Lately, we’ve been asked if there are benefits to using rice water for hair and skin care. We’ve seen several before and after photos, but those pictures are often misleading.
Can rice water rinses prevent hair breakage?
Does rice water help your hair grow?
What are the benefits of using rice water for natural hair?
In short, rice water is the starchy water obtained by draining boiled rice.
To make your rice water, we recommend cooking rice in a pot of boiling water according to the cooking instructions on the package.
The starch from the rice is released into the water, creating hair milk made from rice water.
Remove the rice, and you’re done. This process creates what some people call “rice water hair milk.”
So, are there benefits to using rice water for hair growth, breakage, as a hair spray, or as a hair rinse?
There is a fair amount of anecdotal evidence claiming numerous benefits to using rice water, including before and after photos. Although, there isn’t much reliable scientific evidence.
Most beauty bloggers writing about this topic reference an article from the International Journal of Cosmetic Science. Although, I’m not sure that the article can be reliably used as a standalone source.
The article references hair care techniques from the Heian period. In Japanese history, the Heian period occurred during the years 794-1185.
Due to the age of the study, it’s unlikely that the study used modern scientific controls focused on an independent variable. Consequently, this study is most likely an anecdotal report, rather than an experiment conducted in a controlled test environment.
This particular article studied the effect of a hair rinse obtained from boiling rice and using the rice water as a hair treatment. The goal was to explore the history of hairstyles and hair care practices used by women in Japan.
For example, during the Heian time, many women combed their hair each day using Yu-Su-Ru (i.e., rice water). The thought was that rice water would reduce hair breakage and increase elasticity.
So, does rice water increase elasticity and reduced friction when you’re combing your hair?
The article from the International Journal of Cosmetic Science would lead you to believe that rice water can do these things. Although the article doesn’t mention that scientists conducted controlled experiments, it merely refers to practices of Japanese people from the Heian period.
So it’s likely that they’ve found some form of evidence, like written text from the Heian period.
So, does that mean that rice water is not useful for natural hair?
No, it just means that the practice of using rice water for hair growth and other beauty practices is only supported by anecdotal evidence. Said simply, it’s a cultural practice supported by word-of-mouth.
For example, you will find several women that claim castor oil encourages hair growth or regrowth of thinning hair edges.
The problem is there is no scientific evidence supporting this castor oil claim, so we can only use anecdotal evidence.
Anecdotes from Asia suggests a rice water hair rinse, including fermented rice water, gives the hair strength and elasticity. Since this can’t be proven, our guidance is that you can try if you’re interested, but it may or may not work for your hair.
It’s worth mentioning that rice water rinses aren’t an exclusive solution limited to those on the continent of Asia, even though the techniques were originated and were heavily used during the Heian period.
From the studies we have seen, all hair types are basically the same structurally, including African, European, and Asian hair types.
Although, there are differences between hair types. Some hair types are straight, wavy, curly or kinky. In general, all hair types have a common structure with the cortex surrounded by a cuticle layer.
Ultimately, whatever effects a rice water rinse has on one hair type, it’s likely to produce similar results on another hair type, including natural hair.