Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has a bit of a rep on the internet-you can use it as a skin tonic, a natural household cleaner, digestion regulator, and even as a potential weight loss aid. It’s the ultimate does-it-all ingredient, and even if you don’t need it in the kitchen there’s another good reason to stock up: apple cider vinegar can be an elixir for your hair.

“Apple cider vinegar is one of the best cleansing and balancing treatments for hair,” says celebrity hairstylist Netty Jordan. It’s all thanks to its acidic nature that helps apple cider vinegar exfoliate dry flakes from your scalp, remove residue, and boost shine, says Dr Anna Guanche

Reaping the benefits of apple cider vinegar for your hair is a little more complicated than upending a bottle of it over your head during a shower. Here, experts share the best ways to use it along with some recommended products.

Restore your scalp’s pH

Why does your scalp's pH matter, anyway? According to a past study in the International Journal of Trichology the higher alkaline pH a shampoo has, the higher your scalp pH will be, which means your hair is more likely to suffer from cuticle damage, frizz, and a dry, irritated scalp. The acidity in apple cider vinegar counteracts alkaline pH, helping to improve your scalp’s health. To rebalance your scalp’s pH, dermatologist Dr Debra Jaliman recommends using a Apple Cider Vinegar Salt Scrub. “This scrub will help gently exfoliate the scalp, which in turn will promote hair growth and healthier hair,” says Dr Jaliman, noting that the scrub’s other ingredients-Himalayan sea salt, olive oil, and antioxidants such as vitamin E and polyphenols-are all nourishing and beneficial for your hair.

Remove product buildup

If you’re using products on your hair-everyday shampoo and conditioner, hair sprays and gels, mousses and foams-some small residue from such products remains on your scalp and hair, leaving strands to look dull and lifeless. “One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get rid of this [residue] accumulation and restore life to your locks is by using apple cider vinegar,” says Felix Fischer, a celebrity hairstylist.

Hairstylist Juliene Featherman recommends this DIY apple cider vinegar tonic to customers:

Ingredients:

1 cup apple cider vinegar

2 cups warm water

Steps:

1. Combine apple cider vinegar and water in an old shampoo bottle.

2. Shake to combine.

3. Shampoo hair as you normally would.

4. Towel dry your hair, then apply the apple cider vinegar tonic throughout your hair from roots to ends.

5. Let sit for a few minutes.

6. Rinse thoroughly and condition.

Hydrate natural or curly hair

Anyone with curly hair knows that it can be a bit of a challenge, forming perfect ringlets one day and an inch-deep layer of frizz the next. Curly and natural hair tends to be very dry, and moisturising products can weigh down strands. Apple cider vinegar rinses are super helpful for these hair types, says Jordan. “The apple cider vinegar will naturally remove buildup while infusing hair with hydration and sealing down the outer layer of the hair. This treatment won’t weigh down the neutral fibers like other conditioning masks,” she says.

Giving your dehydrated strands relief-and restoring natural curl patterns-is easy. Start with washing your hair with a sulfate-free shampoo, says Jordan. Then, she recommends rinsing with a product that contains apple cider vinegar. You can use the tonic recipe above. Leave on for two to three minutes, then rinse and condition for clean, shiny hair.

Prevent or treat a dry, irritated scalp

Thanks to its antibacterial and antifungal qualities, apple cider vinegar can help if you’re plagued by dandruff, a scalp buildup that occurs when there’s too much yeast present on oily skin, says Dr Jaliman. Use Featherman’s DIY apple cider vinegar rinse to avoid dandruff. 

Restore shine

We all want that shampoo commercial hair-voluminous, frizz-free, and full of sheen. Applying apple cider vinegar smooths down the hair shaft's cuticle, says Dr Guanche. The result? Shiny, smooth hair without the frizz and roughness. Fischer recommends doing an apple cider vinegar treatment rinse every Sunday to prep your hair for the week ahead. Mix one-third cup apple cider vinegar with two cups of water. Combine with a bit of shampoo for your first wash, then rinse and condition as usual.

Prevent hair loss

Is apple cider vinegar helpful for hair loss? Dr Jaliman thinks so, since ACV is so very beneficial to the composition of your scalp. “A healthy scalp is key to keeping hair healthy and preventing hair loss. Apple cider vinegar will help keep your scalp protected by warding off bacteria and keeping a balanced pH level,” she says.

For scalp health, Dr Jaliman recommends mixing three to four tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with one cup of water in a spray bottle. Apply it to the scalp and massage in, letting the mixture sit for 10 to 15 minutes before shampooing. “Massaging will help increase circulation and stimulate hair growth,” Dr Jaliman says.

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