Do you have curly hair that’s feeling limp, or are you desperately trying to grow your hair out? What if I told you that the secret to shiny, strong, and bouncy hair is probably sitting in your pantry? If you have rice on hand, you’re in luck. Let’s chat about why you need to try a rice-water rinse today and how to DIY.
What Is Rice Water Hair Rinse?
A rice-water rinse is the process of coating and then rinsing one’s hair with the water kept from boiling or soaking rice. The amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants present in the grain have fantastic benefits for hair and have traditionally been used for hundreds of years as a strengthening treatment.
Rice-water rinses are said to have originated in Heian, Japan (794 to 1185 CE). Women had floor-length hair that they regularly bathed in rice water to maintain. 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 sometimes-floor-length locks by bathing them in rice water. There’s a reason why this traditional rinse is still in use today; it works.
Rice Water Hair Rinse Benefits
There are many, MANY benefits to doing a rice water rinse. Hair feeling limp and lifeless? Rinse. Hair lacking shine? Rinse. Having trouble growing your hair out? Rinse.
A rice water rinse can:
- Strengthen hair;
- Increase shine;
- Improve hair elasticity;
- Reduce hair breakage;
- Detangle hair;
- Improve curl structure;
- Help hair growth.
My Rice Water Hair Rinse Recipe
There are three ways you can make a rice-water rinse: via fermentation, soaking or boiling. Note that fermentation is the traditional method; 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 boiling, turn 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 water into a 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 multiple ways you can use rice water. I tend to like doing a straight rinse as my hair is usually on the verge of being over moisturized (more on that later). Here are two ways to use your treatment:
#1: Straight Rinse
Doing a straight rinse involves putting the rice water directly onto your hair and nothing else.
- Shampoo hair as normal.
- Apply rice water to soaking wet hair by scooping it onto your hair, dipping your head in a bowl, or dumping it onto your hair.
- 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 Rinse
Many people like to get two treatments in at once and mix their rice water in with another treatment.
- 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, if 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.
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!
How Often to Rice-Water Hair Rinse?
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.
Hair products and DIY treatments can contain ingredients that are moisturizing and/or contain protein. A rice-water rinse 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 Hair Rinse Alternatives
Don’t want to go through the trouble of making rice water, or don’t have rice on hand? 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 Shea Moisture Protein Power 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.