Rice Water Rinse pt. 3
We are still on the subject of rice water treatments and the tide has refused to change, in fact it seems the current is getting stronger and more naturals are being swept away by the results. Ok, that is enough water puns.
Whenever something takes such a grip, we strive to find out if this fad has any scientific basis or is just an old wives tale. We (Hair teacher/Trichologist and I) have conducted many hours of research to bring you the real tea on rice water rinses or if you should let this one pass you by.
In part one, we discussed the minimal recorded evidence of rice rinses and how it seems to be a case of Chinese whispers, however to get around this we focused on related information and tried to use this to decipher why the this "fad" refuses to fade.
Why is rice water a game changer?
If you search the Internet for rice water, you will find many blogs and videos detailing how this treatment has strengthened and promoted hair growth however, the reasons for this phenomena are still widely unexplained.
In terms of nutritional value, rice is considered a high source of carbohydrates, mainly starch and is the staple for many countries in Asia and Africa. Due to its abundance and availability, it has also found many alternative uses apart from the nutrition and sustenance.
Even though there are many varieties of rice, is thought that wild rice is the most nutritionally beneficial because the germ or the outermost casing of the rice grain has not been removed and thus contains most of the vitamins and minerals that make it a great food source.
In America, the most commonly bought rice is Long grain rice and will be using this to base our study on throughout this blog.
When parboiled the rice releases most of it carbohydrates in the form of starch which is what turns the water white and is often dispelled with any other dust or debris which may have coated the rice during transport and production. This is not what should be used for a rice water treatment.
When this water with the extra starch has been rinsed as part of the first clean, the water that is then used to boil the rice is what is used for the treatment.
However, in most cases, people will only add the required amount of water which will evaporate during the cooking process, leaving no water left behind. If you plan on using a rice water treatment it is best to add more water than necessary to your cooking pot and drain off the excess before allowing the rice to cook as usual. Always allow it to cool thoroughly before use!
Some people go the extra step by fermenting this water however as stated in a previous blog this can come with a whole host of unknowns so for those who don't want to risk anything it’s best to just use the water fresh.
What does it contain?
The most important component is Inositol which is actually a carbohydrate, and rice as a whole contains very little protein. So then how can it be used as a protein treatment?
Well the inositol works to aid the body and transport other key nutrients while also reducing fat stores in the liver. In regards to the hair it will prevent or reverse an dry, itchy scalp and reduce hair fall.
Even though only a small amount of rice is protein (around 2-3%) most of these proteins are used in the metabolic and cell structure processes, so you will get some benefit although it can be questionable.
Protein in hair
The hair is made up of a protein called keratin which is largely made up of the amino acids cystine and cysteine which have a sulfur double bond and is responsible for the tensile strength of the hair.
Healthy hair is very elastic and can be reshaped when wet to dry without any damage. It also has a natural luster and shine to it as the cuticle is smooth so nutrients can be locked inside.
Overtime the cuticle can become damaged through normal wear and tear, coloring, heat damage and excessive mechanical damage from brushing and combing.
The aim of the protein treatment is to repair gaps in the hair structure however if these chemical bonds are broken there is no way to reverse this damage. A protein treatment is a filler and is only temporary so the results are short lived and the treatment has to be repeated several times for that effect to be maintained.
Companies usually used a hydrolyzed protein of vegetable origin as the basis of these treatments. Proteins are large compounds which are too big to penetrate the hair's cuticle in its natural state. So by boiling the protein in a strong acid it is broken down into smaller amino acids which are able to be freely travel into the hair shaft and plug in any gaps where damage has occurred.
This is why protein treatments at home using substances such as egg and mayonnaise are not as useful because the proteins will not be able to penetrate your hair but rather form a bond around the outside giving a similar but shorter lived effect. (Natural Haven Bloom)
Adjusting for low porosity hair
Low porosity hair means that the cuticle of the hair does not easily lift or lay flat, thus making it difficult for nutrients to penetrate the hair shaft. You can tell if your hair is low porosity by using your fingers and thumb to rub a strand of hair going from the tip up to the roots, if it feels rough the cuticles are raised and your hair is more likely to be high porosity, meaning that the cuticles are lifted and will allow transmission in and out. If water beads sit on top of your hair when wet, that's a big indicator that your hair more than likely has low porosity hair.
If your hair is LP you will need to try and lift the cuticle, this can be done using a shampoo as the aim is to clean the hair and that opens the cuticle due to the pH of the product or you could also use heat. You can do the treatment and use a shower cap covered with a towel to help open the cuticle of your hair or a steamer.
Replacing water in your steamer with the rice treatment may cause blockages due to the high starch content so it’s best to apply the treatment to your hair first and then steam separately using pure water (trust me, I've tried this).
Check out my IGTV to see how the Yao women make fermented rice water. It's absolutely fascinating to see that they still make the rinse til this day.