If you’ve been spending a bit too much time scrolling through skincare TikTok, you’ve probably come across the rice paper face mask trend. Many creators claim it can target a range of issues, including not only breakouts, but also hyperpigmentation, signs of aging, and shininess. There are even claims that the rice flour found in rice paper provides protection against the sun.
Of course, as with any viral beauty content, you should do a bit of research before jumping on the bandwagon. So how does this DIY sheet mask work – and does rice paper help with acne? We’ll go over everything you need to know below.
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What is Rice Paper?
While skincare enthusiasts have recently been using rice paper as a sheet mask, it’s actually a food traditionally used in Vietnamese cuisine. Ever had a spring roll? Rice paper (also known as bánh tráng) is the soft outer translucent wrapping.
Rice paper is typically made of tapioca, rice flour, water, and salt. When you find it at the grocery store, you’ll see it sold as thin dried circular sheets. These sheets are meant to be soaked in water so that they become softer and more pliable.
Tapioca and rice flour are the key ingredients believed to be responsible for the potential benefits of using rice paper on the skin. Tapioca (which is extracted from the cassava root) is super absorbent, and is excellent for controlling sebum. This makes it a particularly beneficial ingredient for oily skin. Rice flour, on the other hand, plays a much more diverse role when it comes to skincare – but it’s also a fairly complicated ingredient to fully understand.
What is Rice Flour?
Like other whole grains, a grain of rice contains three parts: the bran, the endosperm, and the germ. The bran is the hard outer layer, and contains compounds that may be beneficial to the skin, including ferulic acid, phytic acid, and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA). It also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
The endosperm is the starchy middle section of the grain. Like tapioca, it’s absorbent and can be great for controlling excess oil. In the center of the rice is the germ, which contains vitamins and amino acids.
If you’re curious as to how to make rice flour (the key ingredient in rice paper), it’s pretty simple. It’s made by separating the three components of the rice grain and grinding them into a powder. However, it’s important to note that there are different types of rice flours, each of which have varying levels of compounds that may be beneficial for the skin.
Whole grain brown rice flour contains all three components of the rice. White rice flour, on the other hand, typically only contains the endosperm, and therefore doesn’t have as many of the healthy compounds that whole grain brown rice flour contains. If you wanted to make your own rice flour face mask at home, you’d more likely see results from whole grain brown rice flour (although keep in mind that neither forms of flour have been extensively researched as topical solutions).
Many of the varieties of rice paper you’ll find at the grocery store are made with white rice flour, in which the bran and germ are removed. However, there is rice paper that is made with brown rice flour, which contains all three components.
Does Rice Flour Help Skin?
Rice flour may have a positive impact on the skin, but this will largely depend on what kind of rice flour (or rice paper) you’re using. This is because, as mentioned above, not all rice flours are the same, and not every type will contain all of the beneficial compounds that may improve the skin.
It’s also important to note that, while many of the compounds found in rice flour are used in topical skincare products, the concentrations found in the flour are fairly low compared to what you’d find in traditional skincare formulas.
Furthermore, research is lacking when it comes to using rice flour on the face. Despite the fact that there are plenty of claims about the benefits of rice flour, we simply don’t have the data to support whether rice flour actually helps the skin. With that in mind, let’s talk about some of the most commonly touted potential benefits of using rice flour on the skin, and the legitimacy of those claims.
Rice Flour as Sun Protection
You might have heard that rice flour can provide some level of sun protection, but this absolutely does not mean you should ditch your sunscreen.
In particular, there’s a belief that the PABA and ferulic acid found in some rice flour may help protect the skin against the sun’s rays. PABA (also known as vitamin B10) is known to be effective when it comes to absorbing UVB rays, which are responsible for causing sunburns. It was once a popular sunscreen ingredient, but since 2019, the FDA has disregarded it as a safe option, since it is known to cause allergic reactions.
Ferulic acid is a compound with potent antioxidant properties. Like PABA, it has been shown to have photoprotective effects.
It’s important to note that, while these compounds on their own have been shown to provide varying levels of UV protection, the concentrations found in rice flour likely aren’t enough to truly protect the skin. Since using rice flour as sun protection has not been studied, it’s best to stick with formulas based on science to best shield your skin against the damaging effects of UVA and UVB rays.
Rice Flour for Clearing Breakouts
There’s a few ways in which rice flour may help with clearing and preventing breakouts. Perhaps most notably, starchy rice flour is super effective when it comes to absorbing oil. Breakouts are caused in part by excess sebum clogging the pores, so rice flour may help minimize breakout risk by clearing away that extra oil. This may also help refine the appearance of enlarged pores. Rice paper traditionally contains tapioca – another absorbent ingredient – so you’ll get even more of an oil-absorbing boost.
There are other compounds found in rice flour that are known to be beneficial for acne-prone skin. However, to reiterate, the concentrations of these compounds may not be high enough to make a major impact.
One of the most notable compounds when it comes to acne is phytic acid, a gentle alpha hydroxy acid. This chemical exfoliant sheds dead skin cells and clears away other debris that may clog the pores. A small study found phytic acid to be an effective solution for treating blemishes.
Researchers have also found that lactic acid is found in rice paper. This alpha hydroxy acid also helps get rid of potentially pore-clogging debris.
As mentioned, ferulic acid is also found in rice flour. In addition to having antioxidant properties, this compound has anti-inflammatory effects. This means it may help calm inflammation related to current breakouts, and may also help with wound healing.
Rice Flour for Fading Hyperpigmentation
If you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation (such as melasma, sun spots, or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from breakouts), some of the compounds found in rice flour may help. In the same small study mentioned above, researchers found that phytic acid is a suitable solution for fading the appearance of this discoloration. Lactic acid is also known to be a great option for lessening the appearance of hyperpigmentation, although it’s typically studied at higher concentrations than what rice flour likely contains.
On a similar note, rice milk is often touted as a brightening solution when used topically. Many believe that rice milk skin benefits may include boosting radiance and fading hyperpigmentation, although this hasn’t been studied. Drinking rice milk is another story, particularly when it comes to acne-prone skin.
Side note: you might’ve heard of people using a combination of rice flour and lemon for the face to help fade hyperpigmentation. Lemon is sometimes mentioned on the internet as a natural solution for diminishing the appearance of dark spots, since it contains vitamin C, which is a powerful complexion brightener.
However, there’s a high risk of negative side effects when you apply lemon directly to the face. This can include irritation, dryness, and peeling. Lemon can also increase photosensitivity, which means you may be more likely to burn in the sun. Furthermore, the concentration of vitamin C can differ from lemon to lemon, so you won’t always get a potent batch. For the best results, pick out a carefully formulated vitamin C serum instead. You’ll also want to wear sunscreen on a daily basis to stop hyperpigmentation from getting darker, and to prevent the formation of new spots.
Anti-Aging Benefits of Rice Flour
Many of the compounds mentioned above are also great for minimizing signs of aging. Thanks to their exfoliating properties, lactic and phytic acids are both known to help soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
As mentioned above, ferulic acid also has powerful antioxidant properties. It can help fight the harmful effects of free radicals, which can cause premature signs of aging in the complexion.
Risks of Using Rice Paper on Skin
Assuming you aren’t allergic to any of the ingredients used in rice paper, there aren’t any major known risks of using it on the skin. That said, if you have more sensitive skin, it’s not a bad idea to do a patch test before using rice paper as a sheet mask.
It should be noted that those with drier skin may not benefit from using rice paper as a mask. Since it contains two ingredients (rice flour and tapioca) that are known to absorb oil on the skin, people with this skin type may find the mask to be too drying.
How To Make A Rice Paper Face Mask
Preparing a rice paper face mask is fairly straightforward. You’ll need a bowl of warm water, a sterilized pair of scissors, and a sheet of rice paper. Keep in mind that you’ll want to soften the rice paper right before you use it, so you won’t be able to batch prepare a bunch for future use.
Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Start by cutting your rice paper sheet into sections that fit the different areas of your face. You’ll want about three to five sections to cover your forehead, nose, cheeks, and chin (you can use one or multiple sections for your nose and cheeks). Alternatively, if you have a large enough sheet, you can try to keep the sheet intact and just cut out the areas where the eyes, nostrils, and mouth will be. Of course, this can be a bit more challenging.
- Stick one section (or the full rice paper) in the bowl of warm water, and let it soak for just about 10 seconds. Let the excess water drip off, and then apply the rice paper directly to clean skin. If you’re using multiple sections, repeat the process until all areas of the face that you’d like to treat are covered.
- Sit back and relax as the rice paper does its work. It’s fairly sticky, so you should be able to stay upright without it sliding off.
How Long Should Rice Paper Be Left on the Skin?
You’ll want to leave the rice paper mask on your skin for about 10 to 15 minutes. Keep in mind that, like other sheet masks, rice paper won’t harden on the skin. Rather, it will remain soft and pliable.
Can rice masks clear acne breakouts?
A rice paper mask may play a role in keeping acne at bay, thanks to its oil absorbing effects. It also contains compounds that may help calm breakouts and clear away debris that may clog the pores. That said, if you have acne-prone skin, a rice paper mask shouldn’t be the only tool in your arsenal for treating and preventing breakouts.
Is rice flour harmful to the skin?
It’s unlikely that using rice flour topically will harm the skin. However, research is still needed to determine whether there are major benefits to using rice flour to improve the look and feel of the complexion.