Rice powder contains para aminobenzoic acid, ferulic acid and allantoin. When applied as a paste on the skin, rice powder has been shown to inhibit tyrosinase (responsible for starting melanin production).

Asian women are known for their delicate beauty and smooth, fair skin. This is probably why people are intrigued by traditional skin lightening remedies from the Orient.

One such remedy is rice powder and rice water.

Rice powder

Rice powder is simply uncooked rice that has been ground into a fine powder. Water or milk added to rice powder creates a paste, which can be used as a face mask.

Rice water

Rice water is the nutrient-rich water that comes from soaking or washing uncooked rice. Rice water is cloudy in appearance.

How does rice powder lighten skin?

There are plenty of anecdotes about how rice powder and more specifically, rice water, can keep our skin youthful and translucent looking. But why does rice powder work, exactly?

  • Rice contains a high concentration of PABA. PABA (para aminobenzoic acid) is a very good sunscreen. When taken internally, PABA also raises the Vitamin C levels in our bodies.
  • Rice also contains two other sun protecting agents – ferulic acid and allantoin.
    • Ferulic acid is an antioxidant. Incredibly, scientists have found that when ferulic acid is added to Vitamin C and E, its sun protection ability doubled. (Scroll down this page to read an extract of the study’s findings.)
    • Allantoin is a good anti-inflammatory agent. It soothes sunburns and also promotes the skin’s repair.
  • When applied as a paste on the skin, rice powder has been shown to inhibit tyrosinase.

Make your own skin lightening ‘rice water’ toner

Washing your face in rice water can give you fairer and more translucent skin. While results will not be dramatic, you should see your skin become lighter within a month. The best part of this is that it’s so easy to do.

(For the sake of not wasting food, I do encourage you to only do this if you plan on cooking the rice for your meals later!)

Add water to uncooked rice to make your very own 'rice water' cleanser and toner.
You can add water to uncooked rice to make your very own ‘rice water’ cleanser and toner.

Step 1. Using a clean bowl, soak some uncooked brown rice, white rice or red rice in water. A handful of rice should be more than enough.

Step 2. Run your fingers through this, as if you’re cleaning the rice.

Step 3. The water should look pretty cloudy right now. Drain this water into another clean bowl.

Step 4. Splash the ‘rice water’ over your face repeatedly (Tip: exfoliate your skin first with a scrub or washcloth so the rice water can be better absorbed). For even better skin lightening, do not towel your face dry but leave it damp to air-dry on its own.

Frequency and results: Do this consistently at least once a week and you should see your skin lighten after a month. If you feel comfortable, you can also use it a few times a week. The ferulic acid in rice is not a very strong acid, and the water would have diluted/weakened the solution further, so there should not be skin sensitivity. However, always use your own good judgement as everyone’s skin is different.

If you have more rice water left over, you can pat the remaining water on your face and neck or refrigerate the rest.

Make your own skin lightening rice mask

If you’re not planning to eat the rice made from your rice water, there is one thing you can do with all that uncooked rice you used… Make it into a mask!

Here’s how:

Step 1. Grind a handful of uncooked rice into a fine powder. You can use a coffee grinder to do this.

Step 2. Add some milk to the rice powder – enough to make it into a paste.

Step 3. Apply this paste over your face and neck. Leave for 20-30 minutes.

Step 4. Wash the mask off with some warm water.

Frequency and results: Do this consistently at least once a week and you should see your skin lighten after a month.

Rice paste will not only lead to fairer skin, but also a smoother complexion with fewer wrinkles.

Rice in cosmetics and home remedies

Would you be surprised to hear that the humble rice is used in many expensive cosmetics and skin creams? A few examples of these are Kose Moisture Skin Repair Cream, L’Occitane Purifying Rice Toner, Clarifying Rice Mask, Ultra Matte Face Fluid, and Elegant Minerals Rice Setting Powder.

Here are three of the most common uses for rice in skincare and cosmetics.

  • Used to absorb oil to achieve matte skin. If you have very oily skin, brushing rice powder lightly over your face will give you a very matte look. Because of this, it also makes an excellent base for make-up. Rice powder absorbs oil very well and keeps your make-up from fading throughout the day.
  • In wrinkle creams. Many anti-aging skin creams and wrinkle creams contain ceramides that were extracted from rice. The ceramides in rice closely mimic our skin’s, which can give it a more youthful appearance.
  • Mineral make-up. Rice powder is used in some loose or pressed powder compacts. It is especially found in mineral make-up. Rice powder does a good job of covering blemishes and flaws to give the skin a smooth finish, and yet it allows the skin to breathe and does not clog pores.

    Uncooked rice

References and Further Reading

Study: Ferulic Acid Stabilizes a Solution of Vitamins C and E and Doubles its Photoprotection of Skin

Ferulic acid is a potent ubiquitous plant antioxidant. Its incorporation into a topical solution of 15% L-ascorbic acid and 1% tocopherol improved chemical stability of the vitamins (C+E) and doubled photoprotection to solar-simulated irradiation of skin from 4-fold to approximately 8-fold as measured by both erythema and sunburn cell formation. Inhibition of apoptosis was associated with reduced induction of caspase-3 and caspase-7. This antioxidant formulation efficiently reduced thymine dimer formation. This combination of pure natural low molecular weight antioxidants provides meaningful synergistic protection against oxidative stress in skin and should be useful for protection against photoaging and skin cancer.

From the Journal of Investigative Dermatology (2005).
Source: http://www.nature.com/jid/journal/v125/n4/full/5603565a.html

Conclusion: Ferulic acid not only provides increased stability to a solution of vitamins C+E, but also adds a substantial synergistic photoprotection, essentially doubling its efficacy.