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First things first: If you're struggling with hair loss or thinning, you're far from alone. It's extremely common, with American women accounting for 40 percent of Americans struggling with hair thinning or loss.
It tends to be most prevalent in your 40s and 50s, and this can occur for a laundry list of reasons, including hormonal changes, Alopecia, and stress, so it's always best to visit your doctor to determine what's going on. Regardless of the reason, losing your hair can be extremely devastating for some — make that most — people, seeing as hair is an external factor that can greatly impact a person's self-image and confidence. (Thanks for that, societal pressure.)
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It's for this reason that people can be quick to try any remedy that promises results. And we get it; those before-and-after photos will really get to you. The technology behind hair growth and anti-loss treatments has improved in recent years, too, though it's worth noting that some of these treatments can be expensive and unsustainable. Because not everyone can afford to drop $80 on a bottle of growth supplements (or hundos on an in-office treatment), many people turn to natural and DIY alternatives.
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Castor oil, as some might already know, is one of the most popular all-natural "panaceas." Go ahead, Google it: What you'll find is article after article about how the viscous oil can help with shedding, breakage, and regrowth. But unlike rosemary oil and vitamin B5, both of which have studies that back up their aid in hair growth, scientific evidence surrounding castor oil is lacking. (Any testimonials about castor oil for hair growth are anecdotal, coming mostly from blogs, Reddit, and YouTube.)
"Castor oil will not grow hair," says Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist and the author of Beginning Cosmetic Chemistry. "There is no evidence for it and no scientific theory supporting that it would work, so yes, it's a total myth." In better news, he says that castor oil is not damaging to the hair and can provide some conditioning that improves the flexibility of the hair fiber.
Adam Friedman, a program director at The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, is on the same page as Romanowski. "While it does have antimicrobial properties which may be useful in terms of fighting off bacterial or fungal overgrowth on the scalp that can lead to hair-damaging inflammation, there is zero evidence [showing] it is helpful for hair growth," he says, adding that some people can actually be allergic to castor oil and experience inflammation, ultimately doing more damage than good to the scalp. "To propose that castor oil accelerates hair growth, a tightly regulated process (one centimeter per month) for which FDA approved medications for hair loss do not impact, is ridiculous," he states.
Well, there you have it, folks. Without legitimate clinical evidence, there's no way of telling whether castor oil is the hair-care cure-all some people claim it is. That being said, as long as you consult your doctor first, there should be no problem with you experimenting with it on your own to see how and if it works for you. At the end of the day, we're not calling anyone a liar, but facts are facts, so until there's more science-backed information on the subject, it's best to take any glowing tesimonials with a grain of salt.
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Originally Appeared on Allure