Natural Skincare Wonder #6: Castor Oil

For those of you who are old enough to remember being given castor oil as a “spring tonic” or to relieve constipation, I’ll spare you the horrors: this is a practice that has been pretty much abandoned these days.  Not only was the taste of castor oil pretty horrid, but attempts to cover it up were unsuccessful, and the severe stomach cramps were enough to make most people want to run and hide when the bottle of castor oil came out of the medicine cabinet.

Castor oil used to be promoted as a way to start labor when pregnant women were past their due dates, or even when they just wanted to induce labor.  Thankfully, that practice has also been discredited as unsafe, because castor oil not only stimulates uterine contractions but also stimulates the bowels, which can lead to severe cramping, diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration – not exactly what a woman in labor needs to complicate matters.

So even though castor oil has had a bad reputation for internal use, it can do amazing things for the skin and hair when used externally.  Castor oil comes from the castor bean, which is pressed to extract the oil.  Cold pressed castor oil is preferred to oil which was processed with chemical solvents, usually hexane.  Castor plants are native to India and Africa, where castor oil is used in many ways, as the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties are well known.  Castor oil is a viscous, thick oil that can be combined with other oils that are thinner (such as jojoba or olive oil) and will help to allow the oils to spread more easily. 

These are a few of the wonderful things that castor oil can do for you:

  • Softens and Conditions the Skin – due to its highly concentrated fatty acids, castor oil deeply penetrates the skin and helps prevent moisture loss; its anti-inflammatory properties help soothe inflamed skin from sunburn and other irritations.

  • Fades Scars, Uneven Skin Tone, and Slows Aging – over time, castor oil will reduce hyperpigmentation or dark spots/age spots by stimulating the production of collagen and elastin, which helps keep skin smooth, plump, and elastic.

  • Massage Oil – castor oil’s anti-inflammatory properties help to relieve muscle pain and soreness, which makes a massage even more effective.

  • Hair Regrowth Treatment – castor oil is an effective treatment for hair loss and also promotes faster hair growth; ricinoleic acid, found only in castor oil, helps to balance the pH of the scalp and increases circulation; it also supports keratin in the hair to make it stronger, smoother, and less frizzy.  When hair is damp, use a dropper to apply small amounts of castor oil to the scalp and massage it in; cover with a towel or shower cap and leave in for several hours, or overnight.  Most, if not all, of the oil will absorb, especially if left overnight.  Wash as usual.

  • Grow Thicker, Longer Eyelashes – apply a tiny drop of castor oil to each eyelid before bed to condition and promote eyelash growth.

Castor oil is yet another truly amazing natural beauty aid – tomorrow’s blog post will be the last in this series for the week, and I’m going to tell you about what a wonder jojoba is.  (Did you know that jojoba isn’t an oil at all? Even though it acts more like an oil, jojoba is really a wax.)