When something goes wrong with our eyebrows — maybe we were a little overzealous with the plucking — we go into panic mode. First, we buy a hat (preferably something that can sit low on the forehead). Then, we shop for the biggest sunglasses known to man (like, paparazzi-blocker big). And finally, we go to Google for solutions to grow back our arches… and quick.
One suggestion that we come across again and again for hair growth is castor oil. The pressed vegetable oil is popular on YouTube and Reddit threads as a way to make your lash and brow hairs multiply at a speedy rate. But scroll too long and you’re bound to find a few horror stories, too. So, with two conflicting tales of this plant oil, there remains one important question: Does castor oil actually work for hair growth? We asked the pros, and the answer is an emphatic, “No.”
“There is no scientific or published evidence regarding castor oil and hair growth,” says New York-based dermatologist Doris Day, MD. “Also, it can be occlusive, which can increase hair loss.” So to be clear: Massaging the oil into your eyebrows or swabbing it onto your lashes might actually be clogging up your follicles, creating the opposite effect that you were looking for.
So, how does this explain the multitude of posts from people who have seen accelerated hair growth? “Castor oil contains a high percentage of ricinoleic acid, which is an omega-9 essential fatty acid. This can help as an anti-inflammatory and improve circulation, which may help with hair growth,” says Dr. Day. But while that is one theory, the risk that castor oil will cause irritation is high. Not to mention the fact that putting it around your eyes can result in the oil coating your corneas (not good). If noticeable lash and brow growth is your goal, there are other, legit alternatives. “If people are interested in longer eyelashes, Latisse is really the only proven, effective treatment.” says cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski.
But before you toss that castor oil bottle in the trash, both Dr. Day and Romanowski say that there are pros to the formula — just not so close to your eyes. Dr. Day recommends it as a pre-shampoo treatment for dry hair. “Use it at night and wash it out in the morning, so the oil doesn’t leave the scalp greasy,” she says. And Romanowski says it can smooth the skin, soothe irritation, and make hair feel less dry — but he reiterates, “It won’t make the hair grow.”
And if after reading all this, you still say, “Fuck it,” and plan to try castor oil on your brows or lashes, Dr. Day advises extreme caution. “It might be helpful to apply to one brow to see if it works and to check for irritation,” she says. “No point in irritating both brows for no reason.” Good point.