While our family doesn’t eat a lot of rice and other grains, they can still have their uses. Rice water for natural hair care may be trending on TikTok, but it’s been around for thousands of years. Here’s how to use this simple, age-old remedy for stronger, healthier hair.
The History of Rice Water
Rice water is exactly what it sounds like. It’s simply using water that’s had rice soaking in it. The Yao women from the Huangluo village in China have used rice with herbs for their hair for thousands of years. And the Asian tradition still continues today. Traditionally the women of the tribe don’t cut their hair once they reach adulthood and enjoy dark, long hair, even into old age.
Lately, its become a tourist attraction, with the locals demonstrating how they wash and style their hair at the local theater. Visitors can even take a bottle of rice shampoo home with them.
Rice water probably isn’t the only reason for their impressive locks. Traditional cultures ate nutrient dense foods for healthy teeth, hair, and bodies. And then there are also the environmental factors that contribute to overall health (including hair health).
While a healthy diet is still important to healthy hair (and everything else!), rice water seems to offer some impressive benefits.
Benefits of Rice Water for Hair
Rice has amino acids, antioxidants, inositol, vitamin E, vitamin C, and other nutrients that are great for hair health. Rice water adds protein and nutrients to the hair to make it softer, stronger, and shinier.
One study found rice bran extract quadrupled collagen in the hair follicle. The researchers also reported it helped calm inflammation and can help with hair loss and hair growth.
A review from 2022 found that there’s a growing body of research on rice water’s effects on hair. The researchers found rice water increased growth factor expressions, kept hair in the active growing phase, and decreased inflammation in the scalp.
Here are some other ways using rice water hair rinse can improve your hair:
- May help prevent hair loss
- Improves hair elasticity to decrease breakage and damaged hair
- Helps prevent split ends
- Detangles and softens hair
- Adds protein to strengthen hair
- Improves hair texture and is hydrating to reduce frizzy hair
- Improves hair growth and can help with thinning hair
- Increases hair volume
- Strengthens follicles
- Repairs hair cuticle damage
- Helps with dandruff
Soothes scalp inflammation
Who Can Use Rice for Hair?
Because this hair treatment has just two natural ingredients (rice and water), it’s generally very safe. Rice water for hair growth and health has successfully and safely been used for many years. There are a few hair types who won’t benefit from this hair treatment as much though.
- People with low porosity hair won’t absorb the nutrients from the rice into their hair cuticles as well. Low porosity hair doesn’t absorb hair care products as well and is more common in people with straight hair.
- Those with dry hair types and scalp may see even more drying with a rice water rinse. Other experts recommend using it for dry, curly hair to help make it bouncy.
No idea what your hair’s porosity is? Here’s a simple test to find out. Put a strand of your hair in a glass of water. If it floats, it’s low porosity and the faster it sinks the higher its porosity.
How Often Should You Use It?
Too much rice water hair rinse adds too much protein to the hair. This can cause dryness, frizzing, and breakage with overuse. How often you use it depends on your hair type, but generally, it shouldn’t be used more than 1-2 times a week. If your hair feels frizzy, hard, and crunchy after using it, then it stayed on too long or it’s being used too often.
How to Use Rice Water
There are a few different methods to make DIY rice water. You can boil rice in water, soak it, or ferment it. It’s thought that the fermented method is the most effective and healthy for hair. Just like with other foods, fermentation helps unlock more nutrients for our bodies to use.
- You can use the rice water like a hair mask and leave it on for up to 20 minutes. Or just use it as a simple rinse. The easiest route is to use a spray or squirt bottle to apply it all over the hair and scalp. Be sure to work in sections so you’re getting all of the hair and not just the top layer.
- Wash hair as usual, apply the rice infused water (for up to 20 minutes), then rinse out and use conditioner. If you’ve recently washed your hair, then just apply the rice water and rinse it out when you’re done.
There are lots of rice water recipes that call for widely different proportions of rice and water. The proportion of rice to water doesn’t really matter too much as long as the rice is submerged in the water.
Rice Water For Hair
- 16-oz glass spray bottle or squirt bottle
- ½ cup uncooked rice
- 2 cups water filtered
- Combine the rice and water in a bowl and cover with a towel to prevent dust and other impurities from getting in.
- Let the rice soak for 24-36 hours at room temperature. When it's fermented it will have a slightly sour smell to it.
- Strain the rice out with a fine mesh sivee or cheesecloth and reserve the water.
- Pour the water into a spray or squirt bottle.
- Use 1-2 times a week. Store in the fridge for up to a week.
You can add other beneficial herbs to your hair rinse. Brew some strong herbal tea and mix it with the rice water after it’s fermented. Chamomile, lavender, sage, or rosemary are all good options. This herbal hair rinse recipe discusses different hair healthy herbs and their benefits.
Want to Buy it?
While this recipe is simple, some people want a premade, healthy rice hair product. These are a few healthy options that harness the power of rice for hair along with added beneficial ingredients.
- Rice Water Mix | Organic Pure Oil
- Rice Water Hair Growth Spray | Hair Thickness Maximizer
- Native Essence Unscented Shampoo and Conditioner Bar With Rice Water | VIORI
This article was medically reviewed by Madiha Saeed, MD, a board certified family physician. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Have you ever used a hair rinse before? Do you have any favorites? Let us know in the comments!
Discussion (3 Comments)
It is my understanding that even organic rice is heavily contaminated with arsenic and I always rinse my rice to clear before using it. I’m happy to finally have a use for it.
I’m totally confused by this statement. Are you using the arsenic containing water from the rinsed rice for this recipe? or are you rinsing and THEN soaking for however long to obtain the rinse? Also, for Katie, can you reuse the rice, or do have to dispose of what you’ve soaked? Does the type of rice matter?
You can use the rice after soaking it. Katie recommends organic Jasmine rice as it has the least amount of arsenic and anti-nutrients.