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Ricinus Communis Seed Oil

Ricinus Communis Seed Oil

Also-called-like-this: Castor Oil
What-it-does: emollient
Irritancy: 0
Comedogenicity: 0-1


Castor oil is sourced from the castor bean plant native to tropical areas in Eastern Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. It is an age-old ingredient (it’s over 4,000 years old!) with many uses including as a shoe polish, food additive and motor lubricant. You would be reasonable to think that putting shoe polish on your face wouldn’t be the best idea, but it turns out castor oil has some unique properties that make it a stalwart in thick and gloss-giving formulas (think lipsticks and highlighters).

So what is so special about it? The answer is its main fatty acid, called ricinoleic acid (85-95%).  Unlike other fatty acids, ricinoleic acid has an extra water-loving part (aka -OH group) on its fatty chain that gives Castor Oil several unique properties. First, it is thicker than other oils, then its solubility is different (e.g. dissolves in alcohol but not in mineral oil), and it allows all kinds of chemical modifications other oils do not, hence the lots of Castor oil-derived ingredients. It is also more glossy than other oils, in fact, it creates the highest gloss of all natural oils when applied to the skin. Other than that, it is a very effective emollient and occlusive that reduces skin moisture loss so it is quite common in smaller amounts in moisturizers. 

While it is very unlikely (and this is true for pretty much every ingredient), cases of reactions to castor oil have been reported, so if your skin is sensitive, it never hurts to patch test. 

Show me some proof

  • A. Dweck, “Use of Botanicals in Cosmetics” in Harry’s Cosmeticology, 8th ed., Ed. M.M. Rieger, Chemical Publishing: New York, NY, USA (2000).
  • “Final Report on the Safety Assessment of Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Glyceryl Ricinoleate, Glyceryl Ricinoleate SE, Ricinoleic Acid, Potassium Ricinoleate, Sodium Ricinoleate, Zinc Ricinoleate, Cetyl Ricinoleate, Ethyl Ricinoleate, Glycol Ricinoleate, Isopropyl Ricinoleate, Methyl Ricinoleate, and Octyldodecyl Ricinoleate.” International Journal of Toxicology, vol. 26, no. 3_suppl, May 2007, pp. 31–77.
  • Pascoe, David, et al. “Emergent and Unusual Allergens in Cosmetics. [Review].” Dermatitis, vol. 21, no. 3, June 2010, pp. 127–37. Journals@Ovid

Products with Ricinus Communis Seed Oil

Antipodes Lipstick Avene Cold Cream Lip Cream Beauty Made Easy Natural Lip Balm Raspberry Becca Under Eye Brightening Corrector Bite Beauty Agave + Nighttime Lip Therapy By Terry Baume De Rose Nutri-Couleur Catrice Cosmetics Camouflage Cream Farmacy Honey Savior All-In-One Skin Repair Salve With Echinacea Greenenvy™ Honey Frank Body Illuminator HerbiAR Organic Castor Oil Hourglass Girl Lip Stylo La Roche-Posay Anthelios Xl Lip Stick Spf 50+ Labello Labellino Raspberry & Red Apple Lip Smackers Dr Pepper Chapstick Lipstick Queen Frog Prince Lipstick Mecca Cosmetica Enlightened Lit From Within Illuminating Balm MooGoo Oil Cleansing Method NudeStix Lip And Cheek Pencil Odylique Mineral Lipstick (All Colours) Paula's Choice Lip & Body Treatment Balm Pixi Nourishing Lip Polish The Body Shop Hemp Hand Protector The Divine Company Replenishing Lip Balm Vichy Idéal Soleil Spf30 Lipstick de Mamiel Atmosphériques Pure Calm Cleansing Dew pharmatheiss Volume Lip Booster Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask By Terry Baume De Rose Nourishing Lip Balm Gigi Milk & Honee Wax Kiehl’s Crème De Corps Smoothing Oil To Foam Body Cleanser Labello Med Repair Lush Tea Totaler Naked Cleansing Balm Olive + M Cleansing Oil RCMA Foundation RMS Beauty "Un" Cover-Up Sephora Supreme Cleansing Oil Charlotte Tilbury Magic Night Cream Elate Cosmetics Universal Crème Etude House Cherry Sweet Color Lip Balm Hanyul Moist Glow Oil In Fiore Lustra Illuminating Cleansing Essence Joelle Ciocco Intensive Eye Care/Cream Eye Contour Lanolips Lip Ointment Spf30 - Rose Lanolips Tinted Balm Spf 30 No7 SPF30 Anti-Ageing Shimmering Lip & Eye Screen Pai Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser QV Lip Balm Secret Key Gold Racoony Hydrogel Eye & Spot Patch Secret Key Gold Racoony Hydrogel Eye & Spot Patch SheaMoisture Green Coconut & Activated Charcoal Cleansing Balm Urtekram Vanilla Shea Butter Lip Balm