How to Make Rice Water for Hair Growth and Shine

Here is everything you need to know about the benefits of this all-natural hair treatment.

Rice is one of the most overlooked natural beauty products out there. Contrary to popular belief, the grain isn't just for eating, it has major haircare benefits too. A quick scroll through YouTube, and you'll see natural hair vloggers raving about the benefits of rice water for hair, even Cardi B swears by it.

Although rice water treatments have recently increased in popularity, the Yao women of southern China have used it in their regime for centuries, and it is said to be the secret behind their long rapunzel-like hair.

What are the benefits of rice water?

Rice water increases hair elasticity, moisturizes the scalp, adds volume, curl definition, shine and bounce, and strengthens the hair. Weezy, a celebrity hairstylist with Upgrade, says that when used properly, rice water can also help promote hair growth because of the protein it provides.

So what exactly is rice water? "Rice water is the starchy water left over after rice is cooked or soaked," Nai'vasha, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Curl Queen, explains. "It's filled with nutrients such as vitamins B and E, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants, and inositol, which can offer topical benefits to the hair and scalp."

Person with short, curly hair with an ombre black to blonde hair coloring
Getty Images

Below, we asked the two hairstylists to share everything you need to know before using rice water on your hair.

How do you make rice water?

Making rice water is simple: all you need is rice, water, a pot, a strainer, and a spray bottle. "Start by adding two cups of water to each cup of rice and mixing it in a bowl or pot," says Weezy. "Next, allow the rice to soak for 8-16 hours." As the rice soaks, the water will become a foggy white color.

After the rice has soaked for a while, grab an empty container and strain the rice water into the container. If you've followed the steps correctly, you should be left with grains of rice in your strainer and cloudy-looking rice water in your container. Transfer the rice water into a spray bottle, and there you have it, rice water.

How do you apply rice water to your hair?

Before you apply rice water to your hair, make sure you gently cleanse your hair with shampoo and rinse thoroughly. "After you have shampooed your hair, saturate it with rice water, starting at the ends of the hair," says Nai'vasha. "Pour the remaining rice water onto your scalp and massage it into your roots and through the strands of hair. Leave the rice water to sit for 20-30 minutes, then rinse it off with cool water."

Can rice water be left in hair overnight?

When a conditioner or treatment is known for working wonders on the hair, you might feel tempted to leave it on your hair longer than the recommended time — I know I've certainly done this a few times. However, according to the hairstylists, leaving rice water on the hair too long can cause damage. "The protein content in rice water can over-process and dry out the hair if left in for a long duration of time or overnight," says Nai'vasha.

How long does rice water last?

Rice water can be stored for up to 24 hours at room temperature, and between four to five days in the refrigerator. If the rice water is kept any longer, the batch will ferment and degrade and can cause damage to the hair.

What hair types benefit from rice water?

"Rice water works best on natural, non-processed hair (no chemicals)," says Weezy. "The amount of protein in rice water can snap chemically processed hair if overused."

Nai'vasha adds that rice water is great for damaged and thin hair. "Studies have found that inositol found in rice water helps hair follicles to produce new hair," she explains. "Inositol also helps lower DHT levels (Dihydrotestosterone). A person who has alopecia can benefit from inositol as it moderates the excessive DHT levels found in alopecia, and can aid hair growth, increase elasticity and help heal damaged tresses."

Are there any side effects from using rice water?

Side effects after using rice water are rare but can occur. According to both experts, the most common side effect is drying and flaking, both of which usually come from over usage. So please, be aware of timing and don't leave rice water on your hair too long.

It's also important to avoid using colored rice to make rice water, as the colored grains can potentially stain the hair.

Should you condition hair after using rice water?

If you're using rice water as a hair mask and leaving it on your hair for more than 10 minutes, Weezy recommends deep conditioning your hair after the treatment. "As rice water is highly concentrated in starch, too much rice water can dry your hair out," he says. "Deep condition your hair for 15-30 minutes and hydrate your hair and scalp with essential oils."

How often should you do a rice water treatment?

If you're trying out rice water for the first time, Nai'vasha recommends applying it once or twice a week for optimal results. After a while, you can adjust to using rice water once a month, especially if you are treating your hair with other types of treatments.

What are some products with rice water?

If you don't have the patience to make your own rice water treatment, but still want your natural hair to experience all its benefits, these products below are the next best thing.

Ooli Clarify Your Mane Clarifying Shampoo

ooli shampoo

This sulfate-free shampoo helps to thoroughly cleanse the scalp with its infusion of tea tree, a natural antiseptic. It also contains fermented rice to aid hair growth, volume, and shine.

To shop: $19,

SheaMoisture Purple Rice Water Strength and Color Care Shampoo

Shea Moisture Strength & Color Shampoo

This rich, strengthening shampoo helps restore fragile hair to a stronger, healthier state. The combination of pure rice extract, wild orchid, sweet violet extract, moisturizing shea butter, argan oil, and jojoba oil, provides the perfect boost of natural strengthening protein and hydrating oils.

To shop: $11;

Brigeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Shea Hydrating Co-Wash

Brigeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Shea Hydrating Co-Wash

This co-wash is great for natural hair. Its blend of rice amino acids and tomato fruit ferment and shea butter, promote a consistent curl pattern and enhance the vibrancy of each curl.

To shop: $32,

Mielle Organics Rice Water Milk

Mielle Organics Rice Water Milk

If you have dry, fragile hair, this moisturizing milk is great for locking in moisture and strengthening weak strands. Key ingredients such as safflower oil, rice water, yuzu, castor oil, and coconut oil, help to hydrate thirsty hair.

To shop: $10;

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