Apple cider vinegar (ACV) hair rinses have become a popular thing to do if you want to live a more ~natural aesthetic~ life. Can ACV actually help your hair and scalp, or is it just a waste of time and resources? I did an ACV rinse every week for a month to find out.
Back when I was in college in Washington state, I noticed my hair was looking dull. I knew we had hard water (loaded with minerals), so I thought that might be the culprit. I heard somewhere (probably Pinterest tbh) that rinsing your hair with apple cider vinegar can remove any buildup and make your hair look shinier. This made sense to me because I removed the calcium buildup on the faucet with white vinegar, so ACV should get rid of any buildup on my hair. Right?
Honestly, I don’t know if that’s how it works, but I did start rinsing my hair with ACV. I stopped when I moved back to California, but my scalp has been super itchy recently so I decided to give ACV another try since I’ve also heard that it can help with dandruff/itchiness.
In fact, there are a LOT claims about what ACV can do for your hair. For the sake of this blog post, let’s use this Cosmopolitan article as our reference, since it includes many commonly touted benefits of ACV. (And we’ll just ignore the sentence where they say “it won’t strip your hair (or curls)” as if curls aren’t hair.)
The article makes these claims about weekly ACV rinses:
- ACV treats dandruff.
- ACV helps scalp itchiness and irritation.
- ACV clarifies product buildup.
- ACV makes hair shiny and smooth.
I’ll go into detail about whether or not I’ve experienced each of these benefits in one month of using apple cider vinegar rinses while washing my hair.
As you’ll find in all instructions about ACV hair rinses, you need to dilute the vinegar before applying it to your hair. I add about 3 tablespoons of ACV to my 8oz spray bottle, and fill the rest with water. This is pretty much on track with the 1:5 ratio that the Cosmo article suggests.
I’ve found that I prefer the spray bottle to pouring the vinegar mixture onto my hair. When I pour it, I tend to get the vinegar in my eyes, which is not fun, and I feel like a lot of the vinegar (and the benefits) just run right down the drain. With the spray bottle, I think more of it gets on my hair. Plus, I can work it more thoroughly into all my hair strands, rather than just pouring it on the top of my head.
I do this rinse in the shower between shampooing and conditioning. I don’t really like that this adds an extra step to my routine and requires me to leave the water running an extra ~6 minutes. If you don’t already know, I’m a bit obsessive about cutting down on water use while I wash my, so adding an extra step to my routine is a bummer. Check out this post for more: 6 Ways to Save Water on Wash Day
Does it treat dandruff?
I’ve had dandruff as long as I can remember. (Literally, I remember my sister doing my hair when I was in 5th grade and scratching dandruff out of my scalp. Shout out to her for being the best big sister in the world! 🙌🏽) So did this cure my dandruff? No, but I wouldn’t expect it to. I can’t even really say the dandruff flakes have gotten much better, but my scalp does feel better. More on that below.
Does it help scalp itchiness and irritation?
Hell yes! This is probably the biggest benefit I’ve seen from doing these ACV rinses. Usually, by the time Friday rolls around, my scalp is sooo itchy and I cannot wait for the weekend so I can finally wash it. After doing the ACV rinse a few times, I found myself almost itch-free on Saturday morning which was a great feeling! When I took a week off after this experiment, my scalp was back to its usual itch, so keeping a regular schedule of ACV rinses is probably the key to scalp relief.
I would like to mention, though, that ACV can be irritating itself. As I mentioned, I have a good amount of dandruff, which leads to itching, which leads to some minor abrasions on my scalp. The first couple times I tried the ACV rinse, the acidity of the vinegar caused a burning feeling. By the third time I rinsed with ACV, this went away. I can’t say if the ACV healed the irritated spots, or if the lack of dandruff/itching gave it time to heal on its own, or if it was totally coincidental, but in any case the scalp irritation subsided.
Does it clarify product buildup?
I don’t think so. In general, I don’t think product buildup is a big issue for me. I style my hair about twice a week, with a few touchups in between. I think my weekly shampoo does a good enough job of removing all product buildup. My hair didn’t feel stripped by the ACV rinse, though, so I don’t think it had much effect on cleaning my hair. From my experience, I don’t think ACV would help with product buildup, but of course you’re welcome to give it a try.
Does it make hair shiny and smooth?
As I mentioned earlier, shiny hair is what I was after when I originally started using ACV rinses. I follow @naptural85 on Instagram and YouTube and I’m often jealous of how shiny and moisturized her curls look. But I just keep reminding myself that to compare to my past self, rather than to other people. This is all to say that I didn’t notice any difference in the shine during this experiment, or when I did this back in WA with the hard water.
Of all the claimed benefits that apple cider vinegar rinses are supposed to give your hair, the only one I experienced was reduced scalp irritation. I have a lot of trouble with dandruff, and doing an ACV rinse afer shampooing my hair helped quell the itchiness.
Will I be doing this again? Yes. To balance keeping a regular enough schedule to get the scalp relief benefits while also mitigating water use during my wash day routine, I’m going to try doing this every other wash day.
I usually have ACV stocked in my pantry for drinking (diluted ofc), so adding it to my hair routine is simple.
Let me know what you think!
Have you tried ACV rinses for your hair? What benefits did you see?