Did you know that castor is latin for “beaver” and that castor oil is so called because it was extracted from beavers’ groins before it was discovered in plants? No? Neither did I until recently.
Following the castor oil challenge that started in the U.S. castor oil has grown in popularity amongst the natural hair community.
Of all oils castor oil has one of the highest proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids. They form 89% of its fatty acid content.
Castor oil has many medicinal and industrial uses but its benefits to hair can be summarised as follows:[i]
1. Locks in hair moisture.
This is the best oil for locking in moisture externally due to the large proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids. For the most part, castor oil’s fatty acids cannot penetrate the hair follicle, they latch onto the outside of the hair fibre and stop any moisture escaping. This feature means that castor oil needs to be applied at the end of the moisturising process to lock in the moisture.
If you use castor oil and find that it’s “making your dry” it is very likely that you are using the castor oil at the wrong point into your hair regimen process. If you apply it before washing or before you have applied a proper moisturiser it will prevent water molecules (the main source of moisture) from getting into the hair fibre.
2. Attracts moisture from the environment. Castor oil is a humectant. It literally attracts water molecules from air further moisturising your hair.
3. It softens hair as a result of locking in moisture and due to a wealth of omega-9 fatty acids which nourish the hair.
4. It adds lustre and shine to hair.
5. It helps reduce frizz.
6. It can help to reduce premature greying of hair.
7. Other’s argue that castor oil helps to reduce thinness and balding but there is no scientific research to support this unlike for the ingredients that go into Neno Natural’s Hair Growth Stimulator.
8. Regular application of castor oil is reported to promote hair growth (personally, I think it acts more to help with retention, i.e. reduce breakage)
The above said, note that castor oil would not be my first choice for moisturising my scalp, especially not neat, because it is not as light as jojoba, argan oil and coconut oil. It’s also not as rich as the above in say vitamin E (argan oil has a very high vitamin E content) and also doesn’t have a sebum-like structure like jojoba (sebum is the oil that the scalp naturally produces to moisturise itself).
For maximum benefit mix castor oil with another oil, e.g. jojoba, argan, castor or avocado oil.
Refined or unrefined castor oil?
Unrefined castor oil is poisonous! You need the refined version.
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[i] Castor oil (wikipedia); Castor oil (naturalnews.com); What are the benefits of using castor oil on hair (livestrong); Castor oil's many uses for beautiful skin and hair (skinverse);
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By Heather Katsonga-Woodward