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Is Rice Water Good for Your Hair?
February 23, 2021 7 min read
By Tiffany Walker
The beauty industry and blogosphere are rife with miraculous claims of different natural hair products and natural treatments designed to help you look amazing. Not every claim is valid, and it can be tough to determine fact from fiction or merely wishful thinking.
Rice water hair products are trending right now in the world of natural, organic home hair treatments, and they are reported to be great for your hair and may even help with healthy hair. We’ve investigated some of the claims, especially rice water for hair health, and can’t deny that there seems to be something magical about rice water hair treatments.
If nothing else, it’s a trend that’s been around since ancient times, so that alone speaks to its effectiveness!
Brief History of Rice Water
As stated, rice water has been around for a very long time. The Japanese and the Chinese have both used rice water for centuries, and it is credited with contributing to their amazingly long, healthy, beautiful hair.
In the Huangluo Yao Village in China, nearly all of the women have gorgeous, long hair. Some of them are in their 80’s, yet they still sport long black tresses that don’t have a grey or white strand in sight. This is not an effect of dyed hair; it’s thought to be the incredible effect of using rice water for washing their hair! Crazy, right? Truth is stranger than fiction.
So is Rice Water Good For Your Hair?
Given its history, the short answer is, yes, it can be, but it depends. Though there is no question that many have used it successfully, it still has some caveats. It’s not necessarily successful for everyone that tries it. How you do it, how frequently you do it, and whether you do it right all play a role in whether or not you see positive results. Sounds simple enough, right?
Why is Rice Water Good for Your Hair?
There are several rice water benefits when it comes to using it on your hair. Not only may it improve the health of your hair’s elasticity and keep it looking fab well into your more—ahem—mature years, but it’s also fairly simple to make if you don’t mind investing a bit of time.
Rice water is nutrient-dense, full of amino acids, minerals, vitamins E and B, antioxidants, and a hair strengthening compound called inositol. These nutrients feed your hair follicles, resulting in healthy hair that is softer, shinier, and stronger.
Rice water promotes healthy hair and may help reduce unwanted tangles that curly girls are sometimes prone to get. In addition, it is a great treatment to target split ends and help repair damaged hair.
Women all over the world have used rice water for hair in all kinds of different ways. Though the degrees of success seems to vary depending on hair porosity (this treatment may not be beneficial to low porosity hair), the general consensus is that it’s a great beauty treatment that helps curly hair come in fast and healthy.
Downsides of Using Rice Water for Your Hair
As with everything in life, there is always a downside. Using rice water is no different. If you aren’t careful to do your due diligence before trying it, you could experience some unwelcome side effects of rice water on hair.
For instance, if your natural hair is of low porosity and is sensitive to protein, using too much rice water—frequent or daily use—could cause what is known as protein overload. Definitely not a good result!
So instead of your hair absorbing the available protein in the rice water, the protein just sticks to the hair. As you can imagine, the end result is hair that feels crunchy and brittle and doesn’t look real pretty either.
Another problem with using rice water is that if you happen to be one of those who suffer from a dry, flaky scalp, overuse of rice water could worsen your problem. And of course, if you choose to use fermented rice water, you might be surprised at the rather unfortunate odor that results.
How to Avoid Side Effects from Using Rice Water On Your Hair
The short answer is common sense, moderation, and careful testing. If you already know your hair is sensitive to protein, and/or you know your scalp is dry and flaky, don’t try to use it more than twice a week.
If you aren’t sure how your hair might respond, start slow and see how things go. If it seems to be working well and isn’t causing any adverse effects, you can try using the rice water rinse treatments more frequently.
Scale Back If Needed
If you aren’t the type to take it slow, you can start off using it more frequently, but keep a close watch on your hair and scalp. If anything changes for the worse, scale back to a maximum of two treatments per week.
Watch Your Time
Keep in mind that Yao women only apply rice for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. We recommend not leaving it on your head any longer than that. Scientifically speaking, half an hour is more than enough time for your hair to absorb all the useful nutrients. Plus, if you have a dry scalp, leaving it on longer than 30 minutes is counterproductive and could make the problem worse. Of course, this problem can be averted by using a trusted product, such as Mielle’s Organic Rice Water Hair Mask, and following the recommended guidelines.
Rice Water Can Be Good for Your Hair When Used Properly
What does properly even mean, though? We recommend taking a page from the playbook of the pros. In the Huangluo Yao Village, the women have a very specific method for preparing their rice water.
As you can imagine, it’s a bit more involved than popular online videos today might lead you to believe. Most videos you’ll find on making it today advocate boiling a pot of rice and then draining the water out for use on your hair.
While this is not a bad method and will probably work best with your schedule, the Huangluo Yao Village women do things very differently. After a quick rinse to remove any potential dirt, they actually wash the rice with their hands, rubbing it between their hands and fingers as if to cleanse every single grain.
The water leftover from this washing process is what is used for their hair treatments typically. Sometimes, the rice is simply thrown away and never even cooked! When they do cook it, Yao Village women often add grapefruit peel, otherwise called “pomelo,” to the rice water as it’s brought to a boil. Some like to add additional enhancements like essential oils or tea seeds, depending on the family and their unique methodology.
These things are all optional but could make your rice water concoction even more beneficial for your hair. Other women like to add scents like lavender, especially if you choose to use a fermented version of rice water.
This brings us to the next big question:
To Ferment or Not to Ferment?
Fermentation is the subject of much debate for those using rice water hair treatments. In Huangluo Yao Village, the women ferment it for a whopping three whole months. Those who recommend using fermented water online may suggest fermenting anywhere from 1 or 2 days to a full week.
Though fermented rice water may offer superior benefits to your hair and scalp, the truth is that fermented rice water doesn’t smell so hot, and some women might find the scent overbearing. Some women like to add a few drops of their favorite essential oil to their rice water recipe to mask the smell.
Of course, if you allow the rice water and grape peel mixture to ferment for three entire months, you theoretically could get a different result. That may well be the reason the Yao women fermented theirs for so long. By the time three months are up, the chemical processes have mostly run their course, making the result much less of an assault on your nose.
Unfortunately, the reality is that very few are willing to wait three months to ferment their rice water. So, to avoid the offensive smell of fermentation, it’s probably best to use plain rice water as soon as you make it.
Another interesting tidbit of information is the Yao women don’t use any soap, shampoos, or conditioners. This is like a naturalistas dream! Yao women simply wash their hair with the rice mixture, and after half an hour, they rinse it out using water from their local spring.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t shampoo first. Just make sure you rinse your hair very well of all shampoo and conditioner before applying your rice water hair treatment. Alternatively, you could use your hair rinse treatment first—especially if you’re trying the fermented kind—and follow up with shampoo and conditioner to help mitigate the smell.
Moral of the story? A rice water treatment is good for damaged hair, but… it may take some patience and a thorough understanding of how to use rice water for hair before you start to see noticeable results. Browse our collection to find the perfect organic rice water treatment to nourish your hair roots from top to bottom!
- The Zoe Report. 12 Rice Water Hair Products That Don’t Require Boiling, Measuring, Or Mess. https://www.thezoereport.com/p/10-rice-water-hair-products-that-promise-longer-stronger-hair-19300927
- Style Caster. The Rice Water Debate Persists—Does It Actually Benefit Natural Hair? https://stylecaster.com/feature/rice-water-hair-products-1123860/#slide-6
- Medical News Today.
What does rice water do for your hair https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321353#history
- Healthline. Can Rice Water Make Your Hair Stronger and Shinier? https://www.healthline.com/health/rice-water
- Natural Hair Insights. is rice water good for low porosity hair? https://naturalhairinsights.com/is-rice-water-good-for-low-porosity-hair/#:~:text=The%20amino%20acids%20found%20in,water%20gives%20to%20the%20hair
- Vogue. Woman of Huang Luo China long hair tradition. https://www.vogue.com/projects/13548460/women-of-huang-luo-china-long-hair-tradition
- Hair Buddha. How to Use Rice Water For Gorgeous Hair And Flawless Skin https://www.hairbuddha.net/rice-water-for-gorgeous-hair-and-flawless-skin/
- Spring 8. Development of Hair-Care Products
from Rice Water. http://www.spring8.or.jp/pdf/en/indu_appli/p10-11.pdf
- Wiley Online Library. Abstracts: The effect of rinse water obtained from the washing of rice (YU-SU-RU) as a hair treatment. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-2494.2010.00605_3.x
- Medical news Today. What does rice water do for your hair? https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321353#history
- The Klog. Why Rice Water, an Age-Old Skin Care Ingredient, Is Having a Moment. https://theklog.co/rice-water/
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