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The Truth About Rice Water Hair Rinse

February 8, 2023


Verna Meachum

The truth about rice water hair rinses revealted

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I am highly experienced in the beauty industry and specialize in writing for brands and websites that focus on curly hair care. Moreover, I actually have curly hair and have curly-haired children with varying hair textures. I am also surrounded by curly-haired friends, including curly hairstylists and curly-haired family members. You get the point :) I’m well-versed in the language and nuances of curly hair care, styling tips, and product recommendations.

Furthermore, I collaborate with my friend who has a Ph.D. in organic and inorganic chemistry and works as an R&D Chemist to help us navigate through the misinformation around curly hair care. He advises us on Hair Care Science to ensure we are well-informed.

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Last Updated on April 5, 2023 by Verna Meachum

Rice water hair rinse is still being widely accepted and the popularity of this trend refuses to diminish. In fact, more naturalists are getting on board with it due to its results!

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.

History: 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

Who doesn’t love rice? It’s one of my favorite food groups and I could eat it every single day with absolute satisfaction.

Thus, when I heard that you can use rice water as a hair rinse, my curiosity was piqued. Was something so simple really capable of making my hair look and feel better?

Since I decided to go natural, I have been experimenting with various products and techniques to improve the health of my hair. There are so many oils, deep conditioners, and protein treatments that I’ve tried over time.

But the most effective remedy for me has been the rice water hair rinse – yes, you read that correctly!

Rice water is known for improving the skin surface, enhancing skin moisture content, and even stimulating hair growth – but is this ancient remedy as successful as we’ve been told? Recent scientific research provides an intriguing answer.

What Is A Rice Water Rinse?

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

After parboiling or allowing the rice to soak, an incredibly beneficial starchy water remains; this precious liquid is what we call “Rice Water.” The starch from the grains is released during rinsing and deposited into the water, creating a nutrient-rich solution.

Packed with antioxidants and squalene—a beneficial oil that preserves the health of your hair, rice water can be used as a rinse to stimulate healthy hair growth, fortify delicate strands from root to tip, reduce frizz, and impart shine for lusterless locks.

Typically, people discard this liquid when washing rice, but they’re beginning to realize its benefits. Far more than simply draining the starchy water, many individuals are taking advantage of its milky hue and utilizing it for their skin and hair.

While the data is rather scarce on this topic, it has been a popular practice among Asian women for centuries. This only further showcases that Africans and Asians have long understood many secrets of life which modern-day technology still struggles to comprehend.

Chemical Composition of Rice Water

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

While rice water mainly contains starch, it is a nutrient-dense mixture packed with essential vitamins and minerals including riboflavin, thiamine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, pantothenic acid, B6, and vitamin E vitamin. Additionally, it also contains calcium, iron, and folate along with beneficial antioxidants like phenolic compounds and flavonoid compounds.

Nonetheless, it should be emphasized that the composition of this rinse varies tremendously depending on how the rice water is prepared.

Rice water contains inositol, a substance similar to glucose that is found naturally in plants and animals. Furthermore, it acts as an effective defense against environmental stressors like thermal stress by controlling cell water balance.

According to one scientific study, Inositol has a remarkable ability to repair hair damage. Not only does it penetrate the cuticle of each strand, but also forms chemical bonds with different compounds which helps strengthen your hair and promote overall health.

Inositol: A Key Component in Rice Water

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

Inositol, the essential element of rice water, is present in virtually all plant and animal foods. This carbohydrate not only repairs broken hair but also preserves it after rinsing or shampooing.

In addition to protecting your hair from further damage, Inositol has been demonstrated to enhance its elasticity while reducing friction between strands. With consistent use of this natural remedy comes a multitude of benefits for your mane!

Although the protein content of rice is only around 2-3%, these proteins are incredibly essential for metabolic and cell structure processes, thus providing some benefit even though it may be questionable.

The only research done about this method was conducted with a limited number of participants, which concluded that there is a causal relationship between beauty techniques (Yu-Su-Ru, rinse water obtained from the washing of rice) and hair length.

This retrospective study observed the possible difficulties and side effects of exclusively depending on rice water such as flaking due to its elevated starch content, without taking into account genetic or regional variations.

Despite this, it suggested that extracts from the rice water may be beneficial when incorporated with other products and methods.

A study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science has affirmed that rice water extract can be an extremely effective solution for improving and sustaining hair health. The results demonstrate a remarkable success rate, solidifying its standing as one of the most sought-after remedies in this area.

Benefits Of Rice Water

A rice water hair rinse is a great way to improve the overall health of your hair. This simple hair treatment can help soften and detangle your 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 the overall condition of hair.
  • Protects hair from future damage.
  • Stimulates blood flow to the scalp, nourishing hair follicles.

How To Make A Rice Water Hair Rinse

There are three widely-used techniques for preparing rice water rinse to maximize the benefits of your hair care routine.

  • Soaked Rice Water
  • Fermented Rice Water
  • Boil Rice Water

All of these methods will use uncooked rice. Make sure to use organic white rice. Give your grains a few rinses to remove dust and dirt before getting started.

After washing your hair, apply one of these techniques, then finish with conditioner or deep conditioning for hydration that lasts.

First I wash my hair, then apply a small amount of conditioner to detangle it before applying the rice water rinse.

On occasion, I will treat my hair with a protein-free deep conditioning treatment after using rice water as a rinse. Alternatively, I may apply the conditioner directly on top of the rice water mixture.

1. Soak Method

  • Start the process by filling a jar with raw rice and completely submerging it in water.
  • Let the mixture sit for around 30-40 minutes to draw out all of its vital nutrients.
  • Then, give it a few swirls to get the water to look cloudy or milky before straining it into a bowl.

2. Fermented Method

As you can see in the video below, I’ve already made a batch of fermented rice water. Goods like Kefir and Kombucha that have been allowed to ferment are known for their beneficial effects on the body. Harnessing these same benefits through this method will help promote your overall health and well-being.

According to a 2012 study, fermented substances boast significantly higher concentrations of antioxidants than non-fermented products. However, crafting them at home can be tricky as contamination with other harmful bacteria is always a risk and often hard to detect.

Through the fermentation process, Pitera is produced; a compound that naturally encourages cell regeneration and helps to keep hair healthy. Additionally, fermented rice water provides an abundant source of antioxidants and vitamins – perfect for restoring luster in your locks!

Fermented rice water is simply amazing. Not only does it adjust the pH of your hair to be similar to its own, but because it is slightly acidic, this helps restore the balance allowing for smoother cuticles. In other words, I couldn’t adore fermented rice water more!

Take precaution: Those who suffer from an immunosuppressed state, lactating mothers, and people with scalp conditions such as yeast or fungal infections should not utilize this method. Fermented rice water can be quite potent – consider diluting it with water until it is slightly cloudy to reduce the strength of the solution.

If you want to store the rice for 24-48 hrs, depending on its environment temperature, place it in a jar or container at room temperature.

Keep in mind that if the space is warmer than usual, this will speed up fermentation. To reduce fermenting time even more, leave your rice soaking and strain when ready.

The video below showcases my remarkable results after I used the fermented rice water treatment – in glorious slo-mo!

These are the exact steps that I took to produce these results:

  • Before I hopped in the shower, I pre-treated my hair with Righteous Roots Oils and allowed it to sit overnight for maximum effectiveness.
  • The next morning, I used the Shea Moisture JBCO Shampoo to cleanse and then followed with Bounce Curl Conditioner (protein-free) to help detangle my hair.
  • Following detangling, I saturated my hair with the fermented rice water rinse and combed through it using a wide-toothed comb. Subsequently, I lightly massaged the rinse in my hair for a few minutes, making sure to get each strand. I squeezed some of the excess rice water rinse out.
  • Subsequently, I applied the As I Am Hydration Elation deep conditioner (protein-free) on my hair which was already saturated with the rice water rinse, and used a comb for even distribution.
  • I let it sit for approximately 15 minutes.
  • After that, rinse it all out completely.
  • Styled with Curls Blueberry Bliss leave in conditioner and Bounce Curl gel.
  • To finish off, I opted to let my hair air-dry – a practice that is favored by me.
  • Side Note: To accompany the rice rinse, I exclusively use a protein-free deep conditioner. See below for an example of the type of products have yielded positive results when used with this process – Please note that Soultanicals Marula-Muru is NOT a deep conditioner. Without even meaning to, I tried it out once and the results were truly astounding–I couldn’t believe how well it worked like a charm!
  • Products below are: Soultanicals Marula-Muru, As I Am Hydration Elation, Deva Curl Melt into Moisture, Red Rawkyn.

3. Boil Method

Here’s how I do the boil method.

If the sourness of fermented rice doesn’t entice you, then boiling is a great alternative. The heat from the water helps extract beneficial minerals in rice that can be enjoyed without any unpleasant odors.

Pay attention—if you are keen on your hair’s protein sensitivity, dilute the solution with water before applying it. Given its intensity and potency, this is highly recommended; alternatively, use the “soak method” along with the appropriate amount of added water for maximum efficacy!

I am sure to use an abundant amount of water when cooking rice so that I don’t have to worry about it boiling off.

  • Bring to a boil, stirring regularly to ensure the rice does not stick to the bottom of your pot.
  • After the water reaches a rolling boil, lower the heat to medium and continue stirring.
  • Cook for an additional minute, then take the pan off of the burner.
  • Carefully strain the rice water into a container and let it cool off until it reaches room temperature before you use it.
  • 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 anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

Once finished, the rice water will be concentrated and possess a slightly creamy consistency. After allowing it to cool, you can combine it with essential oils – such as peppermint (a personal favorite!), tea tree, eucalyptus, and lavender – in a clean bowl for added anti-fungal and antibacterial properties.

You can store the remaining rice water in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Don’t forget to vigorously shake it before each use for maximum freshness!

Adjusting Rice Water Rinse for Low Porosity Hair

Low porosity hair has tightly packed cuticles

If your hair has low porosity, it means that its cuticle layer is closely knit and cannot quickly absorb moisture or other chemicals easily.

To maintain the integrity of your low-porosity hair, limit how much rice water you use and be sure to rinse it out thoroughly. Leaving any residue behind could cause product build-up that can leave your hair feeling like straw.

A great way to ensure your treatments penetrate is by using a hair steamer which helps lift these protective layers, much like how deep conditioning would work.

Please do not put the rice water in the steamer. The starch content is too high, which may clog up your device – a lesson I learned from experience! Instead, apply it to your hair first and then steam it for optimal results.

If you don’t own a steamer, put on a shower cap layered with a towel (or thermal cap) to successfully raise your hair cuticles.

How Rice Water is Used

Traditional Chinese and Japanese women rely on the cleansing power of rice water to deeply cleanse their hair. To get maximum benefits, they apply it for 15-30 minutes before rinsing out with fresh water – at least once or twice a week.

A one-time use of this product may not produce noticeable results right away. However, after just 1-2 months of repeated and consistent application, you’ll start to see tangible improvements in your hair’s strength and luster—don’t give up!

To avoid any adverse reactions from the high sugar content, make sure to completely rinse out your rice water after use.

For those just starting out with this method, begin by rinsing for 5-10 minutes and gradually increase the time as necessary.

Ultimately, I advise you to use the rice water rinse no more than once a week. What’s great about this remedy is that it works, and doesn’t come with any hefty price tag or excruciating preparation. Plus, there hasn’t been any need for me to apply additional hair treatments since using the solution – even better!

After every use, my hair looks and feels healthier than ever before. It is shiny and strong! While it hasn’t grown faster than with scalp massages or other treatments, the results appear to be roughly similar in terms of time taken for growth.

Is Rice Water a Game Changer?

If you delve into the depths of the Internet, you will find that rice water is a popular hair growth remedy and those who’ve used it have seen stunning results. Despite this, there are still no conclusive answers as to why exactly such effects occur.

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

Yes and no.

Extensive research has demonstrated the advantages of rice water for plants and other living organisms, yet there is minimal scientific proof to back up its use on human tresses.

Nevertheless, this does not indicate that it is ineffective – instead, further research must be conducted to determine its effectiveness.

Is rice water rinse a protein treatment?

No! I would not call it a protein treatment. This product is more of a moisturization and soothing treatment that can fight oxidative damage from its potent 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 often rely on hydrolyzed proteins derived from plants as the foundation of these treatments, due to their size and ability to penetrate the hair’s cuticle.

Without breaking down into smaller molecules, proteins are too large for effective absorption by the follicles. Thus, by boiling the protein in a strong acid, it is broken down into smaller amino acids that make their way to the hair shaft and fill any crevices or gaps caused by damage.

Arsenic in Rice – Should You Be Concerned?

Recently, many in the natural hair community have been questioning whether it is safe to use rice water as a rinse due to possible arsenic levels found in some types of rice.

Consequently, this has caused much deliberation among those who may potentially be affected by such contamination.

Let’s dive deeper into what arsenic is, where it originates from, and if you should be worried about the amount of it in your rice water hair rinse.

Rice paddy field. The Truth About Rice Water Hair Rinse

There is growing alarm among consumers about the possible toxicity of arsenic present in paddy rice, which can be consumed or used as water.

Although it may come as a surprise to many, arsenic is naturally found within virtually all soils and foods – thus making this issue an even greater cause for concern.

But, what magnitude of arsenic exists in the harvested water from boiling rice? Or, more simply put, how much arsenic do we unintentionally consume when utilizing boiled rice water?

Asking these critical questions and finding the right answers can be a time-consuming process. To save you the hard work, we have done all of the research for you and provided our findings on arsenic toxicity below.

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

What is Arsenic?

Arsenic symbol in rice. The Truth About Rice Water Hair Rinse.

Just like hydrogen and carbon, Arsenic is a chemical element found in nature. It commonly combines with sulfur or copper to form metal ores which are essential for various industries.

Even though arsenic-based pesticides are mostly outlawed today, many of us still ingest this substance as a result of decades-old deposits lingering in our soil and groundwater.

Furthermore, some companies continue to be guilty perpetrators by introducing greater amounts of this hazardous chemical into these areas which eventually contaminates 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.

Furthermore, the Southwestern United States has experienced a rise in arsenic. West Bengal and Bangladesh are especially hard-hit by this issue; there, large segments of people have been exposed to arsenic-tainted water.

How does arsenic end up in paddy rice?

Growing rice necessitates copious volumes of water, which in certain regions is contaminated by dangerously elevated levels of arsenic. Consequently, the primary cause of arsenic accumulation in rice is 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).

Believe it or not, scientific evidence has revealed that plant roots can take up arsenic through phosphorus channels as the two share many similarities.

Arsenic absorption is largely attributed to the concentration gradient present in soil and water, where increasingly higher concentrations of arsenic exist. As this gradient increases, plants are more likely to absorb greater levels of arsenic from their surroundings.

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

Organic rice: Does it still have arsenic?

Image of organic rice.

Even though 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 grains or cereals.

In recent reports, rice from China and USA has been found with high amounts of arsenic, however, it is still underestimated. 

Rice grown where arsenic-contaminated groundwater 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?

To reduce arsenic exposure, metal-capturing and detoxifying methods can be applied. The use of chelants, which are certain types of chemicals, in rice water has been proven to decrease the adsorption of hair fibers.

Adding a few grams of chelant, such as ethylenediamine tetraacetic 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 a few drops of fresh lemon into your freshly prepared rice water. This will also bring down rice water’s pH to a slightly acidic level that will match the pH of hair fibers, which is 4.5/5.5.

Final Words

Rice water is a fantastic product that offers great results both to the skin and hair. 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 a home-based remedy to chelate arsenic to minimize its adsorption on hair fibers.


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 use it at least twice a month.

How soon will I see results?

To experience its rewards, you must use it consistently and with patience. Similar to the gym, a single session won’t miraculously change your outcomes; rather continued effort is necessary for results. The same applies here – be consistent over time to witness success!

Can rice water be used as the 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. 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 previously stated, my hair has experienced a remarkable transformation due to this product.

What is the difference between rice water and rice milk?

Rice milk is made by grinding cooked rice with water. The starchy water that remains after the rice is parboiled or left to soak up is known as rice water.

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

While there’s no scientific evidence to back the claim that rice water will make your hair grow faster, it can undoubtedly promote healthier and stronger tresses.

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?

Certainly, using uncooked rice is your best option when it comes to the task at hand. But keep in mind that Uncle Ben’s processed and enriched rice should be avoided.

Is rice water good every all hair type?

Rice water is an excellent treatment for any hair type, yet those with low porosity should use extra caution when utilizing it.

Is rice water safe for everyone?

Individuals with rice allergies should not use a rice water hair rinse.


  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.

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