Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help Dandruff? What The Research Says

mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department.
Woman Touching Her Hair

Apple cider vinegar is undoubtedly a popular ingredient in beauty products, as well as a host of other at-home tonics and remedies. One of the more popular beneficial claims you see attached to apple cider vinegar is how it can help treat dandruff. Dandruff, called seborrheic dermatitis, is a common scalp condition characterized by white flakes. So does ACV help this skin ailment? We asked the experts.

Does apple cider vinegar treat dandruff?

Apple cider vinegar's hair and scalp benefits come most notably from its pH, which is acidic—in fact, it has a fairly similar pH to our hair. Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by yeast on our scalps. As yeast thrives in more basic pH conditions, by bringing the pH of your scalp down, theoretically you make your scalp a more inhospitable environment for the yeast. However, there are no scientific studies to confirm this, but many dermatologists agree there might be something to it—if used properly. 

"We all have yeast living on our skin as part of its natural biome, but in certain people it causes itching, inflammation and flaking. ACV acidity makes a less favorable environment for the yeast and therefore may halt its growth, leading to less flaking," says board-certified dermatologist Morgan Rabach, M.D., and co-founder of LM Medical NYC.

Board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, M.D., agrees: "Because Apple cider vinegar is an antimicrobial, anti-yeast and antifungal, it helps to clean bacteria and other organisms from the skin. When used for short contact, such as in a shampoo, it is generally safe and well tolerated."

Just be mindful not to go overboard, "given the ability of acidic components to break down delicate hair fibers," says Nazarian. You can learn more about how to properly use apple cider vinegar for your hair below. 

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3 other healthy hair benefits.

Not only does apple cider vinegar help scalp conditions, like dandruff, but it can aid the health of the strand and add shine if used correctly. Here are the other top healthy hair benefits you may expect from adding an apple cider vinegar hair product to your regimen. 

  1. Remove any oily buildup: "Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid and alpha-hydroxy acids, which can help degrease and cleanse the skin," says Rabach.  
  2. Reduce frizz: Frizz happens when the cuticles of your hairs rise, forcing individual strands apart. Your cuticles can rise up due to a more alkaline pH, according to research. So using a product with a lower pH, like an apple cider vinegar product, can help seal the cuticle down, eliminating frizz. 
  3. Improve shine: Much like with frizz, dull hair is the result of raised cuticles. When your cuticle is flat, your strands will look shiny. 

Other anecdotal claims say that the vitamins, minerals, and nutritious properties strengthen hair and even contribute to hair growth—but these don't have any research to back them up. 

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How to use it at home. 

The top ways to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your hair care routine. 

  • DIY: The most popular is through a DIY rinse, which is actually quite easy to make and use. If you'd like to try to make one at home, read our full apple cider vinegar rinse recipe here, which details the ratio of ACV to water, how to use it, how often to use it, and additional tips. The benefits of making it yourself is you can customize how strong it is by diluting it with more water or less water. 
  • Hair care products: As the hair care benefits of apple cider vinegar are so well known, brands have started incorporating the active into shampoos, scrubs, conditioners, and shine sprays. Here are our favorite hair care products that contain apple cider vinegar

The take-away. 

Apple cider vinegar has proven antifungal and antimicrobial properties, which may help dandruff as it is caused by yeast on the scalp. However, there are no studies to prove this, yet. That being said, if you want to try to use ACV for hair health, there are many reasons to give it a go.

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