If you’ve spent any time on Tiktok in the last few weeks, you’ve definitely come across the app’s latest phenomenon: rice water. Whether it’s a self-proclaimed hair expert swearing by it as the ultimate hair growth hack or a teenager just trying it out, you’ve probably seen the viral videos.
If you haven’t, don’t worry, we’re here to get to the bottom of what the hype is all about. What is rice water? Can it really grow your hair?
As it turns out, the method is rooted from the village of Huang Luo in China’s Guangxi region, whose women—belonging to the Yao tribe—are recorded to have the world’s longest hair as recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. Their secret ingredient? Fermented rice water.
But there’s more to it than starchy water from last night’s dinner. The method is a cherished tradition for the Yao tribe, whose women cut their hair only once in their life, celebrating it in a public ceremony. Their hair is said to grow upwards of 2 meters. It is also said to retain its deep black color for decades—with many of the women not developing grey hair until their 80s.
The fermented rice water, mixed with other ingredients, is used as an alternative to shampoo. As documented by photographer Joyce Ng for Vogue, the women boil the mixture and pour it into a bowl, which they then lower their hair onto. Alongside the rice water, the ancient recipe includes peels of pomelo fruit (similar to grapefruit).
Want to try for yourself? Here’s the recipe:
Ingredients: Rice, Water, Pomelo Peels, Tea Bran, Fleeceflower Root, and Ginger.
Directions: Mix rice and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add pomelo peels, tea bran, ground fleeceflower root, and ginger. Leave the mixture to cool then strain. Leave to ferment in a sealed container for three to four days.
Use: wash your hair once or twice a week with the mixture.