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 a remote region in Asia where they owe their famously long hair to a very natural method…
According to recent beauty buzz, the secret to strong, shiny (not to mention, long) hair originates from an ancient Chinese village, Huangluo. Nicknamed the ‘Long Hair Village’, 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 as the world’s longest hair village. Their secret to Rapunzel-secret to Rapunzel-esque long locks long locks?
Fermented rice water. Yes, generations of Yao women have been using the water they cook their rice in to wash their hair for years, which has resulted in their impressively beautiful hair. It’s been their secret to long hair (well into their old age) for centuries, as well as imperial princesses in the East since ancient times.
Cutting their hair only once in their lives, at the age of 18, the women wash their hair using fermented rice water – the misty coloured liquid left from boiling rice. According to studies, the water is found to be rich in the antioxidants, minerals and vitamin E as well as restorative properties that improve hair’s elasticity and condition. Also found in rice water is inositol, a carbohydrate what can repair damaged hair as well as protect it from future damage. Not that the Yao women would need it, but this could help anyone with heat damaged hair.
In addition to this, the amino acids in the fermented rice water help strengthen the hair roots, and smooth the surface of the hair making it shine. It is also thought to help with scars, fine lines and inflammation on the skin. Check out Hair Buddha for a detailed explanation of how rice water can create gorgeous hair and flawless skin.
For the Yao people, their long hair is their most prized possession, believing that long hair symbolises prosperity, longevity, wealth and good fortune. They also wear it in different styles to represent landmarks in their life such as marriage. The hair that was cut at the age of 18 is gifted to a grandmother, and then returned to the girl after she is married to wear alongside her own hair, as a hair piece. Some may say this was the original hair extension!
Here is how to make and use this cheap and easy ancient hair 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 in onto your scalp and lengths
- Rinse thoroughly
If you cook rice two to three times a week, you should be able to collect enough rice water for two to three hair washes. If you’d like more information on the Yao women and their fascinating hair traditions, check out MessyNessyChic.