Your patients are putting castor oil in their eyes. Here's what you need to know

By Claire Wolters | Fact-checked by Jessica Wrubel
Published August 17, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • A new TikTok trend involves putting castor oil around the eyes to address eye issues.

  • One small study shows castor oil was beneficial in treating blepharitis.

Ophthalmologists should be on the lookout for patients participating in a new TikTok trend, which involves putting castor oil around their eyes. Trending videos show people massaging castor oil around their eyes with the purpose, they say, of promoting eye health. Users claim castor oil can have benefits like increasing the quality of eyesight, fighting cataracts, floaters, dry eye, or reducing risks of eye diseases.[]

Why have people gravitated toward castor oil? And does research back it up?

Castor oil has been historically thought of as a multi-purpose health remedy—although some of its powers have been disputed over the years. Some users on social media say that the oil moisturizes the eye area and helps increase blood flow to the area, providing the aforelisted benefits such as improving eyesight quality.[]

Doctors and researchers are less sure. Donny W. Suh, MD, FAAP, MBA, FACS, an ophthalmologist at Gavin Herbert Eye Institute at UCI Health, says that while castor oil may have potential benefits for the eyes, scientific evidence is limited. 

One small study on patients with blepharitis, a condition that is characterized by inflammation of the eyelids, showed that castor oil could have some benefits in reducing symptoms of dry eyes and promoting eyelash growth.[]

“There is no scientific evidence to support claims made by TikTokers about its benefits for vision, reduce wrinkles, treatment of cataracts, glaucoma, floaters, presbyopia, or other eye problems,” Dr. Suh says.

He adds that the various factors including affordability, anecdotal experiences, and easy access to castor oil in stores and pharmacies may have contributed to its rise in popularity on social media.

Risks of putting castor oil in the eyes

Castor oil can pose a potential risk to the eyes, particularly if it enters the actual eye area. Several of the videos encourage castor oil around the eye and not in the eyeball. However, information can easily get twisted online. And putting anything near the eyes increases the risk that it can get inside.

Dr. Suh says that when castor oil enters the eye, people may experience risks like “eye irritation, reduced tear quality, blurred vision, and potential allergic reactions.”

Additionally, he says an overload of castor oil can block the eye’s Meibomian gland orifices in the lid area. When this gland is blocked people may experience things like dry eye or feel like they cannot open their eyes.

Further, if the oil itself is contaminated, people can be at risk for infections, Dr. Suh says.

“We strongly advise against the utilization of any non-sterile materials in the eye,” he adds.

How can doctors address eye TikTok trends?

Addressing misinformation from social media can help people make educated decisions for their healthcare and best reduce risks going forward. Some doctors may find it most productive to have one-on-one conversations with patients to address risks. Others, especially if on social media, may want to intervene by making informational videos of their own, in which they can offer precise information about risks—and suggest helpful alternatives.

What this means for you

People on TikTok are putting castor oil around their eyes to address eye issues. Doctors say there is not enough research on castor oil's benefits to support this and warn against risks.

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