Hair Rinses and Their Little-Known Benefits


Coffee rinse photo courtesy of Healthy Hair and Body,

When I think of rinses, I don’t think of hair color rinses. Hair rinses add medicinal and nutritional value to your hair.

Think of it this way: you drink liquids everyday. They supplement your diet. Heck, they’re part of your diet. Well, rinses are like hair beverages. And just as a glass or cup of herbal tea, milk, water or juice adds nutritional value (and calories) to your daily diet, so do rinses.

According to dermatologist Dr. Shefali Trasi-Nerurkar, rinses are well accepted as an important part of hair care in India.

“Most shampoos have chemicals, and strip your hair of sebum, which is the natural oil produced by sebaceous glands to help protect each strand. Conditioners also have chemicals which damage hair in the long run. Instead, use a hair rinse, which restores pH balance of scalp and hair and improves blood circulation in the scalp, which in turn improves hair growth and makes it soft and healthy. For busy people, hair rinses are ideal. But use it only once a week,” Trasi-Nerurkar said in an interview with The Times of India.

There aren’t official scientific rules that determine what a rinse is or isn’t. This is my personal theory and practical experience with rinses. So, I’ve determined there are three kinds.


These simple formulas are mixed and used before cleansing and are either rinsed before a treatment or co-wash or left in the hair during a treatment.  They also:

  • Prepare your hair for cleansing, treatments and conditioning.
  • Regulate your hair’s pH
  • Remove accumulated oils, product and dirt from your hair and scalp.
  • Add needed moisture to dry hair before cleansing.

Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse

The most common and popular pre-cleansing rinse is apple cider vinegar and distilled water. The ascetic acid and pectin gently work together to dissolve and loosen dirt, product build up and dead skin cells while moisturizing the hair shaft. Since vinegar has an acidic pH between 2.4 and 3.0, diluted vinegar — roughly 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water — matches the normal pH of hair and skin.  It’s gentle so it doesn’t strip the hair of natural sebum.

  1. Mix 1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar to 3/4 cup distilled water
  2. Optional: add 2 TBS honey, 5 drops lavender, tea tree or rosemary essential oil
  3. Section hair and saturate each section with the mixture
  4. Leave in under a plastic cap for 20 minutes
  5. Rinse, co-wash and style as usual

Of course, pre rinses aren’t limited to ACV. Here’s a list of ingredients ideal for pre rinses:

  • Red wine vinegar (milder than acv and best for dry hair)
  • Rice wine vinegar
  • Distilled vinegar (best for oily hair and scalps)
  • Herbal tea infusions
  • Lemon, lime, blood orange, grapefruit juices
  • Aloe Vera Juice
  • Carrot Juice
  • Milk, Cream and Buttermilk (also good for cleansing rinses)
  • Soy, almond, coconut milk (again, these also make good cleansers)
  • Light Oils: rice bran, coconut, safflower, sunflower
  • Essential oils (the list is WAY too long to add here)

Cleansing Rinses

If you need to clean your locks but don’t have a lot of time to go through the whole routine, cleansing rinses are great between regular co-wash days. They’re gentle and yet stand alone as cleansers that can clarify and give your hair a protein or moisture boost.

Coconut Milk, Aloe Vera and Coconut Oil Cleansing Rinse 

Here’s a simple but effective moisturizing rinse for curly, kinky, coily hair.

  1. Place a small container of 2 – 3 Tbs coconut oil or crème in warm water until oil melts.
  2. Pour oil into 1/2 cup coconut milk
  3. Add 1/4 cup aloe vera juice
  4. Add 4 drops of essential oils. For hair growth use rosemary, lavender, sage and/or nettle; for scalp stimulation (also helpful for hair growth), use tea tree, peppermint, cinnamon, clove or eucalyptus oils

Apply mixture to damp or dry hair parted into sections. Generously saturate hair from root to tip. Massage scalp in circular motion. Leave in for 3-5 minutes than rinse. Repeat until mixture is used. Follow with an oil or leave-in conditioner.

Here’s a short-list of ingredients that are good for curly, kinky and coily hair types:

  • Milk, cream, buttermilk
  • Coconut, soy, almond milks
  • Clays — Bentonite, Rhassoul,
  • Beer (flat)
  • Coffee
  • Aloe vera juice
  • Citrus fruits — lemon, lime, blood orange, grapefruit
  • Carrier oils: coconut, almond, grapeseed, rice bran, rose hip, avocado, jojoba
  • Herbal infusions — horsetail, marshmallow, linden flower, rose hips, chamomile … to name a few

Final Rinses 

These are conditioning rinses you leave in. They’re “balancers.” They deposit the nutrients or oils the hair needs to withstand styling, mechanical or environmental stress.

You’d be surprised what you can safely leave in your hair. Believe it or not, you can leave in flat beer, certain teas and juices. Don’t worry about the smell. The smell dissipates in no time. All that’s left is the softness and strength deposited into your hair by the rinse.

Horsetail Tea Rinse

Horsetail tops the list as one of the most potent herbal hair strengtheners and is known to prevent hair loss.  However, horsetail can strip your hair of vitamin B. I use this herb for a pre-rinse on days I’m applying any type of egg mask because raw egg is rich in vitamin B.  I use is as a final rinse when my hair’s in trouble.

Like most herbal tea infusions, horsetail can be drying although beneficial. So, it’s important to include emollients into the mixture and follow with layers of moisturizers and humectants after cleansing.

  1. Steep 1 Tbs or 1 tea bag of dried Horsetail into a cup of boiling distilled water until cool. For extra dry hair, dilute the mixture by one half: 1/2 cup tea to 1/2 cup distilled water.
  2. Add 1 full eye-dropper of each of the following: jojoba, olive and your choice of amla or avocado oil
  3. Add 1 Tbs of vegetable glycerine
  4. Pour into a plastic bottle with a tip applicator and shake well
  5. Saturate hair from root to ends
  6. Gently wring out excess
  7. Blot dry with a t-shirt or cotton jersey towel
  8. Follow with moisture sealant, cuticle closer and style

Rinses are relatively quick and easy to prepare. So, if you struggle with making time for your hair regime, using rinses creatively will improve your hair health while saving you time.