Many people use rice water for the skin either to improve its appearance or to ease conditions such as eczema. Some beauty companies claim rice water has anti-aging properties, but there is little scientific evidence to confirm these claims.

Rice water consists of the starchy liquid left over after soaking or boiling rice. A person can make rice water at home or purchase skin care products that contain rice water.

This article looks at the potential benefits of rice water for the skin, how to make rice water, and how to use it.

Is rice water good for the skin?

Rice water may have some benefits for the skin. However, few high quality studies on the effects of rice water currently exist. In order to prove that rice water has substantial benefits, scientists will need to carry out larger scale studies.

Here is what existing research says about the potential benefits of rice water:

Antioxidants

Rice contains antioxidants, such as inositol. Antioxidants help fight the effects of free radicals, which are volatile molecules that can damage cells in the body. Companies often add antioxidants to skin care products.

A small 2018 study with 12 participants tested a rice water gel on the skin for 28 days. The researchers found that the rice had the same antioxidant activity as ascorbic acid, or vitamin C.

Reducing skin aging

There is limited evidence that rice water may reduce or slow skin aging.

The 2018 study also found that rice water reduced the activity of elastase, an enzyme involved in skin aging. This suggests rice water may have the potential to reduce the formation of wrinkles and lines on the skin.

According to a 2001 study, inositol may smooth existing wrinkles. The researchers tested a 1–2% inositol moisturizer on females of varying ages for 7 weeks.

At the end of the study, the researchers estimated that the inositol reduced the size of wrinkles by 12.4% and increased elasticity by 17%.

However, it is important to note that both of these studies were small and that the latter did not specifically test rice water.

Reducing skin irritation

In 2002, researchers tested the effects of bathing in water that contains rice starch on two groups: people with atopic eczema and people whose skin had become irritated by sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS).

They found that the skin’s healing capacity improved by 20% for the people with SLS irritation. This occurred after people bathed in the rice starch mixture for 15 minutes twice per day.

The skin barrier also improved with this treatment in people with atopic eczema.

Treating dandruff

Preliminary research suggests that fermented rice water may inhibit the growth of certain fungi.

A 2013 laboratory study found that day-old rice water contains the bacterium Bacillus cereus, which produces the antibiotics zwittermicin A and kanosamine. These antibiotic substances can inhibit the growth of Malassezia furfur, which can cause dandruff.

However, as this was a laboratory study, this does not necessarily prove fermented rice water is an effective dandruff treatment in humans.

Scientists will need to carry out further investigations to determine whether rice water can treat dandruff under normal conditions.

How to make rice water

There are a couple of methods for making rice water:

  • Soaking: Soak 1/2 a cup of uncooked rice in 2–3 cups of water for 30 minutes.
  • Boiling: Cook rice by boiling it in double the amount of water normally used for cooking.

When finished, strain the water into a clean bowl or bottle for immediate use. Store the rest in a clean container in the refrigerator.

To make fermented rice water, use the soaking method and then leave the rice water at room temperature for 1–2 days before storing it in the refrigerator.

How to use rice water for skin care

There are several ways to use rice water for skin care. A person can:

  • wash the face using rice water
  • apply rice water as a toner after cleansing
  • spritz rice water on the face after pouring it into a spray bottle
  • add rice water to baths
  • add rice water to a foot soak

Some people also use rice water as a hair conditioner or treatment.

Are there any risks?

There is no evidence that fresh rice water is harmful to the skin. However, as with any beauty product, it is prudent to test the product on a small patch of skin first.

Rice water remains safe to use for around a week. It is advisable to discard any rice water that is older than this.

People with rice allergies should not use rice water.

It is worth noting that rice water is not a substitute for medical care. It may help manage a skin condition, but for proven and effective treatments for conditions such as eczema, a person should consult a doctor.

When to contact a doctor

A person should consult a doctor if:

  • they have patches of dry, flaky, or itchy skin
  • they experience adverse effects after using rice water, such as hives or a rash
  • their skin shows signs of infection, such as a painful open wound, red streaks in the skin, a fever, or a wound that will not heal

If a person experiences swelling in the face and throat or difficulty breathing after using rice water, they should seek immediate medical attention.

Summary

Rice water is inexpensive to make at home and, in most cases, unlikely to cause harm. For these reasons, some people may want to try it as part of their skin care routine.

However, while using rice water is popular, there is little conclusive evidence to prove it has substantial benefits for the skin. Some may find that it helps their skin heal from irritation or that it reduces oiliness.


Medically reviewed by Reema Patel, MPA, PA-C — Written by Zawn Villines on November