Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help With Acne?

A popular home remedy for everything from heartburn to liver detox and even achieving a glowing complexion, apple cider vinegar is one of the most well-known and used pantry staples.

And while some research supports the potential health benefits of this acidic condiment, that doesn’t mean there is a foolproof way of incorporating apple cider vinegar into your daily routine.

In fact, some very uncomfortable drawbacks could potentially accompany its use. And one of these has lately become skin irritation because of the increased popularity of using apple cider vinegar as a treatment for common skin ailments, such as bacterial and fungal acne.

Therefore, in this article, we’ll take a look at what exactly apple cider vinegar is, how it works, what benefits and risks come with using it for health and skincare purposes, as well as whether it can be used to help with acne, and how efficient is it against inflammatory skin conditions.

What is Apple Cider Vinegar?

A staple in everyone’s kitchen, apple cider vinegar is a salad dressing made by fermenting the sugars from apples.

The addition of yeast then converts the sugar into alcohol, and the addition of several strains of bacteria ferments the alcohol into acetic acid, a low pH agent that gives apple cider vinegar its distinct taste and smell, making it an excellent option for pickling and marinating.

Measured at a pH scale, which determines how acidic or basic a substance is, apple cider vinegar has an acidity level of 2-3, which means it’s highly acidic and can help relieve heartburn, indigestion, and other gastro problems while improving gut health and function in the process by removing parasites and harmful bacteria from the intestines.

Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

While apple cider vinegar has a few proven health benefits, including weight loss, a reduction in blood sugar levels, and improved gut health, it has been gaining popularity as a natural remedy for various skin and hair issues.

Some most popular of these are:

Antibacterial Properties

Apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial properties due to its acidic nature, which can help eliminate bacteria and dirt on the skin’s surface.

This is because bacteria typically prefer a low oxygen and neutral or slightly acidic environment, but they can’t survive in a too acidic environment apple cider vinegar creates.

And while logically, the antibacterial action should help reduce the overgrowth of acne-causing bacteria, it’s worth mentioning that this hasn’t been proven, even though many swear by it.

Balancing The Skin’s pH

By lowering the skin’s pH, apple cider vinegar can help restore the balance of good bacteria in the skin and prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

This can help reduce inflammation and irritation caused by both bacterial overgrowth and chemical imbalances in the skin.

Exfoliating Properties

Apple cider vinegar contains alpha hydroxy acids due to bacteria like Lactococcus and Oenococcus, which are added during the fermentation process and are high in lactic acid content, as well as the apples used in the vinegar, which are high in malic acid.

These acids act as natural exfoliants, helping dissolve the proteins holding dead skin cells clumped up together and helping them shed naturally, revealing a clearer, brighter, and more uniform complexion underneath all the buildup.

Additionally, this mild exfoliating action can also help clear out the pores from the clumped-up dirt and oils that have led to an overgrowth of acne-causing bacteria.

Antifungal Properties

Apple cider vinegar is a scientifically proven antifungal, which is mainly attributed to its high acetic acid content that is capable of destroying the cell membrane of fungi, causing them to die in the process.

Laboratory research shows that it can inhibit the growth of candida cultivating in a petri dish, however, apple cider vinegar is also frequently used in treating fungal infections that affect the nails as well.

Finally, due to its antifungal action, apple cider vinegar could potentially be an efficient solution for a common skin concern known as Malassezia folliculitis, or fungal acne, which are small, raised, itchy bumps that look like acne but are caused by an overgrowth of the Malassezia yeast, and typically don’t respond well to standard acne treatments which are formulated for bacterial acne.

Risks of Using Apple Cider Vinegar

With a few health benefits come a few risks as well.

And many have raised concerns about the safety of apple cider vinegar and the potential adverse effects it can cause.

Here are some potential risks of using apple cider vinegar:

Tooth Enamel Risk

High acidic levels in foods and beverages have been shown to damage tooth enamel, give a yellowish tinge to your teeth, and increase dental sensitivity.

Therefore, chugging large amounts of apple cider vinegar can be detrimental to your teeth, and you should avoid doing so while also diluting it with water before drinking and rinsing your mouth out afterward.

Esophagus Irritation & Digestive Tract Issues

Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic, and consuming large amounts of it can lead to irritation in the esophagus and cause pain at the substernal and epigastric areas as well as gut soreness, tenderness, vomiting, and hematemesis, or the vomiting of blood.

Skin Burns

Although some people have achieved positive results and noticeable skin improvements by using apple cider vinegar, this solution can be considered a double-edged sword because it can also cause skin burns due to its high acidic content.

This is especially true when it’s used undiluted and in large amounts.

Remember, apple cider vinegar sits at around 2-3 on the pH scale, while healthy skin should measure between 4.2 and 5.5, so using it undiluted or too frequently, or even leaving it on the skin for too long can cause skin burns, irritation, and dryness.

Additionally, it’s also important to avoid direct sunlight after applying it, as this could lead to further skin inflammation, sunburns, and discoloration.

Can Apple Cider Vinegar be Applied Directly to The Skin?

Apple cider vinegar can be strong when applied directly to the skin due to its low pH value and acidic nature that will instantly bring the skin’s pH to be much lower, which could cause burning and irritation.

That is why it should always be diluted in water and sometimes mixed with other soothing and healing herbs like chamomile, green tea, or rosemary extract to help reduce the strength of the vinegar and prevent adverse side effects.

How To Make a DIY Apple Cider Vinegar Toner?

The best way to make a DIY apple cider vinegar toner is to mix one part apple cider vinegar and two parts distilled or filtered water to help reduce the acidity.

You can then simmer any of the soothing components mentioned above and add an extra part of the liquid to the mixture to infuse it with the healing properties of the herbs.

Once your mixture is ready, simply pour it into a bottle and apply it to the desired area with a cotton round.

Is Apple Cider Vinegar The Best Way to Treat Acne?

Apple cider vinegar is not the best way to treat acne, as it’s not a targeted solution that has been proven to work against inflammatory conditions like acne, and it can cause adverse effects like skin irritation and burns, which isn’t worth it when there are other targeted solutions available that don’t pose the same risks and are easily accessible and affordable to most people.

One great way to reduce the severity of acne is by having a tailored skincare routine that consists of cleansers, exfoliating products, and non-comedogenic moisturizers that aim to balance excess oil production, reduce the cellular debris accumulated inside the pores, and support a healthy skin barrier.

Another great way to tackle acne is by making healthy changes to your lifestyle habits, especially your diet. Foods like dairy and processed foods, as well as consuming too much sugar, have been linked to increased inflammation, so avoiding those can help reduce acne flare-ups.

Additionally, incorporating anti-inflammatory foods and supplements can help support healthy skin from the inside out.

But if you’re not sure where to start, you can check out GoodGlow’s ebook, which is an excellent resource packed with information on how to lower inflammation and reduce breakouts through diet.

Need more help? Ask our team!

I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their acne naturally. If you cannot easily find an answer to your question on the website, please reach out to me by email ([email protected]) or send me a message on Instagram or Twitter. I will reply within 24 hours.

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sam wood is GoodGlow's Chief Editor
Analyzed by Sam Wood
Hi I’m Sam Wood. I’m the chief editor, lead acne expert, and health coach behind GoodGlow. I’m also an author of one of the top selling acne books on Amazon, a husband, father of two, and a pretty good cook!

I’m so glad you found GoodGlow and hope the information I have spent the last 10 years cultivating will help you clear your skin and improve your overall health.

I began experiencing acne breakotus as a sophomore in high school, but unlike most of my friends, my acne actually got worse as I got into my 20s. I exercised regularly, ate healthy (or so I thought) and spent hundreds of dollars a month on high end skincare products and supplements to help clear my skin. Despite these measures my acne breakouts and scarring only got worse as the years wore on.

This greatly wore on my self confidence and mental health. Simple things like taking pictures or going out with a large group made me feel self conscious. So I avoided these situations whenever I could help it.

As a last ditch effort I decided to try an extremely restrictive diet recommended by a close friend with an autoimmune disease. After following this diet for about two months my skin started to clear for the first time in over 8 years. The good news is that this restrictive diet is not actually necessary for 99% of people to permanently clear their skin, and over the course of a few months I was able to add back about 90% of my “normal diet”.

After clearing my skin I spent the next 4 years self experimenting on myself with different diets, supplements, skincare products to try and find a pattern for what was triggering my acne breakouts. I even tried different meditation, ice baths, and accupuncture to try and isolate the root cause of the breakouts.

In the end I realized that an extremely restrictive diet was not necessary for clear skin. The most important thing to do is to avoid inflammatory foods in your diet. Some common examples of this are fried foods, alcohol, sugar, and dairy.

Most impoirtantly I stopped reading trendy websites for skincare advice and began reading medical journals authored by dermatologists and nutritionists. Although the information in the articles was great the information was not easily understandable to most readers (including me). I spent hours dissecting individual posts and looking up terms I did not understand. Over the next 6 months I gradually began to understand these journals and started self experiemting some of the research on myself.

After experiencing quite a bit of success personally, I started sharing my research on forums and with close friends struggling with acne. When I shared the research it was in easy to understand, plain English. Everyone I talked to loved what I had to say and kept asking more and more questions. So I decided to start a blog so I could just send someone a link when they asked a question instead of rewriting something I had sent 100 times before 😅

While the same directional principles apply to everyone, acne is very personal and should be treated on an individual basis. That’s ultimately why I created GoodGlow. To help everyone reverse engineer the root cause of their acne and clear their skin permanently.

To date I’ve helped over 2,500 people clear their skin using a natural, holistic approach. If you are unable to find an answer to your question in any of the articles my team has written please reach out and I will do my best to guide you to the proper information and resources so you can make a thoughtful, informed decision. Read more of Sam's articles.

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