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Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse: Should You Do It?

February 16, 2022


Verna Meachum

Apple cider vinegar with the Mother

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I am highly experienced in the beauty industry and specialize in writing for brands and websites that focus on curly hair care. Moreover, I actually have curly hair and have curly-haired children with varying hair textures. I am also surrounded by curly-haired friends, including curly hairstylists and curly-haired family members. You get the point :) I’m well-versed in the language and nuances of curly hair care, styling tips, and product recommendations.

Furthermore, I collaborate with my friend who has a Ph.D. in organic and inorganic chemistry and works as an R&D Chemist to help us navigate through the misinformation around curly hair care. He advises us on Hair Care Science to ensure we are well-informed.

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Last Updated on April 6, 2023 by Verna Meachum

Apple cider vinegar is a popular natural remedy for a variety of issues. It can be used as a detoxifier, weight loss aid, and even to treat acne.

But what about using it for hair? Can it improve your hair health?

Some people swear by it, while others think it’s overrated.

So, should you do an apple cider vinegar hair rinse?

In this blog post, we will discuss the benefits of using it as a hair rinse, how to use it, and who should not use it.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse for Scalp and Hair

Humans have been consuming apple cider vinegar for centuries, mainly in our food and salads. Its intake in our everyday diet offers tremendous benefits.

Scientists have examined its long-lasting impact on blood sugar levels, lipid uptake in the body, and weight loss.1 It has also been explored for potential skin and hair care benefits.

Social media and web sources have extensively discussed its impact in boosting skin condition as well as hair quality.

It is often been recommended as a rinse off treatment to improve scalp surface, and provide hair shine.

Apple Cider Vinegar is known for its antimicrobial properties, especially anti-fungal and anti-bacterial activity.

So, what does Apple Cider Vinegar do to the hair and scalp? Does it clean it?

Before discussing this question, let’s look at the chemistry of Apple Cider Vinegar.

Chemistry of Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is acidic with a pH range of 2.00 – 3.00, depending upon the total amount of acid present in the formulation.

The organic acid responsible for its acidity is Acetic acid. Apple cider vinegar is prepared by enzymatic oxidation of sugar molecules present in freshly squeezed apple juice.

The chemical reaction is facilitated by Acetobacter bacteria.

The chemical composition of Apple Cider Vinegar demonstrates the presence of various organic acids (besides Acetic acid).

It contains:

  • Acetic acid
  • Malic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Succinic acid2-3

Moreover, it contains various phenolic compounds, for example

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

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

The benefits of using an apple cider vinegar hair rinses are many. It helps to remove product build up, enhance shine, reduce frizzy hair, and promote a healthy scalp.

What Does it Do to Hair and Scalp?

Scalp exfoliation

Organic acids are frequently used in hair and skin care formulations.

Acetic acid is the main component present in Apple Cider Vinegar, which defines the main properties of this product. It is what gives vinegar its sour taste and smell.

Organic acids can clean hair and the scalp surface. They can exfoliate the scalp surface; remove debris or any product build up at the scalp surface.

This can boost blood circulation to the upper layers of scalp layers facilitating cellular turnover (formation of the new generation of cells).

Anti-dandruff activity

Apple Cider Vinegar is known to exhibit anti-microbial activity.5 This is endorsed by multiple scientific studies, which is why Apple Cider Vinegar has been recommended for dandruff problems.

It inhibits the fungal growth and exfoliates any dandruff scales present at the surface.


Polyphenolic compounds are abundantly present in Cider Vinegar (as mentioned above).

These compounds are anti-oxidants and can capture reactive oxygen species to control oxidative stress.

Among the reactive oxygen species, hydroxyl radical is known to cause significant hair damage.

This helps in improving the health of your hair as well as relieving 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 have a profound impact on hair because metal deposits on the hair shaft and can tarnish hair’s physical and chemical properties.

Metal build-up can alter the hair properties, its manageability, styling, and shine.

A rinse with diluted Apple Cider Vinegar (or acv rinse) can easily dissolve these metal deposits from the hair shaft and make hair completely clean.

Likewise, 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.

Acidic rinse can remove these polymeric build-ups restoring the natural feel and shine of hair.

Should you use it on your hair?

Yes, Apple Cider Vinegar can be used on the hair and scalp. However, just like other hair care treatments, it should be used with proper procedure and care.

Furthermore, Apple Cider Vinegar with its MOTHER is preferred. Mother contains a significant level of nutrients, good microbes, and minerals. These can be further beneficial to the hair and scalp.

Hair type considerations

All hair types can benefit the most from using an apple cider vinegar hair, including:

Dry and brittle hair

Dull, lifeless hair

Frizzy and damaged hair

Oily scalp, dandruff prone hair

It is also safe to use on color-treated hair and all hair types.

How to use apple cider vinegar as a rinse

It is an acid solution, thus, Apple Cider Vinegar should be used carefully. It is strongly acidic and should not be used as is.

Always use the diluted version as described below. According to Dr. Eric Berg, get a filter that can pull out chlorine and fluoride from the water because those two chemicals are halogens and they’re very reactive on your skin (your scalp is an extension of your skin), which can give it all sorts of acne issues, that can damage the hair.

Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse Recipe:

Apple Cider Vinegar Filtered or Distilled Water
10.0g / 2 tsp 90.0 g / 1 cup
  1. Measure the vinegar in a cup.
  2. Add the water to it.
  3. Stir it with a spoon.
  4. The diluted version will have a pH level 4.0 – 5.0, which matches the hair’s isoelectric point.
  5. Shampoo your hair and entire scalp with an anti-residue shampoo.
  6. Use a spray bottle or whatever you have on hand and spray a sufficient amount of the above diluted Apple Cider Vinegar on your wet hair. Be careful not to get it in your eyes. If the rinse gets in your eyes, rinse it out immediately.
  7. Massage it thoroughly to your hair and scalp.
  8. Let it sit for a few minutes (I usually do it for 3 minutes)
  9. Rinse it off completely with cool water, not hot water.
  10. Apply your regular styling products.

Note: Rinse-out products are the best for hair between pH 4 and 6.

Scalp and Hair Products With Apple Cider Vinegar

dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp

If you want a flake free scalp, this product will naturally exfoliate it with the Himalayan Salt Scalp Scrub, as well as help removing product build up, impurities, and dead skin cells. It will also help soothe dry, oily, or combination scalp.

Avalon Organics Finishing Rinse

If you don’t want to bother with measuring anything, this will be your closest option to a DIY apple cider vinegar rinse. This finishing rinse is not only properly diluted to have the optimal pH, but it also contains a variety of other healthy ingredients such as black cumin seed oil and cinnamon oil.

Smooth Shine Apple Cider Vinegar Finishing Rinse
$17.65 ($1.47 / Fl Oz)
Grab it Here
06/09/2023 02:18 pm GMT

Beekman 1802 – Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse

Here’s another apple cider vinegar rinse option. This rinse has a similar pH to human skin. It contains goat milk that helps to balance the pH level of our own hair and keep bacteria at bay.

Goat milk is high in lactic acid and is a natural exfoliant.

Cantu Txtr By Apple Cider Vinegar + Tea Tree Soothing Shampoo

How about a shampoo with apple cider vinegar? We got you! This formula will sooth your itchy scalp and remove buildup without stripping your hair of its natural oils because it’s sulfate free!

Infused with Apple Cider Vinegar, tea tree oil, and oat Kernel Extract which provides scalp rejuvenation, soothes dry scalp, and encourage healthy hair growth.

dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Detangling Conditioner

Apple cider vinegar in conditioner is not quite as popular, however, it can work for those with fine hair. It’s lightweight and detangles easily. This formula is enriched with Amino Acids, Aloe Vera, and Argan Oil that protects, nourishes the hair and increases vibrancy.

Who Should Not Use an ACV Rinse?

Consumers having dermatological issues, severe dandruff, scars, or irritant red spots should avoid an apple cider vinegar rinse.

Likewise, if your scalp has wounds or cysts, you should not use vinegar. And if you have recently undergone a chemical treatment, wait until your hair has completely recovered before using an apple cider vinegar rinse.

Why does some hair not respond well to acidic rinses?

“So if low-ish pH isn’t necessarily evil to your hair, then why can vinegar or citric acid rinses leave hair feeling 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 – 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, with the mineral deposits on your hair, 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 very resilient hair that can tolerate acidic rinses whereas other people’s hair will swell and take on acid immediately. Some people’s hair can tolerate acids but not bases. Everybody’s hair is different for so many reasons.”

According to the Science-y Hair Blog

If used properly, an apple cider vinegar rinse will not fade your hair color.

Possible side effects of using an apple cider vinegar hair rinse

Apple Cider Vinegar is acidic in nature. Thus, its direct application can cause redness and burning sensation.

If you feel any of these symptoms, rinse your hair immediately with plenty of water.

In some cases, apple cider vinegar rinses can also cause dryness and itchiness on the scalp.

If this occurs, discontinue use and moisturize your scalp with a suitable product.


Do you use an acv rinse before or after conditioner?

An apple cider vinegar rinse should be used after shampooing and before conditioner.

Will an acv rinse fade my color-treated hair?

Apple Cider Vinegar is not nearly as acidic as many people believe, and it should not fade hair color.

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

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

After using a hair rinse will my hair be able to absorb products afterwards?

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

What are the effects of an apple cider vinegar hair rinse over time?

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

Does an acv hair rinse help with itchy scalp?

Yes, it can help relieve an itchy scalp.

Are you supposed to rinse out apple cider vinegar for hair?

Yes! Rinse your scalp and hair thoroughly after the rinse has been applied.

How long do you leave apple cider vinegar rinse in your hair?

According to the Medical News Today, leave it on for about 1 -2 minutes. And, according to the Science of Haircare book, when applying an acv rinse, allow it to sit on the hair for at least 3 minutes, which is the time the vinegar requires to break up the molecular structure of the residue allowing it to be easily rinsed away.

Can an acv rinse help with curl definition?

Yes, it can help define curls because it helps to remove product build-on the hair and thereby giving your hair a reboot, so to speak.


Apple Cider Vinegar has many benefits for the hair and scalp and can be done in the comfort of your own home.

This simple, natural remedy can help remove build-up, control oxidative stress, chelate metals, and restore shine and feel to the hair.

However, it should be used with proper care and caution. It is strongly acidic and can cause irritation if not diluted properly. If any side effects are experienced, discontinue use.

An apple cider vinegar rinse is not for everyone’s hair, so I recommend you try it on a small section of your hair to see if your hair responds well.


1. Budak, N. H.; Kumbul Doguc, D.; Savas, C. M.; Seydim, A. C.; Kok Tas, T.; Ciris, M. I.; Guzel-Seydim, Z. B., Effects of apple cider vinegars produced with different techniques on blood lipids in high-cholesterol-fed rats. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2011, 59 (12), 6638-6644.
2. 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), 110-119.
3. Budak, N. H.; Aykin, E.; Seydim, A. C.; Greene, A. K.; Guzel‐Seydim, Z. B., Functional properties of vinegar. Journal of food science 2014, 79 (5), R757-R764.
4. Budak, H. N.; Guzel‐Seydim, Z. B., Antioxidant activity and phenolic content of wine vinegars produced by two different techniques. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 2010, 90 (12), 2021-2026.
5. Saqib, A., Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar. Mapana Journal of sciences 2017, 16 (2).

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