"Castor oil is a vegetable oil that comes from the castor bean," says Purvisha Patel, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare. "It consists of important fatty acids such as ricinoleic acid, linoleic acid, steric acid, and oleic acid, all of which give it anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and moisturizing properties." This is why it's been used to make soaps for centuries, she says. To learn everything you need to know about the ingredient and its beauty uses, keep scrolling for the down-low on castor oil, plus how to use it in your skin-care routine.
What is castor oil?
Since castor oil is such a potent source of fatty acids, it has all sorts of health and beauty benefits. "Castor oil is most commonly used as an additive in foods such as candies or flavorings, as well in medications such as laxatives, along with skin-care products," says Linsday Malachowski, esthetician at Skinney Medspa. The extract comes from a region in India called Gujarat, and is known to be the only commercial source of hydroxylated fatty acid, adds Dr. Patel.
The anti-inflammatory properties of castor oil make it an under-the-radar superstar for the skin. According to Caren Campbell, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, studies have shown that the ingredient is incredibly anti-inflammatory and has analgesic effects. Topically, this makes it nourishing to both the skin and hair.
Castor oil for the skin benefits
When applied to the skin, castor oil can be an effective solution for soothing any irritation. "Topically, it has been used in skin care to calm inflammation and pain," says Dr. Campbell, noting that it can even help with inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. "Given its anti-inflammatory properties, castor oil can help soothe itchy, dry, or sensitive skin," adds Dr. Patel. "It can help fill in the cracks on the surface of the skin that can occur with dermatitis, which calms it down."
Castor oil is also a rich moisturizer for the skin. "The fatty acids in castor oil give it emollient properties, which means that it can help with the skin barrier function and help the skin retain moisture," says Hadley King, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. This is why you'll often find it in, well, moisturizing beauty products (from face creams to even hair conditioners). "Castor oil is a useful treatment for dry skin, as it increases the moisture content of the skin, which improves its appearance and gives the skin better texture, helping to diminish the appearance of fine lines."
If you have acne-prone skin, castor oil can be useful, too. "It has been used as a face oil for acne treatment," says Dr. Patel. "You could also just spot treat with it," she says. Plus, as Malachowski notes, the ingredient's antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties have shown that it can help "reduce acne." Cocktail it with tea tree oil to see an amped up effect.
How to use castor oil in your skin-care routine
To incorporate castor oil into your beauty routine, you can stock up on an actual product that features the ingredient in its formulation... or you can use the pure stuff itself in various ways. Here are the different ways to use castor oil au natural:
1. As a moisturizing soak: If your hands or feet feel extra-dry, Dr. Patel recommends soaking them in castor oil. "Castor oil would be a great natural oil to use on feet and hands under cotton gloves or socks at night," she says. "It could help with hand dermatitis from frequent hand washing or hand sanitizer use."
2. As a diluted face oil: Although castor oil can be used in its pure form on the skin, it should be mixed with something else before application. "Castor oil should be diluted in a one-to-one ratio with another oil, like peanut or tea tree, to use as a face oil," says Dr. Patel.
3. As a skin-care product booster: You could also blend castor oil into your current fave beauty products. Malachowski recommends adding a few drops into your go-to skin moisturizer to help further smooth and plump the skin.
3. Treat sunburn: "Apply a few drops of castor oil with aloe vera and vitamin E to make a soothing balm that helps heal a painful sunburn," says Malachowski.
4. Use as a body moisturizer: Malachowski also recommends adding about three tablespoons of castor oil plus one tablespoon of either jojoba or argan oil into a glass container with a lid or dropper bottle, then applying it daily to both your face and your body for moisture.
You could also stock up on one of the castor oil-spiked skin-care products, below.
Dr. Patel recommends this castor-oil infused body oil, as it's "not sticky, and good for after showers for all skin types," she says.
Feed your skin collagen-stimulating peptides, moisturizing hyaluronic acid, and humectant castor oil with this one multitasking serum, which Dr. King recommends for hydration and anti-aging benefits.
"This cleanser transforms from a balm into an oil cleanser, making it great for removing makeup and gently cleansing the skin without drying it out," says Dr. King, nodding to its nourishing formula of castor, argan, sweet almond, and sunflower seed oils.
For a light, skin-boosting facial oil, this one has castor oil for your skin's moisture, along with niacinamide for your skin barrier and antioxidant black currant oil for protection.
Used after cleansing the skin, this toner helps remove any debris within the pores as it adds moisture via castor oil, which then helps the rest of your regimen penetrate the skin more effectively.
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