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Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub: Guide and 3 DIY Recipes

Maintaining a healthy scalp is just as crucial as taking care of your skin, especially when dealing with product buildup, itchiness, or dandruff. DIY apple cider vinegar scalp scrubs are a solid solution you can easily create to relieve these issues at home.

Table Of Contents
  1. 5 Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) for Your Scalp
  2. Choosing the Right Ingredients
  3. 3 DIY Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub Recipes
  4. Proper Application for Optimal Results
  5. Safety and Precautions
  6. Customizing for Different Hair Types
  7. Maintaining a Healthy Scalp Post-Exfoliation
  8. Comparison to Salon Treatments
  9. Perfecting Your Hair Care Routine with ACV Scrubs
  10. Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub FAQs

We love this common household item for face care, but it also works well for the hair and scalp. Apple cider vinegar (ACV), known for its natural cleansing properties, works as an excellent base for a scalp scrub.

  • Its acidic nature helps balance the pH of your scalp and contains alpha-hydroxy acid that gently exfoliates away dead skin cells.
  • Creating your own scalp scrub with apple cider vinegar is simple and cost-effective.
  • It can help alleviate common scalp issues by removing excess oils and product residue without stripping natural moisture.

Lastly, regular use of an apple cider vinegar scalp scrub can provide a deeper cleanse than shampoo alone, leaving you with a refreshed, invigorated feeling and setting the stage for healthier-looking hair.

5 Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) for Your Scalp

Rich in natural properties, ACV may contribute to a better environment for hair growth and scalp maintenance.

1.) Balancing pH Levels

Your scalp’s pH levels are essential for maintaining healthy hair and scalp condition.

Apple cider vinegar is believed to help balance the pH levels of the scalp, creating a more optimal environment that may reduce the likelihood of developing conditions like seborrheic dermatitis.

2.) Removing Residue and Product Buildup

Over time, residues from hair products accumulate on your scalp, potentially clogging hair follicles.

Using apple cider vinegar as part of your hair care routine may serve as a natural clarifying shampoo, helping to remove product buildup and residue without stripping hair of its natural oils.

3.) Combatting Dandruff and Flaky Scalp

ACV’s natural acidity and antifungal properties may offer relief for those suffering from dandruff and a flaky scalp.

By applying an apple cider vinegar scalp scrub, you can gently exfoliate the scalp, potentially keeping dandruff at bay. The anti-dandruff effects are substantial when paired with ingredients like lemongrass essential oil.

This special essential oil has demonstrated a high level of efficacy in relieving dandruff, as demonstrated in studies.

4.) Promoting Hair Growth and Health

The overall health of your scalp is vital for hair growth.

Apple cider vinegar may stimulate circulation within the scalp, promoting healthy hair growth. Its use might also prevent bacteria and fungi that can lead to poor scalp conditions that hinder hair growth.

5.) Soothing Itchy and Sensitive Scalp

If you have an itchy scalp or sensitive scalp, the anti-inflammatory properties of apple cider vinegar might provide relief. Its application can soothe itchiness and irritation, making it a natural remedy for scalp discomfort.

Incorporating apple cider vinegar into your hair care routine will keep your scalp clean and nourished, making it an apt environment for healthy hair growth.

Choosing the Right Ingredients

Crafting your DIY apple cider vinegar scalp scrub involves selecting high-quality components that nourish your scalp while effectively removing dead skin cells.

The right balance of oils for moisture, exfoliants for a deep cleanse, and natural add-ins can enhance your scrub’s benefits significantly.

Oil Selection for Moisture

Incorporate a nourishing oil base to ensure your scalp maintains its natural oils after exfoliation.

  • Coconut oil is praised for its hydration properties and can prevent your scalp from drying out.
  • Jojoba oil is another superb option, as it closely resembles the scalp’s own sebum.
  • Avocado oil, rich in vitamins, provides additional moisture and strength to the hair follicles.
  • Argan oil, as a natural emollient, is proven to protect the hair and moisturize the scalp.

Exfoliants for a Deep Clean

A natural exfoliant is crucial for sloughing off dead skin cells and product buildup. As we mentioned earlier, ACV can naturally and gently exfoliate dead skin cells due to the alpha hydroxy acid it contains.

That said, depending on your hair and scalp, you may find adding an additional exfoliant will make the process more efficient.

Sugar is a gentle choice that effectively exfoliates without being too harsh on your scalp.

Colloidal oatmeal: We’ve mentioned this amazing skincare ingredient in multiple other blog posts, but we had to mention it here, too, because it works wonders for an inflamed, flaky scalp. It’s anti-inflammatory, seals in moisture as a natural emollient, and it’s a gentle exfoliation ingredient especially suitable for sensitive skin.

Salt: Salt is an excellent exfoliator for hair and scalp due to its natural abrasive texture, which helps to slough off dead skin cells and remove product buildup effectively. Additionally, salt’s purifying properties can help absorb excess oil and rebalance the scalp, contributing to the overall condition of the scalp.

We prefer using sea salt whenever possible.

If all you have are normal oats, simply grind them into a fine powder or in a blender. That can then be added to DIY recipes for the above benefits.

Natural Add-Ins for Enhanced Benefits

Boost your DIY scalp scrub with natural add-ins for their unique properties:

  • Honey can soothe the scalp and reduce potential inflammation due to its natural antibacterial qualities. Manuka honey is especially known for being skin-soothing. It’s a skincare ingredient we recommend purchasing if you haven’t already.
  • A few drops of tea tree oil can provide a refreshing sensation and have antifungal benefits.
  • Incorporate lemon juice for an extra boost of freshness and to help clarify the scalp.
  • As mentioned earlier, lemongrass essential oil is a powerful ingredient for dandruff relief, as demonstrated in studies.

By selecting the right ingredients, you’re on your way to creating an effective and soothing DIY apple cider vinegar scalp scrub.

3 DIY Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub Recipes

With simple ingredients, you can prepare a natural scrub that helps remove buildup, clarifies, and balances pH levels on the scalp. By adding some of the natural add-ins discussed earlier, we can enhance the scrub with many additional benefits tailored to your hair and scalp type.

1.) DIY Basic Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Scrub Recipe


  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or a more preferred oil)
  • 1 teaspoon honey (Manuka honey preferred)
  • 5 drops essential oil (optional for fragrance)


  1. In a bowl, mix the brown sugar and apple cider vinegar until well combined.
  2. Add the coconut oil to the mixture and stir in. If using solid coconut oil, the mixture may need to be slightly warmed before you can mix it in. You can also use fractionated coconut oil. Either works fine.
  3. Mix in the honey until fully incorporated.
  4. If desired, add a few drops of your chosen essential oil for added fragrance.
  5. To use, apply the mixture to your damp scalp in slow, gentle circular motions to exfoliate.
  6. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and follow with shampoo and conditioner.

2.) DIY Invigorating Mint Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Scrub Recipe


  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or a more preferred option)
  • 1 teaspoon honey (Manuka honey preferred)
  • 5-10 drops peppermint essential oil
  • Optional: 2-3 drops rosemary essential oil for spicy, fragrant tones


  1. Combine the brown sugar and apple cider vinegar in a mixing bowl.
  2. Add the coconut oil to the sugar and vinegar, blending until a consistent paste is formed.
  3. Stir in the honey, ensuring it’s evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
  4. Add the peppermint essential oil for an invigorating scent and additional scalp stimulation.
  5. Apply to a wet scalp before shampooing, massaging gently in a circular motion.
  6. Rinse out the scrub with water, then shampoo and condition as usual.

3.) DIY Anti-Dandruff Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Scrub Recipe


  • 1/4 cup Himalayan pink salt
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil (or another option)
  • 1 teaspoon Manuka honey (or regular honey if Manuka is not available)
  • 10 drops lemongrass essential oil


  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the Himalayan pink salt, apple cider vinegar, and coconut oil.
  2. Add the Manuka honey to the mixture and stir until all ingredients are well combined.
  3. Finally, add the lemongrass essential oil to the scrub and mix thoroughly.
  4. Apply to a wet scalp using slow and gentle motions to exfoliate.
  5. Thoroughly rinse the mixture, then shampoo and use a conditional as usual.

As mentioned in the above instructions, it’s best to scrub first, then shampoo, and then conditioner as the last step.

Proper Application for Optimal Results

To achieve the best results with your apple cider vinegar scalp scrub, applying it correctly and following up with proper aftercare is crucial. An accurate application not only clears away dead skin but also ensures it fits into your hair care routine smoothly.

Sectioning and Massaging Techniques

Divide your hair into sections:

Before applying the scrub, begin by sectioning your hair to expose different areas of your scalp. This ensures even distribution of the scrub.

Gently massage the scrub onto your scalp:

Pour a small amount into your palm and use your fingertips to gently massage it onto your scalp in circular motions. This scalp massage helps to loosen dead skin and stimulate blood flow, but be sure not to use your nails as it can cause irritation.

Remember, don’t use too much pressure for this step!

Rinse and Aftercare

After thoroughly massaging your scalp, it’s time to rinse out the scrub.

Use lukewarm water to carefully wash away all traces of the scrub, ensuring that none remains on your scalp or hair. Follow with a mild shampoo and conditioner, if necessary, to remove any lingering residue and to condition your hair.

For the shampoo step:

Safety and Precautions

When introducing an apple cider vinegar scalp scrub to your hair care routine, it’s important to be aware of the potential for skin sensitivity and the importance of using the scrub properly to avoid irritation.

Understanding Skin Sensitivity and Reactions

Your scalp is covered with skin cells that can be sensitive, just like the skin on the rest of your body.

Before using an apple cider vinegar scalp scrub, it’s crucial to patch-test it on a small area of your scalp, even if it’s a DIY mix. Apply a small amount to a discreet area of your scalp, wait a few minutes, and rinse. If there’s no inflammation for 24-48 hours, you can proceed with using as normal.

If you experience redness, itching, or swelling, this could indicate a sensitivity or allergy, and you should avoid using the scrub.

While apple cider vinegar doesn’t cause any skin reactions in most people, it’s best to be on the safe side if you haven’t used it before, especially if you have a lot of skin allergies.

Avoiding Overuse and Abrasion

Scalp scrubs should be used with caution to prevent overuse and abrasion. The same can be said for any skin exfoliating scrub.

Never use a skin scrub excessively.

  • Limit your use to once a week or less if you have a sensitive scalp.
  • Be gentle when massaging the scrub into your scalp to avoid irritating your sensitive skin.

Remember: The goal is to remove dead skin cells and product residue without causing damage to your scalp.

Consulting with Dermatologists or Trichologists

If you’re unsure about introducing an apple cider vinegar scalp scrub into your hair care regimen or if you have underlying scalp conditions, consulting with a dermatologist or trichologist is a good idea.

These professionals can assess your scalp’s health and provide guidance tailored to your needs, ensuring you use the scrub safely and effectively.

Customizing for Different Hair Types

When creating a DIY apple cider vinegar scalp scrub, it’s important to modify the recipe to complement your unique hair and scalp needs.

This is exactly why we love DIYs: We pick the ingredients and concentrations entirely tailored to our exact preferences.

Adjusting for the specific characteristics of your hair ensures the most effective and gentle cleanse.

Adjustments for Oily or Dry Scalp

  • Oily scalp: Incorporating ingredients like sea salt can help absorb excess oils without over-drying. The sea salt works to combat oiliness, while the apple cider vinegar acts as an astringent, leaving your scalp feeling refreshed.
  • Dry scalp: Consider using a lesser quantity of apple cider vinegar and adding a hydrating component such as honey or aloe vera, which can provide moisture while still cleansing.

Consideration for Color-Treated Hair

If you have color-treated hair, you’ll want to be careful with the apple cider vinegar concentration.

We recommend at least a 1:5 ratio of ACV to water, but a 1:10 ratio would be even better. That would equate to 1 tablespoon of ACV to 10 tablespoons of water.

  • Dilute the vinegar more than you would for untreated hair to prevent the acidity from stripping away color or causing undue dryness.
  • Due to its acidity, AVC closes the hair cuticles, helping to seal in color after color treatments.
  • We recommend you wait a few days after a color treatment before using apple cider vinegar in your hair routine.

When it comes to exfoliants, if you use them at all on your color-treated hair, use milder exfoliants like jojoba beads or sugar, which can scrub away buildup without affecting your hair color.

Tailoring to Hair Thickness and Texture

Hair thickness and texture can also determine the composition of your scalp scrub.

Fine or thin hair benefits from a lighter scrub that won’t weigh down strands, whereas those with thicker hair may require a more substantial mixture to fully reach the scalp.

For coarse or curly textures, consider ingredients that will also define and nurture curls, such as argan oil, which enhances the strength and elasticity of the hair.

Maintaining a Healthy Scalp Post-Exfoliation

After exfoliating your scalp with an apple cider vinegar scrub, it’s crucial to nourish your scalp. The goal is to balance removing build-up while maintaining essential moisture. We’ve already covered some of this, but it’s worth diving in a bit deeper.

Here’s how to care for your scalp following exfoliation:

  • Hydrate: Just like your skin, your scalp needs hydration. Use a lightweight, hydrating conditioner, especially focusing on the mid-length to the ends.
  • Gentle Products: Choose hair care products formulated for sensitive skin or post-exfoliation care. Look for ingredients that nurture the scalp without causing irritation.
  • Avoid Heat: Minimize the use of heat styling tools immediately after exfoliating, as your scalp may be more sensitive.

Weekly Routine for Scalp Health:

Post-ScrubApply conditioner.
Day 2Use gentle styling products.
Day 3Monitor scalp moisture.
Day 4Avoid heat styling.
Day 5Rehydrate with a hair mask.
Day 6Rest, no heavy products.
Day 7Assess scalp condition.

Diet and Hydration: Don’t forget the role of a healthy diet and ample water intake in maintaining a healthy scalp. You must drink plenty of water and consume a balanced diet rich in nutrients.

Remember, your scalp may take some time to adjust to a new exfoliation ritual. Pay attention to how your scalp feels and adjust your routine accordingly to keep your scalp and hair looking and feeling healthy.

Comparison to Salon Treatments

When considering a DIY apple cider vinegar scalp scrub versus salon treatments, you are looking at two entirely different experiences.

Cost and Convenience:

  • Salon: Higher costs for professional services and products. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you’ll be exposed to a plethora of chemicals and be charged accordingly. However, they will be able to make very knowledgeable and specific recommendations for your hair type if they’re skilled in their craft.
  • DIY: Lower expenses; apple cider vinegar and additional ingredients are generally affordable and widely available. You control the ingredients you use and don’t have to use any chemicals. We prefer DIY whenever possible as a lifestyle choice for the overall goal of reducing regular chemical exposure.


  • Salon: Personalized care, often with a relaxing environment.
  • DIY: You adapt the scrub to your preferences, applying it in your own home.

Professional Expertise:

  • Salon: Stylists possess in-depth knowledge of scalp health. Or, at least, this should be the case. The reality is that there are some bad stylists out there. If going to a salon, do your research to ensure you’re seeing a skilled and knowledgeable stylist.
  • DIY: You rely on your own understanding and research.


  • Salon: Treatments can be tailored to your specific needs.
  • DIY: With a DIY approach, you control the ingredient mix and concentration. You can take an even more tailored approach to your needs, though it may involve a period of trial and error.


  • Salon: Appointments can be time-consuming.
  • DIY: Scrubs can be prepared and applied quickly at home.

Remember, salon experiences provide the expertise of a stylist to address complex scalp issues and recommend specific treatments. For us, we don’t have a need for salon visits or stylists since we can easily do everything at home.

All of that being stated, admittedly, a trip to a hair salon can be very enjoyable once in a while. And, if you have hair that’s more difficult to manage, professional stylists can be incredibly helpful. So, consider your own preferences, the pros and cons of either option, and see what works best for you.

Perfecting Your Hair Care Routine with ACV Scrubs

As we wrap up our journey through the world of apple cider vinegar scalp scrubs, it’s clear that these DIY recipes offer a customizable, cost-effective, and natural approach to hair care.

From the basic brown sugar scrub to the invigorating mint scrub, each blend caters to different needs, ensuring that no matter your hair type, there’s a scrub that can enhance your routine. Embrace the simplicity and effectiveness of these homemade solutions, and enjoy the journey to a healthier, happier scalp.

Apple Cider Vinegar Scalp Scrub FAQs

What are the benefits of using apple cider vinegar in a scalp scrub?

Apple cider vinegar’s acidic nature helps to balance the pH levels of your scalp, fostering a healthy environment for hair growth. It’s also known for its antimicrobial properties, which can combat dandruff-causing yeast overgrowth.

How can I create a homemade scalp scrub for enhancing hair growth?

To enhance hair growth, mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with a natural exfoliant like brown sugar or ground oats for overall nourishment. Then, mix in rosemary essential oil, which has been demonstrated in studies to increase hair growth.

Peppermint EO and tea tree are also promising EO options.

Massage the mixture gently into your scalp to remove buildup and stimulate circulation.

In what ways can a sea salt and apple cider vinegar scrub help with scalp health?

Combining sea salt with apple cider vinegar creates a scrub that can exfoliate excess skin and oil buildup, providing a deep cleanse and improving overall scalp health, which is essential for healthy hair.

What are the steps to make a DIY coffee scalp scrub, and how does it compare to apple cider vinegar scrubs?

Mix ground coffee with a spoonful of apple cider vinegar and a carrier oil like coconut oil to create a DIY coffee scalp scrub. Coffee can enhance exfoliation, while ACV helps balance the scalp’s pH; together, they promote a clean, healthy scalp.

How does an apple cider vinegar scalp detox contribute to reducing dandruff?

Apple cider vinegar scalp detox involves using ACV to break down dandruff flakes and residue, thanks to its antifungal attributes. This can diminish the symptoms of dandruff over time with regular use.

As we mentioned a few times in the post, definitely read up more on lemongrass essential oil if you’re struggling with dandruff. We included it in the DIY dandruff scrub ACV recipe for that reason (see the above post).

Can I use apple cider vinegar in a scalp scrub for curly hair without drying it out?


Apple cider vinegar can be mixed with moisturizing agents like honey or avocado to create a scalp scrub that won’t dry out curly hair. This can remove buildup while maintaining the necessary moisture curly hair needs.

As mentioned earlier, limit DIY exfoliating hair scrub use to once every week or two.

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