It’s hard not to come across a beauty trend if you’re spending your time on social media. Even though some are bizarrely new, others kind of get a reboot. Rice water for hair growth belongs to the latter category. It’s been around for more than a thousand years.
The history of this concoction dates back to the Heian Period (794-1185) of Japan, where the ladies of the court grew long, beautiful hair using rice water, according to a study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science. It was called the Yu-Su-Ru – the water obtained from washing the rice.
Since then, rice water has been a part of the beauty regimen of many Asians. One village in China is known as “Long Hair Village” because the women there have hair as long as Rapunzel’s. And their secret?
One they don’t cut it, but the other is that they wash their hair in rice water. So, could it be that rice water can actually do wonders for your hair? Let’s find out.
What Is In Rice Water?
Before getting to the composition of rice water, you should know that the rice water we’re talking about here is the cloudy mixture that you get on soaking or boiling rice in water.
According to a study published in Rice Science, the following is found in a rice grain:
- 12% water
- 75-80% starch (a carbohydrate)
- 7% proteins and amino acids
One carbohydrate found in rice is called inositol, which is popular for its potential hair strengthening effect on hair. Not just that, but another study published in the International Journal of Agriculture and Forestry showed that a grain of rice also contained the following minerals:
Rice grain is also rich in antioxidants like oryzanol, phenolic acid, anthocyanins, tocopherols, and flavonoids, among others. In addition, it has vitamins A, B, C and E.
So, all in all, it’s pretty packed with solid ingredients that are a part of many hair care products. But we’re talking about rice water here. So, let’s find out what that alone can do for your hair.
Does Rice Water for Hair Growth Actually Work?
Before we go into that, just keep in mind that there’s no scientific evidence on the benefits of rice water for hair growth. It’s only anecdotal evidence.
It Detangles the Hair
The study on the history of rice water for hair mentioned above, reports that rice water can reduce the surface friction of the hair, therefore, preventing tangles and knots. In addition, it increases the elasticity of the hair.
The thing about it is that these conclusions are drawn based on historical examples alone and not any clinical trials. In addition, the study was funded by a company launching a rice water product. Therefore, you can only guess how reliable it is.
Still, rice water does contain ingredients (like vitamins and minerals) that can help hydrate and soften the hair, thus keeping them knot-free.
It Strengthens the Hair
The amino acids in rice water can coat the shaft of the hair and help strengthen it. Vitamin E can also do the same. That’s one way they can do that.
However, rice water for hair growth also contains protein. So, it can provide ingredients necessary for the normal growth of hair.
It is also believed that the inositol in rice water repairs the damaged hair from within, thus supporting the growth of thicker, stronger hair.
It Keeps the Hair Smooth & Shiny
It keeps the hair smooth by (purportedly) reducing the surface friction between the strands and adds shine to it. By ensuring the strength of the hair, it also protects against frizz and breakage.
It Repairs Damage
Sure inositol does that, too, but the antioxidants in rice water also fight against the free radicals to deal with oxidative stress, thus preventing damage to the hair.
Oxidative stress is one reason for greying hair, so rice water may help in delaying the process. It is claimed that the hair of the Yao women does not grey until they’re well into their 80s. Maybe rice water is the reason for that.
It Helps With Hair Growth
There’s no evidence that rice water can affect the normal functioning of the hair growth cycle to allow for more hair growth.
Although one animal model study published in the Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin used rice bran extract (not rice water) on mice and observed that it allowed for hair growth. Specifically, linoleic acid and oryzanol in the extract played a role in that.
Another study published in Food & Nutrition Research showed that rice bran extract could prolong the duration for which hair stays in the anagen phase of the growth cycle, thus promoting growth. However, more evidence is needed to make any definitive claims.
It Can Reduce Dandruff
One lab study by Azyme Biosciences showed that there’s a bacteria in rice water that can inhibit the growth of Malassezia yeast, which is responsible for causing dandruff. So, with the use of rice water for your hair, you may notice a reduction in dandruff.
However, keep in mind that the ingredients in rice water can lead to a buildup which can cause more dandruff. So, you need to make sure that your scalp is clean.
Does Rice Water Work for Androgenetic Alopecia?
There’s no scientific evidence on this at all. Rice water does nothing to the hormones that are responsible for causing permanent hair loss. Therefore, it won’t reverse hair loss or help in their regrowth. You would need to undergo hair transplant surgery to permanently restore your hair.
It’s not just androgenetic alopecia, but rice water for hair growth does not work for permanent alopecias. Therefore, you should discuss other treatment options with your doctor.
Side Effects of Rice Water On Hair
Since it’s just water obtained from the soaking of rice and has no chemical added to it, rice water for hair growth is pretty safe. If you’re dealing with an active skin condition on your scalp, you should make sure to speak with your doctor before using it.
Many people ask how often to use rice water on hair safely. The answer to that is around once or twice a week should be good enough. If you’re overdoing it, you can damage your hair because of too much protein and too little hydration.
Is Rice Water Suitable for All Hair Types?
Rice water can cause dry scalp hair loss.
It’s people with curly hair who usually have dry hair. That’s because the oils from the follicles aren’t going all the way down, as happens in straight hair. The kinks come in the way, leaving the shafts dry. So, the more curl you have, the dryer your hair is going to be.
So, adding rice water to the mix might not be that good an idea because it can overdry the hair, leaving it brittle and weak, thus causing breakage. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use it, but it’s better if you only use it once a week and follow its application with a conditioner.
How to Make Rice Water For Hair Growth?
It’s easy enough to make. Keep in mind that there’s no restriction on the type of rice to use; you can use black, white, brown, or jasmine rice to prepare this. Just do the following:
- Take 1 cup of uncooked rice, rinse it to get out the impurities, and strain it.
- After that, take a bowl, put the rice in it and soak it in 2 cups of water for at least 30 minutes.
- Strain the rice water and put it into a spray bottle for easy application.
Another way to prepare rice water for hair growth is to boil the rice and scoop the water out on top of it and use that after cooling it. Yao women also add pomelo peels to this water and actually ferment the rice water for 1 day to allow the water to enrich in antioxidants.
How To Use Rice Water For Hair Growth?
There are a few ways by which you can use rice water for hair growth. Let’s take a look at these:
As a rinse – basically, you shampoo your hair first, wash it off, and then put rice water on the hair (either rinse it or spray it in). This is followed by massaging the rice water into the scalp for 15-20 minutes. After that, you wash it off and follow up with a conditioner.
Mix it in the shampoo – this is more suitable for people who have dry hair. Instead of directly applying the rice water for hair growth, you can mix it into your shampoo and benefit from it every time you use it.
Just spray it – many people fill up a bottle of rice water and spray it on their hair after they’ve washed it. It can have a volumizing effect by coating the hair, making it look denser.
There are many people who swear by the benefits of rice water for hair growth. And the ingredients present in rice water can improve the hair and scalp health, but there’s simply no evidence to back this up.
But because it’s pretty harmless, you can try it out to see if it works for you. Just keep in mind if you’re experiencing significant hair loss or have a skin condition, speak with your doctor first before trying out any new “internet trend.” That’s because you can end up doing more harm than good.
Reviewed and Approved by Dr. Hassan Soueid.