Can I use rice water for hair?
In Japan, during 794 – 1185 CE, the women of the Heian imperial court grew their hair as long as possible, by using rice water for their hair.
Their shining black hair (known as suberakashi) ran down their backs which was initially a rebellious move against Chinese Tang Dynasty fashions whereby women wore their short hair in ponytails or buns. Thus, the Heian hair growers grew their hair as long as they could – the record being 7-metres long!
This style amongst the East Asian noblewomen continued for almost 6 centuries. Meanwhile, the aristocratic women wore their hair in buns and ponytails and the common people tied their hair back. Hence, the court ladies became infamous for using rice and water to grow their impressively long, shiny, healthy hair.
Rice is a prominent component of Japanese diet and culture, so it’s no surprise that these women’s secret to long hair was washing their hair with rice. So let’s look into further detail about how rice water was used during the Heian period.
- How is rice water good for your hair?
- Which is best for hair growth? Fermented rice water or rinsed rice water?
How is rice water good for your hair?
Every day the Japanese court ladies of the Heian period would comb their hair with Yu-Su-Ru. Yu-Su-Ru is the rinse water collected after washing rice.
Using this starchy water as a hair treatment has substantial benefits, such as making hair grow faster, due to the amino acids and proteins found in the water.
Yu-Su-Ru has been heavily researched and it’s been discovered that the properties in rice water reduce surface friction and increase hair elasticity.
The benefits of rice for hair care
Through further studies, it was found that Yu-Su-Ru extracts have substantial benefits for example they can strengthen hair regardless of hair type.
A modern-day version of the Heian women is the Yao women who live in the Huangluo village in China. They are also famous for their long hair that measures 6 feet on average.
The Yao women have praised rice water for the cause of their long hair as well as the reason their hair retains its colour for so long.
This brings a huge number of tourists to the Longji Rice Terraces in Longsheng. Most of these women don’t turn grey until they are well within their 80’s.
Which is best for hair growth? Fermented rice water or rinsed rice water?
There are numerous discussions about whether fermented rice water is better than the water from rinsed rice. Some people believe that fermented rice water has higher amounts of antioxidants than plain rice water.
This is because the fermentation process is thought to reduce the pH level or rice water to the same pH level as your strands. Therefore this nourishes the hair better due to the effective penetration of the nutrients to the hair and scalp.
However other studies have shown that the fermentation process of rice water causes a decrease in phenolic acids which are antioxidants that protect the hair from damage from free radicals.
Furthermore, they also have anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, the fermentation process may destroy beneficial elements of the rice water that existed before fermentation.
How do you make rice water for your hair?
Rinsed rice water and fermented rice water are the two main rice water recipes for hair care. Rinsed rice water is the starchy water that comes after rinsing rice before cooking it. Whereas fermented rice refers to water that has been left to brew for a short while (a few days) before use.
You can use this starchy water as part of your hair wash routine. After washing your hair with shampoo, you can use rice water for hair conditioner. Apply the water to clean wet hair and gently massaged it into the scalp, then rinse after 5-10 minutes.
Here are the recipes for rinsed rice water and fermented rice water:
Rinsed rice water recipe for hair growth:
- Measure one cup of rice and put it into a saucepan.
- Add water so that it just covers the rice and use your hand to agitate the grains.
- You will see white starch appearing in the water.
- Drain the water into a separate bowl. You can do this with a sieve or you can hold one hand against the rice and pour.
- Repeat the process another 2 times, as not all the starch is washed off the rice after the first rinse. Then pour the water into the separate bowl again.
- As long as the water is at room temperature you can use it immediately.
You can prepare this recipe before you cook rice and use it later on in the day.
Fermented rice water for hair:
- Measure two cups of rice and pour it into a saucepan or a bowl.
- Add four cups of water (double the rice quantity).
- Leave the rice to soak for 30 minutes.
- Agitate the rice slightly to loosen the starch from the rice, then pour the water into a glass jar.
- Seal the jar and leave it to ferment for two days at room temperature. It’s best to ferment rice water in an airtight jar to create an ideal environment for the growth of antioxidants.
- After two days, check to see if the water smells slightly sour. If it does, put the jar in the fridge to preserve beneficial properties.
- Then use the fermented water on your strands whenever you like.
Can I leave rice water in my hair overnight?
We don’t recommend leaving rice water in your hair overnight, or for 24 hours. This is because the starch dries onto your hair strands and is a difficult consistency to wash out. Also, leaving it on your hair overnight doesn’t have any additional benefits.
Inositol, an ingredient found in this solution, is a carbohydrate that repairs damaged hair. Inositol repairs damaged hair from the inside out and it even protects your hair from further damage.
Thus, leaving it on overnight won’t provide more benefits, it’s much better to use regular rice water rinses to maintain the level of inositol in your hair strands.
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Throughout history, particularly in Asia, women have been using rice water to wash their hair. It has gained global recognition, especially thanks to the Yao women in China and the Japanese court ladies, who had hair that flowed longer than themselves.
Today rice water rinses are becoming a popular beauty trend as the antioxidants and amino acids in rice water strengthen damaged hair and repair it from the inside out. Thanks to these benefits, using rice water for hair can improve its growth rate.