TikTok trends are fun—but they become far more interesting (and worthy of note) when rooted in ancient history. Case in point: using rice water for improved hair health. According to a paper published in the Journal of Cosmetic Chemists, Japanese court ladies of the Heian Period (between 794 and 1185) were said to comb Yu-Su-Ru, or water obtained from the washing of rice, through their hair daily, the better to tend to their floor-reaching lengths. In fact, pouring rice water over the hair is a popular trick that’s been used in India, China, Korea, and Japan for centuries.
But is the long-loved beauty trend actually effective? Though it may sound like the stuff of myth, fermented rice water may actually be an accessible route to healthy hair—one that dermatologists and trichologists agree is safe for all hair types.
What Is Rice Water?
Rice water is the starchy rinse water obtained from washing rice. (Yes, it really is that simple.)
To make your own beauty-ready, DIY rice water, pour cold water over rice, wash and rinse twice, and let the rice soak in the third rinse (around a 2:1 cup of water to cup of uncooked rice ratio), moving the grains around with your hands. Either let it soak, use immediately, or pour into a sealed container.
According to board-certified dermatologist Michelle Henry, MD allowing time for fermentation is said to enhance the level of antioxidants in your rice water, so you may want to leave at room temperature for a day or two before stashing in the refrigerator.
The Benefits of Rice Water for Hair
“Studies have shown that pouring rice water over your hair can help keep the hair shiny and may benefit in maintaining healthy hair,” says New York-based trichologist Penny James. “The fermented liquid will smooth the cuticle and soften the hair shaft.” Research has indicated that active ingredients like vitamin B, vitamin E, trace yeast, and inositol—the benefits of which can be furthered through fermentation, as noted—can serve to smooth and moisturize hair and skin.
Henry doubles down on the inositol aspect. “Rice water contains inositol, a carbohydrate that helps strengthen elasticity and reduce surface friction,” she explains. “It also contains amino acids that can promote hair growth.” Though the growth factor still requires a touch more research (though what’s out there proves promising for both hair growth and the potential prevention of hair loss) fans of rice water can expect smoother, shinier lengths.