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Castor oil has been touted for its many health benefits. Some folks even use it under their eyes to reduce the appearance of dark circles.
Whether you’ve been curious about using castor oil for dark circles or currently use it, there’s still a lot to learn from a research perspective.
While there’s no scientific evidence that castor oil works for dark circles under the eyes, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that implies it may work.
Either way, it’s generally considered safe to try.
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- ricinoleic acid
- linoleic acid
- stearic acid
- oleic acid
“Its unique chemical structure makes the oil both hydrophilic (water-loving) and lipophilic (fat-loving), so it penetrates the skin better than other vegetable oils,” she says.
According to Maiman, castor oil is most commonly used as an additive in foods. It can also be found in medications, such as laxatives.
“The anti-inflammatory properties of castor oil make it a stellar skin care ingredient, which is often overlooked,” she says.
There are no scientific studies that back up claims that castor oil can treat under-eye circles. It’s mostly based on anecdotal evidence.
“In my professional opinion, it’s all a theoretical benefit based on what we know about [castor oil’s] properties, which has been supported by anecdotal evidence from patients,” Maiman says.
While there might not be scientific evidence to supporting castor oil for under-eye circles, it has been proven to benefit the body in other ways.
Using castor oil for dark under-eye circles is a simple process that you can add to your skin care routine.
- Wash your face and pat it dry with a towel.
- Add 3 to 4 drops of castor oil to your fingertips and gently dot the oil on the dark circles. If you wish, you can mix the castor oil with another carrier oil, such as jojoba, almond, or coconut oil, to dilute it.
- Massage the oil into your under-eye area using either your fingertips or a mini jade roller to help boost circulation while moisturizing the area.
- Leave the oil on overnight.
- Wash it off the following morning with a gentle cleanser.
Before trying to use castor oil for dark circles, it’s important to identify why you might have dark circles in the first place.
“In some people, the cause of dark circles is actually an increase in pigmentation, but in others, the cause is lack of sleep or chronic allergies,” Maiman says.
According to Maiman, people with thinning skin under their eyes will likely benefit the most from castor oil.
However, some people have a genetic predisposition to excessive thinning. When there’s less collagen in the under-eye area, veins are more visible. This shows up as dark circles.
“By augmenting the synthesis of these proteins, the skin is thickened and the likelihood of the underlying [veins] being visible is reduced,” Maiman says.
Castor oil may improve hair growth. You can even try boosting your brows and lashes by applying a small amount of castor oil daily.
“The high levels of ricinoleic acid present in castor oil promote hair growth by lowering levels of certain compounds that are associated with hair loss,” says Dr. Marie Hayag, a board certified dermatologist and founder of 5th Avenue Aesthetics in New York City.
“Additionally, fatty acids in the castor oil nourish hair follicles, resulting in thicker, fuller eyebrows,” Hayag says.
“Castor oil is a humectant, meaning it helps the skin hold on to water molecules. Thus, applying it after moisturizer helps to sustain hydration over a longer period of time,” Maiman says.
LaKeisha Dale is an aesthetician and the founder of MelaSkin Studio in New York City. Dale suggests treating your dark circles with an eye cream that contains specific ingredients to fade them and hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation is affected by tyrosinase, an enzyme that controls the production of melanin.
“If your dark circles are due to hyperpigmentation, you want to treat dark circles using an eye cream that contains ingredients that are tyrosinase inhibitors and help fade hyperpigmentation at the same time,” Dale says.
According to Dale, those ingredients include:
On the other hand, if you have dark circles due to poor blood circulation and lymphatic liquid around the eyes, Dale suggests focusing on massaging the area.
“Performing gua sha, using a jade roller, or doing gentle massages around your eye area will help increase blood flow, break up stagnant blood, and stimulate the lymph in the eye area, which in turn will make your eye area look much brighter,” she says.
According to Hayag, castor oil is generally considered to be safe to use around the eye area.
“Despite this, some people have reported allergies and irritation, so it’s always best to take precaution and do a patch test first, especially considering that skin surrounding the eyes is quite sensitive,” she says.
Maiman adds, “In patients with sensitive skin or a history of eye dermatitis, castor oil has been shown to be potentially irritating.”
When performing a patch test, apply a small amount of castor oil on your neck, closer to the face. Leave it on for a day to make sure that the castor oil doesn’t irritate your skin before applying it on your face.
Castor oil may cause allergic reactions and irritation in the eye area. Always do a patch test before applying castor oil to your skin.
It’s not advised to use castor oil if you’re pregnant.
“I advise against using castor oil during pregnancy, as it can have a contracting effect on the uterus,” Maiman says.
Castor oil is known to
induce labor, so avoid using it if you’re pregnant.
If you’re going to use castor oil for dark circles, make sure you purchase a castor oil that’s cold-pressed and organic.
“A cold-pressed oil hasn’t been heated during the extraction process, resulting in a purer oil,” Hayag says. “Heating can destroy many ingredients naturally found in the castor oil.”
Mixing a few teaspoons of castor oil with warm milk has been effective in providing laxative relief, but it probably won’t do much to improve the dark circles under your eyes.
According to both Maiman and Hayag, almond oil might be a better option for treating dark under-eye circles for multiple reasons.
“Almond oil is potentially an even more effective treatment for under-eye circles than castor oil because, in addition to containing many of the fatty acids in castor oil, it also contains retinol and vitamin E,” Maiman says.
Retinol encourages the production of collagen and elastin, which thickens the skin.
“Vitamin E may be useful in the management of dark circles caused by deposition of pigment rather than that caused solely by thin skin,” Maiman says.
This is because vitamin E
It acts as an antioxidant to fight free radical damage and inhibits tyrosinase, the enzyme that’s critical in the production of pigment.
Additionally, Hayag points out that the vitamin A present in almond oil aids in treating dark circles by increasing cell turnover, which can quicken the process of lightening hyperpigmented areas.
If you’d prefer not to put pure castor oil directly on your under-eye area, consider trying a product with castor oil mixed in.
The SheaMoisture Matcha Green Tea and Probiotics Soothing Relief Eye Cream is designed to depuff with a cooling metal-tip applicator. It may minimize the appearance of dark circles.
Thanks to the caffeine, hydrolyzed collagen, hydrogenated castor oil, and castor seed oil, Patchology FlashPatch Rejuvenating Eye Gels may help reduce dark circles.
Just place a pair of the gels onto clean, dry skin on the under-eye area, leave on for 5 minutes or more, and discard after use. Massage the remaining serum into your skin.
For people with a sensitive under-eye area who are prone to eczema, Burt’s Bees Sensitive Eye Cream may provide the benefits of castor oil without the potential irritation.
With softening cotton extract, olive oil, sunflower oil, and some castor oil, this eye cream is hypoallergenic, was awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance, and may help reduce dark circles.
Terez & Honor Anti-Aging Rapid Reduction Eye Cream claims to work in 120 seconds to reduce dark circles, under-eye bags, wrinkles, puffiness, and fine lines. The formulation includes hydrogenated castor oil.
While castor oil hasn’t been scientifically proven to reduce dark circles under the eyes, anecdotal evidence suggests it might.
It’s considered safe for most people, though those with allergies should do a patch test before using. People who are pregnant should avoid using castor oil as it’s known to induce labor.
Daley Quinn is a beauty and wellness journalist and content strategist living in Boston. She’s a former beauty editor at a national magazine, and her work has appeared on sites including Allure, Well + Good, Byrdie, Fashionista, The Cut, WWD, Women’s Health Mag, HelloGiggles, Shape, Elite Daily, and more. You can see more of her work on her website.