Apple Cider Vinegar Rinses are the Easy At-Home Treatment Your Hair Needs
Say goodbye to itchy scalp and dandruff and say hello to soft, shiny hair.
This is part of our new weekly series called Test Drive, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, as well as explore new techniques IRL.
During the past few months of WFH, I’ve been exploring new DIY beauty trends. One recent hair trend that has intrigued me is the use of apple cider vinegar (ACV). Many swear by this kitchen staple for health benefits including digestion, weight loss, and detoxification. (There are even ACV gummies ($19, Amazon) if you can’t stomach the vinegar's sour taste.) In beauty circles, apple cider vinegar is commonly used as a rinse to promote a healthy scalp and shiny hair. I did a little digging and learned first-hand how to take advantage of this DIY hair treatment.
Want your hair to look healthy and glossy? Use an ACV rinse after you shampoo and condition as a weekly glossing treatment, recommends Nunzio Saviano, founder of the Nunzio Saviano Salon. ACV has a lower pH than your hair, so it helps seal the hair cuticle, locking in moisture and making the hair soft, shiny, and less prone to frizz, Saviano says. No need to worry if your hair is color-treated. “It actually can lock in the color even more because it’s helping to seal the cuticle, and it locks in both moisture and color,” Saviano says, adding that it’s safe to use every time you wash your hair as long as you make sure to use it after conditioner and not as a conditioning replacement.
An ACV rinse is a good idea for healthy scalp maintenance because it cleans and clarifies the scalp. “The low pH of apple cider vinegar helps remove dirt, oil, and styling product residue from the hair,” New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., says. And if you find dandruff shampoos to be too harsh on your scalp, an ACV rinse can be a great natural alternative due to its antimicrobial properties. The presence of yeast on the scalp causes inflammation, leading to flaking and dandruff, Zeichner says. “When the scalp becomes oily, it creates an environment that allows for overgrowth of yeast, ultimately promoting extra inflammation and flaking. This is why dandruff is worse when the hair is dirty or when the environment is more humid.” ACV helps lower the levels of yeast on the scalp, which puts a stop to inflammation and flaking.
My Experience with an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse
Though I don’t have dandruff, I have been dealing with an itchy scalp and product build-up for a while (thank you, dry shampoo), so I was excited to try out this quick and inexpensive DIY treatment. First, I tried making my own apple cider vinegar rinse. It’s important to note that ACV needs to be diluted before applying it to the scalp to prevent any irritation. Zeichner recommended diluting the ACV out with two parts water, one part ACV, but you can dilute it more if you have a sensitive scalp. I mixed both ingredients into a spray bottle ($2, The Container Store) (it’s way less messy than just a plastic cup and can target the scalp easier), sprayed the mixture onto my scalp during my shower, and rinsed out after three minutes.
The smell wasn’t great, but it faded fast. The morning after using an ACV rinse, I always notice that my hair looks shinier, bouncier, and feels super clean. If you’re not a fan of making your own rinse, I found a range of ready-to-buy ACV rinses that deliver on shiny, soft hair and an itch-free scalp. But I did notice that some smelled better than others. Whatever your hair concerns are, you’re sure to love one (or all) of these ACV rinses.
Although it’s part of a three-step hair regimen, this rinse still delivers on the benefits of ACV, and it’s gentle enough to use every time you shampoo. Out of all of the rinses I tested, this one smells the most like ACV, but it does go away once the product is fully rinsed out. After applying the product all over your scalp with the applicator, you massage it and leave it on for five-eight minutes before washing it off.
While some ACV rinses are gentle enough to use with every shampoo, I use this rinse about once a month to keep product build-up from getting too bad (but it’s also safe to use this rinse either once a week or every two weeks as well). It cleans my thick hair without stripping away any of my natural oils. Using the applicator, you apply the product directly onto the scalp, leaving it on for one-three minutes before rinsing. I didn’t notice any vinegar smell with this product; it smelled like a mixture of citrus and floral notes.
Buy It: R+Co ACID WASH Apple Cider Vinegar Cleansing Rinse, ($32, RandCo.com)
This rinse smells exactly like a barrel of freshly picked apples, without any trace of vinegar. There’s no fine applicator tip, but it’s easy enough to apply since it’s intended to be used throughout your hair from root to tip – just make sure to tilt your head back so you don’t risk getting any product in your eyes. After applying, massage it into a lather and rinse it out. Depending on how often you wash your hair, this product can be used two-three times per week. If you don’t wash your hair that often, you can use it every time you shampoo.
Buy It: Aveeno Hair Apple Cider Vinegar Blend In-Shower Rinse, ($7, Walgreens)
ACV rinses can be used as a third step after shampooing and conditioning, but this rinse is intended to be used as a shampoo replacement. It’s a gentle cleansing product that is safe for all hair types and textures, and it contains aloe vera and lavender extract that help repair hair damage. After wetting your hair, apply this rinse directly onto your scalp. Then massage it in and leave it on for one-three minutes. It smells a lot like pure ACV, but that’s because it’s made with high-quality apple cider vinegar from a vinegary in Nebraska.
As far as smell goes, this rinse smells sweet more than anything else. Based on scent alone, it wouldn’t even register that this is an ACV rinse! After applying to your scalp, you leave this rinse on for one-three minutes (no lathering required) before washing out. It’s safe for all hair types, but it’s also a great treatment in between washes for textured hair.