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Apple Cider Vinegar for Hair Loss: Is It Effective?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 01/10/2021

Updated 09/08/2023

Hair styling and baking — two things the internet believes you only need one cabinet for. Who knew a marinade base and natural haircare products could have so much in common?

Not up to date on internet homeopathic trends? Allow us to explain. Many people believe apple cider vinegar helps with everything from cancer and weight loss to hair loss and product buildup on the scalp.

Many people rinse their hair with apple cider vinegar (ACV, as it’s known in forum posts) for problems like androgenic alopecia (male pattern baldness). But like numerous other home health remedies, this one lacks big scientific support.

Below, we’ll explain what apple cider vinegar is, the potential health benefits of using ACV, and what the science actually says. 

We’ll also provide tips for using it and touch on what you might want to use instead for growth and healthy hair.

What is apple cider vinegar? It’s nothing new, despite the rush of popularity over the past several years.

As a matter of fact, it may have been used for health reasons as early as 3300 B.C. Hippocrates — yes, the guy behind the oath all healthcare professionals take — reportedly used ACV, along with samurai warriors, ancient Egyptians, and U.S. Civil War soldiers.

To talk about apple cider vinegar clearly, we first need to explain what vinegar is. Here are several essential, defining facts about vinegar to help you better understand its medicinal value:

  • Vinegar can be made from various fruits and other foods with the addition of sugar.

  • Vinegar is created when yeast ferments the sugar and converts it into alcohol. A bacteria called acetobacter then turns the alcohol into acetic acid. 

  • You can actually see the yeast and bacteria in most bottles of apple cider vinegar. ACV stans call this “the mother.”

  • The mother in ACV is probiotic, and many of its purported health benefits are attributed to “her” — though this link has not been substantiated with science.

The nutritional content of ACV is similar to apple juice. It contains B vitamins and antioxidants with a bonus of acetic acid and probiotics.

So why does apple cider vinegar make your hair healthier? The theory is that vinegar’s very low pH (which makes it acidic) may prevent breakage and damage to hair fibers that occur when your scalp is alkaline (greater than 7 on the pH scale). 

For reference, that’s less acidic than stomach acid (pH 1) and more acidic than orange juice (pH 3). And we know the pH level of products applied to hair and skin can affect how it feels and looks.

In theory, applying ACV with a pH of roughly 2 to the hair could smooth the cuticle, similar to conditioner. If you read blogs and product reviews online, smoothness is one of the main reported benefits of an ACV rinse. But this isn’t proven.

Another theory about how apple cider vinegar can improve hair has to do with its effects on the scalp.

DIY ACV rinsing may improve scalp health if your scalp problems are caused by a fungus or bacteria. Why? The acidic nature of vinegar may inhibit their growth. But if your scalp is inflamed because of these issues, applying ACV could be quite painful.

Unfortunately, the potential benefits of ACV in hair treatments and the pH theory aren’t covered in scientific journals.

What we know about the potential hair benefits associated with ACV is limited — and at this point, it’s just theoretical or anecdotal.

We only found one substantial study with a good theory about what’s going on. 

The study looked at 123 shampoos from around the world. It found that washing hair with an alkaline formula “may increase the negative electrical charge of the hair fiber surface and, therefore, increase friction between the fibers.” 

This can make hair feel rougher, look frizzy and increase hair damage and hair breakage. Interestingly, just 38 percent of the popular brand-name shampoos tested had a pH of less than 5.

We’re not your doctor, but this is hardly enough evidence to tell you to rush out and buy a few gallons of low-pH ACV shampoo.

The popularity of apple cider vinegar as a natural remedy and cure-all has exploded over the past several years. Google “ACV benefits,” and you’ll be bombarded with all sorts of claims.

As with many home remedies, the science backing these reported benefits isn’t nearly as robust as the claims. 

Those internet claims include assisting with: 

  • Anti-aging

  • Asthma

  • Appetite suppression and weight loss

  • Menstruation regulation

  • Leg cramps

  • Heartburn

  • High blood pressure

  • Flavorless chicken

  • Cancer

  • Upset stomach

  • Sore throat

  • Sunburn

  • Particularly tough cuts of pork

  • Scalp inflammation

  • Scalp fungus

  • Itchy scalp

  • Dandruff

  • Hair loss

  • Headache

  • Dizziness

  • Nervousness

  • Bacterial growth

  • Deepening the flavor of apple pies

The list goes on. We may have forgotten to separate out the culinary results.

The actual science of apple cider vinegar benefits for men is far more conservative. 

According to the research, apple cider vinegar may: 

  • Lower blood sugar levels

  • Kill bacteria on food, potentially preventing transmission

  • Aid in weight loss

  • Lower cholesterol

That’s a limited, cautious list of potential benefits— and it calls for more research.

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If you want to work ACV into your haircare routine, you’re free to do so, of course. And you may very well experience the benefits others have seen from using apple cider vinegar on their hair strands.

How you use it will depend on what sort of product or treatment you choose. ACV can be found in certain shampoos and other products, but it can also be added to your existing haircare products.

You can use apple cider vinegar:

  • As a hair rinse before or after you shampoo

  • As a skincare application outside the shower to adjust your scalp’s pH

  • As a hair mask to target the hair cuticle more directly

However you use it, be safe and beware of potential side effects.

Whether you use apple cider vinegar for its alleged antimicrobial properties, pH balance benefits for hair health or to boost regrowth after hair loss, you should be aware of the associated risks.

The first is a very real risk of irritation to your tissues from repeated use.

Apple cider vinegar can be caustic and irritating to sensitive skin or inflamed tissues. So if you try an ACV hair rinse, dilute the vinegar with water before applying it to reduce the risk of itchiness or dryness.

Otherwise, ACV is generally safe, and the risks are minimal. This is a fairly low-cost hair treatment to try, even if the scientific evidence is lacking. 

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Struggling with hair loss? Apple cider vinegar, essential oils and other natural remedy recommendations you find on the internet probably won’t be nearly as effective as chatting with a dermatologist about your thinning hair problems.

Here’s what your provider might suggest:

  • Minoxidil. Minoxidil is an FDA-approved hair loss treatment that can address numerous types of hair loss, including male pattern baldness. Oral versions and topicals like minoxidil foam and minoxidil liquid solution can encourage blood flow to the scalp, increasing the growth of surviving hair follicles.

  • Finasteride. Finasteride is a medication designed specifically to target DHT — the hormone most commonly associated with male pattern hair loss. This treatment comes in oral and topical forms and has been associated with substantial decreases in DHT.

  • Dandruff treatments. If you want to get rid of dandruff, proven treatments like our dandruff detox shampoo with pyrithione zinc 1% and salicylic acid could help with itchy irritation and dead skin cells.

  • Supplements and products for hair loss. We’re not big on unregulated treatments, but the fact is, some ingredients have much more research backing their benefits than others. If you’re looking beyond prescription medication, a volumizing shampoo and conditioner combo or a thickening shampoo with saw palmetto can give your hair a boost. You might also consider biotin gummies to make sure your body is getting enough of the essential B vitamin.

Hair loss treatments, delivered

People have used ACV as a folk remedy for millennia to help treat everything from certain cancers to weight loss. But most of those people are now dead — that’s just how time works. 

Time is also unbeatable when it comes to your hair. If you make it to your 150th birthday, you’ll have to accept that you won’t have the same amount of hair you used to.

What you’re worried about isn’t hair loss a century from now, though — you’re worried about it while you’re still in your prime. And as much as we’d like to tell you apple cider vinegar is the solution, it’s just not. 

Here’s what we hope you’ll take from this blog:

  • YES, apple cider vinegar has a long history of medicinal benefits.

  • BUT most purported benefits aren’t backed by scientific research.

  • WHEN it comes to hair, the science behind ACV’s potential benefits is extremely limited. We wouldn’t trust it as a cure-all to prevent hair loss or promote growth.

  • IF you’re looking for time-tested, science-backed, FDA-approved ways to treat hair loss, your best bet is to schedule a consultation with a healthcare professional — at the very least, they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. 

Male pattern baldness isn’t something we cured two thousand years ago — we haven’t even cured it today, nor have we cured scalp conditions like dandruff. 

Male pattern baldness might not be curable, but it’s often treatable.

If you’re interested in hair loss treatments, you’re in the right place. Our guides to the hair growth cycle and stimulating hair growth are full of helpful info.

And our topical finasteride & minoxidil spray is a great product that combines two proven treatments.

Leave the kitchen staples in the kitchen. If you want real results for your hair, reach out today.

10 Sources

  1. Zito PM, Bistas KG, Syed K. Finasteride. [Updated 2022 Aug 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513329/.
  2. Feldstein, S., Afshar, M., & Krakowski, A. C. (2015). Chemical Burn from Vinegar Following an Internet-based Protocol for Self-removal of Nevi. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 8(6), 50.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4479370/.
  3. Hadi, A., Pourmasoumi, M., Najafgholizadeh, A., Clark, C. C. T., & Esmaillzadeh, A. (2021). The effect of apple cider vinegar on lipid profiles and glycemic parameters: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. BMC complementary medicine and therapies, 21(1), 179. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8243436/.
  4. Launholt, T. L., Kristiansen, C. B., & Hjorth, P. (2020). Safety and side effects of apple vinegar intake and its effect on metabolic parameters and body weight: a systematic review. European journal of nutrition, 59(6), 2273–2289. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32170375/.
  5. Yagnik, D., Serafin, V., & J Shah, A. (2018). Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression. Scientific reports, 8(1), 1732. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788933/.
  6. Gheflati, A., Bashiri, R., Ghadiri-Anari, A., Reza, J. Z., Kord, M. T., & Nadjarzadeh, A. (2019). The effect of apple vinegar consumption on glycemic indices, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and homocysteine in patients with type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Clinical nutrition ESPEN, 33, 132–138. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31451249/.
  7. Gavazzoni Dias, M. F., de Almeida, A. M., Cecato, P. M., Adriano, A. R., & Pichler, J. (2014). The Shampoo pH can Affect the Hair: Myth or Reality?. International journal of trichology, 6(3), 95–99. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4158629/?report=classic.
  8. Johnston, C. S., & Gaas, C. A. (2006). Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect. MedGenMed : Medscape general medicine, 8(2), 61. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1785201/.
  9. Asfour L, Cranwell W, Sinclair R. Male Androgenetic Alopecia. [Updated 2023 Jan 25]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Blackman MR, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK278957/.
  10. Standard, N. (2016). Natural Standard Herb & Supplement Guide - E-Book: An Evidence-Based Reference. United States: Elsevier Health Sciences. https://books.google.com/books?id=WB8PDQAAQBAJ&pg=PA59#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kristin Hall, FNP

Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership. 

She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH

Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare. 

Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.

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