One of the most Googled skin-care ingredients is this J-beauty staple


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Photo: Getty Images/ Todor Tsvetkov

Last year, I came back from a trip to Japan with an embarrassing number of duty-free beauty products stashed into my carry on, and I realized that the majority of them had one thing in common: They were made with rice water. All it took was a few skin-care sessions for me to fall completely in love with the ingredient—it made my complexion feel clean, smooth, and ultra-hydrated, and quickly became a permanent fixture in my routine.

Rice water has been a staple in Japanese and Korean beauty for centuries for exactly these reasons, and this side of the world (myself included) has recently started to catch on to just how wonderful it truly is. It happened to be among the most Googled natural ingredients of 2018, too, and two of the glowiest (and most famous) people on the planet—Kim Kardashian and Meghan Markle—reportedly rely on a cleanser that’s made with the stuff. These days, it’s become increasingly common to see rice water listed on labels dotting beauty shelves, and—according to Connecticut-based dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara—that’s for good reason.

“In skin that doesn’t have acne, rosacea, or eczema, rice water can have a smoothing effect,” she tells me. “I like it to add a bit of moisture too.” It’s packed with antioxidants and amino acids—hence the “smoothing effects” that Dr. Gohara mentions—plus, rice water’s full of ultra-hydrating vitamins B and E.

Rice water also happens to be comically easy to DIY—in fact, it’s as easy making yourself a pot of brown (or white, or jasmine) rice and holding onto the leftover water. Literally. According to a number of natural skin-care blogs, you can use the pure version as the second step of a double-cleansing routine after removing impurities with an oil or balm. Apply it directly to your skin with your fingers or a cotton ball while massaging in circular motions and eventually rinsing with water. And if you have any leftover, a lot of people swear by the ingredient for shiny hair, too, so rinse your strands with the stuff for a little added luster.

If the whole DIY thing—or the thought of massaging your face with your leftover dinner water—isn’t quite for you, here are some rice water-packed products (including the cleanser Markle and Kardashian love) worth clicking add to cart on for the sake of your skin.

Into the whole rice water thing? Try some of these other Japanese skin-care secrets worth stealing. And here are three rituals that J-beauty gurus swear by

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