If there's one shake-up that's changed my beauty routine in the last five years, it's reaping the benefits of using castor oil for hair. If you've jumped onto the castor oil hair growth bandwagon like us, you may have heard of its popular cousin: Jamaican black castor oil.
Both are packed with omega fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants, but they do provide slightly different benefits! If you're looking for the right castor oil for hair growth, scalp care, or dehydrated ends, we have the definitive guide to choosing between regular castor oil and Jamaican black castor oil, down to some very sciencey facts.
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Castor Oil vs Jamaican Castor Oil
Regular castor oil is light yellow, semi-thick, and relatively scentless. To make it, the raw beans are cold-pressed through an expeller at a low temperature. Jamaican black castor oil, on the other hand, has a rich, dark colour that's paired with a decadent roasted scent. To make this slightly thicker variation of castor oil, beans are roasted at a high temperature, ground together, and then boiled to finish. Like a very thick coffee.
Jamaican black castor oil contains all the same hair loving properties as the traditional light-yellow stuff, but what makes it so special is the way it opens up the hair shaft better than regular castor oil. And that's all because of that roasting process!
This cooking process used in Jamaican castor oil production not only gives the oil that dark, rich colour, but it deposits lots of ash in the formula. Why is that good? Ash is super alkaline which gives it a higher pH balance. For hair, that means the cuticle is able to open up more easily compared to regular castor oil. Here, your hair's getting a better absorption of those fatty acids that make castor oil so good in the growth department!
So, Which is Better?
Choosing a castor oil for hair use depends where you're using it. If you're leaning on castor oil for hair growth, go for Jamaican castor oil. Because it opens up the hair's cuticle, using this on your scalp has the best absorption of the growth-happy ingredient ricinoleic acid.
If you're like us and marinate every inch of your hair in this stuff, there's not a huge sell for choosing Jamaican black castor oil over regular. For ends, some evidence provided by the International Journal of Trichology (serious hair health people) suggests that opening up the hair's cuticle can increase friction and lead to hair fragility. We still love castor oil for our ends! But, if combating frizz is your main goal here, opt for regular castor oil. Otherwise, just make sure you incorporate a “cuticle closing” step like a rinse of cold water post-mask.
The Ones We Heart:
Castor Oil Benefits for Hair
The benefits of castor oil for hair could be a novel, but for now we'll summarize it to a love letter. Whether you choose Jamaican black castor oil or the regular cold-pressed stuff, using castor oil for hair has beloved health benefits for strands. Keyword here is “beloved”, and not “scientifically backed”.
Despite all of our friends' advice (as well as my own personal experience!) there are no studies that prove the use of castor oil or Jamaican black castor oil for hair growth. Which actually surprises those in the hair science field too because its chemical makeup is full of growth-stimulating ingredients.
The unique nutrient-dense chemistry of castor oil is actually unlike any seed/nut oils. Although we can't scientifically say it will grow your hair faster, people have been raving about its benefits for centuries—and that's good enough for us! With other buzz-word properties like anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and nourishing, there are more than a few benefits of adding castor oil to hair.
For detailed uses, jump into more benefits of this miracle oil here.
Where to Get the Oil
We love a good health food store run and you should too for all their natural solutions for hair! Ideally, all your oils should come from a health food store as opposed to a beauty department store because they're health-first. Meaning, they have more organic and unrefined options for a higher purity of all the goodness that naturally exists in oils.
Castor oil can sometimes be highly processed resulting in a lower ricinoleic acid content (the hair growth ingredient). For this reason, shop small and support local shops whenever possible. These places will usually have smaller-batch product lines that are less refined. Not always a hard and fast rule, but shop around your local holistic stores and go for the organic, unrefined stuff.
For Jamaican black castor oil (and even the regular stuff tbh) black owned beauty businesses are an amazing resource. These shops usually have a ton of products that use castor oil in them and they can provide different ways to incorporate castor in your hair and skin routine. They often have smaller batch sizes and locally sourced ingredients too which is even better!
Castor Oil/Jamaican Castor Oil for Hair Growth
Before asking how any product can grow your hair faster, we need to nail down how hair grows.
Simply put, your hair is made up of protein cells. And in order to grow, the hair follicle requires blood flow to create new cells, AKA new growth. The blood vessels in your scalp already feed your follicles and provide ample blood naturally, but you can speed this up by stimulating the scalp! That's why head massages, inversion methods, and scalp treatments are all amazing for hair growth.
What makes castor oil for hair growth so legitimized is its main ingredient, ricinoleic acid. This rare fatty acid works by activating certain receptors in your body. If you ingest or apply castor oil to these receptors, it dilates blood vessels like crazy.
Now consider that both Jamaican black castor oil and its cold-pressed counterpart have upwards of a 90% ricinoleic acid composition. Used topically, both provide increased nutrients and blood flow to your follicles AKA faster growth!
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How Long Does Castor Oil Take to Work?
Hair growth is still hair growth. So it takes time. We suggest using Jamaican black castor oil for hair growth right at the root 1-2 times a week for at least a month. Consistency is key for continuous hair growth, but any attention to blood flow is an amazing boost for hair!
If you want to fast track your castor oil hair growth journey, use the inversion technique while massaging at the root or add other dilating essential oils to your castor oil like these combos.
Side Effects of Castor Oil for Hair
There are some minor side effects when using castor oil for hair. If you're using castor oil for hair growth, i.e. applying it right on your scalp, it's important to note castor oil can clog pores if used too thickly or on sensitive skin.
Always patch test anything before applying it to your scalp, but especially if you have sensitive skin. While it's amazingly moisturizing, castor oil can be pretty heavy for some. That said, if you're using castor oil with a protective sleep hairstyle, wrap your hair to avoid transferring any oil onto your pillowcase (this could lead to breakouts too!)
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How to Apply Castor Oil to Hair
With its growth in popularity over the years, castor oil can be easily found in shampoos, conditioners, oil blends, and mixed with other butters. Follow the instructions on any unique products like these, but if you're using just the oil, there's no real right or wrong way to use castor oil for hair.
Depending on your hair type, and your purpose for oiling up, you can use castor oil on your scalp, your ends, or all over. An overnight application is always best in our opinion because it gives lots of time for this thick seed oil to penetrate hair. For a few ways to apply castor oil to your hair, try these:
For hair growth: Warm up a moderate amount of Jamaican black castor oil between palms (different hair densities will need more or less oil). Using the inversion method, work the oil into your scalp using a continuous circular motion. Wrap hair in a towel and leave in overnight or for a few hours. Wash out in the morning.
For deep conditioning: Coat your hair with castor oil starting about an inch down from the scalp. Protect your pillow with a towel and wash out in the morning. You can also leave your hair in braids with castor oil for a few days for an exxxxtra deep condition.
For an irritated scalp: Combine castor oil with a few drops of other antibacterial oils like tea tree or peppermint. Warm up the mixture between palms and gently massage into your scalp. You can wrap hair in a towel and leave on overnight or just for a few hours. Wash out when you're done!
You can also use castor oil for a nourishing daytime styling boost too! Slick back a tight pony with castor oil OR if you've ever wanted to try the wet look, spray hair with water and use castor oil throughout ends. A huge win for oily hairstyles!