Fact or Fiction: The Benefits of Rice Water for Hair

Megan Dominion

For literal millennia rice and rice water rinsing has been Asia’s best kept beauty secret for glowing skin and glossy hair. We dig into the colloquial wisdom plus the science behind it.

Whilst it may sound odd, there’s a number of reasons why you need a rice water rinse for your hair, including a glossier shine, and strengthening from within. If you’ve just caught wind of this trend, you may, like me – have thought rice water was some new fancy brand of hair care product. It’s not. It’s genuinely just the liquid suspension of rice starches in water. If you’re not sure how to make a rice water rinse for hair then pop over here for our simple how-to make rice water, then pop back to read all about why!

Is Rice Water Good for your Hair? Here’s our Summary of Benefits:

Stronger hair
Shiny Hair
Glossy curls
Easy to straighten
Less breakage
Thicker appearance
Rich in antioxidants
Reduced split ends
Increased elasticity (less breakage)


The use of Rice Water Rinse: A History

Throughout East Asian regions, in particular China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, women have used rice-water to treat and condition their hair and scalp. Whilst there’s not much in the way of formal written evidence or documentation from ancient history, it is thought that the practice dates back as early as 794CE to 1185CE in Japan’s Heian period. During this time Japanese women would not cut their hair and art of the time depicts floor length locks, kept healthy by bathing in rice water.


Does Rice Water actually work? Here’s the Science:

While rice water has been used for centuries, there have been several scientific studies conducted to further understand the health benefits. Through these studies numerous advantages have been identified including the minerals and properties in rice water that further enhance your hair and skin.

Rice compounds have been found to be an effective method in the treatment of alopecia. In 2010, the Journal of Cosmetic Chemists released an article explaining the benefits of rice water which they credited to Inositol. Inositol repairs damaged hair from the inside out; it decreases friction, and increases elasticity for healthier and shinier looking hair.

Studies have also shown that rice water is rich in many nutrients and minerals, each with their own set of benefits. These include antioxidants, vitamin B and vitamin E which fight against damaged hair causing split ends, dullness and breakages. They work to repair and restore the hair from these damages. Rice water is rich in starch which works to coat the hair and provide fullness; and amino acids to help improve hair health and strengthen the hair strands.

Rice Water for Anti-Aging Benefits

One key study, conducted by the Pharmacy Faculty at the University of Lisbon, aimed to identify the scientific benefits of rice water to help in anti-aging, and if it has cosmetic properties to be considered an ingredient in skincare products.

The study tested three different rice water methods:
– using boiling water on whole rice grains,
– room temperature water with crushed rice grains,
– and room temperature water with intact rice grains.

The study determined that rice water should be considered as an anti-aging ingredient in skincare products. It identified that rice water obtained with boiling water was most suitable due to the properties and semisolid dosage it formed made it the more desirable choice to create a gel formula.

Both the boiling rice water and crushed rice water had the highest phenol contents (Phenol is an organic compound and can be used to manufacture synthetic fibres as well as being used as a disinfectant or antiseptic). This Phenol compound acts as an antioxidant; the higher the phenol contents the more desirable it is as an anti-aging ingredient.

So, is Rice Water Actually Good for your Hair then?

So there you have it. Through the numerous studies conducted it has been concluded that rice water has endless benefits for your hair.

Can you leave Rice Water in overnight?

No, we don’t recommend leaving any products in your hair overnight, including a rice water rinse, except when the product has specifically been formulated for overnight use. By doing this you run the risk of issues such as protein overload or hygral fatigue.

Read: What is hygral fatigue and how to fix this at home

How Often Should you be Using a Rice Water Rince in your Hair?

We think it’s important to note that rice water should not be used every day, rather start off once or twice a month and slowly build up the frequency if you are seeing good results. If you have dry, frizzy, curly or low porosity hair use rice water in moderation as too often can undo all the hard work you’ve been putting into your hair and actually cause more breakage. Find that balance and always listen to what your hair istrying to tell you!


Megan Dominion

Megan Dominion is SILKUP's Managing Editor. She's been down both the curly hair and skincare rabbit holes many times and loves that there's always something new to learn; a new science, method, product or personal experience.