Should You Be Using Castor Oil on Natural Hair? Experts Weigh In

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ALL NATURAL: Should You Be Using Castor Oil on Natural Hair? Experts Weigh-In

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Castor oil is one of those ingredients that has become a staple in natural haircare, simply because it's been used for decades.

But with so much misinformation out in these streets, it's time to set the record straight on castor oil and its many uses. That's why we tapped three haircare experts to speak to the occlusive's benefits when it comes to natural hair.

Their answers, ahead.

What is castor oil?

Castor oil is a thick, occlusive oil, rich in both ricinoleic and monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help moisturize the hair follicle and promote hydration.

But while these properties make castor oil a great tool for preventing hair damage and breakage (and despite whoever told you whatever), when used on it's own, the ingredient probably won't transform you into Rapunzel overnight.

"The biggest misconception about castor oil is that it can be used alone to grow longer, thicker, fuller hair," says Dr. Corey L. Hartman, Founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL. "Castor oil alone will not grow hair. There is no evidence for it and no scientific theory supporting that it would work."

Is castor oil beneficial for natural hair?

Turns out your mother, her mother, and anyone else who came before that was right: castor oil is a great ingredient to use on natural hair. And celebrity hairstylist Kim Kimble can relate: "My grandmother started it on me — I love it. It's highly moisturizing and gives your hair a lot of shine. I always recommend it and even heat up the castor oil to make it a hot oil treatment."

CEO of Mielle Organics, an organic natural haircare brand, Monique Rodriguez agrees. "It's rich in vitamin E and is known to help strengthen hair," she says of its many benefits. "It ultimately supports longer, stronger, healthier hair."

Which natural hair types in specific benefit most from castor oil?

While castor oil is an ingredient that is universally beneficial, those with coily hair will likely reap the most rewards. "These types tend to have trouble maintaining moisture and are therefore more prone to dryness and breakage," explains Dr. Hartman.

Kimble adds that castor oil is also great for anyone struggling with unwanted frizz. "It helps to de-frizz hair," she says, adding that it can also add volume to finer hair types. "Hot oil treatments will even work on straight hair. Shampoo it lightly and it gives the hair a lot of body and feels much more hydrated and conditioned." Rodriguez also shares that when using it on the hair shaft, it's best to focus on dry ends to prevent breakage.

However, it's important to do a patch test before soaking your whole head of hair in castor oil. "As with any product you apply to your hair, you should test it to make sure it's suitable for your hair's density and strand size," advises Rodriguez.

Who should avoid using castor oil?

Despite castor oil's many benefits, it's not exactly a fit for everyone. Kimble notes that anyone with certain scalp conditions like dandruff or excessive sebum production should avoid use — and Dr. Hartman agrees.

"Those who suffer from an oily scalp, require frequent hair washing to control oiliness, or who have seborrheic dermatitis [should avoid]," he says.

Is it safe to apply castor oil to the scalp?

There's been an on-going (and seemingly never ending) debate as to whether or not oils should be applied to the scalp. But when it comes to castor oil in specific, it seems like it's a go, according to experts.

"It can and should be applied to the scalp, Dr. Hartman shares frankly. "It increases blood flow to the scalp, which promotes healthier hair. It can also moisturize a dry, irritated scalp."

What's the best way to use castor oil?

Honestly, it's up to you. You can use it on its own, however, seeing as it can be quite thick, some people prefer to mix it with other nourishing oils before applying it to the hair or scalp.

"It's a carrier oil, so mixing it with lighter oils can help with application," explains Rodriguez. "Plus, using it with an essential oil can help mask its unpleasant scent. For example, Mielle's Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil has castor oil, but also includes several essential oils such as rosemary, peppermint, tea tree, jojoba, and coconut to name a few. This holy grail of hair oils is power-packed with nutrients, has the perfect consistency and smells awesome."

This is All Natural. From the kinkiest coils to loose waves, we're celebrating natural hair in its many forms by sharing expert tips for styling, maintenance, and haircare.

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