The Rice Water Debate Persists—Does It Actually Benefit Natural Hair?

The Rice Water Debate Persists—Does It Actually Benefit Natural Hair?
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Somewhere between the beginning of stay-at-home orders and that first sign of actual summer weather, I decided to let my hair just be. You know–cutting myself off from an abundance of products, letting the curls live their best lives without gel, and putting more intention into my routine, which inevitably shrunk in size. This ultimately led me down a very long rabbit hole of rice water hair products and rice water challenge YouTube videos, because Sunday afternoons are just like that sometimes.

The fascination with rice water within the natural hair community isn’t new, but when a global crisis caused most of us to stay put and cancel appointments, hair growth and overall health seemingly became everyone‘s goal. We want to take better care of our scalp and strands. We also want to look fly as ever when stepping out becomes the norm again. And so the comments under YouTube’s most-watched “rice water challenge” videos picked up steam after a dormant, years-long phase.

Though there’s no scientific data to back up its efficacy, rice water has been used for hundreds of years in China to treat and grow hair. The specific community credited for this DIY method are the women of the Yao tribe known for their nearly floor-length hair. Over time, Westerners have adopted their practice of fermenting rice in water and in recent years, it’s become the DIY recipe du jour for natural hair bloggers. In short, most challenge themselves to use rice water over the course of weeks before measuring and displaying their hair growth (or lack thereof) to subscribers and skeptics alike.

Monique Rodriguez, the founder of Mielle Organics, once counted herself among the throngs of curious onlookers before formulating a Rice Water collection of her own. “I am intentional about researching the pros and cons of an ingredient before I form an opinion regarding it,” she told StyleCaster. After concluding research and delving into the DIY concoctions making their rounds on YouTube, she “took an ample amount of time to research and develop a solution…that eliminated the tedious process.” She also dedicated time to trying rice water recipes on her own hair, too. “An essential step in the process to creating products is to try it on myself first,” she added.

Mielle Organics Rice Water Clay Masque

Mielle Organics.

Mielle Organics Rice Water Clay Masque

The result is Mielle Organics’s Rice Water Collection; a Rice water Moisturizing Milk, Rice Water Clay Masque, Rice Water Split End Therapy, and Rice Water Shine Mist. So what exactly does rice water do for hair? According to Rodriguez, it “reduces split ends, strengthens hair, improves hair elasticity, aids in hair growth, and has been recognized for leaving the hair soft and silky.”

In the context of rice water, however, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Depending on the state of your hair, an excess of rice water can easily translate into protein overload. “While researching the benefits of rice water I also spent time learning the adverse effects DIY rice water concoctions that had taken place for some curly girls. Many shared in vlogs and Instagram stories that their DIY recipes over time left their hair hard and brittle,” she said. “This happens due to a lack of balance of moisture to the amount of protein.”

This is why Mielle Organics’s rice water products are formulated with ingredients that can counter-balance those effects, such as yuzu. Furthermore, some of the products omit protein altogether for those prone to excessive dryness. “Those who are considered protein-sensitive should use rice water in moderation. Two of our four products that have protein are the Rice Water Moisturizing Milk and the Rice Water Split End Therapy. Our Rice Water Clay Masque and Shine Mist do not contain protein.”

Ultimately, the “will rice water work on my hair” question can’t be answered the same way for everyone. Before embarking on any hair adventure, it’s important to know the individual state and needs of your hair. If you want to do it right, this takes time. You’ll want to know how efficiently your hair retains moisture, the type of products that boost definition instead of weighing it down, and most importantly, what your goals are, to name just a few. But if you’ve already done a DIY rice water challenge and want results without the time-suck of a DIY recipe, browse the Mielle Organics collection or get familiar with some other notable hair savers below.

 

 

 

 

Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Hydrating Shampoo

Briogeo.

Briogeo Curl Charisma Rice Amino + Avocado Hydrating Shampoo

A sulfate-free shampoo made with naturally-derived ingredients to lock in moisture and soften hair.

Kerastase Reflection Mask for Color-Treated Hair

Kerastase.

Kerastase Reflection Mask for Color-Treated Hair

A color-safe mask that promises to nourish hair and stabilize color with rice bran oil, zinc gluconate, and more.

SheaMoisture Purple Rice Water Shampoo

SheaMoisture.

SheaMoisture Purple Rice Water Shampoo

Antioxidant-rich rice water, moisture-retaining wild orchid extract, and softening sweet violet extract make this cleanser ideal for addressing damage and tangles.

Fekkai Super Strength Shampoo

Fekkai.

Fekkai Super Strength Shampoo

French Camargue rice water and vegan keratin power this strengthening shampoo is clinically proven to decrease breakage by 50% after just one use.

Girl + Hair CLEAR + ACV Rinse

Girl + Hair.

Girl + Hair CLEAR + ACV Rinse

No need to sacrifice a strengthening cleansing routine if you’re wearing a sewn-in weave or braids. This protective style-friendly scalp rinse comes with a nozzle so the rice water and apple cider vinegar formula can get to work.

MyKirei By Kao Nourishing Shampoo

MyKirei By Kao.

MyKirei By Kao Nourishing Shampoo

One of Amazon’s top-selling shampoos is this vitamin-rich cleanser formulated with rice water and protein-rich Japanese Tsubaki.

Our mission at STYLECASTER is to bring style to the people, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale and the retailer may receive certain auditable data for accounting purposes.

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