By now you’ve probably come across at least one blog post or YouTuber singing the praises of a rice water rinse for your hair.
So maybe you’re curious and want to give it a try.
But you’re wondering if it’s safe to go ahead and douse your precious locks with the white, cloudy liquid.
Before you do you basically want to know can rice water damage your hair. Which would be good to find out before jumping onto the bandwagon, no?
Or you may have other concerns. So in this brief article we take a quick look at what bothers some about using a rice water rinse. Trying to clarify if the issues are real or really no big deal.
Here’s what questions we look at in more detail.
Quick Section Navigation
- What Are The Potential Side Effects Of Rice Water On Hair?
- Can Rice Water Damage Your Hair?
- Can You Add Essential Oils To Rice Water?
- Rice Water and Arsenic – Should I Be Concerned?
- Does Rice Water Really Work?
Oh and if you’re least bit curious you can check out our meaty deep dive about using a DIY rice water recipe for your hair. It reveals what type of rice to use, why used boiled rice, fermenting, you know things like that. It walks you the whole process to insure you get it right.
Anyway, let’s mush on here starting with….
What Are The Potential Negative Side Effects Of Rice Water On Hair?
The Real Risk: Crispy Critter Hair
Yeah this rinse can definitely have a drying effect. That in turn can lead to unwanted results. Frizz. Breakage. Extremely dry, brittle hair.
Curiously these are some of the very problems it’s supposed to solve.
While not exactly a side effect, there’s also the smell. Which some find to be off putting. There are things you can do to offset that which we’ll lay out for you in a bit. But it’s still an issue.
Okay but that’s like the opening act. Next we’ll get down and dirty and look more closely at the damage it can do and why.
Can Rice Water Damage Your Hair?
The Real Risk: Protein Overload
I feel asking if rice water can damage or ruin your hair is smart. As is asking if rice water is simply bad for your hair.
Sure it’s hard to ask stuff like this sometimes. Yet questioning something that seems to be wildly popular is still the right move. It is your hair after all.
But it’s still hard to do. Because when we hear of some miracle cure to fix what ails our manes some throw caution to the wind. They go all in without giving it a second thought.
That is until some nasty side effects raises its ugly head. Then what?
It’s like that for some with a rice water rinse.
Rice water for your hair is said to offer many compelling benefits. Especially if you’re going with the fermented option. (Oh but wait. We delved deep into all that fermented business too. For more on what fermented rice water is and what it can do for your hair check out the article on the other end of that link.)
Anyway problems like crunchy, brittle hair, or frizzy, parched strands or other signs of “broken” down locks may stem from all the protein released by the rice into the water. For that reason it might be smart to think of this rinse as a protein treatment.
Sure it can strengthen your hair. But it can also make it harder for moisture to get through. When your hair falls prey to protein overload the results aren’t pretty.
So straight up when asking can rice water damage your hair the answer is yes it can. Just not in the way you may be thinking of damage.
Then there’s all the starch in the rinse. Which, you guessed it, can also build up on your locks.
So if you’re the least bit curious about how bad rice water is for your hair or you want the benefits with none of the downside we’ll offer some ideas in a sec.
Remember too it would seem this is more of a concern if you’re more of an infrequent shampooer. Because sudsing up regularly cleanses your strands pretty much eliminating buildup issues.
Are You Supposed To Rinse Out Rice Water?
Short answer would be yes. All the more if you have low porosity hair or strands. That’s because they naturally don’t allow moisture to easily penetrate the hair shaft.
Besides you’re likely gonna get most of the benefit by leaving it on 30 minutes anyway.
What Happens If You Don’t Wash Rice Water Out Of Your Hair?
The Real Risk: Troubled By Tumbleweed Tresses
What happens? For some likely nothing. They can get away with using rice water as a leave in conditioner no problem.
For others initially likely nothing too. From there what happens depends in large part what your porosity situation is and how often you wash your hair.
Problem is given their size, the protein molecules can’t easily penetrate your strands. Instead they coat the surface. Not necessarily a bad thing until it is.
You see with low porosity the impenetrable build-up continues day after day until one day your hair just snaps. In two. All the sooner if you aren’t washing your hair often enough to remedy the situation.
Now that’s not to say there aren’t things you can do to minimize the risk.
One would be to only use your rice water rinse as part of a pre poo routine.
Another would be to rinse the rice water out of your hair then apply a mask or in some way deep condition.
While the hair killing mistake to avoid may be leaving the rinse on your hair. Even overnight can be kinda bad for some.
Can You Add Essential Oils To Rice Water?
Absolutely. Great idea!
Adding essential oils to rice water is a favorite trick of many.
Just slip in a drop or three or seven of your favorite essential oil (think cedarwood, rosemary, or lavender) after the rice water has cooled. It’s a good way to change the smell profile from somewhat funky to at least acceptable if not devine.
And did you catch it? This answer also answers another common question ….
What Else Can I Add To Rice Water To Make It Smell Good?
The Real Risk: A Bad Case of Skunk Head
Yeah. Some do find the smell of rice water tends towards nasty.
So what’s the fix? What can you add to rice water to make it smell good?
Again essential oils are one way to mask the funky odor leaving you with something more nose friendly.
Especially if you prefer the more potent fermented option. The longer you leave it sit the stronger and more ripe smelling it can get.
(For a soothing scent, you might try rosemary, cedarwood, or lavender. While going with citrus or minty is more energizing. But pretty much any oil you have on hand should work.)
Another way is to use citrus, think oranges, grapefruit or lemons, when fermenting for a robust citrusy aroma.
Rice water and Arsenic – Should I Be Concerned?
The Real Risk: It’s a Killer?
First let me remind you I’m not a doctor nor do I play on TV. So I’m not giving medical advice here.
In researching this I noticed some obsess over the amount of arsenic in rice grown in the US.
The reason for any arsenic level elevation is simple.
Some rice fields in the south used to be cotton fields.
They were sprayed with arsenic based pesticides to control boll weevils.
Any lingering pesticide residue now leeches into the water used to grow rice.
Also the National Celiac Organization pointed out this fact. “Brown rice has, on average, 80% more inorganic arsenic than white rice of the same type.”
Two researchers cited in a NCBI study pointed out Basmati rice was found to contain less arsenic. A fact confirmed by a Consumer Report study.
Why? It’s imported from Pakistan and India.
So if arsenic is a concern use Basmati rice. It’s what I do.
Only you can decide if this is an issue. Remember too you aren’t eating this rice.
Does Rice Water Really Work?
Now when it’s all said and done the best question to ask is does rice water rinse really work? Does it produce benefits for your hair that make it worth the effort?
Used wisely, you’re giving your hair a shot of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants. That would strongly suggest that at least on the surface your hair will benefit.
Then there’s the amino acids and inositol. The latter helps to strengthen strands so put another tick in the plus column.
Yet there is the pesky problem of lack of scientific evidence. Yes, there are lots of anecdotal claims from satisfied users. There’s also the potential depending on your hair type, what you do or don’t do to it styling, and your hair’s texture, for harm.
So does rice water really work? The better question might be will it work for you? Used judiciously it likely can’t hurt. But I can’t be sure. And you won’t know for sure until you test the waters.
Testing is vital. Especially if you have fine or low porosity hair as those are most at risk of protein buildup. And it can sneak up on your faster than you might imagine.
So that’s it! Hopefully you found something here helpful in your rice water rinse journey.
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