If you regularly soak and cook rice at home, you probably throw away the leftover rice water when you’re done. Yet, believe it or not, rice water, the milky liquid that remains when you soak rice for several hours, has many health benefits for hair and beyond – and rice water for the hair is not the only possible use.
Rice water may not only promote hair growth and fight hair thinning, but it also appears to have benefits for people with sensitive or aging skin. Considering that it can be made from two inexpensive and widely available ingredients, water and rice, there’s little reason not to try it.
How to use rice water for hair
First, what is rice water and why is it beneficial? Rice water (sometimes called kanji) is a cloudy liquid made by soaking rice for a few hours. Some rice waters are also fermented, which means they have stayed longer and developed beneficial compounds, just like other fermented foods. Rice (Oryza sativa) is a grain that contains a number of nutrients. When rice is soaked in water, some of these nutrients are released into the liquid, which can then be applied to hair or skin.
Rice water contains
antioxidants, such as phenolics and flavonoids
phenolic and flavonoid compounds
starches, polysaccharides and other carbohydrates
Amino acids (the building blocks of protein, which also help in hair formation and repair)
Some research has shown that fermented rice water contains a compound called inositol, a type of sugar molecule with free radical-fighting abilities that can help protect hair from damage caused by breakage. Additionally, it contains a compound called pitera, a byproduct of yeast fermentation, which is associated with cell renewal. A study published in the International Journal of Science and Research concluded that “the fermentation process helps preserve product shelf life through antimicrobial properties and also increases nutrient density, making the product’s natural ingredients more powerful”.
Overall, there hasn’t been a lot of research on the effectiveness of rice water for hair. However, several available studies have found evidence to suggest it may be beneficial for maintaining healthy hair (and potentially youthful-looking skin, too).
The benefits of rice water for hair growth and appearance are as follows:
Promote hair growth
Make the hair shinier and more “lustrous”.
Rinse the hair of impurities without stripping or drying it out
Soften the hair
Strengthen hair to protect against damage and split ends
Apart from using rice water for hair, you can also use it to improve skin health. In fact, the kanji has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine, a system of traditional medicine that traces its origins to ancient India, as well as Japan and Korea, and has been for centuries.
What are the potential benefits of using rice on your face?
Rice water is used for skin health:
help hydrate skin and reduce symptoms of eczema and dry skin
Decrease symptoms of dermatitis and irritation in people with sensitive skin.
gently cleanse the skin
soften the skin and improve its texture and overall tone, including “brightening” and tightening the skin and reducing the appearance of pores
Defend the skin against the signs of aging with its antioxidant effects, including fine lines and dark spots.
by increasing blood circulation in the skin.
A 2018 study published in the journal Cosmetics found evidence that rice water has potential anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant effects on the skin.
In this particular study, 12 adults used a hydrogel containing rice water on their skin for 28 days. Rice water has been shown to have antioxidant activity and elastase-inhibiting effects, meaning it may slow the formation of wrinkles. According to the researchers, this makes it a suitable cosmetic and “anti-aging ingredient to be used as a raw material for skin care applications”.
How to prepare rice water
Here is a basic rice water recipe that can be used for hair and face:
1 cup rice (ideally organic, white or brown rice)
1 cup water (ideally filtered water so the finished product is free of impurities)
First rinse the rice well under running water for about a minute. Strain it to remove the water.
Add the rice and water to a bowl and let stand for several hours or more.
Strain the rice and keep the remaining water in the bowl.
Put the rice water in a glass container, cover it with a lid and let it sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. This will allow fermentation, during which beneficial microbes will grow in the water.
Once fermentation is complete, put the jar in the fridge. Try to use it within about a week.
You can use rice water directly on your hair or face or incorporate it into other products, such as shampoo or hair masks. You can also look for commercial rice water products, such as hair and skin care products made in countries like Korea and India.
How long can you leave rice water in your hair?
Rice water is often used for rinsing hair. Before shampooing, pour a generous amount onto your hair, massage it in and leave on for three to five minutes. Then, condition your hair as usual. You can also choose to use it as a hair mask by letting it sit in clean hair for 20 minutes or more before rinsing it out well.
How often should rice water be used?
As with other hair treatments, using rice water for hair once or several times a week can yield the best results. There’s no downside to using it often or even every other day, so it’s up to you. When using rice water on your face, try slathering it on clean skin after using a mild cleanser, but before applying your moisturizer. This helps seal in moisture and soften the skin.
You can do this once a day or several times a week, depending on what other skincare products you use.
You can also use it in a face mask, face scrub, or in a soaking bath. Depending on how it is used, you can add other ingredients, such as coconut oil, almond oil or borage oil to boost hydration, lavender oil to soothe the skin irritated or aloe vera to reduce itching and promote healing.
How long does rice water take to grow hair?
Using this ingredient on your hair is unlikely to result in an immediate, noticeable difference in length. However, after several weeks you may find that your hair is fuller, thicker and fuller. By preventing breakage, these products help your hair grow healthier. This will allow you to let them grow longer without having to cut the split ends.
Risks and side effects
What are the potential side effects of rice water on hair? Overall, rice water seems to be very safe for most people, considering it’s made from simple ingredients like rice and water. It is generally non-toxic and non-irritating, and is even suitable for people with sensitive scalps and skin. However, it can cause irritation in people allergic to rice. To avoid allergic reactions, do not use products containing this ingredient if you are allergic to rice. As with other beauty products, use a small amount first to test your reaction. Gradually increase the amount used according to the results. If you notice any side effects such as itching, redness, worsening irritation, or increased dryness, stop using this ingredient. These effects may be a sign of a bad reaction due to issues such as yeast overgrowth or an allergy.
Rice water is a milky liquid obtained by soaking rice that contains nutrients such as B vitamins, antioxidants, carbohydrates and amino acids. It has long been used by Asian women to promote healthy hair and skin, but there is generally no scientific evidence of its effectiveness.
What is rice water used for? Rice water is often used for hair growth, but it can also be used on the face for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Potential benefits include softening and strengthening hair, preventing breakage, managing symptoms of eczema and dry skin, and reducing the formation of wrinkles.