The apple cider vinegar hair rinse is seemingly as popular as ever in the natural hair community.
While it’s unlikely that all of the hair related claims associated with apple cider vinegar can be substantiated with controlled case studies, there is clearly enough anecdotal evidence to pique our interest.
Today we’re doing a deep dive into the benefits of incorporating apple cider vinegar (ACV) into your hair and skin care regimen.
Is the ACV rinse worth the hype?
What are the claims?
You can find pages and pages of YouTubers who are absolutely delighted with the results of using an apple cider vinegar rinse on their kinks, curls, and waves.
As we scoured the comment sections of a few beauty bloggers, we noticed a few trends concerning the claims about the benefits of using apple cider vinegar on your curls.
For example, people say “apple cider vinegar can…
- relieve a variety of hair and scalp related conditions, including dry scalp flakes, dandruff, and psoriasis.”
- smooth the hair cuticles.”
- add natural body and define your curls.”
- make your curls bouncy.”
- reduce frizz.”
- encourage hair growth.”
- prevent hair loss.”
- eliminate knots and tangles.”
- get gum out of your hair“
With all of these glorious promises, it’s almost as if ACV is the holy grail product you and your curls have been searching for, huh?
Just imagine, knots and tangles gently slip free while you style, and no more frizz!
But before you get too excited about all of these claims; let’s take a closer look at the basic science and history behind apple cider vinegar within your hair regimen.
Table of Contents
- What Should I Know About Apple Cider Vinegar?
- The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar on Your Hair
- What Do Scientists Actually Think About Apple Cider Vinegar and Curly Hair Care?
- Balance Your Hair’s PH Levels When Using Alkaline Hair Products
- Dandruff and Itchy Scalp
- Studies that Debunk ACV Claims
- Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse Recipe
What Should I Know About Apple Cider Vinegar?
Not only is ACV a popular condiment used in dishes around the world, but many cultures also rely on it’s alleged healing properties as a source of medicine for common ailments.
How do you make apple cider vinegar?
ACV is created by pulverizing or smashing up apples and then allowing the apples to ferment. During the fermentation process, live cultures, acids, and minerals are added to the apples.
The sugars within the crushed apples are gradually broken down by bacteria and yeast.
Eventually, as the yeast breaks down the sugars, they will transform into alcohol, then the bacteria convert the alcohol into acetic acid, also known as “vinegar.”
Many years ago, medical doctors would use the vinegar created during the fermentation process to treat ulcers and sores dating as far back as Hippocrates (460-337 BC).
The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar on Your Hair
ACV has been used to preserve food, heal wounds, fight infections, and clean surfaces for more than 2,000 years. Over time, the benefits and potential uses of ACV have only become more diverse.
Recently, some women have ditched their shampoos for ACV.
Claims suggest that ACV can improve the health of your scalp, strengthen your hair follicles, and enhance your hair’s shine, eliminating the appearance of dry hair.
Can an ACV Rinse Lower Your Hair’s PH?
ACV contains a large quantity of acetic acid, resulting in a lower pH. If your curls are frizzy, dull, or brittle then it’s possible that your pH level has risen far too high.
In order to restore balance and shine, you may need to gradually lower your hair’s pH (i.e., restoring pH balance). Many women now rely on ACV as a way to lower their pH levels if their regimen includes products higher on the pH scale.
We’ve written extensively in the past on how to manage potential hydrogen, using pH balanced shampoos and conditioners.
Managing pH is an advanced topic and it’s outside of the scope of this article. However, you can read this article to learn how to maintain the pH balance of your hair.
Can Cider Vinegar Fights off Bacteria?
Households all over the world utilize on ACV as a powerful, family-friendly disinfectant. Although, have you ever felt like your scalp is far too itchy and irritated for you to grow healthy happy curls?
You may be surprised to learn that your hair’s itching may be the result of an overproduction of fungi or bacteria on your scalp. This seemingly slight nuisance can eventually develop into a minor infection if not treated properly.
ACV’s antimicrobial properties may be the easiest and safest way to treat your scalp if minor infections are found; thus, giving you not only a healthy set of curls but a clean scalp.
Is It Rich in Vitamins?
Some beauty bloggers claim that apple cider vinegar is also a great source for the vitamins and other nutrients that your curls need to stay healthy, like vitamin B and C.
We’ve also seen ladies mention that since ACV contains alpha-hydroxy acid which not only helps to exfoliate your scalp, it is also an anti-inflammatory that helps you fight off pesky dandruff flakes.
Are the Claims About Apple Cider Vinegar Too Good to Be True?
Truthfully, despite all the positive reviews from women across the blogosphere; as of yet, there is still no research directly testing apple cider vinegar’s benefits for hair care.
Trust us! We were very surprised, given all the positive testimonials circulating the natural hair community.
So how do we explain all the positive reviews and anecdotal that swear they have witnessed these amazing benefits?
Anecdotes vs Research
The majority of the excitement about ACV is because of anecdotes (i.e., individual hearsay or personal experiences). Although, there are some promising studies that outline the overall benefits of using vinegar (just not cider vinegar).
That means that most of the claims related to using cider vinegar as a hair rinse are not actually rooted in science, but are mostly (anecdotes) word of mouth, opinion, and speculation.
In fact, according to specialists from Belgravia Centre (a United Kingdom hair loss facility), there is insufficient evidence to substantiate the claims.
For example, the Belgravia Centre doesn’t support claims that apple cider vinegar treats hair loss. Their position is that ACV can be used as a really good clarifying hair rinse to help remove product build-up on your scalp.
What Do Scientists Actually Think About Apple Cider Vinegar and Curly Hair Care?
While we do not have any current research effectively proving that apple cider vinegar is good for naturally curly hair, there are a few studies that may support the benefits of ACV.
Balance Your Hair’s PH Levels When Using Alkaline Hair Products
Your hair has an average pH of around 5. Ironically, many of the most popular shampoos and conditioners can disrupt your hair’s natural pH balance.
If you’re using a hair product with a high pH (i.e., more alkaline), apple cider vinegar’s potential power to lower pH levels and improve your hair’s health does indeed hold some merit.
The study highlighted a glaring gap within the hair care industry. Many hair care products don’t consider your hair’s pH and many shampoos are often alkaline.
Since it’s an acidic substance, ACV can help balance pH in certain situations. When used to lower pH by increasing acidity, the rinse may provide strength and support smoothness.
Dandruff and Itchy Scalp
There are dermatologists that believe ACV’s antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties may stop yeast on your scalp from overproducing and irritating your scalp.
Remember, the more you allow dead skin cells and flakes to build up, the more you’ll have to deal with itchiness.
Note that we haven’t found any studies that substantiate the claim that ACV can treat scalp conditions.
The usefulness of ACV as a dandruff treatment is still unproven, but there is plenty of anecdotal evidence supporting the use of apple cider as a dandruff treatment.
If you suffer from dandruff, we’ve written comprehensive research on the causes of dandruff.
Studies that Debunk ACV Claims
There are also studies that actively counter some of the alleged benefits of using ACV on your hair.
Not a Good Source of Vitamins
While ACV is made primarily of fermented apples which are high in nutritional content, there’s little to no research indicating that ACV is a good source for vitamins and other nutrients for the hair.
ACV surprisingly contains minerals like iron, calcium, manganese, and potassium. However, just because a vitamin or mineral is present in apples doesn’t mean that the same vitamins and minerals are present in ACV.
For instance, there is no scientific research indicating that ACV contains alpha-hydroxy acid which is a powerful anti-inflammatory found in apples. Also, apples contain vitamin C, and yet vitamin C is not found in ACV.
Long story short, while there may be vitamins and minerals present, there is not a detectable amount within apple cider vinegar to truly impact the health of your hair.
You Can Over Use Apple Cider Vinegar
While scouring the comment sections of beauty bloggers across the web we noticed some women claiming that because ACV is “natural,” it is safe to use liberally.
Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Researchers actually discovered that ACV contains potentially caustic acids. If cider vinegar is misused, it may cause inflammation rather than reverse it.
It’s important to be careful when using ACV because you could end up irritating your skin.
In this video, Rocío Isabel, aka RisasRizos, outlines her process for using apple cider vinegar on curly hair. Rocío covers the benefits of using apple cider vinegar and two ways to incorporate the hair rinse into your curly hair regimen.
Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse Recipe
If you are still curious about using this hair rinse, here’s our ACV hair rinse recipe.
- Plastic Container or Bowl
- Wooden Spoon
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Measuring Cup
- Optional: Essential Oil*
- Using the wooden spoon, mix 4 tablespoons of ACV with 2 cups of water in a plastic container. You can optionally add a few drops of your favorite essential oil.
- After shampooing and conditioning your hair, tip your head back and pour the hair rinse over your hair and scalp evenly, massaging the rinse into your scalp. We recommend that avoid making contact with your eyes, so you don’t cause irritation.
- Let it the ACV sit in on your hair for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Thoroughly rinse out ACV.
- Continue with styling your curls as normal.
How often can I use an ACV rinse on my curls?
Whenever you are introducing a new product to your hair care regimen, it’s best to start off slowly. Try incorporating the rinse into your regimen a couple of times a week, take before and after pictures, and monitor the results. Adjust as needed.
In the end, science only supports the use of apple cider vinegar as a hair rinse.
There are a few claims that are not backed up with research, yet. For instance, we do not know if the hair rinse can help strengthen your hair and improve sheen by lowering the pH of your hair and scalp.
We also can’t substantiate whether ACV can actually heal scalp infections and soothe itchiness.
Although, just because there is not a lot of research supporting the benefits of ACV and naturally curly hair that does not mean that it won’t work for you.
Don’t forget, your curls are a part of what makes you uniquely you!
So, regardless of your hair type, whether your curls are kinky, curly, or wavy you won’t know if ACV is the perfect hair product unless you try it out for yourself.
We encourage you to experience with products and your regimen in order to find the best hair products for you. Just don’t forget the basics!
Whenever you’re trying something new with your curls, pay attention to your hair.
When it comes to ACV you always want to dilute it with water, before applying it directly to your scalp. We encourage you to patch test your ACV solution either in the crease of your elbow or behind your knee before you commit to the rinse.
If you notice your current ratio for your ACV rinse is too strong, don’t hesitate to add more water.
It’s better to make your solution weaker than so strong that it causes skin irritation.
In the event that you do experience an adverse reaction, don’t panic! It should clear up within a couple of days. If not, visit a medical facility right away.
And as always, we would love to hear from you!
Is apple cider vinegar your holy grail product? If so, share your experiences and results below!