If you’re a curly girl, chances are you already follow the curly girl method, know all about your hair’s porosity, and have figured out your hair type. But maybe there’s still something missing from your hair care routine, and your hair hasn’t quite reached its final form yet. You may be feeling like your curls are dry and brittle, or aren’t as full of life as they once were. Enter rice water.
The traditional rice water rinsing method for curly hair has been used for thousands of years in China and Japan. Rice water helps improve hair health because the water is rich in vitamins and antioxidants that make protein a key component. It’ll help you improve hair growth and elasticity, balance the protein level in your hair, and restore bouncy, shiny curls.
What is rice water?
Rice water is quite literally the leftover starchy water after rice is cooked or soaked. This leftover water is rich in starch, proteins, amino acids, and vital minerals, and antioxidants that are excellent for curly hair. The rice water rinse originated in ancient Japan, where high-court ladies would rinse their hair with leftover rice water to help with increasing the hair’s elasticity and reducing tangles. Today, this method has been revived thanks to Tik Tok, and is a trend that’s here to stay.
How does rice water work?
Rice in itself, is packed with essential amino acids and nutrients. When you soak, boil, or ferment the rice, all that goodness transfers into the water, which is why you end up with cloudy water. Then, when you use this water as a hair rinse, you transfer all those essential vitamins and proteins straight to your hair strands to drink up!
Some studies toutinositol (a type of B vitamin) as the essential ingredient in rice water for strong, healthy curls, whileothers note that the linoleic and ferulic acid in rice bran also provide hair benefits. Regardless, what we do know is that all these essential proteins and nutrients work together to make the hair stronger, restore damaged hair, and improve hair elasticity.
How do you know if you need to do a rice water hair treatment?
It’s important for your hair to have the right protein moisture balance. Most curly girls tend to focus on moisture, but neglect the protein treatment portion of a well-rounded curly hair care routine. Rice water mimics proteins, and if your hair is in need of a protein treatment, you’ll benefit greatly from doing a rice water rinse—especially if you have high porosity hair. Using rice water can help improve curly and damaged hairs and you can even use this method to clean out your scalp of buildup. In fact, we recommend trying a rice water rinse first if you think your hair needs protein as it’s milder than actual protein treatments. This will allow you to gauge whether you see an improvement and need to continue with a stron 1ger protein treatment or whether you need more moisture instead.
Benefits of rice water rinse for curly hair
Now that we know where the rice water treatment originated and how it works, let’s talk about the benefits of a rice water rinse for curly hair. Rice water for curly hair has numerous positive effects including:
- Detangling curls
- Making curls smoother and reducing frizz
- Restoring shine
- Increasing hair elasticity
- Increasing thickness
- Smoothening the outside layer of the hair (the hair cuticle)
- Treating dandruff
- Treating scalp buildup
- Reducing hair loss
- Treating a dry, itchy scalp
- Acting as a gentle cleanser
- Nourishing hair follicles with essential nutrients and vitamins
- Strengthening the hair shaft
- Promoting hair growth
- Treating sun damage
- Increasing bounce and vibrance
How to make a rice water rinse for curly hair
1. Choose your type of rice
There are numerous types of rice you can use for a rice water rinse, ranging from white rice to black and red rice.White rice has less protein than other types of rice and provides smoother hair. Red rice contains selenium to treat hair fall, which helps to prevent PCOS or menopause. Black rice contains excellent antioxidants to strengthen hair and helps with growth. So, depending on your hair concerns, choose the type of rice that best suits you. Usually, white rice is the most popular.
2. Make the rice water
This can be done by boiling, fermenting, or soaking the rice. Soaking the rice will yield the least concentrated result, so it’s a good starting off point if you’re new to the world of rice water rinses to understand how the rinse affects your hair.
Soaked rice water
Take ½ cup of uncooked rice and rinse it thoroughly
Place the rice in a bowl and add 2–3 cups of water
Soak the mixture for 30 minutes until the water is cloudy
Strain the excess water into a clean bowl
Boiled rice water
Boiling the rice is a faster way to quickly make rice water if you’re in a rush, but you may end up boiling some of the nutrients out of the rice.
- Rinse ½ cup of rice
- Place in a pot with 2-3 cups of water
- Boil for about 15mins or until you see cloudy white water
- Press the rice as it boils, to extract all the nutrients from it
- Strain the excess water into a clean bowl
Fermented rice water
As you may be able to tell, this is usually the least popular method of creating rice water, as the smell of fermented rice can be quite overwhelming.
While this may be the grossest method, it’s actually the most nutritious for your hair as fermenting rice releases more antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. It also has a lower pH, which mimics the pH level of the scalp, leading to a more balanced, healthy scalp.
You should be careful though—if not done correctly, harmful bacteria can grow during the fermentation process. This is why this method isn’t recommended if you’re immunocompromised or pregnant. You may also want to dilute the fermented rice water when rinsing your hair to reduce the smell.
- Rinse 1 cup of rice
- Add 2 cups of water
- Leave the mixture to sit at room temperature for 24-48 hours until it ferments
- Strain the water into a clean bowl
Can I add anything to my rice water?
Yes! You can choose to add your favorite essential oils for fragrance, such as lavender oil, or add a conditioning oil like argan, olive, or coconut oil.
You can also choose to go a step further and add a deep conditioner right into the prepared rice water for a quick all-in-one treatment.
How long does rice water last?
You should store your rice water in the refrigerator once made, and it’ll last up to 3 days. After that, You’ll need to make a new mixture in order to reap all the benefits of the rice water.
How to use the rice water rinse
Now that you’ve made your rice water, here’s how to use it in your hair.
- Step 1:Wash your hair as normal with a regular shampoo or co-wash
- Step 2: Apply the rice water straight to your wet hair, being sure to coat your scalp and all your hair strands from root to tip. If your rice water was created by soaking, it’ll likely be quite liquidy so use an extra bowl to catch the excess rice water so you can reuse it. If you boiled or fermented the rice water, it’ll have a thicker consistency so you can apply it as a hair mask.
- Step 3:Leave the rice water in your hair for about 20-30 minutes, then rinse off thoroughly. If you’re new to protein treatments, just leave it in for 10-15 minutes and work your way up to 20-30 minutes.
- Step 4: Apply a deep conditioner. Be sure not to skip this step as the protein in the rice water has the potential to dry out hair strands.
How often should I use rice water on my hair?
It will take a few weeks for your hair to really show the benefits of rice water, so you’ll want to be consistent with the rinse. Start off with a rice water rinse weekly, then gradually move to bi-weekly, then monthly once you start to see your hair improve.
If you have low porosity hair, you can get away with a rice water rinse less frequently, but if you have high porosity hair, you’ll need to apply the rinse more frequently.
To learn about how frequently rice-water washing is necessary, read more about identifying your hair’s protein-moisture balance. Rice water is moisturizing, yet contains a lot of protein—too much protein can lead to dry, straw-like hair, so it’s important to ensure you don’t go overboard with the rice water rinses.
Is rice water good for curly hair?
Yes! Rice water wash can really help create shine, definition, strengthen curls, and restore your curl pattern, as it’s packed with healthy antioxidants, nutrients, and essential proteins and vitamins.
How long should I leave rice water in curly hair?
Leave the rice water in your curly hair for 10-15 minutes if you’re just starting out with protein treatment, and about 20-30 minutes if your hair is more used to protein. Be sure never to leave the rice water in your hair for more than an hour, as this could lead to a protein overload and lead to hair breakage.
Can I use the rice water rinse as a clarifying treatment?
No, we don’t recommend using rice water as a clarifying treatment. Rice water is a mild protein treatment, and should be treated as such. It doesn’t go deep into removing buildup from the scalp. If your scalp needs clarifying, use a clarifying shampoo specifically designed for curly hair.
Strengthen your hair with rice water
There you have it! Now you know the surprising benefits of rice water for curly hair, how to make rice water, and how to apply it to your hair. Be sure to let us know how it goes once you’ve given a rice water a rinse a try!