While the world gushes over creams and potions sold in a bottle, Asia’s easiest and the worst-kept secret is literally all you need for glowing skin and lustrous hair. Rice water – which is nothing but water in which rice has been left to soak/boil for a while – contains benefits galore, and adding it to your personal care regime will only enhance your skin and hair health in the most natural and chemical-free way.
How do you make and store rice water at home?
There are two very simple ways to make rice water at home.
1) In a large vessel, soak a cup of uncooked rice in double the amount of water, and leave for about half an hour. Strain the water into a bottle – this is rice water.
2) In a cooker, boil rice in twice the amount of cooking water that you normally use for cooking. When it is half cooked, strain out the water into a bottle, and use it as rice water.
Storage: Rice water should be stored in a jar, vessel or bottle with a lid at room temperature in a dry place. It can be consumed immediately, or over 4-5 days. The older the solution, the more concentrated, so you may need to dilute it with water with each passing day. Rice water should be thrown away after 5 days, and a fresh batch whipped up.
Tip: It is preferable to use organic rice, clean filtered water, and rinse the rice thoroughly before use to get rid of any topical pollutants and pesticides. White rice is preferred over brown or red rice – since the water from the former has more extensive benefits.
How long has it been used?
The Chinese village of Huangluo, home to native Red Yao women, is in the Guinness Book of Records as the ‘world’s longest hair village’. The women here boast long, lustrous and healthy hair that is consistently maintained. The villagers believe that it is a symbol of luck, longevity and prosperity. So what is the secret to their fabulously maintained hair? An ancient but extremely simple Chinese remedy – rice water! This magic potion, used as a natural shampoo and rinse for centuries now, clearly works wonders. In fact, women usually don’t start greying until they’re almost eighty years old! But China doesn’t hold a monopoly over rice water. Around 1,200 years ago, women in Japan – especially those at the Imperial Court – used rice water to rinse their hair as well as wash their face. This solution was highly acclaimed and termed ‘Yu-Su-Ru’. Geishas especially used it, to keep their skin smooth, even-toned and supple. Even Korea (which has now seen a revival in traditional beauty techniques) and other South-East Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia have a history of using rice water as a key beauty supplement. So why is this simple ingredient such a potent solution, and how can you harness its benefits today? Let’s take a look.
What does it contain, and how often can you use it?
Rice water has a multitude of components with nutritional value for the skin and hair. Around 16 per cent of these are proteins, the building blocks essential to cell health. Triglycerides and lipids each make up 10 per cent of the rice water composition, while starch (an extract still used in Japanese cosmetics), is present at 9 per cent. Carbohydrates, inositol, phytic acid and inorganic substances are other components in rice water. This is what you get when you boil an average handful of white rice in two cups of hot water and strain out the residue liquid.
Rice water can be used twice a day every day as a skin toner, once a day in a skin mask or as a facial rinse. It can also be used as a shampoo as often as you shampoo your hair, or as a final rinse.
What are its skin benefits?
Over the years, various studies have been testimony to the fact that rice water, part of Asia’s culinary legacy, is also part of its beauty legacy. And for good reason. Its application on the skin can benefit in a lot of ways.
The potent antioxidants it has is the best bet from protection against premature ageing. It does so by neutralization of free radicals and also goes by the properties of elastase (the enzyme that damages elastin and makes it bouncy).
It also soothes and improves impaired skin barriers and keeps it hydrated. There are several benefits to using rice water for the skin.
1) It soothes skin conditions in sensitive skins, including acne and pimples
In 2002, a study from the Department of Toxicology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium determined that patients with skin conditions like inflammation, rashes and dermatitis benefitted greatly from taking a bath in rice water twice a day. So people with sensitive skins, rejoice! It is the most natural astringent you can ever imagine, thanks to its high starch content, and is good for people suffering from chronic acne and pimples as well.
2) It keeps your skin safe from the sun
Rice water is a natural sunscreen, protecting from the harmful effects of UV rays. In addition, rice water can be used to treat sunburns. Just apply it on sun-damaged skin, and it will help your skin recover faster. It also helps tighten open pores.
3) It is an anti-ageing solution
Skin texture is greatly improved, and elasticity is restored by using rice water, especially in the case of dry and dehydrated skin. Rice water is rich in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, flavonoids and phenolic compounds. In addition, it contains ferulic acid and allantoin, all of which are necessary for skin function.
4) It improves the complexion
One of the key functions of rice water is brighter skin and an even skin tone. If you dip a cotton ball in fermented rice water and massage it into your face, it really works wonders. You’ll find sun spots, pigmentation, hyperpigmentation and freckles lightening.
6) It protects against skin cancer
Not only does it promote cell growth and regeneration, keeping your skin supple and smooth, it also has antioxidants, which keep various skin cancers at bay and also act as an anti-ageing agent.
7) It benefits the skin on your body, not just your face
You can use it as a bath soak – just add two cups of rice water into regular water that’s in your bath tub, and finish up with a few drops of lavender essential oil. Soak for about half an hour to reap the skin benefits of rice water all over the body, while the lavender lulls you into a comfortable sleep-like state.
What are the hair benefits?
1) Say goodbye to frizzy hair
In 2010, a study was published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, where researchers clearly stated that using rice water as a hair treatment offered several benefits including improved elasticity, texture and lesser friction and frizz. This is largely due to the presence of inositol, a carbohydrate.
2) It is a chemical-free hair cleanser
Using it as a shampoo to wash out your hair may not be as convenient as a store-bought shampoo, but it comes without chemicals and preservatives, and you don’t even need to follow it up with a conditioner. 3) It balances your scalp’s pH levels
Rice water keeps your hair’s natural oils intact and its pH levels are similar to that of the scalp! For added benefits, a few drops of your preferred essential oils can be added to rice water, and this mix can replace your regular shampoo.
Pitera – the magic ingredient – is fermented rice water
To make the solution more potent, allow regular rice water to sit for a day or two in a bottle with a lid. This becomes fermented rice water – it may smell funny, but will definitely give you added benefits. Fermented rice water is the elixir of youth! It contains pitera, a natural byproduct that boosts cell regeneration. It is rich in minerals, vitamins and amino acids, all of which are essential to anti-ageing. This ingredient has been rediscovered by scientists recently, and is all the rage in keeping skin youthful. To give you an example, sake, a Japanese fermented rice liquor is based on pretty much the same principles as rice water. It was found that workers at a sake factory had exceptionally youthful hands compared to the rest of their skin! Upon further investigation, it was discovered that the pitera found in fermented rice water and its offshoots, was responsible for this miraculous occurrence.
What are the other ways it helps?
1) It is good for stomach-related ailments
Including rice water in your diet is beneficial in more ways than one. It can cure a number of ills such as stomach infections, gastric problems and nausea. It improves gut health drastically, which in turn reflects on the outside, giving you smooth and radiant skin.
2) Rice water is good for babies
Rice water is also used extensively across Asian cultures for babies who are weaning off nursing, to settle their stomachs.
3) It keeps the body healthy
Drinking up rice water is a natural cure for eczema, fever and other bacterial infections. It is full of energy, with a low-cal but high-carb way of providing your body with the boost it needs to get through the day effectively.
4) It is part of a traditional diet
In south India, Kanji, a fermented gruel made from rice water is part of the daily staple diet, especially among farmers and agriculturists. In the hot tropical summers, it prevents dehydration, replenishing lost nutrients and reducing chances of ailments. To prepare Kanji, cook a cup of rice in four cups water. Once the rice is semi-cooked, strain out the water, add some salt if required, and drink up. Your body will thank you for it, and so will your skin. Kanji can also be made from brown and red rice variants, depending on your taste and preferences. Just remember to keep it organic as much as possible.
Is it used in store-bought cosmetics?
Japanese and South Korean cosmetic giants have been using rice water and pitera in their cosmetics and marketing them as combining the best of science and nature. Several high-end brands now feature this key ingredient, technologically modified to fit into a bottle of serum or face wash. While we recommend you try the undiluted, freshly made version every day, there is no denying that store-bought versions come with benefits too. Firstly, the shelf life is longer, and you don’t need to keep making a fresh batch every couple of days – which can be a pain if you’re hard-pressed for time. Secondly, it comes with a multitude of other ingredients, which offer a holistic, all-around benefit in one product. Thirdly, if you go to a reputed cosmetic company, you’re assured of the quality of rice water used, and won’t really need to worry about what brand of rice to pick up from the supermarket! Just remember to do your homework before you pick up any product, make sure it is suited to your skin type and also provides the benefits that you would like for your skin.
What are its environmental implications?
When you use rice water, you are using a by-product of boiling rice – and this is a single ingredient trick, which means you’re not really digging into anything else. What’s more, you don’t have to deal with the implications of using disposable plastic waste that just reaches landfills, and you can spare the earth of that many more toxins and toxic waste. If you actually cook for a cartload of people, don’t even throw away the water used to rinse the rice – you can even just store it in a bucket and use it to bathe your body. Also, rice water costs virtually nothing! Instead of opting for expensive store-bought serums and toners, just use this really affordable (read, free!) DIY product and you’ll find you don’t really need to clutter your bathroom shelf with much else.
What are the cons?
Rice water is not a miracle cure, but a slow, healing process. While you’ll see visible benefits using it for a few days or even weeks, to reap its real benefits means making a lifestyle change. It’ll need to be a part of your daily routine just as much as eating breakfast or brushing your teeth. Also, try to get certified organic white rice, since non-organic versions may have extensive traces of dirt, pollutants, bacteria and pesticides that you are privy to, resulting in skin problems like eczema and so on. Since the product is homemade, it doesn’t contain preservatives. So you’ll need to keep an eye out for when it’s going bad and whip up a fresh batch every couple of days.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is one celebrity who swears by rice water. Whenever her skin needs a little pick-me-up, she opts for a rice water facial, massaging concentrated amounts into her skin and letting it sit for a while, which is her secret to youthful and radiant skin. She also takes it one step further, mixing it up with rice flour for an exfoliating scrub. Internationally, London-based facialist Su-Man Hsu boasts a clientele that includes Juliette Binoche, Anne Hathaway and Freida Pinto, and makes her own skincare products. A key ingredient in this Taiwanese facialist’s anti-ageing kit is rice water. She goes back to beauty recipes that her mother and grandmother used, for inspiration.
Face packs to try out
– Mix 2 tbsp rice water with a tbsp of ground gram flour and a teaspoon of honey. Mix well and apply all over the face and neck. Rinse with lukewarm water after 20 minutes and pat dry. This pack helps get rid of suntans and facial impurities caused by pollutants.
– For a probiotic face mask, take half a cup of curd and mix 2 tsp rice water into it. Let it sit for ten minutes. Then apply all over the face and neck, and leave on for 10 minutes. Wipe with a wet washcloth and pat dry. This pack has anti-ageing and skin firming benefits.
– Mix half a cup of rice water with half a mashed banana in a blender. Add a few drops of castor oil and apply them all over the face, including a very thin, careful layer under the eyes. Dip some cotton wool in a teaspoon of rice water and slowly remove the pack. Once every inch of the paste has come off, splash water on your face and pat dry. For tired and dull-looking skin, this pack is ideal.
– Here’s a real treat! This antioxidant scrub will have your skin glowing in no time. Add 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder to a tbsp of rice water and mix well. Scrub this into the skin in slow upward strokes. Then rinse well and pat dry with a towel.
Lucky for us, rice is a general household ingredient and almost inexpensive, so why not use it to our benefit.
You can also read on Use Rice Water For Hair For A Beautiful Mane