If you're like me, your weekly manicures are less of a luxury and more of a necessity to hide the sight of your brittle nail beds. For serious, no matter how much biotin I take to have strong nails or how often I buff to remove ridges, I am constantly snagging my nails on my favorite silk shirts, my curly hair, or just casually scratching my roommates.
For years, Papa Jackson (my father), has been lathering himself up in a thick oil in the morning and at night. Finally, I took the bait. "Why are you so oily???" I demanded. The answer was simple and I was instantly intrigued: castor oil. Extracted from the Ricinus communis herb, native to Africa and India, this oil has been used for centuries to treat arthritic and joint pain, but it's also great for more esthetic purposes.
In addition to strengthening brittle nails and peeling cuticles, castor can be used to get rid of scarring from shingles, chicken pox, stretch marks, and age spots. It's high in protein and essential fatty acids that hydrate your skin and support collagen and elasticity, plus is packed with vitamin E which can help reduce the appearance of scars.
With every oil, there are some things to consider in determining which one is right for you. For one thing, castor oil is not for cooking or oil cleansing if you have any existing gastro problems; although it is used to treat constipation, castor oil can wear down the digestive lining. If you're considering adding castor to your hair masks, make sure to rinse well and only apply on the ends, especially if you have fine hair. Another warning: it has a super greasy scent, so feel free to mix it with some better smelling essential oils.
Ready to get greasin'? Here are some of my favorite ways to use castor oil in my regular beauty routine.
To fight pesky fungal infections in your nail beds, ragged cuticles, and brittle nails, pour castor oil into a bowl with 1 part Epsom salt and 3 parts water. Soak for about 15 minutes. If you have the time, repeat this treatment daily. Castor oil's anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties will help strengthen your nails, so you'll be able to try the polish-free look in no time.
Still staring at that scar on your ankle from that pair of uncomfortable-but-so-cute heels you just had to have? Plagued with that one spot on your forehead from when you were eight and had a particularly nasty bout of chicken pox? To treat smaller scars or blemishes, use a cotton ball and dab the oil directly onto the intended spot, and leave it on for as long as possible — overnight, if you can. Be careful, because like olive oil from your salad dressing, castor can leave annoying stains on your favorite blouses. I like to rub castor on scars when I'm home for the night, but even keeping it on for at least 15 minutes should help treat the scar tissue.
You were unexpectedly out in the sun for "not that long" and all the drugstores you hit up are out of aloe because it's June and everyone and their mother has made the same mistake. Good thing you have a bottle of castor on hand! Castor oil can help heal your sunburn immediately by rubbing the oil directly on the burn. It has the same cooling sensation as aloe, and its ricinoleic acid will protect any burn-induced blisters that pop from infection-causing bacteria and conquer inflammation!