When Kourtney Kardashian first let it slip on her site, Poosh, that her sister Kim Kardashian washes her hair with rice water to promote hair growth, let’s just say the #ricewaterchallenge hit phone screens pretty quickly. Kourtney explained that Kim had been using the trick for a while to encourage faster hair growth, and it’s since taken off with lots of TikTok influencers who’ve garnered hundreds of thousands of views on their tutorials.
The original rice water hack involves rinsing or spraying hair with water that’s been soaking in a bowl of rice, but now there are products emerging that let you skip the DIY element of this trendy beauty treatment.
But the real question is: Does this rice water trick actually help your hair grow thicker and longer? To find out if there was any truth to the claims that it can make your hair grow super quickly, Women’s Health tapped Kavita Mariwalla, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Mariwalla Dermatology; Gaby Longsworth, Ph.D., scientist, certified hair practitioner, and the founder of Absolutely Everything Curly; and Robert Finney, MD, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Entière Dermatology.
Read on to find out whether or not there may be benefits to this practice, and how to go through the steps of washing with rice water.
What is the story behind using rice water?
This trend has actually been used for centuries in Asian cultures, according to Cleveland Clinic. (Per one TikTok user, it specifically originated from the Yao women of Asia, but we didn’t fact check that!)
And it boils down to exactly what it sounds like: People are washing their hair in the water that’s left over after soaking rice. Since you can get an enormous bag of rice for only a few bucks at any grocery store, that luckily makes the beauty secret pretty accessible and cost-effective for everyone.
What are the benefits of using rice water?
So does this beauty hack really work? It might! “Vitamins, minerals, and the hormone inositol are all found in rice water, which can make your hair smoother, fuller, less knotty, and longer,” Dr. Mariwalla says. “In theory, the B vitamins and vitamin E may help defend against hair oxidation and aging.”
Though research has been scarce on the topic, a study in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science summarized the benefits of using rice water. According to the study, rinsing with rice water decreases hair friction and increases the hair’s elasticity.
Dr. Mariwalla explains that hair can also feel smoother due to the starches of the rice sitting on the hair follicles and acting as a coating. As for whether or not it can promote lightning speed hair growth? Chances are, no. But, the vitamins paired with the starchy coating can add shine and may promote stronger hair.
Still, don’t make rice water your first solution for hair loss. “If your main concern is hair loss, you should consider consulting with your dermatologist for treatment instead of using at-home remedies,” says Dr. Mariwalla.
Does using rice water benefit your skin?
Since there’s such little research done on rice water, there isn’t a clear answer on if it also helps your skin. “It has antioxidant properties, so you could argue theoretical benefits,” Dr. Finney says. “But you would be better served with a trusted topical antioxidant leave-on serum such as one with vitamins C and E.”
How do you wash your hair with rice water?
Okay, now let’s get down to it. First, go ahead and grab one to one and a half cups of uncooked rice, a large bowl to hold the rice and water, a strainer, and an empty spray or shampoo bottle, Dr. Mariwalla says.
- Put the rice in a strainer and give it a good rinse to make sure that there are no impurities. The water should run clear. You’ll also see videos of people placing the rice in a bowl with water and then straining.
- Place the rice in a bowl or jar along with one or one and a half cups of water (to match your portion of rice), and give it a stir. On TikTok, you’ll even see some people placing it in a jar and shaking it—this works too. Mostly, you want to make sure that the water has a bit of a milky look to it before putting a lid on the jar or bowl.
- Let the rice mixture sit for up to 24 hours.
- Pour the rice water into a clean spray or shampoo bottle for the easiest application.
- Dr. Mariwalla recommends doing this step in the shower after you’ve shampoo’d your hair. Spray a generous amount of rice water on your hair, making sure your scalp is completely coated and that it’s thoroughly combed through.
- Let it stay on for around 20 minutes. Think of it like a hair mask!
- Rinse your hair thoroughly from the rice water.
Which hair types should try rinsing with rice water?
Before you run to rinse with rice water, you’ll want to check if it’s necessary for you. “If your hair is healthy and doesn’t have a lot of damage,” Dr. Longsworth says, “you don’t really need a rice water rinse.” Dr. Longsworth suggests that this rinse is more for those with damaged hair, bleached hair, and high porosity hair (this means your hair has difficulty retaining moisture).
Are there side effects?
You’re probably not looking at any long-term risks, but rice water may cause residue that builds up and makes hair look dull. If you want to avoid potential residue build up, Dr. Mariwalla suggests only doing this treatment once per week. Talk to your derm if you’re unsure whether it’s right for you.