Castor oil is a vegetable oil derived from the seeds of the castor oil plant Ricinus communis. The castor oil plant is primarily grown in Africa, South America, and India. India is actually known as the world leader in castor oil production. The United States and China are the primary importers (1).
Castor oil is produced by cold-pressing castor seeds and then applying heat. It’s not considered an edible oil, and makes up only a fraction of the world’s vegetable oil production.
Historically, castor oil has been used as an effective laxative. It’s also been used to induce labor. But today, castor oil is widely used as an ingredient in cosmetics. According to a safety review for castor oil, castor oil was used in over 900 cosmetic products in 2002 (2).
Castor oil has many potential benefits. These include:
Castor oil contains antioxidants that fight free radicals in your body. Free radicals are responsible for accelerating the aging process, making wrinkles appear sooner.
Castor oil has antibacterial properties. Bacteria on your face can clog pores and lead to acne.
Castor oil has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce swelling and puffiness (3). It could reduce the size of inflamed pimples or eye bags as well.
Moisture keeps your skin looking young, shiny, and healthy. Moisture also prevents wrinkles.
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, castor oil may ease the pain associated with sunburn. Its moisturizing qualities may also reduce peeling.
Fighting dry lips
Castor oil is a very common ingredient in both lipstick and lip gloss. If you have dry lips, skip the color and use castor oil. But you may want to mix it with a better-tasting oil, like coconut oil.
Promoting overall skin health
Castor oil is full of healthy fatty acids. Fatty acids are essential to maintaining good skin health (4).
Castor oil is thick, so you should mix it with a carrier oil before putting it on your face. Common carrier oils include:
- coconut oil
- almond oil
- olive oil
You could also add it to shea butter for an extra-moisturizing effect.
Apply this mixture to your face before bed, after cleaning your skin. You can leave the oil on overnight or wipe it off with a warm cloth after one to five minutes.
Research into the topical application of castor oil is extremely limited. One 2012 study found significant antioxidant and antibacterial effects in castor oil (5).
The chemical composition of castor oil has been identified by scientists. About 90 percent is made of ricinoleic acid, which is a potent fatty acid (2). There’s no research into the use of castor oil directly on the face.
The safety review also found that the topical application of castor oil irritated the skin of some people with dermatitis (2). If you have dermatitis or another skin condition, consult your doctor before using any new products.
The FDA also found some evidence that castor oil could irritate the eyes.
Castor oil isn’t just for relieving constipation anymore. Many people are experimenting with the dermatological benefits of castor oil. Medical research, however, has yet to follow their lead.
Currently, castor oil is approved for use as an ingredient in cosmetics, but there’s very little research into direct application. There’s no research evaluating the safety of castor oil on the face specifically.