DIY Rice Water Hair Conditioner for Hair Growth

  reading time: 8 min

Did you know that Yao women cut their hair only once in their lifetime? And that they never use shampoo on their hair?

If you are wondering what the Yao women have to do with this rice water recipe, and who the Yao women are in the first place, let me explain: The trend of using (fermented) rice water to achieve long, strong and healthy hair has been going around on the internet for a while now. The use of this method was first recorded in the Heian period (794–1186), when Japanese women use the water leftover from washing rice to attain beautiful floor-length hair as well as soft plump skin. Today the Red Yao women of the Huangluo Village in China are known for keeping their hair long, strong, shiny and jet-black even at the age of 80, using the fermented rice water method. The Yao settlement actually received a Guinness world record certification for the "world's longest hair village", with an average of 1.5 meters and a record of 2.1 meters of hair.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, the women of Huangluo only cut their hair once in their lives, when they turn 18, as part of a coming of age ceremony. After that, the Yao women wear their hair in a "twist and tie" hair style where they twist their hair into a long rope and wrap it around their head. This protects their hair from wind, tangles and split ends.

What's So Great About This Rice Water Method

Rice water contains a lot of
nutrients beneficial to our hair and scalp, including amino acids, minerals, antioxidants, selenium, magnesium, folic acid, vitamins B1-B6, vitamins C & E, niacin, vitamin K and inositol. The inositol carbohydrate has the ability to penetrate into the hair and repair cuticle damage, adding shine and reducing frizz. Rice water helps promote hair growth due to the amino acids, reduces dandruff and scalp problems due to the healing properties of the starch, and makes your hair stronger, smoother and shinier.

The pomelo or grapefruit peels in this rinse contain antioxidants that help promote hair growth by increasing the blood flow to the surface of the scalp, as well as being anti-septic, anti-allergic and anti-fungal, making them a mild treatment for dandruff, an itchy irritated scalp and scalp infections. They also help getting rid of product build-up, and bring shine to dull, dry, lifeless hair.

In short: This boiled and fermented rice water promotes hair growth, nourishes the scalp, cleanses and conditions your hair with only 3 ingredients! In fact, you don't have to use a conditioner or even shampoo when using this recipe. Plus, it gives your hair an amazing orange smell!

So stop tossing away the water from washing or boiling your rice, and start making this wholesome hair conditioner! (No really, I always use the rice that I am about to cook anyway 😃)

Below I share with you a quick version that is ready within a day, and the traditional version that takes 1 week but is my recommended method.



1 cup uncooked organic white rice (either long-grained such as basmati rice, or short-grained sticky rice; don't use brown rice as it is too rich in protein – see notes below)
4 cups filtered or distilled water, or fresh spring water
peel from 1 pomelo fruit (alternatively: peel of 1 grapefruit, or 1 large orange, or 2 lemons, or 2 tangerines)
(optional) a few drops of rosemary or lavender essential oil OR a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or lavender blossoms

a clean glass bottle or jar *
a bowl
a strainer
(optional) a saucepan

* I re-use an old pickle jar


Rinse the rice one or two times under running water. This gets rid of any dirt and dust.

(1) The quick method:

Add 1/2 cup of uncooked, rinsed white rice and 2 cups of filtered water to a large jar. Cover the jar with a screw-on lid, and give it a shake to release the nutrients into the water.

Let the rice sit at room temperature for 2 to 12 hours, or up to 24 hours.

Strain the soaking water and pour it back into the jar or a bottle.

Instead of discarding the rice, use it for cooking! (E. g. in my Peanut Green Thai Curry, my Indian Dhal, or in my Kitchari which uses soaked rice anyway. If using sticking rice, use it to make my Sticky Rice with Mango, my Thai Banana Coconut Pancakes, or to make your own Sushi!)

BTW: Don't worry, soaking the rice for up to 24 hours will not make your rice smelly or weird. The only change I noticed was that the basmati rice I used turned stickier and similar to short-grained rice. It was still delicious though!

Use the rice water as described below.

(2) The traditional method:

Add 1/2 cup of uncooked, rinsed white rice and 2 cups of filtered water to a large bowl. Leave it for the 30 minutes. Then, "wash" the rice by rubbing/scrubbing it between your clean hands to get all the nutrients out of the rice and into the water, as if you were massaging the rice or washing a piece of clothing. Do this until the water turns cloudy and milky white, about 5 minutes.

Strain the rice water into a saucepan. Instead of discarding the washed rice, use it for cooking, as described above!

Gently heat up the rice water until it boils. Add the citrus peel, and boil for 5 minutes covered with a lid.

Remove from the stove, and let the rice water cool at room temperature.
If you are using herbs/essential oils, add them to your cooled rice water at this point.

Transfer the cooled rice/citrus(/herb) water into a clean glass bottle or jar, and cover with a lid. Do not use an airtight bottle as this interferes with the fermentation process. Also make sure the rice water is fully covering the citrus peels, or else they will go bad!

Leave to ferment in a dark place for 1–2 weeks, or even up to 1 month. A closet would be a good place to keep it for the time being.

Once the fermenting time is over, discard citrus peels (and any fresh herbs, if using).

Use the rice water as described below.


Shake the bottle or jar before using.

After shampooing your hair, rinse your hair with fermented rice water. This method also works great with a no-poo hair routine, so feel free to skip the shampoo.

he traditional Yao way for rinsing your hair with rice water uses the inversion method (which improves blood flow to your scalp and further promotes hair growth). To do this, pour all of the rice water minus the citrus peels into a large bowl and lean over the bowl, flipping your head upside down over the bowl. Dunk your hair into the rice water, and use a cup to pour rice water onto your head as well. BTW: You may also comb your hair this way before washing it – from the roots to the tips of the hair –, ideally using a wooden comb.

Massage the rice water into the hair and roots. Leave it in for 20–30 minutes. (The more sensitive your hair to protein, the shorter you should leave it in. See notes below.)
To further increase hair growth, spend a few minutes "inverting" with your hair flipped over and massaging your head to bring blood circulation to the scalp.

Other things to do while waiting for your rice water to do its magic is to put on a face mask, do a clay pack (e. g. on your armpits for a natural detox), shave, sing, wash your body, use a body scrub, or even dry brush your body!

Rinse with cold, clean water.

I recommend finishing off with a apple cider vinegar rinse, which prevents any mineral deposit as well as product build-up.

Pat your hair clean with a soft towel.

Allow the hair to air-dry. I twist my hair (similar to how the yao women wear their hair) and wrap them in a microfibre towel until semi-dry to prevent them from dripping all over my body and the floor. S
tyle your hair as usual.

Use this method once or twice a month at first. Later you may increase the frequency to every three days.

- Alternatively, spray the fermented rice water on your clean, freshly washed hair. Massage into your roots, and leave it on for 30 minutes or overnight. Rinse it off.
- To use as a hair mask, pour undiluted rice water all over your hair and scalp, and leave in for 1 hour. Shampoo and condition as usual. Use no more than once a week.
- You can also blend the leftover soaked rice with coconut oil or argan oil, and rice water to make a deep conditioning hair mask or a DIY face mask.
- The reason why you do not want to use this rice water rinse or spray too often is that too much protein is actually damaging to hair. It can lead to brittle hair and breakage! The Yao women use this method every three days, but keep in mind that their hair is used to that amount of protein and starch – so stick to as little as once or twice a month!
- Furthermore, those with low porosity hair may have trouble with protein build-up. In that case you may want to dilute the fermented rice water in a 1:1 ratio with water to prevent protein overload.
- The Yao women also add ground tea seeds into their rice water, which refer to the seeds taken from camellias, the plants from which black tea and green tea are made. Tea seeds are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, help reduce hair loss, dandruff and itchy feeling. They are also rich in oil, tea saponin and amino acids, moisturising the hair, preventing hair breakage and improving hair strength and resilience. If you do get your hands on tea seeds, grind 2–3 tbsp of the seeds and add them into the rice water along with the citrus peel. Alternatively, you may use shikakai powder or soap nut powder (reetha).
- Rice water also helps to heal scars, reduce fine lines and inflammation, hydrates and increases the elasticity in your skin, so you can also mist your face with this water, or apply it with a cotton pad. To enhance the skin-softening anti-ageing properties of rice water, mix it with raw organic honey, then apply to your face and along the neck. Leave it on for 15 minutes before washing off. To turn this into a brightening toner, add raw apple cider vinegar to the rice water, and store in the refrigerator. Another great idea is to pour rice water in an ice cube tray to make rice water cubes. Freeze, then wrap rice water ice cubes in a soft cloth and gently rub on your face for clean, clear and glowing skin.

Looking for more hair content? Check out these:

DIY Hair Growth Oil