How to Use Castor Oil for Hair: Condition, Moisturize, and Protect

Castor oil in a glass jar with castor beans

Amawasri / Getty

Castor oil is a favorite ingredient in hair products because it is nourishing to your scalp as well as your strands, thanks to its combination of vitamins, fatty acids, proteins, and antioxidants.

Here's how you can take advantage of the powerful attributes of castor oil in your homemade hair care products to fight frizz, condition your strands, moisturize your scalp, and protect your hair.

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Castor Oil Hair Mask

This hair mask is as simple as you can get. Before washing hair, dampen it with a hydrosol like rosewater, or just plain warm water. Spray or comb through hair until it is damp, but not dripping wet.

Then, put a tablespoon of castor oil in the palms of your hands and work it into your hair, starting with the ends first. Add another half or full tablespoon to your hands if you need more. You want your hair to be saturated with the oil but not dripping; how much you use will depend on how long or thick your hair is.

When you've saturated your hair, wrap it in a towel or old t-shirt (this is an oil and will leave stains behind, so keep that in mind when you choose the fabric you use). Keep it wrapped for at least 30 minutes, but if you can wait an hour or even longer that will just give the oil more time to work.

When you are ready, hop in the shower, remove the towel, and rinse the oil out with plain water first. Then, use shampoo and conditioner as you normally would. Your hair should feel softer, silkier, and less frizzy after this treatment.

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Castor Oil Conditioning Boost

A super-simple way to get castor oil's benefits into your hair is to simply add it to your current conditioner as a booster.

You can add 1-2 tablespoons of castor oil to your conditioning bottle and shake it up, or you could bring a teaspoon of castor oil into the shower and combine it with your conditioner in your hand. Then, just use your conditioner as you normally would.

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Castor Oil Frizz Reducer

Castor oil coats the hair shaft and keeps external moisture out, which is key to reducing frizz.

You can use castor oil to calm frizz by working it into your hair directly. How much you will need will depend on the length and thickness of your hair, and also how dry it is.

Start with a dime-sized amount of castor oil and rub it between your hands to distribute it and warm the oil a bit, which will make it even easier to spread through your hair. Then, smooth over hair to keep flyaways down, or, if you have curly hair, work through your curls, starting from the bottom of your hair and moving upward.

Curly hair is often a bit dry, especially on the ends, so starting there will help curls stick together better—you can even work curls around your fingers and the oil can help keep your hair style intact.

Use more castor oil if your hair is absorbing it well, until you get to the point where you like the way it looks. If you use more than you'd like, you can always leave it on as a conditioning treatment and wash it out.

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Use It as a Base for a Scalp Treatment

A scalp treatment can be a relaxing way to moisturize your hair and scalp. If you want an uplifting, energizing treatment, opt for orange essential oil; if you're looking for something more relaxing, try rose or lavender.

Directions

Mix a tablespoon of castor oil with a couple of drops of orange, rose, or lavender essential oil.

Dip your fingertips into the mixture and massage into your scalp, starting at the back where your hairline meets your neck, and working toward the front. Keep going until you've covered your entire scalp.

Leave on for 15-20 minutes, then rinse out with shampoo to remove the oil.

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Keep Eyebrows in Place

Using a small amount of castor oil in your eyebrow brush is a quick and easy way to keep eyebrows smooth and flat—or, if it's your style, try it to keep them brushed up straight.

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Hot Castor Oil Hair Treatment

If you don't have time to let the castor oil sit in your hair for a mask, you can do a hot oil treatment that will get you most of the same benefits in a shorter amount of time.

Dilute the castor oil with another vegetable oil like avocado, grapeseed, or coconut. Start with 1 tablespoon of each oil (double if you have long or very thick hair).

Heat the oils together in a jar by placing it in a larger bowl and adding hot water. Let sit for 5 minutes so the oil warms up. Meanwhile, comb or brush your hair so all the dirt, dust, and dead hair are removed.

Starting at the bottom of your hair, comb the warm oil mix through your hair. Do it quickly and wrap in a towel that you don't mind getting oil-stained. Wait 5-7 minutes, then get into the shower and rinse it off with more warm-hot water. Use shampoo to get the rest of the oil out of your hair.

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Castor Oil as a Pre-Swim Hair Conditioner

Swimming in saltwater can dry hair out, so next time you go to the beach or the lake, pre-treat your hair with a light coating of castor oil. It's a natural vegetable oil, so it will biodegrade in the environment and will keep your locks moisturized while you swim.

Simply add a dime- or quarter-sized amount to your hair before you swim depending on how thick and long it is, with a focus on the ends and dry areas first.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What is castor oil?

    Castor oil is a type of vegetable oil pressed from castor beans, scientific name Ricinus communis, which are indigenous to Africa, India, and the Mediterranean Basin.

  • Is castor oil sustainable?

    Castor oil is moderately sustainable when it's organic and non-GMO. It's a biodegradable renewal resource that can be ethically and sustainably sourced so long as chemical pesticides aren't used in the growing process.

  • How often should you use castor oil for hair?

    To see long-lasting effects, use castor oil on your hair once or twice a week for at least a few months. Using it more often than that can cause a buildup of oil in your hair, which can lead to matting.