Oils and Other Natural Hair Conditioner Alternatives to Apple Cider Vinegar

Do you want to go no-poo or already have and aren’t happy with using apple cider vinegar as conditioner? Then this post is for YOU!  My no-poo post is the most popular post on my blog, but many have concerns about the smell of the apple cider vinegar, so here are some other natural, non-toxic conditioner options. I did find that ACV works very well for me, but I have changed from using baking soda as shampoo and no longer need apple cider vinegar to condition.

Oils and Other Natural Hair Conditioners (alternatives to Apple Cider Vinegar)

See my No Poo Alternatives to Baking Soda as well, in case you’re also tired of baking soda or would like to try something different.

Natural Conditioner Options

Change Up the Old Faithful – Apple Cider Vinegar {Good for Normal to Oily Hair}

ACV still works well for me, but I do like to add a few tablespoons (to my 32 ounce bottle) of either castor or jojoba oils to add some moisture. If you’re using the Aloe Vera and Glycerine cleaner (shampoo), you probably won’t need this because it is designed to balance the pH of the hair, and the A&G cleaner is already pH balanced. Adding essential oils like lavender, rosemary and carrot seed will help any scalp issues you might have (like dandruff) and will also help the smell. However, if you’re using raw ACV that includes the bits of apple (a.k.a, the mother), it will stick to the mother and clump it up something terrible.

My Merry Messy Life: My Favorite Oils for the Hair

Oils – Counts as a Conditioner, Leave-In Conditioner and Even Styling Cream!

For all of these options, I squirt them in the palm of my hand and finger them through my hair while still in the shower. Then, I take a wide-toothed comb and gently comb out tangles. Then, I leave it in and don’t wash it out (which, it won’t really wash out anyway since oil and water don’t mix) UPDATE – I find the buildup is less if I do actually run the water over my hair. So, do what works best for you!

  • Jojoba Oil (buy here). Jojoba is easily absorbed into skin and hair because it is very similar to sebum.
  • Castor Oil (buy here) – also recommended for skin and hair.
  • Organic Olive Oil (I buy it from Tropical Traditions) – most economical but has a stronger scent than jojoba or castor oils.
  • Or another carrier oil, but these are the ones I’ve used and can recommend.
  • Mix in a 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oils for scent (where to buy high quality essential oils)

Natural Conditioner Oils and Styling Cream

Tired of another DIY? Here are some good ones to buy – Styling Creams and Oils

  • Dr. Bronner’s Lavender & Coconut Conditioner & Styling Cream – this smells wonderful and works great as a leave-in conditioner and styling cream.
  • Organic Hair Oils from Tropical Traditions – buy here. LOVE this mix of awesome oils for the hair – coconut, jojoba, carrot seed, rose hip, lavender and more! It comes in three varieites – lavender, rosemary, and unscented. I’ve been applying this in the shower after my aloe and glycerine shampoo, as a conditioner. I gently comb it through with a wide-toothed comb and leave it in. Then I barely have to use any styling cream!
  • Use the glycerine/aloe shampoo that I recommend in another post in a bottle and squirt on hair in between washings and as a styling solution.

How to Purchase High Quality Essential Oils through My Merry Messy Life

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About Sara McFall

Sara is the owner and founder of My Merry Messy Life, which started in 2011 as a way to chronicle her journey to a natural, chemical-free lifestyle and to share her passions of mothering, real food, homeschooling and crochet. She is a mama to three precious and energetic little boys and wife to a university professor who loves to sing, dance ballet and ballroom, and live simply and naturally.


  1. Great tips!! I am a no poo-er 😉 I love argan oil for my hair. I’ve never tried caster oil, I’ll have to try it!
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  2. After reading this post, I decided to mis up a little recipe myself for conditioner, as my hair gets really nappy and dead on the ends. My hair was too oily at the roots before using baking soda to even use conditioner, now it’s too dry at the ends, even with coconut oil. I found something that works wonders for my hair as a conditioner, softening and healing. I mixed 1/4 c coconut oil, 1/4 c sweet almond oil, 2 tbs honey (yes, sticky honey lol) and 1/2 c water. The other liquids cause the honey to no longer be sticky so no worries about clumpy hair. I do wash it out, but it works amazingly! I use this plus baking soda to wash my face, and it’s amazing there as well! Just add baking soda until it forms a paste.

    • Forgot to add, I also applied the conditioner with honey to my sunburn I got this week at the beach, and the next morning, it was no loner burned, only a light tan, and I’m the type who stays burned until it’s gone.

    • Wow, cool! Thanks for your tips, Breanna! I’ll have to add your recipe to the newsletter. Do you have curly, wavy or straight hair?

      • Just wanted to add a few more things that might be hulpful to anyone else wanting to use this recipe. I made a thinner version the same as my face wsh and tried it on my 4 month old sons hair tonight. Worked wonderfully! Added benefit- we bathe every night. I bathe, my husband brings me my son, I bathe him, we get out, my husband bathes our two year old daughter then he bathes all in the same water. Using this recipe on me my son and daughter moisturizes us all 4 enough that we don’t need lotion until the morning!

        • Michelle says:

          I like using honey on my hair but dont when my kids are under 1 and don’t recommend using it on them. Children under 1 are at an increased risk for botulism and should not consume honey.

  3. It’s lightly wavy. I have come to love honey and all it’s wonderful uses!

  4. I just recently switched to a no-poo of castile soap and coconut milk, and I don’t think it’s going so well. It suds up but then feels a little rubbery, like it’s leaving residue. I feel like I have to drench it in ACV rinse conditioner to be at all normal, and then it still seems to look oily/residue-y. Then it’s dry on the ends, so I’m scared to blow it dry or style at all. I’m thinking about switching to your aloe/glycerin shampoo, and I’m wondering about using one of these above as a conditioner. Would I just want to use that as a deep conditioner and not daily? Thoughts/suggestions? Thanks!

    • Hi Alyssa! Well, two questions. What is your hair type normally? Dry, oily, straight, wavy, curly…? And when you switched over a month ago, did you switch from shampoo with sulfates or some other type of no-poo? I have never used coconut milk before as a shampoo, so I’m not sure why you’re getting the residue. But I have used castile soap by itself and liked it, but it was a little too dry for my hair, but my hair is super dry. So, if you have oiler hair than mine that is more straight, I would think that castile soap shampoo would be great for you.

      • Hi! I think my hair type is pretty normal. Before I switched, I would wash it once every two or three days. I used to use Paul Mitchell super strong shampoo, and I really liked it, just wanted to go natural. It would only start to get oily at the roots if I hadn’t washed it by the third day. My hair is fairly long, and naturally wavy if I let it dry naturally. Now it’s all weird and limp with the coconut milk/castile soap shampoo, and if I let it dry naturally, it looks like I haven’t washed it; greasy looking and dull. Maybe I’ll try castile, but what about a conditioner?

        • Okay, I would use apple cider vinegar as the shampoo. If start to notice that your ends are dry, you might need to finger comb a little bit of jojoba oil through your ends whenever you wash (while your hair is still wet). Or if you start washing with the aloe vera shampoo, you won’t need any conditioner at all! At least that’s what I’ve found, and my hair is naturally very dry.

  5. And by just switched, I mean almost a month ago.

  6. Hi Sara! We miss you guys up here in PA. I check in here on your blog every now and again to see all the wonderful stuff you are up to these days. You are amazing for keeping up with all that you do! So, I have an idea to add. Way back when in PA you mentioned your Baking Soda and ACV method to me when I mentioned my hair has always been a challenge for me. I gave it a short try however, though I liked it at first (day or 2) my very sensitive scalp and face did not concur, so I quickly dropped out. However, I was reading your post on alternatives here the other day and saw some I tried before too (such as almond oil for conditioner) that also did not work for my particular situation, but it suddenly crossed my mind….how about just conditioner? Well, my chemistry/biology background hopped into action and reminded me that “like dissolves like” SO conditioner should “dissolve” hair oils (sebum) and spread it out and keep it from building up. I did a little web search and found I was not the 1st to think of this (of course)…in fact this is the whole concept behind the product line called “wen” that sells for $$$. So with a little more thought into it I jumped on the idea and tried out this method (dubbed co-only by others on the web) and here I am one week later and I am happier than ever with my hair and my scalp that has always (at least since having kids) super dry and often itchy and it feels perfect. My hair is not greasy, not dry, just hair….the way I would like it to be. And it smells good b/c the conditioner I chose is scented with mint and rosemary. Added bonus, my face looks smoother and less irritated than it has in years; but we will see if this is a coincidence or effect of the fact that I also gave up all cleansers/soap on my face that same day as part of my self-experiment (I had been using Cetaphil after many years of trying natural alternatives that invariably resulted in cringe-worthy irritation and redness).

    So I hope that I am not simply repeating that which you or someone else has already said here by neglecting to carefully read all, but I thought if it would help anyone else out who struggles with their hair/skin/scalp then I is worth it; plus it gives me an excuse to say hi to you!

    One important detail in case anyone else chooses to give this a try, the conditioner you choose cannot have any silicone in it b/c this will build up quickly and cause a heavy oily feeling and will not readily wash away. Now if you can do the vinegar rinse, that would help soften the silicone enough to maybe compensate, but I could not tell you as i have not tried it myself.

    PS. The boys are so adorable and grown up I wish you were still up the road so we could get together for a play time : ) Take Care!

    • Hey Christina! So nice to hear from an old friend on the blog. Thank you for sharing your tips with us! You are smart to figure all of that out on your own. Your idea is the same idea behind the Oil Cleansing Method that I use to wash my face (oil dissolves oil). Did you see my post on alternatives to baking soda? I am not surprised that it bothered your skin – it bothers many (the baking soda). I now use aloe and glycerine to wash my hair, and both of those ingredients are commonly found in natural conditioners. So, you are right on! So glad you found something that works well for your hair. A girl needs to feel pretty! 🙂

      • Thank you Sara. I did she the alternative page too and I posted here only b/c it was the most recent hair related post. I did try the oil method once but unfortunately my face did not even tolerate that…my face just for some reason insists I leave it completely alone or it protests. Water only. Your homemade conditioner with aloe and glycerine sounds nice, I may have to give that a try. I tried the oil on my hair awhile but since I blow dry my hair the residue was literally frying in my hair and puffs of smoke would rise as I dried it, lol.

        Anyway, good talking and glad you keep up your blog so we can all enjoy your ideas : )

        Happy Halloween!

  7. If one’s only complaint is the smell of vinegar (which happens to be a biggie with me), a citric acid wash is wonderful to help restore PH to the hair.

    I dissolve 1 teaspoon of powdered citric acid into 2 liters of water and i find that the perfect amount for a daily rinse. I use this rinse even on days I don’t use baking soda (our water is alkaline anyway about an 8). You may still want to use some oils to condition, but this is a straight across substitute for the vinegar.

  8. Hi Sara! I’ve been working my way through your recipes, cleaning and beauty, one by one and my biggest struggle right now is with my hair. I started out doing just the ACV as conditioner and I’m addicted. I LOVE it! But, I’m in PA and the winter’s here are brutal on my already somewhat dry hair. I think I mentioned in a previous comment about having problems with static in my hair. Anyway, I finally ran out of my commercial shampoo, and tried both the castile soap recipe and the glycerin/aloe recipe…both left my hair flat and “filmy”. Like that feeling you get when you use harsh commercial bar soaps on your skin. And still so, so dry! I went with the baking soda and that leaves no film, but I still have the problem with the dry hair and the static! So, I tried to do the coconut oil as a pre-conditioner and my hair was disgustingly greasy. I tried washing with baking soda (still felt gross), then did the castile soap recipe out of desperation (still gross), and now I feel like I have to use my daughter’s commercial baby shampoo to get the grease out. Did I use too much? Any suggestions? I’ve tried fingering the castor oil into my wet hair (and dry too!) and I just can’t beat this dryness thing! I either get too dry or too oily. Suggestions? I really, really don’t want to go back to commercial shampoo, and I really like the baking soda wash followed by ACV rinse, but my hair needs some moisture.

    In terms of my type of hair, I think it runs dry. Even with commercial shampoos, I don’t have to wash my hair more than every two or three days. And I had to use gobs of conditioner (I’d go through two or three bottles of conditioner for every one bottle of shampoo). It’s slightly wavy. Thanks!

  9. Hi Sara,
    I started using your baking soda with ACV rinse last summer, and really like them, but the ACV faded out the auburn/red color. That’s about my only vanity – don’t do makeup, etc, but would like to keep my hair the same color it was naturally before (I’m early 60s, darker now with gray). I have always had itchy scalp, but no dandruff. May I ask what rinse you’d recommend for me?
    Thanks so much, and have very much enjoyed following your blog,

    • Hi Ellen! Oh really, I’m surprised by that. I also color my hair (an herbal concoction) and it’s auburn/red and it doesn’t fade much. I would recommend not using the baking soda and washing with the aloe vera/glycerine recipe I write about in the other post because it is a pH balanced cleanser so you wouldn’t need ACV to balance the pH. Baking soda is basic, at a 9, I believe, so you would need an acidic medium to bring it back to 7. Plus, the aloe vera/glycerine is super moisturizing so no conditioner is needed for most people afterwards! If you do feel your hair is dry from time to time, then you just use the oils in this post.

  10. Just curious, I just started the no poo method about 2 weeks ago and started using coconut oil. Is there a reason coconut oil isn’t mentioned that much?

  11. Help. I started out with bs/acv…too dry, then av/glycerin…still to dry in areas. I have long, thick, curly hair. I have one section of hair that is very dry and frizzy and the rest is okay or slightly oily. The dry, frizzy part is driving me insane. Should I try more av in my shampoo blend or use castor oil on the dry part?
    Also, I use the OCM on my face…can it be used all over or is it to oily for a body wash?

    • Hi Javonia! Yes, I think you could do a form of OCM all over the body – great idea! Okay, so you really don’t need any washing if your hair is that dry. I’d continue to use the aloe/glycerine through the length of your hair and then while in the shower, finger comb some oil into it – any oil will do, like almond, olive, jojoba, etc. Sounds like you need the extra moisture of oil. I doubt you’ll need to do that every time, just when your hair feels dry.

  12. I tried the castor oil EO mix as a conditioner. Unfortunately it did not work at all for me. Used less than a tsp and it took 3 washings to get it out of my hair..but I also have thick and slightly oily hair. I already use my homemade all natural shampoo bar that is completely plant based and it works wonderfully..but wanted to try something other than ACV to condition. I always have Bronners on hand JIC as I use it for everything. What is that saying..if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

  13. I have thick, coarse, dry hair and the last few years it has gotten worse. I have tried a lot of different products (affordable) but nothing makes my hair feel or look soft and moisturized. I know I want a quick fix which is probably some of my problem but what do you suggest I do to put moisture in my hair and to have it look & feel soft and healthy? I wash my hair twice a week but wet it down and put on conditioner every day. I appreciate any feedback. Thanks.

  14. Hi Sara
    I found your baking soda shampoo and ACV conditioner post a few months ago but needed to get through my “conventional stuff” before I tried anything new (I had bought a bad/lower quality shampoo and conditioner, then a better quality shampoo and conditioner and couldn’t get myself to just throw them away). Mostly I want to switch for the cost effective side. My hair is thin and straight, dry on the ends, and I currently wash/condition every other day (roots get oily on that second day, but the ends stay dry, bleh). Should I start with the baking soda and ACV like I’d planned, or do you recommend one of these other alternatives?
    Thank you! Rina

    • Hi Rina! Hmm, that is hard to say. I do think you could benefit from doing both methods – so, one day wash with baking soda and condition with ACV, then the next use the castile soap (with no added oils) and condition with ACV. I do not think you are going to need any oils at first since your hair is thin and straight. The baking soda is great to start with because it really clarifies your hair to get out all of the chemicals. But, you only need to use it 2-3 times, then I’d go to only using the castile soap recipe. And condition with ACV every time.

  15. Hi Breanna,
    Is your honey rinse recipe for single use? Or is it for several use by spraying to hair after shampoo?

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