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Combating Acne with Castor Oil

By Megan Griffith

Reviewed for medical accuracy by Dr. Jaggi Rao,
MD, FRCPC Double board-certified dermatologist

Battling recurring breakouts of pimples is incredibly frustrating. For that reason, scientists and beauty bloggers alike are constantly looking for new ways to help you win this fight. If you’re looking for a natural remedy, castor oil may be the answer.

Castor oil naturally refreshes the skin, cleaning it from excess oil and germs.

Acne normally occurs when your pores become excessively clogged1 – either with sebum or with bacteria. Sebum is produced by the sebaceous glands, which are normally responsible for moisturizing your body. Whenever they overproduce oil for your skin, it ends up blocking your pores and you may get irritated, red bumps on your face, as well as on your neck, chest and back. A build-up of acne-causing bacteria can also cause acne, and it could be related to excess oil production. Acne-causing bacteria, also called p. acnes, feed on the sebum our skin produces, so when we overproduce sebum, p. acnes numbers can also increase dramatically. Lastly, acne can be caused by a hormonal imbalance, an unhealthy dietstressful lifestyle, or even by certain medication. Indeed, even some medications which are specifically designed to rid you of acne, can cause an even bigger breakout. For this reason, your best bet may be to opt for a natural remedy2. One such solution is castor oil.

The Benefits Of Castor Oil

Castor oil, also known as Ricinus communis, is a vegetable oil pressed from castor beans. If you have oily acne-prone skin, it might seem counterintuitive to use oil to get rid of your acne, but there is some scientific evidence that oil-cleansing is an effective method for getting rid of acne. The idea is that like dissolves like; the castor oil dissolves the excess sebum on your skin, so when you rinse the castor oil away, you also rinse away the excess sebum, leaving your skin clearer than before. Plus, castor oil offers other anti-acne benefits. Studies show that it has powerful antioxidant properties that can help reduce inflammation3, and early research suggests that castor oil is also antibacterial3. So far, the research is unclear on whether or not castor oil can fight p. acnes specifically, but dermatologists are hopeful.

One reason castor oil is a great natural remedy for acne is that it can benefit all skin types. If you have dry skin, castor oil can provide much-needed moisture and help improve the skin’s natural barrier. If you have oily skin, castor oil can help dissolve that excess oil and help prevent clogged pores and developing pimples. If you have sensitive skin, the antioxidants in castor oil can help reduce the inflammation so common in sensitive skin. Still, it isn’t for everyone. Castor oil is very strong, and even when diluted, it may cause irritation in some people, and even though it is very unlikely to clog pores, it may still do so for some people. If castor oil doesn’t work for you, there’s no need to worry; there are countless other natural acne remedies.

What You Need to Know About Castor Oil Before Starting Use

First of all, as with most products, you must keep it out of your eyes4. Secondly, castor oil should be diluted in a carrier oil if you want to apply it all over. Check out our next section on DIY castor oil recipes for more information on how to dilute castor oil for acne treatment. It can be used as a spot treatment undiluted, but even then, you should test the undiluted castor oil on your forearm before applying it to your face, to make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction. Thirdly, before beginning treatment, make sure you adjust the amount of oil you need in accordance with your skin type. Oily skin can typically tolerate larger amounts of castor oil, while dry skin typically requires less oil.

Regarding the kind of castor oil you should look for, opt for the cold-pressed kind, or even for pure castor oil. You can also find castor oil in various soaps that are specially designed to fight acne. If you decide to use such a soap, always rinse the affected area with warm water to open your pores, then close them using cold water. There are also various kinds of castor oil, so you truly have a rich range of options when choosing the best variety for your skin. For instance, Jamaican black castor oil includes ash which contains fatty acids and phytochemicals that can refresh your complexion5 and decrease the activity of the sebaceous glands, too. Additionally, hydrogenated castor oil has a waxy texture that may be better suited for protecting dry skin.

Finally, even though castor oil is an excellent natural remedy for acne, it can’t do everything on its own. It’s best to use castor oil in conjunction with a regular skincare routine, like those offered by Exposed Skin Care.

4 DIY Castor Oil Recipes to Get Rid of Acne

As with most natural acne-fighting products, you can use castor oil on its own or with other substances. For your benefit, we outline some ways in which you can use this natural remedy to combat and prevent skin problems.

1. Pure Castor Oil Spot Treatment for Severe Acne

You use castor oil on its own, but make sure to first test it on a patch of skin to test for possible irritation. Using undiluted castor oil is a harsher form of therapy and it works best on severe forms of acne, such as cystic acne. Only a couple of drops are needed for this method. Massage them into your skin and leave them on for an hour or so, then cleanse with a gentle facial wash.

2. Overnight Castor Oil, Almond Oil, and Camphor Oil Mask for Dry Skin

To create this overnight mask, you’ll need equal parts castor, almond, and camphor oils. Start by cleansing your skin with a gentle cleanser, then apply an even layer of the oil mixture over your skin. Let the mask set overnight and rinse in the morning with lukewarm water. This mask works best on dry skin and helps protect the skin from irritation and inflammation that may cause acne.

3. Castor Oil and Olive Oil Mask for Oily Skin

Another way to use castor oil for a better complexion is to combine it with olive oil. Simply mix two tablespoons of castor oil and one tablespoon of olive oil and generously slather on your skin. Leave the mixture on your skin for half an hour, then rinse off with lukewarm water. This mask is perfect for cleansing oily skin and clearing away excess sebum, leaving the skin feeling fresh and smooth. This method can also be used with sunflower or jojoba oil in place of olive oil.

4. Overnight Castor Oil, Grape Seed Oil, and Tea Tree Oil Mask for Pimples

If you’re having a particularly bad pimple breakout, try this overnight mask containing castor oil, grape seed oil, and tea tree oil. Combine equal parts castor oil and grape seed oil, then add three drops of tea tree oil. Mix evenly, then apply the mixture to the skin affected by the breakout. Allow the mask to set for several minutes in order to let it dry before going to bed. The antibacterial properties of the castor oil will complement the antibacterial properties of the tea tree oil, and grape seed oil is a great carrier oil that can help clear away any excess sebum that may have caused the breakout.

For more information on castor oil and acne, check out this brief video.

 

References:

  1. Prakash C., et al. Skin Surface pH in Acne Vulgaris: Insights from an Observational Study and Review of the Literature. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2017;10(7):33–39.
  2. Patel V.R., et al. Castor Oil: Properties, Uses, and Optimization of Processing Parameters in Commercial Production. Lipid Insights. 2016;9:1–12.
  3. Zarai Z., et al. Essential oil of the leaves of Ricinus communis L.: In vitro cytotoxicity and antimicrobial properties. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2012;11:102.
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Ricinoleic acid. Toxicology Data Network. Accessed 2019.
  5. Evans J., Johnson E. The Role of Phytonutrients in Skin Health. Nutrients. 2010;2(8):903–928.
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