Vinegar, from the French vin aigre, meaning “sour wine,” can be made from almost any fermentable carbohydrate source, including wine, molasses, dates, sorghum, apples, pears, grapes, berries, melons, coconut, honey, beer, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, malt, grains, and whey. Initially, yeasts ferment the natural food sugars to alcohol. Next, acetic acid bacteria (Acetobacter) convert the alcohol to acetic acid (1).
In the United States, vinegar products must contain a minimum of 4% acidity (2). White distilled vinegars are generally 4% to 7% acetic acid, whereas cider and wine vinegars are 5% to 6% acetic acid.
So, if the goal is to use something acidic on your hair, you can use any type of vinegar, because all contain acidic acid; you don’t need to use expensive products or certain type of vinegar.
I searched the scientific publications on the benefits (or lack of) of vinegar/acetic acid on hair, and I came up with no result. No trials or in-vitro experiments have been done on this subject (at least not published).
However, many people swear by the hair benefits they got with a vinegar rinse (in particular apple cider vinegar).
Here are some of the benefits and explanations of using a vinegar rinse on your hair. We all have different hair textures, porosity, and hair/scalp dryness levels, use different products and live in different areas, so we all have different hair concerns and #hairgoals 🙂
- After you dye/bleach your hair, an acidic solution can stop the oxidative process and flatten the cuticles. A permanent dye has a pH of 7-8 and bleach a pH of 8-9, so an acidic solution will bring it down to a lower pH.
Note: The pH of the scalp is 5.5 and the hair shaft pH is 3.7 (3).
This flattening may not only help hair color last longer, but also makes your hair easier to comb and a bit shinier.
- Because of low pH, a vinegar rinse can improve the efficiency of the conditioner (4) with polyquats that are positively charged and will adsorb to the hair strand to create lubricity and reduce friction, so it will enhance smoothness and manageability.
- If you live in an area with hard water (see below a map of US water hardness), vinegar may help with removing the build up in the hair caused by the minerals in water. Calcium and magnesium in the hard water react with soaps and detergents to form an insoluble, sticky residue that can be removed with a more acidic solution.
If you want to give it a try (and if you think you really need it), I would recommend using it after shampooing, followed by conditioning. I would not replace a conditioner with just a vinegar rinse (at least for the simple reason that I don’t want to smell like a salad dressing for the rest of the day).
We all have different hair textures, porosity, and hair/scalp dryness levels, so what works on a person’s hair, it might not work on yours.
And remember, these are only folk remedies, not scientifically proven treatments!
PS. Please don’t hesitate to ask me anything, you send any questions through the blog or contact form.
- Vinegar: Medicinal Uses and Antiglycemic Effect, Carol S. Johnston, Cindy A. Gaas
MedGenMed. 2006; 8(2): 61.
- U S. Food and Drug Administration. Code of Federal Regulations. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/ora/compliance_ref/cpg/cpgfod/cpg525-825.html.
- The Shampoo pH can Affect the Hair: Myth or Reality?, Maria Fernanda Reis Gavazzoni Dias, Andréia Munck de Almeida, Patricia Makino Rezende Cecato, Andre Ricardo Adriano, Janine Pichler, Int J Trichology. 2014 Jul-Sep; 6(3): 95–99.
- http://thebeautybrains.com (love these guys).