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How Rice Water Hair Rinse Transformed My Curly Hair

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Rice water rinses have steadily gained a reputation in holistic hair care, captivating curly hair naturalists. It’s more than a fleeting trend; it’s a natural remedy with deep historical roots.

Rich in nutrients, a rice water rinse can invigorate curly hair by promoting healthy hair growth and adding strength. Curious about safety concerns like arsenic? We’ll cover that ahead.

Conducted in collaboration with a hair scientist with a PhD in Chemistry, this article aims to unravel the science behind this age-old practice. Our guide will walk you through what a rice water rinse is, how to prepare it, and its safety implications.

The Science and Tradition Behind Rice Water Rinse for Curly Hair

Rice isn’t just a staple food; it’s also a time-tested beauty regimen.1 If you’ve embarked on a natural hair journey, you’ve likely experimented with a myriad of oils, conditioners, and treatments. Yet, among these solutions, rice water rinses stand out as an exceptional, science-backed remedy for curly hair.

Is rice water truly the miraculous elixir it’s claimed to be? Cutting-edge research says yes, and here’s why.

Unlocking the Potential of Rice Water

Here are my results after a rice water rinse.

When rice is soaked or parboiled, the starchy water left behind is far from ordinary; it’s a nutrient-dense concoction that we commonly refer to as “rice water.” Rich in antioxidants, minerals, and the organic compound squalene, this solution offers a plethora of hair benefits.2,3,4

A rice water rinse can not only stimulate robust hair growth but also fortify your curly strands from root to tip, minimize frizz, and add a natural shine that other products may fail to achieve.

Reclaiming Ancient Wisdom

The practice of using rice water isn’t new; it’s a beauty ritual that Asian and African communities have cherished for centuries. This reveals an essential truth: sometimes ancestral knowledge holds insights that contemporary research is only beginning to uncover.1

So the next time you’re washing rice, consider setting aside the milky water. Far from waste, this liquid is a treasure trove of benefits waiting to uplift your hair and skin.

The Time-Honored Tradition of Yao Women: A Case Study in Hair Excellence

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

While rice water has enjoyed a surge in popularity, it’s essential to acknowledge its roots in Asian beauty traditions, specifically among the Yao women of Huangluo Village in China. This village isn’t just any locale; it’s renowned as the “Long Hair Village” and holds a Guinness World Record to prove it.

These Yao women have astonishingly long, floor-length hair, a trait that has sparked curiosity and even pilgrimages from women worldwide eager to uncover their hair care secrets. The linchpin of their regimen? Fermented rice water. They credit this potent rinse as the reason behind their lustrous, long, and remarkably gray-free hair.5

Stay tuned as we dive deeper into the benefits of fermenting rice water in upcoming sections, exploring why this age-old recipe could be a game-changer for your hair care routine.

The Multifaceted Benefits of Rice Water for Hair

Image of rice water in a bowl.

Far from just a traditional remedy, rice water offers a scientifically-backed bouquet of advantages that cater to various hair needs, from softening strands to adding a natural gleam.

A Dynamic Duo: Cleanser and Conditioner

One of the unique selling points of rice water is its dual functionality. It serves as both a gentle cleanser and a deep conditioner—making it particularly useful for those grappling with dry or frizzy hair.

A Spectrum of Hair Benefits

Let’s delve deeper into the specific advantages:

  • Root and Cuticle Fortification: The nutrient-rich profile of rice water reinforces hair roots and fortifies cuticles, building a robust defense line against breakage.
  • Effortless Manageability: It eases tangles, making your hair more manageable and less prone to breakage during combing or styling.
  • Natural Luster: The rinse imparts a natural shine to your hair, making it look healthy and full of life.
  • Added Volume: If you have limp hair, you’ll appreciate the volumizing effect that comes with rice water treatment.
  • Friction Reduction: The rinse modifies the surface of hair strands, reducing friction and preventing knots and tangles.
  • Deep Repair: Rice water penetrates into the damaged areas of the hair shaft, offering intensive repair from the inside out, thereby improving elasticity.
  • Decreased Surface Tension: This property makes rice water an ideal candidate for enhancing moisture retention in hair strands.
  • Overall Hair Health: Consistent use brings about a noticeable improvement in your hair’s texture and overall condition.
  • Future-Proofing Your Hair: The antioxidants and essential nutrients protect your hair against environmental stressors and future damage.
  • Stimulating Scalp Health: Rice water is believed to invigorate blood circulation to the scalp, thereby nourishing hair follicles and promoting growth.

By incorporating rice water into your hair care regimen, you’re not merely following a trend but embracing a time-tested, research-backed method for achieving luscious, resilient hair.1,5,6,7,8

Crafting the Perfect Rice Water Rinse: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re keen to try out the powerful effects of a rice water rinse, it’s crucial to understand the various methods to prepare it.3,5,9

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

Each approach offers unique benefits for your hair, and all start with the same simple ingredient: uncooked organic white rice. Before diving in, remember to rinse the rice to remove any lingering dust and dirt.

Side Note: Understanding Your Hair’s Reaction to the Rinses

Before diving into the preparation, it’s essential to consider your hair’s reaction to the hair rinses. If you’re concerned about the strength of the rice water, you have two options:

  1. Dilute the boiled rice water with additional water before applying.
  2. Use the “Soaking Method,” adjusting the water content for a milder solution.
  3. To avoid any adverse reactions from the high starch content, make sure to completely rinse out your hair after application.

Preparation and Application Steps

Before applying the rice water treatment, you want to make sure your hair is cleansed and detangled, as there are no conditioning agents or detangling properties in the rinse.

For additional conditioning, I sometimes follow up with a protein-free deep conditioner after the rice water application or even layer the conditioner on top of the rinse.

Products that have worked for me personally include As I Am Classic Hydration Elation, DevaCurl Heaven in Hair Moisturizing Deep Conditioner, and DevaCurl Melt Into Moisture Treatment Hair Mask (heads up, while this product does contain hydrolyzed soy protein, the amount is quite minimal. In my experience, it didn’t have any adverse effects on my hair).

For optimal results, it’s recommended to leave the rice water in your hair for 15 to 30 minutes before rinsing it out with fresh water. This treatment is most effective when done at least once or twice a week for high-porosity hair.

While a single application may not yield immediate results, consistent use over 1 to 2 months will likely lead to noticeable improvements in your hair’s strength and shine. Persistence is key!

If you’re new to this treatment, start by applying the rice water for a shorter duration of 5 to 10 minutes. You can gradually extend the application time as your hair becomes accustomed to the treatment.

Let’s get into the specific methods:

Soaking Method

  1. Take a jar and fill it with about 1 cup of uncooked rice, covering the grains completely with approximately 2 cups of water.
  2. Allow it to sit for about 30-40 minutes to fully leach out the nutrients.
  3. Stir the mixture until the water turns milky, then strain it into a separate container.

Fermented Method

Fermentation adds an extra layer of benefits to rice water, enhancing its already nutrient-rich profile. Fermented products, like Kefir and Kombucha, are high in antioxidants.10 Likewise, fermented rice water contains Pitera, a compound that naturally boosts cell regeneration and keeps your hair vibrant.9

Caution: This potent concoction may not be suitable for everyone. Those with immunosuppression, lactating mothers, or individuals with certain scalp conditions should avoid this method or opt for a diluted version.

  1. Follow the same steps as the ‘Soak Method’ but allow the water to sit for 24-48 hours at room temperature for fermentation.
  2. If you’re in a warmer environment, this process will expedite.

The Boiling Method

If the tangy aroma of fermented rice isn’t your cup of tea, boiling offers a delightful alternative. This process allows you to extract a wealth of minerals without the pungent smell commonly associated with fermentation.

Preparation Steps

  1. Water-to-Rice Ratio: Start with 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water. Always use a generous amount of water when cooking the rice to avoid the risk of it boiling away.
  2. Bring to a Boil: Constantly stir the mixture to prevent the rice from sticking to the pot’s bottom.
  3. Medium Heat: Once it reaches a rolling boil, lower the temperature and maintain the boil, stirring continually for an additional minute.
  4. Straining: Remove the pot from the heat and carefully strain the liquid into a container.
  5. Cooling Period: Allow the strained liquid to cool to room temperature before applying it to your hair.

Enhancing the Rice Water

The boiled rice water will have a concentrated and slightly creamy texture once cooled. For additional benefits, consider adding essential oils to the mix. Oils like peppermint, tea tree, eucalyptus, and lavender have proven anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. Simply mix them in a clean bowl with the cooled rice water.

Storage and Usage

The finished product can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Remember to shake the container vigorously before each use to ensure maximum potency and freshness.

By following these steps, you’ll create a rice water rinse that is not only beneficial but also pleasant to the senses. Whether you opt for this or the fermented method, incorporating rice water into your hair care routine is a step toward healthier hair.

Here’s how I do the boil method.

Customizing Rice Water Rinse for Low-Porosity Hair

Low porosity hair has tightly packed cuticles

If you have low-porosity hair, the cuticle layers of your strands are tightly packed, making it challenging for moisture and other treatments to penetrate.11,12 Adjusting the rice water rinse application to suit this hair type is crucial for optimum benefits.

Moderation is Key

To preserve the health and integrity of your low-porosity hair, exercise restraint in the quantity of rice water used. A high concentration can lead to unwanted residue, causing product build-up and rendering your hair straw-like.

Effective Penetration Techniques

  • Hair Steaming: One of the most effective ways to make sure the rice water penetrates your hair is by using a steamer. The steamer helps to lift the protective cuticle layers, facilitating better absorption—much like what happens during deep conditioning.13 Caution: Never put rice water directly into the steamer. The high starch content can clog the machine, a lesson learned the hard way. Apply rice water to your hair first, and then proceed with the steaming for best results.
  • DIY Heat Treatment: If a hair steamer isn’t within your reach, fret not. A shower cap layered with a towel or thermal cap can also help raise the cuticles of your low-porosity hair. Simply apply the rice water, then put on the cap and towel for a DIY heat treatment.

By following these specialized techniques, you ensure that your low-porosity hair receives all the nourishing benefits that rice water has to offer, without the unwanted side effects of product build-up.

My Rice Water Hair Rinse Results

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:

A Step-by-Step Guide to My Enhanced Hair Care Routine with Fermented Rice Water

Embarking on a hair care journey can be an intricate process, and I’ve developed a regimen that combines the best products and methods for superior results. Here’s a detailed walkthrough:

Pre-Shower Oil Treatment

Before stepping into the shower, I applied Righteous Roots Rx Oil to my hair as a pre-treatment and left it on overnight to maximize its nourishing effects.

Cleansing and Detangling

The following morning, I washed my hair using Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthen and Restore Shampoo. To make the detangling process easier, I then applied Bounce Curl Super Smooth Cream Conditioner, which is free from proteins.

Applying Fermented Rice Water

After detangling, I generously applied fermented rice water to my hair. Using a wide-tooth comb, I ensured the rinse was evenly distributed throughout my curls. I also spent a few extra minutes massaging the rinse into my hair to fully coat each strand before squeezing out the excess liquid.

Deep Conditioning for Enhanced Hydration

Next, I applied As I Am Classic Hydration Elation, a protein-free deep conditioner, over the pre-existing layer of rice water. For even coverage, I used a comb to distribute the conditioner through my hair.

Waiting Period

I allowed the deep conditioner to sit in my hair for roughly 15 minutes to fully penetrate the strands.

Thorough Rinse and Styling

After the waiting period, I rinsed out all products completely. I styled my hair using Curls Blueberry Bliss Reparative Leave-In Conditioner and Bounce Curl Light Hold Creme Gel for that extra hold and shine.

Air-Drying to Finish

I prefer air-drying my hair as a final step, finding that it enhances the texture and health of my hair.

Additional Tips

For those using this rice water rinse technique, I highly recommend pairing it with a protein-free deep conditioner for the best results. While Soultanicals Marula-Muru Moisture Guru isn’t technically a deep conditioner, I inadvertently used it once and was amazed by the extraordinary results it delivered.

By following this regimen, I’ve found that my hair looks and feels healthier, stronger, and more vibrant. Feel free to adjust these steps based on your own hair’s unique needs.

Now that we’ve delved into the practical application of this ancient beauty regimen, it’s worth understanding why rice water is so effective. Let’s take a closer look at the chemical composition of rice water and how its unique properties benefit hair health.

Chemical Composition of Rice Water

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

Understanding the Potent Components in Rice Water

Rice water is a nutrient-dense elixir teeming with essential vitamins and minerals such as riboflavin, thiamine, and vitamin E, along with vital antioxidants like phenolic compounds.2,14 Yet, what makes it especially beneficial for hair health is the presence of Inositol—a carbohydrate molecule that acts as a shield against environmental stressors by regulating cellular water balance.15

The Hair-Repairing Magic of Inositol

Graphics revealing the effects of the inositol in a rice water hair rinse.
Photo credit: Spring 8

According to scientific research, Inositol excels at repairing damaged hair. It not only penetrates each hair strand but also forms durable bonds with various compounds, boosting hair strength and health.16 Additionally, it enhances your hair’s elasticity and minimizes friction between strands.1 The upshot? Consistent use of rice water offers a treasure trove of benefits for your hair.

The Role of Protein and Caveats to Consider

Although rice contains only about 2-3% protein, these proteins play a crucial role in cellular processes, offering some level of benefit for hair care.17,18 However, it’s essential to consider the preparation method of your rice water, as it significantly impacts its composition and efficacy.

What the Research Says

While the study on rice water’s benefits for hair health is somewhat limited, studies do indicate promising results. For example, a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Science affirms rice water’s effectiveness in improving hair health.1

However, it’s essential to note that some people might experience side effects like flaking due to rice water’s high starch content.1 Combining rice water with other products and methods could offer a more balanced approach to hair care.

By understanding the chemical composition of rice water and its research-backed benefits, you can make an informed decision on how to incorporate this natural remedy into your hair care routine.

Is Arsenic in Rice Water a Cause for Concern?

The natural hair community has been buzzing about the potential risks of using rice water rinses due to the presence of arsenic in some rice varieties.19 So, let’s cut through the noise and examine the facts about arsenic, its origins, and its relevance to your rice water hair treatment.

What is Arsenic?

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

Arsenic is a natural element found in soil, water, and even in the foods we eat. While its presence is common, it’s important to note that arsenic is highly toxic, even in minimal concentrations.20 Over the past few decades, regions like West Bengal, Bangladesh, and the Southwestern United States have seen a rise in arsenic levels in soil and water, which inevitably affects the food supply.21

How Does Arsenic End Up in Rice?

Rice plants require a large amount of water for growth, and if this water is contaminated with arsenic, the crop will likely absorb it. Interestingly, rice plants can absorb arsenic through the same channels they use to take in phosphorus—a nutrient they need to grow.22,23 Therefore, arsenic concentration in rice largely depends on the soil and water used for cultivation.

Is Organic Rice Arsenic-Free?

You might assume that organic rice, which is grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, would be free from arsenic. However, arsenic uptake mainly comes from soil and water. So even organic rice can contain arsenic if it’s irrigated with contaminated water.24,25

Arsenic Levels in Rice Water: What We Know

Rice paddy field. The Truth About Rice Water Hair Rinse

There is a published study specifically examining arsenic levels in rice water. Rice grown in regions with arsenic-contaminated water and soil, such as China and the USA, tends to have higher arsenic levels, which suggests that rice water might also contain this toxic element.

How to Reduce Arsenic Exposure

If you’re concerned about arsenic in your rice water rinse, there are detoxifying methods you can employ. Adding chelants like ethylenediamine tetra acetate (EDTA) has been proven to reduce arsenic absorption.26,27 A simpler home remedy involves adding a few drops of lemon juice, rich in citric acid, to your rice water.28 This not only captures metals but also adjusts the pH of the rice water to better match the natural pH of your hair, which is 4.5/5.5.29

By understanding the relationship between arsenic and rice, you can make informed decisions about incorporating rice water into your hair care routine.


Is Rice Water Really Effective for Hair Growth?

The internet is buzzing with testimonials about the incredible results of using rice water for hair growth. However, the scientific evidence to support these claims is still inconclusive.18 While extensive research shows rice water’s benefits for plants and other organisms, there is limited data on its impact on human hair. This doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ineffective, but further studies are needed to confirm its benefits.

Is Rice Water a Protein Treatment for Hair?

Rice water should not be considered a protein treatment. It’s primarily a moisturizing and soothing agent that can combat oxidative damage thanks to its rich polyphenols.

In contrast, protein treatments aim to enhance hair texture, strength, and appearance by reinforcing the hair’s outer structure. These effects are temporary, requiring repeated applications to maintain results. Such treatments usually employ hydrolyzed plant proteins, which are small enough to penetrate the hair cuticle effectively.

To prepare these proteins for optimal absorption, they are often broken down into smaller amino acids through boiling in a strong acid. These amino acids then fill in any gaps or crevices in the hair shaft caused by damage.

How Often Should You Use Rice Water on Your Hair?

The frequency of using rice water for your hair really depends on your personal preference and hair needs. Some individuals apply it weekly, whereas others find that a monthly treatment suffices. Personally, I opt for bi-monthly applications.

When Can You Expect to See Results from Using Rice Water?

Just like consistent exercise is essential for seeing physical improvements, regular and sustained use of rice water is key to noticing its benefits for your hair. One-time use is unlikely to bring about instant changes. Stay committed to the regimen, and over time, you’re likely to see the positive effects.

Can Rice Water be Used as the Final Rinse?

Yes, absolutely!

Is Rice Water Safe for Color-Treated Hair?

Absolutely. Rice water is free from chemicals that might fade or alter your hair color, making it a safe option for those with color-treated hair.

Can Rice Water Cause Protein Overload?

No, using rice water won’t lead to protein overload. While it does contain plant-based proteins, the concentrations are not high enough to cause an imbalance in your hair’s protein levels.

Is Rice Water Good for High-Porosity Hair?

Absolutely, rice water can be especially beneficial for high-porosity hair. Speaking from personal experience with both high-porosity and color-treated hair, I’ve seen significant improvements since incorporating this treatment into my routine.

What’s the Difference Between Rice Water and Rice Milk?

Rice water is the starchy liquid obtained from either parboiling rice or soaking it, while rice milk is created by blending cooked rice with water.

Does Rice Water Make your Hair Grow Fast and Promote Hair Growth?

Though scientific evidence is lacking to confirm that rice water accelerates hair growth, it is widely recognized for enhancing hair health and strength.1 The Yao women, who have long used rice water for their hair, vouch for its benefits.

Can I Use Uncle Ben’s Rice or Should It Be Uncooked Rice?

For optimal results, it’s recommended to use uncooked rice. Processed and enriched options like Uncle Ben’s rice are not advised for this purpose.

Is Rice Water Suitable for All Hair Types?

Rice water is generally beneficial for various hair types, but if you have low porosity hair, exercise extra caution when using it.

Is Rice Water Safe for Everyone?

Rice water is generally safe for use, except for those with rice allergies, who should avoid using it as a hair rinse.

Does a Rice Water Rinse Help Prevent Hair Loss?

It is often touted for its potential to strengthen hair and reduce breakage, which can indirectly help in preventing hair loss. However, it’s important to note that there is no scientific evidence to conclusively support the efficacy of rice water for preventing hair loss. Therefore, if you are experiencing significant hair loss, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for a comprehensive treatment approach.


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  2. Welna M, Szymczycha-Madeja A, Pohl P. Rice Water-More a Source of Nutrition Elements or Toxic Arsenic? Multi-Element Analysis of Home-Made (Natural) Rice Water and Commercialized Rice-Based Products Using (HG)-ICP OES. Processes. 2023;11(9):2674. ↩︎
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I’m just a girl who transformed her severely damaged hair into healthy hair. I adore the simplicity of a simple hair care routine, the richness of diverse textures, and the joy of sharing my journey from the comfort of my space.

My mission? To empower others with the tools to restore, and maintain healthy hair, and celebrate the hair they were born with!

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