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Rice water: Myth or magic?

rice water hair growth

Before rice water, it was coconut oil… Until it wasn’t. The coconut oil trend that spread like wildfire in recent years was quickly controlled when it came to light that the organic miracle worker wasn’t the girl she and everyone thought she was. BUT, there are people who still swear by it, and the same can be said about it. Just Google “rice water hair growth” and see for yourself.

In this article:

  1. Definition and short history
  2. Different ways to make and use it
  3. The benefits
  4. Final thoughts

Many people continue to use it consistently as part of their hair care routine and it works for them. Different strokes for different fros. The good news is our editor also got the tshirt and has first hand experience with the magical hair growth stimulant.

What is it and where does it come from?

Rice water is the starchy water obtained by draining boiled rice or letting it soak in water.

Based on research reports about rice water and its origin, Japanese women from the Heian period (794 to 1185 CE) are believed to be the first to have bathed their hair in it. It comes as no surprise that they are said to be famous for their beautiful long hair. Fast-forward to modern-times where the Yao women of China, known for their Rapunzelesque hair, also credit it for their incredibly long, shiny hair. The rinses are also believed to help their hair keep it’s natural colour for longer before getting grey hair.

Although there hasn’t really been any scientific evidence that corroborates the benefits of it on hair, the treatment is still widely associated with improved hair elasticity, length retention and stronger hair. 

Thanks to research and digital story-telling tools, the trend became a global life-saviour to many naturals. Right on the heels of the explosion of the natural hair movement that completely changed the landscape of the type4girl community. Forever.

How should I make my rice water?

By definition, you can only obtain it by either boiling it or soaking it. The processing of the water gives us the three ‘types’ we’ll be looking at. Before you start, rinse your rice thoroughly to get rid of any impurities – you don’t want that in your hair.

  1. BOILED – Cook your rice as per the cooking instructions and save the drained starched water for later use as a rinse – this process creates what is commonly referred to as ‘rice water hair milk.’
  2. PLAIN – Soak rice in water for 2 to 4 hours. As a rule of thumb use 1 part rice to 3 parts water. Drain rice water into a bottle and use as a rinse after washing your hair. 
  3. FERMENTED – Soak rice in water overnight for a day or two. We suggest going a day max in hotter seasons because it ferments faster. It is recommended that you add a few lemon peels or essential oils like peppermint oil to mask the intense smell of fermented rice water. If using it for an extended treatment period, refrigerate the water to help stop it from fermenting further.

Boiled rice water is the least common in the type 4 community. While plain rice water has its share of enthusiasts in other hair type categories, fermented rice water is the most recommended for type4girls because of the lowered pH (the process of fermentation lowers the pH). 

As mentioned above, you can use it as a rinse on wash days or do a week long treatment. To do this, wash your hair as usual before you start, you can also rinse with it if you so please. Put your hair in two strand twists, try to do about 10 to 14 of these (depending on your hair density) to ensure that it can reach all of your hair. Put the drained rice water in a spray bottle and spray it in your hair every day. Wash it all out on the next wash day and then… Moisturise vigorously.

The benefits of rice water

For the record, these benefits are based on the anecdotes supporting its use as well result reports published by women who have used it. There is no scientific proof of these benefits and they tend to differ from person to person.

  • Accelerated hair growth and edge recovery
  • Improved elasticity
  • Shinier stronger hair
  • Reduces breakage
  • Makes detangling easier and hair softer

Final thoughts

Editor's Final Thought

[Editor] Two words, dry hair… And unfortunately dry hair can very easily be brittle hair. That was my initial issue with rice water. I started using rice water about a two years ago but stopped for almost 6 months after my first trial rinse before I decided to give it a second chance because my compassion is unstoppable. Over the next few months, I’ll work hard to make sure we break the rice water experience down to porosity so no one has to learn the hard way.

Anyway, protein overload is real and rice packs quite the protein punch – use too much and you could risk ruining the protein:moisture balance that you work so hard to maintain. Personally I don’t add essential oils to my rice water (for no particular reason really), but I do add one to my water/conditioner mix. I rotate between the two liquid ‘formulas’ and I have found that they work together for the good of my hair. On the days when I spray it in my twists, I follow up with an oil later on and that’s it. On the alternating days, I simply spray the conditioning mix and massage well into my hair. Sometimes I will follow-up with an oil moisturiser or moisturising butter. FYI: I usually only use rice water as a spray for three days a week before I chuck it out and go a month or two without it. 

In the last 6 months, I have experienced noticeable growth and volume, thanks in part to keeping my hair in twists and keeping up with my conditioning and moisturising routine to the t – which is what was missing the first time I tried rice water. And that’s the big takeaway, keep everything balanced and you likely won’t go wrong. 

To be honest, I can’t say with absolute confidence that it alone has grown my hair or improved its elasticity. It has certainly done something but I feel it’s more like a team effort. Its easy, let it handle its business, and make sure you handle the rest. I would feel better if there was convincing science behind rice water, but there isn’t. Do I recommend it? Sure. Just make sure you take note of your length and other things  before you start using it so you don’t end up like me and know exactly what it has changed. Ps: If you notice your hair getting dry overtime, reduce the frequency of rice water in your routine and replace it with moisture instead.

At the end of the day, you have to stick to what works for you and your hair seperate to what is trending and popular. So it is okay if it doesn’t work for you, we move.

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