Once considered the secret to flawless complexions by Japanese royalty, modern day royals like Meghan Markle also now swear by products infused with this superstar ingredient (the Duchess of Sussex loves Tatcha, a brand with many products revolving around the beautifying benefits of rice). Rice water has been lauded as a wonder ingredient for brightening, softening, and hydrating, frequently infused in luxe products with hefty price tags. But you don’t need to splurge to indulge in this royal beauty secret. Here, we reveal the scientific benefits of rice water for the face and the ultimate DIY hacks to boost its effectiveness.

The science

According to a Brussel University study, rice water soothes inflammation and accelerates healing. Participants with eczema- and dermatitis-prone skin reported a 20% improvement when they bathed in rice water for 15 minutes a day. The calming benefits of rice water for the face is partially ascribed to the significant levels of allantoin in rice, which soothes and moisturises. While sunscreen is the ultimate safeguard against sun damage, rice water has shown promising results in remedying textural skin damage wrought by UVA/UVB rays.  NYC Dermatologist Dr. Aanand Geria notes that rice water possesses anti-ageing properties, as it is abundant in nourishing minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and vitamins B, C and E. Despite the grand claims attributed to this age-old ingredient, Dr Joel Schlessinger (Nebraska based dermatologist) says the jury is still out on the benefits of rice water, as there isn’t extensively researched evidence to back its efficacy. But Dr Schlessinger says current data indicates that rice water has the capacity to “smooth a rough texture, minimise pores, and encourage a brighter complexion”.

How to use rice water

Licensed aesthetician Alicia Yoon and founder of Korean beauty website Peach & Lily says rice water has been a staple in Korean and Japanese beauty routines for centuries, lauded for its hydrating and illuminating effects. The benefits of rice water for the face also extend towards reducing pigmentation.

Her favourite rice water recipe is straightforward, taking less than 30 minutes to concoct.

  • Rinse the rice to dislodge impurities.
  • Pour water (it does not have to boiled) into a bowl of rice (the water should be filled slightly above the rice).
  • Allow the rice to soak for 30 minutes, with a lid covering the container. Mix the formula thoroughly to ensure the rice is well distributed and saturated.
  • Pro tip: When the rice is softer, at about the 20-minute mark, knead the rice to intensify the release of nutrients.
  • After 30 minutes, strain the rice particles away from the rice water.
  • You can use rice water as a gentle second cleanse (simply massage it over your face and rinse), apply it as a toner with a cotton pad, or mix a few drops into your favourite moisturiser.

What’s the difference between fermented rice water and regular rice water?

The benefits of rice water for the face are supercharged when it is fermented,  with the process boosting antioxidants and vitamins that enhance collagen production and skin plumpness. Fermented rice water produces ‘pitera’ – the superstar ingredient in SK-II’s legendary beauty essence, known for boosting skin cell regeneration, preventing trans-epidermal water loss, and strengthening the skin barrier. The fermentation process also produces ferulic acid – a concentrated antioxidant abundant in vitamin C & E that neutralises free radicals, reducing oxidative stress on the skin.

You can reap the skin-loving benefits of fermented rice water by including one extra step, from the recipe above.

Instead of letting the rice seep within the 30-minute time frame, allow the rice water to settle in room temperature for one to two days (this is the fermentation process that extracts increased nutrients). The warmer the temperature, the faster the rice can ferment. Afterwards, simply remove the rice particles and store the liquid in a sealed container. Don’t forget to refrigerate to preserve the goodness!

Bonus: You can use leftover rice water to rinse your hair – the low pH and nutrients can impart a gorgeous sheen on your locks.

A make up artist approved hack

Juhee Han, a Korean bridal makeup artist, says she swears by rice water and cucumber ice cubes. She mixes the two ingredients in a blender, creates ice cubes out of the liquid, and uses this concoction to depuff and tighten the skin. “It’s a must to revive tired skin,” Juhee raves.

For people with sensitive skin

Yale-trained dermatologist Dr Mona Gohara says while there are “ultra-smoothing and hydrating” benefits of rice water, she warns people with acne and eczema to be cautious. Those with sensitive skins should dilute regular rice water with one to two tablespoons of distilled water and three to four tablespoons for fermented rice water, as it is significantly more concentrated.

Story by Kristina Zhou

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