August 15, 2022

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Passion For Fashion

Want Stronger Strands? Try Using Rice Water on Your Hair

6 min read
Rice Water Hair Treatment

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Rice water is right up there with jade rollers and hemp oil—it appears to be having a moment in the spotlight. Although it may seem as though rice water came out of nowhere, it’s actually an ancient hair care method with a long history in Asia.

For centuries, Japanese women used rice water to keep their floor-length hair healthy and thick. And women in China have been known to use it to keep the gray away until well into their 80s.

So, it’s no surprise that rice water for hair has finally caught on in the West. It’s a magical elixir that can, when used correctly, prevent breakage and strengthen strands to help your limp locks grow long and thick. What’s not to love about that?

Meet the experts

New York City-based hairstylist, Kim Bonondona

Celebrity hairstylist, Andrew Fitzsimons

Medically reviewed by board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Jennifer Haley

How to use rice water for hair

Benefits of Rice Water for Hair

Here’s a look at some of the reasons why rice water can be a wonderful addition to your haircare regimen.

It strengthens

“By closing the cuticle, it will make the hair stronger because it is all closed,” explains New York City-based hairstylist Kim Bonondona. “It will also protect the hair against the elements, including sun, heat, smoke, and minerals in the water.”

It detangles

“Rice water acts as a deep conditioner, which leaves the hair soft and easy for you to comb through and detangle,” explains Bonondona. “In the professional aspect, it closes the cuticle, which benefits in many ways, including detangling by getting rid of friction, keeping the hair shiny and less frizzy,” she says.

It increases shine

“Rice water closes the cuticle, which leaves the hair looking shiny and not frizzy,” notes Bonondona. “When the cuticle is open, that is when the hair looks very unhealthy, dead, and frizzy.”

It’s also loaded with starch, which is said to help strengthen hair so it can grow longer and thicker without breaking.

The scientific research on rice water is lacking, but there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence—and centuries of experience—singing rice water’s praises. It’s said to increase elasticity, which in turn reduces static and breakage from brushing. It’s also thought to help repair damage and fortify strands by infusing them with depleted vitamins and minerals.

Who Would Benefit from Using Rice Water?

Whether your hair is thick, thin, curly, or straight, it can benefit from a rice water treatment. However, those with color-treated, relaxed, damaged, or high porosity hair types benefit most, according to celebrity hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons. “Those with low porosity hair should use it in moderation—no more than once a month—since the added proteins can make the hair stiff and brittle, causing it to break off,” he cautions.

How to Make Rice Water for Hair

There are a few ways to make rice water, each with its own pros and cons. But they all require the same basic ingredients:

  • Uncooked rice (brown has the most nutrients, but white works just fine)
  • Water
  • Lidded bottle

The Boil Method

Thoroughly rinse the rice. Cook it on the stove like you normally would, but add 2 to 3 extra cups of water that you can drain off at the end. When the rice is done cooking, pour the leftover water in a glass bottle and store it in the bathroom for 3 to 4 days or in the fridge for up to a week.

Pros: It’s quick, and you can eat the rice when you’re done.

Cons: The heat of the cooking process might destroy some of the vitamins and minerals. 

The Soak Method

Thoroughly rinse your rice, then combine 1/2 cup of uncooked rice with 3 cups of water in a small bowl or container. Let it sit for an hour while the water slowly extracts the nutrients from the rice, stirring or shaking it often.

Strain out the rice and pour the rice water into a glass bottle. Store it in the bathroom for 3 to 4 days or in the fridge for up to a week.

Pros: It’s said to be more nourishing, and you can cook and eat the rice afterward.

Cons: It takes a bit longer.

Benefits of rice water for hair

The Fermented Method

This is like the soak method, except you’ll leave the rice for a longer period to kick off its natural fermentation process. Combine 1/2 cup of rinsed rice with 3 cups of water in a bowl or container. Cover and let sit anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, stirring or shaking once or twice throughout the process.

Strain out the rice and pour the rice water into a glass bottle. Store it in the bathroom for 3 to 4 days or in the fridge for up to a week.

Pros: Fermenting the rice enhances the level of nutrients contained in its soaking water. It is richer in antioxidants, minerals, vitamin B, vitamin E, and other nutrients.

Cons: It’s a hefty time investment and very potent, so use it sparingly.

How to Use Rice Water for Your Hair

Shampoo twice. To prevent buildup on your scalp, Bonondona recommends shampooing your hair twice before adding the rice water. Save conditioning for after, as it will close the cuticle and you want to get the benefits of the rice water to penetrate through the hair shaft. “After, you can always condition for some added shine and moisture,” she says.

Massage into the scalp. “When you massage the rice water into your scalp, you enhance blood circulation, which will strengthen the root of the hair, nourish the hair, and aid in new hair growth,” says Bonondona. “The rice water will also moisturize the scalp and help reduce dandruff or dry scalp.” 

Let it sit for 15 to 20 min. As with any hair mask, the longer it sits, the longer it has to work its magic. For this reason, Bonondona suggests leaving the rice water in for at least 15 to 20 minutes so it can work to its full potential in repairing the hair and the cuticle.

Rice Water FAQs

What kind of rice should I use?

Rice water is traditionally made with white or brown rice. I used Mahatma long grain white rice for mine since that’s what I had in my pantry. Brown rice has more nutrients, but you can use any type of rice that you have on hand.

How to use rice water for your hair

Can I use it before I shampoo and condition?

If you don’t like the way a rice water rinse makes your hair feel, you can use it as a pre-shampoo hair mask. Apply it liberally to strands and let it sit for 30 minutes, then shampoo and condition like usual. You’ll still get some of the nutritional benefits, and your hair should feel cleaner when you’re done.

What if I don’t like the smell?

You can add some citrus peels to the rice water while it boils/soaks, and add a few drops of essential oils that are good for your hair after the water has cooled. 

How often should you use rice water for your hair?

I recommend starting out at once a week to see how your hair responds. If you like it, try bumping it up to 2 or 3 times a week.

Using it too much can overload your hair with protein and starch, causing it to harden and feel heavy. So it’s best to increase your usage slowly and be ready to cut back if needed.

What if it makes my hair feel worse?

Like everything, rice water isn’t a one-size-fits-all beauty product. Try it out and see what works best for you. If you find that it makes your hair look or feel worse, then scrap it and go back to your tried-and-true beauty products.

Can I leave rice water in my hair overnight?

No. Use it for 30 to 45 minutes at a time so as not to overload the hair follicles.

This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Jennifer Haley, a board-certified dermatologist with extensive experience in medical, cosmetic, and surgical dermatology. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical reviewers here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

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