While hair beauty hacks have always been met with a wide interest across the Internet and social media alike, quarantine found many people experimenting with more home-based remedies when they couldn’t reach the salons—with one of the hottest trends being fermented rice water. Unexpectedly, the number of times the beauty secret was Googled spiked nearly 400% since last year, and sparked a wildfire of hair growth stories—including some as long as 6 inches in a single month.
The fermented rice water rinse originated deep in the Guangxi region of China, where sits the village Huang Luo—an area notorious for their women’s long and luscious locks. An urban legend tells the story of a Yao girl who quite literally whipped a man with her hair who had gotten a bit too close for her liking. Since then, it has become tradition for Yao women to cut their hair only once in their lifetimes when they are 18, and then after the fact it is left to grow past their ankles. Additionally, unmarried women keep their hair tucked in a headscarf and married women wrap their hair into a large front bun.
To make fermented rice water, the Yao women start by rinsing white rice to remove any dirt or impurities. They then massage the rice into new clean water to extract the amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. Heating the water until it boils, they add in pomelo peels, tea bran, fleece flower root, and ginger. They pour it into a jar after letting the rice cool and leave it in a cool dark place for up to two weeks to ferment. Following the fermentation process, they lower their heads into water basins full of the rice water and using a wooden comb ensure the rinse gets from their scalp to the tips of their hair.
When Vogue visited the village back in 2019, they were surprised to find that while growing their hair is traditional for Yao women, they are fairly relaxed about women who choose to get hair cuts regularly.
While the benefits of fermented rice water remain unproven and are strictly anecdotal, the authors of a 2010 paper suggest that rice water may reduce surface friction and increase hair elasticity. Now that we’re in the midst of the summer heat, perhaps rice water has the potential of increasing hair growth and protecting it for the perfect summer shine.