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The Dangers of Putting Castor Oil on the Skin

author image Sara Ipatenco
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.
The Dangers of Putting Castor Oil on the Skin
Castor oil can be irritating to the skin. Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images

Castor oil is made from the beans of the castor plant. There are multiple uses for castor oil, though none of them are supported by evidence presented in clinical trials. One use for castor oil is cosmetic, and it is included in certain skin care products. If you are allergic or sensitive to castor oil, using it on your skin may be dangerous. Once you know more about the dangers of castor oil on the skin, you can determine if it is right for you.

Castor Oil

Ancient Egyptians used castor oil to light their lamps. This population also ingested castor oil to cleanse their bodies. Castor oil has also been used as a lubricant in machine and aircraft engines, and is added to certain paints, dyes and varnishes as well. In modern times, castor oil is used as a laxative to treat constipation, and may also be used to help induce labor. Castor oil is used in many brands of makeup and skin care regimens because it is acts as a moisturizer. The use of these products is one of the most common reasons for applying castor oil to your skin.

Irritation and Allergies

If you use pure castor oil on your skin, you may be prone to irritation. The International Journal of Toxicology reports that castor oil is considered a safe product, but animal studies have shown that pure castor oil can be severely irritating to exposed skin. If your skin is only mildly irritated by castor oil, you may be slightly itchy or develop mildly red skin. A severe irritation may result in an itchy and uncomfortable rash. An allergy to castor oil may result in hives or a rash. If you suspect an allergy, call your doctor immediately. Castor oil may also be used to treat certain eye disorders, but may result in irritation and discomfort of the skin around the eye, and may also cause mild cell death in your cornea. Do not use pure castor oil, or products that contain castor oil, if you have had adverse skin reactions of any kind.

Chemical Absorption

The use of castor oil on the skin may hasten the absorption of other chemicals, according to the International Journal of Toxicology. If you use cosmetic products that contain castor oil, your skin may absorb the other chemicals in the product more quickly than it normally would. If you apply a product that contains a variety of chemicals, including castor oil, on your skin, you may experience adverse reactions from the more rapid absorption. If you are sensitive or allergic to any substances, read ingredient labels on all cosmetic products carefully to avoid absorbing anything potentially dangerous for you.


Castor oil is classified by the Food and Drug Administration, and is considered safe for use as a laxative. Clinical trials do not exist to show castor oil as being effective or safe for any other use, including induction of labor. Lipstick is the most commonly used cosmetic product that contains castor oil. Look for lipsticks that do not contain castor oil if you are allergic or sensitive. To avoid adverse effects, speak with your doctor before using castor oil for any purpose.

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