Does rice water really make hair grow longer? An expert weighs in
If you’re on a budget but don’t want to compromise beauty, raiding the kitchen can be a solution.
You’ve probably seen recipes for DIY masks with ingredients like honey and avocado online, or embraced coconut and olive oils into your skincare routine.
And now, thanks to a recent trend on TikTok, rice is getting its time to shine – all for its purported abilities to make your hair do the same.
Although rice has been used as a beauty treatment for generations in Asia, these humble grains are now being hailed as a haircare hero by influencers around the world.
TikToks showing how to use rice water to get smooth, glossy locks have racked up millions of views, with some creators claiming it can ‘heal your hair’ and provide ‘unbelievable’ results.
The hack itself involves saving the excess water after cooking rice, pouring it on as a post-shampoo soak, leaving on for 20 minutes or more, then rinsing off.
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According to those who swear by the method, the starchy liquid can help detangle and smooth hair, adding a healthy sheen and helping promote growth.
It seems like magic (especially since it’s totally free) but we know not all social media hacks are created equal, and some can actually be damaging. So, we spoke to Dr Sharon Wong, a consultant dermatologist, hair specialist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson, to get the facts.
‘Rice water rinses for hair are an ancient tradition used for hundreds of years in East Asian countries,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.
‘Originally, women in the Heian period in Japan, (794 AD) who had floor-length hair, attributed this to bathing the hair in rice water. The practice was also adopted by the Yao women in Huangluo in China, who again credited their incredibly long hair and its retention of colour to the use of rice water.’
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Dr Sharon explains: ‘Rice is approximately 80% starch, and the water derived from soaking rice unsurprisingly contains starch, a complex carbohydrate, which coats the hair and makes it shiny and glossy – but also acts as a humectant to hydrate the scalp and hair.’
She says that rice water contains the carbohydrate inositol too, ‘shown in one study to penetrate and remain in the hair fibre even after rinsing, suggesting it may continue to help hydrate the hair from the inside after a wash.’
There’s also amino acids that deposit onto the hair shaft for a ‘strengthening, volumising and thickening effect to the hair,’ while reducing surface tension that makes strands more manageable and less prone to frizz.
‘The cosmetic benefits all sound plausible based on the raw materials rice water contains,’ adds Dr Sharon, ‘But it is worth noting that these reported results are anecdotal and speculative.’
Fancy giving it a go? TikTok user Katya Niomi shared her rice water recipe, which includes the option of adding citrus and essential oils for a lush scent, and fermenting your liquid for the biggest benefits.
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Although the hack is safe, it’s important to do a patch test before trying any new products on the skin or hair. This ensures you aren’t allergic to any of the ingredients and that you’ll get the desired results.
Take some of the rice water and dab it behind your ear, covering with a plaster for a few hours. Next, soak an unseen strand of hair with the solution – ideally at the back of your head near the nape of your neck.
If you start to notice irritation under the plaster or find your hair is reacting unexpectedly – either seeming dry or affecting your colour – wash off and avoid the treatment in future. If not, you’ll be looking rice as nice in no time.
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