Rice In Skincare – Everything You Need To Know About This Buzzy Ingredient

Skintellectuals – ELLE’s panel of pros pass judgement on the latest skincare trends, techniques and ingredients.


There’s no denying that J-Beauty and K-Beauty are trailblazers in the skincare scene. They brought essences into our skincare lexicon, made us rethink our lazy girl routines and introduced us to every gleaming skin trend imaginable (on a scale of glass to dolphin, how glowy do you want to be?).

The newest buzzy ingredient isn’t entirely new at all. Rice in skincare has been part of Southeast Asian communities for decades as people shared anecdotal evidence on how rinsing their face and hands with rice water have led to softer, more youthful-looking skin. But is there any scientific data to back this up and how does it really work? Three skintellectuals take a deep dive…

Skintellectual No.1: CJ Zhan-Shahani, Founder of Forest Rhapsody Skincare

rice in skincare


‘Rice as a beauty ingredient has been such a core part of my upbringing since I was a child. It’s been used for thousands of years in multiple Asian communities, including those in Japan, Korean, China and parts of Southeast Asia. There are early records of women in Japan and China using rice water to wash and nourish their hair, and other records of women using fermented rice water or rice wine as a skincare ingredient to sooth and brighten the skin. My family would use rice water not just to wash our hair, but also to wash our faces. Anything not utilised for the day will be used to water the garden – and I know our garden yields some of the juiciest vegetables and herbs (perhaps some correlation there!).

‘Rice is composed of 6-8% protein, and this forms a layer of film over the skin, effectively moisturising and conditioning the skin. It also contains a polysaccharide called amylose which gives it that sticky feel, and while different varieties of rice has a different level of amylose, this compound keeps the skin moisturised by creating an additional barrier on the skin. Rice bran extract in particular has a high level of antioxidants compounds, fatty acids and polysaccharides, and with its unique chemical profile, has the ability to support antioxidant activities on the skin.

‘Most skincare formulas use rice water because it is easier to incorporate into a formula. For example: rice toners and rice essences. We use rice bran oil in Milk Ferment and rice-based peptides in Barrier Warrior. We chose to formulate with rice based peptides derived from rice protein. This peptide has been clinically proven to support cell regeneration and collagen synthesis. It also contains di and tri-peptides, and are therefore small enough to be easily absorbed into the skin for more visible results.’

The Verdict

‘All skin types would benefit from rice, specifically those that are easily sensitised. That said, I would caution consumers from preparing their own DIY rice water at home, unless they know the origin of their rice.’

Skintellectual No.2: Medina Azaldin, Senior Beauty Assistant

medina azaldin


‘Similar to Shahani, I grew up in Southeast Asia where there’s always been murmurs of people using rice water as part of their skincare routine, usually as a toner. While admittedly, I’ve never DIY’d my own skincare, I have seen noticeably good results from using Tatcha The Essence. I splash it on on damp skin after cleansing, and follow with a vitamin C serum in the day time, or a retinol in the evening.

‘Rose Sparacio, vice president of product development at Tatcha tells me that in The Essence, rice is double fermented (fermentation is another buzzword in skincare) to create a concentrate of nutrients and improve absorption. This process yields amino acids and AHAs such as lactic acid, which explains why my complexion feels softer and brighter over time. My skin is reactive and acne-prone, and so far I’ve not seen any downsides to the product. It’s a nice way to add hydration without any greasiness.’

The Verdict

‘As always, it’s important to look at the product’s formula as a whole rather than focusing on just one ingredient. While rice is a great addition to your skincare routine, make sure the rest of the INCI list also contains ingredients that are compatible with your skin type.’

Skintellectual No.3: Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, Cosmetic Doctor and Skin Expert

dr ifeoma


‘Looking at the evidence of rice as a potent antioxidant agent and anti-ageing ingredient and there’s some really good evidence. Tricin is a potent antioxidant and momilactones A and B found in rice are really potent agents in helping with anti-ageing properties. Specifically it’s an antioxidant but it also helps to boost the elastin in the skin and it also helps to reduce tyrosinase activity which helps to brighten the skin. Rice is a really interesting ingredient to have in skin care as it’s not necessarily the whole rice but the active ingredients within it that can be very helpful in different elements of skin.

‘From the research I’ve seen, the different elements can help all skin type because it is an antioxidant and helps to brighten the skin, so these are things that pretty much every skin type can use. Similar ingredients would include other antioxidants like vitamin C and coenzyme Q, but then again all antioxidants behave very differently this is something to add into your routine rather than to replace anything.’

The Verdict

‘There is quite good evidence of using rice based products. But from what I’ve read so far the evidence is still quite new and it would be great to see more information and more studies published in this area for us to really be able to say it’s brilliant.’

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