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Castor Oil For Skin: Does It Work?

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

People around the world have used castor oil for skin moisturizing, to treat acne and other issues, and for hair care. This post goes through all the benefits to skin that could be backed by scientific research.

Enjoy this read and, as always, click the numbers in square brackets to check out all the references!

What is castor oil?

Castor oil is made by pressing castor beans until they release their oil. For a full description of how they’re made, the two types of oil and how to use it in your hair click here!

Beautiful castor beans

What can you use castor oil for?


Castor oil is made of 90% ricinoleic acid which is a fatty acid [i]. Fatty acids help skin preserve moisture when you use them topically [ii]. Ricinoleic acid does this very well but since it it’s a thicker oil it might be worthwhile to mix it with something thinner like almond oil. You could use castor oil on your face overnight, as a daily part of your skincare routine, as a nail moisturizer and castor oil for dry lips is a game changer!

Speed up healing and treat scars

Castor oil has been shown to speed up the closing of wounds [iii] and the healing of ulcers [iv]. Ricinoleic acid is also antibacterial [v] so it is safe to put on.

Pain relief

Castor oil has been shown to be an analgesic, meaning it reduces pain [vi, vii]. I could only find studies that show that the pain relief was for topical pain in the skin [viii] but not for anything deeper like muscle or joint pain.

Castor oil is either pale yellow or dark brown

Treatment for inflammation

Castor oil has anti-inflammatory properties [ix, x]. Studies show that small and consistent ricinoleic acid application to inflamed skin helps bring the swelling down [xi]. This can be helpful for treating things like rashes and even psoriasis [xii].

Treatment for acne

Castor oil for acne can be very helpful as it reduces inflamed skin [see above]. Castor oil is also antibacterial and so can help reduce the bacteria associated with acne [xiii].

Castor oil and coconut oil mixed together can make a very effective spot treatment. Click here to read about coconut oil benefits for you skin!

The castor plant

Is it safe?

I couldn’t find studies that showed any dangers associated with castor oil. I would recommend that if you want to try it you use a little swatch on your arm and leave it for a day to see if you have an allergic reaction [xiv]. Also don’t drink it as it is a very strong laxative [xv] and especially don’t drink it if you’re pregnant as it can induce labor [xvi].

Scary Fun Fact

After castor beans are processed the left over dry waste material can be used to make ricin which is a very powerful poison [xvii]. Any Breaking Bad fans will remember Walter White making ricin!

(I should have figured this out faster since the active ingredient is called RICIN-oleic acid)

My thoughts

I recently bought some castor oil to try it out and thus far have found great results! I use it as a strong moisturizer out of the shower and when my lips are dry and it’s been working well.

(I will provide a full review once I get my act together on the Reviews section of Science in Style, stay tuned)

As an oil it has a long history being used by ancient Egyptians as a skin salve and throughout Africa and later used popularly in the Caribbean for both hair and skin [xviii].

If you are going to try it make sure you look for ethically produced oils because there can be exploitation of workers and producers by larger companies.

There are a number of Jamaican black castor oil producers that are black owned so make sure you are buying from them and investing in smaller businesses!

Finally, I would recommend buying a product that comes in an amber glass bottle because it protects the oil from light and glass is better for the environment than plastic.

Amber glass is best for your oils!

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