How To Use Rice Water For Hair? – Indian Rice Kanji Wash

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If you’re one of those people who don’t like using too many chemicals for their hair, you’ll love rice water. We use it to wash our hair every fortnight, and it’s so much better than using store-bought conditioners. Of course, if we used it every week, it would be even better, but uhm, too lazy.

Other cultures use fermented rice water or rice water that’s been soaking the grains before they’re cooked. But here in India, we use water drained from the rice after boiling. We call this water kanji or rice kanji!

And just a mention here, we’ve seen even with our friends in many Western cultures that they prefer to cook their rice with the exact amount of water. Well, that works too. But just think, if you cook the rice with an excess amount of water like us Indians, you’ll be draining out a huge amount of starch after it’s cooked. That means less carbs in your rice. You know less weight, win-win!

Although getting rid of the starch was the main reason for draining the rice and removing the kanji, there were other reasons too that our grannies did it.

One, was to starch clothes and make them last longer. Remember the crisp shirts your grandad wore? He didn’t need to go to a laundry to do that. Leftover rice water did it.

The second was to soften hair and make it shine. And we still follow this method of hair softening today, when we remember to grab the kanji (rice water) from the fridge, that is.

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Washing our hair with rice water also adds a bit more volume, so people like me with curly hair don’t need to use conditioners. We usually alternate rice water with flaxseed gel. But you don’t get instant results with this. It takes time and effort!

If it makes a difference, I’ve not been to a salon since Feb 2016, and I don’t really have any intentions of going back. Call me crazy!

How to make rice water for hair (Indian style)

  1. Cook the rice

    Cook the white rice with an excess of water. This will help the starch to leave the rice and collect in the water.

  2. Drain the rice

    Drain the starch-filled water from the rice. You’ll see it’s whitish in color. We call this the rice kanji.

    Draining the water from the rice pot using a lid.

    Rice kanji (rice water) in a steel bowl.

  3. Refrigerate the rice kanji (rice water)

    Once you’ve collected the rice kanji, refrigerate for a few hours. Overnight is better. The next day it will look like this.

    Thickened rice water in a steel bowl.

    If you shake the vessel you can see that it’s thick and sticks to the sides.

    Thickened rice water in a steel bowl.

  4. Apply the rice kanji on your hair

    After having washed the hair with shampoo or vinegar, simply add spoonfuls (handfuls is easier) of the thickened rice water to your hair and comb it in. Wanted to take pics to show, but camera and kanji was a struggle. Will try again and update this post soon. But basically, you can use a comb or your fingers to smoothen the kanji in your hair. I prefer to use my fingers, just like how you would use conditioner.

  5. Sing a song or two (wait 5 minutes or longer)

    Sing your favorite song, or two. So you’ll know that at least five minutes have passed. Longer is always better though. If you have 30 minutes to while away, go for it.

  6. Rinse the hair

    Rinse the hair with plain water and dry. Nothing else required. You’ll notice a slight softening and a bit more shine after the first time, and more and more after the nth time you do it. It also helps my curls to become a little less unruly (without using conditioner).

    Soft shiny curls without using conditioner.

And that’s really it. Cook rice, drain rice water, cool rice kanji water, use thick rice water on your hair. It’s okay if the water gets on your skin or scalp because it’s good for that stuff too, but let’s leave that info for another time.

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Comment and let me know if you try this age-old Indian hair routine!

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