Reading time: 8 min.
Rice Water for Hair Growth: Myth or Reality? (Evidence Review)
Dr Kieran Dayah (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Kieran Dayah (GMC)
Updated on May 9, 2024

You may have heard stories of beautiful, noble Chinese and Japanese women who used rice water for hair growth. They believed this hair treatment was the secret to their dark, silky, floor-length tresses. To this day, this natural remedy is widely used for its purported skin and hair benefits. But can rice water truly stimulate your follicles for hair growth or is this just a well-preserved ancient myth?

Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to support any hair growth effect of rice water hair treatments at this time. No relevant studies have been conducted on this topic and very few clinical trials have been performed to study the impact of rice water on hair in general.

However, the few studies that do exist have found some evidence that this traditional remedy may have certain hair benefits after all, such as reducing oxidative stress and increasing strand elasticity [3]. Still, further research is necessary to determine the rice water benefits on hair health.

Fortunately, if you are interested in improving your hair thickness and density and preventing hair loss there are evidence-based treatments (e.g. Minoxidil), therapies (e.g. red light therapy for hair growth) and even some of the best natural hair growth oils (e.g. black seed oil for hair or rosemary oil for hair) that can help you do that effectively.

Keep reading this article to find out all you need to know about:

  • The relationship between rice water and hair health
  • How to prepare and use rice water rinse on your hair
  • The potential side effects of rice water
  • Efficient alternatives to rice water for hair growth
Table of Contents
What is rice water?

What is rice water?

Rice water is a starchy solution which is obtained by washing and draining boiled or uncooked rice or by boiling rice until it dissolves in the water [2]. It has been used in some Asian countries for centuries as a way to promote healthy hair. It was believed that washing hair with this starchy water was good for overall hair health. Rice water rinse benefits were believed to include increased hair growth and prevention of premature greying [3].

Does rice water really work for hair growth?

No studies have been performed at this time to demonstrate the effect of rice water on hair growth. While there is some evidence that under specific circumstances, rice bran might show hair growth-promoting activity [4], research is needed to support the purported hair benefits of rice water treatment to promote hair growth.

Does rice water have any benefits for your hair?

Does rice water have any benefits for your hair?

While there isn’t any proof so far that rice water can make your hair grow faster or thicker, researchers have found indications of other potential hair benefits that may be held by rice water rinse:

Antioxidant effect

Rice water is believed to contain several antioxidants, such as vitamin E for hair, or vitamin C for hair as well as certain beneficial phenolic compounds transferred from the rice [1]. These antioxidants may play a role in reducing oxidative stress which can damage your hair.

Improved hair elasticity

Rice water has been shown to possess anti-elastase activity. Elastase is a type of enzyme which breaks down elastin, a protein that makes your skin, hair and other tissues elastic. This means that rice water may help reduce hair breakage due to friction and mechanical tension [1][3].

Providing your hair with nutrients

Depending on the type of rice that has been used and the preparation process, rice water may contain various concentrations of nutrients that can benefit your hair, such as amino acids, vitamins E and B6, magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, potassium and selenium.

However, since the nutrient quantities in rice water are much smaller than in the rice it is obtained from, and given the fact they would need to be absorbed through your scalp rather than ingested, they are unlikely to have a significant effect on your hair health.

Anti-dandruff effect

One in-vitro study performed on rice water obtained through different methods, from different varieties of rice has shown that regardless of the preparation method, this starchy water may inhibit the growth of Malassezia furfur. That is a type of fungus which causes yeast infections on the scalp, such as dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis.

The explanation provided by the researchers was that zinc and selenium from the rice might have passed into the water, lending it some of their antifungal properties [2]. However, more research is needed to confirm this effect, as a different study was not able to replicate this finding [1]. And even if it had, in-vitro antifungal properties don’t always persist when tested on a human scalp.

How do you prepare and use rice water for your hair?

How do you prepare and use rice water for your hair?

If you would like to try this ancient hair remedy for yourself, you will be happy to know it is very easy to prepare. Depending on the type of rice water you prefer, these are the best ways to obtain it:

DIY rice water from uncooked rice:

  1. Rinse one cup of rice, then strain it and throw away the water, to make sure you have removed all dust and dirt.
  2. Place the uncooked rice in a bowl, then add 3 cups of water to it.
  3. Let the rice soak for 30 minutes – 1 hour.
  4. Stir the rice in the water, then strain it and place it into a spray bottle (or your preferred container).
  5. Spray the water on your hair and scalp as needed. Leave it in for 20-30 minutes, then rinse it out carefully with warm water.
  6. You can refrigerate the unused water, but avoid keeping it for more than 5 days, as it will likely spoil.

DIY rice water from boiled rice:

  1. Place ½ a cup of rice in a pan and cover it with 3 cups of water.
  2. Boil the rice in the water until it is overcooked and slightly dissolving (if too much water evaporates, you can add some more to replace it).
  3. Let the rice cool, then strain it and place it into a spray bottle.
  4. Follow steps 5 and 6 from the uncooked rice water recipe.

Fermented rice water

Some believe that fermented rice water is richer in antioxidants than the plain rice water variety. If you would like to try this, you can ferment rice water from either uncooked or boiled rice, as shown above, but before using it, let it sit in a covered bowl, at room temperature, for 1-2 days (no longer, or it will probably spoil). Then put it in a spray bottle and use it normally.

What are the side effects of using rice water on your hair?

What are the side effects of rice water on hair?

Rice water is generally considered safe to use on all hair types, however there are few adverse effects associated with its use. However, since it is very starchy, it shouldn’t be used too frequently or left on for very long especially if you have damaged or dry hair. A starch build-up can form on your scalp and strands [3] leading to an itchy scalp and dry, brittle hair that breaks off easily.

While there have been some anecdotal claims that rice water can either help or harm people who experience certain common scalp conditions, such as eczema, at this time, there is no evidence that you shouldn’t use rice water if you have any particular scalp condition.

Effective alternatives to rice water for hair growth

If you are interested in trying some evidence-based alternatives to rice water for hair growth, here are some good options:

Hair growth medications

One of the most commonly used hair growth medications is Minoxidil. It is most often used topically and it has proven results in increasing hair density and thickness. It works by widening the fine blood vessels in your scalp to increase blood flow and thus ensure that more oxygen and nutrients reach your hair follicles [4].

However, it is a good idea to get the recommendation of a trichologist before taking any hair growth medications, as in certain people, it can have adverse side effects or interfere with other treatments you may be taking.

Hair growth therapies

Two evidence-based therapies that can help stimulate your hair follicles are red light therapy for hair growth and derma rolling for hair growth. Red light laser therapy is also known as low-level laser therapy and promotes hair growth by increasing your cell metabolism and getting more energy and blood flow to your hair follicles [5].

Derma rolling is also called microneedling and it works by creating microscopic wounds in your scalp which trigger your body’s natural healing responses and improve the absorption of hair growth medication, such as topical Minoxidil [6].

Natural remedies that can stimulate hair growth

If you would prefer to use a natural hair treatment, there are essential oils for hair growth which can help you improve your hair density. Rosemary oil and black seed oil are both effective in promoting increased hair thickness and density and they can also help with certain kinds of hair loss.

For example, rosemary oil has been proven effective against androgenetic alopecia (male or female pattern baldness) [8], while black seed oil is a go-to natural treatment for telogen effluvium [9].

Are you concerned about your hair growth?

If you worry that your hair is not growing as fast, thick or dense as it once did or if you are experiencing hair thinning, the best thing you can do is to book a consultation with a trichologist. They will perform a thorough examination of your scalp and hair and order all the necessary tests (e.g. a dermoscopy, a scalp biopsy or blood tests for hair loss) to determine if you are experiencing any condition that may be stifling your hair growth.

Slower hair growth accompanied by persistent excessive hair shedding can indicate that you may have a type of alopecia, such as telogen effluvium, androgenetic alopecia or alopecia areata. Or you may even be experiencing a common scalp problem that can lead to hair shedding, such as seborrheic dermatitis or scalp psoriasis.

Some of these conditions are temporary, while others require treatment to curb and reverse hair loss. Treatment generally works best if you get an accurate diagnosis from the first signs of hair thinning and balding. Otherwise, the alopecia may progress to the point where non-surgical remedies are no longer sufficient and you may need a hair transplant.

So if you have any concerns about the state of your hair, don’t hesitate to place it into the capable hands of professionals, who will provide you with the most effective recommendations for keeping it healthy and beautiful.

Rice Water for Hair Growth: Myth or Reality? (Evidence Review), Wimpole Clinic

Dr Kieran Dayah (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Kieran Dayah (GMC)Updated on May 9, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
Talk to a specialist ☎ 020 7935 1861.

Book a consultation

Simply fill in your details in the form below and we'll get in touch with you shortly.