Thick, lustrous, and healthy hair may seem like a dream but with a little effort and the right hair care products, you can turn that dream into a reality.
Before you rush out and buy the latest boutique hair mask or miracle serum, however, you should ask yourself what you’re really buying. Many of the hair growth remedies on the market aren’t even worth the cost of the bottle they’re sold in.
If you’re looking for a natural treatment for dull, dry, or limp hair, castor oil may help. This natural remedy has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years to treat everything from dandruff to constipation.
In recent years, castor oil has gained the attention of beauty enthusiasts worldwide and has been touted as a natural solution for healthier hair growth. Here’s what you need to know about treating your hair with castor oil and other natural ingredients.
What is Castor Oil and Does It Work?
Castor oil is a natural oil extracted from the seeds of the castor oil plant (Ricinus communis). A perennial flowering plant and sole species in the monotypic genus Ricinus, the castor plant is found throughout the Mediterranean Basin and into India and Eastern Africa.
Castor oil is a pale yellow or colorless liquid rich in triglycerides, about 90% of which are ricinoleates. This oil is primarily used in the manufacture of soaps, lubricants, paints, dyes, waxes, polishes, pharmaceuticals, and perfumes.
Here are some of the potential benefits associated with castor oil:
- It acts as a stimulant laxative, helping relieve temporary constipation
- It may help stimulate labor at all stages of pregnancy
- It is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids like ricinoleic acid which moisturize the skin
- It may help stimulate tissue growth and promote healing
- It has strong anti-inflammatory properties and may help relieve pain when applied topically
- Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties may help reduce acne symptoms
Though there is plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting the use of castor oil for these purposes, scientific research is limited.
There isn’t any scientific evidence to show that castor oil promotes hair growth directly, but it does have certain properties which may indirectly support healthier-looking and fuller hair.
For example, castor oil is rich in ricinoleic acid, a type of fatty acid. Fatty acids have been shown to help lubricate hair and prevent breakage.
By keeping hair stronger and healthier in this way, castor oil may help healthy hairs grow longer before being broken or shed.
How to Use Castor Oil
Though more evidence is needed to show whether castor oil truly stimulates hair growth, you can try it for yourself to see if it improves the appearance of your hair. Adverse reactions to castor oil such as vomiting and diarrhea are typically limited to ingestion, not a topical application.
But you should seek medical attention if you ever experience side effects. The best way to use castor oil for hair health and appearance is as a pre-shampoo treatment or hydrating leave-in treatment.
Here are the steps to use castor oil:
- Fill a small bowl with cold-pressed castor oil then wash and dry your hands.
- Dip your fingertips into the oil then massage them gently into your scalp.
- Work in sections, massaging the castor oil into your scalp and coating the strands.
- Cover your hair with a shower cap and let the treatment soak for 30 minutes to overnight.
- Wash your hair as usual to remove the excess castor oil.
As is the case with any hair treatment, it may take weeks or months of consistent use to notice a significant improvement in the look and feel of your hair. If you plan to use castor oil consistently, be sure to give your hair a break from time to time. About once a month you should use a clarifying shampoo to help rinse out the excess oil so it doesn’t create buildup on the scalp that could weigh down your hair.
Other Natural Ingredients for Hair Growth
Castor oil is just one of many natural ingredients that have been used to help improve hair health and appearance. Aloe vera, for example, has long been used as a hair treatment.
It may also help improve scalp health and help reduce dandruff. Coconut oil, another popular natural remedy, has been shown to improve the health and luster of hair, though its benefits for hair growth are still up for debate. Either of these can be applied as a hydrating hair mask or leave-in treatment.
If you’re experiencing hair thinning or female pattern baldness, saw palmetto is a natural ingredient that might help. In addition to having anti-inflammatory benefits, saw palmetto has anti-androgenic properties which could help with hormonal forms of hair loss related to DHT (dihydrotestosterone) in the scalp.
There is also some evidence to suggest rosemary essential oil may stimulate hair growth, particularly in patients suffering from androgenetic alopecia.
Additional Tips for Growing Your Hair
When using these natural ingredients as hair treatments, think about how you’re going to apply them. Many of these products work best when applied to the scalp, not the hair, so consider applying them using the scalp massage technique. In addition to applying the product, scalp massage may help boost blood flow to the scalp which could promote stronger, healthier hair.
Here are some additional tips for growing your hair naturally:
- Follow a healthy and balanced diet to provide your scalp and hair with the nutrients they need for optimal health.
- Include exercise in your weekly routine to improve overall health and boost circulation.
- Avoid harsh hair products and chemical treatments – stick to gentle and natural hair care products that keep your hair healthy.
- Be mindful of styling techniques. Avoid high-heat techniques and tight hairstyles that might stress or damage your hair.
- Take steps to relieve and manage your stress levels – be sure to give yourself time to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night as well.
If you’ve tried all the natural remedies out there and nothing seems to work, you may want to consider an FDA-approved hair growth remedy like minoxidil.
Minoxidil is a topical treatment that puts more of your hair follicles in the growth phase, essentially speeding up the hair growth cycle.