Rice water has been trending for a few years now but since Lockdown Google searches are up 300% – people got both a lot of time on their hands and struggling afros! Miracle cures are generally embraced, especially ones that are super easy to make at home – but is rice water a miracle catalyst for hair growth?
Ladies in the Far East have been using this natural by-product for both skin and hair for centuries which suggests that there could be something in it. Any search on the internet will bring up many success stories laying improved hair growth right at the feet of the rice water altar; these claims were enough to make me do some more research and here’s what I found.
So the theory behind rice water is that the starchy, cloudy liquid contains amino acids (building blocks of protein), vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which are all supposed to benefit our afros. Scientific research I’ve read previously has made me slightly sceptical about claims that nutrition actually penetrates our hair strands, but the Yao women of China (who rinse their hair regularly in rice water) not only have long flowing locks averaging 1.8m in length but they also don’t seem to get grey hair until their 80s! Amazing claims that have been documented and can actually be proven. The non greying part of their story really interested me as greying hair is the product of the degradation of melanin producing stem cells in our hair follicles which are just below the skin on our head. I realise that stress and genetics can have an effect on this, but the women of Yao’s long hair coupled with its enduring blackness suggests that something in their hair care process is giving their follicles superhuman powers. Diet, environment, genetics etc could all be contributory factors, but the fact that they have a long history of using rice water to rinse their locks and this process is easily replicated in our homes has meant that this has been the focus of people’s interest.
Science dictates that proteins (amino acids) need to be of a small enough size to actually penetrate our hair. This means that proteins need to be broken down into their constituent parts (hydrolysed) to stand any chance of being able to make it into our afro strands, and this can only really be done in a laboratory. Larger protein particles, i.e. the ones in our homemade hair masks, are likely to only coat hair strands rather than penetrate past the outer sheath; smoothing rather than fundamentally changing the structure of our afro. However, rice water seems to have an effect on the place where our hair grows (follicles) and can therefore improve our afros from source.
From what I’ve seen and read, rice water will not make your hair grow faster, but what it does is improve the environment your hair grows in which means that our afros should be able to grow closer to its full potential. Strands should be attached to your head stronger and for longer, and your follicles respond to this rice-based elixir by keeping all their parts in full working order for longer. I don’t know about you but I’m sold!
There is a word of caution… in some cases an overload of protein can have a negative effect on the strength of hair. If your afro is quite coarse but with relatively low porosity you may not be able to tolerate a protein rich treatment like this all that often. Definitely still try rice water as it’s likely to be of benefit but proceed carefully in stages as then you’ll be able to document exactly how your afro is reacting.
Fro stay strong and you stay safe x