Rice Masks Are The Asian Beauty Trend You Don’t Want To Miss

Spain has paella, Turkey has pilaf, Italy has risotto, New Orleans has étouffée: Rice is one of the most versatile, and therefore ubiquitous, foods on the planet. But in some parts of Asia, it’s much more than just a dietary staple — rice masks are also a centuries-old skin-care secret.

These rice-infused treatments are a lot less literal than they sound. In fact, there are no actual grains of rice in rice masks, just rice water. That’s water in which rice has soaked or boiled, as dermatologist Kenneth Howe, MD, explains. “Soaking or boiling the rice results in the extraction of vital bioactives from the rice,” Dr. Howe says. “These extracted ingredients are then free to penetrate the skin, where they can exert a beneficial effect.” Soak a sheet mask in rice water, along with other proprietary ingredients (like the amino acids and vitamin C in Wei’s Rice Sprout Express Glow Illuminating Mask, or the hyaluronic acid in the TonyMoly I’m Real Rice Mask Sheet), and a rice mask is born.

So what do rice masks do? The short answer: They brighten. “Rice water has been used for centuries in Korea to brighten the skin,” Charlotte Cho, author of The Little Book of Skin Care: Korean Beauty Secrets for Healthy, Glowing Skin, confirms. The long answer? Well, they do a lot of things.

“Rice water contains several bioactive compounds,” says Dr. Howe. “It’s a potent source of tyrosinase inhibitory peptides, which lighten unwanted pigment in the skin. This effect — of clarifying the complexion [and] lightening freckles or pigmentary unevenness — is probably the most valued among its Asian users.” According to Dr. Howe, rice water also contains powerful antioxidants that drive anti-ageing results by curbing damage from free radicals, so not only will regular treatments help to fade dark spots from hyperpigmentation and acne scarring, but they’ll strengthen the skin and protect against new or developing signs of ageing, too.

An ingredient with the power to both brighten and fight the telltale signs of ageing skin in one go is a pretty sweet deal, but Cho says that vitamin E is yet another notable compound you’ll find in rice water, thereby rounding out the anti-ageing, radiance-enhancing, moisturising trifecta. Dr. Howe cosigns, saying, “Especially in the winter months, these treatments soothe, soften, and restore chapped, wind-burned skin.” That sounds like music to our ears — and the death rattle of our dark spots.
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