There are some beauty myths that just won’t die. No, pores can’t open and close. Hair doesn’t grow back angrier if you pluck it out. But does castor oil actually grow eyelashes (and eyebrows) longer and faster? We spoke with dermatologist Sejal Shah and cosmetic chemist Ginger King about the myths and truths of castor oil. While it is a nourishing and natural ingredient, it may not be a miracle worker for sparse hair.
Castor oil has beauty benefits
Castor oil can be beneficial in your beauty routine. Shah says that the oil, which is extracted from the seeds of the Ricinus Communis plant, is commonly used as a natural treatment for a number of ailments. It is also an additive in foods, pharmaceuticals, and skincare. King adds that castor oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. But, studies are lacking to prove the oil’s efficacy for many of the purported claims.
“Most of its benefits are anecdotal and good scientific studies in humans are lacking,” says Shah. Castor oil is not necessarily dangerous to use, but that doesn’t mean it’s entirely safe in all forms. The dermatologist explains that the unprocessed castor oil seeds are poisonous and that the oil we typically use undergoes a heating process to deactivate those toxins. While it is generally considered safe, there are some risks. Some adverse side effects include skin irritation and allergic reactions, particularly around the sensitive eye area. If you were to ingest too much of the oil, you may experience abdominal cramps, nausea, diarrhoea, or dizziness. She also says it can induce labour and advises that those who are pregnant not to use it.
There is no proof that it makes lashes grow faster
Both Shah and King say that there is no scientific evidence that castor oil can make lashes grow faster. King says that it’s beauty “folklore” that it can help grow hair, but even if that were true, growing hair doesn’t mean it will also grow lashes. Shah says that because castor oil is intensely moisturising, it conditions and protects lashes so that they are stronger and more resilient to wear and tear from makeup, lash curlers, and extensions.
But even though there isn’t definitive proof that castor oil can help grow lashes faster, Shah says it’s fine to use the oil for conditioning purposes. Before smearing it all over your eyes, first patch test the oil on a discreet area of skin, like the inside of your elbow or behind one ear. If you don’t have a reaction to the castor oil, she says you can apply it directly on the lashes with your fingertips or with a dry and clean spoolie brush.
There are other products for lash growth
If you’re looking to grow lashes, King says the only ingredients that are proven to grow lashes are peptides. To help speed up that process, look for something that also has antioxidants and moisturising properties.
Shah recommends Latisse, an FDA-approved medication that promotes eyelash growth. For some over-the-counter options that also are beneficial, she recommends RapidLash, Revitalash or Lavish Lash. “All three use natural ingredients such as peptides, plant botanicals, and biotin to gently strengthen and protect lashes so they can grow longer and healthier,” she adds.
Another sneaky lash-breaking culprit? Waterproof mascara. King recommends avoiding waterproof formulas that will dry your lashes out and are harder to remove. Speaking of removing mascara, choose a gentle eye makeup remover that doesn’t require pulling and tugging. And if you’re willing to add a step to your routine, she says to condition lashes daily with an eyelash conditioner, serum, or natural oil like castor.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.
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