- Who are the Yao women?
- The secret to growing the longest hair in the world
- Benefits of rice water
- How to use rice water for hair
There’s been a growing interest in natural beauty products for some time now, with the likes of honey, olive and coconut oil replacing conventional haircare. As we take a less chemical approach to maintaining the health of our hair and skin, the search for natural alternatives has taken the beauty pack to the Yao women of Asia, where they owe their famously long hair to a very natural method.
Editor's Note: This post was originally posted in November 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in October 2018.
Who are the Yao women?
The ancient Chinese village of Huangluo is actually nicknamed the ‘Long Hair Village’, as the Yao women in this autonomous region of Guangxi are known for their long, grey-less, shiny hair.
Most women in this area have hair longer than 1.4 metres, and have even made an appearance in the Guinness Book of Records.
For the Yao people, their long hair is their most prized possession, believing that long hair symbolises prosperity, longevity, wealth and good fortune. They wear their hair in different styles to represent landmarks in their life, such as marriage.
Yao women only cut their hair once in a lifetime, aged 18. The hair is gifted to a grandmother, and then returned to the girl after she is married to wear alongside her own hair, as a hairpiece - Some may say this was the original hair extension!
So, what's their secret to Rapunzel-esque long locks?
The secret to growing the longest hair in the world
Fermented rice water - yes really! Yao women have been using rice water for hair for years. (Rice water is the misty coloured liquid left from boiling rice, and fermenting it makes it even more beneficial for hair).
It’s been the Yoa women's secret - as well as imperial princesses in the East - to long hair since ancient times.
Benefits of rice water
It turns out that murky, white liquid we pour down the drain after cooking rice is full of beneficial nutrients. Rice water can benefit hair in the following ways:
Encourages hair growth
In order for hair to grow, it needs nourishment. Amino acids are extremely important for hair growth as 18 of them are needed for the production of the protein, keratin, which requires 18 different types of amino acids.
Rice water contains an impressive 8 amino acids, so it's easy to see why it's so beneficial for hair growth.
Amino acids aside, rice water also contains Vitamins B - needed for strong hair - C - needed to produce sebum which keeps the scalp moisturised - and E - prevents hair loss.
Prevents split endsThe hefty amount of amino acids in rice water give your hair not just the best chance of growth, but also strength. The stronger and healthier your hair, the less likely it is to get split ends - another reason to use rice water for hair!
Makes hair shiny
Vitamin E is also extremely beneficial for the appearance of your hair. It's known to turn frizzy and damaged masses of hair into slick, sleek and shiny, healthy locks.
Dandruff can be caused by anything from stress to Parkinson's disease. Whilst it won't cause you any harm, it can be uncomfortable, and embarrassing too.
Fermenting rice water then using it on your hair could prove to be an effective way of managing it. Fermented rice water can fight the fungi which causes dandruff, and rid you off those white flakes.
Protects hair from damage
Inositol is a pretty special nutrient. This carbohydrate can both remedy and prevent damage to hair, by increasing elasticity and reducing surface friction.
Whether you use styling tools regularly, dye your hair or get perms, inositol could really help get it healthy again. Best of all, it needn't cost you a fortune - you can find it in rice water.
How to use rice water for hair
Want to get hair as long as the Yao women? Here's how to make your very own rice water or fermented rice water (even more nutritional) hair wash:
Rice water wash
- Place a tumbler full of rice in a large amount of boiling water.
- Boil the rice until cooked - you can use this for dinner!
- Strain the excess water which should be cloudy in colour.
- Wait until it's cooled to a comfortable temperature, then add a few optional drops of your favourite essential oils.
- Shampoo your hair before pouring the rice water over it. Leave for at least 15 minutes whilst gently massaging your hair.
- Rinse with cool water.
Fermented rice water wash
- Rinse a cup of rice to get rid of any dirt.
- Place in a bowl and cover with water for 15 minutes - stirring occasionally.
- Strain the water into a plastic bottle.
- Leave it at room temperature for a day or until it turns slightly sour and starts to ferment.
- Pour into a pan, boil it then allow to cool.
- Add a few optional drops of tea tree, lavender or rosemary essential oils.
- Use the water as an alternative to shampoo by gently massaging it into your scalp and through the length of your hair.
- Rinse thoroughly.
How many times should you wash your hair with rice water?
If you want to reap the benefits of rice water, you need to stick at it! Thicker, shinier and more voluminous hair won't happen overnight and you'll need to use rice water regularly to really see a difference.
Try and make a habit of using rice water to wash your hair - rice is an extremely cheap and healthy food source, so this shouldn't be too much of a problem! Three or more times a week is desirable.
The longest hair in the World
According to the Guinness Book Of Records, Xie Quiping currently has the longest hair in the World. With 5.627 metres of long locks, she's somewhat of a real-life Repunzel. The record was set in 2004, when Quiping had been growing her hair for a total of 45 years!
Who's excited to try this easy-peasy hair growth remedy? Share your secret hair hacks with us in the comments below.