If you've spent any time reading about the curly girl method then you've likely come across protein treatments and rice water rinses. But what is a rice water rinse, why would you want to do a rice water rinse for curly hair, and how do you do it?
Reviewed by Laurie Cain, Curl Specialist and Hair Stylist.
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Benefits of rice water for hair
Sometimes wavy or curly hair needs special treatments, and rice water can offer many benefits. Many believe the benefits of a rice water rinse include:
- strengthens hair
- stimulates growth
- reduces frizz
- improves curl definition
- adds volume
- soothes scalp
- smoothes the hair cuticle
- increases shine
- helps grow hair longer
- increase elasticity
Rice water hair treatments are an old Asian tradition.
…The court ladies of the Heian Period, whose beautiful long hair, called suberakashi, reached to the floor, were said to have combed their hair each day using Yu-Su-Ru (rinse water obtained from the washing of rice) …. we found that Yu-Su-Ru exhibited hair care effects, such as reducing surface friction and increasing hair elasticity.International Journal of Cosmetic Science
Other research out of Japan has examined the effects of inositol, which is contained in rice water, on hair. They found that:
…inositol penetrates into the hair gradually. Additionally, we demonstrated that inositol stays inside the hair, allowing its protective and beautifying effects to persist even after rinsing.Spring-8
I first heard about rice water rinses when I came across an Instagram post by @powerdomi. I was so intrigued after seeing her waves turn into ringlets after one treatment.
I thought it was a bit of a hassle so I put off trying it for a year. When I finally did do it, I instantly saw what all the fuss was about. It revived my curls and gave me more defined curls.
Check out the before and after photos below. My hair did not look bad before, but it was definitely looser and the curls would loosen more and more throughout the day. They also frizzed faster and I had little volume.
After, they spring up and last for days without loosening. I have less frizz and more volume, and lots more shine.
How do you know if you need to do a rice water hair treatment?
Rice water acts as a protein mimicker. The protein in rice water is too large to penetrate the hair but it still helps without actually adding protein. So you can benefit from a rice water treatment for the same reasons as when your hair needs protein:
- more frizz, wet or dry
- limp curls
- curls falling flat
- hair feels too soft
- fluffy looking, very stretchy
A rice water rinse will really help your hair if it's damaged or if you're at the beginning of your curly hair journey. It will give you more shine, definition, and strength and reduce frizz.
I always recommend a rice water rinse before an actual protein treatment as a way to test the waters. Rice water will have a more mild effect on your hair than a protein treatment and if your hair didn't need protein, you can do some damage with a strong treatment. So doing a rice water treatment first is a safer way to determine if your hair needs the extra protein.
How to do a rice water rinse
Rice water hair treatments are very easy. You make the rice water, dip your hair into it or pour it over your hair after you shampoo, rinse well, and follow with a deep conditioner. Follow the recipe and routine below for the exact instructions.
How to make rice water
You can make rice water 3 ways: boiling, soaking, or fermenting. Boiling is the fastest and most popular one and is the method I use.
Fermented rice water method
This process involves fermenting the rice water for 2 days instead of boiling it. You let 1 cup of rice sit in a jar with 3 cups of water for 48 hours, then strain it.
Some say this is more potent and it has a stronger effect on the hair, but I am too impatient to do it this way.
Soaking rice water method
This is the easiest method. Soak 1 cup of rice in 2-3 cups of water for about an hour, then strain the rice.
Boiling rice water method
This is the fastest way to make rice water. I share the exact steps below.
Frequently Asked Questions About Rice Water
How often can you do a rice water rinse?
You can do it weekly, biweekly, or monthly. I definitely would not do it more than weekly though. I like to do it monthly.
Pay attention to how your hair looks and feels after. If it's doing well, looks better, feels better, then continue on the schedule.
But if it feels rough or dry, then don't continue with the rice water treatments.
Does it matter which type of rice I use?
Different types of rice have different amounts of proteins in them, but ultimately they all have the same effect. I have used white and brown rice and both have worked fine for me. So I say use whatever you have on hand.
I did a rice water treatment and didn't notice a difference!
This happens. Your hair probably just didn't need the treatment or it wasn't strong enough.
If your hair has the signs that it needs protein, then try an actual protein treatment instead.
I did a rice water rinse and my hair feels hard and dry!
If this happens to you then hair might be sensitive to proteins. Focus on moisturizing your hair until it feels better. You don't have to eliminate proteins but focus on having more moisture overall.
I've heard about rice water for hair growth. Does rice water help hair grow?
Some people say this is their experience with it. I have not found any research to support this and none of the stylists I've spoken to will support this claim. So try it out and see if it helps.
I heard rice water rinses are a protein treatment?
A lot of people think this and a lot of bloggers say this but it's NOT a protein treatment for your hair because your hair cannot absorb the large proteins in rice. It is true that rice has protein in it, and rice water contains protein. But the proteins are simply too large to penetrate the hair.
Regardless, it does provide a lot of the benefits a protein treatment does and can help your hair and I recommend you try it out.
RESEARCH SHOWS THAT ANY PROTEINS THAT HAVE NOT BEEN HYDROLYZED ARE TOO LARGE TO PENETRATE INTO THE HAIR SHAFT AND BOND ONTO THE HAIR. Check out this science based post on proteins if you don't believe me.
If you want help with embracing your naturally wavy or curly hair, you can join my FREE email course and download my FREE pdf guide, THE QUICK START GUIDE TO MASTERING YOUR CURLS, full of everything you need to know to get started and bring out your beautiful waves and curls.
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You can also read my other popular posts on curly hair:
- A Basic Guide to the Curly Girl Method for Wavy & Curly Hair
- What Products You Really Need To Start The Curly Girl Method
- Curly Girl Method Routine for 2B 2C 3A Hair
- 50+ Curly Girl Method Approved Products
- Curly Girl Night Routine To Protect Your Curls At Night
- How To Refresh Curly Hair
- Tips For Fine & Low Density Curly Hair
- How To Clarify Curly Hair
- Rice Water Rinse Guide
- 14 Hacks For Curly and Wavy Hair
- How To Repair Damaged Curly Hair
- Curly Girl Method Before and After – 1 Year Progress Update
- Ultimate Guide to Hair Porosity for Curly Hair
- My Favorite Products for Fine Curly Hair
- 11 Surprising Reasons You Have Frizz + Tips to Beat Frizz
- Common Causes of Limp Curls & Their Fixes
- Guide to Humidity & Weather Styling
- EVOLVh Review
Also, follow me on Instagram as I’m always posting tips and tutorials.