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Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

Ah...Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV for short), this is the one topic I spent the most time researching. It is such a staple in the curly hair community. I am one of those nerds that needs to know why something works the way it does. I mean it's going on my crown right? I gotta know the pros and cons! So, if you are as inquisitive as me, let's start from the beginning.

What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar is made from, you guessed it, apples! Raw or unfiltered apple cider vinegar is simply a byproduct of the fermentation process of apples. A fermentation process is used to enrich the mixture with live cultures, acids, and minerals. 

Apples are naturally loaded with potassium, malic acid, calcium, and pectin. The fermentation process fortifies the end product (the acv we all use) with even more beneficial acids and enzymes. Raw apple cider vinegar also contains vitamin b, vitamin c, and potassium.

Acv is naturally slightly acidic, so it serves as the perfect alternative to restore the natural ph level of the acid mantle ( a very fine, slightly acidic film on the surface of human skin. It acts as a barrier to bacteria, viruses and other potential contaminants that might penetrate the skin.) When the acid mantle is exposed to the acidity of the apple cider vinegar, the mantle harders the outer layer of the hair strand, this ultimately leads to the "scales" flattening, allowing hair to be more manageable and shiny. ACV has a ph balance of 2.9.

What does the acid mantle have to do with apple cider vinegar rinses?
Well, I know I introduced some insane looking words right now, but stay with me I promise this will all make so much sense! Let's get into the science of things, shall we?

I already told you about the acid mantle. It is a very fine, slightly acidic film on the surface of your skin acting as a barrier to protect you from bacteria and viruses. The acid mantle is essential to the appearance of our hair. The cuticle (also known as the outer layer of the hair strand)  is made up of very tightly compacted scales. The acid mantle is the key factor in making sure the cuticle scales lay flat (this is the problem of high porosity hair, the scales are all spaced apart and open which is why it is characteristically dry). When the acid mantle is balanced the cuticle will lay flat and give out a natural shine, smooth appearance, and protection from moisture loss.

The acid mantle normally has an ideal ph level of 4.5- 5.5. This means it is slightly acidic. When the balance in your hair is disrupted, the acid mantle becomes alkaline. The hair then starts to swell up, the scales in the hair strand start to open up (resembling high porosity hair). This leaves the hair very susceptible to breakage since the moisture is lost through the openings of the scales. This results in frizzy and brittle hair. This can also lead to hair having a 'dull' appearance (which is due to the fact that hair is absorbing the light through the open scales causing it to dry out, instead of reflecting the light off of the healthy, tightly closed scales).

Now that you understand the chemistry behind your hair and scalp, we can now get into the science of apple cider vinegar and it's interaction with your hair.

Apple cider vinegar contains countless nutrients, I want to take the time to especially mention natural alpha-hydroxy acid. Alpha-Hydroxy acid gently exfoliates the scalp and hair. This allows for the removal of dead skin cells and build up from products and sweat. This in turn, improves the overall appearance of hair, along with reducing itchiness.

What are the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar?
  • Slightly acidic = ability to restore natural ph balance (Ideal ph balance of scalp and hair is 4.5-5.5)
  • Vitamins B,C, Potassium
  • Alpha- hydroxy acid = gentle exfoliation of the scalp and hair
  • Hardens the outer layer of hair = results in silky, manageable, frizz free hair
  • Anti-fungal, Anti-bacterial, Anti- viral = relief from dandruff, dermatitis, etc
  • Anti-microbial =  makes acv inflammatory which counteracts skin inflammation (often leads to itchy flaky scalp)
  • Stimulates hair growth and prevents hair loss
  • Prevents split ends and breakage = naturally conditions hair which removes tangles
  • Gives hair more definition and bounce
How Often Should I Use Apple Cider Vinegar?
The general rule of thumb is less is more with acv. Dry hair typically does well with less acv as compared to acv usage by a person with an oily scalp. Someone experiencing dandruff  would benefit from more acv.
  • Dry or fine hair = 1-2x  a month
  • Best place to start is once a month
  • Use after you shampoo hair
  • Acv will not make your hair smell once it dries
  • Shoulder length or shorter = will benefit from reducing overall acv in rinse by half (example: 1 up of cool water to 1-2 tablespoons of acv)
  • Deep condition after you do an acv rinse
How Much ACV Can I Use in a Rinse? (These measurements work for a basic rinse or an herb/Essential Oil infused rinse)
As I mentioned earlier, much like makeup, less is more.

  • One cup of water
  • 2-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegarI have found one tablespoon per cup has been enough for my hair (high porosity, fine, 3a/3b ). 
I normally take a bottle of Poland Springs water, add two tablespoons of Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar. I also add essential oils!

Can I use Essential Oils in my ACV Rinse?
As I mentioned above, of course you can! Essential oils are a fantastic option to help sooth a dry itchy scalp. Many essential oils such as Rosemary and Peppermint add a nice fragrance to help mask the smell of the acv. Not to mention both of these oils help increase hair growth! Essential oils can be used to replace herbs. Herbs are normally added to acv rinses to gain multiple benefits. Adding herbs is a difficult process for most since it requires hours to infuse with the water. Essential oils give the same benefits without the waiting period.

What Essential Oils Can I add to my ACV Rinse?
What I love about essential oils is their versatility! Do your own research into which oils can give you which benefits if you want to treat a specific issue. Otherwise, you can use most oils as an option some popular options include:
  • Geranium- strengthens the hair
  • Tea Tree Oil- helps control oil over production which results in oily hair
  • Rosemary- improves hair growth increases circulation to the scalp, and stimulates the roots
  • Lavender: Helps lift your mood, helps hair growth, conditions the hair and scalp
  • Chamomile- soothes the scalp and adds softness and shine to hair
  • Clary Sage- stimulates hair growth
  • Cedarwood- Stimulates hair growth 
  • Sandalwood- helps condition dry ends and adds fragrance to mixture
  • Peppermint- adds fragrance and stimulates scalp leading to new hair growth 
What measurement of Essential Oils Can I Use?
Please remember that essential oils are very powerful and should be used in small doses. 
A popular option is:
  1.  Take two cups of apple cider vinegar and mix in  5-10 drops of your essential oils of choice. 
  2. Store in a cool dark space. (You can store the mixture for up to one year.)
  3. When ready to use the mix, take 1-2 cups of water (I prefer two cups which is why I use a Poland Springs bottle) and use 2-4 tablespoons of the mixture. 
What Herbs Can I Add to my ACV Rinse?
Apple cider vinegar alone is a powerful conditioning agent, but, when mixed with herbs you can also enhance your hair color or target specific hair or scalp issues.  Some popular options are:
  • Sage- covers grey hair
  • Merigold- conditions dry hair
  • Nettle- reduces dandruff
  • Calendula- conditions dry hair
  • Parsley or Rosemary, or Sage- enhances dark hair 
  • Chamomile- adds natural highlights to brown or blonde hair
  • Rosehips- enhances red hair
  • Linden- reduces excessive shedding and stimulates new hair growth 
  • Horsetail: helps condition and repair brittle hair
  • Lavender- natural conditioner and stimulant for hair growth 
  • Southernwood/Goosewood/ Burdock Root/ Plantain - All help fight dandruff
How Do I add Herbs to My ACV Rinse?
Similar to the way you can add essential oils, you can do the same with the herbs. Just remember that the infusion time is going to take much longer from  a couple hours to a couple of weeks.
  1. Fill a glass jar with two cups of ACV
  2. Mix in two tablespoons of herb
  3. Cover and place in a dark cool place to steep for two weeks before straining and moving the mixture into a new bottle. 
  4. When ready to use, take one bottle of water and mix in 2-4 tablespoons of your herb/acv mixture
Last Minute Tips From Red Carpet Curls
Remember that proper dilution is vital in this rinse. Too much acv can deteriorate your hair color and hair structure.

Once you apply the mixture to your scalp, leave on for 3-5 minutes while massaging the scalp, then rinse out. 

Contrary to any rumors you hear, the smell of acv rinses away from your hair after you rinse it out. 

As always, remember there is a learning curve with all this curly girl method stuff. Start out with 1-2 tablespoons of acv per 1-2 cups of water and build from there. If you see your hair is a bit more dry than normal cut the measurement back to 1 tablespoon of acv. I hope this article has given you more confidence to take charge of your hair care journey. As always if you have any further questions, don't be afraid to comment below or hit that contact me button! 


  1. Do you only put it on your scalp or on the entire hair shaft?

    1. I lean my head back and directly pour it on my scalp allowing it to make it's way naturally down the hair shaft. I then do a scalp massage for 2 mins to remove debris that can be clogging my follicles. In total I leave it on 3 mins and rinse

  2. Would this be OK for someone with low porosity, or is it not needed then?

    1. Well low porosity doesn't really need it too much as it naturally seals on it's own. I would clarify, or do a bentonite hair detox clay mask!


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