Rice water for glossy hair – is there truth to it or is it just another TikTok trend?
Uncovering the facts behind the viral beauty hack that has everyone, including celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Cardi B, rinsing their hair in rice water.
Rice is a staple in Asian diets, an everyday food that we often take for granted. While this humble grain has a long history as an important beauty ingredient in countries like Japan and China, it has recently experienced a resurgence in popularity on TikTok as a viral beauty hack for lustrous hair, with the likes of Kim Kardashian and Cardi B swearing by it.
But what’s the science behind it?
“Rice water has postulated benefits such as increasing the shine and silkiness of your hair. This is because rice water itself contains a lot of amino acids which are helpful for hair growth as they are the building blocks of the proteins that make up hair. Rice water also contains a lot of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E and selenium,” said Dr Angeline Yong of Angeline Yong Dermatology.
All of these benefits help to strengthen hair follicles, repair cuticles and increase shine. Dr Yong also added that due to its anti-inflammatory effects on the scalp, rice water can possibly help prevent dandruff too.
Rice water obtained from simply soaking, fermenting or boiling rice in water can be used like a rinse for the hair.
“This can be done after your regular hair wash and you can then use the rice water to rinse through your scalp and hairs at the end of it. You can also leave the rice water in your hair for 10-20 minutes whilst in the shower and then take the opportunity to massage your scalp with it,” described Dr Yong. She said that it would be an added benefit to comb through after rinsing with rice water before finally rinsing it thoroughly with water.
For those with dry, sensitive scalps or conditions like eczema, using rice water may cause further irritation.
Dr Yong advised using a rice water rinse not more than once or twice a week. “Too much of a good thing can also be harmful and rice water may not work for everybody”, she cautioned. For those with dry, sensitive scalps or conditions like eczema, using rice water may cause further irritation as rice water is rich in protein and starch which can over-dry the scalp and hair if it is left on for too long.
Instead of diving into incorporating a rice water regimen for your hair, take it slowly. “It would be good to try to use it for shorter durations and also at a lower frequency of once a week, before increasing the duration that you leave the rice water in your scalp/hair, and also the frequency of use,” she said.
For those with sensitive scalps, she advised testing it on a smaller area of the scalp before applying it to the entire scalp. It is also important not to overdo this and not to leave the rice water on the hair and scalp for too long or without rinsing it off.
As long as you’re not allergic to rice, you should be able to use rice water to treat your hair, no matter what your hair texture or type is. However, the results may vary with different types of hair. Those with damaged hair may see a significant improvement with the use of rice water but those with naturally curly or textured hair which require more hydration may not see the same results.
What’s great about rice water is that it’s natural, gentle and with the many vitamins and minerals it contains, it can help to soften natural hair without the use of synthetic ingredients or chemicals. So whether you’re trying to grow out your locks, smooth your tresses, boost the shine of your crowning glory, or just want stronger and healthier hair, a regular rinse in natural rice water may just be what you need.
There are a few different options to obtain the rice water for treating the hair. Dr Yong said you can simply soak it, ferment it or boil it. Here’s her method for preparing it from soaking:
- Rinse half a cup of uncooked rice well.
- Put it into a bowl with two cups of water.
- Soak for at least 30 minutes (the water should turn cloudy after this).
- Strain the rice water into a new bowl and then you can store it in the fridge for downstream use.
If you want to try fermenting it, she advised leaving the rice soaked with water for at least one to two days. However, you have to be prepared for a sour smell to develop as the rice water ferments. The fermentation process will allow the starch in the rice to be converted to acids, lowering the pH of the rinse. Using fermented rice water can help protect the hair by closing the cuticles of the hair.