In some parts of the world ‘to eat’ literally means ‘to eat rice’. One of the most important food grain, rice is a staple food for almost half of the world’s population, supplying as much as half of the daily calories.
But, rice is also an important beautifying ingredient. For centuries, Asian women have used rice water to beautify their face, body and hair. Traditionally, female rice farmers in China, Japan, and other southeast Asian countries used to bathe and wash in the water used for cleaning rice.
The Yao ethnic women from the village of Huangluo in China is testament to this tradition. With their average hair length of about 6 feet, these women made it to the Guinness Book of World Records as the “world’s longest hair village” (Read more here). Plus these women do not have grey hair till late 80s. The Yao women believe that the fermented rice water, which they use to cleanse their hair, is what helps to keeps their hair long, dark and clean. Rice water enables these women to de-tangle and manage their long hair, which they wrap around their heads in an elaborate high bun that is often described with names such as ‘gazing god’s bun’ or the ‘cloud bun’.
Rice Water For Hair & Skin: Evidence & Benefits
Rice water has amazing hair and skin benefits. A recent research has shown that rice water exhibit hair care effects, such as decreasing surface friction and improving hair elasticity. Rice water has inositol, a carbohydrate, that can repair damaged hair, as well as protect it from damage. Specialized imaging techniqueshows that inositol stays inside the hair even after rinsing, offering continuing hair protection and beautifying effects.
So, Rinsing or washing your hair with rice water will improve manageability and protect it from future damage. In addition, the amino acids in the rice water strengthen the hair roots, add volume and sheen and make hair silky smooth. These awesome benefits explains the 6 feet, healthy, long and beautiful hair of the Yao women.
Not limited to hair, rice water also has many skin benefits. Due to its cooling and soothing effects on skin, rice water is often prescribed by ayurvedic practitioners as an effective ointment to cool off inflamed skin.
Rice water also has moisturising, antioxidant, and healing properties that help to improve circulation, prevent or fade age related spots, and ease inflammation to give you healthy, better moisturised and clear skin. As long as it’s left on the skin, rice water is even believed to offer mild protection from the sun.
Fermented Rice Water
The effects of rice water is further enhanced if it is left to ferment. Fermented rice water is rice water that is left to ferment and has gone slightly sour. It is rich in antioxidants, minerals, B vitamins, vitamin E, and traces of pitera, a substance produced during the fermentation process. ‘Pitera’ has grown in popularity recently, and is touted as the anti-aging elixir due to its ability to promote cell regeneration, and help skin stay young and beautiful.
This ferment rice water can be used as a face cleanser, skin toner as well as a hair rinse. The nutrients in the fermented rice water is believed to shrink pores, reduce fine lines, and tighten and brighten your skin – this is a perfect recipe to look radiant and youthful.
Washing or rinsing your hair with fermented rice water may be better than rinsing with unfermented or plain rice water. Fermentation lowers the pH of the liquid, and this is similar to our hair’s pH, which is also on the lower side (slightly acidic). So, this slightly acidic pH plus the added nutrients through the fermentation process help restore hair’s pH balance, nourish hair follicles to promote healthy hair growth, and improve overall condition of hair.
Making Rice Water: Plain & Fermented
To enjoy these wonderful beauty benefits of rice water, all you have to do is just collect the water that you use to rinse your rice. And if you don’t want to cook the rice then just grind the left over rice to make a body scrub or face mask.
To make rice water, you will need:
- 1/2 cup uncooked rice (brown, white long grain, white short grain, jasmine, or what ever you have)
- 2 cups water
To make rice water, first rinse the rice with about a cup of water to remove any dirt or impurities.
Then, place the rice in a bowl and cover with water. Let the rice soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Swirl it around or lightly knead it until the water turns cloudy. This will help the vitamins and minerals seep into the water, creating a nourishing rinse for your hair and skin.
Now strain out the rice water into a clean bowl. Your rice water is ready to use.
You can either use this water for your hair or face, or let it ferment for enhanced benefit.
Fermented Rice Water: Once you have collected your rice water, leave it at room temperature for a day or until it turns slightly sour, implying that it has started to ferment. It can take any where from 24 to 48 hours, depending on how warm it is. So warmer the room temperature faster the fermentation process.
Then boil the fermented rice water – this is to stop the fermentation process. Turn off the heat and let it cool. Your homemade fermented rice water is ready to use.
Note: Fermented rice water is very potent, so you may need to dilute it with a cup or two of warm water before use. Adjust according to your hair’s needs, use more for dry hair and less for oily hair.
Boiling Method: You can also boil the rice to extract rice water. For this, boil the rice using more water than you would normally do. Once it starts boiling take out the excess water and use; or you can also let the rice fully cook, strain, and use that excess water. This rice water will be very concentrated, so make sure to dilute it with plain water until it is just slightly cloudy.
Storage: You can store the rice water in the fridge and it will stay good for up to a week. Shake it before use.
How To Use Rice Water For Hair and Skin
Use every day as part of your cleansing and toning skin care routine, morning or evening. For your hair I would recommend you use it once or twice a week either as hair wash or last rinse, I prefer the latter.
- Use rice water as part of your face and body cleanser. (e.g rice water, lemon juice, and lavender essential oil mixed together to make a face or body wash.
- It is a great substitute for your regular toner and helps in reducing the size of the pores on your skin.
- Rinsing your hair with rice water brings shine to your hair and helps to keep it strong and healthy.
- You can also use it as a part of moisturising face mask.
- Make a rice bath soak along with your favorite herb and treat your skin to a fabulous DIY spa.
- For smooth and baby soft skin, grind the left over rice and use as body scrub.
Rice Water for a Hair Rinse
Rice water – plain or fermented – is an excellent conditioner. It repairs and strengthens damaged hair shaft while providing elasticity and smoothness.
After shampooing, pour the rice water on your hair. Gently massage your scalp and hair and leave it on for 4 to 5 minutes. Then rinse your hair thoroughly with plain water. Use it once or twice a week as a last rinse.
Update: Rice water may build up on hair over time, especially if you have hard water. So, consider using a natural chelating agent, such as orange peel powder, amla powder, shikakai powder, lemon juice* or apple juice, with the rice water. It will help remove any build up and make your hair soft and shiny. Add about 1/2 tsp in one cup of rice water and use as suggested.
*Use lemon/lime juice sparsely.
Rice Water as a Facial Cleanser or toner
This is one of the cheapest way to pamper your skin.
Using rice water to cleanse your face is as simple as dabbing a bit onto your face and gently massaging it into your skin for couple of minutes. With regular use you will notice your skin feeling soft, tight, and radiant.
You can also use rice water as a toner. Use like any other toner – apply to face after cleansing to minimize the appearance of pores and tighten skin.
Fresh Rice Bath Soak
Treat your skin to a fabulous DIY spa with rice bath and lavender soak. Take a small muslin bag and fill the bag with 1/2 cup rice and 2 tsp lavender flowers. Place the muslin bag into the water. Soak in the tub and relax fully.
Also, instead of lavender flowers try other skin beautifying ingredients such as orange peel, lemon peel, green tea, tulsi leaves (holy basil), neem leaves, and calendula petals.
DIY Ground Rice Body scrub
Do not throw away the left over rice, simply grind it to make a nourishing body scrub. You can also add other ingredients to this scrub based on your skin’s need. Example: for soft, smooth, and blemish free skin add couple of teaspoons of olive or coconut oil, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and/or few drop of essential oils (lavender, sweet orange) to the ground rice and combine thoroughly. Use this once a week or once every 15 days.
Which Rice To Use: Every type of rice has its own benefits to your hair and skin. Plus, the way rice water is obtained – rinsing, boiling, fermenting – will also change the nutrient content and pH of this water. So experiment freely and see what works best for your hair and skin.
Enjoy your beautiful, hydrated, radiant hair and skin.