- Rice water contains vitamins and minerals that nourish the hair and scalp and may encourage growth.
- To make it, let about a cup of rice ferment in two to three cups of water for one day.
- Use it one to two times per week, and you can expect results within a few weeks or months.
- Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.
Rice water is the leftover liquid that comes from rinsing or cooking rice — and it’s been used for hair and skin care in many Asian countries for centuries.
For instance, Japanese court ladies from the Heian period (794 to 1185) had floor-length tresses that they would rinse in rice water for healthy growth and better elasticity. In India, rice water is used as an Ayurvedic remedy to treat eczema.
According to cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, MD, rice water is full of vitamins and minerals that are essential to hair growth and can help improve the look and feel of your hair. She says these nutrients help strengthen hair follicles, improve the density of hair, and make it look healthy and shiny.
Here’s what you need to know about the benefits of rice water for hair and how you can use it.
Does rice water help your hair grow?
“Rice water contains many antioxidants and vitamins which are beneficial for hair health and growth,” says Green.
According to Green, some of the nutrients in rice water that can benefit your hair are folic acid, niacin,
, and inositol. It also contains amino acids that let it act as a protein treatment to strengthen and protect hair.
Here’s how some of the vitamins and minerals in rice can impact your tresses:
- Folic acid (vitamin B9), niacin (vitamin B3), and selenium are important for cell turnover and overall health of the scalp and hair follicle. They stimulate hair growth and help strengthen and thicken the hair.
- Niacin (vitamin B3) and allantoin improve the strength and elasticity of the hair follicle and reduce inflammation by increasing blood flow within the scalp.
- Magnesium dissolves calcium buildup on the hair from hard water and rejuvenates hair follicles.
- Inositol (vitamin B8) is found in many foods, like fruits, nuts, beans, and grains. Your body also uses carbohydrates to make its own inositol. This nutrient increases hair elasticity, making the hair stronger. A small 2012 study found that taking inositol supplements for 180 days helped stimulate hair growth and reduce thinning.
Rice water can help undo some of the damage caused by stress, health issues, and chemical products (like dyes or relaxants) that can cause your scalp to become dry and your hair follicles to get damaged, according to Green. “When you have a clean, well-functioning scalp, you will in turn have healthy, strong, shiny hair that grows,” says Green.
Additionally, fermented rice water may also help treat and prevent dandruff. In a 2013 lab study, it was found to inhibit the growth of malassezia, a dandruff-causing fungus.
How to make rice water for hair
Making rice water is as simple as combining the two ingredients and giving them time to ferment. Here’s the step-by-step process:
- Rinse the rice: Wash the rice to get rid of any dirt or impurities. You can use any type of rice, although if you’re using a non-organic variety, rinse it a few more times to get rid of pesticides.
- Let it ferment: While you can use rice water that hasn’t been fermented, Green says the fermented version is more potent because the fermentation process releases a byproduct called pitaria, which contains all the nutrients, antioxidants, and minerals from the rice. Use one cup of rice and two to three cups of water. “To ferment rice water, allow it to sit for a day. Fermented rice water should be refrigerated after 24 hours and should be used within three days or discarded,” says Green.
- Add natural fragrances: Fermented rice water has a strong smell. If you like, you can add a few drops of essential oils or some herbal tea to the rice water to give it a better fragrance. You could also add orange or lemon peels to it.
How to use rice water for hair
You can use rice water instead of shampoo or after you’ve washed your hair, depending on your preference. Strain it before you use it.
Start pouring it on to your scalp and massaging it in, then pour it on to the rest of your hair as well. Let it rest for up to 30 minutes, then rinse it off with water.
You can use it once or twice a week. While some people might see some change in their hair after a few uses, any real differences in hair strength and length will be more gradual, Green says.
Can rice water damage your hair?
There is some debate about whether rice water can be used on hair with low porosity. Porosity refers to how much moisture your hair can absorb. You may have low porosity hair if:
- Your hair typically doesn’t absorb a lot of water or conditioner in the shower, so washing it takes longer because it takes longer to get properly wet
- Your hair is prone to product buildup
- Your hair floats at the top of a glass of room temperature water for a few minutes, before sinking to the bottom
However, Green says rice water can work for all hair types. If you think rice water may not suit you because you have low porosity hair, you can test it out on a small patch first and see how it feels. If your hair feels more frizzy, avoid using rice water on your hair.
It’s important to remember that the use of rice water on hair is a home remedy, and like most home remedies, it may help some people and may not help others. If you feel like rice water is not suiting your hair, you should stop using it.
Applying rice water to hair is an ancient practice used in many Asian countries. Some people even apply it to their skin to soothe it and treat eczema.
Rice water may help you get stronger, shinier, and healthier hair. You can try it out and see whether it works for you — if you see results, you should use it once or twice a week. However, if you feel like it’s not suiting your hair, you can stop using it.