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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:
Appetite suppression and weight loss
High blood pressure
Particularly tough cuts of pork
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
That’s a limited, cautious list of potential benefits— and it calls for more research.
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.
Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.
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If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.
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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 might not be curable, but it’s often treatable.
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.