Apple Cider Vinegar, Revisited

A few days ago, Instagram follower @sheenaray878 asked me about a blogging on how to use Apple Cider Vinegar. I kindly referred her to this article. Then, I went back and read the article for myself and realized a few things:

1. I wrote the article in July of 2012 - over a year ago.
2. At that point, I was only 4 months into my transition from heat damage
3. My hair has changed dramatically since then (for the better)
4. I should probably re-visit Apple Cider Vinegar.

Now that I think about it, there are probably a number of products and practices I should usher into 2013 and 2014. This is likely a launching pad into that arena. Now let's get going with this whole Apple Cider Vinegar thing.

Apple Cider Vinegar is believed to have a ton of internal and external benefits, including being able to kill lice, serve as an antimicrobial agent (warding off infection), and helping to  ease the itching and flakiness associated with scalp conditions such as dandruff, psoriasis, and seborrheic dermatitis. Because of its antibacterial properties, ACV is often used in lieu of shampoo to clarify hair as well. Apple Cider Vinegar is also touted on the internets for its ability to improve the shininess of hair and increase moisture retention by causing cuticles to lay flat via pH balancing the hair. Through this same mechanism, it is also believe that Apple Cider Vinegar can correct hair porosity issues.

As far as the science of hair is concerned, Jc of The Natural Haven is still my #1 go to. These points about hair and pH still hold true:

  • The pH scale: 0- 6.9 = Acidic. 7 = Neutral. 7.1 - 14 = Alkaline (Basic)
  • Hair is acidic, with a pH range of 4.5 - 5.5
  • Between the pH of 4 and 9, hair remains largely unchanged. The cuticle lifts when products on the hair are at a pH of 9 and above
  • When hair cuticles are lifted, hair (under a microscope) appears jagged, can feel rough, and is generally weaker, more porous (translation: difficulty retaining moisture), and more prone to breakage

  • Now on to the big question - does Apple Cider Vinegar really work? From a scientific and researched perspective, the results are nonexistent. Jc herself confirms that there is not much research in the area, in this post. Anecdotally speaking, I think there is a different story to be told. Back when I first wrote my ACV post (linked at the beginning of this article), most of my hair was heat damaged, and there was very little any product - all natural or not - could do to put my hair in a better place. Now that my hair is substantially more natural (I feel like a 75%er or so), things have changed.

    I will admit, the only reason I have a big ol' bottle of Bragg's is because Sprouts had a huge sale about a month back, and it was ridiculously cheap (like $4). I did maybe one or two rinses with it, but the bottle remained largely unused and practically forgotten - until I had a case of the rough ends. About a week ago for some reason, the ends of my hair (like the bottom two inches) were really rough - unusually rough. Even after my braidout with super moisturizing products. Deep down inside, I knew it was because I had skipped a wash day. But I was in a time crunch with zero opportunity to wash, so I decided to experiment with my old forgotten homie - ACV. I created a spritz using ACV and water, and applied that to my hair (focusing extra on the ends) before applying any other product and braiding my hair.

    The result? Simply amazing. Seriously, the difference in my hair was night and day. With the ACV spritz, my hair was softer, shiny as the dickens, and had tons of definition and body. So much so, that I've decided to re-incorporate it into my regimen. While I personally find an ACV rinse to be too cumbersome (I don't need a single extra product to take into the shower with me), I did find that the ACV spritz is perfect. It goes on easy, gets the job done, and the smell goes away. I lightly spray my ACV spritz in sections of my freshly washed hair before adding any product. I also use it right before I am going to re-braid or twist my hair for a style to help encourage definition.

    Here' my ACV Spritz recipe (it's really simple):

    In a large spray bottle, combine:
    • 1 part Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar (with mother, I prefer Bragg's or Vitamin Shoppe)
    • 2 parts water
    • Shake and enjoy
    You can refrigerate the mixture if you like, or leave it out. Since ACV is acidic and contains acetic acid (antibacterial), I don't bother refrigerating. In fact, the Bragg's bottle lets you know there's no need for refrigeration.

    Back to this whole science thing. Is ACV beneficial? Who knows. Maybe a study will come about eventually. But just by using casual pseudo-scientific knowledge, it seems to make sense. If hair has an acidic pH (between 4.5 and 5.5), and most commercial hair products are at a pH of 6 - 7 (for safety and home use reasons), it could stand to reason that Apple Cider Vinegar (with a pH around 3... Bragg's is 3.075 to be exact) will help normalize and restore hair pH. In Jc's post about ACV (linked above) she mentions that between a pH of 4 and 9, hair is relatively unchanged. So maybe, just maybe that ACV with a lower pH is a light form of a normalizing treatment, bringing hair back closer to its original state?

    To this gal it is. Check out the night and day difference between my braidout without the ACV spritz (just water, Qhemet Biologics Burdock Root Butter Cream, and Kyra's Shea Medleys Rejuvenation Butter Cream):

    #latergram last night's braidout results. Before bed, I rebraided with an ACV spritz and Obia Curl Enhancing Custard.

    And then, my braidout with ACV spritz added in:

    Braidout. #naturalhair  #transitioner #curlkitchen #luvyourmane #beyoutifulnaturalistas #naturalhairuniverse #ilnh #naturalhairdaily #trialsntresses #teamnatural_

    Cue: A Whole New World from the Alladin soundtrack....

    Seriously, my eyes have been re-opened to the use of Apple Cider Vinegar. How about you?

    If you are interested in Jc's work around pH and hair, check out the following links:
    Investigation: Does pH Affect Your Hair Cuticle?
    pH and Your Hair
    Does Hair Really Not React in the pH Range 4-9?


    1. I just tried an ACV rinse for the first time this week. I heard things about it closing the hair cuticles but, like you did, I went to the Natural Haven and saw her article. However, I decided to try it anyway before I conditioned my hair. My hair was feeling so rough and dry beforehand (experimented with a product.... messed up my hair so much!) but afterwards my hair was SO soft! Softer than it had ever felt! I'm pretty sure that it was the whole "bringing the hair back to its natural pH" thing. I know science doesn't have much to say about ACV and hair cuticles and overall hair health but I do know that I felt a MAJOR difference with my hair. I'm gonna do the rinse every two weeks and see what results I get.