Natural beauty remedies are all the rage right now, some of which are rooted in age-old traditions. A hair treatment that has been used for centuries in central and southeast Asia is rice water. Not only is it a cheap alternative to most store-bought hair masks, but it's also easy to make. With a few simple steps, you can turn a pantry staple into an at-home spa treatment for your luxurious locks.
Rice water is the water left over after you cook or soak rice. This starchy water is rich in the vitamins and minerals found in rice, including vitamin E, B vitamins, amino acids, and antioxidants. The use of rice water as a hair treatment dates back to the Heian period in Japan, where women were famed for having floor-length hair.
Some experts and beauty insiders believe that rice water helps make hair stronger, smoother, and shinier. Rice water acts as a natural detangler, preventing hair breakage. It can strengthen strands and stimulate growth, helping hair grow longer while staying healthy, and may reduce dandruff as well as improving the overall appearance of hair.
You can prepare rice water simply by soaking or boiling rice; either way, all you need is rice and water. To soak the rice, thoroughly rinse it first to get rid of impurities. Using half a cup of rice per 2-3 cups of water, soak it for around half an hour until it appears milky and cloudy, then strain it into a clean bowl. For a more concentrated solution, cook the rice as you usually would, strain, and dilute the resulting concentrated liquid. A ratio of around 1:10 is recommended but should be lower if your hair is oily.
For even greater benefits, you can use fermented rice water. Fermented rice water has higher levels of antioxidants, which combat damage to hair and skin cells. Using fermented rice water also lowers the pH level of the rice water to the pH level of the hair, allowing it to penetrate the scalp and hair follicles more effectively, resulting in greater nourishment.
Rice water ferments over time; the trick is in how long you leave it to soak. To make fermented rice water, soak the rice in water, then leave it for up to two days at room temperature. If possible, place the rice and water together in a sealed container and leave it in a cool, dry place. You will want to stop fermenting the rice when it begins to smell sour, which may take as little as 12-24 hours.
Rice water can be used instead of, or in addition to, your normal conditioner. To use it as a conditioner or post-conditioning rinse, wash your hair as normal, then pour the rice water directly onto your hair. Leave it in for 2-5 minutes to use as a regular conditioner, or for up to 20 minutes for a deep conditioning treatment. Rinse thoroughly and towel dry afterward. It’s that simple.
Rice water can also be used as a leave-in conditioner, setting solution, or even a shampoo. To use it as a leave-in conditioner, simply leave it in the hair instead of rinsing it out. Applying a more concentrated solution as a natural styling serum can help your hair hold its shape without weighing it down. To turn rice water into a shampoo instead, mix the rice water with flour and let it sit for around 5-10 minutes.
Some experts believe that rice water may have benefits for skin as well as hair, with one study finding that the starch in rice water helped to heal skin damaged from dermatitis. Rice water may also have a drying effect on the skin, which can be beneficial to some, but means that those with dry scalps should be careful not to overuse rice water - around once or twice a week is fine.
There is ample anecdotal evidence of the benefits of rice water on hair, but little research has been done to date. However, vitamins B and E, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids—all found in rice water—are known to have a positive effect on hair, and are common ingredients in mainstream hair products. Additionally, scientific studies have found that inositol, a type of sugar found in rice water, can repair and penetrate damaged hair, strengthening it and preventing future damage.
If natural hair remedies sound appealing to you, there are plenty you can try in addition to rice water. If you have dry, frizzy hair, coconut oil can help prevent breakage and split ends, especially if you apply it warm to damp hair and let it soak in overnight. If extra shine is what you’re after, try rinsing hair in lemon juice or diluted apple cider vinegar. Or, for an all-round treatment for every hair type, try using eggs. Egg whites can be used to treat oily hair, egg yolks for brittle hair, or use the whole egg to give a boost to normal hair.