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Detangling & Clarifying Natural Hair

All products, whether commercial or homemade, can lead to build up on the scalp and strands. Conditioners meant to protect and nourish the hair along with stylizers that aid in holding styles work by coating the hair shaft. As product build up accumulates on the hair shaft it becomes a barrier to any other product used on the hair. In other words it blocks other products from getting through the cuticle. When I had dimethicone build up my hair would not be conditioned or moisturized no matter what product or how generous I was with it. Build up will clog the cuticles, which in return does not allow product in or out. And if you cannot get products like, say, moisture into the hair strands they begin to dry out and will eventually break off. I appreciated the need to clarify my hair after that dimethicone incident (which I got rid of using a clarifying shampoo – dimethicone is one of the stronger cones).

Nowadays I rarely have build up (noticeable at least) I think because I use very minimal products. Bi-weekly muds (in the winter it’s weekly), light conditioner (sometimes) afterwards and finally homemade leave-in conditioner and moisturizer with an occasional oil sealing. Maybe once every 6 weeks, I will deep condition using some type of food (yogurt, eggs, avocado etc) and a teaspoon of the homemade herbal hair oil. Even though I can count on one hand the number of products used on my hair (and I really have no visible problem with build up), I like to clarify my hair just in case.

natural 4c hair


1 tablespoon ACV (I used one infused with my dry hair blend)

2 cups of water

Pour in spray bottle and you are all set

There are a lot of recipes using apple cider vinegar to cleanse. Personally I am in complete disagreement with the recipes that call for half water – half vinegar and here’s why. ACV measures out to PH 3 (might vary slightly based on your scale and also individual fruit batches). Hair’s PH is 4.5-5. Recipes that call for half-half ratio disregard this fundamental PH difference. When exposed to extremely acidic solutions cuticle cells shrink and harden, which means unless PH is balanced the cuticle shrinkage makes them much smaller while the hardness restricts movement so the cuticles in return hinder efficient flow of products into the hair strands. Cuticles play the essential gatekeeping role of controlling movement of products in and out of the hair shaft. Shrunk and hard cuticles will effectively keep every product out, including the vital ones like moisture and minerals.  There’s a lot of caution against alkalinizing but no one mentions the severe damage caused by over-acidifying the hair. It’s important to understand both extremes if you ask me. Apple cider vinegar is referred to as Acetic acid in chemistry. It is a potent acid.

Additionally PH is not linear it’s logarithmic. At PH3 ACV is 100 times more acidic than hair (PH 4.5-5), which means even a little of it will have a significant impact on the hair and scalp PH. In other words, a little goes a long way. One tablespoon diluted in two cups of water is enough to strip hair of sebum, excessive oils and loosen dirt. If you suspect your build up needs something stronger you’ll be far safer buying a PH balanced clarifying or chelating shampoo instead of increasing the amount of ACV in your recipe.

This mix works as an awesome natural hair detangler as well (maybe the herbs help?). Lightly spritzing my hair strands seems to do the trick when it comes to separating the strands to remove shed hair. This ACV mix is my little secret to detangling without additional products (conditioner). After detangling I use the mix directly on my scalp and then to saturate the hair strands. I put a plastic cap on for about 20 minutes and then rinse with warm water, no shampoo, no conditioner. You could use a rinse off conditioner if you like but I go straight to the water-based leave in conditioner and then moisturize.


  1. Work in sections. It’s easier and far more effective
  2. When detangling be sure to only spritz the hair. Dripping wet hair is weak and so is crackling dry hair. You want it to be slightly damp so you can manipulate it safely.
  3. Be gentle around tangles and take your time unraveling them.
  4.  After detangling get as much product as you can in contact with your scalp. Holding the hair taught to prevent tangles, gently massage mix into the scalp
  5.  Once you are done with the scalp saturate the hair to where it’s dripping
  6.  Put hair in twist/braid add a plastic cap and let mix sit for 20 minutes
  7.  Rinse with warm water.
  8.  Deep conditioner is not essential, do it if you like
  9.  Apply your leave-ins of choice and style as desired
  10. When using this mix have a towel or an old tee nearby to catch the excess as it drips. Even though it’s diluted this mix is still an acid. It will sting (a lot) if it comes into contact with your eyes. If it ends up in your eye rinse thoroughly with plenty of cold water. That should dilute the acid completely.