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A couple of months ago, I got an email from a friend asking me what my experience had been with using rice water in my natural hair. Well, to be honest, I had only tried using rice water in my regimen for a month or two. 

But this email prompted me to find out why rice water is becoming so increasingly popular. I started using rice water every week after shampooing my hair. I would also use it as a leave-in every once in a while.

Check out what I learned as I answer some of your most pressing questions about rice water for natural hair. 


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What Is Rice Water?

Rice water is basically the white starchy water that is left after cleaning or soaking your rice. It is believed (well, there isn’t any scientific evidence yet) to help with massive hair growth.

Even though the use of rice water has been largely popularised by Youtubers and bloggers, it’s a hair treatment that has been practised for ages. It dates back to the Heian period (794 to 1185 CE) when Japanese women would bathe their hair in rice water to grow it long and strong.

This beauty secret was also practised by the Yao women in China in a small village called Huangluo. In fact, Yao women have been said to have the longest hair in the world. Their hair grows as long as 6 ft long! 

It is not confirmed yet (scientifically) whether their long, shiny black hair can be solely attributed to bathing their hair in rice water their entire lives but clearly, the rice water has played a role. The Yao women are confident that rice water is the secret behind their length. Who are we to doubt?


Benefits Of Rice Water On Natural Hair 

I haven’t used rice water on my hair for long, but I can attest to experiencing some of these benefits:

  • It adds shine and gloss to dull hair- After rinsing off the rice water the very first time I tried it, I instantly noticed how much shinier my hair was.
  • It detangles hair to make it more manageable 
  • It makes hair smooth and soft
  • It nourishes hair from the inside to the outside making your hair look healthy
  • It delays the greying of hair. The Yao women start seeing grey hair in their 80’s
  • It aids in growth – by nourishing the hair from the inside, the strands become stronger and hard to break. This helps in retaining the length of each hair strand


How To Prepare Rice Water

There are three ways to prepare rice water – Boiling, soaking, and leaving it to ferment. I tried them all just to see which methods have the most impact so I will give my thoughts on each.


Method 1: Fermenting

What you need


How to prepare

  • Pour the rice into a bowl and start by washing. This is so you can clean out any dirt or chemicals that may damage your hair. Strain the rice until all water is out.
  • Add the two cups of water into the bowl and mix with your hand.
  • Allow it to settle for a couple of minutes and then using a sieve, drain the rice water into a mason jar.
  • Set aside for 24 hours at room temperature to allow it to ferment. The fermentation helps in releasing more antioxidants that are important in preventing and repairing hair damage.
  • When you are ready to use it, pour some into your spray bottle and what remains in the jar, store it in the fridge ensuring that it is tightly closed



Method 2: Boiling

What you need


How to prepare

  • Boil your 1 cup of rice in 4 cups of water. Once your rice boils, strain the excess water and let it cool.
  • Pour in your spray bottle and it’s ready to use.


Method 3: Soaking

This method is similar to the fermenting method.  The only difference is that instead of soaking your rice whole, you lightly blend to break down the rice. This makes the rice release more starch into the water. You will notice that the water is heavier and whiter than when the rice is not broken down. This is an indication that your rice water has more nutrients. Exactly what you want for your hair!

What you need


How to prepare

  • Wash your one cup of rice. Pour the rice and the 3 cups of water into your blender. I use the Nutribullet blender.
  • Lightly blend, not into a paste but just so the rice breaks into smaller pieces
  • Sieve to get the heavy starchy rice water. Pour into your mason jar and store it in the fridge. Only take it out when you want to use it.  


Rice water for natural hair


How To Use The Rice Water On Natural Hair

I usually do my rice water treatment after I shampoo but right before I condition my hair. This is how I do it:

    • After shampooing, I section my hair into 4-6 parts and twist out each section
    • Then I take one section, generously spray the rice water from the root to the tip, working it in so that each and every strand is soaked with the rice water. I add some more to the scalp and massage it in. This is going to be a very drippy affair so I would advise you to do it in the bathroom.
    • I repeat for all sections and then do one more generous spray on the scalp while massaging. I then cover my head with a shower cap and let the rice water soak in my hair and scalp for at least 30 minutes.
    • I rinse and follow up with a conditioner. 
    • When I use the rice water as a rinse, I use it after my conditioner and I let it stay on my hair for roughly 2 minutes.


Different Ways To Use Rice Water On Natural Hair

There are different ways you can use rice water on your natural hair. You can use it as a leave-in conditioner and spray it on your hair daily.

 You can mix it with your other masks and use it as a hair mask. I mixed it with aloe vera and essential oils and I loved the outcome.

You can also use it as a rinse. For this purpose, you use it to rinse your hair after your conditioner. 

Finally, you can use it as a conditioning treatment just like I’ve shared in method 3 above. I find that when it comes to natural products, like in this case rice water, there is no right or wrong way, just do what suits your hair.


How Often You Can Use Rice Water

Rice water is safe to use daily so how often you use will depend on what you intend to use it as. You can use it daily as a hair spray to add shine to your hair, twice or three times a week as a leave-in, or weekly when washing your hair. You can even just do it once or twice a month. Again, there is no hard rule on this.


Side Effects Of Using Rice Water

There aren’t any side effects of rice water on natural hair as long as you don’t overuse it. However, it is important to note that rice water adds proteins to hair, if you overuse it you risk overloading your hair with proteins which will cause your hair to be hard and dry.

Also, you have to be careful with how your store your rice water and for how long. As much as fermented rice water is beneficial, it also alters the PH of the scalp. You must always discard it before it over ferments and goes bad. 

As a safety precaution, make it a habit to always smell your rice water before using it. If it smells sour, discard it. It is no longer safe to use.


FAQs About Rice Water On Natural Hair

Since I have been receiving lots of emails and queries from my DMs about rice water on natural hair, let me try and answer some of those questions here. I can bet one of these questions is on your mind already.


Can I Leave Rice Water On My Hair Overnight?

Yes, you can. However, you can not leave it on for longer than 12 hours as you risk bacteria growing on your hair. 


Is Rice Water Good For Natural Hair?

Rice water is good for natural hair. It helps strengthen the hair shafts, makes them shinier, makes them softer and smoother. It also makes hair more elastic. 


Can Rice Water Be Used Daily On Natural Hair As A Leave-in?

Yes, you can use rice water daily. Just be sure to use a small amount every day so that you don’t cause protein overload on your hair which hardens hair. Also, you need to regularly make a new batch and store it in the fridge. 


How Long Can I Keep Rice Water In A Spray Bottle?

You can store your rice water in your spray bottle for up to 24 hours when not stored in the fridge but up to 7 days when stored in the fridge. After this, it ceases to ferment and starts degrading which can be harmful to your hair.


Does Rice Water Really Grow Natural Hair Fast?

To be honest, no. Rice water does not directly increase growth. Hair will grow with or without rice water because it is a natural process. What rice water does is create a better environment for hair to grow in by nourishing the follicles. And with healthy hair follicles, steady growth is guaranteed with minimal breakage.


Does Rice Water Go Bad?

Yes, of course, it’s a natural product with no preservatives added to make it stay fresher for longer. Rice water can only last up to 7 days when refrigerated and only 24 hours when at room temperature.


Which Rice Is Best For Rice Water?

Any type of rice works. You can either go for white rice, wild rice, basmati rice, brown rice, etc. As long as it is rice, it’s good to go.


Final Thoughts on Rice Water For Natural Hair

Even though there is no scientific study done on rice water, it indeed works. Of course, it does not instantly grow hair as most rice water champions would want you to believe. But one thing’s for sure, rice water strengthens natural hair which is crucial in the growth of hair. It also makes hair shinier, smoother, and more elastic.