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Cas­tor oil: Usa­ge and the ver­sa­ti­le facettes

Castor oil is a familiar cosmetic item and is used in natural medicine, cosmetics and even for the production of eyewear as a sustainable alternative to fossil oil based polymers.

Cas­tor oil in eye­we­ar? If you’re thin­king this is some kind of hoax, that would be com­ple­te­ly under­stand­a­ble. But we are total­ly serious about it. In fact, cas­tor oil is the pri­ma­ry raw mate­ri­al used for our 100% bio-based natural3D mate­ri­al which we use in our 3D prin­ting process.

You’ve pro­bab­ly heard of cas­tor oil, but who’s fami­li­ar with the details of this mul­ti-pur­po­se liquid? We inter­view­ed phar­macist Alex­an­der Ehr­mann from the St. Charles phar­ma­cy to see what he has to say about the pro­per­ties and uses of cas­tor oil.

What is the pro­cess like in the pro­duc­tion of cas­tor oil?

Alex­an­der Ehr­mann: Our high-qua­li­ty cas­tor oil is obtai­ned through cold pres­sing. The press cake con­tains over 10 per­cent oil, which is then extracted. 

After remo­ving the sol­vent resi­du­es, the press cake only con­tains appro­xi­mate­ly 1 per­cent oil and can then be used. Press cake or oil cake is the by-pro­duct pro­du­ced during the manu­fac­tu­re of vege­ta­ble oil accord­ing to the cold pres­sing princip­le. The com­pon­ents of the press cake are the solids remai­ning after pres­sing the oil seeds and fruits and the unpres­sed oil por­ti­on. We also car­ry out various clea­ning pro­ces­ses to fur­ther impro­ve the qua­li­ty of the fresh­ly squee­zed cas­tor oil.”

What are the cha­rac­te­ris­tics of cas­tor oil?

Alex­an­der Ehr­mann: Cas­tor oil comes from the seeds of the Afri­can Mira­cle Tree (Rici­nus com­mu­nis). In con­trast to the seeds of the plant, the oil obtai­ned from it is com­ple­te­ly non-toxic and for this rea­son, has a wide ran­ge of uses in both natu­ral medi­ci­ne and cos­me­tics.
It’s laxa­ti­ve effect is well-known. It’s also recom­men­ded to use the oil for skin and hair care, as the essen­ti­al fat­ty acids that the oil con­tains help in res­to­ring moisture.”

Is the­re anything to con­si­der during storage?

Alex­an­der Ehr­mann: Orga­nic cas­tor oil should be stored in dark glass bot­t­les in a cool and dark place. To pre­vent oxi­da­ti­on, the lid should be screwed on tightly.”

Can you use the oil pure, or are the­re other aspects to con­si­der when using it?

Alex­an­der Ehr­mann: Cas­tor oil should not be used pure over a lar­ge area, as it would dry out the skin too much. It can be mixed with other nou­ris­hing oils. At St. Charles phar­ma­cy we like to use almond oil and jojo­ba oil for this. In this case, cas­tor oil should make up about 10 – 35 per­cent of the mixture.”

What are the app­li­ca­ti­on points of cas­tor oil in cosmetics?

Alex­an­der Ehr­mann: The­re are many pos­si­ble uses for cas­tor oil. It is used in cos­me­tics becau­se of its high-qua­li­ty ingre­dients. From hair con­di­tio­ners and nail care pro­ducts to bath addi­ti­ves or lip­s­ticks, the oil can be found in a wide ran­ge of pro­ducts. In addi­ti­on to hair care the oil has long been used to tre­at dan­d­ruff, scars, and age spots.”

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Are the­re dif­fe­rent types of cas­tor oils? How is it that cas­tor oil is used in so many are­as, such as cos­me­tics or eye­we­ar production?

Alex­an­der Ehr­mann: The­re are two types of cas­tor oils. Cold-pres­sed cas­tor oil extrac­ted from cas­tor seeds is the ligh­ter, clea­ner, and thin­ner form. Jamai­can black cas­tor oil, on the other hand, the cas­tor seeds are roas­ted to pro­du­ce the oil. Jamai­can black cas­tor oil is often used for a nor­mal scalp and thick hair, but it is also used as a clean­sing oil. The cold-pres­sed oil is, the­re­fo­re, used more often for skin­ca­re.”

Not only is cas­tor oil used in the cos­me­tic indus­try but more and more pro­duc­tion pro­ces­ses inclu­de cas­tor oil as well, sin­ce it is a gre­at alter­na­ti­ve for plastic and poly­mers that are being used in most gene­ral pro­ducts. We always thri­ve to find a bet­ter and more sus­tainab­le way to pro­du­ce our eye­we­ar and wan­ted to make a dif­fe­rence with the mate­ri­als that we use for our sun­glas­ses and opti­cal frames.

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Why has neu­bau swit­ched to cas­tor oil for the pro­duc­tion of eyewear?

It’s no secret that plastic is extre­me­ly dama­ging to the envi­ron­ment. Nowa­days it’s com­mon for eye­we­ar to be con­struc­ted from petro­le­um-based plastic. A see­min­gly harm­less pair of glas­ses can wreak havoc on the envi­ron­ment. This is becau­se it takes hund­reds of years to break down while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly affec­ting all aspects of the food chain. 

In light of this, we have deve­lo­ped two new mate­ri­als deri­ved from the cas­tor beans. Both of the­se mate­ri­als use cas­tor oil as a main com­po­nent and are even more eco-friend­ly than regu­lar petro­le­um-based plastics.

How do we use cas­tor oil for our eyewear?

The new mate­ri­als that we are using are cal­led natu­ral­PX and natural3D. 65% of our natu­ral­PX is made up of oil extrac­ted from the cas­tor beans. The remai­ning 35% is con­ven­tio­nal poly­mer which is nee­ded to rein­for­ce the strength and elasti­ci­ty of the mate­ri­al. natu­ral­PX is used in an injec­tion mol­ding pro­duc­tion pro­cess. Near­ly 90% of the used mate­ri­al turns into eye­we­ar frames, the rest can be recy­cled. natu­ral­PX doesn’t just help us mini­mi­ze our car­bon foot­print, it also allows us to design and manu­fac­tu­re high-per­for­mance eye­we­ar in a wide ran­ge of sty­lish colors and finishes. 

natural3D is a 100% bio-based poly­mer made from cas­tor oil beans which we use in our 3D prin­ting pro­cess. It’s a zero was­te pro­cess, as any remai­ning pow­der can be reu­sed for ano­t­her prin­ting job or can be recy­cled. After each batch has been prin­ted, 50% of the resi­due pow­der can be mixed with new pow­der to crea­te a new batch of pro­ducts or prin­ting fila­ments. This pro­duc­tion method does not requi­re any extra tools, so it also saves on resources.

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What are the bene­fits of using cas­tor oil for the pro­duc­tion of eyewear?

The­re are many advan­ta­ges of using cas­tor oil as a com­po­nent in pro­duc­tion. Here we’ll exami­ne some of the most important benefits.

Bio-based

natural3D is a 100% bio-based poly­mer made from non gene­ti­cal­ly modi­fied cas­tor oil beans which we use in our 3D prin­ting pro­cess. This mate­ri­al is not only deri­ved from a rene­wa­ble source, it also enab­les us to pro­du­ce the frames without crea­ting solid or cut­ting was­te, so the who­le pro­cess lea­ves an extre­me­ly small eco­lo­gi­cal foot­print.
Cas­tor oil is rene­wa­ble and bio-based, this means it’s also sus­tainab­le. It can be used as a resour­ce today without com­pro­mi­sing the needs of future generations.

Ergo­no­mic

The natural3D mate­ri­al, com­po­sed of cas­tor oil and used for our new collec­tion, feels gre­at to the touch. Our Côte du Soleil collec­tion is also made of the natural3D mate­ri­al. Small pores on its sur­face ensu­re it’s incredi­b­ly smooth and the­re­fo­re com­for­ta­ble to wear.

Aes­the­tic

Tiny sur­face pores on natural3D glas­ses mean that the eye­we­ar doesn’t just feel gre­at, it loo­ks ama­zing too. The 3D prin­ter enab­les all pos­si­ble shapes, color varia­ti­ons, radi­ant colors, and inno­va­ti­ve designs.

Light­weight

Eye­we­ar made from cas­tor oil is 30 per­cent ligh­ter than tho­se that are made from plastic. This incre­a­ses com­fort for ever­y­day wear. It’s pos­si­ble you’ll even for­get you’re wea­ring glasses.

Tough and Flexible

The dura­bi­li­ty of our natural3D eye­we­ar lies in the fact that it’s both fle­xi­ble and strong, so we can gua­ran­tee that our glas­ses will remain in shape.

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