Can Apple Cider Vinegar Prevent Hair Loss?
Out of all the different natural treatments and home remedies I have tried for my hair, apple cider vinegar is one of my absolute favorites. ACV is hands-down one of the most reliable, powerful, inexpensive ways to condition your hair and scalp. And one of its many uses is in preventing and slowing down hair loss.
There are a lot of reasons why hair loss occurs. Some of them apple cider vinegar cannot directly treat. Hair can be lost because of an acute or chronic stressor such as a disease, a recent surgery, or a hormonal change. Sometimes you lose hair because you recently also lost a lot of weight.
In some cases, however, you lose hair because you have an infection which is attacking your scalp. A couple of common culprits are ringworm (tinea capitis) and candida. These are both fungal infections, and they can be very difficult to get rid of, even with the help of medications. Both of them are very pervasive, and can cause additional irritating symptoms like itching and dandruff. Thankfully, both of these are infections you can treat at home using apple cider vinegar!
So, can apple cider vinegar prevent hair loss? More on this burning question in a moment. But first...
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
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Apple cider vinegar is so named because it is vinegar derived from apple or cider must. You may very well have it in your kitchen right now. It is sometimes referred to simply as “ACV” to save time, and is a popular ingredient for making salad dressings and vinaigrettes. It is immediately recognizable from its amber gold hue.
What Are the Properties and Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar has a long history in the natural health community. It’s been used as a traditional remedy for a range of health conditions for centuries. Nowadays it is as popular as ever. Here are some of the properties that make apple cider vinegar so useful for your hair and scalp!
- Apple cider vinegar is rich in acetic acid. This is why vinegar has long been used to disinfect wounds. It can kill pathogens such as bacteria and fungus. It is a popular natural remedy for both yeast infections and ringworm and related infections.
- ACV is great for balancing the pH levels in your skin, including your scalp.
- ACV can open up clogged pores and help to cleanse away dead skin cells and other debris.
- With ACV, you have an incredible clarifying agent that can remove buildup from your hair shafts.
And those are just the hair benefits! ACV can also help to:
- Reduce acid reflux
- Improve digestion
- Treat a sinus infection
- Stabilize blood sugar and help you lose weight
Research on ACV is actually rather lacking at this point, so a lot of the popular applications of ACV are backed largely by anecdotal evidence. There is however some solid scientific backing for at least some of these applications.
Does It Really Work on Fungal Infections?
It is pretty tough to hunt down research studies which support apple cider vinegar as a treatment for specific fungal infections (see this article for an overview of the medical uses of vinegar and supporting research), but I can certainly provide my own anecdotal evidence. I have used apple cider vinegar to treat tinea infections before, and I’ve had outstanding results. In fact, I’ve actually had better results using ACV on some infections than I have using over-the-counter medications.
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So yes, even though a solid body of research is lacking to back up ACV for treating fungal scalp infections, my experiences tell me that it works. Plus, if you do your research, you will find that I am not alone. Tons of people who have suffered hair loss from candida and ringworm infections swear by ACV as a treatment. If you can kill the infection which is causing your hair to fall out, you can stop the hair loss. You also get to stop all that itching and dandruff, which is a great bonus!
How Apple Cider Vinegar Indirectly Supports Hair Growth
While the antifungal properties of ACV are one of the reasons it is recommended as a treatment for hair loss, it is not the only one. The pH balancing effect that ACV has on your scalp makes for a healthier, more supportive environment for hair growth. ACV strengthens your hair follicles, and strips away buildup from your hair shafts. Opening up your pores also helps to get rid of chemical residue, dead skin cells, and dirt.
Traditionally, most people head to the store to purchase a clarifying shampoo in order to get rid of chemical buildup on hair. But if you have ever done this, you know that clarifying hair care products are typically quite expensive. Apple cider vinegar is a much cheaper alternative.
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When your hair follicles are stronger and your hair is no longer coated with residue from other hair care products you have used, it is going to be much less prone to breakage. It will be healthier, smoother, softer, and more beautiful to look at. When you have healthy hair, your hair can grow a lot longer before you start having to deal with split ends. That means that even if you do not have a fungal infection you are trying to treat, apple cider vinegar can support healthy hair growth!
Summary of Benefits
Just so you have a quick reference, here is exactly why apple cider vinegar is great for your hair and can prevent hair loss (and encourage growth!):
- Apple cider vinegar is antifungal, and can kill common scalp infections which cause hair loss, dandruff, and itching.
- ACV balances the pH on your scalp.
- With ACV, you can open up your pores.
- ACV acts as an amazing clarifying agent.
How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar on Your Hair
If you’re intimidated by using ACV on your hair and scalp, don’t be! A lot of home remedies and hair treatments are a real pain (if you’ve ever tried making a hair mask with an egg, you know what I mean). This isn’t one of them! This is one of the easiest things you can ever do to take care of your hair.
There are two main ways you can apply ACV to your hair:
- Spray it on.
- Pour it on.
Either one is really easy. If you want to spray apple cider vinegar onto your hair and scalp, you can just make a mixture in a spray bottle and store it in the fridge. You can use it time and again. A little goes a long way, so you can usually apply it for weeks or even months before you have to fill up the bottle again.
Some people use a 1:1 mixture of water and apple cider vinegar, while others use a stronger mixture with more ACV. You don’t want to use the vinegar straight up because it is so acidic it can irritate your scalp. You may need to experiment a bit to find out how much you need to water it down for the most effectiveness and the least irritation.
If you want to pour it on, the same rules apply, but instead of storing it in a spray bottle, you just keep it in a jar. You can keep this in the fridge for a really long time as well. If you keep it in a jar, just store the ACV on its own without the water! You can pour a few tablespoons into a cup and then water it down in the shower. Just pour it over your head when you’re done showering.
Should you rinse it out or leave it in? There are different schools of thought. Mine is that you should do what works for you! In my experience, you get a stronger, lasting effect with more benefits if you leave it in, but this may irritate a sensitive scalp (and occasionally does make mine itch, ironically enough).
Either way, it literally takes only seconds to pour or spray apple cider vinegar onto your hair. Some people do this a couple of times a month. I usually do it once or twice a week, and this works great for me. After I apply apple cider vinegar, my hair is so soft and manageable when it dries, and it has great body!
My hair reached a kind of growth “plateau” after a while where I got it down just past my waist and it didn’t want to get any longer. But ever since I started using apple cider vinegar, I’ve managed to tack on another inch or so. I’m not sure whether this is because of the scalp benefits or the fact that it has strengthened my hair, but either way, I’m happy about it.
Make Your Own ACV Hair Rinse
While you can make an apple cider vinegar hair rinse using just ACV and water as discussed above, I suggest making it even more effective by adding herbs. Herbs are natural, healthy, and provide wonderful health benefits to your hair without the drawbacks you get from the harsh chemicals that are used in shampoos and conditioners.
Adding herbs to your hair rinse does take some time and effort, but it can really enhance the effects of the ACV. How do you do it? You need to boil the herbs in the apple cider vinegar as if you were making tea. In fact, you can even boil them in a tea ball if you want to keep them out of your mixture. Otherwise, you’ll need to strain them out later.
Here’s how you do it:
- Pour some ACV into a saucepan on the stove.
- Add your herbs. I find for around a jar of hair rinse, roughly a handful of herbs works fine.
- Bring the mixture to a low boil.
- When the ACV is fully saturated, you can take the mixture off the stove.
- Wait for it to cool.
- Strain out the herbs, and then pour the apple cider vinegar into your jar or spray bottle. If you are keeping it in a spray bottle, dilute it with water as usual.
Hunting down the herbs is usually the challenging part of getting this right. You can purchase herbs at health food stores and health food sections of regular grocery marts. But sometimes if you are searching for something obscure, you may have to check multiple locations or order it off the internet. To be clear, you are looking for dry herbs, again, just like those you’d find in teas.
One of the reasons that ACV hair rinses are so great is that you can select herbs based on the effect you are trying to achieve. You can create rinses designed to repair damaged hair, to lighten hair, to get your hair smooth and shiny, and even to prevent hair loss.
Here are some herbs which are widely used to prevent hair loss:
- Amla (Phyllanthus embolic): This herb helps to strengthen the roots of your hair and nourishes your scalp for healthy hair growth.
- Aritha (Sapindus mukorrosi): This herb is colloquially referred to as “soapnuts.” It has a long history of traditional use as a shampoo to prevent hair loss. Like apple cider vinegar, it has antibacterial and antifungal properties. These properties can help fight the same infections which cause hair loss as ACV. Aritha is also great for reducing itching and dandruff as a result. Aritha contains natural saponins. These clean your hair while also improving the texture. Hair that has been treated with Aritha typically feels silky, smooth, and strong.
- Basil (Ocimum basilica): You probably are more familiar with basil from its many uses in the kitchen, especially in Italian dishes. Basil is also helpful in hair rinses, as it stimulates your hair follicles and improves circulation in your scalp. Basil also contains magnesium, which helps to strengthen hair against breakage. The anti-inflammatory properties of basil are soothing for your scalp, which can be very helpful if you have an infection causing hair loss.
- Bhringraj (Eclipta alba): This is an Ayurvedic treatment for hair loss, which like Aritha, goes back centuries. This herb provides deep moisturizing action while strengthening hair. If you have dandruff, itching, or skin allergies affecting your scalp, Bhringraj may be able to combat them all.
- Burdock (Arctium kappa): This herb contains fatty acids which can improve circulation in your scalp. This brings nourishment to your hair follicles, which in turn can promote hair growth. Burdock contains phytosterols, which can soothe irritation. Burdock also is a great detangling agent, and can make hair shiny and full.
- Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum): This herb is sometimes known colloquially as “Methi.” Fenugreek is rich in proteins. Hair is made up of keratin, which is a type of protein, so nourishing your hair with protein is excellent for hair growth. Fenugreek can also improve circulation in your scalp. For both these reasons, it is often used to treat thinning hair and a variety of scalp conditions.
- Flaxseed (Linum usitatissimum): Flaxseed is a popular supplement which provides a vegan source of omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are very healthy for your hair too! They can help to strengthen it, which can prevent breakage and loss. Flaxseed also contains a substance called mucilage which is great for making your hair more slippery. This works like a detangling conditioner. The easier it is to get a comb through your hair, the less hair you will pull out when you are brushing.
- Ginger root (Zingiber official): Ginger is another herb you are likely familiar with from cuisine. Ginger is great for more than just flavoring food and treating indigestion, however. It also can increase blood flow in the scalp, stimulating your hair follicles. Ginger, like flaxseed, contains fatty acids. These can help strengthen your hair. If you’re suffering from dandruff, ginger can soothe your scalp, fighting the infection.
- Green tea (Camellia sinensis): Most people are familiar with the many health benefits of green tea, but did you know it can also work wonders for your hair and scalp? Those same antioxidants which benefit you when you drink green tea can also help to soothe scalp irritation and combat dandruff. Green tea contains a number of vitamins, including C and E. Vitamin E as it turns out is great for repairing damaged, dry hair. Green tea also contains panthenol, a popular ingredient in many shampoos. Panthenol can prevent split ends.vThe combined action of panthenol and vitamin E in green tea is excellent for fighting thinning hair.
- Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa): If you have lived in the tropics, you may have seen the beautiful red hibiscus flower. When hibiscus is added to apple cider vinegar, it can help to bring out red undertones in hairs. It also is a flower which is rich in both protein and mucilage, providing further benefits for hair growth and detangling.
- Hops (Humulus lupus): These herbs are very nourishing and can help to thicken thin, dry, damaged hair. Hops also have antiseptic properties, making them a great choice for fighting scalp infections and dandruff. On top of that, they boost circulation.
- Horsetail (Equisetum arvense): This is one of the best herbs you can choose if you have dry hair. It is an excellent moisturizer, and it is great for stimulating circulation. For both of these reasons, it is a well-known traditional hair growth remedy. Additionally, horsetail has a strengthening effect on your hair. This helps to prevent split ends. So you can see how it takes a three-pronged approach to fighting thinning hair. Horsetail is easy to find and a great choice for any apple cider vinegar rinse.
- Lavender (Lavendula officinalis): This is another of the best all-around herbs for adding to your hair rinse. In fact, if you were going to choose just one herb, no matter your hair type, this is probably the one I’d recommend. Lavender is antiseptic, so it is a great scalp treatment for infections. It prevents shedding and loss, and also balances sebum production. That makes it a good choice for both dry and oily hair and scalp conditions. I use lavender in my ACV rinse and I have a lavender-based shampoo. Both make my hair absolutely amazing, and seem to give it a real body boost as well!
- Nettle (Urtica dioica): This is a wonderful herb for stimulating circulation and improving scalp health. It can fight dandruff and can help to balance sebum, so it is good for both dry and oily hair. It smoothes out hair beautifully, adding a lustrous shine. Nettle can increase the body of your hair, which can make your hair appear more voluminous. This is excellent if you want to improve the appearance of thin hair. Nettle’s nutrition can also have a very real impact on hair loss, preventing and slowing it so that your hair can grow in more fully.
- Peppermint (Mentha piperita): Here’s an herb that probably makes you think about tea or cooking! But peppermint is awesome for your hair—and quite good for your skin too. It has remarkable anti-inflammatory properties. Rub it into your scalp and you’ll get a cool, pleasant sensation which is very soothing. So this is a perfect herb if you have an itchy, inflamed scalp. It draws blood to your scalp as well, ferrying nutrition to your hair follicles. On top of that, peppermint is antibacterial.
- Plantain (Plantago major): This herb usually is found in wilderness locations. It is a great moisturizer, and it can help to treat a dry scalp, fighting itching and dandruff. Since it stimulates your scalp, it can boost hair growth. Many people who use it swear by it.
- Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis): This herb increases circulation to your scalp, which helps your hair to grow in strong. It also adds a shine to your hair and makes it more manageable. It is another herb which is easy to recommend for a range of different hair and scalp conditions. It’s particularly good if you have an oily scalp. Note however that rosemary can darken your hair, so you may want to skip it or only use it in small amounts if you don’t want this effect. Or you can offset it with a bit of chamomile and calendula, which are both lightening herbs.
- Sage (Salvia officinalis): This is a good choice if you have dry hair or a dry scalp. It contains a lot of antioxidants, and also is antimicrobial in nature, so it can fight certain types of infections. Sage, like apple cider vinegar, is a clarifier. It can strip away residue left over from other hair products you have used, which in turn can strengthen your hair, preventing hair loss. Note that like rosemary, this herb can darken hair.
- Shikakai (Acacia concinna): This herb is so popular for hair that it is actually sometimes called “fruit for the hair!” With a mild pH, it can help to balance your scalp chemistry, making for a healthier environment for hair growth. It also can cleanse your hair nicely, removing built-up residue. At the same time, it improves the silky sheen of your hair and gives it more body. Shikakai has been used as a natural hair loss remedy for a long time in traditional medicine. It is also said to be great for getting rid of dandruff.
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): This is an herb which can treat fungal infections of the scalp. In doing so, it helps to directly tackle the root of many hair loss problems. At the same time, it has a soothing effect which can curb the irritation caused by many infections. You can expect a reduction in the amount of dandruff you suffer from.Thyme is also nutritious and can stimulate hair production.
- Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum): This herb is known colloquially as “Holy Basil.” It has a conditioning effect on the scalp and helps to improve circulation. This means it can bring nutrients to your hair follicles. It also can fight dandruff.
- Watercress (Nasturtium officinale): This herb is rich in minerals which are great for hair health, especially phosphorus, zinc, and iron. Watercress can remove excess oil and residue from other hair care products from your hair. This clarifying effect enhances that of apple cider vinegar. Watercress also contains bion, another nutrient which is excellent for hair growth.
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): You can add yarrow to your herbal ACV mix to treat an irritated, itchy scalp, reducing dandruff and balancing out sebum production. This is a particularly good treatment if your scalp tends to produce too much oil, making your hair greasy. Yarrow is often used to fight hair loss. Watch out though if you want your hair to stay dark; yarrow can lighten hair if it is used regularly.
- Yashtimadhu (Glycyrrhiza glabra): This herb is also called Licorice or Muleti. It has a long history of traditional use in Indian medicine to treat hair loss. You will find it listed in many hair care products for just this reason. It hydrates the hair and scalp, and has a strengthening effect on the hair shaft.
- Yucca root (Yucca schidigera): This is an emollient which contains saponins. Because of this, it is often included in shampoos because it can help them to foam up. When you include it in your ACV rinse, it obviously won’t have this effect, but what it will do is clean your hair incredibly well, removing residue from products you’ve used. Yucca root has been used in traditional Navajo medicine to treat hair loss and prevent it for centuries. It is also renowned for getting rid of dandruff.
You don’t need to use all of these herbs in your apple cider vinegar rinse to get a great effect—just choose a handful to try. You can try different mixtures in the future, and figure out what works best for you. But now you have a huge list of herbs which will help to prevent hair loss and stimulate growth, all of which will increase the antimicrobial and conditioning effects of apple cider vinegar.
Consider Adding a Healthy Hair Multivitamin to Your Routine
Here is one final suggestion for getting the most out of your apple cider vinegar hair rinse. You may have noticed that a number of the herbs above work their magic by improving blood flow in the scalp. Naturally this effect has the greatest impact if you are providing your body with healthy nutrients which help to stimulate hair growth. That way all that increased circulation can draw something useful to your hair follicles.
For that reason, I recommend that you also add a healthy multivitamin for hair to your daily routine! A hair multivitamin will provide your body with powerful nutrition for hair growth. Your herb-enhanced apple cider vinegar hair rinse or spray will boost the availability of the nutrients by drawing them to your hair follicles.
This offers you a comprehensive, completely natural approach to fighting thinning or balding hair. The apple cider vinegar will fight fungal infections, balance the pH of your scalp, and clarify your hair. The herbs in your ACV mixture will do the same, while also drawing additional nutrients to your scalp. And the multivitamin will give your body the exact nutrients you need.
I have been using this method for some time now, and the results have been incredible. You are not going to find an easier or more effective hair care treatment, or one that costs less! Once you have stocked up on your herbs, they will last a long time. Apple cider vinegar is very cheap. A hair multivitamin will run you a little more, but it’s totally worth it. So give it a try. Your hair will thank you, and you will thank me!