We have a bad habit of seeking instant gratification when it comes to a lot of things. 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 often anticipate immediate, life-altering results that we don't always get.
It's the same with hair growth. We have a tendency to keep track of every centimeter, performing length checks like clockwork, in hopes that the vitamins 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 on the quest for lengthy strands — we came upon a kitchen concoction that's praised for speeding up hair growth: rice water. Once we watched three or four bloggers talk about the magic of fermented rice water, we had to wonder: Is this stuff legit?
The practice of using rice water as a hair treatment is by no means new. Researchers date 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 seeping 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.
Cardi B recently 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 her 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.
But should we swap out our hair gummies for grains in hopes of growing out the bob we chopped this fall?
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," 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 proven to actually make your hair grow faster, it can make it look shinier, healthier, and fuller.
And 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. Sadick also recommends adding ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, and silk proteins to your product regimen to keep your strands healthy and lustrous.
Like 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.