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Asian American woman brushing hair

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By Julie Cai

When it comes to hair and beauty products, we’ve rallied against those with toxic ingredients like sulfates, parabens, and alcohol, to name a few. So it’s no surprise many beauty companies have created clean or natural product lines. But what if the key to fuller longer hair is already stored away in your pantry?

Drum roll, please…it’s rice! Rice water is a centuries-old Japanese haircare staple. Dating back to the Heian Period over 1,000 years ago, the rice water rinse, or Yu-Su-Ru, was believed to be a hair and scalp savior. The ladies of the court had beautiful floor-length hair that was said to be attributed to combing it each day with rice water. But what’s really in this cloudy liquid that can give you Rapunzel-rivaling hair?

More than meets the eye, rice water is packed with minerals and nutrients that are beneficial for your hair, skin, and overall health. Vitamins A, C, and E, for example, are great for hair health: vitamin A, or retinol, helps with the secretion of sebum, which prevents hair breakage; vitamin C helps build collagen, which is crucial for hair growth; and vitamin E is a natural antioxidant and can support a healthy scalp, prevent hair loss, and increase shine. Plus, the rice grains have a high starch content which can help strengthen hair.

So, high in nutrients? Check. Natural? Check. Cheap? Check. Convinced yet? To really seal the deal, read on for a super simple recipe and tutorial for rice water.

There are two methods to create this hair elixir: boiling and soaking. Soaking the rice and letting it sit for 24 hours to ferment is said to be the most beneficial, so here goes.

Rice water soak

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Rice Water Soak:
● ½ cup of uncooked rice
● 2 cups of water, any temperature
● Strainer
● Container with a lid—soup Tupperware would work well!
● Empty spray bottle

Once you have everything on hand, follow these simple steps:

  1. Pour the rice into the strainer.
  2. Rinse well.
  3. Put the rice into the container.
  4. Add 2 cups of water to the container and stir until the water is a little cloudy.
  5. Close the container and let the mixture sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
  6. After fermenting for 24 hours, pour the rice water into your spray bottle for easy application.

Your new Yu-Su-Ru concoction can be used as a post-shampoo rinse or nourishing treatment. As a rinse, you can spray the rice water into your scalp and hair, let it sit for up to 10 minutes, and rinse out. As a scalp treatment, after shampooing and conditioning, apply the rice water directly onto your scalp. Massage your scalp so all the anti-inflammatory properties get properly soaked in and rinse after 30 minutes.

So think twice before you pour out that murky water from washing your grains—you may be tossing a haircare holy grail! Rice water is safe for all hair types and textures and has strong advocacy across cultures.

Looking to add rice to the rest of your pampering routine? DIY rice water toners are popular in Asian beauty as well. And you can find the helpful little grain in tons of other skincare products.

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