Castor Oil for the Face: Should I Start Using It?

People have used castor oil for various medicinal and industrial purposes for thousands of years. It is a multipurpose oil grown primarily in Africa, South America, and India but exported worldwide. Recently, castor oil has gained popularity for its purported skin benefits. Read on to learn how it may help the skin and how to use it.

Key takeaways:

What is castor oil?

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Castor oil is a vegetable oil obtained from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant. Its medicinal uses are probably as well known as its infamous uses as a poison (ricin). The plant's seeds are cold-pressed to extract the oil and then heated to destroy the toxin. Even after heating, castor oil is not edible, but it is safe for use in skincare products.

Benefits of castor oil for the face

Many skincare products contain castor oil because of its many potential skin benefits. While research is scant on castor oil's use for the skin, many swear by it. Castor oil contains antioxidants, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory compounds, and fatty acids (ricinoleic acid) that may benefit the skin in various ways.

Here are some purposed benefits of castor oil for the skin:

  • Preventing wrinkles. Because castor oil contains the antioxidant vitamin E, many believe it helps fight wrinkles. Antioxidants scavenge up free radicals emitted by the sun that destroy collagen and lead to wrinkles.
  • Treating acne. Since castor oil is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, some use it to help treat mild acne. The cause of acne is multifactorial but involves dirt, oil, and bacteria clogging pores and causing inflamed acne bumps on the skin.
  • Decreasing puffiness. Many believe castor oil's anti-inflammatory properties help lessen puffiness around the eyes.
  • Moisturizing. Because castor oil has occlusive and humectant properties, it helps moisturize the skin. Humectants pull in moisture to hydrate the skin, while occlusives act as a barrier to prevent water loss.
  • Soothing sunburn. Castor oil's anti-inflammatory properties help soothe a sunburn.
  • Healing wounds. Some users combine castor oil with other ingredients to help heal wounds because of its ability to moisturize and protect the skin and prevent water loss. Its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties contribute to wound healing.

Risks of using castor oil on the face

Castor oil is considered relatively safe for use on the skin. However, it does have potential side effects for some. Users may reduce side effects by diluting castor oil. People with sensitive skin or skin conditions, such as eczema or acne, should try a test spot first or ask their dermatologist for guidance. Some patients with acne may find it worsens. Also, many avoid using it during pregnancy since it could induce labor. It's best to consult a doctor before using castor oil if pregnant or nursing.

Here are some potential side effects of topical castor oil use:

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  • Allergic reactions
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Rash

How to use castor oil on the face?

Castor oil has a thick consistency, so most users combine it with a carrier oil, like coconut or almond oil, to dilute it and make it smell better. Diluting it also helps prevent it from clogging pores. A couple of drops of castor oil are enough to apply and massage into the skin. Some leave it on overnight, while others wash it off in 30 minutes. Until users know if and how it will affect their skin, it's best to start applying castor oil a couple of times a week before building up to using it daily.

Always consult with your dermatologist first before trying new products. Always try a test spot first and tweak the recipe to your skin's needs and tolerance. Here are some recipes to consider and discuss with your dermatologist:

Sunflower oil and castor oil

Sunflower oil is rich in antioxidants and fatty acids to help moisturize and protect the skin. It can also help repair the skin's barrier function to prevent moisture loss. This combination can act as a cleansing oil or moisturizer.

Hempseed oil and castor oil

Hempseed oil contains antioxidants to protect the skin, fatty acids to moisturize the skin, and anti-inflammatory properties to soothe irritated skin. It may be beneficial as a moisturizer to those with eczema or psoriasis. Since it can decrease sebum production, it is also useful for acne patients.

Tea tree oil and castor oil

Tea tree oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that make it an ideal treatment for acne. Many use tea tree oil alone for acne, but you may get better results with the combination. In smaller studies, tea tree oil has been found comparable to benzoyl peroxide in the treatment of acne but with fewer side effects.

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If you are interested in trying castor oil for your skin, be sure to select a reputable brand and dilute it with a carrier oil. If you do not want to make your own combination oil, you can use a store-bought product that contains it. Always talk to your dermatologist first before starting any new products. Not every product may benefit you personally because everyone's skin is different.

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