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Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse: Should You Do It?

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Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is known as a popular natural remedy for various conditions. It can detoxify, aid in weight loss, and even treat acne. But is apple cider good as a hair rinse? Does it improve hair health? And should you use apple cider vinegar rinse on your hair? 

ACV has acetic acid to help clean the hair and exfoliate the scalp’s surface. It boosts circulation to the scalp surface, facilitating cellular turnover. ACV inhibits fungal growth, reducing and preventing dandruff, and works as an antioxidant to improve overall hair health. 

We will further discuss apple cider vinegar as a hair rinse, its benefits, how to use it, and who should avoid it. 

Does Apple Cider Vinegar Work for Hair Health? 

Humans have been consuming ACV for centuries in food, salads (including salad dressing), and drinks, plus it has other health benefits. Its intake in our diet offers tremendous benefits.1 Over more recent years, it has been introduced and used as a tonic drink for various health benefits like indigestion, lowering cholesterol, and weight loss. 

Scientists have examined its long-lasting impact on blood sugar levels, lipid uptake in the body, and weight loss.2,3,4,5,6 It has also been explored for potential hair and skincare benefits.7 Social media and web sources extensively discuss its impact on boosting skin condition and hair quality. 

It has often been recommended as a rinse-off treatment to improve the scalp surface and provide hair shine. I personally remember coming across a bunch of info on ACV hair rinse when searching for dandruff solutions. 

That’s when I learned that ACV has known antimicrobial properties, especially anti-fungal and anti-bacterial activity. I researched extensively to confirm this and understand more about its benefits for hair.  

But before diving into ACV and what it does for your hair, understanding its chemistry is essential to understanding why it works the way it does. Let’s get into that in the next point. 

The Chemistry of Apple Cider Vinegar

ACV is acidic, with a pH range of 2.00 – 3.00, depending on the total amount of acid in the formulation. Acetic acid is the organic acid responsible for its acidity. Apple cider vinegar is prepared by the enzymatic oxidation of sugar molecules in freshly squeezed apple juice. 

Acetobacter bacteria facilitate the chemical reaction, and the chemical composition of ACV demonstrates the presence of various organic acids (besides acetic acid). 

Some of these organic acids are:4,8  

  • Acetic acid
  • Malic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Succinic acid 2,9

It also contains several phenolic compounds, such as: 

  • Gallic acid
  • Catechin
  • Epicatechin
  • Chlorogenic acid
  • Caffeic acid
  • P-coumaric acid 1, 4

The taste and color of ACV vary depending on the cultivation of the apple, preparation technique, and concentration levels of organic acids. 

The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse

apple cider vinegar in bottle

Organic acids are frequently used in hair and skin care formulations. Acetic acid is the main component in ACV and defines the main properties of this product. It is also where the vinegar gets its sour taste and smell.  

There are several benefits of using an ACV rinse, such as: 

Promotes Scalp Exfoliation 

  • The organic acids work as a scalp exfoliation, therefore a clarifying agent, removing product build-up and promoting overall scalp health. 
  • It boosts blood circulation to the upper layers of the scalp, facilitating cellular turnover (formation of a new generation of cells). 
  • This enhances the shine of the hair cuticle. 
  • It also helps to reduce frizz.7,10,11

Promotes Anti-Dandruff Activity 

  • ACV also exhibits antimicrobial activity.12,13 This is endorsed by multiple scientific studies, which is why ACV is recommended for dandruff problems. 
  • It inhibits fungal growth and exfoliates any dandruff scales present at the surface.14 

Works as an Antioxidant 

  • Polyphenolic compounds are abundantly present in ACV(as mentioned above). These compounds are antioxidants and can capture reactive oxygen species to control oxidative stress. 
  • Among the reactive oxygen species, hydroxyl radicals are known to cause significant hair damage, which helps improve your hair’s health and relieves any oxidative damage to scalp cells.

Chelating Agent and Build-Up Control

Organic acids can chelate metals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and copper. This ability can profoundly impact hair because metal deposits on the hair shaft and tarnish the hair’s physical and chemical properties. Metal build-up can alter hair properties, manageability, styling, and shine.

Repeated application of proteins and cationic polymers from hair products can form a thin layer on the hair surface. This blocks any further penetration of active ingredients. The result is that hair becomes rigid and offers an undesired tactile and sensory feel. 

A diluted ACV rinse can easily dissolve these metal deposits from the hair shaft and completely clean the hair. ACV rinse can remove these polymeric build-ups, restoring hair’s natural feel and shine.10  

Is Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse Safe For Your Hair?

ACV can be used on the hair and scalp. But just like other hair care treatments, it should be used with proper procedure and care because it is not for everyone and can have some adverse effects.10   Essentially, ACV with “the MOTHER” is preferred.

ACV Mother contains significant nutrients, good microbes, and minerals. These can be further beneficial to the hair and scalp.15 

Hair Type Considerations for Apple Cider Vinegar 

All hair types can significantly benefit from rinsing the hair with apple cider vinegar, including: 

  • Brittle and dry hair 
  • Dull, lifeless hair 
  • Frizzy and damaged hair 
  • Oily scalp, dandruff-prone hair 
  • Color-treated hair  

Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse Recipe 

ACV is an acidic solution; thus, it should be used carefully. Due to its acidic strength, it should not be used without dilution. The diluted version will have a pH of 4.0 – 5.0, which matches the hair’s isoelectric point.10 

According to Dr. Eric Berg, you should get a filter that can remove chlorine and fluoride from the water. These two chemicals are halogens and very reactive on your skin (your scalp is an extension of your skin), which can give it all sorts of acne issues that can lead to hair damage. 

Ingredients: 

  • 10.0g/2 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
  • 90.0g/1cup filtered or distilled water 

Method: 

  1. Measure the vinegar in a cup. 
  2. Add the water to it.  
  3. Stir it with a spoon.  

How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse for Your Hair

Once you have made your ACV rinse, simply pouring it over your hair won’t be effective. There are specific steps to follow, as described below: 

  • Shampoo your hair and entire scalp with a regular shampoo.
  • Decant the ACV rinse in a spray bottle to spray enough on your wet hair. Be careful not to get the rinse in your eyes. If it does, rinse it out immediately.
  • If you don’t have a spray bottle, use any bottle or jug to slowly pour the rinse over your scalp and hair, avoiding contact with your eyes.
  • Massage it thoroughly but gently to your scalp and hair. 
  • Allow it to sit for a few minutes (I usually do it for 3 minutes) 
  • Rinse it off completely with cool (not hot) water. 
  • Apply your conditioner as normal.
  • Style your hair as normal.

Note: Rinse-out products like ACV are the best for hair between a pH of 4 and 6. It should be used with proper care and dilution for best results to avoid irritation. Try it on a small section first, and if any side effects are experienced, discontinue use. 

Scalp and Hair Products with Apple Cider Vinegar 

If you want ACV to be incorporated into your hair care routine more often, some hair care products include the ingredients for ease of use. Here are some that we recommend: 

dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub

This product is a natural exfoliator with pink Himalayan sea salt for a flaky scalp. It helps to remove product buildup, impurities, and dead skin cells. It also helps soothe dry, oily, or combination scalp. 

Avalon Organics Smooth ShineApple Cider Vinegar Finishing Rinse

If you don’t want to measure or mix anything, this will be your closest option to homemade ACV rinse. This finishing rinse is diluted correctly for optimal pH and contains various other natural ingredients, such as black cumin seed and cinnamon oil. 


R+Co Lost Treasure Apple Cider Vinegar Cleansing Rinse

If you are someone who has used dry shampoo and styling products for days, this rinse can help cleanse your hair without removing its natural oils or color. It will also make your hair soft, soothe your scalp, and give it a shine. 


Cantu Txtr By Cantu Apple Cider Vinegar + Tea Tree Soothing Shampoo

This sulfate-free ACV shampoo formula will soothe your itchy scalp and remove build-up without stripping your hair of its natural oils. The infusion of ACV, tea tree oil, and oat kernel extract provides scalp rejuvenation, soothes the dry scalp, and encourages healthy hair growth. 


dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Detangling Conditioner

ACV in conditioner is not quite as popular; however, it can work for those with fine hair. It’s lightweight and helps to easily detangle hair. This formula is enriched with amino acids, aloe vera, and argan oil that protects and nourishes the hair and increases vibrancy. 

Who Should Not Use an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse? 

As with any great product and beneficial ingredient, precautions should always be taken. While apple cider vinegar rinse works well for any hair type, it does not work for every person. 

Examples of people who should avoid ACV rinse: 

  • People with dermatological issues, severe dandruff, scars, or irritant red spots should avoid an ACV rinse.10  
  • If your scalp has wounds or cysts, you should not use ACV. 
  • If you have recently undergone a chemical treatment, wait until your hair has completely recovered before using an apple cider vinegar rinse. 

Why Some Hair Does Not Respond Well to Acidic Rinses 

According to the Science-y Hair Blog, “If a low-ish pH isn’t necessarily evil for your hair, then why can vinegar or citric acid rinses leave your hair dry and rough? Let’s say your hair is porous (even if just the ends are) – those solutions with a less-friendly pH get into your hair more easily and have access to a lot of surface area. You just got a bigger dose. 

Acids have corrosive action. That means they donate those “+” charges that lead to rusty metal. Acids can dissolve things like calcium. Acids can destroy fats and proteins. Think of what happens if you put lemon juice in milk (it curdles). Or if you put a nail in a glass of Coke. 

Weak acids like vinegar or citric acid can strip off some surface oils and proteins. Acids may interact with your water, the mineral deposits on your hair, and the ingredients in your products. The possibilities are endless.  

There’s nothing wrong with an occasional vinegar or citric acid rinse as long as they’re diluted properly, but chemically, it can be a wild card.  

Some people have resilient hair that can tolerate acidic rinses, whereas other people’s hair will swell and take on acid immediately. Some people’s hair can handle tolerate acids but not bases. Everybody’s hair is different for so many reasons.”

Possible Side Effects of Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse 

ACV is naturally acidic, and its direct application can cause redness and a burning sensation. If you feel these symptoms coming up, rinse your hair immediately with plenty of clean water. 

In some cases, ACV rinses can also cause itchy and dry scalp conditions. If this occurs, discontinue use and moisturize your scalp with a suitable product.

FAQs 

Should you use an ACV rinse before or after conditioning? 

An ACV rinse should be used after washing with shampoo and before using conditioner. 

Will an ACV rinse fade my color-treated hair? 

ACV rinse is less acidic than many believe and should not fade hair color if appropriately used.

Can you use an acv rinse every time you wash your hair? 

You can use the ACV rinse as often as you like. I recommend using it no more than once a week to avoid drying out your hair. 

Will my hair absorb products after using ACV rinse? 

Yes, because hair cuticles don’t really “close” completely. They just lay smoother and flatter and reflect light better. In other words, the hair is shinier. 

What are the long-term effects of an ACV hair rinse?

The long-term effects of using an ACV hair rinse are unknown. However, it is safe to use it long-term if diluted properly. 

Does an ACV hair rinse help with an itchy scalp? 

ACV rinse can help relieve an itchy scalp, especially if the itchiness is caused by dandruff. 

Do you have to rinse out apple cider vinegar for hair? 

Yes! You should rinse your scalp and hair thoroughly after using an ACV rinse.

How long is ACV rinse safe to leave in your hair?

According to Medical News Today, 1 -2 minutes before rinsing it off.16

Can ACV rinse help with curl definition? 

Yes, it can help define curls because it helps remove product build-up from the hair, thereby giving it a reboot. 

What does ACV do to hair follicles?

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is often used as a natural remedy for various hair concerns, although scientific evidence to support its benefits is limited. It can help balance the pH level of the scalp and hair. A balanced pH can result in a healthier environment for hair follicles.


References

  1. Fahey RL. Health benefits of apple cider vinegar and other common vinegars: A review. Integr Med Alert. 2017;20(6):67–72. ↩︎
  2. Budak NH, Kumbul Doguc D, Savas CM, Seydim AC, Kok Tas T, Ciris MI, et al. Effects of apple cider vinegars produced with different techniques on blood lipids in high-cholesterol-fed rats. J Agric Food Chem. 2011;59(12):6638–44. ↩︎
  3. Khezri SS, Saidpour A, Hosseinzadeh N, Amiri Z. Beneficial effects of Apple Cider Vinegar on weight management, Visceral Adiposity Index and lipid profile in overweight or obese subjects receiving restricted calorie diet: A randomized clinical trial. J Funct Foods. 2018;43:95–102. ↩︎
  4. Budak NH, Aykin E, Seydim AC, Greene AK, Guzel-Seydim ZB. Functional Properties of Vinegar. J Food Sci. 2014;79(5):R757–64. ↩︎
  5. Petsiou EI, Mitrou PI, Raptis SA, Dimitriadis GD. Effect and mechanisms of action of vinegar on glucose metabolism, lipid profile, and body weight. Nutr Rev. 2014;72(10):651–61. ↩︎
  6. Cheng LJ, Jiang Y, Wu VX, Wang W. A systematic review and meta-analysis: Vinegar consumption on glycaemic control in adults with type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Adv Nurs. 2020;76(2):459–74. ↩︎
  7. Barve K, Dighe A. Hair Conditioner. In: The Chemistry and Applications of Sustainable Natural Hair Products. Cham: Springer; 2016. p. 37–44. ↩︎
  8. Caligiani A, Acquotti D, Palla G, Bocchi V. Identification and quantification of the main organic components of vinegars by high resolution 1H NMR spectroscopy. Anal Chim Acta. 2007;585(1):110–9. ↩︎
  9. Budak HN, Guzel-Seydim ZB. Antioxidant activity and phenolic content of wine vinegars produced by two different techniques. J Sci Food Agric. 2010;90(12):2021–6. ↩︎
  10. Cline A, Uwakwe LN, McMichael AJ. No sulfates, no parabens, and the “no-poo” method: A new patient perspective on common shampoo ingredients. Cutis. 2018;101(1):22–6. ↩︎
  11. Bouillon C, Wilkinson J. The science of hair care. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2005. 1–729 p. ↩︎
  12. Saqib A. Antimicrobial Activity of Apple Cider Vinegar. Mapana J Sci. 2017;16(2):11–5. ↩︎
  13. Fong D, Gaulin C, Lê M, Shum M. Effectiveness of Alternative Antimicrobial Agents for Disinfection of Hard Surfaces. British Columbia: National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health; 2014. 18 p. ↩︎
  14. Arun PPS, Vineetha Y, Waheed M, Ravikanth K. Quantification of the minimum amount of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar required for the growth inhibition of dandruff causing fungi Malassezia furfur. Int J Sci Res Biol Sci. 2019;6(2):144–7. ↩︎
  15. Aykın E, Budak NH, Güzel-Seydim ZB. Bioactive Components of Mother Vinegar. J Am Coll Nutr. 2015;34(1):80–9. ↩︎
  16. Amanda B, Cobb (reviewer) C. Does apple cider vinegar work for hair growth?. Medical News Today. 2023. ↩︎

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