If there’s one thing that will attract the Internet’s fickle attention, it’s unexpected hair growth treatments. This year’s new wonder cure is rice water. Whether you’re hoping to grow mermaid-length locks or struggling with hair loss, there are now so many ways to increase hair growth. From rosemary oil, hair growth shampoos, strengthening supplements, and hair oiling, it feels like it’s now possible to actually grow long hair with some additional help.
So what’s the deal with rice water? If you’ve seen Rapunzel-esque women on your FYP dousing their strands in milky water to grow thick, long hair, you’re not alone. But what exactly is rice water, and does it actually work? Here, find out about this new viral trend that promises to give you the long hair you’ve been dreaming about.
Why is rice water used in haircare?
“Rice water has been used for centuries in haircare as a natural treatment to promote healthy and strong hair,” says Oriza Hair CEO and Founder, Betsy Jasper. “It is rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants that nourish the hair follicles, repair damaged hair, and stimulate hair growth.”
More From ELLE
Nowadays, rice water might be a trend on TikTok, but it has deep roots that existed long before an influencer made a 30-second video about it. “You may have seen one of the latest #hairtok trends on TikTok touting the strengthening benefits of rice water, but the use of rice within personal care dates back to ancient times in Japan,” says Madison Thurman, the R&D Manager at Not Your Mother’s. She continues, “Rice water is obtained by soaking rice–yes, the kind from your pantry–in water for an extended period of time. As the rice soaks, the water turns a milky, off-white color and a chemical reaction known as fermentation takes place. As this process continues, various proteins, nutrients, and minerals are introduced to the water.”
“The tradition of using rice water in haircare originated in ancient Japan, where women would collect the water leftover from rinsing rice and use it to wash and condition their hair,” adds Jasper. She adds, “The Yao women in Huangluo Village, China, are also known for their long and healthy hair, and they credit their hair’s health to washing it with fermented rice water. Over time, this practice has been adopted in other parts of the world and is now becoming a popular ingredient in haircare products.”
What are the benefits of using rice water in your hair?
As Jasper and Thurman mentioned, fermented rice water is rich in proteins, nutrients, and minerals that nourish the hair. “Rice water is a powerhouse ingredient that contains essential vitamins and nutrients vital for hair health,” says Jasper. She continues, “Vitamins B and E in rice water work to nourish and moisturize hair, providing a soft and smooth texture. Rice water’s inositol and niacinamide can repair damaged hair from the inside out, leading to shinier and smoother hair. The amino acids found in rice water, such as cysteine and methionine, strengthen hair fibers, making them more resilient and less prone to hair breakage. These combined benefits make rice water a highly effective ingredient for achieving healthy and beautiful hair.”
Thurman adds, “Proteins in haircare can be classified as film-formers. In essence, this means that they aid in restoring hair integrity and strength by forming a lightweight, permeable film on the cuticle of damaged hair. Various proteins have different benefits, with rice protein providing exceptionally awesome results when it comes to shine and strength. Rice protein also contains several amino acids.”
How should people use rice water in their hair care routines?
There are various ways to incorporate rice water into your hair routines. “You can use rice water as a rinse after shampooing, as a leave-in treatment, or even mix it with other natural ingredients to create a hair mask,” says Jasper. She adds, “However, if you’re looking for a more convenient and efficient option, using hair products infused with rice water, such as Oriza, is an excellent way to get all the benefits and more into your hair care routine.”
These days, more and more brands are using rice water in their haircare formulas for its strengthening and shine-boosting benefits. While you can absolutely ferment your own rice water at home, for ease of use, investing in products that have done the work for you is often an easier solution.
Who is a good candidate for using rice water in their routine?
“Anyone wanting to improve the health and appearance of their hair should consider implementing rice water into their hair care routine, as it is suitable for all hair types. The healing and nourishing properties of rice water make it especially beneficial for individuals experiencing hair loss, breakage, and slow hair growth,” says Jasper.
How often should people use rice water or products with rice water?
One of the reasons why rice water is so beneficial for hair is because it’s loaded with proteins. However, there is such a thing as protein overload that can occur when people over-use protein treatments for hair. To avoid this, use rice water every other wash day, or use hair products that balance protein with moisture. “The frequency of using rice water or products containing rice water depends on an individual’s specific needs. People with dry, damaged, or brittle hair may benefit from using it more frequently, while others may find it sufficient to use it once a week. With regular use, rice water can improve hair texture, reduce hair breakage, and promote healthy hair growth. It’s important to listen to your hair and adjust your routine accordingly to achieve the best results,” says Jasper.
Are there any drawbacks to using rice water?
“Rice water is a natural and gentle ingredient that’s unlikely to cause any adverse effects,” says Jasper. “So, if you find that your hair responds well to rice water, there’s no reason why you can’t incorporate it into your haircare routine.” She adds, “However, as with any new product or ingredient, it’s always a good idea to do a patch test first to ensure that you don’t have any adverse reactions.”
Shop our favorite rice-water infused hair products here:
Fashion & Luxury Commerce Editor
Tatjana Freund is Hearst’s Fashion & Luxury Commerce Editor, covering beauty, fashion and more across multiple brands. Previously, she worked at ELLE.com and Marie Claire. She’s a fan of whiskey neat, podcasts that give her nightmares, and one time Zoë Kravitz laughed at a joke she made.