castor oil

Castor Oil: Is It Worth the Hype? Exploring the Benefits and Uses


Castor oil has always offered diverse applications, from culinary to medicinal and industrial use, serving as lubricants and biodiesel components. Nonetheless, its recent surge in popularity results from a perceived effectiveness in skincare and haircare. Truth be told, this fresh attention on castor oil is no surprise; there is a growing preference for natural beauty solutions, which has elevated the appeal of fresh oils. Yet, amidst the recent attention surrounding castor oil, one might wonder: is it really worth the hype?

What is Castor Oil?

Castor oil is a thick, sticky liquid made from the Ricinus communis plant seeds, native to the Mediterranean and other tropical areas across Africa and Asia. The origin of this fresh oil can be traced back to ancient Egypt, where it served as fuel and medicine to address irritation and induce labor in pregnancy.

Castor oil features a unique chemical composition, rich in ricinoleic acid, a potent anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial ingredient. This composition has sparked interest in its ability to address various skin and hair concerns, though conclusive evidence remains elusive. That said, castor oil is a single-ingredient product in its pure form, making it theoretically useful for various applications.

Heat Extracted vs. Cold Pressed Castor Oil

Typically, castor oil is extracted through a heating process to deactivate ricin, a toxic enzyme prevalent in the Ricinus communis plant. However, this extraction process could reduce the oil’s effectiveness by altering its composition and diminishing some beneficial properties, like vitamins and antioxidants.

For this reason, most cosmetic and topical medicinal products utilize cold pressed castor oil. The cold pressed extraction process involves pressing the castor bean, usually with a hydraulic press, to extract the oil and retain more of its beneficial compounds. That said, cold pressed castor oil contains a dangerous dose of ricin and should not be ingested.

Exploring the Uses of Castor Oil

We don’t consider castor oil edible, primarily because of its unpleasant taste; however, it does feature nutritional facts. One tablespoon of castor oil typically contains 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, vitamin E, omega-9, and omega-6 fatty acids, making it practical for the following applications.

Temporary Laxative

As of now, the only FDA-approved health application for castor oil is as a natural laxative to relieve constipation. Castor oil is one of the few natural oils with a high quantity of ricinoleic acid, which research shows can attach to the intestine, causing muscular contractions and facilitating the passage of waste through the colon.

This makes castor oil a temporary laxative, occasionally used to clear the colon before a procedure like colonoscopy. However, prolonged usage could have adverse effects, like bloating and cramps. It’s best to seek medical advice if constipation lasts over a few days. The SWAN Castor Oil USP 100% Stimulant Laxative is an effective castor oil product for managing constipation.

Castor Oil Pack

Castor oil is known for its antibacterial, antimicrobial, and detoxifying properties, making it effective in several healing applications. Traditionally, a castor oil pack is used for this application, where a piece of cloth is soaked in the oil and then placed on the skin to enhance blood circulation and promote healing.

The castor oil pack can alleviate bone and muscle pains, detoxify the body, heal wounds, increase circulation, support healthy lymph movement, relieve cramps, and address arthritis symptoms.

Making a castor oil pack is easy; all you need is a piece of fabric, cotton, or wool soaked in cold pressed castor oil. You can also apply heat over the pack to help the oil penetrate the skin and enhance its effects. Those who would rather buy one should opt for the MEEYEE Castor Oil Pack Wrap Kit or Sky Organics Reusable Organic Castor Oil Pack.

Castor Oil for Skincare

The unique characteristics of castor oil make it very useful for several skincare applications. Typically, castor oil is thick, dense, and translucent, making it a perfect moisturizer. It softens and smoothes the skin like other emollients; however, the thick consistency also reduces transepidermal water loss and keeps the skin hydrated.

Castor oil’s antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial properties also make it a practical option for various skincare problems. Castor oil can synthesize and form vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that reduces the oxidation of lipids in the skin and slows down sebum production. This is ideal for folks dealing with various skin conditions. Here are some castor oil benefits for your skin.

Addressing Acne

Castor oil can address cases of acne due to its unique properties. For one, the anti-inflammatory property of ricinoleic acid makes castor oil effective in soothing acne lesions and easing the symptoms associated with acne. Moreover, its antimicrobial qualities may aid in combating the bacteria responsible for acne breakouts.

Urban Hydration Castor and Shea Spot Cream is a safe and effective product for fighting acne, fading dark spots, and leaving the skin smooth. This cream is also perfect for all skin types, so you don’t have to worry about reactions.

Moisturization and Hydration

As we said earlier, castor oil is rich in ricinoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid known for its moisturizing properties. As such, it can serve as an effective emollient for the skin and help to facilitate moisture through water retention.

Aside from its water retention, castor oil also functions as a humectant, attracting moisture from the air to improve the skin’s hydration. The significant presence of ricinoleic acid also contributes to a smoother and more refined skin texture.

Castor oil can typically be used alone or with other oils instead of moisturizers. However, using the oil directly may result in some adverse reactions. Some safer skincare moisturizing products formulated with castor oil include Zatural Castor Oil Body Butter, Heritage Store Castor Oil Roll On, and the Sunny Isle Jamaican Black Castor Oil Pure Butter.

Consistent Complexion

In addition to its high concentration of ricinoleic acid, castor oil also features a fatty acid composition, which includes oleic acid, linoleic acid, and palmitic acid. How do these acids benefit skincare? Well, this composition promotes optimal skin health by nourishing and reinforcing the skin’s natural barrier. Topically applying castor oil can enhance your skin’s resilience and maintain a perfect balance, leading to a consistent and even skin tone.

Skin Protection

Castor oil’s antioxidant properties play a crucial role in protecting the skin against environmental stressors, mainly UV radiation and free radicals. Castor oil neutralizes the effect of these stressors and protects the skin’s well-being. But does this make castor oil a natural sun protection?

Replacing sunscreens with castor oil is not a good idea despite its numerous benefits. Typically, castor oil has a sun protection factor (SPF) of six, meaning it can only block about 85% of UV rays. While this may seem significant, the remaining 15% is still significant enough to cause damage.

We recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect yourself from prolonged sun exposure. Consider the Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen lotion or Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Sunscreen lotion.

Castor Oil for Hair Growth

Apart from its growing prevalence in skin care, castor oil is widely used as a natural hair care solution, mostly for the reasons that make it an effective skincare ingredient. The moisturizing characteristics of castor oil help to lubricate the hair shaft, enhancing its texture and reducing the chances of breakage.

Castor oil has become a regular part of most people’s hair care routine, and if you’re looking to explore its benefits for hair growth, then consider the best castor oil products like Kate Blanc Cosmetics Castor Oil, RejuveNaturals Castor Oil, or Sky Organics Organic Castor Oil

However, despite the prevalence of these hair growth products, no scientific evidence suggests castor oil helps to improve hair health, promote hair growth, or reduce hair loss.

Potential Side Effects?

Like any synthetic or natural skincare ingredient, castor oil has potential side effects. For one, there is a possibility of allergic contact dermatitis. Although most skincare experts suggest that castor oil is typically well-tolerated, there is always a chance of an allergic reaction. So, if you must use it, always look out for possible reactions like redness, itching, rashes, or peeling.

The second issue concerns castor oil’s thick texture, which presents a risk when applied to the face, especially for oily skin prone to breakouts. Castor oil can clog pores and potentially worsen acne breakouts in such instances.

As for those who use castor oil for hair care, there are accounts of it causing acute hair felting, particularly in people with long hair. Due to the thick nature of castor oil, the hair can become permanently twisted and tangled. Hence, you should also be careful when applying castor oil as a hair treatment.

That said, you can mitigate the side effects of its thick consistency by diluting your castor oil with a lightweight emollient like olive oil. With this, you can get a thinner consistency and reduce the risks of breakouts and hair felting. Furthermore, always opt for fresh oil and store it in a suitable environment.

Regardless of perspectives, the proven moisturizing properties of castor oil make it a wise option for hair and skincare. Furthermore, its growing online followership would suggest it is worth the hype to a large extent. Still, you should consider every possible effect before applying castor oil.