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What’s the deal with Rice Water in Skincare?

This TikTok trend might be onto something…

January 5, 2024

Rice water is all over skincare TikTok. But here at Upkeep we usually take our TikTok trends with a little grain of salt–just because a product, home remedy, or routine is super popular on the app, that doesn’t mean it’s good! (See also: “banana Botox”.) But it turns out that using rice water as a toner isn’t as weird as it seems. Here’s what rice water can do, what products contain it, and who can use it.

What are the benefits of rice water for skin? 

Rice water is simply the liquid byproduct of soaking rice in water for an extended period. The water extracts some of the rice’s starch, vitamins, and antioxidant components. This TikTok trend actually has its origins in Asia, where people have used rice water for centuries as a skincare remedy. 

Rice water’s primary benefit is soothing irritated skin. While research on its efficacy is limited, we do have some evidence that rice water helps with inflammation and isn’t likely to make irritation worse unless you have a rice allergy. Rice water is also hydrating, great for dry or dehydrated skin.

Rice water may also prevent the formation of free radicals from UV rays, which means it could prevent photoaging from sun exposure. In another study it was shown to prevent the formation of a wrinkle-causing enzyme that breaks down elastin as we age. But again, studies on the efficacy of rice water for anti-aging is still limited. If you notice a difference from using it, that’s great–but just know that it isn’t a scientifically proven remedy for treating the signs of aging like Vitamin A or SPF. 

Who can use rice water? 

Rice water is generally safe for everyone, unless you have a rice allergy. We also recommend using a skincare product with rice water in it, rather than making your own. For one thing, you’d have to cook and eat the rice you’re soaking, otherwise it gets wasteful. That can be impractical, especially if you’re low-carb, keto, or just…not that into eating rice. For another, the homemade stuff can spoil if not stored properly, and you don’t want to be rubbing bacteria all over your face. 

What products have rice water?

Since rice water has been a mainstay in places like Korea and Japan, there’s no shortage of rice water products available. The most well-known is probably Tatcha, which has a rice water face cleanser, and a rice water essence. SK-II also contains a fermented version of rice water in their cult-favorite treatment essence. Make Beauty has a rice water toner at a more accessible price point. There are options at any price point, and we think it works best as a toner/essence, before applying other products over the top. 

Our verdict on rice water:

This trend falls into the “fun to try, but don’t expect miracles” category. We think there are other hydrating ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin that work just as well–check out our blog about them to learn more!

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