Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Gopika Suresh (Journalist) on 24th Oct 2020

Have you used rice water for hair yet? Is it really beneficial? Let's find out

rice water for hair

What is rice water?  

Several women in China, Southeast Asia and Japan have sworn by rice water as a hair treatment for several centuries. Once the rice is cooked or left to soak, starchy water is obtained, called rice water. Many claim that it makes hair smooth, shiny and helps it grow faster.

This article will inform you about the beauty benefits that rice water hair treatments offer and whether science supports the claims it makes.   

The history of rice water  

Rice water as part of India’s Ayurvedic medicine  

The concept of using rice water as a hair treatment isn’t new; it has a long history across several cultures worldwide. Known as kanji in India, rice water is an integral part of Ayurvedic medicine. It is used in the treatment plan to help beat eczema, as a gentle body wash. This is suitable for those with sensitive skin and can soften skin.   

Rice water during the Heian period in Japan 

According to research, women of the court bathed using rice water during Japan’s Heian period (794 to 1185 CE). They used it for their floor long tresses to make it more elastic. Rice water made mention in several beauty guides of the Victorian period in England too. In these texts, it is mentioned that rice water was used for soothing eczema, affecting the scalp.  

The women of the Huangalo village and rice water  

A modern-day version of this can be found in China today. In the country, a village named Huangalo is home to the Yao women, famous for having hair of an average length of 6 feet. It is not just this!

It is said that their women's hair there doesn't grey until they reach their 80s! The ladies give all the credit to one simple ingredient - rice water, which they bathe in regularly. Due to its significance over centuries, the rice water trend is made use of by several product developers and beauty advice websites today.  

Rice water and Korea 

Even the Koreans, whose beauty regimes are famous worldwide, use rice water for their hair to appear more lustrous. So it is safe to say that a humble ingredient like rice water can strengthen hair and nourish it with the essential carbohydrates and vitamins.  

What does rice water contain?  

Rice grains are made up of 75 to 80 percent starch. As mentioned above, rice water is starchy water that is obtained after cooking or soaking rice. Rice water contains several vitamins and minerals that rice does, such as amino acids, vitamin E, B vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  

Advantages of rice water  

  • It could detangle the hair 
  • Rice water makes hair smoother 
  • It increases the shine and luster of the hair 
  • It makes your hair stronger and more elastic  
  • It helps hair grow longer faster  

What does the research say?

Although more and more people begin to swear by rice water's benefits, it is crucial to note whether these claims are scientifically proven.

A research paper in 2010 suggested that rice water could reduce friction that damages the hair and can increase its elasticity. However, the study relied on historical examples and concluded from those.

A research facility in Japan developed an imaging technique that visualizes how inositol in the hair strengthens it. Inositol is a carbocyclic sugar that can be found in rice water. However, it is essential to note that this research may have had commercial interests as a facility published it. Although the benefits of rice water have been raved about by users since times immemorial, there is no proof of it and more research is needed to support any evidence of its benefits.  

How to make rice water 

If you wish to pamper your hair with rice water, there are a few ways you could do so. It's not as simple as dumping a ton of rice and water on your head, though.  

Soaking method  

The easiest and quickest way to prepare rice water is by the soaking method. For this, take around half a cup of uncooked rice. Rinse it thoroughly to remove any dirt and chemicals. Place the rice in a bowl and pour around two to three cups of water into it. Next, let it soak for thirty minutes. This allows all the essential vitamins and minerals to diffuse with the water you will use thoroughly. Next, strain the rice water and store the starchy liquid.

Fermented vs. plain rice water 

Speaking of the rice water you can use, you may pick either fermented rice or plain. Some experts claim that fermented rice water had more benefits over plain rice water.   

Fermented substances contain antioxidants, according to research  

According to a study done in 2012, a higher amount of antioxidants is seen in fermented substances. Antioxidants can beat skin and hair cell damage. Due to this, antioxidants, as you would know, are used in several cosmetic products.   

Minimalist tip: 

How to make fermented rice water  

To obtain fermented rice water, follow the steps that we mentioned above under the soaking method. However, before straining it, allow the rice water to ferment at room temperature for up to two days. After this, you may strain the fermented rice water and store the starchy liquid in a clean bowl for use.

Boiling method  

Another way one could prepare rice water is by the boiling method; however, this may take a little longer. For this, take half a cup of rice in a bowl and put double the water into it. Boil and strain the rice water into a clean bowl later.  

Minimalist tip: 

How to use rice water in your hair care regime  

By using rice water correctly, it could help condition your hair. To do this, follow the below steps.  

  • First, make sure to wash your hair thoroughly with shampoo.
  • Next, get rid of all the shampoo on your hair with water.  
  • Pur the rice water (fermented or plain) that you stored in a clean bowl earlier onto your hair.  
  • Using your fingertips and not your nails, give yourself a scalp and hair massage. Please note that using your nails may get you a bad case of dandruff.  
  • Leave the solution on your scalp and hair for about 20 minutes.  
  • Lastly, you may rinse your scalp thoroughly with lukewarm water.  

Skin benefits that rice water provides  

Along with the benefits that rice water provides to the hair, it also benefits the skin. A study conducted in 2002 found that the starch present in rice water helped heal the skin of those suffering from dermatitis. Since dermatitis can affect the scalp too, rice water can be used if you suffer from it.


Although a traditional hair treatment in several parts of Asia, rinsing hair with rice water has gained a lot of attention online. Today, it is a beauty remedy that is famous worldwide. Several people find the treatment to be beneficial and the history, too, suggests that it can improve the strength, growth and texture of the hair.

Yet, more research needs to be conducted to judge the benefits of rice water. The evidence that is available now is inconclusive. Although experts have not proven its pros, rice water may be safe to use at home. You could try and see if it works for your hair and scalp.