Castor oil is a viscous and sticky liquid, pale yellow in color with no odour to call its own. Non-descript though it might seem, this extract of castor seed is gifted with a unique chemical composition that makes it beneficial for hair growth.
Given the fact that this natural oil has been a part of ancient and holistic medicines practised during the earliest civilizations, the discovery of its positive effects on hair might have been serendipity. But once proven, it has since served as an effective remedy for those who have suffered loss of hair, lashes and eyebrows due to reasons ranging from over-plucking to scalp related problems.
There are several key ingredients of castor oil that provide hair growth stimulating effects. Let’s examine them:
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Accounting for more than 90% of castor oil’s constitution, ricinoleic acid is the single largest component, is mono-unsaturated and features 18 carbons. What renders it different is that its 12th carbon comprises of a hydroxyl functional group. It is courtesy of this structure of ricinoleic acid that castor oil derives its polar nature and hence is chemically more nourishing for the scalp.
Hair growth is spurred by a lipid compound named Prostaglandin (PGE2) and it could be best described as a catalyst. While its presence in high concentration promotes growth of hair, its depletion causes hair loss and eventually leads to baldness. Castor oil’s principle component – ricinoleic acid – has been scientifically proven to stimulate the production of Prostaglandin (PGE2) when applied to the scalp. Enhanced production of this lipid, particularly in bald spots, enriches hair follicles and encourages regeneration of hair.
Owing to being extra-hydroxylated, ricinoleic acid renders castor oil resistant to several types of bacteria and fungi. Thus, massaging it on the scalp on a regular basis keeps the hair follicles free from such contagions and prevents the scalp from becoming infected. The high viscosity which is also a result of the hydroxyl provides a thick coating that encompasses the hair and smoothens out the roughness and brittleness in the process.
Omega 9 Fatty Acids
Members of Omega family, namely 3, 6 and 9, are fatty acids and while all three are comprised of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon molecules, they differ in manner in which the carbon molecules are situated with respect to the double bond. The type found in castor oil is Omega 9 fatty acid, named as such courtesy of nine carbons following the Butyric acid that forms the beginning, or alpha end, of the chain.
Every massage of castor oil provides the scalp with a healthy dose of Omega 9 fatty acids which function like a sponge, meaning they absorb water from the air and use it to maintain the hydration of hair shaft. They also ensure that the water thus captured is not lost via evaporation by sealing it within.
Another characteristic that Omega 9 fatty acids derive from their inherent structure is the ability to boost immunity and in case of hair, this is manifested in form of cementing. When present in sufficient quantities, they cement the scales of the hair tightly and build a compact structure which is resistant to external factors. Being inherently strengthened, hair is not just less prone to breakages but remains free from split ends too.
Guidelines for applying Castor Oil
Courtesy of being a natural remedy for several hair related problems like stunted growth, loss, split ends and infections, castor oil has been rightly described as a multi-tasking agent. On your part, learning the correct technique of applying it is imperative if all the advantages are to be accrued.
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The process of applying oil must always begin at the roots wherein parting hair into various sections and handling each one of them separately delivers maximum results. Further efficiency is guaranteed by first massaging oil onto the scalp thoroughly and then moving down the entire length of hair to the tips.
After application, castor oil should be allowed to remain for at least an hour for the ricinoleic acid and Omega 9 fatty acids to work their magic. Covering your head with a shower cap or wrapping a towel around will ensure that absorption is maximized and benefits accrued are optimum. Sticky that it is, it is not surprising that this oil takes 2-3 rounds of shampooing to be completely washed out, leaving the hair thick, smooth and shiny.