We Ask a Derm: Can You Use Rice Water for Hair Growth?

From castor oil to black seed oil, we’re always longing for natural alternatives to help with hair growth. So when rice water came on the scene, the beauty world flocked to promote its benefits and easy techniques for making it at home.

We reached out to Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai, to give us the scoop on this beauty trend and answer the big question: Does rice water actually help with hair growth?

“Rice water has been used for decades in Eastern cultures to treat the hair,” says Dr. Zeichner. In fact, there’s a village of women in Huang Luo, China, that has earned the name “Land of Rapunzels” due to the fact that these women have hair up to six feet long. Their secret? You guessed it: rice water.

“But despite its popularity, there is no real data showing that it truly enhances hair growth,” Dr. Zeichner explains. There are, however, many other known benefits of using the ingredient. Here’s what we’ve learned:

What are the benefits of using rice water on your hair?

Remember that there’s no actual scientific evidence of hair growth abilities. However, rice water does have other perks to keep your hair healthy. According to Dr. Zeichner, it’s rich in starches that can coat the surface of the hair to add strength and moisture as well as provide hydration to the scalp.

Additionally, one of the core components found in rice water is inositol. It’s a carbohydrate that repairs and protects while staying in your hair to work its magic even after rinsing. Amino acids also work to strengthen roots, increase hair volume and keep hair shiny and smooth. The mix of vitamins A and E and minerals can improve hair texture, tame frizz and keep hair feeling (and looking!) healthy.

If you weren’t already convinced, it also works to reduce, rescue and repair split ends; all you need to do is soak them in rice water for 15 to 20 minutes on a weekly basis. What’s more, the treatment helps with dandruff (with regular use, it can help combat the issue and stop fungus from spreading) and even removes and kills lice.

How to Use Rice Water

Overall, using rice water in your hair (or swapping it for a daily conditioner) is safe and natural, but it is important to add a teaspoon of a natural clarifier (like tea tree oil or apple cider vinegar) to prevent buildup over time. There are no proven side effects of a rice water treatment, so use at your own discretion.

Maybe the best part of all? You can make it right at home. Here's how:

The Soaking Method

Soaking is the easiest and quickest method for making rice water. All you’ll need is uncooked rice (any kind is fine), water, a bowl, a strainer and a spray bottle. (You can also add essential oils for more benefits and a better smell.)

  • Place ½ cup uncooked rice in a bowl

  • Add 2 to 3 cups warm water

  • Let it soak for about 30 minutes in the bowl before straining out the rice

  • Pour the strained water into a spray bottle (or any storage container).

Apply it to freshly washed hair, leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes and then rinse out before using conditioner.

The Boiling Method

It’s similar to soaking, but heat is involved. The excess water left after cooking rice can be used on your hair. All you’ll need is uncooked rice, water, a pot, a strainer and a spray bottle (or any storage container).

  • Place ½ cup uncooked rice in the pot

  • Add more water than usual (about 1 to 2 cups)

  • Cook the rice over medium heat until the water starts boiling

  • You can either scoop out the excess water on top of the rice or wait until the rice is cooked and then strain the liquid into a spray bottle

  • If desired, add a few drops of essential oils like rosemary, lavender or chamomile

After shampooing, spray (or pour) the rice water onto your hair. Leave it for 5 to 20 minutes, massaging it into your scalp. Rinse it out with regular water.

The Fermentation Method

While the first two methods are easy and efficient, fermentation takes a little bit more time and patience (so you might want to reschedule wash day). The technique helps restore and balance the high pH levels found in plain rice water. The fermented water has a high amount of antioxidants, which enhance the vitamins and nutrient levels, in turn helping to protect and nourish your hair.

  • Combine the uncooked rice and warm water in a bowl (similar to the soaking method)

  • Let it soak for about 30 minutes before straining the rice

  • Pour the liquid into a jar and leave it at room temperature for 24 hours

  • Move the jar into the fridge (so it won’t turn bad and leave a stench) for up to two or three days

  • Transfer the rice water into a spray bottle

  • Add 1 to 2 cups warm water and spray onto your hair.

No matter which method you use, apply the rice water once a week for the best results.

Is Rice Water Good for Anything Else?

Turns out, it’s also a secret weapon for skincare. It can be used as a cleanser to help tighten the skin as well as enhance blood circulation in the body when consumed. You can drink the liquid to combat digestive issues, but be careful how much you consume at once. One glass a day would be just fine to help an upset stomach.

The Bottom Line:

While we continue the hunt to find effective home remedies for hair growth, just remember: “If you are suffering from hair thinning, make sure to visit your dermatologist for evaluation for an underlying medical issue,” says Dr. Zeichner. “We know that conditions such as anemia, vitamin deficiencies and thyroid disease can be associated with hair thinning. If there is an underlying medical or nutritional issue, hair often will grow back on its own once the problem has been corrected.”

The Best Rice Water Products for Hair Growth

Many popular brands are jumping on the rice water trend too. So if you’re not into making your own, we recommend SheaMoisture Purple Rice Water Shampoo, Kiehl’s Rice and Wheat Volumizing Shampoo and Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Hydrating Shampoo to get started.

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