Apple Cider Vinegar for Hair: Benefits and How to Use It

apple cider vinegar

Tawni Bannister for BYRDIE

From fighting blackheads to detoxing your diet, apple cider vinegar has been a formidable player in both the skincare and wellness space for some time. And if that wasn't enough, ACV is now making a name for itself in hair care, which—given its versatility, accessibility, and the fact that it makes a killer DIY hair rinse—should come as no surprise. To find out more about this buzzy ingredient, we checked in with hair pros Gretchen Friese, Denis de Souza, and Jo Blackwell-Preston.

"[Apple cider vinegar] is made by crushing apples, then squeezing out the juice," says trichologist Gretchen Friese. "Bacteria and yeast are added to the liquid to start an alcoholic fermentation process, which converts the sugars from the juice to alcohol. Then in a second and final fermentation step, the alcohol is converted into vinegar." Not only did they weigh in on ACV's beauty claims but they also dished on who could most benefit from adding it to their hair care routine—and how. So keep scrolling as we're bringing you everything you ever wanted to know about apple cider vinegar for hair.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Hair

  • Type of ingredient: Anti-inflammatory
  • Main benefits: Clarifies, detangles, and stimulates a healthy scalp
  • Who should use it: Anyone with product buildup or an overly-oily or dry scalp
  • How often can you use it: As a general rule of thumb, use once per week (although this can vary depending on the product formulation and your hair type).
  • Works well with: Moisturizing masks
  • Don’t use with: Scalp scrubs or other chemical/physical exfoliants to avoid irritation

Meet the Expert

Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar for Hair

Apple cider vinegar is to hair what honey is to green tea. You don't necessarily need it, but try it once and you (likely) won't go back. That's because ACV offers a host of potential benefits that all have one thing in common: making your hair and scalp look and feel amazing. Here's how:

  • Promotes a healthy scalp: ACV may offer healing properties for the scalp. "The antibacterial and anti-fungal properties of ACV help to keep the pH level of the scalp balanced," says Friese. "Dandruff is a buildup on the scalp that happens when too much yeast is present on oily areas of the skin. Using a mix with ACV can help avoid that build-up."
  • Reduces color fading: Friese says that for color-treated hair, ACV can help close the cuticles, thus maintaining your color's vibrancy.
  • Detangles: If you have hair that's prone to knots or tangles, anecdotal evidence suggests that ACV and a wide-tooth comb can help rid them.
  • Strengthens and softens: “Apple cider vinegar coats the cuticle, leaving the hair soft and shiny,” says de Souza. “It also helps to strengthen your hair by closing the cuticles and the hair shaft,” he adds.
  • Fights frizz: Friese maintains that ACV can help smooth the hair and keep frizz at bay, making it a popular treatment option among those with curly and textured hair.
  • Reduces hair loss: With its potential ability to balance the skin's pH and clear the hair follicle from debris, Friese says that ACV can help reduce hair loss.
  • Cleanses: Apple cider vinegar may be effective at getting rid of buildup on the scalp without stripping color. "Apple cider vinegar rinses are really truly about removing buildup of products, and they make the hair really clean,” says Blackwell-Preston.

Hair Type Considerations

Our experts agree that apple cider vinegar is safe for all hair types, including color-treated tresses. It's especially beneficial for those with major product buildup, whether that's from hairsprays, dry shampoo, braids, or excess grease. And while oily hair types can get away with using a higher concentration of ACV, if you have dry hair, we recommend using a higher water to ACV ratio to avoid drying out your scalp.

How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Hair

Because ACV is slightly acidic, when it's mixed with two to three parts water it may extend the life of hair color, but only when applied right after the color is rinsed off. "Most hair colors are alkaline, which opens up the hair cuticle, and applying an acidic solution may reseal the cuticle," notes Friese. You can experiment to find a dilution that works best for you and your hair type, but in general, the following steps are a good place to start:

  1. Mix five parts water to one part vinegar in a spray bottle (100 ml of ACV to 500 ml of water if you want to be exact).
  2. Spray your scalp well, enough that it'll be evenly coated.
  3. Work the vinegar into clean hair with your fingers. It will be diluted enough that it shouldn't burn.
  4. Allow the vinegar mixture to sit for two to five minutes.
  5. Rinse your hair and scalp with cool water.
  6. Follow this rinse with a light conditioner, nothing that will weigh down your hair.
  7. Rinse your hair well, until you're sure all product (and vinegar) is down the drain.

The Best Products With Apple Cider Vinegar

DpHue Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse
DpHue Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse $35.00

You won't find yourself missing the lather with this shampoo alternative; it enhances hair, leaving it clean, smooth, and shiny. And if you've got a thick, coarse, or curly mane, rinsing twice with this ACV solution will gently remove product buildup and revitalize your strands. Double cleanses aren't just meant for skin, after all.

100% Pure Grow More Shampoo
100% Pure Grow More Shampoo $34.00

Have hair that sheds? This shampoo is infused with apple cider vinegar meant to provide clarifying, deep cleaning benefits that stimulate a healthy scalp. Not only does it promise to encourage new hair growth and minimize hair loss, but as its name suggests, it also promises oh-so glossy locks.

Smooth Shine Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioner
Avalon Organics Smooth Shine Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioner $44.00

Apple cider vinegar along with argan and babussa oil blend to make for a hair-nourishing conditioner that wards off flyaways and seals hair cuticles. That, coupled with its budget-friendly price tag makes it a hair care must-have. For best results, leave in the conditioner for one to three minutes before rinsing out.

R+Co Apple Cider Vinegar Cleansing Rinse
R+Co Apple Cider Vinegar Cleansing Rinse $30.00

Use this cleansing rinse in place of shampoo or as a co-washing conditioner; either way, it promises to rid hair of product buildup (without nixing color) and impart a commercial-ready shine. Need we say more?

  • What's the difference between ACV and a clarifying shampoo?

    "Clarifying shampoos are formulated to remove product buildup and excess oils as well as prep the hair for some types of color or hair treatments. However, when used alone it can fade color and make the hair feel dry and look dull, making following up with a good conditioner or treatment necessary," explains Friese. On the other hand, ACV is meant to remove buildup, seal in hair color, and enhance shine.

  • Are there any side effects to using an ACV hair rinse?

    "The frequency of use depends on the individual and their hair type, but too much use can cause brassiness and damage," warns Friese. De Souza adds that for most, using an ACV rinse a few times a week isn’t going to harm your color, though you should use it less frequently if your skin skews sensitive.

  • Will my hair smell weird if I treat it with apple cider vinegar?

    After an ACV rinse, your hair should not retain any odor once dried.

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