What Haircare Experts Really Think About TikTok's Rice Water Hack

Here's the truth behind the trend.

Rear view of young Asian woman touching her thick hair. Thick hair technically refers to the width o...

If you’re into TikTok beauty hacks, chances are you’ve been hearing lots about rice water recently. And if you’re on a mission to grow your locks, this is a technique that could come in very handy. Here’s everything you need to know to try it yourself from the comfort of your own home.

What is the rice water trend?

While the rice water trend has gained popularity on TikTok and social media in 2021, it has actually been around for decades, originating in East Asia. It is traditionally used in Japan as well as China, where the Red Yao women who use rice water have resulted in their region of Huangluo in Guangxi being known as ‘Long Hair Village.’

The women there have used milky fermented rice water (as in, the water leftover when you boil rice) on their hair for generations. It is supposed to feed the hair and encourage growth, with ample antioxidants, vitamins, and amino acids.

Why has it become so popular?

This is a trend that really took off on TikTok, with hair influencers such as @audreyvictoria_ (who, FYI has the silkiest, longest locks ever) posting about rice water regularly.

The technique has also been heavily covered in the media, with Kourtney Kardashian’s Poosh website kicking things off way back in Apr. 2020. “Kourt recently learned this DIY trick from Kim, who’s been doing this treatment on her hair and has seen a noticeable difference in growth and thickness,” the post read.

If it’s good enough for the Kardashians...

Does it actually work?

“For some hair types a rice wash will work wonders, promoting smoother, shinier hair, and for some it may also promote hair growth,” says Anita Rice, co-founder of Buller & Rice salons.

The leftover rice water is said to be super high in all sorts of minerals that support a healthy scalp therefore creating a great base for growth. It’s also high in starch, meaning potentially more volume for finer locks.

Writers, including Jacquelyn Greenfield, have praised the rice water trend for natural hair, writing it has helped her own hair grow for Coveteur. Anita Bhagwandas also shared that her own rice water test had made her locks “silkier than an afghan hound’s” for The Guardian.

However, Rice explains that it’s important to approach this trend with caution if you have finer hair. “What works for one person might not work for another,” she says.

“It really depends on the natural texture of your hair. Finer hair or hair with low porosity and/or a dry scalp should approach with caution, as the high levels of starch in the rice water can create a protein build-up, causing hair to become brittle and break.”

“If you are interested in tying this hack then the only way to find out is to give it a go and see how your hair feels after it,” she recommends.

For finer hair, it may also be better to do it every couple of weeks rather than regularly.

How do you do it?

If you want to follow the traditional method used by the Red Yao women, you should wash sticky white rice in water to extract its nutrients, before boiling it and leaving it to ferment. They leave it for up to two months, but you can try after around 48 hours instead.

After the mixture is ready, simply pour it over your dry locks, leave on for around 20 minutes to an hour (and work through with a wooden comb), and rinse off. You may want to shampoo and condition afterwards too.