A reader recently asked me about the gunk that builds up in her daughter's hair around rubber bands. I'm sure many of us have seen this before; it's a combination of product, shed hair, and dirt. It sort of looks like little dust bunnies clumping around the rubber band. When you remove the rubber band you notice that the hair is still clumped together and the stuff holding it that way is a little like glue and may have whitish fuzz.
I have a favourite solution for this (as many mamas out there also use) and that's apple cider vinegar. Yep, that's right, the same stuff you use in the kitchen.
Why ACV Is Good for Hair
1. Restores Hair to Healthy pH
Interestingly, the pH of ACV and the pH of most people's hair is pretty close. ACV has a pH of roughly 3 and most hair falls between a pH of 4.5 and 5.5. In contrast, most shampoos available on the market are strongly alkaline. So, if you use a lot of hair products that have a strong alkaline content, you are basically changing the pH balance of your hair. Using ACV as a rinse helps clean out the alkaline-based products that can build up on your hair, thus returning your hair to its normal pH balance.
2. Kills Bacteria
Believe it or not, dandruff and other "itchy scalp" issues is often caused by a bacteria called bottle bacillus, which clogs hair follicles. When follicles get clogged, they start to get crusty and can itch and flake. ACV will kill bottle bacillus, thus helping control one of the main causes of itchy, flaky scalps.
3. Can Make Hair Appear Shinier
Unlike a lot of products out there that add sheen to hair by coating the hair with product, ACV actually does so by closing the cuticles of the hair shaft. When the cuticles are closed, this makes the hair shaft appear more smooth, thus reflecting more light. Think of the difference on the skin between open pores an closed pores on the skin. Same concept.
4. Possible Remedy for Lice
Thank goodness I have not had to deal with this yet, but rumour has it that ACV, used in conjunction with olive oil, can be a home remedy treatment for lice. The olive oil is used first to suffocate the lice, and the ACV is used as rinse afterwards to detach the nits from the hair. You still have to comb through the hair with a finetooth comb, but for those who are not interested in using harsh commercial lice treatments, this might be something to look into.
So after singing the praises of what ACV can do for the hair, now it comes down to how to use it. I still laugh when I think about the several YouTube videos that I've seen of people trying to use ACV for the first time. Allow me to save you the trouble of making the same mistakes that some people have made by explaining that you do not use the ACV in full strength on the hair. Not only will you want to pass out of from the strong smell, it will be too acidic for the hair and will negate any benefits it might provide.
Here is the recipe that I use for ACV:
2 Tablespoons ACV
1 cup (8 oz) of warm water
I have used both a spray bottle and a squirt bottle to add it to the hair and have found that a spray bottle with a stream option works best for us. Getting the ACV to the roots of the hair is the most important for all of it's benefits, so just a straight spray wouldn't really work in getting it where it needs to go. The squirt bottle was helpful, but actually was a little hard to control where the flow was going. That's just our experience, though.
You can actually use ACV instead of shampoo. Sometimes I will either co-wash (conditioner-only wash) or use ACV rinse, especially if I'm interested in sealing off her cuticles. Boo's hair stays nicely moisturized and yet perfectly cleaned without having to use heavily alkaline shampoo products.
So, back to the gunk, or goo. You can use the AVC rinse just like you would a shampoo to cleanse all of the hair, or you can spot use it on just some trouble spots, like the little areas around the area where it built up around a rubber band. Either way, it's been our go-to way of attacking the goo and a very inexpensive way to do so.
On a side note, I have only used the raw, organic version of ACV, like Bragg's. I would imagine the benefits would be greater the closer the ACV is to it's original state. I can only assume that the more processed the ACV is, the less likely you are to see its full benefits. Also, the health benefits outlined above are not exclusive to chocolate hair! They are equally as useful for vanilla hair and can be used as a clarifying shampoo for any hair type when you want a more natural way to wash hair and/or you just want to get that greasy, oily feeling out!