I carried out a series of experiments not only to unlock the ancient secrets of the Yao women of China, but also to discover whether or not fermented rice water could become a part of my hair care regimen. Through these experiments I learned how to make rice water for natural hair.
What is Rice Water?
Rice water is the water that remains after soaking uncooked rice in water for a period of time. It is popular in the natural hair care community as a hair strengthener and for boosting hair growth. Rice water also improves the hair’s elasticity and to prevent premature alopecia and grey hair.
The Yao Women of China
Many people marvel at the Red Yao women’s ability to grow long, shiny hair. Yao is a minority ethnic group who live in the mountains in the south of China. The Red Yao of Huangluo are the most famous group among the Yao people. Their hair is also known for its lustrous shine and the women can grow their hair longer than 4.5 feet (1.4 metres). Elder Yao women credit their lack of grey hair to the fermented rice water hair care remedy.
How to Make Rice Water for Natural Hair
Types of Rice to Use in Rice Water
This rice is almost round. It is also very starchy. It absorbs lots of water and clumps together when cooked. When visiting the grocery store, you’ll know this “sticky” rice as the one that is often used to make sushi, paella, and rice pudding.
This rice has less starch content than short grain rice. You’ll recognize this rice as the type used in risotto. Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cooking use other varieties.
This type of rice has the lowest starch content. Chances are that you will have this rice at home. Some common varieties of this rice include basmati and jasmine.
White vs Brown rice
You can purchase many types of rice as either white or brown rice. The difference between the two is the amount of processing that the rice has gone through. Brown rice is milled to make white rice by removing the bran and germ layers of the rice grain. In doing so, it removes some of the fibre, vitamins, and minerals naturally found in the rice.
Which Rice is Best for Natural Hair?
What type of rice you use comes down to personal preference, but overall it’s best to use organic brands. White rice is a popular choice for making rice water. Rice is easy to find and it’s also inexpensive.
White rice, brown rice, jasmine, basmati, and black rice will all yield varying results and strengths to the rice water. Each person’s hair will react differently to rice water, so don’t be afraid to experiment with individual or combinations of rice.
Caution Using Rice Water on Natural Hair
There is no doubt, that rice water can therefore leave your hair feeling stiff if overused. Although it varies by type, rice grains only contain about 7% protein. However, they contain 75%–80% starch. Rice water has been used in Asian and South Asia for centuries to starch fabric.
Rice water can feel quite strengthening. People with low porosity hair or hair that is protein sensitive should exercise caution.
Spoilage vs Yeast Formation
One thing that I have been very apprehensive about when it comes to rice water is spoilage. DIY recipes are more susceptible to bacteria, mould, and spoilage because our kitchens do not have the same sanitary levels as commercial cosmetic factories. Since household kitchens are not sterile environments, the levels of bacteria, fungus, virus, and spores are present and can contaminate our DIY products.
Even though it’s possible to make odourless rice water, using visual cues such as the look, texture, and smell can indicate mould in your fermentation. This is important because you don’t want to introduce contaminated products to my scalp or skin.
In case you doubt how easy this can be: Remember back in your relaxed days how you would avoid scratching your head so that the relaxer wouldn’t burn your scalp? Micro abrasions in your skin allow products and contaminants to penetrate your scalp. In this way, it’s possible to introduce contaminates into your scalp if your rice water isn’t fermented correctly.
Other Uses for Rice Water
Rice water can be used in many ways: As a hair rinse and scalp toner, a strengthening hair spray, or even a facial toner and skin brightener. Rice water can be steeped with teas or herbs to create a customized blend for your hair and scalp.
Which rice is your favourite for making rice water? Have you found any particular type to be more or less strengthening for your hair type?