If you’re an avid reader and follower of natural hair care, you might have heard of apple cider vinegar or ACV rinse, as it is known in hair-growing community – that is typically recommended to follow the usual shampoo + conditioner routine. Today we dive into the science behind to understand whether and if so – how – ACV actually works.
What is apple cider vinegar?
Vinegar comes from the French phrase “vin aigre,” which means sour wine. It can be made from nearly anything containing sugar, including fruit, vegetables and grains. Yeasts first ferment sugar into alcohol, which is then turned into acetic acid by bacteria.
Apple Cider Vinegar, specifically, is made from fermented apple juice. It is made by crushing apples, then squeezing out the juice. Bacteria and yeast are added to the liquid to start the alcoholic fermentation process, which converts the sugars to alcohol. In a second fermentation step, the alcohol is converted into vinegar by acetic acid-forming bacteria (Acetobacter species). Acetic acid makes vinegar mildly acidic, with a typical pH of 2–3.
(For reference, the pH scale ranges from 0–14:
- 0.0–6.9 is acidic
- 7.0 is neutral
- 7.1–14.0 is alkaline (also known as basic)
The human body is slightly alkaline with a pH between 7.35 and 7.45, while human skin is on average just below 5 (Source)
The invisible helper
Relatively recently, scientists discovered Stratum corneum or “acid mantle” on the outermost layer of human hair and skin (Source). It is mildly acidic 4.5-5.3 increasing by a few points in its lower layers. Majority of shampoos are alkaline, stripping natural hair oils that maintain delicate pH balance in your hair resulting in dullness, dryness and brittleness. Shampoos containing SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) with alkalinity reaching as high as 11-12 are the biggest offenders.
The acid mantle is also critical to our hair’s appearance, since it contributes to the shine and tactile feel of the hair. The outer layer of the hair shaft, also known as the cuticle, is comprised of tightly packed overlapping scales. The acid mantle is instrumental in making cuticle scales lie flat, which gives hair a shiny, smooth appearance, and protects from moisture loss. If acid mantle is disturbed or destroyed by the alkaline products, the cuticles tend to “stand up” like bottle brush leading to hair losing its moisture quickly, also making it brittle and dull.
By now you should be convinced that in order to maintain shiny and healthy-looking hair you need to avoid harsh shampoos in order to maintain the balance of your acid mantle. This is where apple cider vinegar comes in. Mildly acidic, it balances out the alkalinity from harsh shampoos and hard water commonly flowing from taps of urban environments cities – making sure that the cuticles of your hair lie flat and retain moisture well.
Why Apple Cider vinegar?
Contrary to a common misconception, apple cider vinegar isn’t “packed” with nutrients. It does have some potassium and traces of Iron and Magnesium, thanks to being made from apples naturally rich in those. Higher quality cider vinegar also has amino acids and antioxidants. However, while it is not a high nutritional value provider, it delivers its benefits as an acidity regulator: because it is mildly acidic, it simply serves to restore the natural pH of the acid mantle. Exposure to this acidity calms the outer layer of the hair and flattens the cuticle, resulting in hair that shines and slides easily, therefore making it less prone to tangling, snagging and therefore – reducing frizz.
For those who experience scalp-related conditions such as dandruff, apple cider vinegar can bring relief because of its anti-viral, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial properties. In addition to being antimicrobial, apple cider vinegar is also anti-inflammatory, which can counteract the skin inflammation that typically occurs with dandruff and a dry, flaky scalp.
Finally, apple cider vinegar is excelling in removing product build up – a direct result from using silicone-based products in your hair care routine.
Easy recipe for ACV
Mix 1/2 to 4 tablespoons (5-60ml) of good quality ACV with a large glass of water (8 ounces / 250ml) in a plastic squeeze bottle, spray bottle or other container.
Experiment to find a dilution that works best for your hair type. As a rule of thumb, dry hair likes less ACV and oily hair like more.
- After shampooing and conditioning, pour the mixture over your hair evenly, working into your scalp.
- Let it sit for a couple of minutes.
- Rinse it out
You can add a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil, we recommend peppermint oil – to help mask vinegar smell. However it tends to disappear quickly as the hair dries.
Have you tried ACV? Tell us your opinion in comments!