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Castor Oil for Facial Hair: Benefits & Side Effects

With the number of hair growth products and conditioners on the market today, people seeking to grow and maintain full beards have more options than they know what to do with. That said, many prefer to avoid chemical beard hair growth solutions in favor of natural ingredients. This is what leads some to consider castor oil for stimulating hair growth and nourishing a healthy beard. 

What is castor oil?

Castor oil is a thick, yellowish vegetable oil drawn from the seeds of a plant called Ricinus communis –– also known as the castor bean or castor bean plant. It has uses in cooking and food preservatives, medication, and hair and skin care. It is also known to have been used to induce labor as far back as the days of Ancient Egypt. 

Where does castor oil come from?

The Ricinus communis plant that produces castor seeds (or castor beans) grows in tropical climates. It is associated in particular with parts of the Mediterranean, India, and East Africa. 

Castor oil is drawn from the castor bean by one of two processes: cold pressing or solvent extraction. It also undergoes a heating process that helps to eliminate the poisonous enzyme ricin, which is found in the castor bean. 

What are the types of castor oil?

There are two types of castor oil that can be found commonly: 

  • Yellow castor oil: This type is drawn from castor beans via cold press
  • Black castor oil: This type is produced by way of roasting castor beans to extract the oil. It is also known as “Jamaican black castor oil” due to the extraction process having been developed in Jamaica.

What does castor oil smell like?

By itself, castor oil is often described as being either completely or nearly odorless. Because some do find it to have an unpleasant smell, though, some brands selling castor oil will combine it with ingredients to produce subtle, pleasant aromas. 

Those who do find castor oil to have an unpleasant oil compare the scent to chemical products like cooling oil. However, because it is largely odorless and sometimes augmented by artificial scents, it is difficult to ascribe a particular scent to this oil. 

What skin types work with castor oil?

The use of castor oil is okay for most skin types. However, it has been noted that the oil can exacerbate existing skin irritation. Those with existing acne, inflammation from dermatitis, or generally sensitive skin may find that the application of castor oil causes discomfort. 

Related: Tea Tree Oil Benefits for Facial Hair Application

What is the comedogenic rating of castor oil?

The comedogenic scale is used to measure the likelihood that a given ingredient will clog pores when applied to the skin. The scale runs from 0-5, with lower numbers indicating less potential to clog pores. 

The comedogenic rating of castor oil is 1, indicating a low risk of causing clogged pores. Though as mentioned above, existing acne can be exacerbated by the application of the oil. 

What Are the Benefits of Castor Oil? 

Here are the primary benefits of applying castor oil regularly:

Antibacterial

Chief among the benefits of castor oil is that it is known to have strong antibacterial properties. Alongside similar benefits, this helps the oil to contribute to the health of skin beneath the beard. 

Specifically, castor oil is known for the following perks:

  • Rich in ricinoleic acid 
    • Products high in ricinoleic acid help prevent skin redness, irritation, swelling, and inflammation (source).
  • An effective natural humectant
    • Natural humectants are substances that draw moisture from their surroundings. This can mean that they help to retain moisture from the skin, as well as that they can pull moisture from the air.
  • Combatting acne 
    • The same ricinoleic acid that helps to prevent skin irritation has also been shown to be valuable in treating acne and a host of other ailments, including fungal infections, which helps stave off beard dandruff (source).

Softens Texture

Because of its status as a humectant, castor oil can hold moisture in beard hair and keep it soft. The oil also possesses a high concentration of omega-9 fatty acids (such as ricinoleic acid), which help to keep hair soft as well. 

Appears Healthier

A light coating of castor oil can give dry and brittle hair a brighter and healthier look. This is in part due to the same properties that soften hair. It is also thanks to vitamin E and protein being among the nutrients found in high concentrations in the oil. 

Vitamin E promotes a healthy scalp, which in turn improves hair quality. Added protein, meanwhile, keeps hair from becoming dry and brittle due to deficiency. 

What Are Some Side Effects of Castor Oil? 

Castor oil has been found to cause some of these side effects:

Doesn’t Cause Beard Growth

As with many essential oils, there are claims that castor oil can stimulate facial hair growth. Unfortunately, however, there is as of yet no scientific evidence to support this claim. 

The theory is that applying drops of castor oil mixed with a carrier oil will among other things stimulate better blood circulation in the skin. This in turn is beneficial to hair follicles. However, this theory is based on ingredients and assumptions –– not scientific studies or proof. 

Similarly, castor oil has not been found to stimulate healthy hair growth in the scalp. Research has been conducted concerning evidence of castor oil –– along with jojoba oil, coconut oil, argan oil, rosemary oil, and other substances –– have proven to be effective in treating or reversing various forms of hair loss. No studies amounting to proof exist, though “several botanical and natural ingredients do show promise” in this space (source). 

Laxative

Castor oil is also known to be an effective laxative when ingested. This is unlikely to be a concern when applying castor oil to the beard. However, it is worth being aware of given the proximity of that application to the mouth. 

Mild Irritant to Some

In tests of the effects of undiluted castor oil on human skin, the substance has been found to be a mild irritant. Subjects without pre-existing skin conditions were tested, and while no severe effects were observed, some irritation was observed. 

This finding supports the notion that it is always best to do a small patch test before applying a new beard care product –– regardless of the ingredients at hand. Many topical oils prized for natural qualities and various benefits can cause irritation (source). A patch test will help you to discover whether or not you are sensitive to a given ingredient before you apply it directly or through a beard shampoo or other beard care product. 

How Should You Store Castor Oil?

Castor oil is a delicate natural substance that becomes spoiled or degraded in the wrong conditions. A number of factors matter in preserving the oil: 

  • Temperature: Castor oil should be stored in conditions that are neither too hot nor too cold. 
  • Light exposure: Too much direct light will cause the oil to degrade. 
  • Moisture: Castor oil should not come into contact with extra moisture, as this too can spoil its quality.
  • Length of time: While different specific products may have their own expiration dates, it is generally the case that castor oil degrades somewhat following six months’ time. 

Given these factors, it is generally best to store castor oil in a cool, dark, and dry location. Do not use your refrigerator (which is too cold) or a bathroom medicine cabinet (where air temperature and moisture content can change). 

It is best to opt for a dark closet or pantry for storage. 

What Are Some Beard Oils With Castor Oil?

If you ultimately decide to use castor oil to treat your beard, there are several available products to consider. The following are a few beard oils that contain castor oil: 

Of course, you can always make your own beard oil with castor oil as well when following this guide.

Adam Williams

As the lead editor of Tools of Men, Adam is an expert in all things men's grooming and style. When you don't find him reading up on the latest style trends, he likes to go jogging, attempt to distinguish the differences between IPAs, and play sports with his kids.

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