I recently discovered an amazing DIY protein, strengthening and repairing treatment called a rice water rinse. Far from a new “trend”, rice water rinses have been traditionally used for hundreds of years in China and Japan. Rice water is surprisingly beneficial to hair because it contains an impressive array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and amino acids – the building blocks of protein. If you’re struggling with protein moisture balance, make sure you read this post. Here’s my modified rice water rinse routine and my amazing results!
Rice Water Benefits
- Increases hair elasticity, and bounce
- Strengthens and thickens the hair
- Adds volume, softness, curl definition and shine
- Smooths hair cuticle
- Reduces dandruff
- Promotes and stimulates hair growth
- Dissolves hard water build up
- Reduces hair loss
- Relieves dry, irritated, itchy scalp
- Penetrates the hair shaft to repair the hair from within
- Continues to repair damage after use, shampoo and rinsing
- Moisturising, antioxidant and repairing properties
- Improves manageability
- Prevents hair from future damage
- Gentle, mild cleanser
- Improves overall condition of the hair
- Stimulates blood flow to the scalp
- Nourishes hair follicles at the root
Inositol is the key nutrient found in rice water, which strengthens and repairs the hair and increases hair elasticity, helping create a more defined curl pattern. Inositol stays inside the hair shaft, even after rinsing, offering continuing hair protection.
I spoke to Verna, aka @themestizamuse on Instagram. Verna will tell you she’s just a regular person like anyone else, who loves helping and inspiring others to reach their hair goals. But if you follow her on Instagram, you’ll know she’s a natural, curly hair oracle and a fairy curl mother to so many curlies, including myself! Anyway, I first heard of rice water rinses from Verna, so I wanted to get her thoughts on why this DIY treatment is so beneficial for the hair. I included many of the benefits she listed in the points above.
“Rice water is more than just a protein treatment. It’s a strengthening agent. It repairs damaged hair and improves elasticity. I love that it’s convenient and very affordable. No need to buy extra protein treatments unless my hair is in really bad shape. But this is a simple and great way to keep hair healthy, strong and maintained, as well as very beneficial to the scalp.
Rice water is an effective DIY protein treatment thanks to amino acids – the building blocks of protein. It strengthens hair, adds shine and smooths the cuticle, reduces surface friction and de-tangles.
Backed by Science
“I originally decided to do the rice water rinse out of a request from one of my followers. Upon my researching, I found many great benefits that are backed up with studies. So it’s not just another “trend” to try. This rinse has been around for many, many, many years. The study I found was according to the International Journal of Science which proved that the extracts from rice water were effective in maintaining the hair health. Another proven benefit is it’s ability to improve the hair’s elasticity and reduce friction. ” – Verna, @metstizamuse . I also found this study published in Journal of Cosmetic Chemists, which found that rice water applied to hair can reduce surface friction and improve hair elasticity.
Top Tip: This DIY protein, strengthening and repairing treatment is perfect if you are suffering from hygral fatigue, or your hair is over-moisturised, limp, unable to hold a curl and feeling quite soft and mushy.
My Modified Rice Water Rinse
Most people do a rice water rinse, using the creamy, cloudy rice water to repeatedly rinse through the hair. Using two bowls, one to pour the rice water on your hair, the other to catch the rice water so you can repeat as necessary. If you choose to do it this way, make sure to follow up with a good conditioner. If you leave the rinse in your hair for any period of time, longer than just rinsing it through, you need to follow up with a protein-free deep conditioner for at least 20 – 30 minutes. There are 3 ways: boil, soak and ferment, I boil my rice. There are potential side effects if you ferment due to potential bacteria, but it’s meant to be the most potent of the three and gives the most dramatic results. If you choose to ferment your rice, I wouldn’t recommend adding it to any deep conditioner.
I do things a little differently. The first time I did the rice water rinse and left it on my hair for 30 minutes, I didn’t deep condition for long enough afterwards, and my hair felt quite dry. Now I add a dollop of my favourite deep conditioner, Hairfinity’s Strengthening Amino Mask, and leave the modified mask on my hair for 45 minutes – 1 hour.
The Hairfinity Strengthening Amino Mask already contains protein/amino acids, but they’re not that high up the ingredients list. Its very much a protein/moisturising balancing mask, but when I add the thick rice water, I get much more noticeable improvements and results. This is what has worked best for me, but that doesn’t mean it will do the same for you. So please do your own test on both the rice water rinse on its own, and your usual deep conditioner on its own before you try – and test first – mixing the two.
I’m a single mum of two kids, I don’t have time for washing, multiple treatments and then my usual styling routine. So by adding a protein, strengthening and repairing shot – the thick rice water – to a deep conditioner, I’m killing two birds with one stone. And honestly, the results from doing it this way have been much better for my hair, as you’ll see from the pictures throughout this post. It’s incredibly soft, yet strong, and my curls are much more defined!
Ingredients & Method
- Using a pyrex jug, use half a pint of rice (organic, jasmine, basmati…) and rinse.
- Put the rinsed rice in a saucepan and add 2 pints of water – you can add some essential oils if you like.
- Bring to the boil, stirring to agitate the rice until you get a cloudy, creamy, thick consistency of water.
- Once the rice has absorbed most of the water and appears almost stodgy, push through a sieve to get the thick, creamy water out. If you are doing a simply rice water rinse, don’t let the rice go stodgy or the consistency will be too thick. I usually have to scrap the rice water ‘gloop’ off the bottom of the sieve.
- Add a tablespoon of your favourite deep conditioner – I used my Hairfinity Strengthening Amino Mask – and mix.
- Clarify your hair, or shampoo as normal, and apply your modified rice water rinse mask to your hair.
- Leave on your hair for 30 minutes to 1 hour – use a thermal heat cap for best results. I make and sell Curly Cailín Thermal Heat Caps, click here for more information, and to buy one.
- Rinse and style as normal.
How often can you do a rice water rinse?
A weekly rinse should suffice. If your hair is more on the protein sensitive side, I highly recommend doing a patch test. Low porosity hair may want to use it once a month or every 6-8 weeks. I have low porosity hair but it’s over-moisturised and lacking protein at the moment, so I’m doing it every week or two until it’s balanced again. Only you know how well your hair responds to protein. Again, it’s all according to your hair’s needs and how it responds to it. Everyone’s hair, no matter what porosity type it is, is on an infinite spectrum.
Verna’s Rice Water Rinse Routine
“I have medium to high porosity hair and it thrives on protein, so once a week is perfect for my hair. I start by washing my hair, sometimes I’ll apply a conditioner to de-tangle my hair before applying the rinse. Then I grab two bowls, one to catch the rice water and one to pour over my scalp and hair. The extra bowl is to reapply the rinse to any area I may have missed with the first application. I make sure to cover every strand and massage it into my scalp and hair strands. After combing it through and massaging it well, I clip my hair up and put a plastic cap on anywhere from 5-10 mins. Then I always follow up with a protein-free moisturising deep conditioner for another 20 mins or so. You need balance. Sometimes I add a deep conditioner right on top of it to kill two birds with one stone.”
Rice Water Rinse v Olaplex No. 3
When I began researching the benefits of rice water rinses, I noticed many of the benefits were very similar to those of the much-loved, but expensive Olaplex No. 3. The rice water rinse seemed like the ultimate affordable dupe for the popular Olaplex treatment so I asked Verna what her thoughts were. “I noticed when I used the rice water I didn’t need to use Olaplex No. 3 and that was a big staple for me because I have balayage high lights. My hair has gotten so much healthier from the rice rinses these past 4 months.” – Verna, @themestizamuse
Dominique’s Rice Water Rinse Routine
The other person I learned about rice water rinses from was Dominique, aka @powerdomi on Instagram. She’s full of great tips and tricks, has the most amazing story and transformation and we have very similar curl types (which doesn’t really matter, read why here), and heritage. I’m Irish Italian, Dominique is Irish French.
“I do mine weekly, and I absolutely believe that it’s helped dramatically increase my hair’s shine and curl structure. My hair feels stronger to the touch. I have high porosity hair and it’s an absolute must for me. I think that giving it weekly ‘meals’ of protein instead of a monthly ‘feast’ is much better and I get all the protein and nutrients her hair needs from these weekly rice water rinses. I pour it over my hair and squeeze it in really well. I do that about 5 or 6 times. I put it in an empty Bouclème bottle for the first pour, just to get absolutely everywhere covered. Afterwards I condition with Bounce Curl Conditioner, working it in really well. I spend a solid 10 minutes working it in and de-tangling.”
Get 10% off Bounce Curl here using code CURLMAVEN.
So there you have it, my modified rice water rinse routine, amazing results and Verna and Dominique’s routines too. I’d like to say a special thank you to both Verna and Dominique for contributing to this post. If you would like to contribute or guest post, please fill in the contact form with a brief outline. Please subscribe here if you haven’t already, you can follow me on Instagram or like my Facebook page. Comment below if you’ve tried the rice water rinse and what your results were, or if you’re going to try it after reading this post.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, I know it was a really long post! Gabriella xoxo
If you’re struggling with the protein moisture balance; not sure if your hair is over moisturised or you’ve got protein overload and you want to re-balance your hair. Make sure you read this post, which also has a YouTube video on how I apply the Aphogee Two Step Protein Treatment.
You might also like this post, my ultimate guide on Hair Porosity, featuring 4 tests and characteristics of each type.
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