Do you have hair that’s feeling limp, or are you desperately trying to grow your hair out? What if I told you that rice water you simply discard when cooking rice may be your secret to strong, bouncy, and shiny hair? Let’s chat about why you need to try a rice-water rinse today, how to prepare one and how to use it the right way.
Benefits of Rice Water for Hair
The use of rice water for hair originated in Heian, Japan (794 to 1185 CE). Women had floor-length hair that they regularly bathed in rice water to maintain hair length and strength. This practice isn’t just limited to Japan; women of the Yao tribe in current-day China cut their hair once in their life, maintaining their long hair by bathing it in rice water. There’s a reason why this traditional rinse has been used for hundreds of years and is still in use today – it works.
The effect of rice water on hair health is due to the amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants present in the grain that release into the water when uncooked rice is soaked or boiled.
The growing anecdotal evidence, as well as the known impact of individual components, suggest that rice water can:
- Strengthen hair: Rice water is high in protein that repairs damaged hair, reduces hair breakage and improves elasticity;
- Add shine: a lot of women agree that rice water makes dull hair shinier;
- Reduce tangling: the starchy water coats hair shaft and seals the hair cuticle, making damaged, porous locks more obedient and less prone to tangling;
- Promote hair growth: antioxidants nourish and repair damaged cells and support a healthy scalp environment, preventing hair loss and thus helping you maintain hair thickness;
- Improve curl structure.
With so many benefits of rice water, one may be tempted to use it as a regular natural addition to a hair care routine. There are some precautions to beware of, though.
Dry Scalp and Protein Overload Consideration
There are two cases when you should use rice water with caution. First, if you have scalp irritation, inflammation, or more serious conditions like eczema or psoriasis, the rinse can actually make the matters worse. If you have a dry scalp, rice water hair treatment is not recommended either and may lead to flaking on some occasions.
Also, while rice water is safe for all hair types, you should definitely be aware of protein overload, which simply means that too much of a good thing can have the opposite effect and leave hair lifeless and brittle. How to understand if your hair needs protein or not? Well, if you have relaxed natural hair, bleached or color-treated hair, damaged or thin locks, chances are high that you do need it. Anyway, the best approach is to use rice water for hair in moderation and research your own hair needs.
Rice Water for Hair DIY Recipe
There are three ways to prepare rice water for hair: via soaking, boiling, or fermentation. For all the methods, you start with rinsed and strained rice to make sure any dirt is removed from the grains. Thus, you either soak or boil ½ cup of rice in 2-3 cups of water. For fermented rice water, the rice should be left soaking for two days.
I prefer the boiling method so I can line this rinse up with my dinner. The below recipe works for short-to-medium-length hair. Double the ingredients for longer hair.
- Rinse ½ cup (97g) rice in a strainer. Add to a pot with 2-3 cups (472-717g) of water.
- Bring pot to a boil on medium-high heat. Once you have boiling water, turn it down to low. Cover and simmer until fully cooked, about 10-15 min. Make sure to keep an eye on the pot so that the water doesn’t cook off completely.
- Use a fine-mesh strainer to strain the water into a clean bowl or jar. Set in the fridge until cool. Use immediately or store it covered in the fridge for up to 1 week. (Save the rice for dinner.)
How to Use Rice Water Hair Rinse?
There are two ways to use rice water for hair: as an after-shampoo rinse or as a deep conditioning treatment. If you think that your hair can get over moisturized, stick to the rinsing method and do not let rice water sit in your hair for too long.
#1: Rice Water Rinse
- Wash hair using shampoo as normal.
- Apply rice water to soaking wet hair by scooping it onto your hair, dipping your head in a bowl, or sparing rice water onto your hair using a spray bottle.
- Rake rice water from roots to tip and make sure that strands are fully coated. Leave on for 5 minutes.
- Once the 5 minutes are up, rinse completely. Condition and style as usual.
#2: Deep Conditioner
- In a small bowl, scoop in one portion of deep conditioner. Use the amount that you’d typically use when deep conditioning your hair.
- A spoonful at a time, add in your rice water. Make sure the mix doesn’t get too runny. For me, this is about 3 spoonfuls. Mix thoroughly.
- Shampoo hair as normal.
- Apply deep conditioner mix on your length; skip the roots when using this method. Rake through your hair to ensure it is fully coated. Leave on for 10-15 minutes.
- Once the time is up, rinse completely. Condition and style as usual.
How Often Should You Use Rice Water on Your Hair?
Once a week would be the shortest amount of time in between rinses that I would recommend, but it’s important to recognize when your hair needs it. To understand how often you can do a rice water rinse, you have to understand the concept of protein-moisture balance, mentioned above.
Hair products and DIY treatments can contain ingredients that are moisturizing and/or contain protein. Rice water falls into the protein category. If you use too much of either category, your hair can become off-balance. Too much moisture can lead to limp and lifeless hair, whereas too much protein can lead to hair that feels dry, straw-like and frizzy.
So, how do you know when your hair needs what? To give a personal example, I have curly hair and have a TON of different styling products in my arsenal. If I use too many moisturizing products in a row, I find my hair becomes limp and lifeless, which means it’s in need of a protein treatment.
I also have a lot of high protein stylers that I love using. If I do a rice-water rinse after consistently using my favorite high-protein gel, my hair may start to feel a bit dry and stiff. In this case, I would hold off on doing a rinse and deep condition instead.
By paying attention to how your hair feels and what products you are using on a regular basis, you can gauge when it’s time for another treatment! For me, every 3 to 4 weeks seems to be my sweet spot.
Rice Water Results for My Hair Type
After doing a rice water rinse my hair IMMEDIATELY springs up. There is such a difference in how the curls behave; my style lasts for days after a treatment.
Here are my results after one of my first rice water rinses. These photos were taken mere days apart. You can really see just how much body I’ve gained in the after.
Here are my results after a recent treatment. Note the differences in my curl pattern, particularly near the ends of my hair!
Rice Water Alternatives
Don’t want to go through the trouble of making rice water? There are plenty of other protein treatments that work just as well with similar benefits.
- Add high protein products into your rotation: While this method won’t necessarily give you the immediate results that a rice-water rinse does, it’s a great way to keep your hair balanced and strong! Take a look at the back of your hair products and look for the words protein, keratin, amino acids, wheat, rice, soy, silk, quinoa, oats or peptides. If you see these words near the top of an ingredients list, that’s a high-protein product.
- A gelatin treatment: Similar to a protein treatment, a gelatin treatment involves coating the hair with a gelatin mixture, leaving on for a few minutes, and then rinsing.
- Using a premade protein mask: My absolute favorite is The Mender by Botanika Beauty. Other recommendations are Aphogee Two Minute Treatment and Elizavecca cer-100 Collagen Protein Treatment.
A rice-water rinse is an awesome way to give your hair a boost. It’s cheap, easy, and you probably already have everything you need in your pantry.