How To Make Rice Water For Stronger Hair & Growth
As far as hair growth goes, there are no shortages of tonics, topicals, and DIY remedies that promise longer, stronger hair. Finding one that works for you may take some trial and error—but there are a few options that have stood the test of time. Well, at least anecdotally.
Hair rinses tend to fall into that category. There are several types of hair rinses out there—some branded as clarifying products, others hydrating ones. In the case of rice water rinse, hair growth and strength are the top benefits reported. For what it's worth, we did an explainer on the benefits of hair rinses here, if you want more information. But if you just want a thorough tutorial—complete with tips, tricks, and add-ons, you've come to the right place.
What you need.
All the tools you need—plus a few optional:
- Rice (White, brown, or purple, if you have blond hair and want toning benefits, like purple shampoo)
- A spray or squeeze bottle. We recommend you use an old condiments bottle or a repurposed hair spray bottle. Technically, this one is optional, but we really recommend applying the tonic with some sort of packaging—it can be hard to control the liquid otherwise.
- Botanical hydrosols, like neroli or rosewater. If you want an antioxidant boost, you can blend your rice water with another plant-steeped water. This is optional but can add additional benefits to the rinse.
Make your rice water.
Creating your hair-helping is pretty low lift, trust us.
- Mix equal parts rice and room-temperature water in a bowl. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
- Stir occasionally.
- At the end of the 30 minutes, the water should have a milky, foggy, and cream color.
- Grab your empty container and strain the rice-water concoction into it, so what you are left with is your rice water in the container.
How to apply the rinse.
Folding to your routine is pretty straightforward: "Rice water can be used regularly, just as you would apply a hair conditioner," says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D. "Apply to freshly washed hair, and let it sit for five to 10 minutes before rinsing. You can apply a traditional conditioner afterward if necessary."
For a more thorough walk-through, we broke it down for you:
- Take a shower and shampoo as normal. (Our favorite sulfate-free shampoos here, should you be in the market.)
- Shut off the shower, grab your rice water, and disperse it. We recommend staying in the shower for the application, as the water will likely not just stay on your hair.
- Coat the strands from root to tip in sections—going slowly. This is why we recommend a squeeze bottle with a cap—because you'll have more control.
- Let it sit for five to 10 minutes. If you don't want to stand in the shower for that length of time, you can put on a shower cap to make sure the rinse doesn't get elsewhere. We also encourage you to give yourself a scalp massage during this process, which can help improve circulation to the area and has been shown to aid with hair growth.
- Once done, rinse again in the shower, and top it with a conditioner if your strands run on the drier end.
Benefits of rice water.
As I noted earlier, we have a full explainer on rice water benefits for the hair, but for a quick rundown here are our favorite benefits:
Full of hair-strengthening nutrients.
Rice water contains antioxidants, minerals, and amino acids. The antioxidants are a vital part of hair health, as they neutralize free radicals, which can cause major stress to strands. Minerals can strengthen the hair. And amino acids can help build the hair back up, as it's made primarily of the protein keratin (keratin is made of several amino acids, including proline, alanine, leucine, arginine, and cysteine). It's also rich in an active called inositol, which studies have shown helps mend and repair hair1.
Forms a protective seal around the hair.
Thanks to the starch, the water can form a thin yet protective layer around the hair: keeping strands safe from wear and tear. "Rice water is rich in starch, which forms the surface of the hair shaft," says Zeichner. "This adds strength, enhances hydration, and minimizes the appearance of split ends."
Massaging the scalp can stimulate circulation.
The most famous benefit from rice water is hair growth. See, for ages and throughout many cultures, it has been used as a holistic treatment to encourage length. At the moment, no formal research has been done on this claim—but anecdotal evidence abounds. Regardless, it checks out: Anything that helps the health of the strand can theoretically help the hair grow longer. With less friction, breakage, and stress comes longer and more lush hair, no?
Other rinses to try.
On a rinse kick? Well, rice water isn't the only option available. Check out some other popular rinses you can try, plus their benefits.
Apple cider vinegar rinse.
This wellness industry darling can be blended into a hair rinse to increase shine and reduce frizz. It all comes down to pH. The hair's pH is very important, as an unbalanced hair and scalp can cause irritation, dryness, dullness, and frizziness. Your hair and scalp hover around 5.5 normally (studies even show that when your hair products are at or below 5.5 pH, it can reduce damage and frizz3). Since water is a neutral pH and most shampoos are alkaline, simply taking a shower changes the pH of your hair. So rinsing your hair with diluted apple cider vinegar post-shower can bring down that pH, improving the appearance in the process. There's also some evidence that it can help with dandruff. Check out our full apple cider vinegar hair rinse tutorial here.
Tea is full of antioxidants and caffeine, making it a star ingredient for the scalp. Caffeine has been shown to have hair-growth properties when used, typically, on the scalp. In fact, one 2018 study shows that a caffeine-based liquid topical can be just as effective as Minoxidil4, active in brands like Rogaine and the traditional topical treatment for hair loss. For more info on making a green tea rinse, see our guide.
Botanical toning rinse.
While not as pigmented and potent as traditional toning products (like purple or blue conditioners), botanical toners can help you in a pinch. To find one that can help enhance your hair color, a color wheel is your friend. Simply identify the undertone you want to color correct, and use the opposite color to cancel it out. For yellow tones, use purple; for orange, use blue. Then find a like-colored botanical to help. Don't worry, we did the work for you: Here's our guide to natural toners.
Rice waters are a super easy at-home routine you can effortlessly add to your weekly lineup. While limited research has been done on the rinse, tons of anecdotal evidence suggests it may help you achieve your hair growth goals.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.