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Rice Water for Stronger, Longer, Healthier Hair

In April 2020, Kourtney Kardashian took to her lifestyle blog to share the secret of her sister Kim Kardashian’s thick, shiny hair: rice water treatments. From there, the practice—an ancient beauty ritual that dates back to the Heian Period in Japan—went viral on social media. “Rice water for hair growth” currently has 106.2 million views on TikTok, while an Instagram search for the #ricewater hashtag brings up nearly 60,000 posts filled with luscious locks.

While the treatment is just starting to gain traction in the U.S., many parts of the world, including China and Southeast Asia, have long been reaping the benefits of rice water for hair.

According to the experts, rice water (the liquid that you get after soaking or cooking rice) is filled with nutrients like amino acids, inositol (which helps strengthen hair), vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin E, minerals, and antioxidants, so theoretically, it should have some topical benefits for your hair, right? Ask the internet and the many who swear by the stuff, and you’ll hear countless claims that it could benefit your hair in the following ways:

  • Add shine to dull hair
  • Smooth hair and detangle knots
  • Strengthen hair
  • Thicken hair strands
  • Encourage healthy hair growth

But results you get might vary as these depend on a person’s hair type, texture, lifestyle, hairstyling habits, diet, and genetics. “

Using rice water in daily beauty regimens is a cultural practice where the supporting evidence is word of mouth. But what about via scientific evidence? Let’s discuss…

How long does it take rice water to grow your hair?

The question here isn’t so much “when,” but more “if”. Going back to the properties for a second, Columbus Ohio trichologist Tiche Florence highlights the fact that rice water contains eight of the 18 amino acids that create the protein that grows hair (keratin), and those amino acids combined with the antioxidants could potentially affect hair regeneration.

That said, there is no reliable scientific evidence to prove that rice water promotes hair growth. There haven’t been any large, randomized, controlled studies to support the claims that rice water helps with hair growth. In other words, while you wait to see if that rice water works, you might also want to pay a visit to your tricologist for scientifically-backed treatments that address the cause of your hair loss or thinning.

What are the side effects of rice water on hair?

Although you might find tons of people in favor of using rice water for hair growth, you’ll find just as many who have experienced less than positive results, including flaky buildup on the scalp, protein overload on the hair cuticle, dryness, and breakage. Rice water has a heavy starch component that can lead to brittleness and breakage over time, so people with baby fine hair or low-porosity hair should tread lightly when experimenting with using rice water.

“If you have low-porosity hair, then rice water will create a protein buildup on the hair that can cause extreme dryness and damage fast,” Tiche Florence explains. (Not sure how to figure out your hair porosity? Highly recommend taking a porosity quiz, since the whole thing can be confusing to parse through on your own.)

Does rice water harm skin?

Tiche recommends people with dry scalps use caution as well. pointing to a 2002 study that found that starch in rice water helped heal damaged skin in people with dermatitis, but adds that although relief might be experienced from the use of rice water in one dermatitis case, it could exacerbate the condition in another.

“Dermatitis on the scalp, traditionally, is a result of an overproduction of yeast,” Tiche explains. “It is the overproduction of yeast on the scalp that leads to dandruff and other abnormal scalp conditions. Through the lens of a trichologist, I struggle with suggesting adding highly starched water to the scalp and hair of anyone that experiences flaky, dry scalp.” Basically, the relief experienced from the use of rice water in one dermatitis case study, could lead to exacerbating the condition in another.

A Few Rice Water Basics

  • When rice is cooked or left to soak, the leftover water becomes a starchy substance that may be able to soothe hair, make it shinier, and help it grow faster.
  • The starchiness of the treatment coats your locks with protein to strengthen strands and add shine.
  • Rice is rich with folate (a powerful B vitamin), amino acids, antioxidants, and trace minerals like zinc and magnesium, all of which can help treat the scalp and give thirsty, brittle hair a healthy boost.
  • Rice water may help smooth and detangle hair.

Healthier hair could also lead to stunning growth. “Hairfluencer” Anisa Sojka claims that treating her enviable hair with rice water once a week caused it to grow three inches in just one month.


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A post shared by Anisa Sojka (@anisasojka)

With such simple ingredients—the recipe is, quite literally, rice and water—even the DIY averse may want to try their hand at making the treatment at home.

Making The Treatment

  • 1 cup basmati rice x 3 cups water
  • Wash the rice, then combine fresh water and rice.
  • For five to 10 minutes, rub the rice to ensure all the nutrients seep into the water.
  • Sift rice water into a pot. Add an orange peel for a more pleasant smell.
  • On low heat, warm up the rice water over the stove for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Don’t let it boil.)
  • Pour water (with peels) into a container to cool, then place it in a dark space for two to three days to ferment.

How to Use Rice Water on Hair

  • After fermenting, shake the starchy mixture and add it to a spray bottle. (Any remaining rice water can be refrigerated in the fridge for up to one week.)
  • Apply generously all over the scalp and hair.
  • Gently but thoroughly massage for about one minute. Sojka recommends avoiding using your nails.
  • Leave in the treatment for one to three hours. (Leave it in for at least 20 minutes if you’re pressed for time.)
  • In the shower, pour the remaining rice water over your hair and massage for about one minute.
  • Shampoo and condition as normal.

The final takeaway

Will rice water work miracles for your hair? Maybe, but maybe not. If you’ve checked your hair porosity and are looking to try a home remedy because you’re bored, give it a try but know that it might or might not work. Reversing protein overload is a science, so just be very careful. If your main concern is hair growth, make an appointment with a trichologist to address the cause of your hair loss.

Share The Beauty… Earn Rewards!

At PLEIJ Salon+Spa, we offer a simple and easy referral program to our existing clients (and even non-clients). When you refer a friend who is new to PLEIJ, we’ll give them a 20% OFF GIFT to use towards any service. To say thanks, we’ll give you a 10% OFF GIFT to use toward services or products!

Be sure to learn everything about this awesome program and even send out referrals.

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