Apple cider vinegar, commonly referred to as ACV, is incredibly popular in the health world. It’s a wonderful tasting, naturally made, and naturally sold product that can be used in a variety of different ways. The vinegar, made from the fermented juice of a regular apple, is composed primarily of acetic acid and it has a pH of about 3. This acidity, as well as the naturally antibacterial and exfoliating properties of the vinegar, makes it wonderful for use on your hair.
Your entire body— face, skin, and hair— are all covered in a thin layer of slightly acidic oil, called the ‘acid mantle’. This acid mantle has a pH between 4.5 and 5.5 and is paramount in keeping your external layer protected and healthy while guarding the inside against invaders.
When your acid mantle gets disturbed, this protection is compromised and your body is thrown out of balance to try to compensate and restore it. This frequently happens with such a wide variety of beauty products and cleansers. Soaps and shampoos work by suspending the oil, along with the dirt and germs that have been collected, in water so that they can be easily rinsed away. However, this process works best in an alkaline environment. Because of this, many soaps and shampoos swing the balance in their favor by changing the pH with various bases as high as an 8 or a 9. This makes the soap more effective, but it leaves your hair and skin in overdrive trying to correct the severely disturbed acid mantle. Cue: Apple Cider Vinegar.
ACV restores your hair (and skin, for that matter) to its correct acidity so that your body doesn’t overproduce oil trying to fix it itself. And at the same time, enzymes in raw ACV actually break down any remaining products in your hair that have eluded the shampoo and then effortlessly rinse them out for a complete clean. So your hair is actually rid of any dirt or product and the pH is perfect.
The acid mantle is also important because your hair is made up of several parts. There is the follicle where the hair grows, and then the shaft of the hair. Around the shaft is what’s called ‘the cuticle’. The cuticle is made up of overlapping layers that look like shingles.
When your hair is too alkaline, the shingles all raise up, thus making your hair frizzier, more prone to tangles and breakage, and duller.
When the hair is at its proper acidity, the cuticle lays flat, like the shingles on your house should look. This makes your hair slide more easily against itself, and this means less tangles. It will also reflect the light better, meaning shinier hair, and overall it keeps your hair healthier and less prone to breaking: all good qualities!
An ACV rinse is especially beneficial for those who have naturally curly hair. When the cuticle lays down flat the way it is supposed to, curls are restored to their natural level, undoing the effects of lots of styling and heat damage. The curls are light and bouncy because ACV isn’t heavy like many products that are supposedly made for curly hair.
Now that you know why you should do an apple cider vinegar rinse, let’s talk about how. It’s not that hard.
The easiest place to do an ACV rinse is in the shower after using an SLS free shampoo.
1. Beforehand, prepare a mix of a raw, unfiltered ACV, preferably one that still has the ‘Mother’ in it. This just means it has the highest concentration of all the beneficial properties. We highly recommend buying the Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar brand.
2. Mix equal parts ACV and water in a bowl or squeeze bottle. Use half a cup for each. Take the mixture with you into the shower.
3. Once you’ve lathered up and rinsed thoroughly, stand outside of the stream of water and pour the ACV mixture through your hair, making sure to get it all the way down to your scalp on your entire head
4. Once it’s poured through, take a couple of minutes to massage it around, making sure no patches are left out. During this time, the ACV will break down any residue and will actually stimulate your scalp and perk up the follicles. The raw ACV has natural antibacterial and antifungal elements that will kill anything on your scalp that may be causing dandruff as well as clean out any buildup that is suppressing hair growth from your follicles. It needs about three minutes to do its job right.
5. Once you’ve massaged it all through and given it some time to work, you can either rinse it out or leave it in. If you decide to leave it in, the vinegar smell will remain while its damp but the smell will disappear completely once your hair is dry.
It may take several uses for your scalp and hair to get used to it, but most people find that using the rinse after every shampoo for a week or two has great results and from there you may only need it every week or two.
Note: instead of buying the raw ACV, you can also buy a premade ACV rinse. It will be more expensive, but you will save some time.
Now that you’ve mastered the basic principle, there are some really fun variations that you can do.
First, you can add essential oils for scent and further hair benefits. Lavender is always popular for its smell and its scalp soothing properties. Basil, patchouli, and tea tree are all good choices for oily hair. Peppermint, myrrh, and citrus are good choices for dry hair. Eucalyptus, clary sage, chamomile, and ylang ylang are great for fighting dandruff.
Second, you can infuse herbs into it for natural color changing powers! This isn’t the salon style dying that we’re talking about, but there are a lot of plants that will enhance or dye hair naturally. To do this, make ‘tea’ with the herbs and then let it cool. Use that tea as the water half of your ACV rinse. Black tea, black walnut, cloves, comfrey, and sage are all good for darkening hair and covering greys. Henna, rosehips, rose petals, hibiscus and red clover all enhance reds. Mullein, chamomile, calendula, oat straw, and rhubarb root all draw out blonde highlights. Doesn’t this seem fun!
Whether you mix in additives or use it plain, an apple cider vinegar hair rinse is an incredibly cheap option for fantastically shiny, smooth locks. It makes straight hair sleek and curly hair lightweight. It’s easy to do and it doesn’t require any big change from what you’re probably doing already. There’s a reason why everyone loves it!