Why Hydrogenated Castor Oil is a Popular Ingredient in Cosmetic products?


Castor oil is a familiar name in most households. The thick, light yellow oil is commonly used as a laxative or for its antifungal benefits. Castor oil is also used extensively in the cosmetic industry. The ricin oleic acid, a specific fat, makes this oil a beauty treatment with astonishing virtues already known from Antiquity since Cleopatra used it as a makeup remover. However, in the cosmetic industry, hydrogenated castor oil is more popular. 

It is also referred to as beaver oil and is unbeatable when it comes to accelerating the growth of beard hair. Vitamin E content present in this oil is responsible for these benefits. Organic castor oil can be applied pure directly on the hair, but it is very oily. Hence, it is rather advisable to turn to beard oils which contain hydrogenated castor oil. 

What is hydrogenated castor oil?

In its unmodified state, this oil is generally available for sale in the form of a hard, crumbly block, flakes or a white-yellow powder. Note that it is insoluble in water and completely odourless. Concretely, this substance is produced during hydrogenation. It is the chemical reaction which occurs during the combination, by catalysis, of pure castor oil with hydrogen.

Like pure castor oil, hydrogenated castor oil is rich in triglycerides from ricin oleic acid. It is used in many products for the following characteristics:

  • It is lipogelling;
  • It helps stabilize the emulsions, thus favouring mixtures of liquids;
  • It acts as a viscosity control agent. 

If you have observed the ingredient list, you may have come across PEG-40 or hydrogenated castor oil in cosmetic products. This is also valid in certain products labelled organic. It is pure castor oil which has been subjected to a chemical treatment with ethylene oxide (ethoxylation), and/or hydrogenation, to make it an emulsifier/surfactant whose penetration into the skin is multiplied.

Hydrogenated castor oil in skincare and other multiple uses

You will find this ingredient in a wide variety of products, which you might not have thought of at first knowing the benefits of castor oil for the body. Because of its characteristics, hydrogenated castor oil, or castor wax, is one of the ingredients of many products. It is found in certain varnishes, soaps and in different types of skin and hair care products. 

The fact that it is lipogelling and resistant to water and oil, petrochemical liquids allows it to enter, for example, into the composition of:

  • coatings, especially of polyurethane
  • engine lubricants
  • carbon paper
  • electric capacitors
  • paints and varnishes for materials (wood, leather, etc.)
  • household products

Why is hydrogenated castor oil a popular ingredient in the cosmetics industry?

Hydrogenated castor oil has many properties since it is a multifaceted agent. Some of the reasons it is popular in skincare are:

  1. Softens skin: Do you experience dry and itchy skin during winters? Using body creams or moisturisers enriched with hydrogenated castor oil can be beneficial to tackle dry skin. The emollient properties of castor oil make it an ideal moisturiser. It hydrates the skin on your face and body and thus makes it soft and supple. 
  2. Emulsifier: Cosmetics are usually a combination of multiple ingredients in both solid and liquid forms. Sometimes, it is not easy to mix different liquids and achieve the desired consistency. However, the emulsifying properties of hydrogenated castor oil promote the mixing of liquids which make it a commonly found ingredient in most cosmetics. 
  3. Maintains skin health: It soothes delicate skin and prone to discomfort by its softening and repairing action. Moreover, the emollient properties of this oil also act on the brown spots on the face as well as hands and help lighten them.  
  4. Prevents acne and infections: Ricin oleic acid is also reputed to be an agent that slows the growth of microbes, which gives castor oil an advantage in purifying treatments.
  5. Viscosity: With a very high viscosity, it ensures excellent dispersion of pigments and makes lipsticks shiny. This property also gives a dense and creamy foam in soaps in cold saponification
  6. Hair Care: This oil is very nourishing: it hydrates the scalp; it makes the hair lustrous and more supple. But that’s not all, it also accelerates hair growth and prevents hair fall. As with hair, hydrogenated castor oil helps accelerate the growth of eyelashes and eyebrows while moisturizing them.

Which cosmetic products use hydrogenated castor oil?

It may come as a surprise but this ingredient is found in 5.98% of cosmetics. Here’s a break-up of the use of hydrogenated oil in cosmetic products: 

  • Baby fragrance (66.67%)
  • Eau de toilette for men (65.43%)
  • Aftershave lotion (52.5%)
  • Perfumed mist for women (48.7%)
  • Styling mousse (47.52%)

Other uses are lip balms, lipsticks, moisturisers, kohl, eyelines, eye pencils, lipliners, night creams and more. 

Source for percentage of HCO used in cosmetics:

Bottom line

While castor oil can be used in its purest form by mixing with a base oil, hydrogenated castor oil is not to be applied directly. The best way to enjoy its benefits for skin and hair is to use hydrogenated castor oil-based cosmetics and skin care products. You can buy these products online or from regular stores and go through the ingredients list before choosing the product. Hydrogenated castor oil unlike the pure version is odourless and hence preferred in few organic products too. It is an ideal ingredient for healthy skin and hair.