A Case for Pouring Leftover Rice Water on Your Hair Instead of Down the Drain
Dousing your hair in the leftover water from your boiling pot of rice might seem odd but hear us out. Rice water, which is rich in starch, has long been known for its nourishing qualities, and, according to Byrdie, dates back to the ancient Heian period in Japan.
In fact, as Healthline reports, court ladies in Japan were known for their long, floor-length hair and their secret was apparently rice water. Rice is a highly nutritional grain and when cooked, the leftover water is filled with “vitamins, amino acids and other trace minerals (zinc, magnesium, vitamins B and C, etc),” licensed cosmetologist, Karen Flowers, told Byrdie.
The magical ingredient within rice water, according to studies, is inositol, which is able to penetrate damaged hair and repair it from the inside out while also protecting the strands from further damage. The high levels of starch within the liquid is also said to contribute to hair strength, as it helps coat the hair shaft.
Other experts say rice water is great for the scalp and contributes to scalp health, which in turn, helps with hair growth and soothes irritation for those with sensitive skin.
“A study in 2002 published in the National Library of Medicine found that the starch of rice water helped to improve the damaged skin of individuals with irritation from the use of sodium lauryl sulfates and also individuals with dermatitis,” Dr Kari Williams, board-certified trichologist and licensed cosmetologist told Byrdie. “When blended with emollients and oils, it adds additional nourishment for the skin. So, a rice water rinse can help soothe inflammation in the scalp, but don’t over use it.”
Rice water can also make your hair feel softer and more manageable, which is what Brittany Ladin experienced when she tried the method for Healthline. After popping the rice water on her locks, Ladin wrote: “My hair already felt different. It seemed to have some sort of outer coating, or a thin shell, around each strand, protecting my hair as I brushed through it. Usually my hair is breaking as I work my detangling brush through my hair. But this time, my hair held its own.”
If you’re interested in trying this for yourself, it’s pretty straightforward. Rinse and strain one cup of rice to remove any impurities that might be present and cook it as you normally would. Strain the rice and preserve the liquid in a bowl and cover. Experts recommend letting the water sit for 12 to 24 hours in order to let all of the vitamins and minerals ferment.
Then, decant your rice water into a jar and take it into the shower with you, applying to your hair after shampooing. Let it sit for five to 10 minutes then rinse. According to Dr Williams, you can also use the water as a treatment.
“If you want to experience the anti-inflammatory properties for the scalp, use the rice water after shampooing and conditioning the hair and focus on applying it directly to the scalp,” Dr Williams said. “Let it sit on the hair for 15-20 minutes, then rinse out completely.
“After the hair is cleansed and conditioned, you can either pour the rice water through the scalp, or you can put it in a water bottle to spray directly to the scalp. I recommend it stays on the scalp for at least 30 minutes to properly be absorbed by the scalp. You can massage your scalp as well for maximum penetration — then rinse.”