Rice Water for Hair Retention

February 23, 2021 6 min read

Rice Water for Hair Retention

By Tiffany Walker

Many women look to the East for all kinds of wisdom, including wisdom for beauty and advice on natural hair productsWhen they do, inevitably they learn of the wonders of rice water! Women of the East have taken advantage of rice water benefits for ages to help keep their skin soft and supple, and their hair long, smooth, and healthy. 

What is Rice Water?

Rice water is a by-product of making rice. It’s the water that’s leftover after boiling or soaking it. So what’s so special about some leftover water? Well, it’s loaded with lots of beneficial things, like B and E vitamins, amino acids which are the building blocks of protein, plus antioxidants and minerals. 

All of these are good for the skin and the hair, which is why it’s such a favorite for the naturalistas of the world that want to avoid harsh chemicals and toxic products, but still want to look cute.

Can You Really Use Rice Water for Hair Retention?

The short answer is yes. While it doesn’t look as though there have been many recent scientific studies done on how to use rice water for hair, many people from all over the world have incorporated rice water hair products into their hair care routines successfully for centuries, both to make hair longer their hair out and to keep it strong and healthy.

Though the results have been mixed in terms of meeting or exceeding expectations, the general consensus is that it actually works and for some, may work phenomenally well. 

Of course, it’s all anecdotal evidence, which means there will always be conflicting accounts, so do some research before trying anything new and make sure it’s suitable for your hair type and concerns. 

Why is Rice Water So Popular?

It all began in the Huangluo Yao Village—better known as the “Land of Rapunzels.” Most of the women in the village have unusually long, beautiful hair—so many, in fact, that they made it into the Guinness Book of Records. 

Centuries ago, many women in Japan had the same beautiful, unusually long hair. The only thing both groups have in common is the use of a rice water rinse for natural hair retention and generally healthy hair. Fancy that! 

How Does Rice Water Work?

Rice water contains a multitude of nutrients, with a combination of several important vitamins, minerals, and proteins that are vital for healthy hair. With all of these ingredients ending up in the rice water, one can only guess how much nutritional value—besides the starch—is left in the rice itself!  

Introducing this unique combination of nutrients to your hair has been proven to not only improve the condition of your hair but also to stimulate natural hair. It is most ironic that, after all of the billions of dollars that went into researching hair products, the solution lies in a simple, humble item from your pantry.

Are There Side Effects to Using Rice Water for Hair Retention?

For most people, there are no notable side effects of rice water on hair. But again, it depends on your hair type, your scalp, and the health condition of both.

For instance, if you have low porosity hair, the protein is likely to attach to the surface of the hair follicles instead of being absorbed. This not only makes it impossible for your hair to absorb any other necessary nutrients, but it also forms a thick, hard coating on top of your hair, making it hard and brittle to the touch. This particular problem is commonly referred to as “protein overload.” 

Additionally, depending on the condition of your scalp, if it’s dry and flaky already, then using too much of the rice water hair rinse—or using it too frequently—can make the condition worse. Used in moderation, however, it can help alleviate these symptoms.   

Should You Use Fermented Rice Water?

There is some debate around this one. Fermented rice water is considered more potent and therefore able to produce better results in terms of hair length and hair health than plain rice water.

However, fermented rice water, and even rice water that’s just been kept for too long (yep, even in the fridge), can cause some women’s hair to become stiff. Not to mention the pungent, somewhat rancid smell that comes from using fermented rice water. 

One potential solution is to try using a plain rice water hair treatment for a month first since that’s how long it usually takes to start seeing results. Remember you have to be both patient and consistent. If during that time you don’t experience any side effects—a good thing—but you’re not happy with the results—a bad thing—then, by all means, give the fermented version a shot! Some women add a few drops of essential oil to their fermented rice water to try to mask the smell. You might want to make sure you don’t plan on going anywhere for the day though!

How to Use Rice Water for Hair Retention

According to Cosmopolitan Magazine, you can use the method below. It’s the same one used by the women in the Huangluo Yao Village.

  • Step 1: Use plain white uncooked rice. Brown rice contains too much protein, which increases the risk of protein overload. Also, if you use rice bred in the US, brown rice is likely to contain 80% more arsenic than white rice. Don’t use “instant” rice or pre-cooked rice either! The nutritional value of those varieties is low compared to plain basic white rice.
  • Step 2: First, rinse the rice to get rid of any potential dirt or unwanted substances. Next, wash the rice. No, this is not just another rinse! Pour water on top of the rice and then use your hands to actually wash the rice grains. The women from the village do this thoroughly. 
  • Step 3: Add the peel of a grapefruit to the mixture and bring it to a boil for 10 minutes or so. At this point, you can also add a few drops of lavender oil if you like. In the village, different families use different add-ons, but all are optional. Be sure to leave the grapefruit peel in the mixture after boiling it.
  • Step 4: The Yao women then ferment the rice water. However, unlike the common advice to just ferment it for a couple of days, they ferment it significantly longer. As in 3 whole months longer! Unfortunately, most of us don’t have that kind of time or patience here in the west! It does make sense, however, since by the time they use it, all possible chemical reactions have completed, and you probably wouldn’t have the rancid smell problem anymore, either! 
  • Step 5: Once it’s ready for use, they wash their hair with the mixture, leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes, and then wash it off with water from the spring. If you have access to it, you could try filtered, de-ionized, and/or distilled water for the next best thing. Otherwise, plain old tap water should do. 
  • Step 6: The Yao women allowed their hair to dry naturally, but it’s up to you how you dry yours.  

Precautions Using Rice Water for Hair Retention

First, you may want to dilute your rice water mixture to reduce the chances of protein overload. You also don’t want to leave it on your hair for longer than half an hour at a time. During those 30 minutes, your hair will absorb all of the nutrients it possibly can, so anything after that is a waste. 

Plus, leaving it on for too long (especially if you suffer from a dry, flaky scalp) can worsen the condition of your scalp instead of helping it, which kind of defeats the purpose. Scalp problems are usually caused by either irritated skin or the presence of excessive yeast (Malassezia—a yeast-like fungus) in the skin, and keeping a starchy mixture on the scalp for extended periods of time will only feed the organisms causing it.     

If you know your hair is of low porosity, don’t use rice water more than once or twice per week. If you don’t actually know your hair type, play it safe and watch out for any unwanted changes in your hair and scalp. If you notice any negative reactions, slow down your usage. To avoid the process of making your own rice water and any potential side effects, opt for a natural rice water hair product instead! Mielle offers products containing rice water for hair with organic ingredients. Whether you’re looking for a rice water styling spray, a hydrating hair mask, or shampoo, we have all our curly girls covered!

So, does rice water make hair longer? The women of the East seem to think so! The only way to really find out if a rice water hair treatment will work for you is to try it and see. 


  1. Isabella DeMarco Youtube chanell. THE REAL WAY to do the Rice Water Hair Rinse | Yao Women's Recipe. https://youtu.be/K9Ie7aeyYqg 
  2. Femina. 5 Benefits You Didn't Know About Rice Water.  https://www.femina.in/wellness/health/5-benefits-you-didnt-know-about-rice-water-153379-1.html
  3. The Saturday Standard. Six beauty benefits of using rice water. https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/evewoman/article/2001298701/six-beauty-benefits-of-using-rice-water
  4. On Manorama. 7 benefits of rice water for hair you didn't know. https://www.onmanorama.com/lifestyle/beauty-and-fashion/2017/12/18/beauty-benefits-of-rice-water.html
  5. All about Eve.  From Gorgeous Skin To Healthy Hair: 8 Beauty Benefits Of Rice Water You Didn’t Know About. https://allabouteve.co.in/benefits-of-rice-water/
  6. Terrific Tresses. Can rice water damage your hair and other risks. https://www.terrifictresses.com/qa/can-rice-water-damage-your-hair/
  7. Curl Centric. How to Use Rice Water on Natural Hair for Hair: Side Effects, Before and After Results, and More.  https://www.curlcentric.com/rice-water-for-hair/
  8. Botox Capilar. Side Effects of Rice Water on Hair (that they don’t want you to know). https://botoxcapilar.org/en/side-effects-of-rice-water-on-hair/
  9. Cosmopolitan. Rice Water for Hair: The Benefits, Side Effects, and How to DIY It. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/beauty/a32952121/rice-water-for-hair-benefits/
  10. Ellis James Designs. Is rice water good for your hair?. https://www.ellisjamesdesigns.com/side-effects-of-rice-water-on-hair/



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