Ask a Beauty Editor: Can Rice Water Really Give You Longer Hair?
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Reader question: Does using rice water actually make your hair longer? —@callmebrittmarie
As someone who eats rice on a regular basis, I've always said that it is one of the most underrated natural beauty ingredients. In recent years, however, it has been picking up steam (rice pun #1) as a treatment for long, silky hair. The #ricewater tag has been cooking up a storm (rice pun #2) on TikTok, and celebrities like Kim Kardashian swear by it for maintaining their long mane.
Of course, the use of rice water for hair didn't originate on social media. It actually dates back to Japanese women in the Heian period, where court ladies were said to have combed their floor-length hair each day using the water left over from rinsing rice (called Yu-Su-Ru).
But does the ritual of bathing hair in rice water actually work? Short and personal answer: Yes. I've loved the treatment since I was a kid (and used it to help accelerate my traumatic bowl cut of '07, #neveragain). But don't just take it from me—I tapped two experts to back up my findings.
Rice Water Benefits
Although you can't see anything through the cloudy murkiness, rice water is actually chock-full of minerals, vitamins, and amino acids that offer topical benefits to the hair and scalp.
"The amino acids present in rice water strengthen hair roots and help in the regeneration of hair, aiding faster growth overall," says hairstylist Jennifer Korab. "Additionally, it contains vitamins B, C, and E, all of which help in hair growth." Another plus? A carbohydrate known as inositol, which Korab says repairs damaged hair and protects hair from further breakage.
Granted, these hair growth results will take a while (hair growth doesn't happen overnight, after all), but there are other benefits you can enjoy in the meantime. Rice water also contains starch and proteins that coat the hair and make it look thicker and shinier, which is why you'll notice visible results right away. "Over time, consistent use can strengthen cuticles, soften strands, and even minimize the appearance of split ends," says Yoram Harth, MD, board-certified dermatologist and MDHair chief medical officer. Softer strands mean hair is easier to detangle, which you'll need after all that length you're going to get.
Side Effects of Rice Water on Hair
Are there any downfalls to rice water? Dr. Harth says possibly, but only if used excessively or left on for too long. "Excessive use of DIY rice water can result in protein and starch buildup on the scalp—this buildup will eventually damage the scalp and slow down hair regrowth," he says. The ideal frequency is once or twice a week for optimal results.
And longer isn't better—always make sure to rinse out the rice water after 20 minutes, max. Dr. Harth warns that the high protein content in rice water can over-process and dry out the hair and scalp (read: flakiness) if left in for too long.
Who Should Use Rice Water?
The good news is that most hair types can benefit from the treatment, including color-treated and natural hair that needs a protein boost. Fine/dull hair will find that it makes hair stronger and shinier, while curly hair types will benefit from all the elasticity (read: bounce) that rice water gives. And of course, damaged and thinning hair will love the inositol that promotes hair growth and thickens strands.
Just one thing: Those with low porosity hair may want to use it in moderation because the proteins can attach to your hair instead of absorbing them. (Not sure what your hair porosity is? Try this test to find out.)
How to Make Rice Water for Hair
The best way to do a rice water treatment is to rinse your hair with it after shampoo. Make sure to saturate the strands and scalp, and follow up by massaging the liquid into your roots. Keep in mind that rice water doesn't replace conditioner—the substance is highly concentrated in starch, so it can dry your hair out if you're not following up with something hydrating.
Alternatively, you can use rice water as a pre-poo treatment: In this case, apply the rice water as a hair mask before shampooing, leave it on for 20 minutes, and then wash it off in the shower.
As for making the actual rice water (rice to water ratio is important!), follow the instructions below.
- Take 2 cups of rice and add 4 cups of water to it. (A 1:2 ratio of rice to water.)
- Pour everything into a glass bottle, seal it, and leave in a dark place at room temperature for eight to 16 hours. As the rice sits, the water should progressively become a foggy white color.
- After the rice has soaked, grab an empty container (spray bottle is recommended for easy application) and strain the rice water into the container.
- If you have any leftover rice water after your rinse, you can put it in the fridge to preserve it. The liquid should be good in the fridge for up to five days, but make sure to toss it if a sour smell appears (that means it has over-fermented and can cause damage to your hair).
Best Hair Products With Rice Water
Although the OG rice water hack involves rinsing or spraying hair with water that's been soaked in rice, the beauty treatment's virality means there are now products that let you skip the DIY element and still reap the benefits. Here are three standout options below.