Google "castor oil for hair growth," and a number of articles will come up with DIY tips and praise for the oil's effectiveness at helping with hair loss, thinness, and patchy eyebrows.
It probably seems too good to be true that the answer to hair loss is in a bottle of pure, cold-pressed castor oil you can find on Amazon or your neighborhood health food store. That's why we turned to a board-certified dermatologist and a trichologist to ask if it's really like Miracle Grow for your hair. And most importantly, if it's safe for your skin and scalp?
Does Castor Oil Make Your Hair Grow?
The short answer? It's complicated.
"Castor oil is a long chained fatty acid. Fatty acids provide essential proteins and nutrients to hair follicles and prevent hair follicle inflammation,"says Bridgitte Hill, a certified trichologist & inventive colorist in NYC. "Indirectly, yes castor oil assists with cultivating the necessary environment, (when properly used) to nurture and support healthy hair follicles and hair fibers."
Dr. DiAnne Davis, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in Dallas explains how castor oil can increase blood flow to the hair follicles. "The fatty acid component of castor oil, which is ricinoleic acid, can lead to blood vessel dilation," she says. "When this happens on the scalp, increased blood vessel dilation will increase blood flow to the hair follicles." Dr. Davis adds that castor can make hair appear more shiny and glossy when it coats the hair follicle.
Hill goes on to say that castor oil's nutrients also help protect the hair follicle from external factors that can destroy the strength and health of the hair follicle.
That being said, Dr. Davis stresses that there aren't any scientific studies that prove a direct connection between castor oil and hair growth.
Is Castor Oil Safe for Your Scalp?
Both Dr. Davis and Hill agree that castor oil should never be used on scalps of those who experience dandruff.
"Heavy oils like castor oil can disrupt the microbiome of the scalp which can lead to an overproduction of harmful yeast and bacteria," Hill explains.
Dr. Davis cautions that castor oil also has the potential to be irritating. "Some people can develop a rash or allergic contact dermatitis from the use of castor oil," she says.
Depending on your hair type and texture, Hill warns that the oil could cause further dryness by blocking moisture from getting to the hair follicle.
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When Should You See a Medical Professional for Your Hair Loss?
How much fallout is too much? Dr. Davis says that it's completely normal to shed up 100 strands of hair per day. "However if you feel like you are experiencing excessive shedding, or symptoms with your scalp that may include anything from itching, burning, pain, tingling, tenderness, or sharp sensations then you should definitely schedule an appointment with your board-certified dermatologist as soon as you can," she suggests.
Finally, when you start on your hair growth journey, keep in mind that often, multiple treatments may be prescribed and it will take time before you see any results — the hair growth cycle is typically 90 days.
"Hair growth or hair loss prevention is not accomplished by one product or factor alone," Hill explains. "It is a comprehensive approach that requires the blood, cells and tissue that support scalp and protein synthesis to be considered and addressed."
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