Castor oil has been used in beauty and wellness rituals for centuries, particularly in India and across Africa. My mother, who is Romani, has always used castor oil liberally on her skin, from head to toe, and I was lucky to learn her beauty tips.
Castor oil is made by cold-pressing the ricinis communis—or castor—plant. It contains triglycerides (a type of fat), so it’s thick and gooey. Some people find that castor oil, because of its texture, feels a little tacky on the skin. Personally, I’m down with the thickness. If I do want to lighten it up, I’ll combine it with other nourishing oils, like sweet almond, jojoba, or coconut oil, which are less viscous (and add a sweet scent).
Here are all the ways I use castor oil in my beauty and wellness routine:
For my hair
I’ve noticed that thick, glossy, and hydrated hair is a bit more achievable with a little help from castor oil. Here’s how I pull it off:
Nourishing Scalp Oil Treatment
I massage this warm oil elixir into my scalp to nourish my roots and keep my scalp flake-free and moist:
- 2 tbs castor oil
- 2 tbs coconut oil
- Optional: 3 drops of tea tree oil, which keeps my hair from getting dry
I warm this mixture briefly on the stove (I don’t boil it—I just warm it up). Next, I massage the warm oil into my scalp, using my fingers to work the oil into the roots, which stimulates blood flow (and supports healthy hair!). I leave this to sit for 20-30 minutes before I rinse it out.
Hydrating Overnight Hair Mask
My hair tends to be thick and dry like a horse’s tail, so overnight hair masks are an integral part of my hair care—keeping it soft, shiny, and voluminous.
Here’s what I use:
- 3 tbs castor oil
- 3 tbs coconut oil
- Optional: Add a tablespoon of jojoba and almond oil to add a sweet scent to the mix.
I shower, towel dry my hair, warm the mixture on the stove, and then apply it to my hair—from root to ends. I then wrap my hair in a warm towel (or Saran Wrap) and settle into bed. In the morning, I shampoo it out and then use conditioner.
Hair Gloss & Split End Sealer
Even after washing and conditioning, the ends of my hair are often still dry. I don’t cut my hair nearly as often as most folks do—partially due to cultural reasons, and partially due to being cheap!—so I always need a little help with my split ends.
While nothing but a trim can truly get rid of split ends, a few drops of castor oil worked into the ends of my hair will make it appear smooth, shiny, and soft. I also try not to wash my hair more than twice a week, and when I’m in between washes, I’ll add a couple of drops to enhance its shine and softness.
Full Lashes & Brows
Before I was allowed to wear makeup, my mother pacified my desperation by teaching me how to smooth a drop of castor oil into my eyebrows to make them darker, and to carefully cover my lashes with castor oil to make them appear fuller and more defined.
The best part? The oil seems to encourage hair growth, so I actually noticed thicker and longer lashes and fuller brows. These days, I do this treatment at night before bed. On my no-makeup days, I still use the trick to add a natural pop to my eyes.
For my hands and feet
Hands and feet get a lot of wear and tear. This is why I sometimes massage castor oil into my hands and feet as a bedtime ritual.
First I’ll exfoliate with pumice and a good sugar or salt scrub, and then I’ll apply the castor oil. And if I’m really committed, I’ll also wear cotton socks and gloves to trap the moisture. In fact, my mother, who suffers from scleroderma, a painful disease that hardens the organs (including your skin), always goes to bed while wearing castor oil and little white cotton gloves.
For my nails
To keep my nail beds strong and conditioned, I often rub a few drops of castor oil into my bare nails after filing and buffing. The oil softens my cuticles, so I can easily push them back down to encourage nail growth.
For my Skin & face
Facial for Dewy Skin
Everyone’s skin is different, of course, but castor oil never seems to clog my pores. Instead, it leaves my skin smooth and hydrated. Sometimes, at the end of the day, my skin will feel irritated and dry from wearing makeup. When that happens, I pat warm or room-temperature castor oil into my face, neck, and décolletage after cleansing and toning.
Other times, if my skin is feeling very dry or irritated, I’ll leave the oil on all night, waking with smooth and plumped skin in the morning. Oh, and for any spots I might have, I’ve found castor oil especially effective for soothing irritated skin.
Fading Scars & Stretch Marks
I apply castor oil nightly to scars, or to skin that may scar later on. I’ve noticed that the oil keeps scars and stretch marks moisturized, which helps fade their appearance. The scars I do have are definitely less visible after being diligent about this particular beauty practice.
I love a good lip mask and treatment, but castor oil is my trusted standby. I smooth a very thin layer of castor oil on my lips before applying lipstick to keep them moisturized (though not necessarily slick). If they feel dry during the day, I sometimes add another drop of castor oil on top of the color, keeping it highly pigmented—with a touch of shine.