As a person who consumes rice multiple times a week, I’ve always felt it was wasteful to dump the remaining water after rinsing (for context: I soak my rice in water before cooking). The TikTok gods must have heard me because after cooking a fresh batch of white rice, Skya’s (@skyasghiblicafe) viral TikTok video popped on my “For You” page. In it, Skya pours the remaining rice water into a bowl and pats it on her face and neck, a hack she learned from her Korean grandma. While Skya didn’t specify the benefits, other TikTokers have spoken highly of rice water, mentioning that it smooths skin, minimizes pores, and reduces the appearance of red marks.
@skyasghiblicafe This is pretty common in Asian households 🍚🌾🇰🇷 #korean #kbeauty #kbeautyskincare #ricewater #fyp ♬ original sound – Skya 은혜
My skin, which tends to lean on the drier side, has always felt patchy, flaky, and rough, especially during the winter months when bone-chilling temperatures and cranked-up heaters wreak havoc on my delicate barrier. Over the years, I’ve used a mixture of exfoliants, serums, and cleansers, but had zero luck at achieving smoother, suppler skin (most of the time, I’m actually left worse off than when I started). I’ve also tried humidifiers, but when your skin is as dry as dehydrated mangoes, there’s only so much a humidifier can do.
As someone who struggles with sensitivity and eczema, my ears are always open to skin-care recommendations and new routines, so when I saw Skya and other TikTokers singing the praises of leftover rice water for exactly the skin concerns I’m dealing with, I decided to test it out for a week.
The benefits of rice water for skin
Before reaching viral status, rice water has been considered a beauty staple in Japanese, Korean, and Chinese culture for centuries. Long before it reached its current viral status (which, it’s worth noting, started to happen in 2018 when Kim Kardashian and Meghan Markle both sang the praises of Tatcha’s rice water cleanser), it was used an integral part of women’s hair and skin-care routines—and it’s easy to see why.
According to Mona Gohara, MD, a Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist, the ingredient is packed with antioxidants and amino acids, and offers a “smoothing” effect to the skin. Plus, it’s full of ultra-hydrating vitamins B and E, which is why Dr. Gohara likes it “to add a bit of moisture” to the skin.
Complexion benefits aside, rice water can also be used to add shine to dull, lifeless hair. According to Neda Mehr, MD, a California-based functional dermatologist specializing in hair, “Between B vitamins, E vitamins, amino acids, and minerals, rice water could be great” for naturally hydrating and strengthening strands.
What happened when I washed my face with rice water for a week
Thankfully—for the sake of this experiment—rice water is exceptionally easy to DIY. To make it, all you have to do is soak the grains in water for roughly 30 minutes, at the end of which you’ll be left with milky, cream-colored water. As far as application goes, you can either use your hands to pat it into the skin or apply it to a cotton pad and massage it in circular motions.
For my own trial, I rinsed my rice and poured the liquidy remnants into a mason jar. I opted to add it into my routine as a pre-cleansing treatment every time I washed my face, and used my hands to pat it into my face and neck (just like in the TikTok video). Then, I followed up with Murad’s Soothing Oat and Peptide Cleanser ($43) and the rest of my serums and moisturizers.
My eczematic skin typically doesn’t take well to new ingredients, but it absorbed the rice water well—over the course of the experiment, there were no new breakouts or irritation to speak of. In fact, my parched skin soaked it right up and felt instantly more hydrated. After my first rice water wash, my skin only felt cleaner, but seven days later, I noticed a softer, plumper, and more supple complexion. On first use of rice water, my skin only felt cleaner, but after seven days, I noticed a softer, plumper, and more supple complexion. more supple and plump skin.
Because of these results, I intend to continue incorporating rice water into my weekly regimen as needed—aka whenever my skin looks dull or needs a hydration boost (or when I make rice and don’t want to waste the water!).
Shop rice water products
If you don’t fancy the DIY method or like the idea of applying your “dinner” to your face, there are a myriad of rice water-based products on the market. From cleansers to foaming enzyme powders, peep these rice water products worth adding to your skin-care regimen.
Tatcha, The Rice Polish Deep — $68.00
This powder exfoliant is rich in silk protein and Japanese rice bran to even out rough textures and prep raw skin before makeup. Once activated with water, it transforms into a creamy foam that will leave your complexion dewy and quenched.
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