Topping the list are amino acids, says cosmetic chemist Ginger King. “Amino acids are the building blocks of protein,” she says. “Rice contains a small amount of amino acids cysteine, which is a form of hair protein so it helps to replenish. This helps to nourish the hair and provide nutrients to the scalp.”

Another beneficial component of rice water, inositol, is a vitamin-like substance often found on the ingredient lists of hair growth supplements. “Studies have shown that inositol can prevent hair damage and repair weak, breakage-prone hair,” Dr. Sobel says.

Dr. Sobel describes rice water as “vitamin-rich,” and containing vitamins B and E. “This means that rice water helps to add shine, soften, and smooth the hair without the use of chemicals or heavy products,” he adds.

Lastly, there’s the starch itself, which Dr. Sobel says naturally coats the outermost layer of hair. This not only helps boost volume and thickness, but also “creates a smoothing effect for frizzy hair types and split ends.”

Does rice water benefit the scalp, too?

In short, yes — healthy hair grows from a healthy scalp, after all. “Rice water acts as a gentle cleanser and toner, so it can help remove traces of buildup or to refresh the scalp,” explains King.

As far as hair growth, however, while you’ll find plenty of anecdotal evidence out there, King says the actual research is still lacking. “Due to the content of the amino acids, it could also help to nourish the scalp, however, there is no scientific data to show that it has any benefits to promote hair growth,” King explains.

Dhaval G. Bhanusali, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in New York, adds that, “While rice water has been popularized via TikTok as a means to help with hair growth, it’s likely not what is exactly happening. By coating the hair strands, rice water may give the appearance of thicker, richer, and more shiny hair.”

How to use rice water for hair

People on TikTok are DIY-ing at-home rice water treatments through two different techniques: either boiling or soaking. The first is pretty self-explanatory: in videos, you can see creators boil a cup of water, pour in rice, and let the mixture turn white and cloudy. Then the grains are strained, and the leftover water is what’s used in hair. For the latter method, people pour uncooked rice into a bowl of water, let it soak for 24 hours, and then strain it.

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