Citric Acid for Hair

Citric acid

Is is beneficial to use citric acid for hair? The reasons may not be obvious to many.

In this article, we'll delve into the world of citric acid, exploring its significance, benefits, alternatives, historical usage, and its role in promoting hair growth.

Whether you're looking for natural remedies or seeking answers to common questions, we've got you covered.

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Meg S.,
FullyVital hair care verified buyer

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What is Citric Acid?

Citric acid is a naturally occurring compound found in various fruits, particularly citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruits.

It belongs to a class of organic acids known as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs).

AHAs have garnered attention for their multifaceted properties and applications in different industries, including skincare, food, and hair care.


Woman brushing hair that is rich in citric acid

Why is Citric Acid Important?

pH Regulation

Citric acid plays a crucial role in regulating the pH levels of hair products.

It acts as a pH adjuster, ensuring that hair care products maintain an optimal acidic pH range (around 4.5 to 5.5).

This acidity helps to seal the hair cuticle, promoting strength, smoothness, and shine.

Antioxidant Properties

Citric acid exhibits antioxidant properties, which can be beneficial for combating the effects of free radicals on hair follicles.

By neutralizing free radicals, citric acid helps protect the hair from oxidative stress, which may contribute to hair damage and premature aging.

Scalp Health

An acidic environment created by citric acid can help maintain a healthy scalp.

It aids in removing excess oil, impurities, and buildup, preventing scalp issues like dandruff and itchiness. A healthy scalp is vital for optimal hair growth.

What are the Benefits of Citric Acid?

Hair Growth Stimulation

Citric acid may help stimulate hair growth by promoting blood circulation to the hair follicles.

Improved blood flow supplies essential nutrients and oxygen to the hair roots, encouraging healthy hair growth.

pH Restoration

Hair products infused with citric acid can restore the natural pH balance of the scalp and hair, facilitating optimal conditions for growth and overall hair health.


Citric acid's gentle exfoliating properties aid in removing product residue, impurities, and dead skin cells from the scalp, allowing for improved absorption of nutrients and better overall hair health.

Shine and Softness

The acidic properties of citric acid can enhance hair shine by smoothing the hair cuticles, reducing frizz, and improving manageability.

It also contributes to softening the hair, leaving it more touchable and lustrous.

What are the historical uses of citric acid?

Citric acid has a rich history of use in various applications, including:

Food Preservation

Citric acid's antimicrobial properties have been utilized in food preservation techniques for centuries.

It helps prevent spoilage, extend shelf life, and enhance flavors in a wide range of food and beverage products.

Cleaning and Household Products

Due to its acidic properties, citric acid is often used in household cleaners, such as descaling agents and bathroom sprays.

It helps remove mineral deposits and stains effectively.


AHAs like citric acid have been employed in skincare products as exfoliants, promoting cell turnover and revealing smoother, brighter skin.

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What are the natural sources of citric acid?

The primary natural source of citric acid is citrus fruits, such as lemons, oranges, and grapefruits.

These fruits contain citric acid in varying concentrations, making them excellent sources for extracting this beneficial compound.

The extraction process involves fermenting the fruit juices and then isolating and purifying the citric acid. 

How does citric acid lighten hair?

While citric acid is not primarily known for its hair lightening properties, it can have a subtle lightening effect on the hair when used in specific ways.

When applied to the hair and exposed to sunlight, citric acid can help open the hair cuticles slightly, allowing the sun's natural bleaching action to lighten the hair.

However, it's important to note that the lightening effect may vary depending on individual hair types and colors.

Does citric acid affect hair growth?

Citric acid itself does not directly stimulate hair growth.

However, it can contribute to a healthy scalp environment, which is essential for optimal hair growth.(1)

By maintaining the scalp's pH balance and removing impurities, citric acid helps create favorable conditions for hair follicles to thrive.

To promote hair growth, it is recommended to use hair care products that contain a well-rounded blend of ingredients targeting hair health and nourishment.

We recommend combining citric acid with oral hair growth supplements including saw palmetto, biotin and other ingredients.

Is citric acid good for a dry scalp?

Citric acid can be beneficial for individuals with dry scalp concerns.

Its exfoliating properties gently remove dead skin cells and product buildup, helping to alleviate dryness and promote a healthier scalp.

Additionally, the pH-regulating capabilities of citric acid can restore the scalp's natural acidity, reducing dryness and itchiness.

However, it is important to use citric acid in moderation and as part of a balanced hair care routine to avoid over-drying the scalp.

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Can I add citric acid to my shampoo?

While it is possible to add citric acid to your shampoo, it is recommended to exercise caution and consult with a hair care professional or follow a trusted recipe.

Citric acid is a potent ingredient, and adding too much or using it improperly can disrupt the pH balance of your shampoo and potentially harm your hair.

It is advisable to look for hair care products that already contain citric acid in controlled concentrations, ensuring safe and effective use for your specific hair needs.

Remember, achieving optimal hair health involves a holistic approach, including a well-balanced diet, proper hair care practices, and using products specifically designed for your hair concerns.

What are Alternatives to Citric Acid?

While citric acid offers a range of benefits, it may not be suitable for everyone. Here are a few alternatives to consider:

Malic Acid

Similar to citric acid, malic acid is an AHA found in fruits like apples and pears.

It shares some benefits with citric acid and can be used as a pH adjuster and antioxidant in hair care products.

Tartaric Acid

Derived from grapes, tartaric acid is another AHA that can serve as a pH adjuster and antioxidant.

It may offer benefits similar to citric acid.


Apple cider vinegar and other types of vinegar contain acetic acid, which can help restore pH balance and provide scalp and hair benefits.

However, vinegar may have a distinct odor that not everyone finds appealing.

What is the Historical Significance of Citric Acid in Hair Care?

Throughout history, citric acid has played a notable role in various industries, including hair care.

Ancient civilizations recognized the benefits of citric acid for cleansing, preserving, and enhancing hair health.

Its use in natural remedies and beauty rituals dates back centuries, showcasing its enduring relevance in hair care practices. 

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    Final thoughts on Citric Acid

    Citric acid emerges as a remarkable ingredient in the realm of hair care, offering numerous benefits for combatting hair loss and graying hair.

    Its ability to regulate pH levels, promote scalp health, stimulate blood circulation, and enhance overall hair vitality makes it a valuable addition to any hair care routine.

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    Frequently Asked Questions About Citric Acid

    Can citric acid cause any adverse effects on the hair?

    When used appropriately in hair care products, citric acid is generally safe.

    However, excessive use or higher concentrations may cause scalp irritation or dryness.

    Always follow the instructions provided by the product manufacturer.

    Can citric acid reverse gray hair?

    Citric acid does not have the ability to reverse gray hair. However, it can help maintain overall hair health, potentially delaying the progression of premature graying.

    Is citric acid vegan-friendly?

    Yes, citric acid is vegan-friendly as it is derived from natural sources, primarily citrus fruits.

    Is citric acid safe for color-treated hair?

    Citric acid, when used in appropriate concentrations and formulations, is generally safe for color-treated hair.

    However, it's essential to check product labels and choose hair care products specifically designed for color-treated hair.

    Excessive or prolonged use of citric acid may have a slight fading effect on hair color, so it's best to follow recommended usage guidelines and consult with a professional hairstylist if you have concerns.

    Can citric acid be used to remove hair dye?

    While citric acid has some mild clarifying properties, it is not specifically known for its ability to remove hair dye.

    To effectively remove hair dye, it is recommended to consult a professional hairstylist or use hair color removers specifically formulated for that purpose.

    Can I use citric acid directly on my hair?

    It is generally not recommended to use citric acid directly on your hair without proper dilution or formulation.

    Citric acid is a potent ingredient that can cause scalp irritation or dryness if used in high concentrations.

    It is safer to incorporate citric acid into hair care products that are specifically formulated for balanced and controlled usage.

    Does citric acid have any adverse effects on the environment?

    Citric acid, being a naturally occurring compound, is generally considered safe for the environment.

    It is biodegradable and poses minimal risk when properly used and disposed of.

    However, it's always a good practice to choose hair care products that prioritize sustainability and eco-friendly practices.

    Can citric acid cause allergies or sensitivities?

    While allergic reactions to citric acid are rare, some individuals may have sensitivities or allergies to citrus fruits.

    If you have a known allergy to citrus fruits, it is advisable to avoid hair care products containing citric acid or perform a patch test before use.

    If you experience any adverse reactions, discontinue use and consult a healthcare professional.



    1. Shi X;Chen Y;Yang K;Zhu Y;Ma Y;Liu Q;Wang J;Ni C;Zhang Y;Li H;Lin J;Wang J;Wu W; (n.d.). Disrupted citric acid metabolism inhibits hair growth. The Journal of dermatology.
    2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, July 5). Hair and scalp hygiene. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
    3. Citric acid. American Chemical Society. (n.d.).