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The secret to long, strong and shiny hair from an ancient Chinese village


You might have tried eggs, olive oil and honey on your hair before, but fermented rice water?

With even the likes of Kim Kardashian saying she washes her hair just once every five days and Jennifer Aniston advocating a little sweat as a styling aid, there appears to be a growing interest in taking a simpler, less chemical approach to hair care, while some are ditching the shampoo entirely.

But perhaps the women who have nailed the secret to hair care are those from the so-called “Long Hair Village” in China where women boast long, strong, shiny and Rapunzel-esque locks without a grey in sight.

The Yao women of Huangluo, in the autonomous region of Guangxi, have been using the water they cook rice in on their hair for generations, resulting in life-long and renowned healthy hair.

yao women guangxi china

A woman from Ping'An in Guangxi is pictured in 2014 braiding her hair

Cutting their hair only once in their lives (in their teens before they look for a relationship), the women look after their impressive locks by using fermented rice water (yep, the milky-coloured liquid left over from rinsing or boiling rice) which is said to be rich in antioxidants, minerals and vitamin E, and has restorative properties that improves hair's elasticity. It's also often mixed with unknown herbs.

Of course, it's likely that not regularly using heated appliances such as curling tongs and hair straighteners helps, while they're also said to only use wooden combs on their pride and joy.

red yao women china long hair

This image from 2010 shows the women revealing their long hair

long hair yao women china

Yao women in the Guangxi autonomous region of China

The women's hair has brought hundreds of thousands of tourists to the area since that the idea the sight of it down and loose was strictly reserved for husbands was relaxed in 1987.

It is now so famed that Huangluo (where most of the women have hair longer than 1.4 metres) is even said to have been named in the Guinness Book of Records, though searching the website for hair-related records is not something we want to do again (the world's longest nipple hair is 17cm long, by the way).

yao china guangxi long hair

Women of the Yao minority pictured in Guangxi in 2008

The Yao people, one of 55 ethnic minority groups recognised in China, believes long hair symbolises lasting prosperity, longevity and wealth, and different hairstyles represent different things, from marriage to number of children.

Check out more images below, and messynessychic.com has provided a guide to making your own Yao-style shampoo should you be inspired to try it alongside your honey masks and avocado conditioners. Will rice water become part of your DIY beauty regime?

red yao women china long hair

Yao women braid their hair in Ping'An, Guangxi, 2014

yao women guangxi china

The Yao women, seen here in 2003, have become a tourist draw in the region

red yao women china long hair

The Yao women pictured in 2006 at an event in Shanghai

guangxi yao women long hair china

Rice water is said to be behind their long, healthy hair

Images: Rex Features



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