Originating from castor beans—aka the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant, castor oil has had a long-standing residency in the world of wellness and beauty. Like many other powerful food-grade ingredients, castor oil comes with a laundry list of beauty benefits that are hard to ignore.

We take a deep dive into the beauty benefits of castor oil, plus the best skin and hair care products formulated with the ingredient, up ahead.

Beauty Benefits of Castor Oil
“Castor oil is unusually high in ricinoleic acid, which technically speaking is an unsaturated omega-9 fatty acid with a hydroxyl group on the 12th carbon,” says Dr. Heather Rogers, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Doctor Rogers RESTORE. “This unique chemical structure causes the oil to be both hydrophilic (water-loving) and lipophilic (fat-loving), allowing much better penetration into the skin than other vegetable oils,” she adds. As a result, castor oil can be beneficial for the hair and the skin, as it can work to soften and nourish both.

As far as the skin goes, castor oil can be used to moisturize and protect. According to Dr. Rogers, “Castor oil works to prevent water loss through the skin, which promotes the healing process.” In addition, “It has anti-inflammatory properties that aid in healing [and] antifungal properties [that] inhibit the growth of yeast and may reduce pain and swelling after an injury,” she notes.

When it comes to hair care—especially on dry, brittle ends—castor oil can be a beneficial natural ingredient. “Pure castor oil is great for the hair as the fatty acids condition and increase shine,” says Dr. Rogers.

Precautions to Note
Though this popular beauty ingredient might boast many benefits, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. “Castor oil is not easy to work with,” says Dr. Rogers. “It has an unfortunate smell, a thick, greasy texture and is hard to use on the skin as a standalone ingredient because it is so messy,” she continues. “As it is an oil, if you get it on your clothes or bedding, it is difficult to get out. But, because of its polar structure, it [is] more easy to remove than other oils. Try rubbing alcohol or an aerosolized stain remover for the best results.”

Because of these repercussions, Dr. Rogers recommends sticking to products formulated with castor oil instead. Products that utilize the beauty benefits of castor oil are less likely to wreak havoc on your beauty routine (and clothing) so that you can get results without the downside.