With the rapid rise of K-Beauty, extensive regimens and obscurely natural ingredient lists have become part of our daily routines. Now that snail slime, green tea extract, and aloe vera are household ingredients, more obscure components, like rice water, are slowly making their way into the zeitgeist.
Obviously, we’re all aware of what rice is, but rice water? It’s actually as simple as it sounds. According to Victoria Fu and Gloria Wu of Chemist Confessions, it’s the decanted water that comes from washing rice, or letting it sit. It’s been used in Asian beauty regimens for centuries, but has grown in popularity thanks to the all-natural skincare craze taking the world by storm.
“People are turning to naturals because of the overarching reason that they want better quality products,” Fu and Wu explain. “It’s overall a great movement, but it’s difficult to get significant benefits from this category. If you want pigmentation and wrinkle fighting power, the synthetic skin actives are going to give you that efficacy. This movement can also be slightly misguided because although you want cleaner, safer, less sensitizing ingredients, plant byproducts can actually have allergens that might irritate skin.”
According to the duo, the idea behind using this cloudy water is that it supposedly contains vitamins and amino acids for nourishing the skin. Could it be that we’ve been tossing away a goldmine of skincare nutrients every time we cook dinner? Well,, it’s more complicated than that.
While a 2013 study showed that fermented rice water can help improve skin from sun damage, Fu and Wu note that DIY rice water formulas are not scientifically proven to have any benefits. “There’s word out there that traces of pitera can be found in rice water but this would be extremely dependent on the process and has not been confirmed,” they said. They also noted that rice bran wax, another rice byproduct, has been proven to be helpful as a moisturizing topical ointment base.
Fu and Lu say that anyone can try to incorporate rice water into their skincare routines, but sensitive skin types should tread lightly—especially if you’re DIY-ing your own fermented concoctions.”You can grow bacteria and mold if not prepared well and those are the real irritants,” they explain.
If you’re not ready to create your own rice water formula, allow these rice-infused products to do all the work for you:
Tatcha The Water Cream
This replenishing moisturizer may feel light on your skin, but it’s packed with a fusion of botanical ingredients like green tea and algae to keep things hydrated.
Nyakio Chinese Rice Exfoliating Cleansing Powder
It’s the triple threat of facial scrubs: rice powder gently exfoliates, anti-inflammatory shea butter keeps your skin soft, and antioxidant-rich green tea nourishes pores.
Origins Modern Friction Cleansing Oil
If your skin feels tight and dry every time you wash your face, make the switch to a hydrating cleansing oil. This one is packed with rice extract and nutrient-rich citrus peel extracts, like lemon and grapefruit.
100% Pure Fermented Rice Water Toner
An alcohol-free alternative to your drying toner. This product contains only naturally-derived ingredients to help you stay green with your beauty routine.
Boscia Tsubaki Jelly Ball Cleanser
This cleanser is a fan-favorite for two reasons: 1) It’s so much fun to use, and 2) it cleanses your skin with the power of rice bran oil, anti-aging jojoba, and a fusion of citrus oils.
Dr. Jart+ Dermaclear Micro Water
An all-in-one product that cuts your skincare regimen in half. This pick tones, brightens, and removes makeup in seconds for when you’re too busy (or too lazy) to follow a rigorous 10-step routine.