Should you use rice water on natural hair? For many naturals, the answer is yes! Rice water has origins stemming from all parts of Asia including China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. And though rice water for hair has a rich history in Asian culture, the popularity of this starchy hair care practice is on the rise for many Naturalistas across the globe. Today, women from various cultures are praising the magic of rice water. And what’s more is that their stories are not just anecdotal. Research conducted in 2010 demonstrates that rice water produces positive results for your hair. Additional research from Japan shows that inositol (also referred to as Vitamin B-8, a compound found in rice), may even strengthen the hair.
Rice Water Benefits for Hair
Rice water contains antioxidants, Vitamins B, C, and E, as well as amino acids which are believed to work together to deliver a bevy of benefits to your hair including:
- Hair growth
- Protection from ultraviolet rays
- Decreased hair damage (e.g. split ends)
- Hair conditioning resulting in soft hair
- Restorative pH properties
- Hair and scalp nourishment
- Decreased risk for dryness
- Reduced hair friction
- Anti-frizz properties
- Hair strengthening properties
The Rapunzels of Asia
The Yao women of southern China, are credited with popularizing the use of rice water for hair. The village of over 200 women view the hair as sacred, only to be cut once in their lives as a rite of passage into womanhood. In the Huangluo village, different hairstyles are used to communicate the women’s positions as single women, wives, or mothers.
Watch the video below to learn more about the Yao women, or skip to the section below to learn how to make DIY rice water.
How Do I Make Rice Water for My Hair?
Preparing the water is relatively simple. We’ve included a step-by-step recipe for you to try below:
Fermenting Rice Water
- Pour ½ cup of uncooked rice into 2-3 cups of water
- Wash the rice thoroughly and strain the water into a separate bowl (do not throw out the rice!)
- Allow this water to stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 days (the Yao women are believed to allow the “washing water” to ferment for up to 2 weeks)
- Strain the rice water into a bowl before using it
It’s important to use the water you rinsed the rice with. Many women throw out what the Yao women call “washing water” because of the starch but as evidenced by the study above, the starch is helpful to strengthening the hair. Also, in various videos of Yao women (including the one above) the rice water users only use the washing water.
How to Use Rice Water
To use the rice water rinse, it’s important to apply the rinse to clean hair. Be sure to shampoo your hair thoroughly, so that it is free of any product build-up. After your hair is clean and free of shampoo, rinse your hair with the rice water you’ve prepared using the steps above. Take your time massaging the rice water into your scalp be generous! The solution will only serve to benefit your hair journey. Leave the rice water on your hair for ten to twenty minutes and rinse with lukewarm water. Allow your hair to dry (or not, if you’re preparing a wet style) and style as usual.
Heads Up: Rice water stinks! As with anything that is fermented, the resulting solution does not smell good during or after fermentation. However, the Yao women report that the smell quickly dissipates after you use it.
The bottom line is by all accounts, rice water is beneficial to your hair. This ancient hair care ritual seems to improve the overall look, feel, and structure of your hair over time with consistent use. After all, it’s hard to argue with 3000 years of proof from women with 1.5 meter (or 59 inches) long hair.