If it seems like with each birthday you’ve noticed more hair in your brush and in your shower drain and less on your head, know that you’re not alone. More than half of women 50 and older deal with some degree of thinning hair. And while there are many factors linked to hair loss, including stress, hormonal fluctuations and genetics there’s one natural, inexpensive cure no matter what the thinning cause and no matter where on the body the thinning is occurring: castor oil.
What is castor oil?
Castor oil is extracted from the beans/seeds of the ricinus communis plant. The oil is used traditionally for a variety of medicinal purposes. When ingested it serves as a stimulant laxative, and when used topically, it has skin-healing properties known to aid in wound repair and is beneficial for treating skin conditions like dermatitis and fungal infections. And fortunately, the oil has also been found to help grow hair.
How castor oil helps regrow hair
“Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, which has moisturizing and antibacterial properties,” explains Kiran Mian, D.O., a dermatologist at Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery in New York City. Keeping hair hydrated is key as this fortifies hair follicles to prevent breakage. And antibacterials kill fungus and ease inflammation on the scalp (these can both lead to excessive shedding), creating a healthy environment for hair to grow and limiting fallout.
Plus, since the oil has a high ricinoleic acid content (roughly 90%), it may improve blood flow to hair follicles, says Rahi Sarbaziha, M.D., a board-certified Integrative Aesthetics Doctor based in Beverly Hills who specializes in anti-aging treatments. This is beneficial as a boost in blood flow delivers oxygen and nutrients to follicles that promote hair growth.
“While the clinical evidence for castor oil helping hair growth is lacking, anecdotally we do hear of improvement in hair fullness, decrease in shedding and improvement in hair length with consistent use,” adds Dr. Mian. In fact, one study found that castor oil improved hair’s natural luster, which in turn causes hair to appear fuller.
How to use the oil to help hair growth
While it might sound sticky, using castor oil for hair growth is actually simple and mess-free.
First, look a quality castor oil like one from Aura Cacia (Buy on Amazon, $17.37). That 16 ounce bottle should last you 48 days, making your daily cost just 36 cents!
Then, Dr. Mian recommends applying a small amount of oil (2 tsp. should suffice) onto a dry scalp in the areas you notice the most hair loss and gently massage it on with your fingertips this will further improve blood flow to the scalp to stimulate growth (click through to learn more about how scalp massages promote hair growth). If you have any leftover oil on hands, apply to hair from mid-shaft to ends. After the oil is applied, cover your head with a shower cap and leave it on for 4 hours (or apply before going to bed and lay an old towel over your pillowcase to protect it from staining), then rinse out with shampoo. Repeat three times a week to see a difference within 30 days.
Tip: Combining 3 drops of rosemary essential oil (Buy on Amazon, $7.99) with castor oil before applying on the scalp can also add to the hair-thickening benefits. That’s because the herbal oil’s rosmarinic acid has been found to increase circulation to the scalp to spur new growth. (Click through for more on how a rosemary hair rinse can help regrow thinning hair.)
Watch the video below to see how one woman used castor oil to thicken her hair:
Castor oil can regrow hair on eyebrows and eyelashes
Even though the hair growth cycle for eyebrows and eyelashes is different from the growth cycle of hair on the head, these hairs still “need hydration, antioxidants, and moisture just like our scalp hair,” says Dr. Mian. And applying castor oil to brows and lashes can offer immediate results as the oil’s fatty acids absorb faster into these thinner hairs, plumping them instantly for a fuller look.
To apply castor oil onto brows and lashes, simply dip a clean spoolie brush into the oil and brush onto clean, dry hairs once a day. “Using at nighttime will avoid interactions with makeup and external pollutants,” advises Dr. Sarbaziha. “You can leave it on for anywhere from one hour to overnight for maximum benefit.” Repeat nightly to see lasting results within 30 days. Note: If using before bed, place an old towel over your pillow as the oil can stain.
For an eye doctor’s take on how using castor oil is beneficial (and safe!) for eyelashes, watch the YouTube video below from Dr. Rupa Wong.
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