Can Using Apple Cider Vinegar for Acne Actually Prevent Zits?
If you deal with acne, you may be game to try just about anything to get rid of pesky pimples. Even then, the thought of applying vinegar may sound like a DIY fail just waiting to happen.
Believe it or not, though, apple cider vinegar has found its way into skin care. While the acidic ingredient is best known for helping to promote gut health when consumed and for fighting product buildup when applied to the scalp, some people swear by ACV's acne-fighting powers. Before you hit up your pantry to experiment on a stubborn spot, find out whether apple cider vinegar truly has breakout-fighting potential. (Related: Why an Apple Cider Vinegar Rinse Can Give You the Hair of Your Dreams)
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help with Acne?
Apple cider vinegar has long been used to help disinfect and treat skin ailments, according to Ava Shamban, M.D., dermatologist and founder of Ava MD in Beverly Hills. If you prefer DIY beauty products and are prone to acne, it may be worth trying. "The fermentation process to create ACV creates a key compound called acetic acid, which is well known for its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties," says Dr. Shamban. "Much of the effectiveness of ACV relies on this acid as well as its high malic acid content." (FYI, malic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid, meaning it aids in exfoliation.)
Those antibacterial, anti-fungal, and exfoliating properties make apple cider vinegar useful for reducing acne breakouts, she says. "Bacteria, along with sebum, dead skin cells, and debris that pool on the skin surface clogs your pores, which causes acne vulgaris," she says. "Efforts to reduce the number of bacteria or inhibit bacterial growth on the skin is a key step in treating and managing acne."
"The pH of skin is acidic, which is thought to assist in protecting the skin from bacteria, fungi, viruses, etc.," says Dr. Shamban. Your skin has an acid mantle or a thin layer on the top of it that protects it from viruses and bacteria penetrating through the surface. Factors with a higher pH than the acid mantle, such as cosmetic products, can change the acid mantle's pH, and by extension its ability to provide its protective function. "Studies have shown that the restoration of the acid mantle reduces acne due to several factors, [including] inhibiting bacterial growth, improving exfoliation, and loosening sebum," notes Dr. Shamban. (Related: All the Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar, Explained)
How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Acne
You can apply ACV directly to blemishes as a spot treatment or use it directly on the skin as a natural cleanser or toner, says Dr. Shamban. Just make sure you dilute it first, as it can burn the skin if applied directly, she says. "It is best when diluted and mixed with other ingredients such as rose water, witch hazel, and tea tree oil as examples for a face mist," says Dr. Shamban. (Related: Is Salt Water the Key to Clearing Up Acne?)
To try it, mix one-part ACV with one-part water and add rose water, witch hazel, etc., if you wish. Although ACV is not one of the trendiest ingredients in the skin-care market at the moment, that doesn't mean it won't be within a few years. "Tried and true botanicals as leading actives are taking a larger roles in product formulations, so we may just see more ACV in the ingredient deck of more skin-care and hair-care products," says Dr. Shamban.
For now, here are a few of the options you can reach for if you're interested in trying apple cider vinegar for acne.