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Apple Cider Vinegar for Hair Loss: Evidence Review 2023
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Updated on May 9, 2024

Using apple cider vinegar for hair loss sounds too good to be true. And that is because it is — most of the hair benefit claims which have arisen on the internet about this remedy have yet to be proven by science.

While it has been used for thousands of years for its therapeutic properties in heart health, weight loss and blood sugar control, apple cider vinegar has only recently begun to be thoroughly studied. And very few of those studies have been concerned with its uses in hair shedding or hair health.

Apple cider vinegar is claimed to stimulate hair growth, treat dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, protect your locks from friction damage, prevent hair tangling and breaking, strengthen and soften your tresses and more. But how many of these claims have scientific evidence to back them up and how many are wishful thinking?

Keep reading to find out all you need to know about:

  • What apple cider vinegar is and what it contains
  • The scientific evidence behind purported hair benefits of apple cider vinegar
  • How you can use apple cider vinegar on your hair
  • The best alternatives to apple cider vinegar for treating your hair loss
Table of Contents

What is apple cider vinegar?

apples being run through a press

Apple cider vinegar is obtained from apple juice which is fermented and turned into alcohol in the presence of a specific yeast. Then bacteria convert the alcohol into acetic acid [1]. The resulting vinegar can be used for cooking but is also widely used as a traditional remedy. People drink this substance, diluted with water, for a variety of ailments, such as high cholesterol and hypertension, digestive issues, excessive weight, high blood sugar, as well as a variety of infections and inflammations [1]. It has also been used topically, for hair loss or skin disorders.

Some of these purported health benefits of apple cider vinegar – such as playing a role in preventing certain forms of cancer, regulating weight and blood sugar have received limited scientific support, though further research is needed [1] [2]. However, these properties pertain to vinegar in general (specifically, to the acetic acid found in it) and not necessarily to apple cider vinegar in particular.

What does apple cider vinegar contain?

The composition of apple cider vinegar is rather simple – it is mostly acetic acid diluted in water, as follows [3]:

Apple Cider Vinegar Composition



jug of apple cider vinegar

  • 94% water
  • 5% acetic acid
  • 1% carbohydrates
  • Minerals:
    • Potassium (73mg/100 ml)
    • Phosphorus (8mg/100 ml)
    • Calcium (7mg/100 ml)
    • Sodium (5mg/100 ml)
    • Iron (0.2 mg/100 ml)

Does apple cider vinegar treat hair loss?

There are currently no scientific studies which show that apple cider vinegar can stop or reverse your hair thinning on its own, without any other treatment. 

One study found that a mixture of apple cider vinegar and garlic oil provided better skin penetration for Minoxidil, one of the most prescribed hair growth medications [4]. However, the effects of using apple cider vinegar alone for hair loss or hair growth are yet to be examined.

A few small studies indicate that this remedy may have some benefits for your hair health, such as conditioning your hair and preventing some strand breakage [12] or helping treat some common scalp problems [5][6]. But they were performed in petri dishes, not on human skin, so more research is needed to ascertain what apple cider vinegar can do for your scalp and hair under what circumstances.

Here are a few internet claims regarding what apple cider vinegar can do for your hair loss and what the evidence reveals:

1. Apple cider vinegar treats dandruff

diseased scalp

There are many claims that apple cider vinegar can treat dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis, due to its antifungal properties. While it is true that apple cider vinegar has been found to inhibit the growth of the candida albicans fungus which can cause yeast infections on the scalp [5][6], this means it may be effective in treating candidiasis (although more research is needed), but not necessarily dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. That is because dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis are usually produced by a different fungus, called Malassezia furfur.

One in vitro study showed that apple cider vinegar may be effective in inhibiting Malassezia growth in certain concentrations [7]. However, no studies have been performed to determine if the same effect can be achieved by rinsing your scalp with apple cider vinegar, what concentrations would be needed and for how long you would need to keep the vinegar on your scalp for it to be effective against dandruff.

2. Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial properties

scalp folliculitis

Some in vitro studies [5][6] have shown apple cider vinegar to be effective against certain bacteria which can cause common scalp problems, such as scalp folliculitis [8]. 

However, while this vinegar was effective at inhibiting the growth of these strains of bacteria in a Petri dish, a different study conducted on people revealed that apple cider vinegar failed to reduce the same bacteria when used topically, on human skin [9]. 

This is because substances can behave differently in the controlled environment of a Petri dish than when faced with the complexity of the human organism. But also because greater substance concentrations can be used in vitro than can be safely applied to your scalp.

3. Apple cider vinegar can balance scalp pH, reducing hair friction and breakage

Apple cider vinegar is acidic in nature. Depending on the type of apples used and the brand formula, its pH ranges from 2.7 to 3.2 [10]. The normal pH of your hair fibre is 3.6, while many shampoos have a much higher pH than that [11]. 

A study performed on 123 brands of shampoo showed that almost 40% of them had a pH of over 5.5, and this ratio increased to over 65% when considering only commercial shampoos (those available for home use, not often used in hair salons) [11]. Washing your hair with a shampoo with a pH over 5.5 can charge the strands with static electricity, making them more likely to rub against each other and split or break off. 

Adding apple cider vinegar (or any vinegar, for that matter) to your shampoo or conditioner [13] will lower its pH, making your hair less likely to get a static charge and experience friction [12]. This could help reduce split ends, frizziness and hair breakage. Just be aware that if your conditioner pH drops below 3.5 (as it can if you add too much vinegar), it can damage your hair structures and increase hair root greasiness [14].

However, there is no need to add apple cider vinegar to a hair-cleaning product which already has its pH balanced. Since this information is often not on the label, here are some pH-balancing ingredients you can look out for:

  • Citric acid
  • Salicylic acid 
  • Sorbic acid

4. Apple cider vinegar can condition your hair

woman combing shiny hair 3

Since apple cider vinegar is acidic, it helps tighten or “seal” the hair cuticle, making your hair strands smoother, easier to detangle and more hydrated [12]. Smoother hair strands mean less friction and more moisture means you won’t get dry, brittle hair which breaks off easily. So it can be said that this vinegar may help condition your hair.

However, commercial conditioners also contain a number of other – clinically tested – substances which help make your hair shiner, softer and easier to detangle, increase absorption and reduce static electricity [13]. 

5. Apple cider vinegar has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties

Apple cider vinegar has indeed been found to have some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties in vitro and in studies conducted on rats and mice[15] [16][17][18]. This means that it may play a role in protecting your hair from UV damage and strengthening your strands, and that it may relieve the symptoms of certain inflammatory scalp disorders.

However clinical studies are needed to reveal whether this would work when applied topically in humans and under what circumstances. 

6. Apple cider vinegar helps hair dye set

Since apple cider vinegar can flatten hair cuticles, anecdotal evidence has emerged that a rinse with this vinegar after dyeing your hair can help set and preserve the new colour. Further research is needed to determine whether a vinegar rinse is enough to provide such benefits for the human hair and what concentration of apple cider vinegar is safe to be used, to prevent the colour from being stripped away.  

Moreover, researchers warn that vinegar rinses of any kind are not recommended for already damaged hair, as they can make your strands even more fragile [12]. And frequently bleached and dyed hair can suffer further chemical damage.

7. Apple cider vinegar is good for low-porosity hair

Low porosity hair means having hair fibres with very flat cuticles, which seal moisture in and are more difficult to penetrate. Since apple cider vinegar is believed to seal your cuticles, there is little reason to use it on low-porosity hair. This rumour might have started from the fact that it is easier for vinegar to damage high-porosity hair than low-porosity hair if used in a higher concentration, so it may be more advisable to use it on the latter.

What are the side effects of apple cider vinegar?

woman gripping her hair

The side effects of apple cider vinegar depend on the concentration that is used. While lower concentrations can be safely applied on your skin and hair, higher concentrations can cause local irritation, itching and a burning sensation on the scalp, as well as damage to your hair fibres, especially if they are already deteriorated [12][1].

However, since most of the studies performed on apple cider vinegar involved ingesting it and the studies relating to the properties of this vinegar did not involve topical use on the human scalp, a safe concentration has not been scientifically determined. 

How do you use apple cider vinegar on your hair?

apple cider vinegar being poured into a measuring cup

Despite the limited evidence to show its benefits, many people still decide to try apple cider vinegar for hair loss. There are several ways you can apply it:

Dilute it with water and use it as a rinse 

The safest and most effective concentration of apple cider vinegar to use topically on your hair and scalp has not yet been determined. However, anecdotal evidence from hair stylists suggests diluting 1 part apple cider vinegar in 5 parts water and spraying it on your hair after shampooing or dyeing. Leave it on for 2-5 minutes and then rinse with warm water. Keep in mind that it can give your hair a pungent odour. 

Also, be sure to avoid an apple cider vinegar rinse if you have any lesions, cuts or scabs on your scalp, as contact with a lesion can be quite painful and cause further irritation.

Use it alongside your shampoo or conditioner

Pour a few drops of apple cider vinegar into your favourite bottle of shampoo or conditioner and use it as you normally would. But before you do, it is a good idea to check whether they have already been pH balanced.

Use hair products which already contain apple cider vinegar

There are ready-made hair products which already contain apple cider vinegar, such as hair rinses, serums, shampoos, conditioners, hair thickeners and anti-dandruff formulas. Choose the one which seems most suitable for your hair type and condition.  

The best treatment alternatives to apple cider vinegar for hair loss

man applying substance to his receding hairline

There are many reasons why you may be experiencing hair thinning. The most common of them are androgenetic alopecia (male pattern baldness or female pattern baldness), telogen effluvium and alopecia areata. But you will be happy to know that many evidence-based treatments can help reduce or even reverse your hair shedding. Here are some of the most frequently recommended:

  • Minoxidil – this medication is usually applied topically on your scalp and dilates blood vessels, allowing more nutrients to reach your hair follicles.
  • Finasteride – a top recommendation for androgenetic alopecia, this drug inhibits excessive dihydrotestosterone (DHT) production (usually not recommended to pre-menopausal women).
  • Dutasteride – though it is not FDA-approved for hair loss, Dutasteride is also an effective DHT blocker, similar to Finasteride (also not recommended to pre-menopausal women).
  • Steroid creams for hair loss – used frequently in the treatment of alopecia areata, steroids are effective against hair loss caused by autoimmune disorders.
  • Dermarolling for hair growth – This therapy involves using a tool called a derma roller which makes microscopic holes in your scalp in order to stimulate your natural healing process and to increase the absorption of topical medication.
  • Red light therapy for hair growth – Focused red light is shined on your scalp in order to enhance your cell metabolism, providing your hair follicles with more energy.
  • Hair transplant – also known as surgical hair restoration, this safe and efficient procedure involves collecting hair follicles from a healthy area on your scalp and reimplanting them into a balding or thinning one.

Naturally, the effectiveness of these treatments depends on the reason why your hair is falling out. Moreover, some of them can have unwanted side effects or interfere with other treatments you may be taking. It is thus a good idea to request the advice of a hair specialist before taking any medication.

So book a consultation now with one of our top trichologists and they will perform a thorough examination of your scalp and provide you with the most effective treatment for your specific hair condition. Doing so from the first signs of hair thinning and balding can prevent your hair loss from advancing to the point where it can no longer be efficiently treated by medication or therapies alone. If that happens, you may require a hair transplant to regain your luxurious locks.

However, even if you do require surgical hair restoration, there is no need to worry. Recent advancements in this field now make it easy for you to get a natural-looking hair transplant, whether you opt for a FUT or FUE type procedure.

Wimpole Clinic has a 97-100% success rate and results which speak for themselves, as you can see in our before and after hair transplant gallery.

Apple Cider Vinegar for Hair Loss: Evidence Review 2023, Wimpole Clinic

  1. Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar and Other Common Vinegars: A Review
  2. Safety and side effects of apple vinegar intake and its effect on metabolic parameters and body weight: a systematic review
  3.  Vinegar, cider
  4. Preparation and Optimization of Garlic Oil/Apple Cider Vinegar Nanoemulsion Loaded with Minoxidil to Treat Alopecia
  5. Antifungal and Antibacterial Activities of Apple Vinegar of Different Cultivars
  6. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expression
  7. Quantification of the minimum amount of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar required for the growth inhibition of dandruff causing fungi Malassezia furfur
  8. Folliculitis
  9. Apple cider vinegar soaks do not alter the skin bacterial microbiome in atopic dermatitis
  10. Fruits Vinegar: Quality Characteristics, Phytochemistry, and Functionality
  11. The Shampoo pH can Affect the Hair: Myth or Reality?
  12. No Sulfates, No Parabens, and the “No-Poo” Method: A New Patient Perspective on Common  Shampoo Ingredients
  13. Effect of shampoo, conditioner and permanent waving on the molecular structure of human hair
  14. Evaluation of Hair Conditioners pH Change by Apple Vinegar Addition
  15. Antioxidant Activities, Phenolic Profiles, and Organic Acid Contents of Fruit Vinegars
  16. Apple Cider Vinegar Attenuates Oxidative Stress and Reduces the Risk of Obesity in High-Fat-Fed Male Wistar Rats
  17. Fruit vinegars attenuate cardiac injury via anti-inflammatory and anti-adiposity actions in high-fat diet-induced obese rats
  18. Effect of apple cider vinegar on blood glucose level in diabetic mice
Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)
Medically reviewed by Dr Meena Zareie (GMC)Updated on May 9, 2024
The Wimpole Clinic offers FUE Hair, Beard & Eyebrow Transplants & Trichology.
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