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We Asked Experts If You Should Really Use Rice Water for Hair Growth

<p>Cecred</p>

Cecred

You’ve likely seen rice water listed as an ingredient on a product label. However, you know very little about this powerhouse ingredient and are unsure if it should become a regular in your beauty arsenal. If you’re dealing with weak, damaged hair or a dry scalp or simply want to level up your hair-care routine to help strands be as strong and healthy as possible, adding rice water to your hair-care routine could be key.

We asked a panel of hair pros to share their expert intel on this centuries-old natural hair treatment. Find out how rice water can remedy an impressive list of common hair concerns, both short and long-term, exactly how to use it, products that contain rice water, and answers to your most commonly asked questions.

What is Rice Water?

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

“Rice water extract is taken from the water that is retained after soaking or boiling rice, which can have essential antioxidants, minerals, amino acids, and vitamins,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, who points out that it’s been used in many cultures for centuries, primarily in Asia. Kandasamy agrees that the milky liquid that’s created by soaking rice in water is a pro-approved treatment for both hair and skin again because of its high levels of nutrients, including B vitamins, antioxidants, carbohydrates, and amino acids.

Benefits of Rice Water for Hair

According to Kerry E. Yates, trichologist and founder of Colour Collective, rice water is an incredibly useful ingredient for all hair types and has a long list of potential beauty benefits. “Rice water is brilliant for fortifying fragile hair, improving suppleness, helping to smooth down rough cuticles, and enhancing shine,” she says. “It’s a great natural alternative to layering hair with silicone-based serums to achieve a smoothing effect.”

Because of rice water’s smoothing effect, it can make hair appear less damaged and tame frizz. “The starch in rice water can coat the hair shaft, smoothing the cuticle and reducing frizz, resulting in smoother and more manageable hair,” adds Richy Kandasamy, colorist and VP of R+COLOR Development and R+Co Collective. Dr. Garshick explains that part of rice water’s superpower for hair is that it helps strengthen strands. “When rice water is used for hair, it is thought to help strengthen and add moisture to the hair, leaving it looking and feeling softer and smoother,” she says.

Rice water is also a high-level moisturizer for both skin and scalp, which, in turn, can also promote healthy-looking and feeling hair overall. “Having a healthy scalp is important for growing healthy-looking hair because it allows for optimal functioning of the hair follicles,” says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD.

It may also help treat common scalp conditions. “Rice water has anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe the scalp, reduce dandruff, and alleviate itchiness or irritation,” says Kandasmy.

How to Use Rice Water in Hair

<p>Getty Images</p>

Getty Images

Dr. Zeichner recommends thinking of rice water as a primer for your hair. “After washing your hair, rub rice water into your hair and scalp and allow it to sit for five to 10 minutes,” he says. “Then apply your regular conditioner afterward if you need to.” Dr. Garshick explains that, in some cases, rice water may be incorporated into a specific product, such as a shampoo and conditioner, and should be used as directed on the label. Beyoncé’s new hair-care line, Cécred, features a Fermented Rice & Rose Protein Ritual made with hydrolyzed rice protein that’s reactivated when you mix it with water, allowing you to reap the benefits of fresh rice water without the hassle. But brands like Briogeo and R+Co carry great products for a DIY-free option.

But if you do want to use a DIY rice water mixture, “it can be massaged into hair and then rinsed out, or it can be used prior to shampoo as a pre-shampoo treatment or after rinsing shampoo and prior to conditioning,” she says, adding that to see the best results, repeat the treatment one to two times per week and leave it on hair for five to 20 minutes at most. According to hair pro Kandasamy, if you’re using a pure rice water mixture, not a product that is laced with the ingredient, you should “wet your hair with the rice water, especially your scalp area, and massage it in and leave it on for five minutes,” he says. “This step targets hair follicles, which can stimulate hair growth and strengthen hair.” Next, wash like normal with shampoo and conditioner.

He also notes that consistency is key to seeing noticeable improvements in hair health from rice water. “Since it’s a natural remedy, it may take some time to see significant results from using rice water—be patient and give your hair time to adjust and experience the best result,” he explains.

When to Avoid Rice Water for Hair

“Rice water is so mild that it can be used across all skin and hair types,” says Dr. Zeichner. Dr. Garshick points out that although there’s no reason not to use rice water as a hair treatment, what does matter is how long you leave pure rice water on hair because excessive use can actually have a negative effect, including protein overload that may cause hair to feel stiff and become brittle. “It’s best to avoid using rice water for too long or too often—no more than 20 minutes at a time and one to two times a week—because it can create a buildup of starch on strands,” she says. Yates agrees that rice water can be used on all hair textures and types but notes that it’s especially beneficial for medium to coarse-textured hair that tends to have untamed frizziness or unmanageable waves.  “When used as a hair rinse, rice water temporarily seals the cuticle, creating that smooth surface that then enhances overall shine and helps to control frizz,” she says.

Kandasamy notes that he does not recommend rice water to clients with overly chemically treated hair.

“If you have chemically treated hair, such as hair that has been colored, relaxed, or permed, be cautious with rice water,” he says. “The proteins in rice water may interact with the chemicals in your hair treatments, leading to adverse effects, such as uneven color or texture. Therefore, always use rice water in moderation, observe how your hair responds to it, and adjust the usage accordingly.”

And, of course, anyone who may be allergic to rice should also avoid using rice water hair treatments or ask their doctor before using it. “Some clients may be allergic to certain components in rice water—if you experience any allergic reaction such as itching, redness or swelling after using rice water, discontinue use immediately and consult a dermatologist or doctor,” he says.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does rice water help with hair loss/thinning or aid in hair growth?

Although it can’t reverse these hair concerns, it can potentially help hair appear and feel thicker. “Rice water has been used to treat thinning hair for hundreds of years in Eastern Medicine,” says Dr. Zeichner. That’s likely because rice water contains high starch levels, which coat the hair shaft to add strength and hydration and minimize the appearance of split ends.”

Should you put rice water on wet or dry hair?

According to Dr. Garshick, “It is best to apply rice water to wet or damp hair to minimize frizziness given the high starch content,” she says. 

What is the best way to create an at-home rice water hair treatment?

Dr. Garshick shares this method: Take a half cup of uncooked rice and place it in a bowl with two to three cups of water. Let it soak for 30 minutes, then strain the rice water into a bowl. Kandasamy explains that how you prepare rice water at home is based on preference and can include fermenting, boiling, or soaking rice. “Each method may yield slightly different results, so experiment and find the preparation method that works best for your hair,” he explains.

Should you dilute DIY rice water?

Yes. “Rice water is very concentrated, so I recommend diluting it with water before applying it to the hair—this helps prevent potential protein overload and ensures even application," says Kandasamy.

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