Washing your face with rice-infused water might sound a little odd, but K-beauty guru Alicia Yoon states that rice is a big beauty ingredient in Korean beauty culture, especially since it brings both brightening and anti-inflammatory benefits to your complexion. Intrigued by rice water’s skin benefits, I ventured to wash my face with it for an entire week.
“Rice is a traditional beauty ingredient that's been passed down through the generations, very much a part of Korea's beauty legacy,” says Yoon, licensed esthetician, and founder of Peach & Lily. According to her, rice water works to improve your skin’s moisture while soothing inflammation.
Aside from boasting some purported brightening benefits, experts like dermatologist Dr. Joel Schlessinger, M.D., a dermatological surgeon based in Omaha, Nebraska, find that rice can also smooth out rough texture and help improve skin firmness. “Rice water as a skin care ingredient has not been widely researched, but it is said to help smooth a rough texture, minimize pores, and encourage a brighter complexion,” Schlessinger tells Bustle.
To see if this beauty hack was the real deal, I whipped up my own batch of rice water to see what kind of effect it had on my skin. Here’s how my skin took to the DIY rice water face wash after rinsing with it for seven days straight.
How To Use Rice Water For Skin
My routine usually consists of double-step cleansing twice a day, so while the idea of ditching my foaming cleansers seemed extremely challenging, I was very eager to simplify my routine. Instead of piling on the serums and facial oils, I wanted to focus more on my rice water wash, especially since I was going to use it religiously for the next seven days. Now making the wash was fairly easy. Yoon recommended steeping organic white or brown rice in purified water for about 30 minutes, without cooking or boiling it.
“Just take a bowl of rice and put enough water in it to have the rice be fully submerged by an inch or so," says Yoon. "Let your rice step for about 15 to 30 minutes, without boiling or cooking it." Simple.
When it came time to wash my face, I melted off some purities first with a good coconut oil wash. Afterwards, I applied my rice water onto my face with a cotton ball. That way I could apply the water on evenly, without wasting it for the days ahead. While the rice water was practically odorless, it left my skin soft and smooth without drying it out. This could have been the result of double cleansing with coconut oil first, but at least my skin wasn’t overly oily, or too dry. I hoped this would continue for the next few days.
My Rice Water For Skin Regimen
Following the same routine from yesterday, I continued to use a cotton ball to evenly apply rice water on my face. So far, I really liked the results. Not only was the rice water super mild on my acne-prone skin, but my face continued to feel pretty soft and matte, despite the cold frigid air outside.
I began to suspect scaling back on my products may have contributed to this newfound softness. Yes, brightening serums definitely give my face a natural glow, but layering too many products on my skin has caused too much oiliness and unwanted breakouts in the past.
Even on the third day, my face still felt soft and oil-free. I really liked how the rice water gave my face a natural shine, without looking too oily. My rice water was still practically odorless, and despite having a milky white color, it effectively removed any dirt and impurities on my face.
Again, I suspected scaling back on my products had something to do with this, as my sleeping masks and packs tend to clog up my pores big time. While I still had zits and whiteheads forming beneath my chin, no new pimples came into play, which was definitely a big plus.
Continuously washing with rice oil still reaped positive effects on day four. The slick oil patches on my forehead and nose areas became nice and matte, plus a pre-existing zit above my eyebrow seemed to be fading away pretty nicely.
Here’s a closer look at my skin. While there is still a massive amount of acne scarring, my acne-prone skin didn’t become a temperamental mess after trying something completely new.
My rice water wash also had a positive effect on my makeup performance too, as the mattifying effect from the rice allowed my makeup products (foundations, concealers, etc) to go on evenly without any grease. Even when it came time to take everything off, my face wasn't flaking or greasy when I washed once again.
When I usually wear a full face of makeup, I start to see blackheads and pimples form the very next day. Thankfully, this wasn't a problem this time around, as my face was pretty matte, despite wearing infinite layers of foundation the day before.
However, I noticed that my rice water started to smell a little bit sour come day six. But despite the nauseating smell, Yoon says the slightly sour odor is caused by the natural fermentation of rice water, which supposedly can treat your complexion to necessary antioxidants and anti-aging benefits.
"When you leave your rice water at room temperature for a couple days or so, the scent will become more sour," says Yoon. "When fermented, there's a more concentrated amount of antioxidants and is used by many beauty brands for its anti-aging properties."
While my acne scarring didn’t really improve, I will say that my skin overall really appreciated going product free for the past week. Not only was the rice water really mild and gentle on my skin, but the softer and matte feeling of my face has been really promising.
Would I probably need a little more time to see if this would have even a greater brightening effect on my face? Most likely, yes. However, it was more than awesome to use an effective and inexpensive beauty hack I could use again and again.
Should You Cleanse With Rice Water?
While I didn't notice any major changes to my skin's appearance, I will admit that my complexion felt a lot smoother and oil-free than before when using rice water on my face. Of course, that doesn't mean that double-step cleansing with coconut oil may have helped my skin, but I felt that the organic rice water definitely worked wonders on any existing oil and grease. But despite my positive experiences with my wash, it's important to remember that it's best to change your water every couple of days. Sometimes rice can contain traces of dirt and pesticides, making it important to approach any DIY recipe with caution.
"It’s important to remember that when you cleanse with homemade rice water, or any other ingredient from your pantry, you could be exposing your complexion to any dirt, pesticides or bacteria that were on the rice itself," says Schlessinger. "This could cause infections and reactions, especially in those that struggle with acne, eczema, and other common conditions."
However, I'm still in belief that rice can be beneficial to any beauty routine. Yoon tells me that rice water washes can also be used on hair, which apparently treats it to strengthening benefits, when used as a rinse. "You can also use it for your hair and it's supposed to be quite nourishing," says Yoon. "I've tried it on my hair and it leaves it quite soft, and I do feel it becomes stronger."
So, will I be using rice water on my skin again in the near future? You bet. A mattifying wash in the summer? Perfection. I can't wait to try this out again in warmer months — weird smell and all.
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Kim, Y-M. (2017). Rice bran mineral extract increases the expression of anagen-related molecules in human dermal papilla through wnt/catenin pathway. Food & Nutrition Research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5727428/
Talcott, S. (2002). Ellagic Acid and Flavonoid Antioxidant Content of Muscadine Wine and Juice. J. Agric. Food Chem. https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf011500u
Dr. Joel Schlessinger, M.D., a dermatological surgeon based in Omaha, Nebraska.
Alicia Yoon, licensed esthetician and founder of Peach & Lily.
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