Preserving rice water for hair: home chemistry edition
October 27, 2021 9:53 AM   Subscribe

A while ago I was turned onto the "rice water as hair treatment" craze. What worked really well for me was using it as an after-shampoo rinse: I'd squirt it onto my head after I shampooed, and leave it there. But that stuff rots after a couple of days. Help me create and preserve 1-2 weeks supply at a time so it doesn't need to be refrigerated.

So what I want to do is squirt rice water (water with rice soaked in it) - say 1/4 cup of it - onto my head at the point where I'm about to step out of the shower.

Internet suggests making it fresh every time. That is too time consuming, especially since the rice needs to soak for about 30 minutes to really get the starch into the water. (They also suggest applying it for 20 minutes then rinsing out etc... nope!) I need to make at least a week's worth at a time.

My question is, is there an appropriate, non-toxic (for topical use) preservative that I, as a regular person with access to typical online/drugstore channels, can buy and add to my weekly+ batch of rice water, which will prevent it from spoiling during the week? (Keeping it in the fridge is not an option, mainly because I will forget to get it, but also because I don't want to pour very cold stuff onto my head while naked.) I believe there are commercially available preparations but the cost seems exorbitant.

(By the way I am aware that some of the sites say you should "ferment" the rice water. I don't know what they mean by this, but I've found it smells good and works well if soaked for 1, max 2 days depending on room temperature. After that it spoils.)
posted by fingersandtoes to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you just put it in the freezer? You could even put it in an ice cube tray and then pop out a few cubes to thaw before you wash your hair.

Sorry, nevermind, saw you don't want to refrigerate it. Mods, feel free to delete.
posted by mskyle at 9:55 AM on October 27, 2021

Best answer: Hundred milliliter canning jars are cheap. It's probably an hour of work to sterilize and fill them, but you can fill many tens of them at a time using nothing but a big hot water pot and some tongs.
posted by eotvos at 10:12 AM on October 27, 2021

Best answer: You can buy body-safe preservatives for hair/skin products. I've seen something called Optiphen show up in recipes, though I haven't used it myself. Definitely google harder for info before running out and buying some — just wanted to put it out there that it exists.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:36 AM on October 27, 2021

Best answer: You can just BUY rice starch... in Asian grocery markets. Add a teaspoon or two into water and mix thoroughly.

Though it's not quite the same as the powder they enrich rice with. It's also a stiffening agent (for shirt collars)
posted by kschang at 10:38 AM on October 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

Add a tiny droplet of peppermint oil or orange oil. Be sure when you buy it that it is pure and not the kind for lamps etc. Not sure of sources in the US. Here in Austria i buy essential oils only in a pharmacy.
A number of essential oils inhibit growth of bacteria and fungi. and if the scent is ok for you it will help keep the rice water from spoiling.
For a quarter cup i would insert the tip of a toothpick into the bottle and stir the rice water. So less than a drop. Definitely not much, as it can irritate your skin.
Before you pour it in your head i would dab the mixture eg in the inside of your elbow if your skin reacts.
posted by 15L06 at 10:44 AM on October 27, 2021

I was thinking freeze it, then stick it in the microwave to thaw & reheat so you aren't spraying cold water on your head. But perhaps the magic of rice water doesn't work if you have nuked it?
posted by MiraK at 10:50 AM on October 27, 2021

I also think you could solve this by setting up a rotation of, like, three small jars in use at all times, each prepping up a one-wash quantity of rice water. The three jars could live on your counter or wherever. Before you shower, you drain the water from the rice into your spray bottle, throw the rice in your refrigerator container for cooking at a later time, soak a new batch of rice in that jar, and put it at the back of your 3-jar stack to be used after two more washes. It wouldn't take you longer than a minute or two.
posted by MiraK at 10:57 AM on October 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

Rosemary is a pretty good preservative.

Maybe you could do an experiment, split your rice water into two batches and put a sprig of rosemary in one and see what happens after a couple days!
posted by gregr at 12:33 PM on October 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Essential oils are not preservatives, they inhibit growth of some pathogens. Not the same thing.

Are there any natural preservatives? Not really. Natural substances that show antimicrobial activity are either not adequate for broad spectrum protection or they have undesirable qualities. Most natural substances are not active against the most threatening microbes, pseudomonads. Others, such as essential oils, require unsuitably high concentrations to be effective. Some have offensive odors or colors that would be unacceptable in skin care products. Many become inactivated by manufacturing procedures and other factors. So a natural preservative is not really an option.

This article from the Aromatherapy Institute has some suggestions for preservatives.

Why do you need to consider preservatives? Starch is an excellent food source for pathogens, and any cosmetic preparation that includes water can grow things. I think the easiest way to batch this without preservatives and slow the growth of pathogens is to do as several people suggested and freeze the rice water, then thaw/reheat as needed.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:25 PM on October 27, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'm on team Make Batches Ahead Of Time. You don't even need a pipeline as deep as three.

After all, the time you actually need to devote personally to preparation is minimal: dump water in jar, add rice; after the mixture has done soaking, strain out the rice as you transfer the liquid to your applicator bottle.

The vast bulk of the prep time is taken up by rice soaking by itself, and the soaking time required is hours, not days. So if you just get in a routine of putting tomorrow's batch on to soak this evening, then all you need to do before using it in the shower is strain it and that's quick. Total amount of time and object manipulation it's going to take to do this over a week should be about the same as what's required to prepare a week's worth in advance, but avoids a need to keep a week's worth fresh.
posted by flabdablet at 3:11 AM on October 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

On reflection, the container I'd personally pick for soaking rice overnight would be a single cup French press. Stick it in the fridge as-is after pressing the rice water out for your shower. Then you can pull it out of the fridge of an evening, cook the rice you rinse out of it for dinner, and load it up with tomorrow's soaking batch while you wait for tonight's rice to boil. No wasted rice or water or effort.
posted by flabdablet at 5:42 AM on October 28, 2021

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