Fact Check: Does Rice Water Actually Do Anything For Your Hair? What To Know Before You Brew A Batch

While rice water for hair might be a growing trend on TikTok, the treatment is actually an ancient one. Rice water was popular in Japan in the eighth century, where women of the court grew thick, strong hair thanks to Yu-Su-Ru, or the milky water that remained after washing rice. In a rural region in China, the Red Yao tribe features women with the world's longest hair, with some sporting locks at an impressive four and a half feet long, thanks to the tradition of rice water. How do they use it, specifically? They create a wash made from fermented rice water, with herbs and other natural ingredients, that they apply using wooden combs. Does it work? Well, the Guinness Book of World Records named them the "World's Longest Haired Village."

Rice water has a long tradition in hair care regimes throughout history and it hasn't gone anywhere — it's just been updated to find a home on TikTok. So if something is tried, tested, and true, we're eager to take a look.

What is rice water and how to make it?

Rice water is as simple as it sounds. It's the cloudy, white water left over after soaking rice. There are a few different ways to make rice water, all of them refreshingly simple. The first is by rinsing half a cup of rice (white rice is fine, though black rice is known to have more antioxidants) with three cups of water. Let the rice soak for at least 30 minutes before straining the milky, starchy water into a jar or spray bottle.

Following a more traditional route, fermented rice water just takes more time. Put the rinsed rice into a plastic container with a lid and add the water, leaving it out at room temperature for 24 hours. Don't let it sit much longer than that, or else the water could go bad. What's the perk of this longer route? "Fermented rice water amplifies the benefits of rice water while also lowering the pH of your rinse, giving your cuticle the opportunity to retract and keep those nutrients trapped inside the hair," stylist Devin Graciano told CNN. You can also pour rice into boiling water, let it cook until the water is cloudy, and strain the water and let it cool. Rice water can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.

The supposed benefits of rice water, and how to use it

Rice water works wonders on the hair and scalp. As stylist Devin Graciano explained to CNN, "Rice water has inositol, which has been linked to preventing premature hair loss and hair shedding by strengthening the hair on the scalp level while penetrating the hair strand itself, delivering vitamins, minerals and amino acids that are essential to your hair strength." The vitamins and amino acids in rice water can help promote shine, growth, and keep strands stronger.

However, it's worth noting that much of this is based on the legendary status of rice water. The water certainly contains these rich elements, thanks to the rice, but how it actually permeates the hair and scalp is still being researched. Studies are still in the preliminary process. Nevertheless, it's the longevity of rice water, passed on throughout centuries, that gives it its legendary power.

There are a few different ways of using the water. One way is to apply the rice water to dry hair, since it's more porous, and let it sit for 20-30 minutes. Some even leave the treatment on overnight, though it's advised to avoid the scalp here since the rice water can clog hair follicles. Wash and condition hair after as usual. Another way is to apply it in the shower after washing and conditioning, leaving it on for 20 minutes and then rinsing it out. It's a good rule of thumb to use rice water no more than once or twice a week.

What hair type responds best to rice water

Rice water can benefit all hair types and a range of hair concerns. As stylist ​​Devin Graciano told CNN, "While genetic factors make differences in specific hair types and characteristics, rice water will benefit all hair types because of its focus on replenishing amino acids, and nutrients your hair absorbs quickly." Those of us with dry, damaged hair will likely notice the best results, since rice water absorbs so easily into dryer hair.

For those with fine hair, rice water has its own perks. "Because rice water is believed to make hair shinier and stronger along with helping to keep tangles at a minimum, it can be a great remedy for fine, dull hair," Dr. Stacy Chimento told Byrdie. Other hair concerns will notice similar boosts. "Those with dry, brittle, curly hair may benefit because the protein in rice water improves the condition of hair and helps make it bouncy," Chimento added. "Those who want to boost shine and improve and strengthen the condition of the hair cuticle may benefit, as well."

There's one thing worth noting, though. Some people have noticed an initial adjustment period. Since rice water is protein-rich, some notice that their hair reacts to an overload of protein, Chimento said. The best course of action is to ease into rice water rinses, starting with just once a week.

How to determine if its worth trying

If you're curious about rice water, it's an easy and low-cost home remedy that's worth a shot, so long as you're not allergic to rice. It's also a natural product (plus, consider buying organic rice when making rice water), so there's no introduction of harsh chemicals and hard-to-pronounce ingredients.

If you're deciding whether or not rice water is worth the trouble, consider what your hair needs are. Stylist Rick Wellman told Self that rice water isn't primarily a hydrator, so for those with natural or curly hair, hydration is likely going to be a priority in hair care, and so rice water might not make the regime. Nevertheless, rice water can soften natural hair, so if you're curious about giving it a try, it could be a wonderful addition to a treatment plan.

Also, just because someone shares specific results on TikTok doesn't mean those results are guaranteed across the board. Dr. Tiffany St. Bernard told CNN that each person has a different hair profile that responds differently to products. "This is a combination of characteristics including type, porosity, volume and other factors that are unique to themselves and help to define the state of their hair, their hair health and how their hair reacts to different environments, products and routines," St. Bernard said. So keep an open mind and let go of expectations. Rice water might be one more social media experiment for your hair, or it could be the thing that your hair ends up loving the most.