Castor oil is made from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant. It’s most commonly used as a laxative. But castor oil’s natural antiviral and antimicrobial properties make it a popular treatment for skin problems known as dermatosis as well as fungal infections. It’s also used for hair growth.

Longer locks

Some people use castor oil to grow longer hair or to treat hair loss, also known as alopecia. It’s marketed as a treatment for dry scalp and other scalp conditions as well.

While the average human hair follicle grows just over a centimeter a month, some claim anecdotally that using castor oil once a month can spur growth three to five times the normal rate. There is no clinical evidence to support this, however.

If you still want to try castor oil on your hair, here’s a safe, easy at-home method. You’ll need the following supplies:

  • castor oil
  • an old T-shirt
  • rubber gloves
  • applicator brush
  • comb
  • shower cap
  • large towel

Step by step

  1. Put on the old T-shirt to prevent staining your clothes.
  2. Section off your hair.
  3. Put on the rubber gloves and begin applying the castor oil to your scalp using the applicator brush. Massage the oil into your scalp.
  4. Apply castor oil to the rest of your hair, using the comb to ensure even coverage. It doesn’t need to be soaked through with oil, but all of your hair should be moist.
  5. Once applied, put the shower cap on, ensuring all hair is tucked inside.
  6. Clean up any oil drippings with the towel.
  7. Leave the shower cap on for at least two hours. This gives the oil enough time to penetrate the scalp, hair follicles, and hair shaft.
  8. After two hours, wash your hair with shampoo and conditioner.

Does this really work?

The evidence for castor oil’s effectiveness as more than a laxative is only anecdotal. There are many claims about castor oil, including assertions that topical castor oil can help prevent or treat skin cancer. The American Cancer Society, however, says there’s no evidence to support its use.

You could use castor oil for hair loss, but you’d be better off talking to your healthcare provider about therapies that are proven to get results. They might not recommend castor oil for much more than treatment for occasional constipation.