Rice water – for stronger, thicker hair

MENTION rice water to any old-time Jamaican and they will take you on a duppy story journey. But for the gen Z crowd of people who have been following what's happening in the home-care beauty industry, it has a whole other use.

New Age rice water advocates — usually naturals who want to treat their hair — have hailed the liquid for helping hair get shinier and thicker, and helping with growth and detangling. And simply adding the product to your routine, as a replacement for conditioner, will do wonders for your hair, they say.

But is there scientific reasoning behind the belief?

A 2010 study, The effect of rinse water obtained from the washing of rice as a hair treatment, published in the Journal of Cosmetic Chemists seems to give credence to the argument after the authors researched the histories of the hairstyles and hair-care practices of Japanese women, and found a very close relationship between using rice water and the growth and treatment of their hair.

“For example, 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). Rice is considered to be the most important food in the Japanese diet, and the historical fact that rice was used for hair care is very interesting,” the authors said.

“We found that Yu-Su-Ru exhibited hair care effects, such as reducing surface friction and increasing hair elasticity…”

Aesthetician Nicola Meredith said the use of rice water as a beauty treatment has gained traction since being promoted on social media by users because it's said to contain many of the vitamins and minerals contained in rice — amino acids, antioxidants, and vitamins B and E.

“They say it helps with detangling and makes the hair fluffier and silkier, and helps prevent breakage,” she said. “And judging by the before and after photos I've seen, there seems to be merit to the argument, even though we can't substantively prove it.”

She said it “really can't hurt” for women to try rice water, as the worst that could happen is probably a little flaking, but the starch in the water will form a protective seal around the hair and prevent breakage.

As such, she suggests the method below for making and using your rice water rinse.

1. Get your rice — one cup of any type of uncooked rice to two cups of water is a good mix. Soak the rice in the water for at least an hour, then strain. The water should have a milky colour.

2. Wash your hair as usual, then towel dry.

3. Apply the rice water to your hair from root to tip, put on a steam cap, and leave on for 15 minutes.

4. Rinse and style as usual.

“While some advocates say that you can use rice water instead of your usual conditioner, some people, especially those with chemically treated hair, may find that this does not work for them,” Meredith said. “In that case, after rinsing out the rice water, apply some conditioner and rinse and style as usual.”

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