Apple cider vinegar is made by fermenting apple cider, or the unfiltered juice from pressed apples.
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 and a reduced risk of cancer.
Some even claim it may have benefits for acne, but there is very little research available. This article takes a closer look.
In fact, it has been shown to reduce the numbers of some bacteria by 90% and certain viruses by 95% (, ).
A type of bacteria known as Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes, contributes to the development of acne.
While there isn't much research on the ability of apple cider vinegar to fight P. acnes, there are a few studies on the organic acids it contains.
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic, citric, lactic and succinic acid, all of which have been shown to kill P. acnes (, ).
In one study, 22 people applied lactic acid lotion to their faces twice a day for one year. Most of them experienced a significant reduction in acne, while only two people experienced less than a 50% improvement ().
Based on the results of these studies, it's possible that applying apple cider vinegar to your skin can control acne-causing bacteria, but more research is needed.
Bottom Line: The organic acids found in apple cider vinegar may help kill acne-causing bacteria. However, more research is needed on apple cider vinegar specifically.
Even after acne heals, it can cause skin discoloration and scarring.
When applied directly to the skin, some of the organic acids found in apple cider vinegar have been shown to help with this.
The process of applying organic acids to the skin is often referred to as "chemical peeling." The acids remove the damaged, outer layers of the skin and promote regeneration.
Specifically, chemical peeling with succinic acid has been shown to suppress inflammation caused by P. acnes, which may help prevent scarring ().Lactic acid has also been shown to improve the texture, pigmentation and appearance of the skin in individuals with superficial acne scars (, ).
While studies on organic acids show promising results, more studies are needed to explore the effects of apple cider vinegar on scarring.
Bottom Line: Acne can cause skin discoloration and scarring. When applied directly to the skin, the organic acids in apple cider vinegar may reduce the appearance of scars.
Apple cider vinegar is strongly acidic by nature. Because of this, it may cause burns when applied directly to the skin (12, ).
In most cases, burns occur after apple cider vinegar has been in contact with the skin for long periods of time. Shorter periods of skin contact are less likely to cause burns.
In order to prevent skin damage, apple cider vinegar should be used in small amounts and diluted with water.
You should also avoid using apple cider vinegar on sensitive skin and open wounds, as it's more likely to cause pain or skin damage in those cases.
If you apply apple cider vinegar to your skin and feel a burning sensation, try diluting it with more water. If it still burns, you may want to stop using it.
Bottom Line: Apple cider vinegar is very acidic. Applying it directly to your skin may be irritating or cause burns.
Apple cider vinegar contains organic acids that may help kill the bacteria that cause acne.
It may also help reduce the appearance of scars.
However, studies on this are inconclusive, and some cases of severe acne require a more rigorous treatment plan.
Furthermore, applying apple cider vinegar directly to the skin can cause skin damage and burns, especially for those with sensitive skin or open wounds.
Because of this, it may cause more harm than good in individuals with acne.
Bottom Line: When applied topically, apple cider vinegar may help control acne-causing bacteria and reduce the appearance of scars. However, it may not work for those with severe cases of acne.
Due to its high acidity, apple cider vinegar should be diluted before it's applied to the skin. Here are some simple steps you can follow:
- Mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with 3 three parts water (if you have sensitive skin, you may want to use more water).
- Cleanse your face with mild face wash and pat dry.
- Using a cotton ball, gently apply the mixture to the affected skin.
- Let sit for 5–20 seconds, rinse with water and pat dry.
- Repeat this process 1–2 times per day.
Additionally, use organic apple cider vinegar that contains "the mother." This is the cloudy substance that typically sinks to the bottom of the bottle.
It contains proteins, enzymes and beneficial bacteria that are responsible for most of apple cider vinegar's health benefits.
For this reason, apple cider vinegar with "the mother" may provide more benefits than the filtered and refined varieties.
Bottom Line: Apple cider vinegar should be diluted with water before being applied to the skin. Using it 1–2 times per day may help with acne.
The organic acids in apple cider vinegar may help kill the bacteria that cause acne.
They may also help reduce the appearance of scars.
However, the few studies that exist on this topic are inconclusive, and apple cider vinegar might not work for everyone.