When you think of rice, Asian cuisine may be one of the first things that comes to mind. That's certainly the case with me, as it's been a staple in my diet for as long as I can remember. But did you know that it's just as a great skincare ingredient as it is a culinary one? My grandmother swears by washing her face and hands with rice water left over from washing rice, and let's just say that her skin looks pretty darn good for a 100-year-old!

Luckily rice-based skincare is a lot more accessible today—no washing of rice required. Let's dive deeper into rice's skincare benefits as well as some great products that feature this ingredient! 

Rice Benefits for the Skin

It turns out rice's beauty benefits go back way before my grandmother's time, with the first known use recorded over 1,000 years ago in Japan! Since then, women in East Asian cultures have been using rice water to help moisturize, brighten, and soothe the skin and as hair treatments. But it's not until recent decades, thanks to science, that we know why rice works.

While the back of your beauty product may just list "Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Extract" or "Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Water," there's so much more to the ingredient! It's an excellent source of: 

  • Antioxidants like vitamin E, phytic acid, ferulic acid, and oryzanol. Antioxidants help protect our skin by limiting free radical production which can cause hyperpigmentation, signs of aging, and inflammation. Some antioxidants can even help increase moisture retention! 
  • Polysaccharides and omega-3 fatty acids that moisturize and reinforce our skin's natural barrier. A healthier barrier = better moisture retention = less dryness and fine lines.
  • Trace minerals like zinc and selenium. These minerals have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, which make them suitable for acne-prone skin.

In addition to these wonderful compounds found within rice, there's also been some research done specifically on the ingredient's impact on skin: 

A 2013 study found that fermented rice water (aka rice wine) can help improve collagen production, which means plumper skin and less wrinkles.1  These anti-aging benefits are in part thanks to the increased antioxidant levels from the fermentation process. 

Two 2016 studies found that rice water can 1)inhibit the formation of dark spots and hyperpigmentation2 2) provide UV protection when used together with other plant extracts.3 (This is no excuse for replacing your sunscreen with rice water, but it's a promising ingredient to layer under your daily SPF!)

Finally, a 2018 study found that rice water produced the same level of antioxidant activity as vitamin C and can help hydrate the skin without increasing oil production.4

While we'd love to see more studies on this timeless skincare ingredient, what's been shown so far is incredibly promising! 

Why Not DIY Rice-Based Skincare?

While DIY skincare sounds like an affordable and natural solution, it can be more problematic than it's worth. 

  • It's inconvenient. Even if you're cooking rice daily, the rice water you just washed your rice with can also contain dirt, pesticide, or other contaminants that you don't want on your skin. You'll need to create the rice water from already washed rice, allowing it to soak until the water gets cloudy. Each batch only has a shelf life of 24 hours, so you'll need to soak rice daily.
  • It can do more harm than good. Without preservatives in the rice water, bacteria starts breeding in the water immediately. Sure, you can put it in the fridge to delay the inevitable, but do you really want to risk the possible damage to your skin? It's the same reason you wouldn't use expired products on your face! It won't hurt to soak your hands in the water after you wash your rice, but for your face it’s still recommended to stick with properly formulated products for peace of mind. Many rice-based products aren’t expensive at all, so let's take a closer look at some of our options!

Affordable Rice-Based Skincare to Try

Tony Moly I'm Rice Clear Skin Beauty Mask Sheet  

Sheet masks are a great way to instantly hydrate and soothe your skin, and you'll get both benefits with the Tony Moly I'm Rice Clear Skin Beauty Mask Sheet. In addition to featuring rice extract, it contains allantoin and licorice root extract, both which have soothing properties. Then there is hyaluronic acid and snail mucin to help improve the moisturizing factor, so you'll be left with soft hydrated skin after use. It's alcohol-free but does contain a tiny bit of fragrance so keep that in mind if you're sensitive. Cool in the fridge first to use after a hot day in the sun!

SheaMoisture Purple Rice Water Strength + Color Care Masque  

Did you know that rice water also contains inositol, which has been found to penetrate damaged hair to repair it from within and protect from future damages? No wonder Japanese women have been using rice water for their hair since the Heian period! The SheaMoisture Purple Rice Water Strength + Color Care Masque mask also contains a wonderful blend of nourishing oils and butters like sweet almond, jojoba, coconut, and shea to really nourish your strands, something all colored hair types can use!

I'm From Rice Toner  

Made with 77.78% rice extract, the I'm From Rice Toner is milky yet lightweight, and is like a nourishing drink for your skin. With a relatively short ingredient list, you won't find extraneous things like fragrance or essential oils, just good-for-your-skin ingredients like niacinamide to brighten and adenosine and purslane extract to soothe. I love applying multiple layers as a first step after cleansing when my skin is feeling a little dry. I find it not only moisturizes well but helps subsequent products absorb better too! You can also soak some cotton pads and apply on some dry patches—like a mini sheet mask in a pinch!

I'm From Rice Beauty Mask  

The I’m From Rice Beauty Mask features rice bran powder, which in addition to the benefits discussed above for the toner version, also provides some light physical exfoliation. Don't worry, this mask doesn't feel rough or drying at all thanks to its rich shea butter plus argan oil plus squalene base. Use once a week for baby soft skin—just make sure you take a break from chemical exfoliants when using this one to prevent over-exfoliation!

Skinfood Rice Beauty Mask Wash Off

For a gentler alternative to the I’m From Rice Mask, I recommend the Skinfood Rice Beauty Mask Wash Off. This mask features rice water as its star ingredient and comes in a fun texture that looks like oatmeal/porridge! It still has some physical exfoliating action so I would use this at most once a week.

Cosrx Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Beauty Mask  

If you prefer a face mask with no exfoliating properties, the Cosrx Ultimate Nourishing Rice Overnight Spa Beauty Mask is a great pick. Alcohol and fragrance free, it's full of emollients like sunflower seed oil to nourish the skin while niacinamide can offer brightening benefits. Apply this right before bed or use a thick layer as a wash off mask when your skin is feeling a little dry.

HaruHaru Wonder Black Rice Hyaluronic Toner  

While the I'm From Rice Toner feels like a milk and quite nourishing, the HaruHaru Wonder Black Rice Hyaluronic Toner has a lighter, almost water like texture that's sure to appeal to all skin types. It also features fermented rice extract—fermentation releases more of the beneficial compounds within rice to be better absorbed by our skin! Round out the formula with hyaluronic acid, betaine, and beta-glucose to hydrate plus anti-inflammatory ginseng root, skullcap root, and bamboo shoot extracts, and this becomes a great option for dehydrated and/or acne prone skin. Use this after cleansing and apply multiple layers to get the hydration your skin needs!

The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Light Cleansing Oil  

If you're wearing makeup or a waterproof/tinted sunscreen, double cleansing is a must in the evenings. First start with an oil-based cleanser like The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Light Cleansing Oil to remove the makeup/sunscreen, then follow up with a water-based cleanser to clean your skin. If the idea of an oil-based cleanser freaks you out, don't worry, this cleansing oil won't feel heavy or sticky. There's an oily slip but that's so the product won't tug at your skin when you massage it into your makeup. Add a little bit of water to emulsify and rinse to reveal clean balanced skin. 

K beauty surfaces lots of skincare secrets and many — rice water among them—are less about what’s on trend and more about what has worked through the ages. Have you tried rice-water beauty products yet?


  1.  Binic I, Lazarevic V, Ljubenovic M, Mojsa J, Sokolovic D. Skin ageing: natural weapons and strategies. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:827248. doi:10.1155/2013/827248 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3569896/
  2. Kanlayavattanakul M, Lourith N, Chaikul P. Jasmine rice panicle: A safe and efficient natural ingredient for skin aging treatments. J Ethnopharmacol. 2016;193:607-616. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2016.10.013 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27721049/
  3. Cefali, L.C., Ataide, J.A., Moriel, P., Foglio, M.A. and Mazzola, P.G. (2016), Plant-based active photoprotectants for sunscreens. Int J Cosmet Sci, 38: 346-353. https://doi.org/10.1111/ics.12316
  4. Marto J, Neves Â, Gonçalves LM, Pinto P, Almeida C, Simões S. Rice Water: A Traditional Ingredient with Anti-Aging Efficacy. Cosmetics. 2018; 5(2):26. https://doi.org/10.3390/cosmetics5020026