The Beauty Benefits of Castor Oil
When choosing a product that is all natural, affordable, and incredibly good for your skin, hair, and nails, castor oil should be at the top of your list. This oil is a popular choice among natural health buffs and skin experts from around the globe, and it has been widely used throughout the centuries.
The Anatomy of Castor Oil
Castor oil is derived from the beans of the castor plant through a mechanical pressing process. Some of castor oil’s natural ingredients are vitamin E, tocopherols (natural antioxidants that help your body fight off free radicals), and prostaglandin E2 (a hormone-like lipid compound that can stimulate blood flow and promote hair growth). Castor oil also contains 90% ricinoleic omega fatty acids, which are believed to be the main healing components of the extract. In fact, there is a much higher concentration of ricinoleic acid in castor seed oil than in other natural oils, including soybean and cottonseed oil. Research suggests that ricinoleic acid binds to receptor cells in smooth muscle (involuntary muscle) cells found in your intestines and other internal organs. Because of the high concentration of ricinoleic acid, holistic healthcare practitioners consider castor oil to be one of the best natural laxatives and labor-inducers when consumed orally. But the uses of the castor plant oil extend far beyond its medicinal benefits. Read on to learn why you may want to add this product to your home beauty routine.
The Many Uses and Benefits of Castor Oil
This little oil packs quite a punch for improving the health, look, and feel of your body when applied to your hair, skin, and nails:
- Applied to hair: Castor oil can stimulate hair growth and improve the thickness and sheen of existing hair.
- Applied to skin: Castor oil is a humectant, so it retains moisture by attracting outside water vapors. This is another benefit of the ricinoleic acid found abundantly within it. Because castor oil is a humectant, it is very effective at removing sweat, dirt, and other grit off the face and body. And because of castor oils unique concentration of fatty acids (with less than 5% of the heavier, larger-molecule oleic acids), it won't clog pores and, in fact, even acts as a natural astringent to help pull out toxins from the skin.
- Applied to nails: Castor oil can help clear fungal infections, heal ragged cuticles, and restore health and strength to the nail beds.
Castor plant oil has also been used to successfully treat a variety of ailments and health conditions:
- It is a great joint pain and muscle ache reliever (when massaged into the skin), thanks to its anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects.
- It can help condition and clear the skin of acne, psoriasis, warts, and sebaceous cysts.
- It can help relieve cold and fever symptoms, thanks to its immune and lymphatic stimulating properties.
There is one downside to castor oil that is important to note: If consumed excessively, it may result in some gastrointestinal upset and irritation. To avoid complications, it's best to use this oil topically. Health and beauty experts suggest testing the oil on a small patch of skin at first to ensure that you don't react to it poorly.
A Brief History of Castor Oil
The castor plant, Ricinus communis, is originally native to India but is now cultivated throughout the Mediterranean. This perennial flower was recognized by ancient civilizations for its wide variety of uses, which ranged from medicinal to ornamental (it was nicknamed the Palma Christie, or “Palms of Christ,” because of its resemblance to human hands). Cultures including the ancient Greeks and the ancient Egyptians made many records of their uses of the castor seed oil. Many believed that it could heal anything—from skin conditions to the common cold. Now, decades and decades of holistic healing have also supported its use. And though scientific researchers have done only few studies to document the benefits of castor oil, it’s still considered one of the safer and more effective natural oils for daily use. For instance, the FDA recognizes castor oil as a safe and natural over-the-counter option for relieving constipation.
How to Use Castor Oil for Your At-Home Beauty Routine
Your best bet is to find unrefined, virgin, and cold-pressed castor plant oil to ensure maximal quality and effect. The most natural form of this oil has a pale yellow color and a faintly greasy smell to it. For use at home, try any of the following techniques:
- Mix one part castor plant oil with one part coconut oil and use this mixture as a massage oil. Focus the massage over areas of the body that are tender (such as arthritic joints or sore muscles).
- Gently wipe a few drops directly to problem areas on your skin (including wrinkles, age spots, sun spots, and scars) in order to reduce the appearance of fine lines and imperfections.
- Soak a cotton ball with a few drops of castor oil and gently wipe on the face to remove makeup (but be cautious around the eye area and avoid getting the oil directly in your eyes).
- Pour a few drops of castor oil in a bowl filled with three parts warm water and one part Epsom salt. Use the mixture to soak your feet or hands to help get rid of fungus and to soothe brittle nails.
- Make a castor oil pack. This famed concoction works well for larger "whole body" applications. To make one, you will need to soak two to three separate one-foot pieces of flannel or wool in the oil. Fold each strip of material and place them on your abdomen while you relax in a comfortable position on your back (you may want to lie on top of an old blanket to minimize mess). Place a piece of plastic wrap over the folded material, and put a heating pack or hot water bottle on top of the plastic. Next, cover the heating pack with another old towel, and lie with the pack on for at least 45 to 60 minutes. After you’re done, wash your body with soap and water to remove excess oil, and wash each towel by itself to avoid making other clothes smell like the oil.