Is rice water the secret ingredient you need to make your hair grow faster? Thicker? Healthier? Find out below.
Rice water has been used as a hair treatment since ancient times in Asia, but many of us have only heard of it in the past decades when high fashion magazines, beauty vloggers, Tiktokers, and Instagram influencers started touting its benefits.
What’s the deal with rice water? Can it actually make your hair grow longer and faster? Thicker? Healthier? Let’s take an in-depth look at the history, benefits, and uses of rice water for hair to find out if it really works.
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THE HISTORY OF RICE WATER AS A HAIR TREATMENT
Rice water is the starchy water that is collected after soaking or cooking rice. It is claimed to support hair growth and to make hair smooth, strong, and shiny.
For thousands of years, rice water has been used as a hair treatment throughout Asia. The ancient practice has existed in countries such as Japan, China, Korea, and India.
During the Heian Period (794 to 1185 CE) in Japan, the court ladies had beautiful floor-length hair called suberakashi that they allegedly combed daily using Yu-Su-Ru, rinse water obtained from rice washing.
A 2010 study used historical examples to suggest that Yu-Su-Ru extracts helped Japanese court ladies reduce hair surface friction and improve hair elasticity.
In another study from a Japanese research institute, the carbohydrate inositol, contained in rice water, has been shown to penetrate and remain in the hair fibre even after the rinse out process. This suggests that it may continue to support the hydration of the hair from within even after a wash routine.
They attribute their hair beauty, strength, shine, and colour to their regular use of rice water to rinse their hair. People travel from all over the world to visit their village and find out more about their rice water for hair concoction.
In spite of the above anecdotal information, the benefits of rice water as a hair treatment have yet to be scientifically proven.
Today, in the Huang Luo village of China in the Guangxi Region near Beijing, the Yao women, who are renowned globally for their almost floor-length shiny hair, which remain grey-free well past their 80’s, use a concoction of rice water to condition their hair.
Nevertheless, advocates of the rice water rinse claim a number of potential beneficial uses to their hair linked to the high level of vitamins and minerals contained in rice water.
BENEFITS OF RICE WATER FOR YOUR HAIR
For many people using rice water as a hair treatment:
- Rise water helps detangle your hair, causing less breakage
- Rice water helps strengthen and protect your hair
- Rice water helps remove oil and residue from your scalp
- Using rice water makes hair appear shinier
- Rice water may help make your hair look thicker and fuller
- Rice water may help promote hair growth
Vitamins, minerals, and proteins in rice water may help strengthen your hair and protect it from damage. If you have issues with fine hair or thinning hair, rice water may help thicken it up. Rice water can also make your hair appear more voluminous if used as a regular part of your scalp care routine.
At the weekend, I used rice water for the first time as part of my scalp cleaning after unravelling my braids and dyeing my hair straight away (which I have never done before!). I experienced very minimal breakage.
Mind you, I had coated my hair with coconut oil beforehand, and I used a hair conditioner after my rice water rinse to finger detangle my natural hair, which considerably helped!
Vitamins And Minerals Found In Rice Water
The rice grain contains 12% water, 75%–80% starch, its main carbohydrate, 7% protein with a range of amino acids which can all be found in rice water.
Rice water is considered an effective hair treatment by its advocates, because it has a variety of vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus.
This may help maintain your hair health. Rice water’s high levels of antioxidants such as vitamin B1 (thiamine), Vitamin B3 (niacin), folic acid, Vitamin E and phosphorus may also be helpful in boosting hair growth and avoiding split ends.
HOW TO MAKE AND USE RICE WATER FOR HAIR TREATMENT
How To Make Rice Water For Hair
There are different methods that you can use to make rice water for your hair treatment: soaking, fermentation, and boiling.
Use ½ cup of plain rinsed off rice water. Put rice in a container, and pour 2 to 3 cups of filtered water into your container to cover the top of your rice.
If you want to use your rice water the same day, put a lid on your container and let it sit out at room temperature for at least an hour. Shake it up every once in a while. Strain the rice water in a separate container for use.
If you intend to delay the use of your rice water by a few days, then fermentation for up to 2 days (48 hours) is the best way to go. A 2012 study indicates that fermented substances contain a higher amount of antioxidants, which may be helpful in protecting hair and skin cell damage from environmental stressors.
To avoid bacteria formation, keep your rice water in the fridge whilst it is fermenting and take it out only when you are ready to use it.
Pour ½ cup of your washed rice into a pot and double the quantity of water you would normally use for cooking. When rice water reaches a boiling point, extract your water from the pot. Let it cool down a bit before use.
How To Use Rice Water For Hair
People use rice water for hair as part of their hair conditioning treatment. Once you have finished applying and rinsing out your hair shampoo, massage rice water into hair, and leave on for up to 20 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly.
Do not brush or comb your hair while you have it on. Depending on your hair texture, you may choose to apply your normal conditioner to fully detangle your hair.
Rice water rinse should be used no more than once a week, depending on the condition and rate of your hair growth as rice can dry out your hair if used too frequently.
CAN RICE WATER DAMAGE YOUR HAIR?
The short answer is yes, rice water can be damaging to your hair, if it’s not rinsed out properly. Many people who use rice water have reported that it has caused build-up in their hair and made it feel brittle.
This likely has to do with all of the vitamins and amino acids that starchy rice water contains. While many of these nutrients are wonderful for your hair, they can also cause problems if they don’t get rinsed out properly.
IS RICE WATER GOOD FOR YOUR SKIN?
According to a 2002 study, rice water is used to treat a variety of skin conditions including atopic dermatitis, dry and damaged skin. It works as an anti-inflammatory agent when applied topically on irritated or inflamed skin. It can also help exfoliate dead skin cells, leaving you with smooth, healthy looking skin.
Inamasu S, et al. (2010). Abstracts: The effect of rinse water obtained from the washing of rice (YU-SU-RU) as a hair treatment [Abstract]. DOI:
De Paepe, K., Hachem, J. P., Vanpee, E., Roseeuw, D., & Rogiers, V. (2002). Effect of rice starch as a bath additive on the barrier function of healthy but SLS-damaged skin and skin of atopic patients [Abstract]. Acta Dermato-Venereologica, 82(3), 184–186
Inamasu, S., Ikuyama. R., Fujisaki, Y., & Sugimoto, K. I. (2010, September 1). Abstracts: The effect of rinse water obtained from the washing of rice (YU-SU-RU) as a hair treatment [Abstract]. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 32(5), 392–393
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Development of hair-care products from rice water. (n.d.)