If you’ve been scrolling through Instagram and TikTok and have come across the idea of using rice water—yep, the actual water that drains after you soak or boil rice—as the secret to healthy hair. Who knew? Plus, it turns out that using rice water for skin health might have similar benefits. In fact, women have been using rice water in Asian cultures dating back thousands of years. We asked dermatologists to explain the benefits of this simple beauty ingredient and how to use it.
Meet the experts
Richy Kandasamy, hair colorist and R+Co Collective Member
Marisa Garshick, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery (MDCS)
Brendan Camp, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology
7 Benefits of Rice Water for Skin and Hair
Believe it or not, putting rice water on your face isn’t as foolish as it sounds. Once it’s cooled down, of course, rice water can offer some pretty impressive benefits. Here is a look at some of the best ways you can level up your beauty routine by incorporating something so basic as rice water.
1. Encourages hair growth
Because rice contains nutrients, including amino acids, which can strengthen hair from the root and maintain its integrity and luster, Richy Kandasamy, hair colorist and R+Co Collective Member, recommends applying rice water to the scalp can help encourage hair growth.
Adding rice water to your scalp care routine "will help increase hair volume, create shine, strengthen hair [source], repair damage to the cuticle, prevent dandruff, and improve inflammation on the scalp,” he explains.
2. Improves skin tone
“Rice water is thought to contain some essential antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins and has often been incorporated into Asian beauty routines with success in toning the skin and improving the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and brown spots,” explains Marisa Garshick, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery (MDCS) in New York.
3. Brightens skin
Rice water has also been used to brighten skin. “The ingredients in rice water may affect the enzymatic pathways involved in pigment production,” says Brendan Camp, M.D., a Manhattan-based dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. “Rice water may help address the appearance of healed blemishes.”
4. Reduces dark spots + hyperpigmentation
Hyperpigmentation, the pesky skin discoloration that’s increasingly common with age and hormonal disruptions such as changing birth control or giving birth, might be improved with rice water. According to Dr. Garschick, it is thought that rice bran can inhibit tyrosinase, which helps with dark spots, while its antioxidants will work to heal the changes due to sun damage, leading to a brighter complexion overall.
5. Soothes inflammation
If you have dry patches on your skin caused by a condition like eczema, using rice water on your skin could help alleviate the inflammation and the itch, according to Joanna Vargas, celebrity facialist and founder of Joanna Vargas Salons and Skin Care and author of Glow From Within. If you do decide to use rice water to help alleviate these skin conditions, she suggests using it once a week at most and not daily to reduce irritation.
6. Won’t exacerbate dry skin
Since there aren’t any foaming ingredients to irritate or dry out skin, rice water toners and cleansers are perfect for more mature skin (or anyone that needs more serious hydration in their routine).
7. Has anti-aging effects
Recent research has uncovered three specific compounds contained in rice grains that were shown to inhibit aging [source]. Studies have found that rice water has antioxidant abilities, protecting skin from free radicals and slowing down the signs of aging [source]. Pretty impressive, right?!
How to Make Rice Water for Skin Health
Whenever integrating a new skincare product into your routine, Dr. Camp points out the importance of testing it on a patch of skin before applying it in the full amount anywhere on your body. “Do a test spot of the product on the inside of your arm for a few days to see how it reacts,” he says. “This is especially important for those with more sensitive skin.”
Here is a step-by-step guide to making and using rice water for brighter, healthier skin:
Step 1 | Cook it
Vargas recommends soaking or boiling rice in a large pot, using double the amount of water it would take to cook the rice.
You don’t want the water to completely evaporate like when you cook rice for a meal so keep an eye on the pot. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat and let it simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 2 | Strain it
Remove the pot from the stove—the rice mixture should be a bit soupy in consistency now. Strain out the water into a bowl or mug and discard the rice.
Step 3 | Store it
Rice water can be prepared and then stored in a spray bottle and kept refrigerated for a week, explains Dr. Camp. “The spray can be used to provide a medicinal dose of moisture throughout the day as needed.”
He also recommends pouring it into an ice cube tray so that the cubes can be used as a treatment to calm irritated skin and reduce swelling or puffiness.
6 Ways to Use Rice Water on Skin
1. Rice water hand soak — to lighten age spots
Soak your hands in 2 cups of rice water for 15 minutes. Use the soak by dipping your hands in the bowl and rubbing in small circular motions all over the backs of your hands.
Use light pressure for 1–2 minutes and then allow to soak for several more minutes before rinsing with warm water. Pat dry and follow with a nourishing moisturizer.
2. Rice water compress — to brighten eyes
Warm 1 cup of rice water and saturate a washcloth with the solution. Place it over your eyes for 5 minutes and then remove. Pat dry and see improvements in inflammation and puffiness.
3. Rice water face mask — to fight aging
“Use cotton rounds or cotton squares to compress the rice water on the face like a mask,” instructs Vargas. “Leave it on for 20 minutes and then rinse and just apply your normal skincare products.”
4. Rice water toner — for laugh lines and uneven skin tone
Sweep the solution over your face twice a day as you would with a store-bought toner. The rice water will help cleanse your skin of impurities and brighten and even out your skin tone.
5. Rice water + green tea face mask — to soothe inflammation
Smooth out wrinkles with an antioxidant-rich green tea mask. Mix 2 teaspoons of matcha powder with 2 teaspoons of rice water, and then smooth the combination onto your skin. Let it sit for 10–20 minutes and rinse off. Pat dry and apply a gentle moisturizer.
6. Rice water face cleanser — to soothe dry skin
This is a great face scrub for buffing away dead skin and adding some glow. If you have time, you can leave the scrub on your face as a quick mask (for 5 minutes or so) to help your skin make the most of the application of rice water and rice flour.
Rice Water FAQ
Because it contains water, it has a pretty short shelf-life. Store any leftover rice water in the refrigerator and use it within 7 to 10 days.
Yes! Since it doesn’t strip your skin of its natural oils, rice water will keep dry skin feeling soft and moisturized. If needed, follow up with a light face oil for added moisture.
There haven’t been many scientific studies done on the subject, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it might. It wouldn’t hurt to try it out for a few weeks and see what happens.
Sure! Just keep an eye out for redness or irritation and take a break if any issues pop up.
References (in order of appearance):
Inamasu S, et al. Abstracts: The effect of rinse water obtained from the washing of rice (YU-SU-RU) as a hair treatment. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2010.
Goufo P, et al. Rice antioxidants: phenolic acids, flavonoids, anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, tocopherols, tocotrienols, γ-oryzanol, and phytic acid. Food Sci Nutr. 2014.
Quan NV, et al. Momilactones A, B, and tricin in rice grain and by-products are potential skin aging inhibitors. Foods. 2019.
Marto J, et al. Rice water: a traditional ingredient with anti-aging efficacy. Cosmetics. 2018.