Here’s Why You Should Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Hair—and How to Use It

For when regular shampoo alone just doesn’t seem to cut it.

By Hana Hong

If you’re a fellow hair product junkie or have ever gone a couple days without washing your hair (basically all of us), I’m sure you’re familiar with how gross product and oil buildup feels. After several rounds of dry shampoo, hairspray, and styling creams, your scalp can be left with a lingering layer of product that no amount of rinsing time seems to eliminate. This is especially true if you live in a place with soft water, which can give hair a slippery feel.

Now, the good news—you can probably find a good (and affordable!) fix in your kitchen cabinet: apple cider vinegar. An apple cider vinegar-based rinse is touted by trichologists and hairstylists everywhere for helping restore life to your hair in a matter of minutes. The DIY ingredient is a great replacement for fancy clarifying shampoos—easier on your wallet and oftentimes more effective. 

You’ll probably notice the funky acidic scent immediately upon opening the bottle, but you don’t have to worry about walking around smelling like salad dressing. Yes, your shower will smell faintly of vinegar after a rinse, but the odor disappears when rinsed down the drain, and you won’t notice anything on your hair after it dries.

However, you do have to be cautious about application. Since the concentration of pure ACV is so strong, you can’t simply pour a bottle of ACV onto your head. Not only will that end up stripping your hair, the acidic nature could irritate and burn your scalp. According to Gretchen Friese, a BosleyMD hairstylist and certified trichologist, you should always dilute a half tablespoon of ACV to every 8 ounces of water, increasing it over time based on your scalp’s reaction.

“Everyone should experiment to find a dilution that works best for them as dry hair needs less ACV and oily hair needs more,” says Friese. “A plastic squeeze bottle or spray bottle are both great applicators. I recommend shampooing first and then saturating the hair with ACV.” Once you massage the solution into the scalp, let it sit for three to five minutes before rinsing and conditioning as normal. The frequency of application will depend on your hair type (remember, dry hair likes less and oily hair more) but don’t overdo it as it can cause brassiness and damage in high doses.  

That being said, trichologists and stylists agree that those with a hypersensitive scalp or any type of skin abrasions or disorders should avoid using apple cider vinegar as it has the potential to further irritate skin that may already be vulnerable.

“If you have any open wounds such as blister cuts or scabs, I would not recommend using it until it’s healed or otherwise consulted by your doctor,” adds Anita Sun, hairstylist at Eliut Salon. “You should also try not to use it right before or right after a chemical treatment, such as a coloring or keratin job, because the pH can affect the treatment you’re having done.” 

Now that we’ve covered the logistics, here are some benefits of apple cider vinegar for your hair and scalp.

Creates shine and protects color

Clarifies and adds volume

Relieves itchy scalp and dandruff

Encourages hair growth

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