They say that fashion is cyclical – and the same seems to be true of skincare!
Somewhere along the line, we lost touch for all that rice can do outside of nutrition.
Rice water, a “byproduct” of soaking rice, has long been used in India and China as a healing topical treatment.
Now, rice water is making a huge comeback as a clean, simple, and safe treatment for your hair and skin.
So what is it?
Is rice water good for hair?
Are there benefits of rice water for skin?
Is it truly as effective today as it seemed to be hundreds of years ago?
Keep reading to learn all about the benefits of rice water on hair and skin then and now!
The History of Rice Water
Rice has become ingrained (pun intended) as a staple food and crop in many areas of the world.
Many people have relied on rice paddies to nourish their bodies and maintain their livelihoods.
Alongside sugarcane and maize, rice is one of the world’s three leading food crops and accounts for almost 50% of the calories consumed by the entire human population.
The rice that we know today is said to have originated from India and China over 3,000 years ago, where it has remained a vital crop to this day.
It’s no surprise then that these two cultures found a way to use this prominent ingredient hundreds of different ways in the kitchen, and for their skin and hair.
In India, rice water or kanji is a traditional part of Ayurvedic medicine used as a natural way to treat inflamed skin and eczema and serve as a gentle moisturizer for the entire body.
In many Southeast Asian countries, female rice farmers are said to have bathed in rice water and used it to wash and nourish their hair.
In Japan, dating back as far as the 9th century, women used fermented rice water to nourish their hair.
The women of one particular region of China called Huangluo are renowned for their long, silky, perpetually youthful hair to this day.
You guessed it – rice water.
In Huangluo, their average hair length is about 6 feet!
Not only is their hair incredibly long, it retains its rich black color and shine well into their 80s!
Whether you believe it to be good genes or an anomaly altogether, the Yao ethnic women of Huangluo chalk it up to rice water hair baths.
Is the fountain of youth actually just a spout of rice water?
These women prove that it just may be!
Rice Water Present Day
Rice water is exactly what it sounds like; it is the water that is left over after rinsing it or boiling it to eat.
There are over 40,000 different types of rice, but no matter what your culinary preference may be, there are no “preferred species” when it comes to skincare.
Rice water can be diluted or concentrated and fermented to intensify its benefits.
Many skin and hair products choose to go the route of fermentation before incorporating rice water into their formulas.
Today, rice water has become a common skincare staple in Korean beauty and has made its way to becoming a global phenomenon.
Rice is cheap and easy to come by, and I’d wager that many of us have some in our pantries right now!
Unlike many store-bought skin and hair products that have more ingredients than we can count, rice water is an easy to DIY hair and skin treatment that’s backed by science!
Rice Water for Hair
Rice water’s long history for promoting fortified, healthy, long, and youthful hair did not go by unnoticed by modern day scientists.
Nowadays, rice water is touted as one of the most effective and scientifically proven hair treatments that you can DIY!
This is mostly due to one of its ingredients, inositol.
Inositol, also referred to as vitamin B8, is a naturally occurring sugar that can be found in many foods including rice!
Researchers have found that when taken as an oral supplement, inositol can help to treat mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and panic disorders.
Inositol is also extremely beneficial for the hair follicles when applied topically.
Research has found that inositol can penetrate and repair damaged hair.
Even after rinsing, inositol remains in the hair follicles to protect hair from future damage and while improving hair elasticity and strength.
The uses of rice water for hair restoration, fortification, and shine are plentiful!
Rice Water and Hair Shine
One Ayurvedic shampoo that uses rice water as a main ingredient was found to have anti-aging benefits for the hair, including hair shininess and softness.
Since inositol remains in the hair even after rinsing, it will help you achieve a glossy healthy mane, even in between washes.
Rice Water and Hair Growth
Your hair’s health and growth go hand in hand.
Aside from age, the most common culprit of hair loss is damage.
When the scalp is healthy and the hair follicles are nourished, it can promote hair growth.
Because rice water is used to treat skin inflammation, using a bath of rice water for hair shedding may help to alleviate skin conditions which can dry out the scalp and cause hair loss.
Rice bran has been proven to help promote future hair growth as well!
Though no studies have pointed directly at rice water specifically for hair growth, its properties and hundreds of years of use (such as in Huangluo) may be the tip of the iceberg of its true capabilities!
Rice Water for Grey Hair
The jury is still out on whether or not you can truly prevent grey hairs from popping up by using rice water.
However, it does have an impressive history!
The study we mentioned above that evaluated a rice water-based Ayurvedic shampoo did promote all the factors that go into preventing greys, so it shows promise as a color-protecting treatment for your hair.
Rice Water for Skin
So, if rice water can do all of that for your hair, is rice water good for skin as well?
You’ll be happy to know that the uses of rice water for skin are also very promising and widespread!
When applied directly on the skin, the same ingredient that acts as a powerhouse for your hair, inositol, also repairs damage and brings many beautifying benefits to your skin!
Rice Water for Oily Skin
Rice water has astringent qualities that help reduce oiliness.
After you’ve made your own rice water mixture, you can apply it with a cotton ball after washing your face to help reduce oiliness and prevent pimples.
Rice water also has moisturizing benefits, but feel free to supplement with your favorite lightweight oil-free moisturizer to seal the deal.
Rice Water for Skin Whitening
Many people recommend using boiled rice water for skin whitening and to reduce dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
In fact, many people swear by it!
While some of the ingredients in rice water individually may help to lighten the skin, it hasn’t been proven whether rice water will do the trick.
The good news is that with all its other proven benefits and the fact that it’s non-irritating and cheap, you can experiment a bit with rice water to find what works best for you!
Rice Water for Skin Tightening
Rice water also has anti-aging benefits for your skin!
One study found that fermented rice water, aka rice wine, firmed and tightened the skin by boosting the skin’s collagen levels.
Collagen is responsible for keeping our skin supple, firm, and youthful so by applying rice water, we are really fighting against the common signs of aging such as sagging, wrinkles and fine lines.
Rice Water for Sun Protection
Many studies are coming out that show the harm chemicals in sunscreen can do on our health and environment.
Sun protection, however, is no less important.
Skin cancer is by far the most common yet easily treated form of cancer worldwide.
Luckily, one study found that the chemicals and antioxidants found in rice water can be an effective form of sun protection when combined with other antioxidant-rich plants!
That’s clean beauty!
Rice Water for Skin Conditions
As we mentioned above, rice water has long been used as an Ayurvedic treatment for inflamed and irritated skin.
Now, studies are backing this up!
Rice water can soothe irritation caused by sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), an ingredient found in many personal care products that can trigger dryness and irritation causing flare ups of eczema.
This can be used strictly on the face or as a total body bath.
How to Make Your Own Rice Water Treatments
Rice water = rice + water.
It doesn’t get much simpler than that!
It’s easy to create your own facial or hair treatments for dimes just by using whatever rice you have left in your closet – brown, white, jasmine, arborio – you name it!
There are three methods you can use to create the base for your rice water treatment:
Boiling water and rice produces a more concentrated form of rice water.
For this, you’ll use a 1:4 ratio of rice to water.
First, rinse your rice, combine the two ingredients, and bring them to a boil, then remove from heat.
Once off of the burner, use a spoon to press the rice to release the chemicals.
Then strain the mixture and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
This method is popular because it can be stored for a longer amount of time than soaked rice water.
However, you’ll need to dilute the mixture before you apply it to your skin or hair.
Soaking is the easiest method and it is best for quick one-time uses.
For this method, rinse the rice and mix it with water in a 1:4 ratio and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour.
After it is soaked, press like you would the boiled mixture, strain, and let cool before you apply.
Fermented rice water, aka rice wine, can be made by combining the soaking method with time.
Follow the same instructions to first create rice water following the soaking process, then let it sit in an open container for 1-2 days.
Your rice water will be ready once it has a slightly sour smell to it.
This can also be stored in the fridge but requires dilution before applying.
This method is popular because it contains more antioxidants and is the method traditionally used by Japanese royalty to grow long, luscious hair.
Once you have your mixture ready to go, the possibilities are endless!
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Rice Water Rinse for Curly Hair
You can use a rice water rinse for curly hair to restore moisture and texture to your curl pattern!
When applying to your hair, you can let it soak for 10-15 minutes before shampooing, after, after conditioning, or you can use rice water as hair conditioner altogether!
There are no sulfates or harsh ingredients, so feel free to experiment!
You can bring it in the shower with you and let it sit before rinsing with water or leave it in.
Leave in Hair Treatment
Apply from root to tip (or avoid the roots if you have particularly greasy hair) and let sit for 15-30 minutes before washing with a sulfate-free shampoo.
You can repeat this once a week or until you’ve reached your ideal level of silk and shine!
Rice Water Toner
If you want to use rice water as a toner, all you’ll need is diluted rice water and a cotton pad.
Just apply a thin layer to your face and neck and rub in if needed.
Allow it to dry e voila!
It’s very unlikely that it will have a bad reaction with any of your other products, but make sure to test it out first before committing.
Full Body Soak
Rice water is amazing for your skin, and not just the skin on your face.
Rice water can be poured into a hot bath along with your favorite essential oils for a moisturizing, relaxing soak.
Rice Water Sunscreen
Though rice water was found to help protect your skin from harmful UV rays, it’s not quite enough to be your only line of defense.
You can apply rice water before using sunscreen to boost your UV blockage.
Alternatively, there are plenty of products that contain rice water extract!
Products with the Power of Rice
Many skincare brands have caught on to the power of this humble ingredient and have begun supplementing with products with rice water extract.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Simplify your routine with this 3-in-1 cleansing water by Eminence!
This product acts as a cleanser, toner, and make-up routine with just 4 clean yet effective ingredients: rice water, pomelo juice, witch hazel, and jasmine tea.
They also have a 3-pack trial sized version so you can test it out for yourself!
This waterproof day cream uses rice bran to hydrate your skin and prep it for a day’s wear of makeup while fighting off UV rays.
Whether you shop for it or create your own at home, rice water is a wonderful and clean alternative that has time-tested benefits for your hair and skin.
Try it out and let us know what you think!