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Is rice water good for hair? Experts weigh in on the TikTok trend

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

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

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 more than 402 million collective views, with users saying that it has helped them boost hair growth and revive damaged hair.

There are even some celebrities who are fans of the practice. Kim Kardashian used the treatment on her hair and reportedly noticed a difference in growth and thickness. And Cardi B posted a hydrating hair routine on TikTok last year that included a rice water spray.

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.

Can you use rice water for hair growth?

From a scientific perspective, there isn’t any research to support the benefits of using rice water on your hair, said 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," said Dr. Robert Finney, a board-certified dermatologist at Entière Dermatology 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 added. 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, added Julian Guerrero, hairstylist and educator at Butterfly Studio Salon in New York. "We’ve been seeing hair care brands bring the benefits of rice to hair products, from cleansers to styling creams."

Finney warned 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.

Jeremie Morey / EyeEm / Getty Images

How to make rice water for hair

All you need is a cup of rice — brown long grain or white — to get started. First, you want to rinse the rice to wash off any impurities, said Jennifer McCowan, a trichologist and the Canadian Director of Cosmetology for the World Trichology Society. Then, combine the rice with three cups of water and let it soak for 24-hours. Strain the water into a jar or container and squeeze out the rice to get as much of the nutrient-packed water as possible, then store in the fridge.

After shampooing, apply your rice water rinse from roots to ends while massaging it in. "Then condition as normal with your regular conditioner," said Guerrero. "Rice water could also be used as a conditioner if mixed with an oil and applied from roots to ends, or just on hair ends, then rinsed and styled."

McCowan echoed the fact that the starches in rice water can make your hair look a bit dull, but she said that pre-made products that contain rice water along with oils, which add lubrication, can help with that.

Not everyone has time to make the concoction themselves, so with that in mind, we found five rice-infused products that you can add to your beauty cabinet if you want to try the ancient practice.

MyKirei by KAO Shampoo with Moisturizing Japanese Tsubaki & Rice Water

This gentle formula is made with rice water and Tsubaki, which is rich in aleic acid, proteins and glycerides and can 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

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 it will leave your hair with a delicious scent.

Function of Beauty Wavy Hair Shampoo Base with 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

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

Mielle Organics Rice Water Treatment

Damaged hair? This treatment from TikTok-favorite brand, Mielle Organics could be what you need. The lightweight oil is made with nourishing ingredients, like rice water and yuzu, which the company says can help prevent split ends and repair damage.

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