Rice Water for Hair Growth: Trend or Gamechanger?

bowl of rice with water being poured in from a pitcher

So, if you’ve been paying attention to beauty trends over the last couple years, you might have heard of rice water for hair. Rice water is exactly what it sounds like: water that has been used to cook rice. And, according to some, it’s a great way to promote hair growth.

 

But does this rice water trend really work? Well, in this article we will examine the scientific evidence to support the idea that rice water can help promote hair growth. We will also discuss how to prepare rice water and examine all of the potential benefits that rice water has to offer to your hair.

The History of Rice Water for Hair Growth

side view of geisha woman wearing red kimono with her hair up on a white background

Rice water has been used for centuries in East Asian cultures as a hair treatment. In Japan, rice water was used by the traditional Geisha to maintain their long, luxurious locks. Specifically, Geisha women in the Heian Period, were historically described as having floor length hair that was called “suberakashi.” Historical documents reveal that these women treated their hair with rice water they called “Yu-Su-Ru,” which they combed through their hair daily.

 

The tradition of treating hair with rice water has survived to this day in East Asia. In China, for example, rice water is a popular hair treatment used by many to promote longer, stronger hair. In recent years, this hair care technique has gained attention in the West – popularized on social media platforms including TikTok and Instagram. Today you can find a multitude of celebrities and influencers boasting of the supposed benefits of rice water for hair.

The Science Behind Rice Water for Hair Growth

Recent studies have shown that there may be some scientific evidence behind the idea of using rice water for hair growth. A 2022 review study examined the published peer-reviewed literature surrounding the use of rice extracts for cosmetic applications. This review study identified 6 published studies exploring the affects of rice brand extracts on hair growth. The study concludes that Rice bran has the potential to help with hair growth because it can increase expression of growth factors maintaining hair growth, decreasing scalp inflammation, and inhibiting 5α-reductase function – which is related to hair harming DHT.

Fermented Rice Water

Rice water is made by boiling rice in water and then straining the rice out. The leftover water is rice water. Some people say that you should leave rice water out for 24 hours to let it ferment. This fermentation process is said to make the rice water more beneficial for hair growth. There isn’t scientific evidence to support this claim, but some people say that they have seen better results with fermented rice water than with regular rice water.

Anti Inflammatory Properties of Rice Water

There are several compounds and antioxidants that are found in rice water which may have anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds include ferulic acid, linoleic acid, phytic acid, and allantoin, all of which have been shown to reduce inflammation when applied topically. These nutrients could be beneficial for people with scalp conditions such as dandruff, psoriasis, and eczema – although there is limited scientific research to draw from.

Rice Water as a DHT Inhibitor

close up of hand holding a magnifying glass to examine the scalp of a person with short brown hair

DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is a hormone that is linked to hair loss in both men and women. DHT is produced in the body when testosterones are metabolized by an enzyme called 5 alpha reductase (5α-reductase). Although DHT has many important functions in the body, it is also linked to hair loss.

 

Specifically, DHT is responsible for androgenetic alopecia (also known as androgenic alopecia) which is the most common type of hair loss experienced by men and women. This condition is often referred to as male pattern baldness or female pattern hair loss.

 

Both male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss occur when the androgen hormone DHT binds to hair follicles. When DHT binds to hair follicles, it inhibits healthy hair growth and eventually causes the hair shaft to become thin and for hair fall to occur.

 

Rice bran extract has been shown to inhibit the activity of 5 alpha reductase – which will in turn reduce DHT production on the scalp. This could explain part of the reason why rice water is associated with hair strength and potentially how rice water could stimulate hair growth.

Does Rice Water Promote Hair Growth?

man looking into mirror pulling back his hair to examine his receding hairline

We know that using rice water for hair growth is a practice dating back centuries. However, up until recently there has been little scientific evidence to examine whether or not fermented rice water actually promotes hair growth.

 

Recently, there have been a handful of studies attempting to determine the therapeutic benefits of rice water. In 2015, a study was published to determine if rice bran extract could benefit men suffering from androgenetic alopecia. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 50 men with hair loss were placed into two groups. One group received daily topical scalp treatments of rice bran extract, while the other group received placebo topical treatments.

 

This study examined results after 16-weeks of this therapy and concluded that the men receiving topical rice bran extract scalp treatments showed significant improvements in hair volume and hair growth. The researchers concluded that the rice bran extract likely played a key role in hair regeneration for these men.

Recipe for Rice Water for Hair

The popular recipes for making homemade rice water for hair are very simple. Rice water is essentially just the milky liquid that you get from soaking rice in water. Here is a DIY rice water recipe:

Uncooked Rice Water Recipe

Ingredients:

• ½ cup of organic white or brown rice

• 2 cups of distilled water (or filtered water)

 

Instructions:

1. Place the uncooked rice in a bowl and rinse with clean water to remove any debris or dirt.

2. Pour 2 cups of distilled water over the rinsed rice and leave it to soak for 10-12 hours.

3. After soaking, strain out the excess water from the bowl and pour into a glass or jar.

4. You can use this rice water as a hair rinse, scalp massage, conditioning treatment or other hair care remedy right away.

5. Rice water can be refrigerated for up to 3 days and should be used during this time before discarding it.

Alternative Uses of Rice Water

Rice water isn’t just for hair – it also has a variety of other applications! Here are a few ways you can use rice water:

 

Skin Cleanser: Rice water can be used to cleanse the skin by soaking a cotton pad in it and applying it directly to the face. Some people believe that rice water can be an effective cleanser for people with sensitive skin.

 

Natural Hair Dye: Rice water has also been used as a natural dye for grey hair. The starch in the water may help to darken or enhance natural hair color temporarily.

 

Skin Toner: When applied topically, rice water is sometimes used as a skin toner. Some people report that rice water may help even out complexion and provide hydration without irritating the skin.

 

Facial Mask: Rice water can be mixed with other natural ingredients to make a nourishing facial mask. This hydrating mask may help reduce the appearance of wrinkles or restore the skin’s natural glow.

Rice Water Shampoo

rice in a bowl and white shampoo in cosmetic containers

Rice extracts are currently used in a variety of different shampoo and hair care products. However, if you are looking for an affordable, natural option, you can also make your own DIY rice water shampoo.

 

To make your own rice water shampoo, you will need:

• 2 tablespoons of organic rice

• ½ cup of distilled or filtered water

• ¼ cup of liquid castile soap

• 10 drops of an essential oil (optional)

 

Instructions:

1. Place the rice in a bowl and rinse with water to remove any debris or dirt.

2. Pour ½ cup of distilled water over the rinsed rice and let it soak for 10-12 hours.

3. Strain out the excess water from the bowl and pour into a glass or jar.

4. Next, add the ¼ cup of liquid castile soap to the rice water and stir until combined.

5. Finally, add 10 drops of essential oil (optional).

6. Pour the shampoo into a bottle and use as desired.

7. Store any remaining shampoo in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Rice Water for Shiny Hair

The Japanese Geishas who used to take rice water baths attributed their lusciously shiny hair to the benefits of rice water. Rice water is rich in vitamins, minerals and starch which can all impact hair health. Although there is no clinical research to back up claims that rice water treatments can make your hair shiny, there might be something to this ancient practice!

Rice Water Rinse for Hair Health

Rice water can be used as a rinse and applied directly to your scalp or hair after shampooing and conditioning. To use rice water as a rinse, simply pour the plain rice water over your hair after washing and leave it in for at least 10 minutes before rinsing out with cold water. This can be done once a week for best results.

 

Rice water is also an effective natural conditioner that can be used instead of store-bought products. To use rice water as a conditioner, apply the warm liquid to your hair after shampooing and leave it in for at least 10 minutes. Rinse out with cold water afterwards. This can be done every few weeks for optimal results.

Amino Acids in Fermented Rice Water

yellow rice grains growing in a field

Fermented rice water is rich in amino acids, which are essential for healthy and strong hair. When you ferment rice water, microorganisms help to break down rice water protein – which may make amino acids and all the nutrients in the rice more bioavailable.

 

The most relevant amino acids found in rice water are aspartic acid, glutamic acid, serine, and cysteine. Each of these amino acids is involved in hair health. Topical application of glutamic acid has been shown to stimulate hair growth in mice. It’s no stretch of the imagination to suggest that topically applying this amino acid to human hair follicles could also facilitate healthy growth of hair.

 

Another in-vitro study demonstrated that L-cystine had an anti-oxidant effect on hair follicles. This study suggests that L-cystine could help support a healthy scalp, and in turn healthier hair.

Rice Water for Brittle Hair

So far most of the clinical research on rice extracts for hair focus on whether or not it can increase hair volume, help hair grow, and whether or not it protects hair from oxidative stress. So while it might be too early to say whether or not cosmetic science supports rice water for improving damaged hair – it does look like it offers a variety of other benefits.

 

Ultimately, attempting to nourish hair with rice water is likely a safe an affordable practice that can be done with little risk of negative side effects. However, when it comes to your hair it’s always best to consult a professional before making any dramatic changes to your hair care routine. If you’re thinking about adding rice water to your hair care routine, speak with your dermatologist or health care provider first to make sure it’s the right solution for you.

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