The Power of Castor Oil for Skin Care

Jun 16, 2023by Heather Smith

(This article was written by a human and does not contain affiliate links!) 

You might have heard about the benefits of castor oil for hair and lashes, but did you know it's also a fantastic addition to your skincare routine? Castor oil, derived from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant, has been used for centuries for its numerous health and beauty benefits.

Rich in phytochemicals and fatty acids, this versatile oil can improve skin health, cleanse pores, and possibly even remove skin tags. But before you jump on the castor oil bandwagon, it's essential to understand its properties, best practices for use, and necessary precautions.

This article is part of our ongoing series about face oil. Read on to discover why castor makes it onto our list of favourite oils!

Key Takeaways

  • Castor oil is derived from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant and is rich in phytochemicals and fatty acids.
  • It maintains the skin's natural moisture balance and has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
  • Castor oil helps with scars, stretch marks, and wrinkles and can be used as a cleansing oil.
  • Choosing high-quality, cold-pressed, hexane-free oil is recommended for safe topical application.
Castor Oil for Skin - infographic by bareLUXE Skincare

What is Castor Oil

Castor oil is a natural moisturizer from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant, known to nourish and soothe the skin. This vegetable oil has been used for centuries for its numerous health and beauty benefits, thanks to its unique chemical composition.

Dating back to ancient Egypt, the castor plant was revered for its seemingly magical properties. The castor plant, scientifically known as Ricinus communis, is native to the Mediterranean, Eastern Africa, and India.

Ancient Egyptians used castor oil as a natural remedy for various skin ailments and its laxative and anti-inflammatory properties. Throughout history, the castor plant has been mentioned in various ancient texts, showcasing its importance and widespread use.

The famous Greek physician, Dioscorides, recorded the medicinal uses of castor oil in his 1st-century work, 'De Materia Medica.' The ancient Indian Ayurvedic literature also speaks to the use of castor oil for various health benefits. In fact, castor oil has been so widely recognized for its natural ingredients and healing properties that it has been nicknamed 'Palma Christi' or 'Hand of Christ' due to its ability to heal wounds and treat various skin conditions.

Is it a bean or a seed?

The term "bean" is commonly used to refer to the seeds of several plants, particularly those from the Fabaceae (or Leguminosae) family, like kidney beans, black beans, and soybeans. These plants are characterized by the fact the seeds are held inside a pod.

However, the castor plant, or Ricinus communis, does not belong to the Fabaceae family. Instead, it is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family. The term "castor bean" is often used in casual conversation due to the seed's bean-like appearance, but this is a misnomer. The castor plant produces seeds, not beans.

So, while the term "castor bean" is commonly used, it's accurate to refer to them as "castor seeds."

Phytochemical and Fatty Acid Composition

Castor oil is a potent reservoir of numerous fatty acids and phytochemicals, each contributing to its unique therapeutic properties. The distinctive profile of castor oil is primarily due to its high concentration of ricinoleic acid and other fatty acids such as oleic acid, linoleic acid, and palmitic acid.

The star player, ricinoleic acid, makes up 85-95% of the oil's total fatty acid content. This monounsaturated fatty acid, not commonly found in such high quantities in nature, boasts a unique chemical structure with a hydroxyl functional group that imparts anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. The hydroxyl group also makes it more polar than most fats, meaning it can interact with more substances, enhancing its solubility in alcohol and ability to form soaps.

Ricinoleic acid can deeply penetrate the skin due to its long carbon chain, moisturizing from the inside out and helping retain moisture by forming a protective barrier on the skin's surface. This also can help repair a damaged skin barrier

Beyond fatty acids, castor oil contains other valuable phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, phytosterols, and phenolic compounds, each uniquely contributing to its skin-enhancing abilities. Phytosterols, for instance, have been studied for their ability to promote collagen production, an essential factor for maintaining skin elasticity and reducing signs of aging.

The composition of castor oil presents a potent arsenal of components that can contribute to healthier, more vibrant skin. From the dominating presence of ricinoleic acid to the supportive roles of other fatty acids and phytochemicals, castor oil harnesses the power of nature in its purest form.

Myths & Folklore: Botox and Ricin

Castor oil is safe for topical application; however, some individuals may experience side effects, which is why you need to patch test.

But what about using castor oil to replace botox? Any chance you'll get ricin poisoning? Read on as I set the record straight on castor oil!

Deadly Poison?

The intrigue surrounding castor oil and its connection to the poison "ricin" is fascinating! As popularized by the TV show "Breaking Bad," ricin is an extremely toxic substance that can be derived from the castor plant, specifically from its seeds. However, it's crucial to differentiate between ricin and the ricinoleic acid found in castor oil.

First, it's important to note that ricin does not naturally occur in the oil itself because it's water-soluble and is not extracted during the oil-pressing process.

Second, it's important to remember that many seeds contain trace amounts of deadly chemicals - cyanide is found in seeds/pits from apple, peach, apricot, cherry, plum, bitter almonds, and the cassava root.

Just as we can safely eat an apple or apricot without ingesting harmful cyanide, we can use castor oil without fear of the toxic ricin.

Castor Oil to Replace Botox

This silly myth just blows me away. I have no idea how it got started or where the potential rationalization in logic came from. Tik Tok viral trends have done a lot of good for skincare education, but this one should fade away.

Botox is a nerve toxin. It paralyzes neurotransmitters deep inside your muscles so that they are incapable of moving. There is no link between botox and ricin (ie. ricin is NOT a nerve toxin and it is NOT present in castor oil). 

Will using castor oil help reduce wrinkles? Sure! It's an amazing moisturizer with occlusive properties. It's also antioxidant and antibacterial. I go into the skin benefits in way more detail below. But it will not replace botox!

Debunking the Skin Tag Removal Myth

In the vast expanse of the internet, home remedies for various ailments are a dime a dozen, and one such remedy suggests the use of castor oil for the removal of skin tags. The suggested mechanism behind this is that castor oil supposedly 'dries out' the skin tags, causing them to fall off. However, a closer look at the properties and effects of castor oil raises doubts about the validity of this claim.

Contrary to the claim of drying out skin tags, castor oil is known for its moisturizing properties. This alone casts doubt on the suggested mechanism of castor oil 'drying' skin tags. Most of the DIY recipes involve mixing castor oil with baking soda. If this indeed does remove skin tags, it's probably the baking soda doing the "drying".

Use for Medical Treatments

While the topical application of castor oil is considered safe and beneficial, its ingestion has risks. Castor oil has been traditionally used as a laxative due to its ability to stimulate the muscles in your intestines, promoting bowel movements. It has also been used to induce labour in pregnant women as a "natural" method.

It's important to underline that, although these uses may seem "natural" and rooted in tradition, they should not be undertaken without medical supervision. Ingesting castor oil, especially in large amounts, can lead to unpleasant side effects like nausea, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. Even more critically, in pregnant women, its use to induce labour is associated with risks and, if considered, should be only under the careful guidance of an experienced healthcare provider.

Castor Oil Benefits for Hair and Lashes

Castor oil gets a lot of attention for its effects on hair and eyelashes because it is an excellent hair oil.

These fatty acids work to nourish the hair shaft and follicle, providing the necessary nutrients for healthy hair growth. One of the main benefits of castor oil for the skin is its ability to act as a natural moisturizer, and this property also extends to your hair and scalp. When applied to your scalp, castor oil can help maintain scalp health by keeping it hydrated and free of dandruff.

A healthy scalp is crucial for hair growth, as it provides an optimal environment for hair follicles to thrive. Additionally, the high concentration of fatty acids in castor oil can help lock in moisture, preventing hair from becoming dry and brittle. This leads to stronger, more resilient hair that is less prone to breakage and split ends.

Not only does castor oil work wonders for your hair, but it can also help improve the appearance of your lashes. By applying a small amount of castor oil to your eyelashes, you can promote growth and thickness. The fatty acids in the oil nourish and condition the lashes, preventing breakage and promoting a fuller, more voluminous appearance.

Castor Oil Benefits for Skin

One of the primary benefits of castor oil for the face is its ability to deeply moisturize and nourish dry skin. Due to its thick consistency and high fatty acid content, it acts as a natural occlusive that locks in moisture and prevents water loss, leaving your skin feeling soft and supple.

Additionally, the antioxidants found in castor oil can help protect your skin from environmental aggressors, such as pollution and UV rays, which can cause premature aging and skin damage.

Another advantage of using castor oil on your face is its potential to treat acne-prone skin. The ricinoleic acid in the oil possesses anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, which can help reduce acne-causing bacteria and soothe irritated skin. Furthermore, its ability to balance the skin's natural oil production may prevent clogged pores and breakouts.

With regular use, you may notice improvements in your skin's texture, tone, and overall appearance.

Comedogenicity and Best Skin Types

Castor oil has a texture that is thick and viscous. It feels fairly heavy and substantial on the skin. This is what gives it amazing moisturizing and occlusive properties.

Despite those properties, castor oil is very unlikely to clog pores. In fact (as we discuss below), it's an excellent cleansing oil. The comedogenicity rating of castor oil is 1, meaning it is very unlikely to clog pores and suitable for all skin types, even acne prone.

With that said, if you have oily skin, using castor as a face oil is likely not your best option. It's too heavy and moisturizing. This oil is best saved to be used as a cleansing oil or as a face oil for dry skin in need of a lot of moisture and healing.

Castor Oil for the Oil Cleansing Method

Despite its thick and viscous texture, castor oil is a surprisingly effective ingredient for oil cleansing, owing to its unique composition.

Ricinoleic acid's unique chemical structure, which includes a hydroxyl (-OH) functional group, allows the oil to interact with a variety of substances. Its polarity contributes to its high solubility in alcohol and its soap-forming capabilities. This means that castor oil, in comparison to non-polar oils, can more effectively bind to and lift away impurities, excess oils, and debris from the skin surface.

When discussing the soap-forming properties of castor oil, it's essential to understand that this refers to the process of saponification, which involves the reaction of oils or fats with a strong base, usually lye (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide). This process transforms the oil and the base into soap and glycerin.

Due to its high ricinoleic acid content, castor oil is commonly used in soap-making for its ability to produce a stable lather and hydrate the skin. However, this soap-making process doesn't occur spontaneously. It requires the addition of a strong base and specific conditions, such as heat, that are not present when using castor oil as a part of the oil cleansing method or any other direct skin application.

Another aspect that makes castor oil a cleansing powerhouse is its inherent ability to balance the skin's natural oil production. By helping to clear excess sebum without stripping the skin of its natural oils, castor oil supports a balanced, healthy complexion.

Sustainability Considerations

The castor plant is a fast-growing, drought-tolerant plant that can thrive in various soil types, making it an ideal crop for sustainable agriculture. Castor seeds contain around 50% oil, which can be extracted through cold pressing or solvent extraction methods. The remaining seed cake is a valuable byproduct that can be used as an organic fertilizer or animal feed, contributing to a circular economy and reducing waste.

One of the main sustainability issues related to castor oil production is the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers, which can cause environmental pollution and harm local biodiversity. Some castor plantations have been linked to deforestation, leading to habitat loss and reduced carbon sequestration. To address these concerns, several organizations are promoting sustainable castor oil production, including the development of certification schemes and the adoption of good agricultural practices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can castor oil be used to treat skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis?

Yes, but treatment is a medical term that should be reserved for medically prescribed and supervised therapies. If you suffer from a diagnosed skin disorder, castor oil should be safe and may be helpful. Always discuss with your physician if you're worried or on complex therapies like biologics.

Are there any potential side effects or allergic reactions to using castor oil on the skin?

Yes, potential side effects of using castor oil on your skin include irritation, redness, itching, and allergic reactions. Always patch test before applying it widely and consult a healthcare professional if concerned.

How long does it typically take to see noticeable results from using castor oil on the skin?

Results from using any face oils on your skin can vary, but typically, you'll notice improvements within a few days to a couple of weeks. Consistency and proper application are key factors in seeing positive changes.

How should castor oil be stored, and what is its shelf life when used for skincare purposes?

Store castor oil in a cool, dark place, tightly sealed in its original container. Its shelf life is typically 1-2 years but check for rancidity by smelling or examining the oil before using on your skin.

Castor oil is one of the best cleansing oils, that's why it's prominently featured in all bareLUXE cleansing products. 

Shop our Natural Face Scrub now!




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About the Author

Dr. Heather Smith developed her love for skinimalism and clean beauty years ago when she began making home remedies for her newborn's eczema. She is an expert in natural ingredients and active botanicals and has now launched bareLUXE Skincare - a full line of effective oil serums. She dedicates this blog to consumers who are researching ingredients and working to make their beauty ritual more natural and sustainable.


This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Smith nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content should consult their physicians about their skincare concerns and routines.