The fast pace of modern life has given us all a bad habit of seeking instant gratification. We expect to feel healthier after eating one kale salad for lunch. We check the mirror every 10 minutes to make sure that new face mask is actually working. And if a round of squats doesn't display instant booty-lifting benefits, well, we're likely to fall right off the fitness bandwagon. The point is: When we test a new product, service, or treatment, we tend to anticipate immediate, life-altering results we don't always get.
It's the same with hair growth. It's tempting to keep track of every centimetre, performing length checks like clockwork, in hopes that the vitamins we've been taking or scalp massages we've been doing are working. When that fails, we turn to Dr. Google for at-home remedies. During one recent YouTube binge — where we watched people smear banana and eggs on their scalps in the quest for longer strands — we came upon a kitchen concoction that's praised for speeding up hair growth: rice water.
The practice of using rice water as a hair treatment is by no means new. Researchers track the beauty ritual back to ancient Japan, when court ladies living during the Heian period would saturate their hair in fermented rice water (also called Yu-Su-Ru) to stimulate growth. The process has resurfaced on YouTube, with influencers and bloggers steeping rice water for up to three days to ferment it at home. After the rice has soaked, it's strained from the water and the liquid is used to saturate the hair as a rinse-out or leave-in treatment.
As for celebrity testimonials, Cardi B revealed to fans that she's been using the method to tend to her natural hair at home. The rapper shared her routine on TikTok and detailed the process, which includes smearing on a DIY hair mask made with avocado and castor oils, and spritzing on rice water that has steeped for 24 hours before styling. "I put it outside so the sun can soak it," she wrote as she misted the liquid on her strands.
According to dermatologist Dennis Gross, MD, founder of Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, there are no scientific studies or data to prove that rice water actually grows hair. In fact, there are very few topical treatments that have scientific backing when it comes to hair growth aside from Rogaine, prescription Procepia pills, and other treatments that might be given to you by your doctor, says Dr. Gross. The fact is, the rate your hair grows is mostly determined by genetics.
But even though rice water won't add inches in weeks, dermatologist Neil Sadick, MD, of Sadick Dermatology in New York City, notes that using rice water is totally safe and can provide nutrients to the hair, which will help strengthen hair overall. "Rice proteins can strengthen hair strands and seal split ends," Dr. Sadick says. "It contains carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins that can foster a balanced environment in the scalp to keep your follicles healthy." So, while rice water isn't scientifically proven to actually make your hair grow faster, it can still make it look shinier, healthier, and fuller.
The benefits of rice protein aren't exclusive to DIY treatments: There are over-the-counter products that contain rice protein and fermented rice water if you don't feel like soaking your Uncle Ben's at home. Mielle Organics uses the starchy water in its moisturising milk to help strengthen and hydrate the hair; Briogeo utilises rice amino acids in its Curl Charisma range to help promote shiny, enhanced curls. Dr. Sadick also recommends adding ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and silk proteins to your product regimen to keep your strands healthy and lustrous.
As with most things in life, hair growth is a process. Even if your hair isn't growing as fast as you want, it is growing. "Hair doesn't grow significantly overnight, but as long you don't have a medical condition, your hair will grow," Yolanda Lenzy, MD, of Lenzy Dermatology in Massachusetts, tells us. "You have to remain patient, and if your hair isn't growing, do not self-diagnose in your kitchen — talk to a professional." In other words, don't rely on your pantry to be the Hail Mary to all your hair concerns.
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