I've Asked an Expert, and This Is What Rice Water Actually Does for the Hair

As a beauty editor, I honestly feel like a week doesn’t go by where there isn’t a “new” wonder ingredient that is supposedly going to shake up our beauty routine. Sometimes it’s a groundbreaking addition like hyaluronic acid, and sometimes it’s something that needs to be left in the kitchen cupboard. When I started hearing more about rice water, I needed to get to the bottom of whether it was actually a good addition to my hair routine or not.

Despite it being used for many years, originating from the Yao women of China, recently, the ingredient has gained traction on social media thanks to the TikTok #ricewaterchallenge. “Using rice water has been around for generations in Eastern countries, but in the UK, it’s a recent discovery thanks to TikTok,” says Martin Crean, owner of Mode Hair. “It has various benefits for your hair, and it’s easy to create at home.” 

It really is. If you’re genuinely going to use rice water traditionally, then all you need to do is clean a bowl of rice, fill it up with water again and then soak for up to 24 hours (but for at least hour). After washing, drench your hair with the rice water and allow it to sit for around 20 minutes before rinsing it off. “It easily penetrates the hair shaft and repairs it from the inside out,” says Crean. “It’s not something you would use all the time. Think of it as a hair treatmen. I’d suggest using use it once or twice a month.”



Keeks after a protein-rich hair washday.

So why are more people going crazy for rice water right now? One word: protein. It’s the thing that our hair is mostly made from, and therefore, when hair is damaged or weak, protein is the ingredient that needs to be injected into our haircare routine to replenish it. But it isn’t without its cons. As Crean says, “too much protein can have an opposite effect and leave hair feeling dry and damaged.” I’ve found this before where my strands have become oversensitive to frequent protein treatments, and instead of feeling healthier and stronger, my hair feels brittle and is more prone to breakage. Because of this, anything that is too protein-rich I limit to once-monthly treatments and have found that that low frequency works for my hair.

As I looked into the benefits of rice water, I noticed that it’s started to crop up in a few haircare products too, so if you’re less keen on the DIY element of it, you can reap the benefits from the likes of the Gallinée Hair and Scalp range, which has an impressive ingredient list—the star ingredient of which is fermented rice water.

This is a quick and easy way to enrich your hair with the benefits of rice water while also soothing your scalp and regulating sebum. Simply spritz on from scalp to ends and allow to dry.

More Protein-Rich Treatments

Virtue Restorative Treatment Mask

This strengthening and hydrating mask contains Alpha Keratin 60ku for an impactful hit of protein.

Aveda Damage Remedy Intensive Restructuring Treatment

Formulated with quinoa protein, this is a great option for medium to thick hair textures. If you lack volume, only apply from mid-lengths to ends.

Dizziak Deep Conditioner

This protein-rich mask is quick to act with amino acid–rich quinoa protein helping to impart shine and strengthen strands.

If you have afro-textured hair, you’ll love this deep-conditioning mask. Apply from root to tip and leave for 15 minutes before rinsing.

Pack this sachet in your carry-on for any upcoming trips that might include sunshine and swimming. Allow it to soak in for up to 20 minutes after shampooing.

Next up, the best haircuts for every face shape.

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