Some proponents believe that apple cider vinegar is key to clear skin. But what do the experts say?
Nothing is worse than waking up to a face full of zits in your adult years. And if you’re still suffering from acne, you’ve probably tried every product on the market to make your pimples go away.
Or maybe you’re frustrated with the options on the drugstore shelves, filled with a laundry list of ingredients you can’t even begin to pronounce.
Whatever the reason, you might be looking for an alternative, more natural option to zap to your zits. One that’s been growing in popularity? Apple cider vinegar.
Some proponents believe that apple cider vinegar is key to clear skin. But what do the experts say? Here, we explore whether apple cider vinegar can cure your acne.
How Apple Cider Vinegar Can Work to Clear Up Your Skin
Some patients have reported that apple cider vinegar has cleared up their skin, says Rajani Katta M.D., a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine.
One reason? All types of vinegar—not just apple cider vinegar—contain a chemical called acetic acid.
“Acetic acid may act as a keratolytic, a substance that acts to break up the plugs of keratin that clog pores," explains Dr. Katta.
Other theories on apple cider vinegar hinge on the belief that it can help restore pH levels in your body. That’s important, because when your skin’s acid-alkaline balance is thrown off, it can become a bacterial breeding ground, which can lead to acne
What’s more, apple cider vinegar contains alpha hydroxy acids, says Evan Rieder, M.D., an assistant professor in the Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology at NYU Langone Health.
“ They have the ability to exfoliate skin, improve skin texture, and absorb oil," he says.
Finally, acidic components in apple cider vinegar can also “dry out” breakouts on your face and body, as well as help fade the pigment changes that linger on your skin even after your acne clears, says Meghan Feely, M.D., dermatologist at the University Medical Center.
The Controversy Over Apple Cider Vinegar For Acne
While there are possible mechanisms as to how apple cider vinegar may clear up your skin, there hasn’t really been a scientific study out there done that’s proven it works specifically to cure acne.
"There is scant hard evidence for actual medical benefits, and the majority of the literature on apple cider vinegar is in mouse, fruit fly, and other laboratory experiments," says Dr. Rieder.
What’s more proven: The side effects of apple cider vinegar on your skin.
There have been studies that have proven apple cider vinegar's ability to burn the skin. It’s also been known to cause major skin irritation, too.
“Patients often experience skin irritation, burns and even blisters from topically applied apple cider vinegar,” "says Patricia Farris, M.D., a clinical associate professor at Tulane University School of Medicine who has treated patients who have tried apple cider vinegar on their skin. “For this reason, this is one natural remedy I tell patients to avoid."
That’s because apple cider vinegar is a weak acid. And if you apply it to the skin over and over again—especially if you cover the area with a Band-Aid or a piece of tape—it can make the vinegar more potent, and more likely to cause a blister or burn, she says.
Severe irritation is even possible, says Dr. Katta, although it’s more common in people with a history of sensitive skin, or who have used apple cider vinegar for a long time.
So Should You Use Apple Cider Vinegar For Acne?
"Bottom line, dermatologists prefer products that have been tested and are known to be safe and effective. That applies to pharmaceutical products, and it applies to natural products like apple cider vinegar," says Dr. Katta.
But if you choose to use, you should still loop in your dermatologist first, even though apple cider vinegar is obviously available over the counter without a prescription.
That’s because the concentration of organic acids in apple cider vinegar vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, says Dr. Feely. Product with higher concentrations can be more likely to cause burning and peeling—and it may be a lot stronger than what you should be applying to your skin.
That’s why diluting your apple cider vinegar before applying is a safe bet. Some dermatologists recommend diluting one part apple cider vinegar with 10 parts or more warm water, she says.
Then once you make that solution, you’re ready to get started. In the evening, gently rinse your face with a mild cleanser and pat the skin dry. Lightly dampen a cotton ball and apply a thin layer of the diluted apple cider vinegar to the skin, Dr. Feely says.
Make sure to avoid getting it on sensitive areas like your lips, eyes, and any open wounds, like a nick shaving.
After about 5 to 10 seconds, fully rinse the product off with warm water and gently pat dry your skin, she says. Washing it off is essential, since the longer an organic acid remains on your skin, the higher the chance of a chemical burn and skin peeling.