Rice Water for Your Hair: A Trending Tradition from China’s Yao Community

A wooden spoon with white rice over the cooking pot.

Who knew that the water used for rinsing or cooking rice could be used to wash the hair? (Image: Giuseppe Esposito via Dreamstime)

People, especially women, leave no stone unturned to get lustrous long hair. Sometimes, it is about genetics, but the application of specific hair care solutions also helps in getting healthy, long hair. For China’s Yao women, it’s rice water. The nice thing is that you are not limited to using store-bought hair care solutions like serums, oils, or shampoos. It is also possible to develop shining, long hair by using such extracts and products.

While usage of honey, egg, coconut, and jojoba oil for hair growth and shine is nothing new, not many are aware of the benefits of using rice water. The women in a Chinese village have been using rice water for ages and they are blessed with lustrous, long hair that can trigger both admiration and jealousy in other women. 

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The remote ‘Long Hair Village’ of China

The Huangluo village in China is locally referred to as the ‘Long Hair Village’. The native Yao women are known for their gorgeous, shiny long hair. The women hailing from this village, located in southern China’s Guangxi autonomous region, have hair exceeding 4.5 feet in length. No wonder the village has been listed in the coveted Guinness Book of Records. The Yao people are proud of the long hair of their women and they deem it as a symbol of good fortune, prosperity, and longevity.

A group of Yao women brushing and styling their long hair while standing outside by a river in Longji, China.
The Yao people are proud of the long hair of their women and they deem it as a symbol of good fortune, prosperity, and longevity. (Image: Dmitry Chulov via Dreamstime)

Traditions practiced by the ‘Long Hair Women’

The Yao women cut their hair only once in their life when they reach 18 years old. However, the hair is not discarded. Instead, it is given to a grandmother who later returns it to the girl after she gets married. It is then made into a headpiece. This tradition has been followed by these women for many centuries. 

For a long time, these women were prevented from showing their hair to outsiders, but things have changed nowadays. Now, it is possible to have a glimpse at the lustrous long hair of the Yao women, but the tourists have to pay for getting the view. The women with hair rivaling the folklore of Rapunzel sing for the tourists, showing their amazing tresses.

Interestingly, the Yao women set different hairstyles for exhibiting their social status. If a woman has hair wrapped around on top, it denotes she is married but does not have kids. Women with kids wear a bun in front of their head. Yao women with a scarf around the head denote they are searching for a prospective husband. The Yao women vouch for the benefits of using rice water for their hair, changes in the social customs notwithstanding. They say most women in that village do not get grey streaks before turning 80! 

The Yao women vouch for the benefits of using rice water for their hair.
The Yao women vouch for the benefits of using rice water for their hair. (Image: Dmitry Kalinovsky via Dreamstime)

Why rice water helps hair growth

The secret to the long hair flaunted by the Yao women is fermented rice water. The murky, white liquid drained after cooking rice in most households contains beneficial nutrients. Its usage encourages hair growth. Rice water contains as many as 8 amino acids. It also contains nutrients like Vitamins C, E, and B. The amino acids found in rice water not only promote growth, but also add to the strength of the locks.

Vitamin E thwarts damage to the tresses. It also makes hair shiny. Fermented rice water also helps in reducing the recurrence of dandruff. The Yao women have jet black hair, owing to the benefits obtained from using rice water. Reportedly, the rice water also proves to be good for the scalp. 

Scalp and hair care experts in Western nations have taken note of the amazing discovery in this ancient Chinese village as well. Dr. Margaret Trey, a natural health consultant based in New York is one of them. She agrees that using rice water brings several benefits to hair. After using it herself, she said it was better than using commercial-brand shampoos that end up stripping the hair of its natural oils.

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