Around 2 years ago now, I quit using any products with sulfates or silicates as they were leaving my locks dry and brittle. I’m always on the look out for the next big natural alternative in hair care, and I think rice water might just be it.
I eat a lot of rice, probably more than I should. It’s convenient, super cheap and filling. Did you ever think of using it as something more than just food? Rice water (literally water that you’ve soaked rice in) has been used traditionally in Asia as a hair and skin treatment. The rest of the world is finally catching up – read on to learn is rice water good for hair and skin?
What is Rice Water?
At first I was confused as to what exactly rice water is. When our family makes rice, there’s no water left over since we use a rice cooker. I asked a friend who does it the old fashioned way (in a pot with boiling water) and her rice absorbs all the water too.
When I looked into it a bit more, the water actually comes from the washing process before cooking. We rinse the rice 2 – 3 times before cooking it as it prevents the rice from clumping when it’s cooked and improves flavour. That milky liquid we’ve always thrown down the drain is actually the good stuff we’re talking about here.
You can dilute, concentrate or even ferment this water, depending on your personal preferences. I’ll explain all of the different ways to use it later on.
The History of Rice Water
Rice water has been part of the hair care practices of Japanese women for hundreds of years. During the Heian period (794 to 1185), women would grow their hair as long as possible – often reaching the floor. They cared for their hair by combing daily with “Yu-Su-Ru”, i.e. rice water. (source)
Women from the Yao ethnic group in China have a similar tradition – they only cut their hair once in a lifetime, before they get married. They don’t use shampoo and conditioner, yet it remains smooth and shiny. Their secret to healthy hair is also washing with rice water.
Additionally, rice water has been used in Ayurvedic tradition to cool inflamed skin. (source) Tradition is wonderful but is it useful in the modern era? Let’s take a look at what science has to say about rice water for hair and skin.
Why is Rice Water Good for Hair and Skin?
A study published in The International Journal of Cosmetic Chemists investigated “Yu-Su-Ru” – the traditional rice water wash used in Japan. The results confirmed that it improves hair health. Yu-Su-Ru increased elasticity and reduced surface friction in the hair. (source)
Another study used daily 15-minute rice water baths to treat atopic dermatitis. It led to “a 20% improvement on the healing capacity of damaged skin”. Researchers recommended rice water as “a skin repair bathing additive” to repair the skin’s protective barrier. (source)
Rice water contains inositol (formerly vitamin B8), a naturally occurring carbohydrate which may help with hair growth and skin disorders such as psoriasis. However, at presence, evidence is limited. (source)
Fermented rice water is acidic, with a pH similar to our scalp and hair. This means it won’t dry your hair out or strip your natural oils, leading to nourished, healthy locks. (source)
Some sources say that rice water has astringent properties, leading it to tighten skin and make pores appear smaller. Others say it acts as a natural sunscreen, absorbing UV light. Yet more claim it whitens skin and fades dark spots. However, I could not find any evidence to support this.
How to Make Rice Water
If you’re in the habit of eating rice frequently, it’s easy to collect rice water after washing the rice. If not, here are a few other methods to produce rice water suitable for hair and skin treatments:
- Take ½ a cup of uncooked rice (the type doesn’t matter) and mix it with 2 cups of water.
- Let it soak for 10 – 15 minutes.
- Swirl it around with your hands until the water turns white
- Strain the rice water to separate the liquid from the rice
- Take ½ a cup of uncooked rice and mix it with 2 cups of water in a pot.
- Boil the mixture gently
- Once it starts to bubble, take it off the heat
- Strain the rice water to separate the liquid from the rice
Fermented Rice Water
Fermentation involves the conversion of carbohydrates into an acid or alcohol. It’s a natural process which has been used by humans for thousands of years. (source)
- Take the rice water from either of the two methods above and leave it at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours. It will become sour.
- Boil the fermented rice water to stop the fermentation process
- Let it cool and it’s ready to use. You may need to dilute it with a cup or two of warm water before use.
You can store the rice water in the fridge for up to a week. Shake before use. (source)
How to Use Rice Water For Hair and Skin
Rice Water Hair Cleanser
Rice water contains saponins – a natural form of shampoo. It won’t lather like the traditional kind but if you use it with a scalp scrubbing brush like this one it can do a fairly good job at cleansing your hair.
Rice Water Conditioning Hair Rinse
Fermented or plain rice water is a great conditioner. As I’ve already mentioned, it leaves the hair smooth and shiny. You don’t have to add anything extra but you might want to try a few drops of essential oil for fragrance. Massage your scalp with rice water and leave for 5 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.
Exfoliating Rice Scrub
If you don’t like to eat rice, this is a great way to use up the grain after making rice water. Grind the uncooked rice into a powder using a food processor or pestle and mortar. Mix with coconut oil and any other oils of your choosing (e.g. olive oil, a few drops of essential oil). Use this once a week.
Rice Water Skin Cleanser / Toner
Rice water acts as a cheap and gentle cleanser. Just massage it onto your skin and wipe with a cotton pad if you’re cleansing or leave it on if you’re using it as a toner.
Lavender and Rice Water Bath
This is my favourite use for rice water – it makes the cheapest ingredient feel luxurious! Fill a small muslin with ½ a cup uncooked rice rice and 2 teaspoons of lavender flowers. Place it into your bath tub and relax! (source)
I hope I’ve helped open your eyes to the amazing uses for rice water! It really is good for hair and skin. I can’t believe I used to spend so much on commercial cleansers, toners, rinses and more, when I could have the same results for pennies with rice water. I’m a real fan – try it yourself and you’ll see why.