Apple cider vinegar for hair growth: Does it work?

Apple cider vinegar has never been so popular and is credited with all manner of health benefits, from aiding weight loss to stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Some advocates claim that apple cider vinegar (ACV) deserves a place in everyone's hair care routine, thanks to its powers to relieve a variety of scalp conditions, including flaking, dandruff, and psoriasis. Others have said it can boost hair growth.

Fast facts on apple cider vinegar:

  • The use of vinegar to fight infection dates back to Hippocrates (460-337 BC) who recommended a vinegar preparation for ulcers and sores.
  • ACV has been shown to have microbial properties when used in food, but experts advise against its use for wounds.
  • There are many claims that using ACV on the scalp stimulates blood flow, which may boost hair growth, though there is little firm evidence of this.
  • Few studies have looked at the use of ACV specifically, but there are some that have looked at the use of vinegar for certain situations.


What is apple cider vinegar?


Vinegar can be made from most sources of carbohydrate. It results from fermentation where the sugars in a food are broken down by bacteria and yeast.

These sugars are turned into alcohol by yeast and then Acetobacter bacteria covert the alcohol into acetic acid, which is vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is made by fermenting pulverized or smashed up apples.


Does apple cider vinegar boost hair growth?


Health and beauty blogs have claimed the benefits of an ACV rinse for hair growth, although it must be remembered that there is very little published research on this.

Much of the excitement about ACV is based on anecdotal evidence or studies that look at vinegar in general. The claims center on people using an ACV as a rinse on their hair.

According to experts from the United Kingdom's hair loss treatment specialist the Belgravia Centre, there is little to substantiate the claims:

"No matter what you do with it, ACV will not cure or treat hair loss. The reason it is often linked with hair care is because it is an ancient remedy for making hair shine and treating dandruff that is said to have been favoured by the Romans.

"The only real benefit we are aware of is that ACV can be a good clarifying hair rinse as it helps to remove all traces of product buildup on your scalp. Buildup left behind by styling products or shampoo can clog the follicles, leading to scalp conditions such as dandruff, and - in extreme cases - may also cause hair loss."


ACV helps to rebalance hair and scalp pH levels


Hair has an ideal pH level of between 4 and 5, but many commercial shampoos may disrupt this.

While there is no evidence to back this up, a 2014 study looking at the pH of shampoos on the market found that the high alkalinity of many brands contributes to hair friction, breakage, and dryness.

Because ACV has a high acidity, it follows that it could help maintain the pH balance, thus making hair smoother, stronger, and shinier.


ACV smooths hair cuticles


It has been suggested that ACV's natural acidity helps to smooth down the cuticle of a person's hair.

This, it is claimed, encourages knots and tangles to slip out and reduces the frizz associated with lifted cuticles. It also means hair may be better able to reflect light, giving it a more glossy, healthy glow.


ACV treats dandruff and itchy, dry scalps


It has been suggested also that vinegar can help in the fight against dandruff and scalp conditions.

Some dermatologists have said ACV's anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties may combat the yeast and irritation that lead to the build-up of dead skin cells, flakes, and itching.

While is it well documented that ACV is antimicrobial, there are no studies to back up the claim that it can fight scalp conditions. ACV has not been tested as a treatment for dandruff.


ACV can add natural body and define curls


Bloggers have claimed that an ACV rinse might help people with curly hair achieve a bounce in their hair. The thinking behind this is that the vinegar does not weigh down individual strands of hair as conventional shampoos and conditioners might.

This claim is supported by anecdotal evidence only.


Is ACV safe?


Vinegar has been used to flavor and preserve food, heal wounds, fight infections, and clean surfaces for more than 2,000 years.

There are rare reports, however, of adverse reactions when someone has consumed a lot of vinegar.

For example, a 28-year-old woman who reportedly consumed approximately 250 milliliters of ACV a day for 6 years, developed hypokalemia or low levels of potassium in the blood.

Nevertheless, there is no evidence that using an ACV rinse externally is unsafe.


How do I make and use an ACV rinse?


To make an ACV rinse, a person should mix between 2 and 4 tablespoons of ACV with 16 ounces of cool water in a plastic bottle.

After shampooing and rinsing the hair, the head should be tipped back and the mixture poured over the entire scalp. It should then be left for 1 to 2 minutes before being rinsed off thoroughly. Avoiding contact with the eyes is recommended so as not to cause irritation.


Proven health benefits of vinegar


Investigations have shown that diluted vinegar can be effective for the treatment of some ear infections, including. However, the low pH of the mixture may irritate the skin and damage the outer hair cells of the ear.

In some countries, applying vinegar to the site of a jellyfish sting followed by immersion in hot water is considered an effective treatment.

Studies on whether vinegar helps to lower blood pressure have been inconclusive, but there is a growing body of evidence that vinegar may have antiglycemic properties. If this were to be true, ACV might have a role in reducing high blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

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