The Ultimate Guide to Rice Water for Hair Care


To put it plainly, home remedies and DIY projects are in. Whether it’s hand painting wallpaper, or mixing an unknown elixir for some beauty benefit, we, the people, just can’t get enough. The magical part is that many of these DIY concoctions/projects actually work. That’s why when we heard about this one—that’s gaining major attention online—we were intrigued. 


Rice water is a natural hair care treatment that has become a hot topic online for supposedly improving the texture, strength, shine and growth of hair. But what exactly is it? Quite literally it is the nutrient-rich, starchy water left behind after boiling, soaking or fermenting rice that can be applied to the hair as a rinse, or leave-in treatment. And since we aren’t the type to shy away from silky, luscious locks, we needed to know more. Here’s what we found out. 


The Science Behind Rice Water

While the scientific community remains a mixed bag of believers and non-believers in the concrete (read: conclusive) benefits of rice water on hair, what we do know for sure is that rice is chock full of a rainbow of nutrients—vitamin B and C, amino acids (particularly helpful when it comes to hair growth), the hormone inositol and more. So it seems reasonable to assume that this nutrient-rich water could be beneficial, replenishing those important amino acids and nutrients that healthy hair needs, and making it smoother, longer, less knotty and so on.  


rice water for hair care

Using Rice Water for Hair Care

Since rice is a (cheap) staple most of us already have in our pantries, this ‘experiment,’ if you will, is a low-risk, low-cost one. Before you apply rice water, gently cleanse your hair with shampoo to ensure it’s clean, and rinse as you normally would. Now it’s rice water time. Most recommend applying it using a spray bottle, so spray it all over starting with the ends—and also massage it into your scalp and roots—and leave it in for up to 30 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly with cool water. 


How to Make Rice Water

Making rice water is as simple as it sounds. There are three main ways—soaking, boiling or fermenting the rice, and then straining out the water. Soaking and fermenting uses uncooked rice, and boiling is simply making cooked rice by using twice the amount of water you would normally use, and then straining out the excess water after the rice is cooked. Here’s the full how-to breakdown: 


Choose your rice

Given the vast varieties of rice available, it helps to know a bit about them. Black rice is antioxidant rich, for example, so you can sort of match the rice to your hairs’ needs.  


Rinse the rice

This is always a good idea. As you likely already know from cooking rice at home, certain types require rinsing, so best to start with a clean slate. 


Soak the rice

Next, allow the rice to soak in room temperature water for up to 24 hours if you are fermenting it. A shorter soak is probably more feasible, so 30 minutes (to two hours) also works great. 


Strain the rice

After the rice has finished soaking, strain it into a clean bowl or container. That milky, starchy water that’s left behind is your magical potion. 


Store the rice

You can then funnel the rice into a spray bottle and refrigerate it until you’re ready to treat your hair.  


towel dry hair rice water

Benefits of Rice Water for Hair

The benefits of rice water date back centuries, most commonly in Asian cultures. Vogue reported that the Yao women of China credit their hair’s strength, length and color (i.e. lack of grey) to rice water, while Medical News Today reported that Japanese women living during the Heian period also swore by this secret.  History aside, the trick has certainly caught on, and here are some of the top benefits we’ve uncovered—all of them improving the overall health and appearance of hair. 


Promotes hair growth

Amino acids support hair growth, so (amino acid-rich) rice water may do the same. Vitamins B, C and E can also strengthen the hair shaft which in turn supports growth. 


Conditions, enhances, smoothes and adds shine

Believers say that the starchy solution lends luster to boring and dull locks, and that the starches can also help hair feel smoother and overall, more healthy. The nutrients found in rice water are undeniable.


Protects against damage

Just as protein is an important part of a healthy and balanced diet, it’s also crucial when it comes to hair health. The protein in rice water is believed to help improve the overall condition of hair, making it less susceptible to damage.


Risks and Precautions

While rice water is generally safe to use on hair, no two heads of hair are alike, so what works on one person may not work on another. That said, there are some things to look out for, including the potential of residue build up that can make your hair look dull. To avoid this, some doctors (talk to yours if you are unsure) suggest only using it once per week. Here are a few other things to look out for: 


Adverse reactions

Those with certain skin conditions should use caution. Eczema or atopic dermatitis, for example, is a condition where the skin is unable to maintain an adequate moisture barrier, causing inflammation and itching. Using rice water could exacerbate the problem, so if you’re susceptible to these conditions, heed the warning. 


Overuse

Too much of a good thing is most often… not a good thing. Since rice water is so nutrient rich, overuse can cause damaging protein overload, leading to dryness, frizz and brittle strands. That’s why many say that once a week, and no more, is your hair care happy place.


braiding hair davines

Hair type

With rice water, or any hair care treatment for that matter, hair type comes into play. It may not be as effective with certain people due to their hair. Those with lower-porosity hair, for example, may not see great results because their hair is less likely to absorb the nutrients.


DIY risks

As with any DIY project, understanding what your goal is, and doing your research is crucial. Knowing that overuse is a no-no, and that there are some other side effects, albeit mild ones, just means you need to be careful when using rice water on your hair. Luckily a good clarifying shampoo can break down the extra protein if you do find that you’ve overdone it. Plus we’ve got other helpful tips to strengthen your hair if your DIY goes awry. 


The Bottom Line

All in all, you don’t have much to lose by testing out the popular rice water method. So we say, give it a shot! However, we also know that DIY beauty concoctions aren’t for everyone. If you fall into that camp, there are lots of other protein-rich products and treatments, as well as alternative ways to strengthen your hair and keep it looking gorg—without having to make rice water.


Whatever you decide, we’re with you. Here’s to happy, healthy hair.  


by Morgan Hanson, featured contributor


Clarifying shampoo for all hair types.


Moisturizing hair mask made with rice oil.


Dry shampoo made with rice starch.


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