There are few DIY beauty ingredients as cheap, easy to find, and nourishing as rice. It fights inflammation, exfoliates dry skin, and has potent anti-aging effects—and that’s just when it’s used on skin. With benefits like increased hair growth, stronger strands, and a healthier scalp, it’d be silly not to use rice water for hair as well. While a simple hair rinse may be the easiest way to harness the magical powers of rice, I much prefer an easy rice water shampoo recipe that cleanses and fortifies my fine locks without leaving them feeling limp and greasy.
What is rice water shampoo?
Rice water has been a staple beauty ingredient in Japanese culture for centuries, and geishas were known to use it as a key part of their beauty regimen. After soaking, boiling, or fermenting rice in water, the resulting vitamin-rich liquid was then used as a hair rinse or facial cleanser.
Like the name suggests, rice water shampoo is simply a clarifying haircare product made with the starchy, vitamin-rich water left over from making rice.
Some rice water shampoos contain only rice water as the active ingredient (although we consider this more of a rice water hair rinse), while others make suds like traditional shampoo and include ingredients that provide additional benefits for hair and scalp health.
Benefits of Rice Water Shampoo
As we age, our hair and scalp go through many changes. For starters, our natural oil production decreases, leaving hair feeling thinner and more prone to breakage. Factor in environmental damage and hormonal changes, and you may notice scalp issues like sensitivity, irritation, itchiness, and inflammation. Rice water can help to alleviate some of these problems, thanks to its high concentration of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates.
1. Promotes hair growth
The vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins C and E, calcium, magnesium, and selenium [source] in rice water can nourish the scalp and promote healthy hair growth. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can improve blood circulation to the scalp, while inositol, a carbohydrate found in rice water, can help to strengthen hair and reduce breakage.
2. Strengthens hair
Rice water contains amino acids, like cysteine and methionine, which fortify hair strands and help reduce hair breakage. Additionally, the vitamin E in rice water may help to boost blood circulation to the scalp, nourish hair at the root, and make hair grow faster.
3. Adds shine
The inositol in rice water provides moisture [source], which can improve the elasticity of hair strands, making them easier to style and less prone to breakage. This reduces frizz and improves hair texture, giving it a shinier appearance.
4. Reduces dandruff and itchy scalp
The benefits of rice water for skin are well known, so it’s no wonder that it also works wonders on the scalp. Rice water contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that soothe and calm an inflamed scalp [source], which is often a cause of dandruff.
Additionally, the starch in rice water can also help to absorb the excess oil that often makes dandruff worse. Moreover, fermented rice water is a probiotic that has antimicrobial properties and can reduce the growth of pathological microorganisms [source], thus helping to prevent the imbalances that cause inflammation.
DIY Rice Water Shampoo Recipe 2 Ways
For a long time, I swore by a 3-ingredient rice water shampoo made with soap nuts and essential oils. But after repeated use, I found that my hair was looking a little too dry, thanks to the starch in the rice water, so I added an oil-based shampoo bar to the mix.
They’re each effective in their own right, so I included both recipes here for you to try. If you’ve got the patience, take ’em both for a spin and choose whichever works best for you. Or alternate between the two for a well-balanced haircare routine that’s both cleansing and hydrating.
It’s important to note that homemade rice water shampoo may not produce as much lather as conventional shampoo since it doesn’t contain chemical-based soap or synthetic foaming agents. This doesn’t mean that the shampoo is ineffective—just that it’s cleaning your hair and scalp without the suds that you’re probably used to.
Option 1: Liquid Rice Water Shampoo
Unlike traditional liquid shampoo, this DIY rice water shampoo uses soap nuts instead of chemical detergents. Soap nuts create a natural surfactant that cleanses the scalp without stripping it of its natural oils.
Adding a few drops of essential oil improves the scent and helps soothe the scalp, but you’re free to tailor your essential oils to your needs. Because it’s clean and gentle, this shampoo is ideal for all hair types.
Rice Shampoo Recipe
—1 cup organic white rice
—10–12 soap nuts
—2 cups water
—15 drops lavender essential oil (optional)
1. Put the soap nuts and water in a pot and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer for about 30 minutes.
2. Strain the liquid, keeping the soap nut shells and debris in the strainer.
3. Combine the rice with the liquid left over from simmering the soap nuts. Let the rice soak in the liquid for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Strain out the rice, add the essential oils to the liquid, and pour it into an airtight bottle.
Alternatively, you can skip the soap nuts and use liquid Castile soap instead. Simply complete steps 3 through 5. After you’ve strained out the rice, combine 2 cups of liquid Castile soap with the rice water and mix well.
And when you’re done, go ahead and use those grains in a homemade rice scrub or a rice milk cleanser for a head-to-toe beauty boost.
Option 2: Rice Water Shampoo Bar
This method uses rice water, shea butter, and Castile soap to create a soap-like bar that can be used to cleanse and nourish the hair. Because it relies heavily on vegetable butters and waxes to give it a solid consistency, it’s best suited to thick, dry, or curly hair.
If you have fine or oily hair, you may want to take your shampoo bar for a test run over the weekend to see how it works for you.
Shampoo Bar Recipe
—1/4 cup shea butter
—6 tablespoons emulsifying wax
—2 tablespoons rice water or 2 teaspoons white rice flour
—1/4 cup liquid Castile soap
1. Melt the emulsifying wax and shea butter in a double boiler.
2. Let cool for several minutes before adding the rice water and Castile soap. Stir until it starts to come together.
3. Pour the mixture into your soap mold of choice, and let it solidify in the refrigerator.
For more suds, substitute regular shampoo in place of the Castile soap.
How to Wash Hair with Rice Water Shampoo
Step 1 | Prepare rice water shampoo
Prepare your rice water shampoo using one of these recipes (or another recipe of your choosing). Alternatively, you can use plain rice water by soaking the rice, straining out the grains, and collecting the liquid in a separate container.
Step 2 | Shampoo your hair
Begin by wetting your hair thoroughly with warm water. Apply a small amount of rice water shampoo to your scalp, and massage gently with your fingertips to work up a lather. Continue shampooing your hair in sections, starting at the scalp and working your way down to the ends.
Step 3 | Rinse your hair
After shampooing, rinse your hair thoroughly with warm water until the hair feels clean. You may need to rinse for several minutes to ensure that all of the rice water has been rinsed out. Finish by rinsing your hair with cool water to help seal the hair cuticles and promote shine.
Rice Shampoo Precautions + Tips
Avoid using rice water shampoo too frequently or leaving it on your hair for too long, as this can lead to buildup or potential damage. You can use rice water shampoo once or twice a week as part of your regular haircare routine.
Patch test before use
It’s important that you perform a patch test before using rice water shampoo to ensure that you’re not allergic or sensitive to any of the ingredients.
To do a patch test, apply a small amount of shampoo to the inside of your wrist or behind your ear. Leave it on the skin for 1–2 hours.
If you experience any redness, itching, or irritation, rinse the area immediately with cool water and discontinue use of the product. If you don’t experience any negative reactions after 24 hours, you can safely use your homemade rice water shampoo.
Before each use, give the shampoo a good shake so the ingredients are well combined.
Proper storage is important to ensure that your homemade rice water shampoo stays fresh and effective. After making the shampoo, transfer it to an airtight container, such as a glass jar or a plastic bottle with a tight-fitting lid. This will help to keep the shampoo fresh and prevent contamination.
Store the shampoo in a cool, dry place such as a bathroom cabinet or pantry. Avoid storing it in direct sunlight or in a humid area, as this can promote bacterial growth and spoilage.
Since your homemade rice water shampoo doesn’t contain preservatives, it’s best to use it within a few weeks. If you notice that it’s lost its effectiveness or developed an off odor, throw it away immediately and make a fresh batch.
Rice Water Shampoo Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to use rice water shampoo on color-treated hair?
Yes, rice water shampoo is safe to use on color-treated hair. However, it’s always best to do a patch test first to make sure you’re not allergic to any of the ingredients.
Can I make rice water shampoo with brown rice instead of white rice?
Absolutely! Brown rice may have slightly different properties than white rice, and it has more nutrient value, so it should still be effective.
Can I add other ingredients to my rice water shampoo?
Yes, you can add other ingredients to your rice water shampoo, such as essential oils, honey, or aloe vera gel. Just be aware that adding too many ingredients may alter the pH balance or effectiveness of the shampoo.
Can I use rice water shampoo on oily hair?
Rice water shampoo is suitable for all hair types, including oily hair. It may even help to regulate excess oil production on the scalp.
How long does homemade rice water shampoo last?
Homemade rice water shampoo does not contain preservatives, so it’s best to use it within a few weeks. After this time, the shampoo may start to lose its effectiveness or develop an off odor.
References (in order of appearance):
1. Shano HF, et al. Nutritional analysis and antimicrobial activity of fermented rice water. Der Pharma Chemica. 2021.
2. Zhoh CK, et al. The effects of inositol extracted from rice on the skin. J Soc Cosmet Sci Korea. 2001.
3. Marto J, et al. Rice water: a traditional ingredient with anti-aging efficacy. Cosmetics. 2018.
4. Thilagavathi P, et al. Probiotic and anticancer activity of fermented rice water. Pharma Innovation. 2019.