A very frustrated middle-aged woman pulling her hair out

Q. My life is so much better since I read your column about rinsing my hair with vinegar. I am 56 years old and for the previous 30 years my scalp has itched intensely whenever I sweat. No anti-itching shampoo or skin specialist could cure me, but rinsing with vinegar did.

A. Itching and flaking can be caused by dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. Dermatologists believe that these common conditions are caused by the yeast, Malassezia, that grows on the scalp. A vinegar rinse apparently makes conditions unfavorable for this fungus.

One 80-year-old woman has used a solution of four parts warm water to one part apple cider vinegar on her scalp for more than 50 years. Others prefer a more concentrated one-to-one water/vinegar mixture.

We discuss many other remedies for controlling itching and flaking (including milk of magnesia and Listerine rinses) in our new Guide to Hair and Nail Care.

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  1. Doreen
    lancashire UK

    I Have developed septic like spots in my head behind the ears and hair line, went to docs who prescribed Betnovate have used it for 2 weeks no improvement so I am going to try apple vinegar or regular, the regular does smell so I am hoping the cider vinegar doesnt. Is the yeast mentioned caused by eating to much bread and cakes????

  2. Charlotte
    Davidson, NC

    I will try the vinegar/water solution, but do you put it on before/after/or in lieu of conditioner?

  3. baby
    quezon city

    Vinegar relief itchy scalp then the next day it is itchy again! Is everyday will not be harm to apply on the scalp?

  4. Matthew

    I have been suffering from a scalp sore on the back of my head for the past year. Thankfully, none of my hair has fallen out, but it has grown to about 2 inches in diameter. It is itchy, and when I scratch it, I get severe dandruff all over my shoulders and it will secrete a clear liquid similar to a pimple when popped. Sometimes, it would bleed. All in all, I wouldn’t wish this on anybody. I tried a lot of things, and finally discovered ACV. I immediately went out and bought an organic raw and unfiltered ACV, and hopped in the shower, along with some aloe enriched Selsun Blue. I started pouring the vinegar on the sore and washing it. The results were immediate. I’ve been doing this every morning for a week, and after shampooing my head, I get out and take cotton swabs just to dab the sore with more ACV so it sets it. The sore is almost gone. I can’t be more thankful for this website. I don’t know why my doctor didn’t know about this remedy but it has saved me from insanity. Thank you.

  5. Nydia

    I’m also 15 years old. For a couple of weeks now I’ve had really itchy hair and I haven’t been able to sleep some nights because of the itching and burning. I have naturally curly hair and so I’ve been using this shampoo and conditioner that my aunt bought me (she’s a hair stylist). Also I do wash my hair everyday before school. And I have really dry scalp. I recently noticed that my hair is thinning in different places and I’m really freaking out. Any suggestions??

  6. Denise

    Wow, I just did this–1/2 cup cider vinegar, half cup warm water. It worked IMMEDIATELY. I’d already spent 15 minutes ripping at my scalp after my workout, and I thought the vinegar would sting. It did a little, but the relief was worth it. Thank you, thank you!

  7. BJ

    I have been suffering for the last 2 years with itching of scalp and between and under & between my breasts. I tried the apple cider vinegar rinse after my shower and shampoo. Apply it, leave on few minutes then rinse well. I use equal parts vinegar and water.
    It worked like magic ! The scratch until I’m raw is gone. I now keep a bottle of apple cider vinegar in the shower. The problem was yeast, the vinegar returns your scalp and skin to to healthy ph levels. It also works great on your hair, leaving it soft and shining.

  8. N F

    Tea tree oil only gives temporary relief and usually results in the drying out of the scalp. I have tried some solutions off the supermarket shelves but these are usually rather unsatisfactory.
    My doctor prescribed betnovate solution which is pretty good but unfortunately the problem keeps recurring within a week or so after applying the solution to my scalp.
    Recently I started to take brewers yeast tablets to add something extra to my diet and much to my surprise within a few days my scalp began to improve. This was totally unexpected because I did not start to take them with a view to improving the condition of my scalp. I have been taking three tablets a day with food for only one week and each day the condition of my scalp is improving. I am surprised and delighted. I would not recommend buying brewers yeast that has anything extra added to it.

  9. MLC

    I have tried listerine on my scalp. It helps a lot but burns from where you scratched. I was told to use the original and leave it on for 5-10 minutes then rinse with anti dandruff shampoo but I just used my regular shampoo and it worked fine too.

    • greens

      Hi friend,
      I am facing this problem from past 4 years. Don’t know its cause? might be allergic of nuts or some pulses or might some other reason. So I already tried apple cider vinegar, but it won’t help me much. Now I’m going to try (Listerine : regular) + water(might be 400ml) . If something happens good I’ll share with you. regards: greens..

  10. jareth

    hey cmv >> im having same problem as yours but im sure for me its because i used to do alot of coluring previously but these days i completely stopped doing it. sometimes my scalp irritation gets worse like hell & little hairfall too. i wash my hair daily too. And for me aloe gel didn’t work. i have aloe plants on my garden, i used it thoroughly until 2 weeks but it didnt seeem useful. i think it really works slow but you should try it once ..who knows there can be miracles ! i went to doctor but everytime they prescribed me anti irritation doses, it stopped itching till the dose date but later again same. im going to do vineger too.

  11. cmv

    I can’t tell you how my scalp is driving me crazy with itch. It is actually a bump now from scratching the area. I’ve tried cortizone cream special for that purpose, just a small bit when it is very itchy. I also have recently bought the Tea Tree shampoo, 17.00. I felt such relief the first day, but then that was just for a while. I have to wash my hair every morning because it is so itchy. I am going to try this vinegar, but have none home now. Does it have to be apple cider or is white okay. My hair dresser mentioned this week that a lady told her white works perfect.
    I have also thought of trying Aloe Vera Gel, I bet that would work. Never tried that yet. But definitely will try the vinegar. I saw there where listerine was listed and in my mind I thought of that. I am not going to the store untl tomorrow and definitely am going to try the vinegar. If that doesn’t work in a week, I’ll just have to see my doctor. Thanks for the information.

  12. Capsunica

    1. Mix avocado oil, eucalyptus oil, lavender oil and German chamomile natural oil together and dab on the affected areas. You can make direct application in case of extreme itching sensation; else, you should mix one part of oil with four parts of water before application.
    2. Tea tree oil, with its excellent anti-bacterial properties, is effective in treating itchy scalp caused by scalp acnes, scalp rashes, scalp pimples and scalp sores. Neem oil has fungicidal properties and therefore, it is also very effective in treating itchy scalp. Mix one spoon each of neem oil, tea tree oil and rosemary oil (with a carrier oil like olive oil) and apply it on your scalp regularly.
    3. Two drops of peppermint oil should be added in a cup of water and your scalp has to be massaged gently with this combination; this helps to cure your itching scalp caused on account of dryness.herbal+oils Treat Itchy Scalp With Home Remedies And Tips
    4. Mix olive oil, almond oil and coconut oil. Warm the mixture and apply it on your scalp to relive itches caused as a result of dandruff.
    5. A combination of rosemary oil, carrot oil, jojoba oil and sage oil can be used for treating itches on your scalp.

  13. gvc

    my 4 yr old daughter also all of a sudden has been scratching like she has bugs and she doesn’t.. believe me I check often just to make sure.. and I can’t seem to find anything to make the itching stop…

  14. nana

    I have a 4 year old grand daughter she woke up one day itching her head like she had bugs in it, she does not. Took her to the doctor he said to use head and shoulders on her hair. I don’t thank it is dandruff. What can I put on her head. Someone told me apple vinegar will it help. thank you.

  15. cb

    15 year old daughter has itchy, flaky scalp… tried the lemon juice and it burned where she was scratching sooo bad, it brought her to tears… does the vinegar burn when applied? She had beautiful blonde hair down to her waist and she washes it daily.

  16. Cath

    I’m wondering if this remedy can be used for itchy ear canals? No OTC ear products I’ve tried have helped. I don’t know if it’s just dry skin or some kind of yeast or fungus. Does anyone have experience with this?

    • art


  17. cpmt

    In some countries in Europe, mothers use baby colgone and vinegar in children to protect them from lice. This will not ‘cure’ te lice but it will help to prevent it.
    We also use vinegar – let stand for 1 min.- rto rinse our hair (after washing) every time we wash our head/hair, and to prevent smelling vinegar, we rinse again with water.

  18. djj

    Do I shampoo after using this remedy, or just walk around with my (non-itchy) head smelling like apple cider vinegar? Thanks.

  19. Susan B.

    After reading this article, I tried the apple cider vinegar and I am totally cured. I went from having the itchiest, flakiest scalp to total relief. My husband was really getting fed up with all the dead skin everywhere, but I couldn’t help scratching it. I have to use the vinegar every day, but it is a miracle cure! Thank you so much for letting me know about it. It has made my life much better.

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