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Rice Water for Skin? Here’s Why This Pantry Staple Is a Skincare Must

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If you’ve ended up on the beauty side of TikTok, you may have noticed a recurring trend: rice water. More specifically, people who use rice water in hair rinses to enhance shine or as DIY cleansers and toners, usually touting its brightening and soothing effects. Unlike most social media claims, rice water for skin is one that surprisingly lives up to its hype—according to dermatologists like Dr. Mamina Turegano and esthetician Bryan Cortes, who both note its plethora of skin-friendly vitamins and studies on improving skin barrier function.

But despite its current certified “trendy” status, rice water for skin is no new kid on the beauty block. In fact, the benefits of rice water in skin care have been well documented among Asian cultures for centuries—from Ayurvedic eczema treatments to the healthy hair secrets of Japan’s Heian period. For many, the use of rice water is steeped in tradition, beauty intel passed down from generation to generation. These traditions live on in 2023 with cutting-edge formulas containing variants of rice water in every corner of the Korean and Japanese skincare scenes.

Want to get in on the rice water benefits? Keep scrolling to learn what makes this soothing ingredient a must-try and how to incorporate rice water into your own routine.

About the Expert:

Mamina Turegano, MD, is a triple-board-certified dermatologist, internist, and dermatopathologist based in New Orleans—with a special interest in evaluating how nutrition, lifestyle, sleep, and other environmental factors can play a significant role in inflammation, aging, and cancer.
Bryan Cortes is an NYC-based licensed esthetician and skincare content creator.

What Is Rice Water Exactly?

Rice soaked in a bowl of water and wooden spoon full of rice on wooden background
Oykuozgu / Getty Images

Ever sloshed your rice around while rinsing and watched that water transform into a milky liquid? If so, you’re already familiar with rice water. In its simplest terms, rice water is the water that’s leftover from soaking or boiling rice. This starchy byproduct is liquid gold when it comes to vitamin and mineral content. Dr. Turegano mentions amino acids, lipids, antioxidants, and vitamins A, B, and E as major players among its lengthy list of nutrients. When aged slightly and allowed to sour, rice water ferments to become the primary ingredient in sake extract—another star skincare ingredient.

Benefits of Rice Water for Skin:

1. It Can Improve Barrier Function

When our skin’s natural barrier gets thrown out of whack, your skin can fall prey to irritation, and building it back can be an annoying, arduous process. Continued use of rice water has been reported to help curb environmental aggressors and maintain balance, especially in those who suffer from conditions like eczema. “Studies have shown the benefits of rice water with improving damaged skin and skin barrier function in people with atopic dermatitis (the technical term for eczema),” says Dr. Turegano.

2. It’s a Skin-Brightening Ingredient

Too much time in the sun? Stubborn acne scars? Dr. Turegano tells us that fermented rice water might be worth looking into. “Sake extract (fermented rice water) has been shown to be helpful with hyperpigmentation. Rice wine has also been shown to have antioxidant properties and can build collagen and prevent wrinkles.” Basically, when topically applied, it can help brighten and tighten.

3. It Might Even Boost SPF

Yep, you’re reading that right. Because of its high antioxidant content (and antioxidants = SPF helpers), rice water and fermented rice water could add an extra barrier between your precious skin and harmful UV rays. “It has been shown to have sunscreen-like protective effects when combined with other plant extracts,” explains Dr. Turegano.

How to Use Rice Water for Your Skin:

Jar of rice water with wooden spoon on black ground with rice scattered and wooden brush
Kazmulka / Getty Images

“If you’re struggling with hyperpigmentation or skin irritation and can’t seem to find a solution, it might be worth trying this DIY treatment. Start by saving soaking water in rice or saving the leftover water from cooking rice,” says Cortes. It’s best when fresh, but you can pop it in the fridge for up to a week. 

  • Use It as a Toner

To use it as a mattifying toner, pour the cooled rice water into a spray bottle and mist onto your face. “Soak cotton squares in the rice water. Follow this by applying it in sections to the skin as a DIY sheet mask. To boost the anti-inflammatory benefits, cool the water in the fridge before soaking the cotton rounds,” suggests Cortes.

  • Use It as a Serum 

“Rice water has humectant properties, which could give it hydrating and plumping benefits,” notes Cortes. Try adding it into your p.m. routine by patting onto a clean face in place of your go-to serum (follow with your normal moisturizer) for a soothing overnight treatment. 

  • Use It to Calm Inflammation

Have an eczema flare-up or perhaps stayed in the sun too long? Refresh and soothe your skin with rice water. It makes the perfect treatment for inflamed, red, or hot-to-the-touch areas. “Rice water and ferments could be beneficial for skin because they are rich in amino acids. These are the building blocks of proteins like collagen and elastin. Amino acids also serve an important function in the processes that help support our skin barrier function,” says Cortes. Leave your rice water in the fridge for extra calming benefits or freeze some of your rice water in an ice cube mold.

How to Make Rice Water for Your Skin:

Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients

In order to make rice water, you will, of course, need rice. You’ll also need a bowl and a strainer to create the rice water.

Step 2: Rinse the Rice

Take a half cup of rice and rinse it thoroughly before draining it. Once the rice has been drained, place it in two to three cups of water in a clean bowl.

Step 3: Soak the Rice

The rice will need to soak in the water for between 30 minutes to an hour. If you’re eager to use the rice water as soon as possible, you can leave it in for a shorter amount of time. But if you really want to reap the benefits of this skincare hack, you’ll want to make fermented rice water.

Step 4: Ferment the Rice Water

Studies have shown that fermented rice water contains a high amount of antioxidants that can plump skin with added benefits. To ferment your rice water, you’ll follow the same steps above, but instead of letting the rice soak for an hour, leave the rice to soak at room temperature for up to two days. This is what creates the starchy consistency.

Step 5: Strain the Rice

After you’ve allowed your rice to soak in water for your chosen length of time, it’s now time to strain it. Be sure to use a clean, dry bowl as your vessel for your strained rice water. You can even place it into a Mason jar or any reusable container you have lying around to make storage easier.

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About the author
Olivia Cefalu
Olivia Cefalu
Olivia is a freelance beauty writer. With experience in influencer marketing at Tata Harper Skincare and editorial at Very Good Light, she loves covering Gen Z beauty, wellness, and nail trends. Read her work on Very Good Light and Well + Good.
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Article Last Updated April 26, 2023 12:00 AM