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Does rice water actually help with hair growth? We asked dermatologists

The ancient treatment is going viral.
Woman Washing Hair In Bathroom At Home
Jeremie Morey / EyeEm / Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

According to TikTok, the secret to fuller, healthier hair could lie in an ingredient that's sitting in your pantry.

Rice water, the liquid left behind from soaking the grain, has been making the rounds on the app as a savior for drab locks. Videos featuring the #ricewater tag have garnered one billion collective views, with users saying that it has helped them boost hair growth and revive damaged hair.

Despite the recent surge in popularity, the practice isn't anything new. It actually dates all the way back to the Heian Period (794 to 1185), when Japanese court ladies famously had floor-length hair. It's said that they combed it every day using Yu-Su-Ru, or the rinse water from the washing of rice.

So, should you be adding the ingredient to your hair care regimen? We asked experts to share their thoughts on the trend.

Rice water for hair growth | Products to try | How we chose

Does rice water help your hair grow?

From a scientific perspective, there isn’t any research to support the benefits of using rice water on your hair, says Dr. Caren Campbell, a board-certified dermatologist in San Francisco. She pointed to one 2017 study on rice mineral bran extract, which showed that the ingredient may be helpful in preventing hair loss and enhancing hair growth, but she added that it is just one limited study.

That being said, rice water has some other potential benefits. "It has antioxidants, which can theoretically help calm down inflammation on the scalp," says Dr. Robert Finney, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. "It usually contains the compound inositol, which has anecdotally been shown to increase the growth phase and also decrease friction amongst the hair shafts." It also has amino acids, which can help your strands look firmer and healthier.

The water contains starches, which can also contribute to the appearance of fullness, Finney adds. They create a separation between the hair shafts and as a result, make your mane temporarily look thicker.

Fermented rice water is acidic, so when you rinse your hair with it, it restores and balances the pH of your hair, adds hairstylist Julian Guerrero. "We’ve been seeing hair care brands bring the benefits of rice to hair products, from cleansers to styling creams."

Finney warns that using it too often can cause a protein overload, especially in those with very dry or low-porosity hair, that can lead to further dullness and dryness. So, if your hair falls into those categories, it might not be the best choice for you.

While you can make rice water at home, not everyone has time to make the concoction themselves. So with that in mind, we found nine shopper-loved rice-infused products that you can add to your beauty cabinet if you want to try the ancient practice.

Rice water hair products

Not Your Mother’s Rice Water & Himalayan Moringa Protein Conditioner

What we like
  • Safe for all hair types
  • Protein-rich formula
Something to note
  • Too heavy for some hair

Key ingredients: Rice water, moringa

Free from parabens, phthalates and dyes, this protein hair rinse is said to contain 98 percent naturally-derived ingredients. Safe for color-treated and natural hair, the brand says that it works to condition, soften and add shine to your locks.

Mielle Organics Rice Water Milk

What we like
  • Moisturizing
  • Can be used for styling
Something to note
  • Product runs out fast

Key ingredients: Rice water, safflower oil, castor oil and coconut oil 

Damaged hair? This treatment from TikTok-favorite brand, Mielle Organics could be what you need. The milk is made with nourishing ingredients, which the company says can help strengthen hair and lock in moisture. 

"This Mielle rice water milk is perfect for those who have dry hair," shares Shop TODAY intern Domonique Tolliver. "I’ve used this product as a styling crème for my curly 3B hair and as a deep conditioner before I apply heat to my hair and every time it leaves my hair soft and moisturized."

Function of Beauty Wavy Hair Shampoo Base

What we like
  • Promotes elasticity
  • Notes of peach and lemon
Something to note
  • Must be added to shampoo

Key ingredients: Fermented rice water

This shampoo, made specifically for those with wavy hair, features fermented rice water, which, according to the brand, will strengthen and increase the elasticity of your hair. Function of Beauty’s products are customizable, so you can use it as-is or add in up to three of the company’s #HairGoal Booster Shots.

SheaMoisture Purple Rice Water Strength & Color Care Primer & Styler

What we like
  • Heat protectant
  • Detangles
Something to note
  • Strong smell

Key ingredients: Purple rice water, wild orchid and sweet violet extract

Keep your hair color looking its best with this primer and styler. Made for daily use, the brand reports this formula can strengthen hair while locking in color and moisture.

Luv Me Care Rice Water Hair Growth Shampoo

What we like
  • Nutrient-rich formula
  • Protects from damage
Something to note
  • Takes a while to see results

Key ingredients: Rice water, ginger root, biotin and caffeine

This formula has more than 2,300 five-star ratings from Amazon shoppers. "It’s fantastic! After the first use my hair was so shiny and silky soft," one person wrote. "I reordered, and this time I bought both the shampoo and conditioner. Don’t ever want to run out. My hair has been thinning due to age, but this shampoo has made it seem thicker and really feels wonderful."

Along with rice water, it contains other ingredients said to help promote hair growth, including caffeine and biotin.  

Kitsch Rice Shampoo Bar

What we like
  • Zero waste packaging
  • Paraben and sulfate-free
Something to note
  • Doesn't last long

Key ingredients: Rice water protein 

According to the brand, this bottle-free shampoo can balance your hair's PH level and make it feel silky soft. One five-star reviewer said she started seeing great results after learning how to use it properly. "I just love it! It suds well, has a mild pleasant scent & leaves my scalp feeling clean," they said. "There is no residue left behind & my hair does not feel stripped of moisture."

MyKirei by KAO Shampoo with Moisturizing Japanese Tsubaki & Rice Water

What we like
  • Designed for all hair types
  • Gentle formula
Something to note
  • Fragrance too strong for some

Key ingredients: Japanese Tsubaki, rice water

This gentle formula is made with rice water and Tsubaki, which is rich in oleic acid, proteins and glycerides and is said to leave your hair looking shiny. It's safe for all hair types, and the unique, recyclable bottle uses 50 percent less plastic than traditional bottles.

Pattern Treatment Mask

What we like
  • Curl-enhancing
  • Good for dryness
Something to note
  • May not be for all hair types

Key ingredients: Rice protein, moringa seed extract and hibiscus

Formulated with rice water ferment and moringa seed extract, this treatment mask promises to elongate curls and provide definition. It has notes of orange blossom and geranium, so reviewers say it leaves your hair with a delicious scent.

Briogeo Don't Despair Repair Rice Water Strengthening Treatment

What we like
  • Strengthens hair after 1 use
  • Safe for color treated hair
Something to note
  • Expensive

Key ingredients: Rice protein complex 

Dry hair? Don't despair! This treatment can be used weekly to help hydrate and strengthen your strands. Along with rice water, the formula features ingredients like rosehip oil, algae extract and B vitamins.

How we chose these products

The Shop TODAY editors and writers search the internet to find the best products out there. We interview expert sources and use our own personal experiences with the product and brand to make shopping easier for our readers.

As an editorial team, we independently create content and determine coverage based on research, reporting and what we think readers would like to read about. The goal of our content is to provide a service and inform readers who are on the hunt for the latest products to help make their life better. Items are sold by retailer, not TODAY. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time. Learn more about Shop TODAY.

Meet our experts

  • Dr. Caren Campbell, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in San Francisco. She has a patient-first, results-oriented treatment approach that focuses on simplifying her patient’s routines.
  • Dr. Robert Finney, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of SoHo Skin and Hair. He is fellowship-trained in hair restoration and aesthetics and is an assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai.
  • Jennifer McCowan is a trichologist and hair restoration specialist. She is board advisor, fellow and Canadian director of cosmetology for the World Trichology Society
  • Julian Guerrero is a hair stylist and wig maker in Los Angeles.