Can Using Apple Cider Vinegar for Acne Actually Prevent Zits? - Young woman with acne. Applying apple cider vinegar to the pimple. Beauty, skin care lifestyle concept.

Can Using Apple Cider Vinegar for Acne Actually Prevent Zits?

Find out everything you need to know about apple cider vinegar and acne prevention.
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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."

Additionally, apple cider vinegar — which has an acidic pH of 2 to 3 — can restore the skin's pH balance, creating an additional advantage in the fight against acne. Skin's optimal pH is 5.5, but environmental factors can throw skin's pH out of whack, making it less acidic.

"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.

The Best Skin-Care Products with Apple Cider Vinegar

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This is apple cider vinegar is organic and unfiltered, aka "with the mother." That means if you also decide to use it in recipes, you may benefit from beneficial bacteria that are removed from filtered versions. If you want to make your own toner or cleanser or use ACV in a DIY acne spot treatment, this is all you'll need.

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This apple cider vinegar and glycolic acid peel from The Inkey List promises an instant glow without irritation. It's meant to be applied once per week, and you can opt to use it on acne-prone areas of your body as well such as your chest or back. (See also: The Best Body Acne Treatments to Fight Blemishes from Head to Toe)

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