Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a popular condiment and health food. It’s made from apples using a fermentation process enriching it with live cultures, minerals, and acids.
ACV has many applications as a home remedy. One of these is as a hair wash to improve scalp health, strengthen hair, and enhance shine.
While hailed as a home “panacea” or “cure-all” for health problems despite being under-researched, the benefits and science around ACV does deliver when it comes to hair care.
There are many arguments for why this hip health condiment is great for your hair.
Acidity and pH
For one, apple cider vinegar — beyond having some well-researched health properties — is an acidic substance. It contains good amounts of acetic acid.
Hair that looks dull, brittle, or frizzy tends to be more alkaline or higher on the pH scale. The idea is that an acid substance, like ACV, helps lower pH and brings hair health back into balance.
ACV is also a popular home disinfectant. It may help control the bacteria or fungi that can lead to scalp and hair problems, such as minor infections or itchiness.
Apple cider vinegar is praised for being rich in vitamins and minerals good for hair, like vitamin C and B. Some also claim it contains alpha-hydroxy acid which helps exfoliate scalp skin, and that it’s anti-inflammatory, which can help with dandruff.
An ACV wash can be made very simply.
- Mix a couple of tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with water.
- After shampooing and conditioning, pour the mixture over your hair evenly, working into your scalp.
- Let it sit for a couple of minutes.
- Rinse it out.
Coconuts and Kettlebells recommends mixing a few drops of essential oil into the mixture if the acidic smell is too powerful for you. The smell should also go away quickly after rinsing.
Try incorporating the rinse into your hair care regimen a couple of times a week. Also feel free to increase the amount of ACV you use in each wash or rinse. Generally, keeping it around 5 tablespoons or less is recommended.
Using apple cider vinegar is all about bringing hair back into balance. If you’re not careful, it can be overdone. If your hair or scalp issues worsen instead, discontinue using ACV. Or, try lowering the amount you put into a rinse, or the frequency you use it.
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acids known to be caustic. This means they may irritate or burn the skin.
Always dilute ACV with water before applying it directly to the skin. If your rinses are too strong, try diluting it more — though if irritation happens, it almost always clears up within a couple of days.
Also avoid contact with eyes. If contact happens, quickly wash out with water.
Pursue the above guidelines and using apple cider vinegar can be deemed completely safe.
As of yet, there’s been no research directly testing apple cider vinegar’s benefits for hair care.
For some ACV claims, however, there’s good science and research to vouch for healthy hair effects. For other claims, more research is still needed, or science hasn’t been able to back up that they’re true.
Apple cider vinegar’s potential power to lower pH to boost hair health holds merit. A 2014 study on shampoo pH found that high alkalinity can contribute to hair friction, breakage, and dryness.
The study argued that most hair care products don’t address hair pH when they should, and that most shampoos tend to be alkaline. As a highly acidic substance, ACV could help balance pH. By increasing acidity and lowering pH, it may support smoothness, strength, and shine.
Apple cider vinegar’s antimicrobial powers are also well-supported by research. It could keep scalp problems related to fungus or bacteria at bay, thereby preventing itchy scalp. There’s no research or science behind dry scalp or dandruff support, however.
There’s also no research proving that ACV contains alpha-hydroxy acid, though apples are known to contain it. Apples are also known to contain vitamin C, and yet the vitamin is undetectable in vinegar.
No data exists proving that vinegar is anti-inflammatory, either. In fact, the condiment contains very caustic acids that, when misused, may cause inflammation rather than reverse it.
Science supports the use of apple cider vinegar as a hair rinse. It could help strengthen hair and improve luster by lowering hair and scalp pH.
It may also keep pesky scalp infections and itchiness at bay. However, it shouldn’t be relied on to reduce inflammation or solve diseases or issues of the scalp, like dandruff.
Everyone’s hair is different. Apple cider vinegar rinses may not work for everyone. The best way to know if it’s beneficial for you is to bring it into your hair care routine, and see if it works for you personally.