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.”