a great oil to use in a massage. Not only will this benefit skin, it can also relieve joint and muscle pain.
To use it externally, you can massage the castor oil into any sore areas. Or soak an old cloth in castor oil, apply it to the desired location with a clean cloth covering it, and put a heating pad or hot water bottle over top.
The heat and the oil will both help with inflammation and pain. Plus, your skin will benefit from the whole process as well.
Benefits of Castor Oil for Hair
Softer and Shinier Hair
As a natural moisturizer, castor oil has the most benefits for dry or damaged hair.
Massaging just a small amount of oil into wet or dry hair can give you shinier, softer, and more hydrated hair. Applying it to your scalp will help to prevent a dry scalp and contribute to healthier hair.
There are also many anecdotal stories about castor oil stimulating hair growth, although these have not yet been backed up by studies.
Dandruff can have different causes, but it's generally viewed as an inflammatory scalp condition related to seborrhoeic dermatitis. (11)
Castor oil acts as an anti-inflammatory, moisturizer, and antimicrobial to calm and prevent dandruff. Adding it into your normal hair-care routine can give you a much healthier scalp.
Ways to Use Castor Oil
There are many ways to get the benefits of castor oil. You might already be using it in some of your skincare products like soap or lotion.
Castor oil is a popular choice for making a homemade oil facial cleanser. It's typically blended with at least one other oil like olive, sunflower, or coconut. Castor is especially recommended for those with oily skin.
For normal skin, use three parts of an oil like olive or sunflower to one part of castor oil. Use this mixture as part of the oil cleansing method on your face.
You can also rub castor oil directly into any dry, irritated, or flaky patches of skin.
For hair, you only want to use a very small amount of oil, and treat your hair only once or twice a week. If you have trouble getting the castor oil through your hair, try mixing with jojoba or argan oil.
To apply, put a few drops of oil onto your scalp. Hair can be dry, damp, or wet.
Massage the oil into your scalp and down the hair strands if your hair is dry. Let it condition your hair and scalp for at least 15-20 minutes before shampooing and rinsing out.
Castor oil is generally considered safe with no side effects, especially when used externally.
When taken internally, it can potentially induce labor in pregnant women. It can also cause diarrhea and upset stomach.
When used externally, castor oil occasionally can cause an allergic reaction. Do a small patch test on skin first before using on a larger area.
Discover the Benefits of Castor Oil
Now that you know more about the skin and hair benefits of castor oil, it might be time to give it a try.
Castor oil has been used for thousands of years cosmetically and rivals coconut and olive oil for skincare uses. It's moisturizing for dry skin, soothing for irritated skin, and beneficial for your scalp and hair.
Try adding this oil to your normal beauty routine to discover its benefits for yourself!