Vinegar is a two-step fermentation product that combines acetic acid and water. To begin, yeast consumes the sugar or starch in any liquid derived from a plant food, such as fruits, whole grains, potatoes, or rice. This liquid turns into alcohol when it ferments. The alcohol is subsequently exposed to oxygen and the acetic acid bacterium Acetobacter, which causes the alcohol to ferment again over a period of weeks or months, resulting in vinegar.
Standard white vinegar is a clear solution generally containing 4–7% acetic acid and 93–96% water. While it is most commonly used for cooking, pickling and flavoring, it is also a very useful ingredient to maintain the health of your skin and hair.
Types of vinegars
Apple cider vinegar
There are different types of vinegars, each with their host of benefits and uses. While Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has gained popularity in recent years, there’s something better than ACV which has recently gained the attention of health enthusiasts.
Coconut vinegar, a staple in South India, is rapidly gaining popularity for its numerous health benefits. Made from the sap of flowers of coconut trees, it has a cloudy, white appearance and has a slightly milder taste than ACV. As coconut trees grow in highly nutritious coastal soil, coconut vinegar has a higher nutritional value compared to ACV. It's rich in amino acids, vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12 which helps provide skin a radiant glow and helps reduce discoloration in the skin.
Another mild vinegar that has a variety of health benefits is sugarcane vinegar. Sugarcane vinegar is similar to rice vinegar in its mildness. It is made from sugarcane, and has a mildly sharp yet sweet taste. Sugarcane vinegar contains a host of nutrients that contain anti-aging properties, making it an excellent natural skincare ingredient.
Let us explore some of the benefits that vinegars such as coconut vinegar and sugarcane vinegar provide for skin and hair:
Acidity and pH
Vinegar contains acetic acid that can help restore the pH balance of the skin and hair.
Because soap is normally alkaline, with a pH of 9-11, having too alkaline skin is more prevalent than acidic skin. High alkalinity is bad for your skin because it causes your skin to lose its natural fats (or Lipids). Lipids are a key component of your acid mantle, which defends your body from microbes. Even if you don't have a skin problem, if your skin is dry, tight, and/or dull in appearance, it may be excessively alkaline which results in dry skin, no matter how much you moisturize.
The pH of your hair is usually too high or too alkaline if it's out of equilibrium. The cuticles on your hair will open as a result, and your hair will appear dull, dry, and frizzy. If your hair has been chemically treated with particular colors or straighteners, high alkalinity of hair can happen. Some natural shampoos, on the other hand, can also raise the pH of your hair. Hair that seems dull, brittle, or frizzy is a sign that the pH balance is out of equilibrium.
As Vinegar is mildly acidic with a pH of 2-3 and contains small amounts of acids such as malic and citric acid, it helps neutralize highly alkaline skin and hair, thus improving their health and appearance. The best vinegars to use as a facial toner are Apple Cider Vinegar, and Coconut Vinegar.
Exfoliation is an important process in one's skin care routine that helps remove old, dead skin cells, revealing fresh, new skin. While physical exfoliation (like using scrubs) can be done, chemical exfoliation is better for the skin as it is less harsh on the skin.
Coconut vinegar contains various acids such as malic acid, which are chemical exfoliators. It is an excellent source of alpha-hydroxy acids that help exfoliate the outermost layer of skin.
Exfoliation is necessary on the scalp too- after all, the scalp is skin! Exfoliating the scalp helps get rid of excess sebum and dandruff, promoting scalp health. Vinegar rinses are a great way to exfoliate the scalp- simply dilute vinegar with water. ACV, coconut and jaggery vinegar can be used for a vinegar rinse that will leave your scalp refreshed.
Vinegar’s antimicrobial properties have been put to good use by generations. Vinegar has been used as a home remedy for ear infections, warts, and nail fungus. Also used as a remedy for skin infections and burns. Studies have shown that vinegar has the ability to kill microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi.
These antimicrobial properties aid greatly in treating acne. Many studies have pointed to bacteria as one of the common causes of acne. Bacteria, along with oil and sebum buildup can clog pores and result in acne. The various organic acids present in vinegar greatly help in managing acne by working on bacterial growth in the skin. Acetic acid in particular is effective in inhibiting bacterial growth, and destroying bacterial biofilms. Incorporating coconut vinegar into a daily skincare routine (such as using products that have it as an ingredient) also manage acne.
Vinegar also contains anti-inflammatory properties, which can help soothe irritated skin. Diluted vinegar can be used for a variety of irritated skin issues such as mosquito bites, swelling and speed up the healing process.
Another skin condition that vinegar can help treat is eczema. Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, causes dry, red itchy skin that can get easily irritated. ACV helps treat eczema by addressing its root problem- pH imbalance.
People with eczema have elevated skin pH levels, so it is more alkaline. Coconut and sugarcane vinegar helps to restore the skin's pH balance and its anti-inflammatory properties.
Vinegar is a natural astringent which helps remove dirt, oil and grime. Also absorbs excess oil on the skin. This helps reduce the appearance of enlarged pores on the skin and minimize fine lines and wrinkles. Coconut vinegar is also natural astringent.
Preserving Hair Colour
Vinegar can help preserve your latest hair dye masterpiece! Vinegar rinses benefit all hair types- for fine hair, a vinegar rinse builds volume and body, leaving it soft and voluminous. It also doesn't leave hair feeling dry or crispy like styling products.
For colour treated hair, it has the dual benefit of preventing the colour from fading and sealing the cuticle of the hair, which prevents colour from running out. A vinegar rinse with lukewarm water will help re-seal the cuticle faster, thus helping your hair dye last longer. Also it makes your hair more smooth, which in turn makes it more manageable to detangle! Dilute your vinegar of choice (we recommend coconut vinegar) in a 1:4 ratio (or even more dilute, if your skin is sensitive) and use it as a rinse after your usual shampoo and conditioner.
Vinegar is one of the best natural deodorizers. Acids in vinegar alter the pH levels of your skin, which kill odor that causes bacteria, and neutralize it. Its antiseptic properties prevent smelly feet. Apple Cider Vinegar is the best vinegar to use as a deodorizer- make sure you dilute it in a 1:4 ratio. Coconut vinegar can even be used to deodorize objects in the household, so next time you want to wash your doormat, do try a vinegar soak and see the difference.
Things to Remember
The benefits of vinegar are many, but they have to be accessed with caution. With your hair and skin, it is all about restoring balance to the sensitive scalp and facial skin when you use vinegar. And this delicate balance can be difficult to achieve if you’re not too careful.
Make sure to dilute vinegar when you use it topically. Acetic acids in the vinegar can be caustic if the vinegar is concentrated- this can irritate the skin further, or even cause burns. If you feel vinegar rinses or DIY treatments are not helping your scalp or skin, stop the process. Alternatively, you can reduce the amount of vinegar you use by diluting the solution even more, or reduce the number of times you apply it on your skin.
Due to the growing awareness and popularity of vinegar’s benefits for skin and hair, many skincare and haircare brands have now started incorporating it into their product formulations. It is better to do your research and identify personal care products that contain vinegar as a key ingredient, as it saves you the hassle of trying to find the perfect dilute ratio, eliminates the pungent odor of vinegar (which can be difficult to wash off) and most importantly, gives you all of the goodness of vinegar with none of the risks!