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What does apple cider vinegar do for your hair? Experts weigh in on its various benefits

Say goodbye to dandruff and itching!
Illustration of four different Apple Cider Vinegar shampoo bottles
TODAY Illustration / Amazon

If you're only using apple cider vinegar for your salad dressings, you're missing out. The pantry staple really can do it all. Clogged drain? Try pouring a little down the sink with baking soda. Breaking out? Make a DIY face mask using ACV and bentonite clay.

And, in case you haven't heard, it can also make a good addition to your hair care routine. Experts say that apple cider vinegar has a host of benefits for your hair and scalp, ranging from relieving itchiness to improving the look of your locks. Below, we asked two top dermatologists to break down everything you need to know about the ingredient.

Benefits of apple cider vinegar for your hair

"If you have an oily scalp, you’re prone to dandruff or you’re using hair products that accumulate in the hair, all of those things will make apple cider vinegar a potentially good option for you," said Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical instructor of dermatology at Cornell University.

It has both antibacterial and antifungal properties so it can help with common scalp conditions caused by those factors, like dandruff, acne or folliculitis, King said. "It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, so those can be beneficial," she added. "And because of the acidic pH, it can help to remove product buildup by gentle exfoliation."

For the same reason, the ingredient can help restore the pH balance of your scalp, said Dr. Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. The natural pH of your scalp is around five, but things like sun exposure, dyeing your hair and certain chemicals can throw that number off. And when that happens, it can make your hair dry and porous and lead to itchiness, which is why maintaining a proper balance is important.

On top of all that, the ingredient can also help make your hair smoother and shinier, Jaliman said.

How to create an apple cider vinegar hair rinse

Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar

One of the most affordable ways to reap all of those benefits is to make your own rinse at home with a bottle of apple cider vinegar. In order to do that, you'll need to dilute it, Jaliman said. Combine 1 to 2 tablespoons of ACV with one 1 cup of water. Rinse your hair with the concoction post-shampoo on wash days.

Because apple cider vinegar can be drying, King recommends following the rinse with a hair mask, conditioner or leave-in conditioner to add moisture.

That being said, both dermatologists agreed that using a product that features the ingredient is the easiest way to go about it. Here, we asked the experts to share some of their top picks, and we found a handful of bestsellers that you can try as well.

Best apple cider vinegar hair products, according to experts and shoppers

dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse

While you can go the DIY route, Jaliman said that you’re probably better off buying a pre-made rinse, like this one from dpHUE. Not only will it save you some time, but many include additional hydrating ingredients that you wouldn’t get in your at-home formula. With this one, for example, your hair will get a boost of moisture from aloe and glycerin.

dpHUE Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Rinse LITE

If you have fine hair, you can get all the same benefits while keeping your locks from feeling too heavy with this lighter version of the rinse. The new formula uses fewer conditioning agents to prevent thin hair from feeling weighed down.

Pureology Vinegar Hair Rinse

This rinse, which is another pick from Jaliman, is also a good option for anyone who wants to skip the extra steps of an at-home formula. It can be used up to two times per week after you shampoo to remove buildup and add softness and shine to your locks.

Aveeno Apple Cider Vinegar Sulfate-Free Shampoo

Jaliman also likes this affordable shampoo from Aveeno. It’s made with apple cider vinegar and soothing oatmeal extract to help cleanse your hair and scalp.

Re-Fresh Anti-Dandruff Shampoo Apple Cider Vinegar

This formula not only contains apple cider vinegar but also has 2 percent salicylic acid, King said. "So it’s going to exfoliate and have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties and moisturizing ingredients, which are going to help keep the scalp and hair from getting dried out. It’s a good combination."

Re-Fresh Anti-Dandruff Conditioner Apple Cider Vinegar

Both the shampoo and conditioner are free of silicones and parabens and are safe for color-treated hair, King said. "The conditioner also contains coconut oil, so it's good for smoothing and moisturizing."

Majestic Pure Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo

Jaliman likes this shampoo because it’s made with moisturizing ingredients like coconut and avocado oils so it’s a good pick for people with dry hair. It’s gentle enough for daily use and won’t fade color-treated hair.

WOW Apple Cider Vinegar Shampoo and Conditioner Set

This shampoo and conditioner duo is an Amazon shopper favorite with more than 41,000 five-star reviews. In fact, it’s so popular that at one point, the brand sold more than 80,000 units of the cleansing hair set in just one day.

One Shop TODAY writer who tried it out said she was “wowed by the results.” After using, she said that she noticed less breakage and didn’t need to use as much dry shampoo because her roots weren’t as oily. The shampoo cleans and clarifies your hair with apple cider vinegar and then the conditioner hydrates thanks to ingredients like coconut and avocado oils.

Ouai Detox Shampoo

Hairstylist Lauren Baxter previously told Shop TODAY that she starts her shower routine with this detoxifying shampoo. According to the brand, the concentrated formula with apple cider vinegar washes away dirt, oil and buildup from products and hard water deposits to leave your hair feeling ultra-clean and fresh.

Pura D'or Apple Cider Vinegar Thin2Thick Shampoo & Conditioner Set

With biotin, keratin, apple cider vinegar and caffeine, this shampoo and conditioner set deeply cleanses and nourishes your hair, so your locks will look and feel healthier after every wash.

Head & Shoulders Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

With an opening that makes dispensing this rinse into your hands or into your hair, giving your scalp and hair the care it needs has never been easier. "I love that after applying this it makes my hair silky smooth," one reviewer said. "I love how luxurious my hair feels after this product, and it will not cost you a fortune."