Hello, I have a very important announcement to make: Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is the most undervalued and ignored hair product currently sitting in your house. I’m, like, mad for your hair, TBH. As someone who has been washing their curls once a week with ACV since the freaking 8th grade—we all hung out on hair message boards instead of with friends, right?—I’ve turned into an unofficial spokesperson for the smelliest salad dressing you could dump on your head.
I'm not kidding when I say apple cider vinegar rinses are quite literally a magic wand for all your annoying scalp and hair issues. Don’t believe me? Wow, rude. But also, keep reading, so you, too, can have stupidly shiny, pretty hair without spending a ton of money (it's like $3, y'all).
The benefits of apple cider vinegar for hair
As far as the DIY world goes, apple cider vinegar is one of the few natural ingredients that has virtually no negatives and all positives (provided you don’t do dumb stuff with it. So don't). Ahem:
ACV treats dandruff
“Apple cider vinegar has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties, which makes it pretty effective in killing and preventing dandruff-causing yeast on the scalp,” says Mona Gohara, MD, dermatologist at Yale School of Medicine. Is it as effective, though, as ketoconazole or pyrithione zinc—the two holy-grail, study-backed ingredients used in dandruff shampoos like Head & Shoulders and Nizoral? No, definitely not. But it’s certainly more gentle, which means it won’t strip your hair (or curls) like most dandruff-fighting formulas will.
ACV helps scalp itchiness and irritation
Yuuup. Weirdly, even though it’s freakin’ vinegar, ACV can also soothe irritated scalps. “Apple cider vinegar also has natural anti-inflammatory properties, so it also calms while it prevents yeast overgrowth,” says Dr. Gohara, “which means your scalp won’t be left with as much irritation or itchiness in the long run.”
ACV clarifies product build-up
So this is why I initially started using ACV rinses: its clarifying powers. My middle-school self was dealing with oily, flat roots, mostly because of hormones, but also because of a misguided love for heavy gels, serums, and creams. Oh, sweet bb.
Apple cider vinegar, however, cut through all that build-up on my roots, thanks to the fact that it’s filled with the AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) malic acid—a gentle, natural exfoliator. I’ve found that ACV works just as well (better?) than clarifying shampoo, solely because it doesn’t strip the hell out of my hair and leave it feeling like straw.
ACV makes hair shiny and smooth
“The pH of your scalp is naturally a little acidic, but it’s also easily disrupted by all the hair products we load on every day,” says Dr. Gohara, “and that messed-up pH can lead to rough, open hair cuticles that tangle, look dull, and break.” Womp. “Apple cider vinegar, with its acidic base, can help balance the pH of your scalp’s acid mantle and close those cuticles.” And flatter cuticles not only means smoother, softer hair, but also way shinier hair, since light reflects off of smooth, seamless surfaces.
Of course, all of the above is only true if you use ACV the correct way, which brings us to…
How do you rinse your hair with apple cider vinegar?
Please do not go dumping ACV straight from the bottle onto your hair. It is vinegar, and it will cause damage. The key, here, is diluting it with water—usually one-part apple cider vinegar with five-parts water. Every recipe is different (because there are no real rules behind this), but in the large plastic cup I keep in my shower, I usually fill a fifth of it with ACV, then fill up the rest of the cup with water.
After shampooing, I tip my head back and slowly drizzle it over my scalp (pro tip: Keep your eyes and mouth closed), raking through my roots as I pour. I let it sit for about 30 seconds, then rinse it out and follow with conditioner. Yes, your shower and hair will smell like salad dressing for a bit, but they’ll both fade by the time your hair dries.
How often should I use apple cider vinegar on my hair?
Once a week is usually a good rule of thumb. Even diluted, it’s still vinegar, which means it’s not exactly the most moisturizing, hair-coddling ingredient in the world. You can also play with the ratios—if you don’t notice a difference after a few rinses, try upping the ACV levels a bit (don’t go crazy). Or, if you’re using it purely for the dandruff help, try this DIY scalp spray that I'm truly in love with:
In a spray bottle, mix:
— 1/4 cup hot water
— 1/4 apple cider vinegar (which disrupts yeast growth—the cause of dandruff—by changing the acidity on your scalp)
— 6 drops of tea tree oil (a natural antibacterial and antifungal)
— 5 crushed-to-a-powder aspirin tablets (a major source of salicylic acid, which reduces flakes and soothes inflammation)
Once a week, I’d spray it all over my dry scalp, let it sit for 20 minutes, then hop in the shower to shampoo and condition like usual. It didn't fully eradicate my dandruff, but it definitely lessens it by 70 percent.
Now please—go forth and stock your shower with apple cider vinegar (…in plastic bottles tho) and bask in the many good-hair days to come.
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