Rice Water for Hair Growth Is All Over TikTok — But Does It Work?

Find out how to make rice water for hair growth and whether you should bother in the first place.

TikTok True or False: Rice Water for Hair Growth
Photo: Getty Images

TikTok True or False is the answer to your burning questions about the health, beauty, and fitness fads taking over your social feeds. Each story breaks down a buzzy wellness trend with the help of experts and scientific research to uncover the truth and safety behind the viral "advice" you see online. You'll never have to wonder what's actually legit — or what to skip — again.

If there's one hair growth trick that's exploded in popularity over the past few years, it's rice water. The hashtag #ricewater has more than 500 million views on TikTok, with quite a few posts on the topic claiming that rice water contributes to "extreme" hair growth. Celebrities from Kim Kardashian to Cardi B to La La Anthony have joined in crediting rice water with improving their hair's health.

Whether you've heard about the DIY water through TikTok, celebrity media coverage, or the real-life grapevine, you might be wondering if using rice water for hair growth is actually as transformative as people say. Most TikTok posts focus on before and after footage and the steps for creating rice water without digging into why the method may be worthwhile.

Before you grab your bag of rice and commit to regular treatments, find out why rice water became a viral hair growth solution and whether it's legitimately worth trying.

What is rice water and how do you make it?

Depending on which TikTok video you watch, the process for making rice water varies. Most DIY rice water tutorials involve rinsing and draining one cup of dry white rice. Next, users soak the grains in a cup of water in a sealed, airtight container and let it sit, unrefrigerated, for 24 hours. After that, you can drain the rice and reserve the water in a spray bottle or hair color applicator bottle. Then, refrigerate the water for up to three days if you don't use it immediately. When you're ready to use it, apply the liquid to dry scalp and hair, fully saturating hair. Leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes, then wash hair as normal.

If you decide to make your own rice water rinse, ideally you'll give your rice plenty of time to soak. "The most potent form of rice water is fermented rice water," says Michele Green, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist based in New York. "To ferment rice water, allow it to sit for a day. The fermentation process releasespitera, which is a byproduct of the process that contains all the nutrients, antioxidants, and minerals from the rice."

Does using rice water for hair growth work?

People have been rinsing their hair with rice water since long before TikTok existed, with records dating back centuries, including within ancient Asian communities, notes William Yates, M.D., hair transplant surgeon and founder of haircare brand Yates Hair Care. "Additionally, it was reported [by one article in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science] that women who used rice water did not lose their color or gray." One journal article report is not exactly conclusive evidence, so take it with a grain of salt (or rice).

However, it's up for debate whether their long, shiny, non-gray hair was a direct result of their daily rinses with rice water. "Most likely the reasons for the above are purely genetic," says Dr. Yates. "Genetic changes to hair quality, length, and graying or not have been affected over time by changes in genes passed to each generation. Today, hair loss and graying hair have very strong gene patterns in the majority of men and women." At this point, "most of the science or studies appear to be inconclusive regarding the reported benefits of rice water for hair loss," he says. (More: The Most Common Causes of Hair Loss, Explained)

While rice water's effect on hair loss is somewhat of a question mark, some of the components in it show promise when it comes to benefits for hair.

"Rice water contains many antioxidants and vitamins which are beneficial for hair health and growth," says Dr. Green. "Using rice water topically improves bioavailability of vitamins and minerals to the scalp and hair." (Bioavailability refers to how easily your body can absorb and utilize a substance.) This can restore health to hair follicles that have become damaged due to stress, coloring, certain medical conditions, etc., promoting healthy growth, says Dr. Green.

More specifically, the starchy water contains inositol, a type of sugar. "Inositol supposedly is absorbed by the hair shaft and then increases hair elasticity, which promotes healthier, smoother, non-breaking hair," says Dr. Yates. Research on the effects of inositol on hair growth is limited, although one study suggests it may help reverse hair thinning resulting from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) when taken orally.(It's unclear whether these potential benefits translate when inositol is applied to the hair topically, such as when using rice water treatments.)

Additionally, rice water contains folic acid and selenium (which play a key role in cell turnover), niacin and allantoin (which fight inflammation), and magnesium (which dissolves calcium build-up that can result from showering with hard water), says Dr. Green. "These vitamins are all essential to hair growth as they strengthen the hair follicles, which helps the hair grow," she says. "These nutrients also strengthen the hair and increases its density and make the hair shiny, improving the overall health and appearance of the hair." (Yes, even when applied topically.) Rice water also contains amino acids, the building blocks of protein which can help protect hair from breakage.

Is using rice water for hair growth safe?

You don't have much to lose by trying rice water for hair growth, especially if you're already all stocked up on the grain. "Rice water rinses for your hair appear to be safe and shouldn't cause any harm if you want to give it a try," says Dr. Yates.

The one caveat is that rinsing your hair with rice water too frequently may lead to a protein build-up, as some TikTok users have pointed out. "Even though rice water is filled with nutrients, it can actually damage the hair with 'protein overload' or reverse osmosis, where the hairs lose water, leading to dry and brittle hair," Steven Shapiro, M.D., a dermatologist specializing in hair and scalp health and founder of Shapiro MD, previously told Shape.

And if you've heard talk of rice water and arsenic, it wasn't out of nowhere. "Rice water can contain a small amount of arsenic, which is a poisonous metal compound," says Dr. Yates. "Moderation is key as with everything." Rice can absorb small amounts of the compound from fertilizer, soil, and water, but it's worth noting that arsenic exposure occurs mainly through ingestion of contaminated food or water rather than absorption through the skin.

Using rice water for hair growth works: True or False?

TikTok True or False: Rice Water for Hair Growth
Getty Images

While experts confirm DIY rice water contains antioxidants and vitamins that promote hair growth, the treatment should be used in moderation to avoid protein build-up. As mentioned, you want to avoid using rice water on your hair too often. Once or twice per month is typically the sweet spot with protein treatments, and if your hair starts feeling dry and brittle, that's a sign you're using the treatment too frequently.

If you don't feel like making your own rice water for hair growth, there are various rice water-spiked hair products on the market. Viori Beauty, a brand inspired by traditional Asian haircare rituals, offers shampoo bars made with rice. Mielle Organics has a rice water collection that includes a shampoo, a shine mist, and an itch-relief scalp treatment with aloe vera.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles