I Tried TikTok’s Rice Water for Hair Trick—and After 4 Weeks, My Hair Felt Thicker and Looked Shinier
This ancient Japanese beauty trick is popping up all over social media. But can using rice water for hair really give you shiny, thick strands? I tested it out.
TikTok is filled with entertaining content, from fun dance videos to comedic voiceovers. But more and more, it’s also a resource for beauty hacks and trends. Whether you’re watching influencers debunk hair myths or hunting for pros who share the best hairstyling tips, you’ll find a bounty of interesting—though sometimes questionable—information on the social media app. You can even find recommendations for the best shampoos and hairstyles to make you look younger. One DIY trend that has TikTok majorly talking: using rice water for hair—specifically, to thicken strands.
But does it work? I tested it to find out! I’ve always been self-conscious about my thin strands and yearned for thicker hair. As for fine-hair mistakes? I’ve made them all. Once, I even permed my hair in an attempt to achieve a fuller look. Seeing all these influencers on TikTok rave about the power of soaking hair in rice water intrigued me, and I needed to know if it was the key to unlocking my thick-hair fantasy.
So read on for my take on the rice water for hair trend—plus some expert insight on what it’s all about.
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What are the benefits of using rice water on hair?
Rice water may be trending on TikTok, but it is by no means a new phenomenon. Women in ancient Japan reportedly washed their hair with it. So, is rice water good for your hair? The jury is still out.
Soaking rice in water, straining out the grains and then dousing your hair in the rice water may lead to stronger strands. That’s because there’s protein in rice, and protein is also a building block of healthy hair. A study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science found rice water reduced friction between strands and improved hair elasticity.
And fans say rice water gives them shinier hair and even helps with hair growth. While neither claim has been scientifically proven yet, here’s what you might have to look forward to if you try this trend.
Rice water may lead to increased shine. The perk is purely anecdotal, based on numerous TikTok reviews. That said, the International Journal of Cosmetic Science study did find that rice water reduced friction, which might help tame frizz.
As for the rice-water-for-hair-growth claim, that’s still up for debate. Proponents point to two facts: Rice contains vitamins B and E, and according to research, those who are deficient in these vitamins may experience hair loss. So, they reason, infusing hair with vitamin-rich water could help with growth. Just know that there is no hard research to prove such a claim. While studies show that vitamins B and E are helpful for hair growth, there is no science that supports the idea that soaking hair in rice water will infuse strands with those nutrients.
In other words, using rice water for hair probably isn’t the hair-loss remedy you’ve been searching for. More likely, coating your hair simply makes it feel thicker, says Ghanima Abdullah, a cosmetologist and hair expert with The Right Hairstyles, a platform that helps women find the right style for them.
Something we can prove? Rice water is a cost-effective treatment. You can get a bag of rice for just a few bucks—way less than a fancy hair product. So even if you’re not delivering nutrients to your tresses, you’re paying very little for the visible benefits.
A couple caveats
The process is pretty time consuming. You have to soak the rice, soak your hair, let it stand and rinse it out. Don’t get me wrong—I liked the way it made my hair look. But this ate up a chunk of my day. If you’re the sort of person who appreciates five-minute hair, this may not be the method for you.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind: Just because something is trendy and works for a lot of people, it doesn’t guarantee it will work for you. You have to experiment and find the thing that does what you need it to for your hair, says Mark Daniels, a stylist at Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City.
How to prepare rice water for hair
Want to try this trend for yourself? I found the process of making rice water fairly easy. Of course, buying a beauty product with rice aminos in it is even easier. If you want healthy, shiny hair, there are plenty of products that’ll do the trick, so you don’t have to resort to using rice water, says Daniels. Take, for example, Not Your Mother’s Rice Water & Himalaya Moringa shampoo and conditioner or Briogeo’s Curl Charisma Rice Amino and Avocado Leave-In Defining Crème.
Rather go the DIY route? I found the process fairly straightforward. Here’s how to make rice water for hair.
1. Gather your supplies
The biggest question I had was what kind of rice to use. When I turned to TikTok, everyone seemed to be using a different type—white rice, brown rice, wild rice, you name it! Ultimately, I opted for black rice (also known as forbidden rice) because the Cleveland Clinic says it contains the most nutrients. The other tools I gathered were a strainer, water and two bowls.
- Two bowls
2. Soak the rice
I measured out the rice and quickly rinsed it in a strainer. Then I transferred it to a bowl and added room-temperature water. After a quick stir, it was ready to soak.
- 1/2 cup rice
- 3 cups water
- Rinse the rice.
- Add the rinsed rice to a bowl.
- Add the water.
- Stir the rice.
- Let soak for an hour.
3. Strain it
My final step in preparing the rice water was to strain out the rice so I was left with nothing but nutrient-rich rice water. From there, I transferred the rice water into an empty spray bottle. This step wasn’t totally necessary, but I figured dousing my strands with a spray bottle would be easier than trying to dunk them in the bowl.
- Strain out the rice.
- Pour the strained rice water into a spray bottle.
- Use the spray bottle to saturate hair.
Another popular way to make rice water involves boiling it, letting it cool and then straining it until you’re left with the rice water. This method is equally popular on social media, but it’s more labor intensive, so I went with the soaking method.
- Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.
- Add 1/2 cup rice and continue boiling.
- When the water turns cloudy, turn off the burner.
- Let the rice sit until it’s cool.
- Strain out the rice and reserve the water.
- Pour the strained rice water into a spray bottle.
How to use rice water on hair
Now that you have the rice water, it’s time to put it to use! I was a little intimidated about this part of the process—what if I didn’t get all my strands coated? Thankfully, it was easier than I thought it would be and no more complicated than using a hair mask.
Here’s how to use rice water for hair:
- Jump in the shower. Starting with clean, fresh hair means there’s no product buildup preventing your strands from fully absorbing the rice water. I hopped in the shower and quickly shampooed and conditioned.
- Gently squeeze out the excess water and get out of the shower. I wrapped myself in a towel, knowing I’d get a bit damp from the process of applying the rice water.
- Comb your hair.
- Section off your hair. I created two segments, pulling the top portion into a loose bun at the top of my head. I let the lower portion remain loose.
- Using the spray bottle, saturate the lower half of your hair.
- Take the top portion of your hair out of the bun and saturated those strands with the rice water.
- Let the rice water sit on your hair for 20 minutes. It was the perfect amount of time to hang out in the bathroom and scroll through social media for other trends to try!
- Give your hair a rinse. When my 20 minutes were up, I jumped back in the shower and rinsed the rice water out with warm water. (I did not wash it again.)
- Style your hair. I gave myself a blowout.
How long should you leave rice water in your hair?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to the minimum amount of time to soak your hair in rice water, though most people say 10 to 20 minutes is ideal. You don’t want to go much longer than that.
“If you leave rice water on your hair for too long, the starch will suck moisture out of our hair,” warns Abdullah. This can leave you with dry, damaged strands—and no one wants that!
How often should you use rice water on your hair?
You should not be using rice water for hair on a daily basis. In fact, doing so could damage your strands, drying them out and creating too much buildup on both your strands and your scalp. With that in mind, the next time you wash your hair after you’ve done a rice soak, make sure you use a great shampoo and really massage your scalp to get rid of the buildup.
Ideally, you’d do this once or twice a week. I went with soaking my hair twice a week for four weeks to maximize the thickening potential. If your hair is on the drier side, Abdullah suggests doing it even less frequently—like once a month. Between applications, you can rely on a dryness-taming product.
Are there any downsides to using rice water for hair?
Honestly, as long as you don’t overdo it with the rice water (which, as mentioned, can lead to scalp buildup and can weigh down hair), there aren’t many downsides to trying this trick.
That said, you do need to build in extra time for it. Between soaking the rice to make the starchy water and letting it sit on your hair, you’re looking at an hour of time dedicated to this endeavor. For that reason alone, this is not something I would be able to regularly integrate into my routine.
If you’re the sort of person who prefers a whittled-down hair-care routine (possibly with less-frequent hair-washing), you may find it quicker and easier to use leave-on products with rice protein.
Is using rice water on hair worth it?
The honest truth: Using rice water for hair worked for me. My hair felt noticeably thicker after using it and had a nice shine. My fine hair often makes me feel self-conscious—I worry that it looks scraggly and limp—and in the days after soaking my hair with this concoction, I didn’t have those fears. While I wouldn’t say that using it gave me the strands of my dreams, it definitely gave them a much-needed boost.
That said, this TikTok hair trend wasn’t so life-changing that I’d continue to put in the time and effort needed to keep using it. Between making and applying the solution, it takes an hour every time you do rice water for hair. That is simply too much time for me.
Not only that, but I’ve used thickening creams and volumizing sprays that gave me just as good of results. My personal favorite is Oribe’s Maximista Thickening Spray. You just spritz some onto damp strands and then style as normal, and your hair both looks and feels fuller.
About the experts
- Ghanima Abdullah is a cosmetologist and hair expert with The Right Hairstyles.
- Mark Daniels is a stylist and colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York City.