It’s nearly impossible to outline all of the ways that you can use castor oil. While it’s mainly known for being a natural laxative, people also use castor oil to treat eye irritation, dry skin, inflammation and occasionally to induce labor (yes, we’re serious). Some people still use old-school lamps that require castor oil for fuel.

But in recent years, castor oil has experienced a renaissance among men looking for hair loss treatments. It doesn’t take much time searching Google to find several benefits of using castor oil to regrow hair.

But like many half-hearted internet searches, you’re probably wondering if castor oil for hair loss is a legitimate option—or if it’s, well, snake oil. Let’s take a closer look.

What is castor oil?

The dictionary definition of castor oil would tell you that it’s a vegetable oil pressed from castor beans. Simple enough, right? Not exactly, especially when you start to dig into the finer details of the small, but mighty castor bean.

Before we go any further, we should preface the next paragraph by saying that castor oil is safe to use by humans. The raw material it comes from, however, is another story. Don’t worry: We’re only covering this because we know how a little bit of information on the internet can ruin your day—and we want to allay any concerns you might have.

It turns out that the process of pressing castor beans to make castor oil is really important. Raw castor beans contain a toxin called ricin, which is toxic if a human being ingests just a few milligrams. To make it safe for human consumption, the beans are pressed and heated to their boiling point of 313 degrees celsius. Or in other words, it gets boiled like crazy before you ever have the option to purchase it.

When it does end up on shelves, what can you expect? Mostly a thick, odorless oil that comes in a small package. And by thick, we mean viscous and – also quite sticky. For most uses, you only need a few drops to achieve…whatever it is that you’re hoping to achieve.

And more importantly, the castor oil you find in stores is safe to use!

Does castor oil have benefits for hair growth?

You might have already gone down this rabbit hole on your own, but since there’s so much information on the internet to sift through, it’s important for us to review some of the benefits of using castor oil for hair growth.

Typically, you’ll find the following reasons to rush out to your local drug store to buy castor oil for hair loss:

Nourishes your scalp with critical proteins, vitamins, fatty acids, and antioxidants Increases circulation to your scalp Increases the absorption of other ingredients Locks in moisture to your hair

So there’s good news and bad news (more on the “bad” news later, although it’s really not that bad). The good news is that many of these benefits are real. Folks use castor oil to treat a wide variety of skin conditions. While many of them are completely unrelated to hair growth, you still get many of the same benefits when you apply castor oil to the skin on your head. Some men have found that castor oil is an effective treatment for conditions such as dry scalp and dandruff due to its moisturizing and antimicrobial properties, but this is becoming less common now that ketoconazole shampoo is an FDA-approved alternative. Treating dry scalp and dandruff can indirectly help with hair loss by mitigating scratching and matting of the hair.

OK, so what’s the bad news? In short, there isn’t much scientific proof that castor oil promotes hair growth. We’ll elaborate in a bit, but for now, let’s chat about how to apply castor oil to your scalp.

How do I apply castor oil?

Before you start applying castor oil to your scalp willy nilly, you should know that even just a few drops of it are actually way too much. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to read this guide before you begin experimenting with and applying castor oil to your scalp.

In fact, it’s critical to dilute even just a few drops of castor oil before you apply it to your scalp. Some experts suggest a ratio of one part castor oil to five parts almond or argan oil, both of which are markedly lighter than castor oil. While you could skip this step, there’s a decent chance that you’ll experience some scalp irritation.

Once you’ve diluted your castor oil, apply it to your scalp or hair in small doses to start. Even a diluted castor oil can make your hair appear greasy if you use too much, so go slow. The old adage “a little goes a long way” is especially true when it comes to castor oil and hair loss.

Additionally, hair loss experts recommend laying off other “moisturizing” treatments in conjunction with castor oil. The biggest concern is moisture-associated skin damage (MASD), which makes the skin prone to maceration when it becomes overhydrated.

Does castor oil help with hair loss?

We’ve talked about the moisturizing properties of castor oil ad nauseum. But enough’s enough, right? Time to answer some of your burning questions about the efficacy of using castor oil for hair loss.

Remember the “bad” news that we alluded to earlier? Time to level with each other: There isn’t any scientific evidence that castor oil promotes hair growth. It’s also not effective for thinning hair. And when it comes to how castor oil helps hair growth, we’ve already covered many of those benefits.

For the most part, any evidence that would say that you should use castor oil to regrow hair is anecdotal. There is one study on the effects of using castor oil in your hair. And technically it did impact the way people grew hair. But when you take a closer look, you’ll discover that researchers discovered that vigorous use of products like castor oil in hair led to a condition called hair felting. Or in layman’s terms, a bird’s nest.

We know you’re looking for ways to treat hair loss. And sure, people with a bird’s nest have more hair than you do. But we’re willing to bet that you’re not after that type of result.

It would be easy to walk away from this guide a bit disappointed. After all, who doesn’t want a natural solution to treat hair loss? Plus in many ways, it seems like castor oil should be an ideal treatment.

But there’s one important thing to remember as we wrap up this discussion on castor oil and hair loss. While castor oil hasn’t been proven to regenerate your hair, the moisturizing benefits that we outlined can be worth the trouble of figuring out how to dilute the stuff and apply it to your scalp on a regular basis. Even though your primary concern might be growing hair, keeping your scalp healthy is still really important.

Looking for other proven solutions to treat male pattern baldness? Check out our guide on finasteride and minoxidil, which are the only two FDA-approved products to treat men’s hair loss.

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely upon the content provided in this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.

Photo by Kadarius Seegars via Unsplash