The Benefits of Using Rice Water on Your Hair

Learn the reason why it’s a part of many beauty routines
jar of rice water and brush for hair

The secret to longer, stronger and shinier hair might be in your kitchen cupboard.

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Using rice water as a hair care product dates back centuries in Asian culture and recently boiled over as a TikTok trend, with #ricewater gathering hundreds of millions of hair-flipping endorsements.

So will a rice water rinse really give you locks that you’ll love? More than a thousand years of beauty parlor chatter says yes, but let’s comb through what’s fact and fiction with dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD.

What is rice water?

The name of this hair elixir also serves as the ingredient list. Rice water is the starchy liquid created when rice is soaked or cooked in water.

The cloudy concoction holds many of the nutrients that make rice one of the world’s most important food sources, explains Dr. Khetarpal. This includes an antioxidant known as inositol, which is touted as a hair rejuvenator.

Rice water also is rich in:

Benefits of rice water on hair

The list of benefits connected to rice water runs as long as Rapunzel’s fairy tale hair. Fans of rice water say it can make your hair shinier and stronger while also keeping troublesome tangles to a minimum.

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The big selling point, though, is hair growth. Legend has it that rice water helped women of the imperial court during Japan’s Heian period grow floor-length hair. The long tresses were called kurokami.

And today in China, rice water is part of a regimen that earned the town of Huangluo a Guinness Book of World Records designation as the “World’s Longest Haired Village.”

But is rice water really that powerful? “Anecdotally, there seems to be a lot of potential benefit to using rice water on your hair,” notes Dr. Khetarpal. “But it’s not something that has been scientifically proven.” (If you’re looking for science-backed ways to boost your hair growth, try these instead.)

Side effects of rice water on hair

Aside from depleting your pantry supplies, there’s little reason to worry about using rice water on your hair. “There are no harmful chemicals or additives to it, so that really limits your risk of damage,” says Dr. Khetarpal.

If you’re dealing with scalp inflammation, however, Dr. Khetarpal cautioned against using rice water to avoid additional irritation.

Ways to make rice water

As far as DIY beauty products go, it doesn’t get much easier. There are three main ways to make rice water, including:

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  • A short soak lasting 30 minutes to two hours.
  • Boiling the rice-water combo.
  • A long soak of a day or more to ferment the water.

Dr. Khetarpal says the shorter option offers you the best chance of success. The boiling process may diminish some of the nutrients, she notes, while the long soak could add bacteria into your mix.

Most online instructions for making rice water call for rinsing the rice before starting the process and straining the final product. More detailed steps can be found with a quick internet search.

Can you eat the rice after making rice water?

Multitaskers, rejoice: Dinner and a ‘do is on the table. There’s no reason for you to throw out all that rice after making rice water, says Dr. Khetarpal. Nothing in the process makes the rice inedible.

Plus, eating the rice allows its nutrients to benefit your whole body instead of just your hair. As an added bonus, soaking rice shortens its cooking time, too.

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