Rice Water: Myth or Miracle

Rice Water: Myth or Miracle

An ever-growing trend is the use of the common pantry staple, rice,  for hair growth and many other uses. As a traditional product of the East Asian region of the world, rice has been utilized for many uses including the enhancement of beauty routines ages ago. Today women in a village called Huanglua are infamous for their staggering floor length hair credit rice water.  Many advocates of using rice water claim that hair detangling is easier, and that the hair becomes shinier, smoother, and ultimately stronger. 

How can ordinary rice accomplish all these feats? Unfortunately, the scientific community hasn’t investigated the claims for the benefits of rice water. The few studies published are sponsored by facilities with potential commercial interests. However, anecdotal evidence has grown exponentially in the past few years. 

Many individuals make DIY rice water products, and a few hair product manufacturers are beginning to incorporate this ingredient in their product lines. Commonly, rice water is made by saturating an amount of rice with water for minimally an hour. After more than a day the rice water will begin to ferment which will bring additional amino acids, B-vitamins, vitamin B, minerals, and most importantly more anti-oxidant compounds to the scalp. An array of essential oils are usually added to add fragrance and additional nutrients for the hair and scalp.  The fermented versions of this product are very aromatic and can be tamed by the aromas of the essential oils. 

The additional anti-oxidant compounds are suspected to be the key to the anecdotal claims of many. Anti-oxidants are excellent for repair and growth stimulation of the hair follicles.  A research study in 2002, showed that rice water was beneficial in the healing of skin damage from dermatitis. In Hispanic cultures, rice water is a delicious beverage called Horchata. The rice soaked water is sweetened with sugar and cinnamon. This beverage features fast acting carbohydrates for immediate energy or to elevate low blood sugars but no significant health benefits. Without the addition of sugar, rice water is very bland in taste. Fermented rice water would be very aromatic and in theory richer in minerals and other essential nutrients.

Sources: ROBBINS, CLARENCE R. Chemical and Physical Behavior of Human Hair. 5th ed., SPRINGER, 2016.Effect of rice starch as a bath additive on the barrier function of healthy but SLS-damaged skin and skin of atopic patients. De Paepe K, Hachem JP, Vanpee E, Roseeuw D, Rogiers V.Acta Derm Venereol. 2002;82(3):184-6.