My Dominican grandmother had the most stunning and glowing skin I had ever seen, which made a lot of sense considering she was a real stickler when it came to skincare. Aside from her POND’s cold cream moisturizer, my abuela’s best-kept secret was rice water. One night, I followed her as she carried the bowl of rice water to her bathroom, set it down on the counter, and proceeded to wash her face with it. I looked at her, confused. “This is one of the best things you can do for your skin,” she told me. It turns out, she was onto something.
Using rice water is an ancient skin care tradition that's been used for over a thousand years, and it remains popular in Japanese and Korean cultures. Studies show that rice water can heal damaged skin, hydrate it, keep it looking young, improve UVA/UVB protection, and even prevent hair loss. With all this in mind, it's no wonder my abuela always looked so good.
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Jennifer Schloth, a dermatology physician's assistant in New York, explains that rice is full of vitamins B and E, which are very hydrating, plus antioxidants, which protect the skin from environmental aggressors like free radicals. “Because of this, it works to repair and restore the skin's natural microbiome and barrier,” she explains.
Rice water can easily be made at home by boiling rice in water and straining out that starch water and letting it cool in the refrigerator. “Then, you can use it as a cleanser or toner—plus, you'll notice that your makeup will go on much smoother," says Schloth. "Plus, it's cost-effective and simple to make.” Additionally, you can mix it in with your bath water to soak your whole body in it.
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Apart from DIY’ing your new rice water routine, you can check out the many skincare products that use this hero ingredient. “All of Tatcha’s skincare formulas contain rice," explains Yoli Mata, a Tatcha ambassador and California-based facialist. "It’s hard to pick just one—however, if I had to pick two, I would go with The Essence and The Rice Polish. The Essence increases the skin’s hydration levels by 150% in seconds and makes all skincare you apply afterward work better, and The Rice Polish leaves skin smooth and glowing."
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Rice water is safe for all skin types, but if you're using a new skincare product you'll still want to double-check the rest of the ingredient list to make sure it'll work for your skin. "I always tell my clients to test on a small patch of skin before using all over their faces," says Mata. However, if you decide you want to use straight-up rice water, Schloth assures us that's it's safe for all skin types—just make sure the water temperature is lukewarm, not hot, to prevent accidentally burning your skin.
Here's to following my abuela's steps!