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The Truth About Rice Water Hair Rinse

August 23, 2018

 by

Verna Meachum

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Last Updated on December 3, 2022 by Verna Meachum

We are still on the subject of rice water hair rinse 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.

It is no secret that rice water is amazing for your hair. Rice water has been used as a hair rinse for centuries, and is still a popular natural remedy today. This ancient remedy is said to promote hair growth and strengthen hair.

But what about the arsenic in rice water? We’ll get to that later.

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 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.

The internet is a weird and wonderful place. It seems like every few months there is a new craze taking the natural hair world by storm.

Some have staying power and others fizzle out as quickly as they appeared. I’ve noticed another trend way out on the horizon and wanted to bring you all of the facts so that you can try or pass it by.

In this guide, we will discuss what a rice water rinse is, how to make it, and whether it’s safe to use.

Yao Women

As I’ve already mentioned, rice water has been used for centuries in Asia as a natural skin and hair treatment.

Yao women, (Iu-Mien) who are from the mountainous ancient region of China, from a village called Huangluowhich is actually nicknamed the ‘Long Hair Village’ are said to have some of the world’s longest hair.

In fact, they hold the record for the World’s Longest Hair Village (According to the Guinness World Records).

Their floor length hair is quite impressive and has led many women to flock to the villages in order to learn their secrets.

The Yao women attribute their long healthy hair to using fermented rice water as a hair rinse/shampoo to keep their hair healthy, shiny, long, and without any grays!

Fermenting the rice water makes it even more beneficial for hair, but we’ll talk more about that later.

Yao women who make rice water hair rinse to grow their hair to great lengths.

Rice Water for Hair?

I’m not sure about you, but I love rice. It’s my favorite food group, and I could seriously eat it every day and be happy. 

So when I heard that you can use rice water as a hair rinse, I was intrigued. Could something as simple as rice water really make my hair look and feel better?

Ever since I went natural, I have been trying all sorts of products and methods to improve the my hair health. I have tried numerous oils, deep conditioners, and even protein treatments.

But the one thing that has worked the best for me is a rice water rinse. Yes, you heard me right—rice water!

Traditionally, rice water is known for improving the skin surface, enhancing skin moisture content, and more interestingly stimulating hair growth.

Scientists have extensively investigated these claims in recent times and the results bring in a fascinating story for all of us.

What is a Rice Water Rinse?

Yao women who use a rice water hair rinse to grow their hair for centuries.

Rice water is the starchy water left over after rice is par-boiled or left to soak. When you rinse the rice, the starch will be released from the grains and left in the water.

This starchy liquid is what we call “rice water.”

It also contains antioxidants and squalene—an oil that helps keep hair healthy and shiny.

Using rice water as a hair rinse can help promote healthy hair growth, strengthen hair follicles, reduce frizziness, and make your dull hair look shinier and healthier.

Most people will wash their rice before cooking and will discard the milky water. However, it is that milky water that people are taking and applying it to work on their skin and hair.

The scientific research on this topic is quite limited but women in Asia have been using this method for centuries and we all know that modern technology is only just catching up to what Africans and Asians have known since the beginning of time.

Rice water is a natural product used for skin and hair by Chinese, Japanese and other South East Asian women for centuries.

Chemical Composition of Rice Water

Graphics revealing the effects of the inositol in a rice water hair rinse.

Rice water mainly contains starch, riboflavin, thiamine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, pantothenic acid, minerals, vitamin B6, vitamin E calcium, iron, folate, and antioxidants, such as phenolic and flavonoid compounds.

However, it must be emphasized that the composition varies significantly depending on the way the rice water is prepared.

An important component found in rice water is inositol. It is comparable to glucose, and just like glucose, it occurs naturally in plants and animals.

It protects biological cells from environmental, oxidative and thermal stress (dehydration) by controlling cell water balance.

One science reports suggests that Inositol has the capability to repair hair damage, and that it penetrates the hair fiber and forms chemical bonding with different chemical groups resulting in improving hair strength and overall health.

Inositol: A Key Component in Rice Water

Graphics revealing the effects of the inositol in a rice water hair rinse.

The key component of rice water, Inositol, is found in almost all plant and animal foods.

Inositol is a carbohydrate that repairs damaged hair. It is able to stay in the hair shaft even after rinsing and shampooing your hair.

This means that it will continue to act as a shield and protect your hair after the hair has been washed. It has been proven to improve the hair elasticity and reduce friction.

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.

There has only been one study conducted on this method. It focused solely on a very small sample size and found a casual relationship between beauty methods (Yu-Su-Ru, rinse water obtained from the washing of rice) and hair length.

It was a retrospective study and did not account for genetic or regional disparity. It also commented on the difficulty and side effects of using rice water alone, as it tends to promote flaking (possible from the high starch content).

However, it did note that extracts from the rice water may be useful when combined with other products and techniques.

According to the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, a research study was done on the effectiveness of rice water rinse. They have come to the conclusion that extracts from rice water were EFFECTIVE in maintaining hair health.

BENEFITS OF RICE WATER

A rice water rinse is a great way to improve the overall health of your hair.

This simple hair treatment can help to soften and detangle hair, while repairing damage and adding shine.

Rice water is also a natural cleanser and conditioner, making it a great choice for those with dry or frizzy hair.

Rice water for hair has so many benefits including:

  • Strengthens hair roots and hair cuticle
  • Manageability
  • Shine
  • Volume
  • Reduce surface friction
  • Penetrates damaged hair to repair it from the inside improved elasticity
  • Decreased surface tension
  • Improves overall condition of hair
  • Protects hair from future damage
  • Stimulates blood flow to the scalp, nourishing hair follicles

How to Make Rice Water for Hair

There are three popular ways to prepare a rice water for hair;

  • Boil rice water
  • Soaked rice water
  • Fermented rice water

All of these methods will use uncooked rice. Make sure to use organic white rice. It’s also best to rinse the rice several times before using to remove any dust or dirt.

All three preparation methods are beneficial. It’s best to use after washing your hair and before applying conditioner or deep conditioner.

I prefer to wash my hair first, then condition it (just a little bit to detangle my hair), followed by applying the rice water rinse.

Sometimes, I follow up with a protein free deep conditioner, or apply the deep conditioner right on top of the rice water rinse.

1. THE SOAK METHOD

To begin, place uncooked rice in a jar, cover completely with water and let the rice water sit for approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

To help release the nutrients, swirl it around a few times. What you want to look for is cloudy or milky water.

After allowing it to set awhile, swirl it around to check for the cloudiness.

Then strain the water out into a separate bowl.

2. FERMENTED METHOD

In this video, I’ve already made a batch of rice water and allowed it to ferment.

Fermented goods have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the body such as Kefir and Kombucha.

Fermented substances, according to a 2012 study, have higher amounts antioxidants.

Making fermented products at home can be tricky as it is very easy for them to become contaminated with other harmful bacteria and there is no real way to tell.

Fermented rice water is rich in antioxidants, pitera (promotes cell regeneration and keeps hair healthy and occurs during the fermentation process), minerals and vitamins.

It helps to lower the pH, which is similar to our hair’s pH and is slightly acidic, which means it restores the pH balance of your hair. A lower pH will help smooth down the hair’s cuticles.

I love the fermented rice water for all the reasons given.

Caution: I would not recommend this particular method for immunocompromised patients, lactating mothers and people with scalp conditions such as yeast or fungal infections.

Fermented rice water can be very potent so you may need to dilute it with water until it’s slightly cloudy.

You can store it in a jar or container at room temperature for approximately 24-48 hrs, depending on how warm it is.

If the room is a bit warm, it will speed up the fermentation process.

To decrease the fermentation time, leave the rice sitting in the water and strain it once it has fermented.

3. Boil method

If you are not keen to the sour smell of fermented rice, then try the boil method.

Due to the high temperature of boiling water, it aids in the extract of important minerals from rice.

Side note: If your hair is protein sensitive, I suggest diluting it with plain water before applying it to your hair because it’s very concentrated or use the soak method with added diluted water as well.

I make sure I use more than enough water to cover the rice so the water doesn’t boil all out.

  • Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, so the rice doesn’t stick.
  • Once boiling, turn the temperature down to medium, while continuing to stir.
  • Continue cooking for about a minute and then remove from heat.
  • Strain the rice water into a container and allow it to cool completely before using.
  • Once cooled, the rice water can be applied to your hair.

When done, the rice water will be concentrated and it’ll have a slight creamy texture to it.

After it has cooled, you can combine it in a clean bowl with essential oils such as tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint (love this one), and lavender which have antifungal and antibacterial properties.

You can store leftover rice water in the refrigerator for up to a week. Make sure to shake it well before each use.

Adjusting Rice Water Rinse for Low Porosity Hair

Low porosity hair means that the cuticle of the hair is tightly packed down and does not allow for moisture or other nutrients to enter the hair shaft easily.

If you have low porosity hair, it is recommended that you use as little rice water as possible. Make sure to rinse it out completely to avoid any build-up.

Because low porosity hair’s cuticle are tightly packed down, using a hair steamer can help lift the cuticles so that the treatment can penetrate, just like a deep conditioning treatment.

Note: do not put the rice water in the steamer as it may cause blockage due to the high starch content so it’s best to apply the treatment to your hair first and then steam. (trust me, I’ve tried this).

If you don’t have a steamer, you can also wear a shower cap covered with a towel (or thermal cap) to help lift the hair cuticles.

How Rice Water is Used

Most Chinese and Japanese women use the rice water as a cleanser. Typically, they leave it on the hair for 15-30 minutes and then rinse it out. This is done at least once or twice a week.

The majority of us will more than likely not notice any change with just one single application.

However, after a minimum of 1-2 months of continual and repeated applications, you will notice stronger, healthier hair, and more shiny hair.

Make sure to rinse out the rice water rinse thoroughly to prevent any adverse effects from the high sugar content.

For beginners, start with 5-10 mins. then increase time as needed.

Conclusion: I wouldn’t suggest using the rinse more than once a week. What I love about the rice water rinse is that it works, it’s affordable, it’s pretty darn easy, and I haven’t had to use additional hair treatments.

My hair feels stronger, it’s shiny after every use, and my hair has retained its length.

Has my hair grown faster than any other method like scalp massages? Not really. I think it’s roughly the same amount of time.

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.

There are many anecdotal reports of rice water’s amazing properties, but is there scientific evidence to support these claims?

Yes and no.

There are many studies that show the benefits of rice water on plants and other forms of life, but there is not much scientific evidence to support its use on human hair.

However, this does not mean that it doesn’t work – it just means that more research needs to be conducted.

Is rice water rinse a protein treatment?

Nope. I would not call it a protein treatment. It’s more of a moisturization and soothing treatment. It can also combat oxidative damage due to high anti-oxidant components, polyphenols.

Protein treatments are a type of treatment for your hair that improves texture, strength, and appearance by strengthening the outer structure.

It is temporary, so the results are short lived and the treatment has to be repeated several times for that effect to be maintained.

Companies usually use 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.

Arsenic in Rice – Should You Be Concerned?

There has been some recent discussion in natural hair circles about the possible concerns regarding arsenic levels in rice.

As I was, some people are wondering if it’s safe to use rice water as a hair rinse.

We’ll take a closer look at what arsenic is, where it comes from, and whether or not you need to be concerned about it in your rice water hair rinse.

A closer look

Reports of high arsenic uptake by paddy rice have raised concerns over the consumption of rice and the use of rice water.

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element found in most soils and foods.

But, how much arsenic is present in rice water? Or in other words, how much arsenic are we exposed to by using rice water?

These are very important questions and require some thorough research that is summarized right here for you.

Let’s take it slow and see what science says about arsenic and its toxicity.

What is Arsenic?

Arsenic is a chemical element just like hydrogen and carbon. It occurs in metal ores especially in combination with sulfur or copper.

Although arsenic-containing pesticides are mostly prohibited nowadays, some of the arsenic that was used decades ago is still present in soil today, and some businesses continue to deposit arsenic into soil and groundwater that ends up in our food supply.

It is highly poisonous and toxic, even at its smallest concentration level. A main source of arsenic is underground water.

In the last three to four decades, there has been an increase in arsenic levels in certain parts of the earth such as west Bengal (India), Bangladesh, Argentina, Chile, China, Japan and other neighboring South East Asian countries.

Also, the Southwestern US has seen increased arsenic levels.

West Bengal in India and Bangladesh is severely hit and suffering with this problem where significant portion of population is exposed to arsenic in drinking water.

How does arsenic end up in paddy rice?

Rice cultivation requires large amounts of water and in certain parts of the world, the water is contaminated containing dangerously high levels of arsenic.

So, the main source of arsenic in rice is the contaminated soil and water.

Arsenic and phosphorus are two elements that are quite similar. We all know that plants require phosphorus fertilizers to thrive. The oddity is, plants may absorb arsenic rather than phosphorus (by default).

This may appear strange, but plant roots are scientifically shown to absorb arsenic via phosphorus channels because they are similar in many respects.

The concentration gradient is one of the most significant reasons for arsenic absorption. There is a concentration gradient in which there are increasingly high amounts of arsenic in soil and water, resulting in greater arsenic absorption by plants.

Rice crops have been observed to absorb higher concentrations of arsenic.

Organic rice: Does it still have arsenic?

Despite the fact that organic rice is cultivated using all natural and organic resources and no synthetic fertilizer or pesticide is used, it may still contain arsenic.

As said earlier, the main source of arsenic uptake is from soil and water. Irrigation by contaminated soil and water would surely contaminate the crop.

Do we have arsenic in rice water?

The answer is, we don’t know yet. To our knowledge, there is no such published scientific report where specifically rice water was examined for its arsenic level.

However, there is plenty of literature available about the arsenic concentration in rice grain or cereals.

In recent reports, rice from China and USA has been found with high amounts of arsenic. This poses a significant danger to consumers.

Rice grown where arsenic-contaminated ground water and soil abound has a higher risk of being tainted.

As a result, there’s a good possibility of having arsenic in boiled and soaked rice water.

How can we control arsenic in rice water?

Metal capturing or detoxifying techniques can be employed for this purpose.

Certain chemicals known as chelants can be added into rice water to minimize the arsenic exposure and adsorption on hair fiber.

Adding a few grams of chelant, such as ethylenediamine tetracetic acid (EDTA), is an option.

An easy home remedy could be using citric acid as citrate anion can also capture metals.

Citric acid is abundantly present in lemon juice; simply squeeze few drops of fresh lemon into your freshly prepared rice water. This will also bring down rice water pH to slightly acidic level that will match with pH of hair fibers, which is 4.5/5.5.

Final Words

Rice water is a fantastic product that offers great results both to skin and hairs. It has been used for centuries and now science has proven its magic.

However, care must be taken in choosing rice variety. The key is knowing the origin of rice, “where are they cultivated?”

Also, we should use home-based remedy to chelate arsenic in an effort to minimize its adsorption on hair fibers.

FAQs

How often should I use rice water on my hair?

That’s up to you! Some people only use it once a week, while others use it once a month. I personally use it at least twice a month.

How soon will I see results?

It takes a while to see results, and you would have to use it consistently for a period of time. Think about the gym, you don’t go once and expect to see results after one workout. You have to be consistent.

Can rice water be used as last rinse?

Yes, absolutely!

Is rice water for hair safe for color treated hair?

Yes. It is safe for color treated hair because it doesn’t contain any chemicals that would strip the hair of its color.

Can you get protein overload using a rice water rinse?

No, you cannot get protein overload using rice water. In fact, rice water is a great source of plant-based proteins!

Is rice water beneficial for high porosity hair?

Yes! I have high porosity hair, and it’s color treated. As mentioned earlier, it has improved my hair tremendously.

What is the difference between rice water and rice milk?

Rice milk is made from grinding cooked rice with water.

The starchy water that remains after rice is par-boiled or left to soak up is known as rice water.

Does rice water make your hair grow fast and promote hair growth?

There is no evidence to suggest that rice water makes your hair grow faster. However, it can help keep your hair healthy and strong, which may help it grow faster.

As mentioned earlier, the Yao women have been using rice water in their hair for a very long time and they swear by it.

Do you use uncooked rice or can I use Uncle Ben’s rice?

Yes, you can use uncooked rice, which is the preferred way to do it. However, I would not suggest using Uncle Ben’s rice because it is enriched and processed.

Is rice water good every all hair type?

Rice water is good for every hair type, but it may work better for some than others. Those with low porosity hair should proceed with caution.

Is rice water safe for everyone?

People with rice allergies should not use rice water.


References

  1. Inamasu, S., Ikuyama, R., Fujisaki, Y. and Sugimoto, K.-I. (2010), Abstracts: The effect of rinse water obtained from the washing of rice (YU-SU-RU) as a hair treatment. International Journal of Cosmetic Science, 32: 392–393.
  2. http://www.spring8.or.jp/pdf/en/indu_appli/p10-11.pdf
  3. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-299-inositol.aspx?activeingredientid=299&activeingredientname=inositol
troubleshooting
Curl care

 We treat our blog with a curious, open-minded, and customer-focused attitude. We ask lots of questions about everything.

We think that people should take what information they need and leave what they don't. We suggest things we enjoy and believe are worth your attention.

Above all, we value your trust above anything else. We're so glad you’re here!

Hi,I'm Verna

product reviews
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