Is Rice Water the answer to Hair Breakage?

Vicki asks 'Do you know anything about rice water and it's benefits to hair?'

I did some research and here is the science on rice water and hair.

Q:  What is rice water?
Place some rice in water, boil it a little bit, the starch is released into the water making the water milky. Sieve off the rice and there you have it - rice water!

Q: Is it beneficial to hair?
The scientific answer is I don't know. Unfortunately many people quote this particular journal article from The International Journal of Cosmetic Science in 2010 but they are really over-interpreting the article.

Q: What does the article say?
It is looking back to hair practices from the Heian Period in Japan. Wikipedia tells me that Heian Period is from 794-1185! It is therefore probably a study of what people said rather than an actual current study with controlled strength testing or combability tests.

Q: But I have read elsewhere that the science said that rice water increased elasticity and reduced friction when combing?
Yes, it says so in the abstract of the article, but again, please note that the article does not say that scientists carried out any actual experiments, it just says they looked at the practices of Japanese courtiers from the Heian Period. I am assuming they therefore have some type of evidence e.g written text from the period.

Q: So does that mean rice water is not useful?
No, it just means it is another word of mouth common cultural practice. For example you will find many people who will swear that castor oil rubbed into your edges will cause that hair to grow back. There is no scientific evidence for that (as in no one has done the experiment yet, not that it does not work), but there are many word of mouth (anecdotal reports) statements that people consider as evidence that it is a possible solution.

The story from Asia is that giving hair a rinse with rice water gives it strength and elasticity. This is not scientifically evidenced but if it is something you want to try, you can do so, it may or may not work.

Q: Is this therefore only a solution for Asian hair?
From the studies I have seen, hair whether of African, European or Asian origin is structurally the same. Of course we are all humans of the same species so it makes sense that hair is hair is hair. There are differences too e.g some hair is thicker, curlier, lighter or darker but ultimately, hair in general regardless of origin has the same basic structure of a cortex surrrounded by a cuticle layer. All this harping on is to say, a rice water wash on Asian hair would probably have a similar effect on African American hair for example.
The basic structure of hair (not all hair has a medulla though!)
Q: How do you use rice water
Here is a video I found, basically apply to hair, concentrate on most damaged area, leave on for around 30 minutes and proceed on to wash and condition as normal.

Image Credit: ThamKC Shutterstock


  1. Thank you for the post! I read that it has a nutrient called Inositol, ever head of it and it's benefits?

    1. Hi Gugu, thanks for reading! Yes I have heard of inositol, it is a really common alcohol in cereals, I will do some research on that!

  2. I'm really glad you did this article! I have seen some people swear by this rinse, but to me that's a heck of a lot of work with little to no evidence to show that it's worth the hassle. I personally don't eat rice anymore unless I'm eating at a restaurant or someone's house, so that's why I say it would be a lot of work for me. Thanks again for the article and I love your site! So glad you are getting back into it :)


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