Glossy Hair with Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse or Acid Lemon Rinse?

If you think you have lifeless and dull hair and you never tried the water acid rinse, I'm sure you'll be surprised to see how shiny, soft and healthy your hair will look after following these little hair tips.

You have never heard about the Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse or Acid Lemon Rinse and you don't know what that is? Today you'll find everything you need to know about it because in this post I'm going to tell you what it is, how it's done and when you should do it, so you can immediately try it out!

Why do you have Dull and Lifeless Hair? 

Glossy Hair with Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse or Acid Lemon Rinse?

Why sometimes hair is brilliant, soft and glossy, and then sometimes it looks lifeless, dull and frizzy? It often depends due to a wrong washing procedure, other than from unhealthy eating. If hair isn't damaged by hair straighteners, chemical hair dyes and aggressive hair treatments, it only takes a water acid rinse (combined with a natural and silicone-free hair care routine) to make it look glossy & shiny.

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The outer layer of the hair is made of flakes arranged like tiles on a roof. If you want to know more about the hair's structure, I talked about this topic in the article Fine, Thin Hair? 4 essential tips to get volume & strength in your hair!

After being washed with shampoo, hair flakes absorb the negative charge deriving from the surfactants and they open, because they push each other apart. So, the outer layer is uneven, resulting in light reflected in a messy way, causing hair to seem dull.

healthy glossy hair acid vinegar rinse

Another reason that makes hair look dull, stringy and rough depends on how chalky water is. Unfortunately, limestone deposits on hair, preventing it to be naturally glossy and making it look dull.

After using a conditioner, that has a positive charge, hair flakes close themselves, and the flat hair becomes shiny. The water acid rinse helps if we have a not so chalky water: its acidity acts against the limestone residues that are melted because of their basicity.

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Simply put, the messy look and the dullness of hair are a result of the non-application of a conditioner.

Which is the role of the water acid rinse? 

When, in the past, women used soap to wash their hair, vinegar and lemon were the first conditioning substances used in cosmetic history, since 1800.

pH is a numeric scale used to specify the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution.

But, what is exactly an acid and/or shine-enhancing rinse?

If you acidify water or a herbal infusion and you use this acid mix to rinse your hair, you’ll obtain a water acid rinse. This final rinse will help your hair become shinier, easier to comb, glossy, non-frizzy and softer. 

As I mentioned before, hair dullness is caused by highly calcareous water, causing limestone to be deposited on the hair stem. Tap water usually has a neutral pH, or a basic one if it’s calcareous, so the acidification of the water for the final rinse helps reestablishing the natural hair PH and makes hair flakes close, resulting in shinier, disciplined, soft, glossy and voluminous hair.

What can we use to acidify water for an acid rinse?

We can use VINEGAR – that thanks to the acetic acid can make water acid.

hair acid vinegar rinse

Yes, you read well, the vinegar we use on a daily basis in our kitchens: you can use grape vinegar (white or red wine vinegar) or apple vinegar (also known as cider vinegar) derived from apple must. It contains mineral salts, vitamins and sugars naturally contained in grapes and apples.

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Grape vinegar is mainly made of water, acetic acid (whose percentage is between 5% and 12%), alcohol, aldehydes and ethers, free amino acids and mineral salts.

Apple vinegar is made of acetic acid (its percentage is between 3 and 9%) and malic acid, organic compound found naturally in apples.

Wine vinegar is more acid, it has a pH between 2.8 and 3.2, while apple vinegar has a natural pH between 4.5-6. Thanks to its pH, more similar to our hair’s pH, apple vinegar is more delicate on it and has a less strong smell than wine vinegar.

So, between these two types of vinegar, I suggest you to choose apple vinegar, and remember that is very important to use the “right” amount of vinegar, meaning 2 tablespoons of vinegar diluted in 2 liters of cold water .

If you use too much vinegar, there’s the risk of making your hair drier and stringier, because of the too acid pH of the water.

In the market, many cosmetic lines sell cosmetic vinegar for hair and face.

What’s cosmetic vinegar? It’s a vinegar similar to the one we use in our salads: it’s processed and deodorized, it’s mixed with oils and perfumes and it’s used after being diluted in a couple of liters of water. So, if you don’t stand the smell of vinegar, cosmetic vinegar might be the right alternative for you.

We can use LEMON – that thanks to its citric acid can make water acid.

lemon juice hair rinse beautilicious delights

If you are intolerant or allergic to vinegar, don’t worry! Lemon comes in hand for our hair. It has a lower pH than vinegar (pH 2.4) so you need a lot less lemon to acidify water. In fact, lemon juice is one of the most powerful acidifying agents found in nature, even if it has a low pH.

If lemon juice gives you a sticky effect on your hair, you may prefer citric acid. Citric acid is responsible for the sour taste of lemon and lemons have a high concentration of the acid: it can constitute as much as 7% of the fruit (source Wikipedia).

At room temperature, it is a crystalline white powder, water-soluble. It can be easily found in supermarkets, so it’s is not hard to come by.

How can we prepare an acid rinse?

According to hair length, you should use:

  • One and a half or two liters of cold water that you can pour in a large jug, in a basin or simply in the sink. Or you can fill an empty bottle with cold water and then you can choose to add 

one of these three elements:

  • 1-2 tablespoons of apple vinegar
  • the juice of a lemon
  • a pinch of citric acid

Since it’s more acid than lemon juice, you should use a small amount of pure citric acid.

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If you have a rosemary plant in your garden, I suggest you to rinse your hair not with simple water, but with a cold rosemary infusion, since rosemary is known for its sebum-equalizing properties on oily hair. Or you can buy sage or dried horsetail, because those plants are known for their strengthening and hair loss-preventing properties. You should take advantage of what nature gives us to make this last step of your hair care routine, more precious and effective.

How do I choose what to use to acidify water? 

Since how hair responds to the treatment is subjective, you can decide which option is right for you only if by trying them.

If you notice that your hair becomes frizzy rather than soft and shiny, you will have either to lower the quantity of the acidifying ingredient you used or to change the acidifying ingredient. If the solution you obtain is too acid, it will not only make your hair drier, but it will become frizzier and more unmanageable.

If, instead, you use the right ingredient for you in the right dosage, your hair will be immediately untangled, very soft and glossy, as soon as you dry it.

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When and how can I do a water acid rinse?

After you washed shampoo and conditioner away, you can rinse your hair with a final jet of very cold water.

Why should you "torture" yourself? Because warm water damages hair and makes it drier and more fragile. This final rinse with cold water must be done on the scalp, too, because it stimulates the blood flow to the scalp, resulting in a stimulation of the hair growth and a strengthening effect on the capillary fiber. 

After you rinsed your hair with cold water, take the basin or the jug in which you have your acid solution and immerse your hair in it for a few seconds. Then you can use the basin to pour water on your hair in a final acidifying jet, starting from the scalp and letting water drip to your lengths.

Then you can proceed to dry your hair and to apply the styling product you like on your hair. 

I can’t stand vinegar’s smell? What can I do? 

I must say that it’s a highly subjective thing: there’s who can’t even stand the smell of vinegar from the bottle and there’s who, like me, doesn’t care at all about its smell. So, don’t automatically exclude it before you tried it on your hair. Keep in mind that apple vinegar has a more delicate and less pungent smell than wine vinegar.

If you use a scented conditioner like L'Oréal Coconut “Splend’Or”, its strong perfume will cover vinegar’s smell.

The smell won’t last long: after you dry your hair, you won’t smell it anymore. But if you don’t want to try it, you should use one of the two alternatives I mentioned before: lemon juice or citric acid.

Or… you can use scented hair-styling products to cover that light smell that your nose might still feel.

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How often should you do the water acid rinse?

Nowadays, almost every natural and ecological hair care product (like shampoo and conditioner) does its job as conditioning and untangling agent, thanks not only to their formulations, but also to their acid pH, and they help us making our hair look soft & glossy even if we don’t use this DIY acid rinse, because it would be unnecessary.

I must say that doing the water acid rinse every time you wash your hair (twice or three times a week) can be aggressive on your hair, on the long run (both vinegar and citric acid are used to melt limestone). I recommend you to use it ONLY after henna and herbal hair colors hair masks (to fix the color) or after using washing herbs, or shampoos with a basic pH like rhassoul (pH 8-9) or clays.

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The water acid rinse helps as well covering the “herbal smell” that herbal hair colors leave on hair.

acidic water hair rinse for glossy hair

Personally, in my weekly hair care routine I alternate the Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse (that I do after herbal hair colors and curative herbs masks) with

SCENTED LEAVE-IN HAIR CARE PRODUCTS (that don’t need to be rinsed) that contain FRUIT ACIDS

- A family of substances deriving from the vegetable world.

Since they’re slightly acid substances (pH 5), they can effectively melt the limestone residues on hair without being aggressive.

Fruit acids are extracts from sugar cane (glycolic acid), from grapes (tartaric acid), from apples (malic acid), from citrus fruits (citric acid) and from milk (lactic acid).

They’re known for their exfoliating effect on skin. If they’re highly concentrated, they stimulate cellular turnover and dermal renewal, they reduce wrinkles and they promote the penetration of cosmetic active ingredients. In low concentrations, they can have a hydrating effect on the skin, while, on hair, they have a shine-enhancing and conditioning effect.

Specifically, I use the volumizing or the anti-frizz spray (depending on the season or on the need) made with aloe and, as I said, fruit acids.


In conclusion, I strongly suggest you to try to do a water acid rinse if you want to have soft, glossy and voluminous hair, but also because it makes hair shinier and because it balances the scalp and hair pH levels.

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Your hair will tell you if you should use apple vinegar or lemon juice for your water acid rinse, and you’ll immediately understand if your hair loves this precious treatment (or not).

©Beautilicious Delights

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