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Castor Oil for Hair: Purported Benefits and Side Effects

Some people claim that castor oil is beneficial for hair and skin. Flo explains how it’s used and whether it is a useful treatment. 

Castor oil is a translucent, slightly yellow liquid extracted from the seeds of the plant Ricinus communis. This oil has been utilized in holistic medicine for a range of therapeutic purposes. The use of castor oil can be traced back to Ancient Egypt. 

Today, сastor oil is used in many industries and added to many types of cleaning and cosmetic products. This oil contains nearly 90 percent of ricinoleic acid (hydroxy fatty acid). 

Typically, you will see this oil listed as Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil on many product labels. Because of the way it is processed (seeds are cold-pressed and further clarified by heat), it does not contain ricin. It has been shown to have a few irritating or toxic effects when applied topically. It was shown to cause corneal irritation when applied to the surface of the eye. You can use it around the eyes and on the eyelids, but avoid contact with the eyeball. 

There is no evidence that castor oil is beneficial for hair growth. It may have antimicrobial properties that can help treat bacterial or fungal overgrowth on your scalp. Some people have reported that it caused inflammation and allergic reactions. 

Hair grows out of tiny pockets in your skin called follicles. Here’s how it happens:

  1. Hair growth has four stages. The growing phase of hair is called the anagen phase, and it normally lasts two to seven years, depending on the hair length.
  2. Hair grows from the follicle (or root) underneath the skin and is fed by a blood supply.
  3. Over time, this first phase of hair growth shortens, and hair may become weaker and thinner with each cycle. 
  4. As the hair grows, it gets pushed up through the skin, passing an oil gland that adds oil to the hair and keeps it shiny and soft. It can also make your hair appear greasy. Washing your hair regularly keeps the oil in check. This oil production can increase or decrease with hormonal changes as well.
  5. The next phase lasts about ten days and is called the catagen phase. In this stage, the hair follicle shrinks and detaches from the underlying tissue.
  6. The resting phase (telogen) lasts around three months. While your hair is in this resting phase, a new hair is beginning to grow. About 10–15 percent of your hair is in the resting phase at any given time. 
  7. The final phase (exogen) occurs when the new hair grows enough to push the old hair out. You lose about 50–150 hairs from your head daily. This loss usually doesn’t cause any noticeable thinning. Most baldness is caused by genetics and isn’t preventable.  

Although the internet is full of information about castor oil for hair growth, there is zero evidence that it is helpful for this. Hair growth can be enhanced or affected by various factors. Applying oils to your hair can help moisturize it like the naturally occurring sebum that our skin produces. Adding to or replacing this natural oil can help prevent damage to the hair shaft caused by sunlight and hair products like hair dye and hair spray. Adding oil to your hair can also increase its luster and shine.

These tips may help you avoid preventable types of hair loss:

  • Avoid tight hairstyles like braids, buns, or ponytails that can put tension on your hair, causing breakage and loss.
  • Avoid twisting, rubbing, or pulling on your hair. These actions can contribute to excessive hair loss.
  • Treat your hair gently. When washing your hair, try not to scrub your scalp. This motion can cause the hair to knot and make it more difficult to comb out.
  • Avoid harsh chemical treatments and heat applications (straighteners, curling irons, etc.).
  • When possible, avoid any medications or supplements that are known to cause hair loss.
  • Protect your hair from sunlight by using products that contain UV protection.
  • Stop smoking. Studies have shown that tobacco use can lead to numerous skin and hair issues.
  • If you are undergoing chemotherapy, talk to your doctor about using a cooling cap. This type of cap is designed to reduce your risk of hair loss during treatment.

If you have questions about caring for your hair or concerns about hair loss, a dermatologist may be able to help.

If you’re interested in using castor oil on your hair, try rubbing just a few drops of the oil in your hands and then massaging it into your scalp. You can try massaging a few additional drops of castor oil into your hair’s midsection and ends, which may protect against breakage and improve the texture

Castor oil can also be used as a hair mask. You can try leaving the oil in place for about two hours. To prevent oil from dripping on and staining your clothing, cover your head with a shower cap or an old towel until it’s time to wash your hair.

Many hair care experts recommend using castor oil no more than once a week, but there’s no evidence that any frequency is more beneficial than another.

Some people are allergic to castor oil, and it can also cause side effects. In rare cases, using castor oil as a hair treatment can lead to acute hair felting. This is when the hair becomes entangled into a hard mass. In this case, the only solution is to cut off the affected hair.

There’s no evidence that castor oil can help with hair loss and hair growth. Hair loss may be the sign of an underlying health problem, though, and it’s important to find out what is causing it. Talk to your doctor as soon as possible if you’re experiencing unexplained hair loss. They can help figure out what’s causing your hair loss and suggest potential treatments.  

https://academic.oup.com/mmy/article-abstract/8/3/174/1663709 https://europepmc.org/article/med/14528387

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5596646/ https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-0536.2007.01160.x

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