Nails splitting and eyelashes thinning? Perhaps you’re tired of cutting your hair short, longing to be reunited with your luscious long locks? Think castor oil! Where does it come from? What does it do? How do you use it? We’ll tell you everything there is to know about this fabulous natural healer.
Castor: from toxic to natural treasure
You’ve already encountered castor oil in your cosmetics. If its INCI name Ricinus communis seed oil doesn’t ring a bell then perhaps the more simply-put Castor oil is a name you’re familiar with. This 100% plant-based oil is made from the seeds of a very ancient shrub. The common castor (ricinus communis) originated in Africa and is now grown all over the world. What are its characteristics? The fruits are covered in poisonous spines that contain very toxic, even deadly, seeds which can produce a very thick and greasy oil famously used as a means of torture because of its remarkable laxative effects. What’s that? All of this isn’t making you want to incorporate castor oil into your skincare routine? Well, you’re wrong! Firstly, no worries: after the castor is cold-pressed, the toxic component of its seeds is removed through filtration. Moreover, this oil has some amazing qualities, that have been recognised for centuries. Both medicinal – in the Caribbean particularly, castor is used to soothe intestinal problems, flu and skin illnesses – but also cosmetic – Cleopatra used to use castor as a makeup remover!
Castor oil in skincare products
Castor oil is a really widely used ingredient in skincare products. It definitely has its merits. It’s a go-to raw material for surfactants, firms up your skin, stabilizes pigments used in makeup, makes lipsticks shimmer and shine and it’s the ingredient that allows cold-pressed soaps to lather.
It really has some remarkable properties! It’s one of the best tools to help prevent skin conditions, from eczema to acne, and including thrush, age spots, inflammation and severe dryness. It cleanses, purifies and softens, helps to remove scars, hydrates and nourishes. But its even more impressive benefits concern hair, eyelashes and nails which it strengthens, beautifies and even encourages to grow! It’s very widely used on horses to thicken their manes. Is it a magical potion? Nope, nothing supernatural! Its secret is its composition. Castor oil is extremely rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and in particular with ricinoleic acid (up to 95%), it’s a laxative and above all a fantastic antibacterial and antimicrobial product. As a result, castor oil is great for regulating the spreading of microorganisms on the skin and scalp, while also hydrating them thanks to its content of oleic and linoleic acids. Its texture (it’s the most dense plant oil) does the rest with its incredible strengthening powers. Just as strong as conventional skincare products reinforced with silicones, but without their drying, greasing and polluting consequences!
How to use castor oil for your hair, nails and eyelashes
For luscious locks
Who is it for?
Beneficial for all hair types, castor oil is particularly effective for frizzy, lifeless, split, fine or weak hair. But it’s also great for stimulating hair growth or for slowing down hair loss.
Because of its composition and its texture, effectively castor oil nourishes and strengthens your hair: it strengthens the hair fibres and protects them from dehydration. Your tired hair gains volume and is transformed into flexible and shiny locks with clear results after the very first application! The antioxidant Vitamin E reinforces your hair’s natural resistance to external factors and prevents dandruff.
And that’s not all there is to it! The ricinoleic acids cleanses the scalp by eliminating impurities which block its pores. And a scalp that can breathe is the most crucial component of healthy hair: and with good blood circulation, your roots will be stuffed full of nutrients. After several weeks of use, you’ll notice faster hair growth and/or less hair loss.
How to use it
Castor oil can be used as a pre-shampooing product on brushed dry hair.
For volume and shine: use it generously, mostly on the hair lengths and ends so as to avoid suffocating your scalp (unless your scalp is very dry, but particularly not if you tend to have oily roots).
For anti-hair loss, anti-dandruff or to stimulate growth: apply the castor oil drop by drop and massage it into your scalp. You can also add a few drops to your shampoo.
Leave it to do its thing under a hot compress, for at least an hour or overnight. Wash it out until it no longer feels greasy. Of course, use a shampoo that doesn’t contain sulfates and water that isn’t too hot, so as to avoid ruling out all of our efforts.
How often should you be doing this? 1 to 3 times a week, over the course of month-long periods, leaving at least 4 weeks between treatments.
Our top tip
You can, of course, use it in its pure form but, as it is very thick, mixing it 50/50 with another more liquid oil will make the application easier and won’t weigh down your hair. Choose your other oils based on the problem you’re trying to treat – coconut or mustard oil for growth, nigella seed oil to treat hair loss, borage or jojoba for shiny and strong hair or broccoli oil to treat split ends. Unless you’ve been advised not to (if you’re pregnant, allergic or breastfeeding), you can add two drops of ylang-ylang or lavender essential oils for shine, geranium for dandruff or grapefruit for hair loss.
For rock-solid nails
Who’s it for?
If you have brittle nails or, on the other hand, nails which are too soft, bumpy, split, damaged, yellowed, growing badly or with dry and painful cuticles… Whether as a result of your dehydration, your daily activities (typing, cleaning products, washing dishes without rubber gloves) or fungal infections, castor oil can work miracles for you.
What it does
Thanks to the rinoleic acid and omegas 3 and 9, castor oil can save your fingernails or toenails by strengthening them and nourishing your cuticles. It will protect them from bacteria and fungi which prevent them from growing effectively. It hydrates them too. The result: growth is stimulated for your shiny and strong nails.
How to use it
One to three times per week if needed, ideally in the evening before going to sleep, apply a drop of castor oil to each nail and rub it in. You can also apply it like a nail polish, with a little brush, or in an oil bath. Use it pure or mixed 50/50 with nigella, borage, shea, blackcurrant or broccoli oils. Other interesting combinations for your cuticles might include lemon or ylang ylang essential oils.
Our top tip
The condition of your nails could also be connected to iron, zinc and vitamin deficiencies… Don’t hesitate to make sure that you’re eating a balanced diet.
For bold eyes
Who’s it for?
Very fine eyelashes, necessitating mascara, that have lost their volume and have become sparse and weak…
What does it do?
It works in the same way as it does on your hair. Castor oil is going to hydrate, strengthen, cleanse and nourish the roots for longer, thicker and luxurious lashes.
How to use it
For a real wow-factor, use the castor oil daily, ideally in the evenings, long enough before you go to sleep so as to not stain your pillowcase. Pop a drop of castor oil on your finger and apply it directly to your eyelashes. Make sure you don’t get it in your eyes as it will irritate them. Rinse the next day. How often should you do this? Over a monthly period, 2 or 3 times a year.
Our top tip
Use a clean mascara brush to apply the oil from the roots to the tips. Some brands even sell castor oil in this format.
Its effects will be even more spectacular if you use a high-quality oil. Meaning one whose production hasn’t destroyed its fatty acids. The main thing is just ensuring that the oil is cold-pressed, pure and ideally organic. And to preserve all of its benefits, keep it away from direct light, warmth and humidity in an opaque, watertight container. FInally, castor oil has the advantage of not being sensitive to oxidation, but nonetheless don’t go out and buy huge bottles of the stuff. You might end up with litres of rancid oil that’s inactive at best and maybe even toxic… You don’t want that!
This post is also available in french.