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Fact: The internet loves castor oil. A quick search of the words will yield millions of results, ranging from fervent Reddit threads to DIY recipes on Pinterest boards and beauty blogs from all corners of the world swearing by its ability to grow lush, long hair—and fast!
Based on the reviews (and some pretty convincing before and after photos), we were ready to promptly pour a large bottle of the stuff on our heads and let it work its purported magic, but we thought it would be wise to vet this beloved ingredient by some experts first.
Meet the Experts
- Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon is a board-certified dermatologist at Preston Dermatology and Skin Surgery in North Carolina. Prior to founding her own practice, she served as assistant professor in the department of dermatology at Duke University Hospital. She is a member of the American Board of Dermatology, American Academy of Dermatology, North Carolina Dermatology Association, American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and the American Society For Laser Medicine & Surgery.
- Kim Kimble is a celebrity hairstylist and founder of Kim Kimble Hair Care. Her work has been featured in everything from Euphoria, where she served as the hair-department lead to some of Beyoncé’s most iconic performances, including the “Crazy In Love” music video and her Coachella performance. She has also styled celebrities like Gabrielle Union, the Williams sisters, Kerry Washington, Tariji P. Henson and Zendaya.
Why Is Castor Oil So Popular?
“Women account for 40 percent of Americans who are struggling with hair thinning or loss,” says Dr. Solomon. “And because the options for treating this issue are often very costly, it is completely understandable why many women seek out natural remedies such as castor oil.”
Glad we’re on the same page, here, doc, but give it to us straight…
Does Castor Oil Actually Help with Hair Growth?
Not really—at least not directly or on its own. “Scientific evidence surrounding castor oil for hair growth is lacking,” says Dr. Solomon. The good news, she assures us, is that it does not have any harmful effects and can “enhance and increase the absorption and effectiveness of other products,” which can in turn provide “fertile ground” for hair to grow. So again, to be crystal clear, castor oil does not cause new hair growth on its own. However, incorporating it into your routine can help create a healthier environment for hair to grow.
How Is Using Castor Oil Beneficial and What Makes It a Better Option Than, Say, Coconut Oil?
For starters, it’s incredibly moisturizing. Castor oil is loaded with fatty acids and antioxidants, which makes it a great treatment for dry or brittle strands. Well-conditioned strands equal more flexibility, and more flexibility means your hair will be less likely to snag or split. The extra shine is an added bonus.
It also has naturally antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help soothe an itchy scalp and reduce dandruff—especially when paired with a nice in-shower massage to boost circulation.
The most distinguishing characteristic of castor oil (over coconut or jojoba, which are two other commonly used ingredients in DIY hair remedies) is its dense and slightly sticky texture. By far the thickest of the bunch, a little dab of castor oil goes a much longer way than its counterparts.
What Should I Look for in Castor Oil?
We’d recommend looking for one that’s cold-pressed and organic, as any pesticides or GMOs could potentially increase the chances of irritation. Plus, a cold-pressed extraction ensures that you’re getting the purest and highest quality form of castor oil from the seeds since there are no chemicals or heat involved in the process.
How Often Should I Use Castor Oil in My Hair?
Before you go and get your scalp massage on, Dr. Solomon has a quick word of advice: “As with any new product you’re introducing into your regimen, test a tiny amount on your inner arm for 24 hours first to make sure your skin doesn’t have an adverse or allergic reaction. While it’s rare, some people do experience irritation from castor oil.”
If you’ve passed the patch test, Kimble suggests using castor oil as a pre-shampoo treatment. “Depending on your hair type and how often you wash your hair, you can use castor oil once or twice a week,” she says.
Simply work a few drops evenly through your scalp and strands and leave it in for about 20 to 30 minutes. Kimble cautions that if you have thinner hair, you should use the product sparingly, as it can weigh down your roots. On that note, make sure to shampoo thoroughly, so no residue remains (which is especially important if your hair tends to get greasy easily).
As anyone who has experienced hair loss knows, it can be isolating and overwhelming when you’re going through it, but you’re definitely not alone. (Recall the statistic about 40 percent of women?) It also helps that we have so many more resources and options for treatment than ever before—castor oil and beyond.
The 5 Best Castor Oil Products to Shop Now
1. Pura D’or Organic Jamaican Black Castor Oil
This bestselling oil checks all the boxes: clean ingredients, good value and, most importantly, it’s effective. It’s also multi-functional. In addition to your scalp and hairline, you can use the oil on your skin, lashes and eyebrows. To that end, we especially like that it comes with two smaller tubes that include a small, liner brush and a spoolie respectively for easy application to the eyelids and brows.
$16 at Amazon,Amazon
2. Kate Blanc Cosmetics Castor Oil
Kate Blanc Cosmetics
Kate Blanc Cosmetics Castor Oil is a triple-threat. In addition to encouraging new growth around a skimpy hairline or a widening part, it’s also great for treating dry ends and flaky scalps. Heck, the certified organic oil works wonders on rough heels and dry elbows, too. A few drops is all you’ll need to get ample moisture wherever you need it most.
$10 at Amazon,Amazon
3. Briogeo Curl Charisma Organic Cold-Pressed 100% Castor Oil
In addition to nurturing your scalp and encouraging new hair growth, this pick from cult-favorite hair care brand Briogeo is great for styling curls. Massage a few drops into damp hair (or mix some in with your styling cream) to reduce frizz and add shine as it dries. Because as any curly-haired gal will tell ya: More moisture equals more defined curls. For a deeper treatment, we recommend pairing the oil with a scalp massager to really work it in before you shampoo.
$26 at Amazon,Amazon
4. Aria Starr Cold Pressed 100% Pure Castor Oil
If you’re looking to get the most bang for your buck, this jumbo-sized bottle is a solid choice. Clocking in at 16 ounces and featuring a handy pump top applicator, you’ll have plenty of unrefined, cold-pressed castor oil goodness to last you for a long, long time. Not to mention it’s easier to dole out the appropriate amount to hydrate, say, your parched legs after a shower. (Tip: Mix in a few drops of another scalp-friendly oil like tea tree or peppermint before applying it to your head for an added zing and refreshing scent.)
$20 at Amazon,Amazon
5. Sky Organics Organic Castor Oil
Rounding out the list is this fan favorite from Sky Organics. The certified organic formula has been shown to help with regrowth after stress or trauma (i.e., postpartum hair loss). It also works with all hair textures. Whether you have stick straight strands or coily twists, your hair and scalp will become much more manageable and healthier with regular use.
$25 at AmazonRELATED