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Rice water is the latest beauty trend taking over the internet right now — but what actually is it?
In short, it’s the cloudy, milky-looking water you get after soaking rice for a few hours (although we should note most beauty treatments use fermented rice water, which has had a chance to sit out for a bit).
Because rice has a lot of vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin B6 and amino acids, many cultures believe that it can be beneficial for your skin and hair. But what does the research say? Does it really work?
Rice water has a long and storied history in beauty practices around the globe. Also called kanji, rice water has been used in India as a traditional part of Ayurvedic medicine, often to help fight eczema, as a gentle body wash for those with sensitive skin, and to soften the skin.
It was also used by ladies of the court in the Heian Period in Japan for their long hair, possibly to make it more elastic. Rice water also appears in beauty guides from Victorian England, where it was utilized for soothing eczema and as part of a larger routine to improve the complexion.
As part of a Korean skin care routine, rice water has been used to maintain youthfulness and make hair appear more lustrous.
As a clean beauty ingredient, rice water is now used globally to brighten sensitive skin, and as a hair rinse, it’s been touted for its ability to strengthen and enrich hair with vitamins and carbohydrates.
While it’s true that many cultures have historically utilized rice water for hair growth, the scientific jury is still largely out on exactly how effective rice water may be.
That isn’t to say that this traditional ingredient isn’t great — it may be great for your hair, and there’s probably a reason lots of different cultures have made use of this stuff! — but we’d love to see some double-blind studies before making this claim.
On the plus side, there have been a few early studies that give us hope — let’s just say that we’re ready to stock our own bathroom cabinets with rice water-based products.
We’re especially intrigued by the effects of inositol, a component of rice water that results from its fermentation, and has been shown to protect hair against damage.
There was also a study of a natural, herbal shampoo made in northeastern India that uses rice water as a key ingredient. The self-reported effects of this shampoo were anti-aging, as well as increased shininess, and softness. Rice bran has also been shown to help stimulate hair growth, as well.
But the truth is, everyone’s hair is different and responds to ingredients in its own way. If you’re curious about using rice water for hair, it’s definitely a clean, nontoxic, inexpensive ingredient to experiment with.
We would love to see more controlled studies on the benefits of rice water for skin, but there have been some promising early studies regarding how beneficial this time-honored ingredient can be in a clean beauty routine.
It’s shown in clinical trials to be nonirritating and unlikely to cause allergic reactions — however, if you know you have a rice allergy, of course, steer clear. It’s also been demonstrated to be hydrating, and has been shown to have some anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties, as well.
Rice water is about as easy to concoct as it sounds — it takes just two ingredients! Here’s how to make rice water:
- 1 cup rice
- 1 cup filtered water
Rinse and strain the rice to remove any impurities. If you’re using nonorganic rice, then you may want to rinse it 2 to 3 more times to remove pesticides.
Mix the strained rice in a bowl with the water until the water becomes cloudy. Strain the rice, reserving the water in the bowl, and cover. Let the water sit at room temperature for 12 hours to allow it to ferment, then refrigerate.
When in doubt, buy it
If a DIY rice water project sounds more laborious than it does like a fun project, there are also a lot of great products on the market that incorporate rice water as an ingredient.
It’s the core ingredient in some beloved Korean skin care products, including this excellent, cost-effective Face Shop double-cleansing duo. Or if you want to learn how to make rice water in a way that’s a little less messy than the method described above, try this DIY kit.
Rice water can also be used on its own as a hair rinse, and can be used either a step before shampooing, in between shampooing and conditioning, or as a treatment after your conditioner — just pour it into a squeeze bottle and pour it all over your hair and scalp.
If you hope to improve hair growth, focus on massaging it into your scalp, as the stimulation can be beneficial, too.
As a facial treatment, rice water can be incorporated into a cleansing routine, but it’s more frequently used for hydrating afterward. Simply wash your face with your favorite soap-free gentle cleanser, then apply a generous amount of rice water with a cotton round.
While rice water benefits may not be as well-understood yet in Western medicine as we’d like, this time-honored ingredient has been used for generations to help keep hair long and lustrous, and make skin glow.