1. Strengthens the hair and maintains scalp health
The practice of using rice water on the hair is by no means a new invention. In fact, rice water has been the secret behind the shiny and long locks of Japanese, Chinese, and other Southeast Asian women for millennia. For example, Japanese women from the Heian period (8-12th century AD) would rinse their floor-length hair in rice water to make it stronger, shinier, and more elastic.
Today, we know that rice water is brimming with vitamins and minerals essential for hair strength and growth, namely folic acid (vitamin B9), magnesium, allantoin, niacin (vitamin B3), inositol (vitamin B8), and selenium. Folic acid, niacin, allantoin, and selenium are all important to maintain the health of the scalp, strengthen the hair, and stimulate hair growth. Magnesium helps remove hard water residue from the hair follicles, whereas inositol increases the shine and elasticity of the hair.
Overall, you can expect the following hair benefits from rice water:
- Strengthens the hair follicles and hair strands. According to a 2017 study, rice bran mineral extract strengthens the hair, stimulates hair growth, and helps prevent hair loss.
- Improves hair density. A 2010 study found that an inositol supplement stimulated hair growth and reduced thinning in participants after 6 months of daily use.
- Makes the hair smoother, shinier, and more manageable. One study investigating Japanese rice water (called Yu-Su-Ru) stated that it improved hair elasticity and reduced surface friction.
All hair types can add rice water to their haircare routine. It’s recommended to use rice water on your hair 1-2 times every week. You can either use it in place of shampoo or as a treatment after you've washed your hair. Simply saturate the entire hair and the scalp with rice water, and then massage your scalp to make sure it gets absorbed. We recommend doing this in the shower, as you will not have to worry about spillage.
Keep the rice water on the hair for anywhere between 10-30 minutes, and then rinse with water as usual. You will likely experience improved shine and elasticity after just a few weeks of use, but it usually takes at least a month or two for you to notice the strengthening aspect and the improved hair density, so be persistent and consistent.
2. Skin-soothing and plumping
Rice water isn’t only good for the hair. Your skin can also benefit from all those nutrients present in rice water. The use of rice water and skincare products that contain rice extracts is gaining popularity across the globe, and rightfully so. What benefits can you get by using rice water on the face and body?
- Anti-aging benefits. According to a 2013 study, fermented rice water increases collagen production in the skin and helps improve the signs of sun damage. This means that using rice water regularly will help prevent wrinkles from forming or worsening while also ameliorating sun-spots.
- Sun protection. We all know that we must protect our skin from the sun every day to prevent skin cancer. While rice water will not replace sunscreen, the chemicals present in rice will help boost your skin’s sun protection, as proven by research.
- Improved hydration. People with dry skin and eczema can also benefit from using rice water. It was shown to alleviate skin irritation caused by SLS, a common cleansing agent in skincare and hair care products. In India, rice water is also used as an Ayurvedic treatment for eczema.
Using rice water on the skin is easy. If you want to apply it onto the face, simply dampen a cotton pad in rice water and swipe it on a clean face and neck like a toner. Follow up with your usual moisturizer. You can do this every day. If your goal is to reduce inflammation and irritation in an area, you can soak a cotton pad or a cloth in rice water and let it sit on an area for 10 minutes. This trick works wonders for sunburn or dry patches on the skin.
Lastly, if you intend to use rice water on the body, you can also add it to bath-water and take a bath in the mixture. This method works best if you have dry skin on the body.
3. Watering plants
Even if you don’t feel like using rice water on your hair or skin, there are still plenty of ways you can repurpose it around the house. One of the best ways to do so is by using rice water as a mild fertilizer. As we’ve already explained in-depth, there is a number of starches, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals in rice water. And humans aren’t the only ones who can benefit from these nutrients.
Using rice water to fertilize your plants will enrich the soil with starches that help encourage beneficial soil bacteria, as well as bring in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium into the soil. Some experts even say that rice water is superior to store-bought fertilizers because it’s difficult to over-nourish plants with rice water. Regular use of rice water on plants takes the worry out of overfertilizing.
4. Starching clothes
Don’t have any plants at home? Worry not, you can easily use rice water to starch clothes (and we’re sure you have plenty of those). If you’re not familiar with starching, it’s a practice that can really help improve the longevity and appearance of clothing, especially that of dress shirts. Starching prevents stains from penetrating fabrics, which makes them easier to remove. Starched clothes also retain their structure and ironed appearance for longer, and white starched clothes stay crisp white even after several washes.
Ordinarily, starching powders or sprays containing cornstarch are used before ironing. But these can be messy and costly, so many people decide to skip this step. Well, an alternative way to starch your button-down shirts is to simply soak them in rice water, hang out to dry, and iron afterward.
We’re no strangers to the use of natural cleaners, such as baking soda and vinegar, to tidy-up our homes. After all, these ingredients already live in everyone’s pantry, and they are, frankly, quite cheap. Welcome another member to that list of natural but effective cleaners you already have in your pantry - rice water.
The next time you’re cooking rice, save some of that rice water and use it to clean countertops, kitchen appliances, and even cookware. After all, it’s something people in China have been doing for centuries, and with great success! The reason why rice water is an effective cleaning agent is that the starchy sediment in rice water is abrasive, so it will help you to manually scrub off any dirt or grime from various surfaces.
In addition, rice water is slightly acidic, so it will help you get rid of any mineral deposits. This means that you can also use it to remove hard water stains or rust from shower doors, kitchen utensils, and even the toilet bowl. Just make sure to keep it away from granite and natural stone countertops and tile, as the acidity may ruin their shiny finish.
Simply dip a cloth or sponge in rice water to clean the item in question. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then rinse away with water.
6. Restores healthy digestion
The last but definitely not the least method to reuse rice water is to drink it. Yes, you read that right. Why would you want to do that, you ask? Boiled rice water is great for soothing indigestion and improving digestive health in acute diarrhea. In these cases, rice water functions as an electrolyte-replacing beverage.
According to a study from the 1980s published in The Lancet journal, rice water can be more effective than an electrolyte solution in babies with acute diarrhea. The solution was able to reduce the number of bowel movements in the babies better than a compatible drug.
Important: If you decide to drink rice water for digestion, make sure to only use BOILED rice water. Uncooked rice water could contain Bacillus cereus, a pathogen that commonly causes food poisoning, and high temperatures kill the germ. We explain how to make boiled rice water correctly in the next and final section.
How to Make and Store Rice Water
There are several methods of preparing rice water, and the one you prefer will probably depend on the way you choose to use it. You can use any rice in any of these recipes.
Soaked Rice Water
This is the fastest way to make rice water, and it’s fairly straightforward. Simply take any amount of rice you want, rinse it with water, then cover it with water and soak it for 30 minutes. About 2 cups of water should be used for every cup of rice. Afterward, just strain the rice and use it in cooking, and reserve the milky rice water for later.
Soaked rice water can be used for hair care, skincare, cleaning, starching, and watering plants. You can store soaked rice water in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Fermented rice water
Some people who use rice water claim that fermenting the rice water makes it more potent and beneficial, but this is true only for hair care and skincare. This is in line with a 2012 study, which showed that fermented substances contain more antioxidants than their non-fermented counterparts.
If you choose to ferment rice water, soak 1 cup of rice in 2 cups of water for a day, without straining the rice out. After 24 hours, the rice water should be strained and refrigerated. You should use up the fermented rice water within 3 days or discard it. Note that fermented rice can have a pungent smell, so if you want to use it for hair care, it may be useful for you to add a few drops of essential oil to mask the smell.
Boiled Rice Water
The last method we will share with you today is boiling, and it’s pretty much what it sounds like. This method can be used to prepare rice water you intend to drink. To prepare boiled rice water, rinse the rice thoroughly. Then, add 4 parts water to 1 part rice (4 cups for water for 1 cup rice), and bring it to a boil.
Cook the rice until ready, and then fish it out with a colander. Continue boiling the rice water for a total of 45 minutes. Cool the boiled rice water and store it in the fridge for no more than a week. You can dilute the rice water with plain water, if necessary.
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