Using Castor Oil for Hair Growth

Castor oil is often praised as a natural solution for hair growth. An age-old remedy long used in traditional medicine, castor oil is said to moisturize the scalp, ease dandruff, and leave your hair smooth, strong, and shiny.

Sourced from the castor bean, castor oil is rich in ricinoleic acid—a type of fatty acid known to fight inflammation. When applied to the scalp, it is thought to promote healthy hair growth and prevent hair loss.

This article discusses the benefits of castor oil for your hair, along with how to use it. It also covers what to look for when choosing a castor oil product and the possible side effects you may encounter.

A woman getting castor oil combed into her hair
Sol de Zuasnabar Brebbia / Getty Images

Benefits

Some of the claims you may have heard about castor oil's benefits for hair include:

  • Increases blood flow to the scalp, which promotes healthier hair.
  • Applying it just once a month can boost hair growth up to five times the usual rate.
  • Can moisturize a dry, irritated scalp.
  • Its antibacterial and antifungal properties can reduce dandruff.

It has also been said that castor oil is a potent antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties. Antioxidants prevent free radicals from damaging the body's healthy cells—a process known as oxidative stress that leads to many harmful health effects, including hair loss.

Castor oil contains omega-6 fatty acids—a type of essential fatty acid that may promote hair growth and reduce inflammation in the hair follicle.

There is very little evidence to back up the claims that castor oil specifically can improve hair health and growth.

Recap

There is not enough scientific proof that applying castor oil to your hair boosts hair health or hair growth. More research is needed. Specific nutrients in castor oil, like antioxidants and fatty acids are well known to be beneficial for health.

How to Use It

If you’re interested in using castor oil for hair growth, try rubbing just a few drops of the oil into your scalp. You can also massage a few more drops into your hair’s midsection and ends. This may protect against breakage and improve your hair's texture.

Castor oil is heavy and very sticky, making it difficult to remove from your hair. It's best to dilute it with other natural oils like coconut or jojoba. This can also tone down the scent of castor oil, which many people find unpleasant, by mixing one part castor oil with two parts of another "carrier oil."

There are no exact guidelines for how long you should leave castor oil on your hair. Leaving it in too long can actually dry out your hair and scalp, so it's best to wash it from your hair after two hours or so.

Many hair care experts recommend using castor oil no more than once a week. Using it more frequently than that can cause buildup and lead to issues like matting.

What to Look For

When shopping for castor oil, you might see some products that say "cold-pressed" on their labels. This means the castor seeds are pressed into oil without the use of heat or harsh chemicals. Many people say that cold-pressed oils are the best quality and more nutrient-rich than those processed with heat.

One of the most popular castor oil products for hair care is Jamaican black castor oil. This variety is made with roasted castor beans and the ash produced by the roasting process. Jamaican black castor oil is said to be especially good for thick, dry, and/or coarse hair.

Like any oil, castor oil has a shelf life. Once opened, it can start to go rancid after about one year, so keep that in mind when choosing a product and storing it at home.

Side Effects

There’s some concern that using castor oil as a hair treatment may lead to acute hair felting—a rare disorder in which the hair becomes tangled into a hard mass. Since the condition is irreversible, the only solution is to cut off the affected hair.

It should also be noted that consuming large amounts of castor oil can be extremely harmful and trigger a number of adverse effects, including:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath and chest pain
  • Skin rash
  • Throat tightness

Applying castor oil to your hair shouldn't cause these problems, but make sure that you or others don't accidentally swallow it.

Precautions and Concerns

Castor oil can stain your clothes and towels. Take care to cover your head with a shower cap, an old t-shirt, or a towel until it's time to wash your hair. This will prevent the oil from dripping onto your clothes or other items. Keep in mind that your hair may require two applications of shampoo in order to completely remove the castor oil.

If you’re thinking of using castor oil as a remedy for hair loss, remember that hair loss may be a sign of an underlying health problem. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you notice unexplained hair loss.

Summary

Castor oil is popular among natural beauty enthusiasts, who claim that applying it to your hair can boost your hair's health, shine, and growth. There is no scientific evidence to support these claims, although some nutrients in castor oil, like antioxidants and fatty acids, are known to be beneficial for health.

A Word From Verywell

There are many medical conditions that can lead to hair loss, including thyroid disease and alopecia areata. You can also lose noticeable amounts of hair during periods of severe mental or emotional stress, and sometimes hair loss occurs with advancing age.

If you're losing large clumps of hair or you're developing bald spots, get in contact with your doctor. You may have an underlying health condition that needs treatment, and applying castor oil won't help with this.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does castor oil really help hair growth?

    There is no scientific evidence showing that castor oil can promote hair growth. Still, many people claim it works.

  • How do you use castor oil on your hair?

    To use castor oil for hair growth, apply a few drops to your scalp and massage it in. You can also apply castor oil to dry hair as a hair mask. Rub the oil into your hair, then cover your head with a shower cap for around two hours. Wash well with shampoo and style as usual. 

  • How often should I use castor oil on my hair and scalp?

    Castor oil should not be used more than once a week. Castor oil is a heavy oil and, if used often, the oil can build up on your hair and make it appear greasy.

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5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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