Rice Water Is The Hair Growth Treatment People Are Swearing By, But Does It Actually Work?

Hannah Thompson
·5-min read
Photo credit: Rosdiana Ciaravolo - Getty Images
Photo credit: Rosdiana Ciaravolo - Getty Images

It's no surprise that after a year spent confined to our own kitchens, we've started to get creative with the ingredients in our cupboards. From homemade face masks to skin icing, we've become pretty open to turning our hand at a DIY recipe or two.

The latest home-brewed obsession? Rice Water. The unassuming beauty treatment has seen a 400% growth in Google searches in the past year and stacked up millions of views on TikTok after users shared their 'hair growth journeys', all seemingly due to the strengthening properties of the rice water rinse they'd added into their routine.

The ritual of using rice water as a skin and hair treatment is thought to have originated in ancient China. While the benefits are thus far anecdotal, the Yao women from the village of Huang Lao have become renowned the world over for their incredibly long, healthy hair, which they rinse regularly with their unique rice water recipe.

We spoke to the pros to find out whether or not this humble grain lives up to its growing (get it?) reputation.

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What are the benefits of rice water for my hair and scalp?

We're familiar with how to boil a bag of rice, but how much do we actually know about the benefits it has to offer for our hair?

'Rice water is high in starch, containing many highly beneficial vitamins and minerals found in rice, including amino acids, B vitamins, vitamin E, and minerals such as zinc, magnesium and antioxidants,' explains trichologist and hair stylist Hannah Gaboardi.

'It can help the hair become stronger by nourishing the follicles and can provide a healthy environment for the hair to grow by boosting scalp health with these vitamins and minerals.'

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So, while it won't physically make your hair grow faster, rice water can help minimise breakage and therefore leave hair longer and healthier.

Is rice water beneficial for all hair types?

Before you start boiling the kettle, you'll want to find out whether a rice water rinse is right for your hair type. 'Most people use it for hair growth, but it also has some moisturising and soothing properties,' says founder of Gallinée Dr Marie Drago.

Sound great? According to our experts, it turns out that rice water rinses can have different results depending on your hair porosity.

'If you have low porosity hair, it be may protein sensitive so it's best not to overload it. Before trying something new like rice water it's sensible to do a patch test,' advises Gaboardi. 'For high porosity hair rice water can definitely help lock in moisture.'

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How often should I use rice water on my hair?

While the vitamins and amino acids present in rice water can be beneficial for strengthening your ends, rinsing hair with rice water too often can actually have the adverse effect.

'Rice water can cause build up, and if you overuse it you can get too much protein which could cause your cuticle to fray more or lead to breakage,' says celebrity hairstylist & Frank Body hair ambassador Kylee Heath.

If you have low porosity hair you should be using the treatment less often than those with high porosity. 'Incorporating rice water once a week in a rinse before you shampoo should be enough to get the benefits, even though it's mild,' says Gaboardi.

Pay attention to how your hair feels after the first few uses, if you feel like your hair would benefit you can always up the treatment to twice a week.

How to make rice water

It's not quite Masterchef, but you will need to prepare ahead as the rice water requires time to brew; 'When you let bacteria such as Lactobacilli ferment, they feed from the starch and create a myriad of metabolites,' explains Dr Marie.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

The Yao women add extra ingredients such as pomelo peels and ginger to their rinses, and platforms like TikTok and Youtube have become abundant with different variations of the recipe.

Bring the rice to the boil using around 4x as much water as you do rice, let it simmer and then cool before letting it sit for anywhere between 12 hours and four days (mason jars come in really handy here). The rice water can then be used as a pre-wash rinse or left on as a mask for 20 minutes.

What are rice water alternatives?

If you're strapped for time or don't love the idea of cold fermented water on your head, other rice by-products, such as rice bran oil, are becoming more popular in haircare products and achieve the same results. 'The benefits of rice water and rice bran oil are similar in that they're both rich in antioxidants so can help maintain a healthy scalp and nourish the hair for less breakage,' says Gaboardi.

'I would recommend using hair products with rice bran oil or proteins rather than making it yourself, when it's used in a product specifically made for your hair you can reap all of the benefits,' says Heath.

Long shiny hair, here we come.

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