I’ve tried out many things on my hair – from fads to new products in the market to age-old traditional home remedies. It’s basically throwing spaghetti against a wall to see if it sticks. One of the things I tried out was using rice water on my hair. A colleague warned me against getting caught up in this new hair practice because I have low porosity hair.
At the time I didn’t quite understand what that was all about but she tried to explain it to me. I also embarked on my own research since I wasn’t ready for another big chop if things didn’t turn out as I expected. So, is rice water good for low porosity hair?
What is low porosity hair?
Do you ever have that experience when you need to style your hair so you spray it with water or other liquid products, just to see the droplets stay on top of your hair – or worse, rolling down your strands?
Or perhaps that feeling when you put oil on your hair, only to see it still not absorbed a couple of minutes after?
Or how about the feeling of having to stand under the shower for so long, just because your hair takes ages to get wet?
Well, the thing is, we actually share these universally annoying experiences together!
The culprit? Low porosity hair.
What is hair porosity?
The word porosity refers to the ability of an object to let liquid or air pass through.
This is made possible by the presence of many holes that enable easy passage of the liquid or air.
When applied to hair, porosity simply means how likely it is for your hair to absorb and keep moisture.
Hence, low porosity hair refers to hair where moisture isn’t easily absorbed.
The cuticle – or the outer layer of the hair shaft – for low porosity hair is usually closed tightly, making it difficult for water or other molecules (like oils) to pass through.
However, the moisture that does get into the hair is not easily lost, since it takes a longer time for the moisture to escape from these tight cuticles.
Hair porosity is usually genetic in nature, but that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done to help improve the condition of less porous hair over time.
Hair porosity test
If you are curious to find out what the porosity level of your hair is, there is an easy test you can do.
Take a glass of water and drop a clean strand of your hair in it.
If the strand floats, you have low porosity hair; and if it floats somewhere in the middle of the glass, you have normal or medium porosity hair.
If the strand sinks, you have high porosity. This means that your hair absorbs moisture quickly and loses that moisture just as quickly as it got it.
High porosity hair has a lot of holes – this explains the quick moisture absorption.
This type of hair can be a result of genetics but it can also be a result of chemical treatments such as bleaching, dyeing, and relaxing your hair.
The history of rice water
The practice of using rice water on the hair dates back to historical times.
For instance, women in the Heian period in Japan did not cut their hair. Instead, they rinsed their hair with rice water in a bid to retain its health and strength.
There are many women in modern times who adhere to the rice water practice.
In a province in China called Huanglo, its female inhabitants (collectively known as the Yao women) do not cut their hair.
As a result, they are likened to modern-day Rapunzels with strong and healthy hair up to 6 feet long, all thanks to the use of rice water.
A readily available resource, rice water refers to water that is filled with starch after being used to soak or cook rice.
With rice soaked in the water for a long time, the water naturally absorbs the nutrients from the rice and becomes filled with vitamins and minerals, making it good for both the body and the hair.
Benefits of using rice water on hair
Rice water is rich in carbohydrates – it is starchy, just as rice itself is filled with starch.
At the core of this is the compound inositol, a carbohydrate responsible for strengthening the hair and protecting it from damage.
Inositol has also been found to repair damaged hair by penetrating deep into the strands and nourishing the hair from the inside out.
This is where rice water derives much of the benefits it brings to the hair.
Other relevant compounds found in rice water would be amino acids, B vitamins, vitamin E, and antioxidants – all proven to be good not only for the hair but for the body as well.
Amino acids, in particular, are essentially the building blocks of protein; if your hair lacks protein content, rice water is a great protein treatment for your locks!
Given the abundance of awesome nutrients found in rice water, it is believed to benefit the hair through the following ways:
Strengthens hair strands
As mentioned earlier, the rice water’s carbohydrate content – mainly made of inositol – helps repair damage previously sustained by the hair, while at the same time protecting the hair from further damage.
Inositol helps reduce friction in the hair, making it less susceptible to wear and tear from regular brushing, combing, and styling.
Inositol also helps improve the hair’s elasticity, which makes it more resistant to breakage.
Promotes hair growth
Rice water is rich in key vitamins such as Vitamins B, C, and D, as well as antioxidants.
These nutrients are believed to help in promoting healthy hair growth.
This belief is only made stronger by anecdotal evidence from the ancient times, with both the Yao women of China and the women of the Japanese Heian era.
They were all able to grow their hair to considerable lengths without damage.
Looking at the hair of the Yao women, you might be forgiven to conclude that rice water helps delay the graying of hair as well!
Yao women’s hair usually grays at around 80 years old; however, it’s still not known how this happens.
Controls frizz and reduces split ends
Rice water’s rich protein content helps get rid of split ends.
This magic water also helps to reduce frizz, resulting in frizz-free and lustrous hair.
The vitamins A and C found in rice water also contribute to better hair texture and volume overall, while inositol also helps in making the hair shiny and smooth.
The best thing about rice water is that it’s readily available and cheap.
It’s very easy to harness its good benefits for the hair without breaking the bank or sending a search party to look for rice!
How do you make rice water?
Rice water is obtained from either soaking rice in water, or cooking the rice in water.
There are two easy ways to make your own rice water.
For each method, you will need:
- 1 cup uncooked rice
- 2 cups of water
- Bowl/saucepan to soak or boil rice in
- Container for rice water
- Start by rinsing your rice in water to remove dirt and other impurities. Strain the washed rice afterward into a bowl.
- Pour two cups of water into the container. Stir every 5 minutes for around 30 minutes, until the water gets cloudy.
- Strain the rice and transfer the water to a container
- *Optional: Cover the container with plastic, and let the rice water ferment in room temperature for around 12 to 48 hours before use.
- Start by washing your rice to remove impurities. Strain washed rice into a saucepan suitable for boiling rice.
- Add two cups of water into the saucepan. Boil the rice in medium heat until it gets cooked.
- Strain remaining water into a clean container
- *Optional: Let rice water ferment before use.
*Note: Some people let the rice water ferment for around 12-48 hours. This is an optional step. There is a very high chance that the fermented rice water will have a not-so-good smell. You might want to mask that smell by adding a few drops of essential oil to the fermented rice water before using it on your hair. Alternatively, you can throw in some orange peels when you soak the rice to neutralize the strong smell of the fermented rice water.
How to use rice water
You can use rice water during any stage of your wash day routine.
For instance, you can use it before shampooing your hair. Pour the rice water into a spray bottle and then spray the liquid evenly to cover all the hair.
Leave it in for about 20 minutes before washing your hair with shampoo and proceeding with the rest of your wash day routine.
You can also use the rice water as a protein treatment. Simply soak your hair in rice water after shampooing and conditioning your hair.
Leave it in the hair for around minutes, then rinse as usual with clean water.
Rice water can easily be stored for future use.
You can keep the remaining rice water in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Is rice water good for low porosity hair?
Low porosity hair types can definitely benefit from rice water.
If used correctly, rice water can help transform your hair into a stronger, healthier, and shinier mane.
But! There is a very big caveat.
You see, less porous hair types usually have a lot of protein in them already.
Remember rice water contains amino acids – the building blocks of protein.
Hence, overloading your hair with rice water can lead to excessive levels of protein in the hair, which can cause dryness and brittleness.
Ultimately, protein buildup in the hair can lead to extreme damage to the hair – and we want to avoid that, for sure!
This doesn’t mean, though, that rice water is something to avoid.
It is instead a reminder that if you have low porosity hair, you should use rice water in moderation and with caution.
When you start to dabble with rice water as part of your hair routine, it would be best to limit the number of times you use it.
I personally space out my rice water protein treatments and use it after eight weeks. Sometimes after 10-12 weeks.
Although I enjoy the other rice water benefits such as promoting hair growth, I use this liquid magic in moderation because I know it doesn’t play nice with low porosity hair.
It is also not advisable to let the rice water stay in your hair for longer than 20 minutes, especially if you are using it for the first time.
This is to ensure that rice water is indeed compatible with your hair type.
A patch test can also help – try spraying rice water on a small section of your hair and see how that section changes over time.
If it ends up feeling brittle, like straw or hay, then diluting rice water or staying away from it completely might be best.
There are low porosity hair types that lack protein, though, so using rice water is not a problem.
However, doing a patch test is always, always the best place to start.
It’s all about balance. Having little protein in the hair will make it brittle and fragile, and easily susceptible to breakage.
However, too much protein in the hair will cause stiffness and dryness as well.
While rice water has a lot of benefits that make it exciting to try to explore, one cannot discount the fact that it contains an abundance of proteins, which have the capacity to damage hair if used in excess.
The best thing to do, then, is to be cautious and careful when starting with rice water.
Many people with low porosity hair have sworn by it, but you’ll only be able to enjoy its benefits if you use it in moderation.
Is rice water good for high porosity hair?
While high porosity hair is mainly genetic in nature, exposing the hair to different chemical treatments that can be damaging to the hair can make your tresses overly porous.
Constant bleaching, coloring, and relaxing damages the hair structure and increases the number of pores (holes) on the cuticle.
This effectively makes your hair become overly porous.
The hair cuticles of people with high porosity hair are more porous, leading to drier hair that is unable to retain moisture for long.
Using rice water can help address this issue – it can help add proteins to the hair by filling up the pores in the hair cuticle.
The amino acids found in rice water coat the strands to thicken and strengthen the hair.
Since dry hair is very prone to breakage, people with high porosity hair types can also benefit from the hair strengthening benefit that rice water gives to the hair.
As with low porosity hair, it might be best to do a patch test first and see how your hair will react to rice water.
If you find the results favorable, you can use rice water once or twice a week.
So, is rice water good for low porosity hair? Yes, it is, but in moderation.
Rice water is definitely a good remedy to explore for your hair given its benefits and accessibility.
It also has a proven track record for making hair stronger and healthier since ancient times.
However, it’s best to practice caution when using rice water if you have low porosity hair that is easily susceptible to protein overload.