What to know about ACV, and how to use it for your best hair day ever.
Apple cider vinegar boasts a long list of health benefits, including helping to regulate blood sugar, boost gut bacteria, and even ward off weight gain. Where once this ingredient made appearances only in salad dressings, ACV is now being consumed regularly by health fanatics who hope to reap its many wellness perks. And in addition to incorporating it into their diets, many fans are also using the ingredient as a natural treatment for shiny, frizz-free hair.
According to Ted Lain, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and chief medical officer at Sanova Dermatology in Texas, apple cider vinegar is both antimicrobial and acidic, which makes it a great choice to incorporate into your haircare routine. The reason: As the acidic properties of ACV work their magic, "the antimicrobial benefits help decrease the amount of bacteria and yeast on the scalp and hair, which could translate into fewer scalp pimples and dandruff," Dr. Lain tells us. As a result, he says, there's less product residue on strands, which makes makes them healthier and shinier.
But before you reach for that bottle of ACV, take note: Apple cider vinegar is a powerful ingredient that should be used sparingly and with the right approach. "ACV breaks down proteins (think of its aid in digestion), so overuse can make hair dry and brittle," says Micky Kibbe, a board-certified master colorist, stylist, and owner of Swoon salon in East Austin, Texas.
Dr. Lain also stresses the importance of not overdoing the ingredient. "Just as many shampoos are too alkaline and disrupt the pH of the scalp and hair, overuse of ACV could lower the pH too much and cause irritation and itching," he says, adding that most adults can tolerate use just once or twice a week.
For that reason, instead of trying to DIY a homemade concoction, Dr. Lain recommends looking for products that contain apple cider vinegar. "Apple cider vinegar products will often contain other hair conditioning ingredients and may offer more benefits than just ACV alone," he explains. "In addition, the concentration of ACV is tested and regulated in commercial products, with little variation between bottles."
So, how to know which products will help—not hurt—your strands? Dr. Lain recommends ($35; ) for a deep cleanse that won’t strip hair when used properly. ($32; ) is another great option, since it includes hydrating ingredients like glycerin, aloe vera leaf juice, and tamanu seed oil to perfectly balance out apple cider vinegar’s powerful exfoliating properties.
If a full-blown ACV rinse seems daunting, try incorporating it into your routine with a nourishing product like Avalon Organics Smooth Shine Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo ($18; ) and Conditioner ($18; ). This duo is EWG-verified, meaning it meets the Environmental Working Group’s strict ingredient standards, so you can guarantee smooth, shiny hair without the risk of applying anything too harsh directly to your hair.
When applied correctly, apple cider vinegar can help deep-clean hair and restore its natural strength and luster. If you’ve overdone the styling products and heat tools, give ACV a shot in your routine and watch this powerful ingredient work its magic.