Rice water is right up there with jade rollers and hemp oil – it seems to be having a moment. It might feel like rice water came out of nowhere, it’s actually an ancient hair care method with a long history in Asia.
For centuries, Japanese women used rice water to keep their floor-length hair healthy and thick. And women in China have been known to use rice water to keep the gray away until well into their 80s.
So, it’s no surprise that rice water for hair has finally caught on in the West. It’s a magical elixir that, when used correctly, can prevent breakage and strengthen strands to help your limp locks grow long and thick. What’s not to love about that?
Benefits of Rice Water for Hair
Rice water is just the starchy, nutrient-packed water leftover after rice is cooked (or in some cases, soaked).
Cooking rice, or any food, for that matter, in water leaches some of the vitamins and minerals from the food. And once the cooking is done, those nutrients linger in the water and can be used in a variety of beauty recipes. So, not surprisingly, rice water contains many of the same vitamins and minerals as the rice itself:
It’s also loaded with starch, which is said to help strengthen hair so it can grow longer and thicker without breaking.
The scientific research on rice water is lacking, but there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence (and centuries of experience) that sing rice water’s praises. It’s said to increase elasticity, which in turn reduces static and breakage from brushing. It’s also said to help repair damage and fortify strands by infusing them with depleted vitamins and minerals.
How to Make Rice Water for Hair
There are a few ways to make rice water, each with its own pros and cons. But they all require the same basic ingredients:
- Uncooked rice (either brown or white work just fine)
- Lidded bottle
The Boil Method
Thoroughly rinse the rice. Cook it on the stove like you normally would, but add 2-3 extra cups of water that you can drain off at the end. When the rice is done cooking, pour the leftover water in a glass bottle and store in the bathroom for 3-4 days or in the fridge for up to a week.
- Pros: It’s quick and you can eat the rice when you’re done
- Cons: The heat might destroy some of the vitamins and minerals during the cooking process
The Soak Method
Thoroughly rinse your rice, then combine 1/2 cup uncooked rice with 3 cups water in a small bowl or container. Let it sit for an hour while the water slowly extracts the nutrients from the rice, stirring or shaking it often. Strain out the rice and pour the rice water in a glass bottle. Store it in the bathroom for 3-4 days or in the fridge for up to a week.
- Pros: Said to be more nourishing
- Cons: Takes longer and you can’t eat the rice afterward
The Fermented Method
This is like the soak method, except you’ll let the rice soak for 12-24 hours to kick off the natural fermentation process. Combine 1/2 cup rinsed rice with 3 cups of water in a bowl or container. Cover and let sit anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, stirring or shaking once or twice throughout the process.
Strain out the rice and pour the rice water in a glass bottle. Store it in the bathroom for 3-4 days or in the fridge for up to a week.
- Pros: Fermented rice water enhances the level of nutrients contained in the rice water. It is richer in antioxidants, minerals, vitamin B, vitamin E, and other nutrients.
- Cons: It’s a hefty time investment and it’s very potent so use it sparingly
How to Use Rice Water for Your Hair
Shampoo and condition like you normally would and finish with a rice water rinse. Or skip the conditioner altogether and try the rice water in lieu of conditioner. Let it sit for up to 20 minutes before rinsing it out.
Rice Water FAQs
What kind of rice should I use?
Rice water is traditionally made with white or brown rice (I used Mahatma long grain white rice for mine since that’s what I had in my pantry). But you can use any type of rice that you have on hand.
Can I use it before I shampoo and condition?
If you don’t like the way a rice water rinse makes your hair feel, you can use it as a pre-shampoo hair mask. Apply it liberally to strands and let it sit for 30 minutes, then shampoo and condition like usual. You’ll still get some of the nutritional benefit and your hair should feel cleaner when you’re done.
What if I don’t like the smell?
You can add some citrus peels to the rice water while it boils/soaks and add a few drops of essential oils that are good for your hair after the water has cooled.
How often should you use rice water for hair?
I recommend starting out at once a week to see how your hair responds. If you like it, try bumping up to 2-3 times a week. Using it too much can overload your hair with protein and starch, causing it to harden. So it’s best to increase your usage slowly and be ready to cut back if needed.
What if it makes my hair feel worse?
Like everything, rice water isn’t a one size fits all beauty product. Try it out and see what works best for you. If you find that it makes your hair look or feel worse, then by all means, scrap it and go back to your tried-and-true beauty products.
Can I leave rice water in my hair overnight?
No. Use it for 30-45 minutes at a time so as not to overload the hair follicles.43