Recently, rice water has become a popular skin and hair treatment, however, many people seem to be skipping a crucial step; fermentation!
Fermentation is crucial due to the change in pH it creates, and when making a DIY hair or skin treatment, pH is one of the most important characteristics to consider.
Skin and Hair pH
The pH of your skin changes depending on its location; exposed areas such as your face and hands can be anywhere between 5 – 6 pH, with 5 being considered an optimal pH for many cosmetics, whereas sweaty areas like your feet, armpits, and crotch tend to be more acidic with a pH below 5. This lower pH helps to keep microbes in your body from flourishing.
Usually, the pH of your hair and scalp is even lower than your skin. On average, the scalp’s pH is about 5.5 whereas the hair shaft is around 3.7.
Why Ferment Rice Water?
Rice has a pH above 6 which means rice water tends to also have a pH above 6. This is too alkaline for your skin and hair but by fermenting the rice water, you drop the pH below 5, which is an optimal level.
Brown rice contains a high amount of inositol, but unfortunately, most of it is not bio-available because it is in the phytate form. However, Bacillus subtilis (which is the bacteria responsible for making natto and the smell after it rains) is also naturally present in rice water, and during the fermentation process, it converts the phytate inositol into the lipid form which our body can readily utilize to grow keratinocytes, ﬁbroblasts and epitheliocytes.
Fermenting the rice water for only 24 hours can more than double the number of compounds in it, many of which have antioxidative, antimicrobial, and anticancer properties.
Fermented rice water also contains ethyl alpha-D-glucoside which can increase the amount of collagen in the skin, protect it from UV damage and protect the skin barrier to decrease water loss and thickening.
How To Ferment Rice Water
The method is easy because the rice contains everything you need to kick start the fermentation process.
Rice water ferments using a number of different bacterial strains that are naturally present in the rice, including Bacillus subtilis and Lactobacillus paracasei, the latter which, when both consumed and applied topically once a day, may reduce the frequency of using topical steroids to treat atopic dermatitis or eczema.
- 1/3 of a cup of rice (preferably brown rice)
- 1 cup of water (preferably distilled water)
- Wash the rice first, as if you are going to cook the rice. The amount of rice will depend on how you plan on using it, but a good start is 1/3 of a cup of rice.
- Add three times as much water to the rice (1 cup), cover tightly with a lid and allow it to sit at room temperature for 24 hours, giving the jar a shake a few times during this period.
- Strain away the rice and pour the water into a suitably sized jar so that it is almost full to the top – the less airspace in the jar the better.
- Put the lid on tight and place the jar out of sunlight but at room temperature to allow it to ferment for 2 days.
- Every day you will need to give it a shake and “pop” the lid to allow the buildup of gases to be released, and once the 2-day period has finished, you simply slow down the fermentation process by putting it in the fridge.
Usage and Shelf-life
Shake the jar and it’s ready to use. It’s possible to drink a tablespoon of the fermented rice water as a daily probiotic and still gain some benefits to your hair and skin (and gastrointestinal tract), but there are a number of other ways to use it, which are described below. But as a water-based product with no strong preservatives, I recommend only making a small batch, otherwise, you could end up with mold and the wrong kind of bacteria growing.
As a hair-care product, fermented rice water is a protein treatment. Some salons recommend a protein treatment only once a month, but some people use it once a week with positive results. From what I have read, it depends on your hair type and how damaged it is, but in any case, start with a once-a-month treatment.
You can either comb it through damp hair or add a teaspoon of fermented rice water to a dose of your shampoo or conditioner.
There are plenty of ways to use fermented rice water for your skin;
- Add 2 cups to your bath for an all-over skin treatment
- Soak a washcloth in it, squeeze out the excess and place the cloth over your face for 10 – 15 minutes.
- Wash your face with it.
- Use a cotton swab to treat small areas of eczema.
- Use it as a toner and then moisturize afterwards.
Any product that contains fermented rice water should be stored in the fridge.
In the fridge, it should store for at least a week, and if you have sterilized your equipment beforehand and used distilled water, then it may last for 2 – 3 weeks in the fridge.
Signs Your Fermented Rice Water Has Gone Bad
Fermented rice water will of course smell… fermented and be cloudy in color. It may even separate slightly but a quick shake will take care of that. But if you see any discoloration, mold or the smell gets super intense, then it is past it’s used by date.
Throw the remains on the compost, sterilize your jar and make a new batch. Simple.
The Bottom Line
Fermenting rice water is a simple DIY hair and skin treatment which is cheap and effective. Just remember to only make 1 – 2 weeks’ worth at a time, and try consuming a tablespoon once a day as well for the full spectrum of benefits.
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