tin with shampoo bar and tubes with baking soda and citric acid

Do you need an acidic hair rinse?

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A simple acidic hair rinse can do wonders for your hair

Making the switch to using a shampoo bar inspired me to do a little research into hair care products and how to make our hair as healthy as possible. I often read the recommendation to finish with a vinegar rinse or acidic hair rinse. Many feel it makes their hair soft and shiny. Does it really? And if so, why exactly is that??

Have you ever felt like your hair was weighted down, dull, and just meh looking? It may be product buildup on your hair. You can get this from commercial shampoo or natural soaps, especially if you have hard water. Rinsing your hair with vinegar, a weak acid, works to strip off the residues and helps get rid of that tangly mess that can happen with hard water.

The problem with hard water

The problem with hard water is that it is extra rich in calcium and magnesium ions that can bind to the hair. The more damaged the hair, the more ions bind to the hair.  Then anionic surfactants (negatively charged surfactants in shampoo and soap) bind to calcium and magnesium ions making your hair feel weighted down and lifeless. When you use an acid rinse, the acidity in the rinse dissolves the bound calcium and magnesium and then the soap residues are rinsed away as well. Long hair or overly processed hair can be a lot more porous increasing the weighted down feeling.An acidic hair rinse can does wonders for your hair, almost acting like a clarifying and deep conditioning treatment. (1)

If you are using a natural shampoo made from true soap, the alkaline nature of a shampoo bar can raise the scales that make up your hair. An acid rinse can help smooth the hair shaft back, preventing it from feeling coarse and tangly.

Everyday common ingredients

pouring vinegar into canning jar with rosemary sprigs for an acidic hair rinse

You can use vinegar, lemon juice, or kombucha for your acidic hair rinse. It’s simple to infuse your rinse with herbs, tea, essential oils or other good for your hair ingredients. Rosemary is a fantastic addition to your rinse. You can either infuse your vinegar with rosemary or make rosemary tea to use in place of the water portion of your rinse. Rosemary is known for its sebum-equalizing properties on oily hair and it has a lovely woodsy aroma. Check out our recipe for a great rosemary hair rinse.

 I have a repurposed squeeze bottle with vinegar and water in the shower, but since we are getting ready to travel for about 10 days, I needed to figure out a more portable alternative.  After a bit of google-inspired research, I came upon a suggestion to use powdered citric acid for the rinse. Just a pinch in a cup of water achieves the same thing as my vinegar rinse. I have a couple of small tubes saved from bath salts that will be ideal for traveling, one with some baking soda (my preferred pre-shampoo rinse) and the other with a bit of citric acid for the acid rinse.

My hair hasn’t felt this strong and healthy in years and years. One of the medications I take for my rheumatoid arthritis can cause thinning and not-so-healthy looking hair. I’m thankful to have found a simple and inexpensive hair care routine that leaves me with shiny, smooth hair that actually feels a bit thicker too. I’m able to pull in back in a pony tail when I’m going running and it actually doesn’t look pathetic! 

Bottom line – if you have hard water, use a natural soap shampoo bar (like this one), or just feel like your hair is weighted down and dull, it’s time to give an acid rinse a try. I bet you have some kind of vinegar or lemon juice in your home.

How to make a simple acidic hair rinse

For vinegar rinse: add 1-2 Tablespoons in a cup of water 

For citric acid: use 1/8 tsp (or a pinch) in 1-2 cups of water

For lemon juice: add 1/4 cup  to a cup of water 

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2 Responses

  1. Your hair is beautiful! I gave up after several different tries with shampoo bars. It was a nightmare – even with a rinse! Granted, we had extremely hard water – like we had to regularly de-clog the faucets and dishwasher and all our dishwater was coated with build up! So, perhaps now that we live somewhere with softer water, I need to give it another try. Thank you for explaining it so clearly – it definitely helps give me some more confidence!

    1. When you try again, a prerinse with baking soda helps with the transition too. It’s an extra step but really only takes a moment.

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