Does Apple Cider Vinegar Work for Hair? The Science Made Simple

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    Studies on apple cider vinegar and hair are slim. Still, there are good reasons that many people use this popular ingredient for hair health.

    What is apple cider vinegar?

    Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a common condiment, salad dressing, and just all-around health food. It’s made from apples – hence the name – through a process of fermentation that packs it with nutritious minerals and acids. Through the fermentation process, sugars are converted to alcohol and then acetic acid, producing the vinegar’s sour taste.

    There’s a long history of ACV being used for its healing properties, with some reporting that its healing uses date as far back as 3300 B.C., for conditions as varied as wound disinfection, insect bites, warts, scurvy, and all-around health. Today it’s used for cooking, sometimes for cleaning, sometimes for promoting skin health. Sometimes, it’s even used to enhance the health of people’s hair.

    Let’s take a look at that last part: ACV and hair. What’s that all about? Well, lots of people swear by ACV as an effective remedy that promotes healthy scalps and hair. If hair struggles like itchy scalp or hair loss are a problem for you, you might want to consider adding ACV to your hair care routine.

    What makes a healthy scalp?

    The health of your hair largely relies on the health of your scalp. To help promote the health of your scalp, you want to maintain proper blood flow and make sure you’re getting enough nutrients to support healthy cells. You also want to consider the scalp’s pH level. A healthy scalp tends to have a pH of 5.5, which is similar to the pH of the rest of your skin. The scalp also has its own microbiome, and imbalances within this microbiome can lead to dandruff and other hair problems.

    Studies have shown that oxidative stress can contribute to poor scalp health, disrupt the scalp microbiome, and contribute to negative consequences for pre-emergent hair formation. Once poorly formed hair has emerged from the scalp, it can’t be fundamentally repaired, only cosmetically treated. Some signs of an unhealthy scalp include:

    • Itchiness
    • Redness
    • Acne
    • Irritation
    • Pain
    • Cysts
    • Flakiness
    • Dandruff

    The low down on using apple cider vinegar for hair care

    So, if you’re struggling with scalp health, can apple cider vinegar be part of the solution? Why do so many people swear by it?

    ACV certainly has potential as a hair care treatment, for reasons we’ll get into below. Unfortunately, there haven’t been any studies that specifically study ACV and hair health. Nevertheless, there is much anecdotal evidence, and some of what we can say scientifically does suggest that ACV could be good for hair health.

    Benefits of using apple cider vinegar for hair care

    There are a few key reasons why ACV might be good for your hair.

    Apple cider vinegar is an acidic substance with a pH level of 2-3. Thus it can help balance pH levels of your hair and scalp. The pH level is crucial to the all-around health of the scalp microbiome.

    Another benefit of apple cider vinegar is that it has antioxidant properties. Numerous studies have shown that oxidative stress is harmful to scalp and hair health, and ACV could potentially reduce the harm caused by oxidative stress. Furthermore, ACV is rich in vitamins and minerals that can be good for hair.

    And, lastly, ACV has the weight of a long history of traditional use.

    What is an apple cider vinegar rinse and how to use one

    An ACV rinse is easy to make! Get out about 16 ounces of water and mix in 2 to 4 tablespoons of ACV. Once you’ve done that, you’ve made your rinse.

    After using shampoo and conditioner, pour the ACV mixture over your hair and rub it into your scalp. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes and then rinse it out.

    You can try to work your ACV rinse into your hair care routine a couple times a week; it doesn’t need to be every time you wash your hair. You can also tinker with the amount of ACV you use per rinse, though going above five tablespoons isn’t recommended.

    Other ways to boost hair health

    Of course, an apple cider vinegar mix isn’t the only option when it comes to hair health. You can also:

    • Boost blood flow to your scalp through a scalp massage
    • Keep your hair clean
    • Use coconut oil, which has been shown to support a healthy scalp microbiome
    • Generally manage oxidative stress through regular exercise, healthy diet, limiting your intake of processed foods, and quitting smoking

    Final takeaways

    We all want our hair to be healthy. The health of your hair, though, really starts with the health of your scalp. To keep your scalp healthy, it’s important to balance the scalp microbiome and manage oxidative stress. There’s reason to believe an apple cider vinegar rinse can help support scalp and hair health. Indeed, apple cider vinegar is widely popular and has been for a long time. Of course, everyone’s hair is different, and apple cider vinegar might not work for everyone’s hair. Fortunately there’s a range of other options out there, too. If hair issues persist, consider talking to a dermatologist for additional guidance.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Our Editorial Staff
    Freelance Contributor
    The Care/of Editorial Team is made up of writers, experts, and health enthusiasts, all dedicated to giving you the information you need today. Our team is here to answer your biggest wellness questions, read the studies for you, and introduce you to your new favorite product, staying up to date on the latest research, trends, and science. Each article is written by one of our experts, reviewed both for editorial standards by an editor and medical standards by one of our naturopathic doctors, and updated regularly as new information becomes available.