It has, over the years, acquired a reputation for nastiness because it was commonly inflicted as a purgative on the infirm, the very young and the elderly for all sorts of ailments. A large spoonful is probably horrid to swallow, but it’s as a skincare ingredient that Castor oil comes into its own. In fact I’d go so far as to say it could be the most overlooked gem of an oil in our skincare cupboards.
Castor oil is extracted from castor seeds obtained from the castor plant (Ricinus Communis. It can be colourless or a very pale yellow, is very affordable, easy to buy, and doesn’t appear exciting or sexy. Yet is has amazing versatility and powerful skincare benefits.
A great way to get to know Castor oil is to try it neat on your skin. What does it feel like? Well it’s rather different from most other oils you might use. Slap a bit on your forearm and you may find your fingers stick together. Try rubbing it in and there’s virtually no slip, hold your fingers up to your ear and listen to the squelch of this viscous oil as you press your fingers together and release them. Yes, this is a THICK oil, sticky, glutinous, heavy, reminding of glycerine in texture (although not quite as sticky).
Applying it to the skin reveals one of its great properties, which is that it’s immensely softening and moisturizing. Several hours after application I can feel exactly where I applied Castor oil, because of the smoothness and elasticity of the skin. This is due to its ability to penetrate deeply into the skin’s layers, and to attract moisture to the skin from the environment. Castor oil is that sought-after 3 in 1 oil: an occlusive (really good at weather protection); a moisturiser; and a humectant.
It can do more things too! Because it absorbs very slowly and is water-repellent, it’s often used in lip glosses and lip sticks where it imparts a beautiful sheen. It’s known as a ‘stay-put’ oil, because it stays where you put it and doesn’t migrate. This is important in lip products because we don’t want stray bits of lip gloss meandering along our smile lines!
A strange aspect of Castor oil for me is that, although you’d expect it to be very greasy, it isn’t really greasy in use, feeling like quite a dry oil once on the skin. How come? It’s something to do with the rare ricinoleic fatty acid in Castor oil, and this fatty acid brings a bunch of healing benefits along too, like treating skin inflammation and fungal infections, helping with acne (yes, Castor oil is very low on the Comedogenic rating although you wouldn’t think so) and helping to reduce pain from sunburn.
Castor oil is often quoted, too, as reducing age spots, although people say it takes several months to work.
And here’s a brilliant fact: it can help increase skin thickness through boosting collagen and elastin! What’s not to like?
Finally, it’s a wonderful cleansing oil, great for drawing out impurities and attracting dirt to it as you smooth it across your face at night.
All that, from such a dull looking oil! I always talk about Castor oil in my workshops, and encourage students to handle it, because it’s such an all-round gift of an oil and really very cheap. Now, don’t you want some in your skincare cupboard?
Workshop news: Don’t miss our 17th March 2018 workshop where we’ll be making a replenishing body balm, a glowing-skin body scrub, a rejuvenating facial serum, and an all-natural powdered face mask. Visit our workshop page to book. We’re also delighted to be running a hand-made Valentine card workshop at Beetlefelt on 11th Feb.