- Apple cider vinegar has become a popular natural remedy with all kinds of purported benefits, from weight loss to clearing skin.
- Although many of these medical benefits are anecdotal, it seems that ACV is great for many hair types and issues, from scalp itchiness to split ends.
- INSIDER spoke with four dermatologists who gave us the scoop on this affordable grocery store staple when it comes to our tresses.
In recent years, apple cider vinegar has been touted by beauty experts and medical experts alike for its many health benefits, with many drinking apple cider vinegar as part of their beauty routine to help clear skin or even lose weight.
Like anything else, ACV probably isn’t a miracle cure for any health woes, but it might be an easy, affordable hack to help give you shiny, healthy hair.
Whether you’re buying products like shampoo made with apple cider vinegar or whipping up an at-home DIY hair rinse using ACV, INSIDER spoke with four dermatologists and they told us about the many possible benefits of this grocery store staple on your strands — no matter your hair type or texture.
It could potentially help ward off dandruff
“Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial and antifungal properties,” board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman told INSIDER. “Fungus is what causes dandruff. [ACV] contains malic acid which is what helps to keep the pH level of the scalp balanced. 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 will help to avoid this build up on the scalp called dandruff.”
“It is useful in treating dandruff because it helps lower levels of yeast on the skin that promotes inflammation which leads to flaking,” said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, touting its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
These same properties can possibly help with product build-up
Though they may seem like the same thing, dandruff is different than product build-up, which can happen as we wash our hair less often and rely on products like dry shampoo to last longer between washes.
Styling products can leave residue in hair, but as Dr. Jaliman said, apple cider vinegar is “an alpha hydroxy acid so it helps to exfoliate the skin. It also has a pH similar to the skin, so it helps to maintain a healthy pH balance of the skin and scalp,” possibly helping to clarify your strands after days of gels, mousses, and sprays.
“ACV is slightly acidic,” said Pennsylvania-based board-certified dermatologist Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD. “Our hair is also naturally acidic from the oils and sebum from our scalp. Hair products often disrupt the pH balance of our hair. When our hair is normal and in the slightly acidic range, the cuticle is smooth. When we add hair products, many of these attach to our hair by opening the cuticle slightly by making the hair more alkaline. By using ACV, the normal acidity of our hair is restored and the product buildup resolves.”
Try apple cider vinegar to ease scalp itchiness
There are several reasons why you might experience scalp itch, from dandruff to medical conditions like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis and others. Though you should absolutely check in with your doctor or dermatologist for any unusual itching, Dr. Jaliman told INSIDER that ACV can help alleviate some of the itchiness, revealing that “the apple cider vinegar helps to rebalance your scalp’s pH. Balancing the pH of your scalp will help reduce scalp itchiness.”
ACV might help prevent hair loss and stimulate new hair growth
Adding apple cider vinegar to your hair care routine “will help keep your scalp healthy by warding off bacteria and keeping a balanced pH level,” said Dr. Jaliman, adding that “this will stimulate hair growth. ACV gently exfoliates the scalp which in turn will promote hair growth and healthier hair.”
Of course, any hair loss concerns you might have should be discussed with your doctor or dermatologist, but having a cheap, natural tool in your arsenal can’t hurt, as well.
It can help make hair feel smooth, soft, and shiny
Since we know that styling tools and products, as well as exposure to the elements, helps roughen up our hair’s cuticle, we’re often left with strands that feel dull or prone to tangles.
“Apple cider vinegar helps to close the hair cuticle,” said Dr. Jaliman. “In turn, your hair will be more manageable and much shinier. ACV helps to remove buildup on the hair,” which will also boost shine, she told INSIDER.
These same benefits can help prevent split ends and breakage
Just as ACV helps to close the hair’s cuticle, it’s working to keep hair healthier overall, which may help with breakage and split ends, said Dr. Ilyas, though it’s not a miracle cure.
“Using ACV occasionally will restore the acidity to the hair follicle. This will smooth out the cuticle and make it less weak. By doing so in moderation you may be able to prevent split ends and breakage.”
ACV might help restore hair’s natural texture
Although it’s not a cure-all for any and all of your hair woes, adding apple cider vinegar to your hair care routine might help restore your hair’s natural texture after damage from tools, products, and environmental stressors, said Kathleen Cook Suozzi, MD, assistant professor at the Department of Dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine. She told INSIDER that “ACV can help smooth hair strands via the alpha hydroxy acids it contains. AHAs exfoliate skin by removing dead skin cells and debris.”
She added, “Similarly it can help exfoliate and smooth hair strands. In addition, the AHA helps exfoliate the scalp.”
It might help ward off certain scalp infections
As with any medical concern, you should check in with your doctor, but our experts say that apple cider vinegar might be useful for certain scalp infections.
“ACV absolutely has antimicrobial properties so it can be an effective method to ward off scalp infections of some kinds,” said Dr. Ilyas. “There have been medical studies attempting to validate the common usage of ACV. At full concentrations, ACV is effective topically against bacteria, yeast, and fungus. However, once diluted it appears to maintain its effectiveness against bacteria down to a 25% concentration but loses effectiveness for yeast and fungi.”
“So, depending on what the cause of the scalp infection is, it may show some effectiveness,” she said, adding that “for bacteria on the scalp, the infection will appear as a folliculitis, inflamed hair follicles. Yeast will trigger seborrhea which results in itching and flaking. Fungus can attack the hair follicles and cause hair breakage and itching.”