Can Castor Oil Help with Acne Scars?

In this blog, we will discuss acne scars, their causes, and various treatments available. We will also analyze the properties of castor oil and its potential benefits for skin health, particularly concerning acne scars.
Greta Daniskova

Greta Daniskova

Greta is a BSc Biomedical Science student at the University of Westminster, London.

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What are Acne Scars?

Acne scars are longstanding skin defects that develop after acne has resolved, an extremely common skin disease. If they are very unpleasant, acne scars can lead to physical and psychological distress, profoundly affecting a person's quality of life [1, 2]. Acne scars can be categorized into two different types: atrophic and hypertrophic scars [3].

Atrophic scars are flat, shallow depressions that heal below the superficial layer of skin. They commonly occur as a result of bad and severe cystic acne, but other forms of acne and inflammation can also lead to atrophic scars. These types of scars can be subdivided into boxcar, ice pick, and rolling scars [4].

Alternatively, hypertrophic scars are raised clusters of scar tissue on top of where the acne was. They occur when scar tissue builds up, sometimes even on sites of a previous acne lesion. Hypertrophic and keloid scars are more likely to occur on areas of the face, such as the jawline and the chest, back, and shoulders [4].

What are the Causes of Acne Scars?

These scars result from acne inflammation, skin damage, and underlying collagen. The skin’s healing response to that damage – its excess or lack of collagen production – ultimately gives rise to acne scars [5]. By not generating enough collagen, the skin doesn’t fully heal. In the worst cases, the skin ceases to wrap completely around the underside of the scar. Too much collagen in the healing process can result in raised scars that protrude above the skin [5].

Inflammation causes acne to scar, and cysts and nodules that result in inflammation and tissue damage are more likely to scar than white and blackheads. Inflammation causes cells to release growth factors that alter the production of melanin, a pigment, and collagen protein during wound healing [6].

Both genetic predisposition and delaying treatment of inflammatory acne for a long time, picking at acne, or having severe acne can worsen the risks of scarring [5, 1].

Sometimes, acne causes hyperpigmentation (or darkening of the skin) due to an increased production of melanin. This is not a scar and will fade away on its own when using efficient sun protection methods [4].

What is Castor Oil?

Castor oil is a vegetable oil produced from the seeds of the Ricinus communis plant. The seeds are mainly harvested from plants grown in western and southern India, South America and Africa [7, 8, 9, 10]. They are refined by heating and processing them for commercial purposes [11].

It contains substantial amounts of hydroxylated fatty acids, especially ricinoleic acid, constituting about 89-92% of the oil [12, 13, 14]. This chemical characteristic causes castor oil to be both water-loving and fat-loving and better able to penetrate the skin than other vegetable oils [7].

Castor oil is widely used in many different industries, and especially by the cosmetic industry as a moisturiser; you can find it in a wide range of products, from shampoos and soaps to lipsticks [8, 9, 11]. Within the pharmaceutical industry, it acts as a laxative, and when it’s mixed in with medicines, it can be consumed [7, 10].

Besides the above-mentioned cosmetic and medicinal uses, it makes its way, often indirectly, into plastics, fibres, paints, and others [8]. The many uses of castor oil should not be mistaken for safety information on the direct use of the oil on the skin, including the face [9].

Treatment of Acne Scars

Having acne scars can be a considerable source of psychological suffering and interference with functioning in the world. Acne scars come in various forms, as do treatments, so there is a good chance that there is a solution that will correspond to the kind of scars you have.

Microneedling, fractional radiofrequency, fractional CO2, and erbium:yttrium aluminium garnet laser are the three best options for treating mild to moderate-grade scars. Their efficacy has been demonstrated by significant evidence [15]. For severe acne scars (grade 4), resurfacing procedures might be less effective: punch excision and elevation could be attempted in cases like this [15].

Another is nonablative radiofrequency, where an improvement of 25%-75 % is possible after three to four treatment sessions [16]. A combination of 20% trichloracetic acid chemical peel, subcision and CO2 laser under local tumescent anaesthesia has proven effective in improving patients with predominantly rolling acne scars [17].

Subcision is usually suggested in combination with other medical interventions to reduce the appearance of scars, such as topical retinoids, microneedling, dermabrasion, laser and chemical peels [18].

Combination therapy consisting of both surgical and nonsurgical modalities is commonly used to achieve the most satisfactory scar improvement [19]. Risks and adverse effects accompany these treatments for scar improvement, and readers should consult a dermatologist before starting any regimens [19].

Can Castor Oil Help with Acne Scars?

Castor oil has mild antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties [9]. That’s a mouthful of a fancy label, but it describes the benefits to your skin that you get from using castor oil. These ‘antis’ can help to diminish swelling and puffiness, which might make inflamed pimples appear smaller and less noticeable. Castor oil also contains healthy fatty acids that help to keep your skin in good condition [9].

But acne scars might be a different story. Again, castor oil has known benefits for the skin, but none of the studies specifically tie castor oil to reducing acne scars. For example, a study notes that castor oil has properties that could help relieve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis (eczema). Still, it doesn’t have any evidence that castor oil treats eczema scars [20].

While castor oil can’t actually reduce acne scars, its hydration and anti-inflammatory qualities can still potentially help with a healthier-looking skin, which may ultimately affect acne scars reduced in appearance [9].


In short, while there are several benefits for skin health, the truth remains that science doesn’t offer solid answers about castor oil’s impact on reducing acne scars. As always, it’s good to approach new skincare supplements with a consultation with a primary healthcare provider or, if necessary, a dermatologist.

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Greta Daniskova

Greta Daniskova

Greta is a 2nd-year student currently pursuing her Bachelor's Degree in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Westminster in London. Currently, in her second year of undergraduate studies, she exhibits a keen interest in the dynamic field of healthcare. With a focus on understanding the intricacies of human biology and disease mechanisms, Greta is driven by a desire to contribute to advancements in medical research and patient care.