You may know of castor oil as a means of, well, relief from constipation. There’s just no nice way to say it. What you many not know is that castor oil has other uses too. In cosmetics and skin care, castor oil is used as an emollient to maintain soft and supple skin. It’s also an eco-friendly, biodegradable oil, that has many uses in our modern world.
Discovering castor oil
Many oils come are produced from plants - the story behind castor oil is very similar. The seed of the Ricinus communis plant produces this versatile oil. Grown in many parts of the world, the seeds of the castor plant are often called “castor beans” because of their bean-like shape.
Cold pressing is the process used to produce the oil. Before the pressing can take place, the husks of the seeds must be removed. Then, pressing the seeds between large stainless steel presses begins to produce the yellow-coloured oil. Cold pressing castor beans is the same process used to make products like olive oil, although the temperature used for cold pressing castor oil is slightly higher (<120°f).
Is castor oil safe?
Commercially-prepared castor oil, whether organically grown or not, is safe for human use. The fear of castor oil stems from the husk of the seed, a part of the plant that is not used in the production of the oil itself (see above Discovering castor oil). What makes the husk of the seed a source of such fear for people? It is because the husk of the castor seed contains a component that is one of the most deadly poisons known to humans. The poison is called ricin and it causes death if it is eaten or inhaled. There is no known antidote for ricin poisoning and death occurs after three to five days. However, the use of castor oil in products like cosmetics, coatings, plastics, personal items, inks and lubricants is increasingly popular.
What about in cosmetics?
Castor oil has many properties that make it perfect for use in cosmetics. Grabbing moisture from the air and holding it close to the skin is one such use. Cosmetic manufacturers, like The Organic Make-up Company use castor oil as a humectant to keep moisture close to the skin’s surface due to its water-binding abilities. In certain cosmetic products, castor oil actually thickens the mixture allowing the ingredients to remain more stable.
The gentleness of castor oil is another welcome characteristic. Unlike a number synthetic ingredients that irritate or cause inflammation of the skin, castor oil is considered gentle. Skin irritations or allergic reactions do not often occur with the use of castor oil which makes it a prime choice for makers of cosmetics.So, with such a variety of uses for this natural oil, you can cast aside your fears of castor oil. Whether it’s used in cosmetics or other skin care products, castor oil provides quality protection for your skin to keep it healthy.
 The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001. Accessed at http://www.bartleby.com/65/ca/castoroi.html.
 http://www.hormel.com/templates/knowledge/knowledge.asp?catitemid=42&id=568, accessed June 24, 2005.
 http://www.campbell-uv.com/castor.html, accessed June 25, 2005.
 http://www.mayoclinic.com/invoke.cfm?id=AN00774, accessed June 25, 2005. http://www.cosmeticscop.com/learn/dictionary.asp?keys=castor&pos=1&type=FIND, accessed June 27, 2005.