Rice Water for Hair: Benefits and How to Use It

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@harryjoshhair / Design by Zackary Angeline

Haircare DIYs are beloved by many—Cardi B, included. And if you follow her on Insta', you may have noticed that the superstar is leaning into a new beauty remedy for hair growth: homemade rice water. In fact, her at-home hair tutorial was the first time I'd ever heard about using rice water on hair. Needless to say, as a beauty editor, I was intrigued. So I started using Pattern Beauty's rice water-infused Treatment Mask, which turned out to be an ultimate game-changer for my thirsty, color-treated 4-type curls. To understand more about this trending hair remedy, I turned to experts Stacy Chimento and Gretchen Friese.

Meet the Expert

  • Gretchen Friese is BosleyMD's trichologist and stylist. She is also a hairstylist and salon director at Foushee SalonSpa in Denver.
  • Dr. Stacy Chimento is a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami.

As it turns out, Japanese court ladies—and not Cardi B (go figure)—were the first to use rice water on their manes. As the story goes, their hair care routine involved rinsing their suberakashi (floor-length hair) with water made from washing rice, which may have contributed to their stunning lengths. So whether you're looking to grow out your tresses, strengthen them—or both—rice water just might be the treatment to make your hair dreams come true.

Rice Water

  • Type of ingredient: Strengthener
  • Main benefits: Strengthens hair, promotes hair growth, and increases shine.
  • Who should use it: All hair types, especially those with dry, dull hair.
  • How often can you use it: Once a week.
  • Works well with: Depending on your hair concern, you can combine rice water with acv, baking soda, or even tea, to treat hair.
  • Don’t use with: Since rice water already contains protein, avoid using with another protein treatment so as to not overdo it.

Benefits of Rice Water for Hair

Bowl of water with grains of rice

Mirzamlk / Getty Images

Rice is one of the most popular grains eaten around the world. Fortified with folate, a B-vitamin best known for treating some forms of anemia and essential for helping the neural tube form during pregnancy. So how does that translate into promoting healthier hair, exactly? Well, TBH, "The benefits of rice water are not fully understood, and the benefits of rice water remain unproven," says Chimento. However, she adds that there is growing anecdotal evidence about its benefits (although more research is needed to support it):

  • Makes hair stronger: Just as protein is an essential part of maintaining a balanced diet, it also plays an important role in keeping hair healthy. The protein in rice water is believed to help improve the overall condition of hair (read: harder, better, faster, stronger).
  • Increases shine: Based on anecdotal evidence from advocates of rice water, the starchy solution is believed to lend luster to dull locks.
  • Can help hair grow: "Rice water may promote hair growth because it contains amino acids that support hair regeneration. It also contains vitamins C, B, and E, which promote hair growth as well. Vitamins C, B, and E help strengthen the hair shaft, and the stronger the shaft, the longer the hair can grow," explains Chimento. 
  • Reverses hygral fatigue: Although hair needs moisture to stay healthy, excess moisture can actually do more harm than good. To rebalance overly moisturized locks (aka hygral fatigue), try a protein treatment like a rice water rinse. 
  • Detangles hair: Proponents of using rice water for hair claim that it can soften strands, which also makes them easier to detangle.
  • Smooths hair: Damaged and/or high porosity hair has difficulty retaining moisture, which can result in frizz and split ends. However, the nourishing proteins found in rice water may counteract this, reducing breakage and therefore, improving hair's texture.

Hair Type Considerations

Benefits of Rice Water for Hair

Romilly Lockyer / Getty Images

If you're new to using protein or unsure if your hair can benefit from a protein treatment, most often, color-treated, relaxed, heat-styled, and natural hair needs a protein boost. "Because rice water is believed to make hair shinier and stronger along with helping to keep tangles at a minimum, it can be a great remedy for fine, dull hair," comments Friese. And according to Chimento, "Those with dry, brittle, curly hair may benefit because the protein in rice water improves the condition of hair and helps make it bouncy. Those who want to boost shine and improve and strengthen the condition of the hair cuticle may benefit, as well." While Chimento admits that rice water is safe for all hair types, she includes a caveat: "Those with low porosity hair may want to use it in moderation because the proteins may attach to your hair instead of your hair absorbing them."

How to Use Rice Water for Hair

Since rice water only requires two ingredients to make, whipping it up at home—Cardi-B style—seems like a no-brainer. Friese agrees: "My favorite way to use rice water is the old-fashioned 'in kitchen' method (more on that below)." Still, she adds that you can find hair care products—like BosleyMD's Follicle Energizer ($30) and BosRevive Nourishing Shampoo ($21)—that contain strengthening rice amino acids if DIY remedies aren't your thing. Because rice water acts like a protein treatment, you'll want to apply it as often as you typically use masks and treatments formulated with protein to avoid brittle, dry hair. Friese recommends replacing a regular conditioner with rice water about once a week. The DIY recipe involves either boiling or soaking; however, the latter method is thought to wield the most benefits.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • Stainer
  • 2 bowls
  • 1 container with a lid
  • A spray bottle

Directions for Soaking:

  • Pour ½ cup of uncooked rice in a strainer
  • Rinse well
  • Place rice in a bowl with 2 cups of water
  • Soak for up to 24 hours at room temperature
  • Strain the rice water into a clean bowl
  • Funnel rice into a spray bottle and refrigerate until you're ready to use

Directions for Boiling:

  • Pour ½ cup of uncooked rice in a strainer
  • Rinse well
  • Boil 2 cups of water
  • Pour rice into boiling water and boil into the water is cloudy
  • Let the water cool
  • Strain
  • Funnel into a spray bottle
  • Refrigerate until use (up to a week, max)

Instructions:

  • Wash hair with shampoo and rinse
  • Towel dry hair
  • Pour the rice water onto the hair
  • Massage into hair and scalp
  • Cover with a plastic cap or bag (a shower cap works, too)
  • Leave on for up to 20 minutes
  • Rinse thoroughly with warm water and style as desired

Leaving this treatment on for up to 20 minutes is ideal, but if your hair is crunchy post-rinse, try removing it sooner the next time. Follow up with a hydrating deep conditioner. Finding the right balance of hydration and strength can take some time, so don't give up if your hair doesn't love protein right out of the gate.

The Best Products With Rice Water

BosleyMD Healthy Hair & Scalp Follicle Energizer
BosleyMD Follicle Energizer $30.00
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Formulated with rice amino acids and protein—not to mention, biotin and caffeine—this aptly-named Healthy Hair & Scalp Follicle Energizer by BosleyMD aims to stimulate hair growth and bring you thicker-looking strands. Apply just one to two drops of this leave-in treatment into your scalp. Then, flex those fingers to give yourself a good ol' fashioned scalp massage—or better yet, invest in a scalp massager.

Mielle Rice Water Moisturizing Milk
Mielle Rice Water Moisturizing Milk $10.00
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Part of Mielle Organics rice water collection, this moisturizing milk gets Friese's seal of approval. With ingredients like rice water, castor oil, and coconut oil, it's a dream for those with curly hair, strengthening and hydrating a dull, dry mane. The result? Bouncy curls, soft texture, and raving five-star reviews among users.

Shea Moisture Purple Rice Water Shampoo
Shea Moisture Purple Rice Water Strength & Color Care Shampoo $11.00
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You've heard of purple shampoo but what about purple rice water shampoo? Ideal for color-treated tresses, Friese recommends this cleanser with its blend of butter, oils, and let's not forget, rice water to strengthen and nourish hair. And thanks to its wild orchid and sweet violet extract, it smells like springtime in a bottle.

BosleyMD BosRevive Nourishing Shampoo
BosleyMD BosRevive Non Color-Treated Hair Nourishing Shampoo $21.00
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You've heard it before and you'll hear it again: Healthy hair begins with a healthy scalp. Formulated with rice amino acids and a host of other nourishing ingredients—saw palmetto, rosemary extract, and panthenol, to name a few—this sulfate-free shampoo is like fertilizer for the scalp. And while it's meant for hair color virgins, BosleyMD makes a version for colored tresses, too.

Ooli Clarifying Shampoo
Ooli Clarify Your Mane™ Clarifying Shampoo $19.00
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Is dirt, grease, or product buildup weighing you—and your hair—down? Then consider a clarifying shampoo. Friese namedrops this deep-cleaning 'poo featuring fermented rice water and tea tree oil, which works to bring you a healthy and happy scalp and hair. (Note: This product is currently sold out but there is a full restock coming soon).

FAQ
  • Are there any side effects to using rice water for hair?

    "Those who have used rice water claim side effects may include protein overload, making a dry scalp worse, and breakage," Chimento tells us.

  • Can rice water make my hair smell bad?

    Rice water that is soaked or boiled and refrigerated before use (up to 24 hours and a week, respectively) should not make your hair smell. However, fermented rice water may leave a lingering smell so we suggest combining it with an essential oil like lavender or peppermint.

  • How do I know if my hair will benefit from using rice water?

    In general, all hair types, especially those in need of protein can benefit from rice water. FYI: If you gently stretch a strand of hair and then release it, healthy hair should bounce back to its original length. On the other hand, if hair stretches and breaks, it may lack protein.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Abstracts: The Effect of Rinse Water Obtained From the Washing of Rice (YU-SU-RU) as a Hair Treatment. 2010.

  2. National Institutes of Health. "Folate."

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