In a trend-led world, we’re forever striving to find the next big thing. Even in beauty; we’re all guilty of it, from the flashiest facials (hello, avocado face masks) to the skin-clearing supplement of the moment (charcoal, anyone?). But have you heard about the age-old ritual of rice water for hair?
We’re drawn to the content that’ll aesthetically bless our Instagram feed, that sounds almost unattainable and high-brow and that, realistically, is just as easy to make at home for a quarter of the price. But, nevertheless, what if there was an inexpensive and ultra-effective beauty treatment sitting in your cupboard right now?
Rice might not seem like the most glamorous asset in your beauty toolkit but – here’s the thing – it doesn’t have to be. As a basic pantry essential, rice water (that is, rice and water combined) might seem humble and unassuming.
However, rice water for hair growth is a quick trick that can be dated all the way back to the Heian era in Japan, where court ladies were known to have long, beautiful hair. There’s even a village in China occupied by the Red Yao Tribe known as the “Land of Rapunzels”, recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s “longest hair village.” Indeed, residents have been known to grow their jet black hair up to two metres long whilst maintaining its strength and sheen, well into old age. What do these two groups have in common? They swear by rice water.
Does Rice Water Help Hair Growth?
Until now, much of the evidence surrounding the effectiveness of rice water for hair has been rooted in cultural practices as mentioned above; a popular article often cited by beauty enthusiasts investigates the hair care techniques of the Heian period, including the use of rice water. Of course, the pitfall here is that the Heian period was around 900 years ago, and the likelihood that focused tests were coordinated to monitor the variables around rice water in this period is quite low.
Unfortunately, few scientific studies have been dedicated to this in modern times as well and, if they have, then they’ve usually come back as inconclusive. The silver lining, however, is that the anecdotal results (those YouTube before-and-afters and the envious locks of the Red Yao Tribe) are overwhelmingly positive.
What we do know for sure is that rice water contains inositol. Recent research has found that inositol is able to penetrate damaged hair and repair it from the inside out, even going so far as to protect hair from future damage; it remains inside the hair follicles even after rinsing, meaning the benefits are prolonged and continuous. We also know that inositol in rice water promotes elasticity in the hair. These two properties combined – strength and elasticity – are fundamental in hair care, meaning rice water not only fosters healthy hair but, in turn, promotes hair growth.
How Long Does it Take for Rice Water To Grow Hair?
There isn’t a ballpark figure for how many inches your hair will grow in a given period of time because a whole host of factors like hair type, genetics and current condition will come into play. Having said that, many advocates have noted a growth of around one to two inches a month, dependent on the treatment being used properly and consistently; beauty blogger Victoria Jackson made a video detailing her experience using rice water for a month, observing a two inch growth after consistent use.
This sentiment is echoed by others who also swear by rice water for hair growth: blogger kikimancy claims her damaged hair grew at least an inch in a month, YouTuber Taylor Anise documents her hair growing two inches in a month, and another YouTube – Vivid Rose – states that her hair has grown two inches in two months after using rice water. Considering hair grows about half an inch a month on its own, this is a really drastic and positive result.
Strength and elasticity, as mentioned above, plays a part in this growth, but rice water also contains a plethora of beneficial vitamins and minerals. These include amino acids, vitamin B, vitamin E, and antioxidants – the building blocks of protein. Deficiencies in some of these groups, especially B-group vitamins, are often directly associated with hair loss, so the addition of vitamin B in rice water is a great indicator to promote quick growth.
How Often Can I Use Rice Water For Hair?
Just as there isn’t a ballpark figure for how many inches your hair will grow in a given period, neither is there a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ frequency to use rice water on your hair; this figure will be dependent on your own hair type and its properties, genetics and current condition. For most, however, a rinse once or twice a week should suffice.
Due to the protein-rich vitamins and minerals found in rice water, it’s worth gauging how well your scalp and hair will react by conducting a patch test. Low porosity hair isn’t able to absorb moisture into your hair shaft as easily and so, instead, might want to use rice water even less frequently, at a rate of once every six to eight weeks. Ultimately, only you know how well your hair responds to certain treatments and how it responds to protein – use rice water at your own discretion and keep tabs on what works best for you as an individual.
How to Make Rice Water
Most people will opt for a rice water rinse, using the cloudy liquid to repeatedly rinse through the hair. You’ll need to use two bowls – one to pour the rice water, and one to catch the rice water as it streams through – but bear in mind that you should look into using a protein-free deep conditioner afterwards and letting it sit for around half an hour.
There are three ways to prepare rice water: boil, soak or ferment. When boiling, you’ll need to cover 1/2 cup of rice with double the water typically used for cooking. Cook as per the package instructions and strain into a clean bowl before use. When soaking – the quickest way to make rice water – you’ll need to thoroughly rinse 1/2 cup of uncooked rice, place it in a bowl with around two to three cups of water, leave to soak for half an hour, and then strain into a clear bowl.
Some have claimed that fermented rice water is more beneficial than plain rice water, on account of a recent research paper which states that fermented substances bring out a higher amount of antioxidants – ideal for combatting hair and skin damage, which is why they are usually so prevalent in beauty and skincare products. Fermenting your rice water is similar to soaking it, although before straining it into a clear bowl, you’ll need to leave it to stand at room temperature for a couple of days so that it can ferment. Afterwards, you’ll strain into a clear bowl before use.
Whichever method you choose, make sure to wash your hair with shampoo as normal, rinse thoroughly, pour the rice water onto your hair, massage it into the hair and scalp, leave it on for up to twenty minutes, and rinse thoroughly using warm water from the tap.