Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a popular home remedy for everything from heartburn to appetite control to mole removal.

ACV is made by fermenting apple cider, or the unfiltered juice from pressed apples. The result is a pungent, highly acidic vinegar.

It has a variety of uses and has become increasingly popular in the natural health community. It’s believed to have many health benefits, including:

  • lower blood sugar levels
  • weight loss
  • a reduced risk of cancer
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Photography by Aya Brackett

However, there’s little research to back up many of these claims.

Some people even say it may help with acne, due to its unique chemical composition. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at apple cider vinegar’s potential benefits for acne, along with some of its risks.

Vinegar can kill certain types of bacteria, according to test-tube studies. This happens because of its high acetic acid content, which gives it its acidity. Apple cider vinegar also contains several other organic acids, including (1, 2, 3, 4):

  • lactic acid
  • gallic acid
  • protocatechuic acid
  • chlorogenic acid

A bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes, or Cutibacterium acnes, contributes to acne development. Because ACV has been noted to kill certain strains of bacteria, it may also have some bacteria-killing affects P. acnes (5).

However, there’s been no research investigating the effects of ACV or any type of vinegar on P. acnes, much less studies done in humans rather than test tubes.

In addition, vinegar needs to be highly diluted before being applied to your skin, which would dilute the organic acid concentrations further.

Lactic acid in particular is also used to help reduce the appearance of acne scarring — but again, the small amount in diluted ACV is unlikely to have a significant effect (6).

Finally, vinegar is also thin and unlike creams and serums made specifically for the skin, may not make contact with your skin long enough for the beneficial compounds to be adequately absorbed before it evaporates.


Although ACV contains organic acids bacteria-killing properties, it’s not clear whether it can kill P. acnes, the bacteria responsible for acne. Additionally, ACV needs to be diluted before use — which weakens the organic acid concentrations.

Apple cider vinegar is strongly acidic by nature. Because of this, it may cause burns when applied directly to the skin for long periods of time (7, 8).

In fact, in one study in 22 adults, researchers found that ACV soaks had no positive effects on skin integrity in people with dermatitis — and actually increased irritation in most participants (9).

In most cases, burns occur after ACV has been in contact with the skin for long periods of time. Shorter periods of contact with skin are less likely to cause burns, but they may cause stinging.

So, to prevent skin damage and irritation, ACV should be used only in small amounts and when diluted with water.

You should also avoid using ACV on sensitive skin and open wounds. It’s more likely to cause pain or skin damage in those cases.


Apple cider vinegar is very acidic. Applying it directly to your skin may cause burns or irritation, and one small study noted that it offered no benefits for skin health.

There’s no evidence to support the use of ACV for acne.

It can cause further inflammation and irritation. It may even cause burns if it’s not diluted correctly before applying it to your face.

Because of these factors, topical ACV may do more harm than good in individuals with acne.

To find an acne treatment that works for you, consult with a dermatologist.


When it comes to at-home acne treatments, ACV may not be the safest choice. At best, it may have no effect or cause some irritation. At worst, it can cause chemical burns to your skin. Talk with a dermatologist to find a more effective and safer acne treatment.

The organic acids in ACV may help kill the bacteria that cause acne or reduce the appearance of scars. However, there’s very little evidence that vinegar itself, when diluted and applied to the skin, has the same effect.

Additionally, improperly diluted ACV can actually burn your skin. For this reason, ACV isn’t the best choice for acne. For more clarity on treating and preventing acne, speak with a dermatologist.

Just one thing

Try this today: Did you know that certain foods may help boost your skin’s health and appearance? Check out our list of the 12 best foods for healthy skin. Try to gradually incorporate more of these foods into your diet to give your skin what it needs to flourish.