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Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help Acne?

cruet of apple cider vinegar

If the natural health community is to be believed, apple cider vinegar is a remedy for just about everything under the sun. From soothing sore throats to reducing eczema symptoms, this fermented liquid is said to do it all.

It didn’t take long for beauty experts to begin touting apple cider vinegar as a potential remedy for acne. Can apple cider help acne, or is this claim bogus?

Before we answer, here are three things you need to know about apple cider vinegar and your skin:

  • There is little scientific research on the topic of apple cider vinegar and acne
  • There is some scientific evidence to show that specific ingredients in apple cider vinegar have antimicrobial properties
  • When used incorrectly, apple cider vinegar can result in skin discoloration

Does apple cider vinegar help acne or is it just a myth? Below, we’ll dive into the research to uncover the truth about apple cider vinegar and its effects on the skin.

braggs organic apple cider vinegar

What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?

Apple cider vinegar is an acidic substance made from fermented apple juice. It’s produced by squeezing the juice from crushed apples before adding yeast and bacteria to the juice to begin the fermentation process.

The yeast converts the sugar into alcohol, while the acetic acid-forming bacteria turns the alcohol into vinegar. The acetic acid is what gives apple cider vinegar its potent smell and sour taste.

From getting rid of dandruff to fading dark spots from acne, apple cider vinegar has long been touted as being a cure-all for every health and beauty woe under the sun. Natural beauty enthusiasts have latched onto the idea that apple cider vinegar can solve their skin ailments, but is there any truth to it? Does apple cider vinegar help acne?

TRY MEN’S SKIN CARE

Apple Cider Vinegar and the Skin

If you’re thinking about using apple cider vinegar to achieve clear skin, you may want to read this first. Although apple cider vinegar is widely believed to have a range of benefits for acne sufferers, there just isn’t much scientific evidence to support such claims.

To give apple cider vinegar credit, there is some evidence that it has antimicrobial properties that could potentially help control acne-causing bacteria. According to a 2018 study published in Scientific Reports, apple cider vinegar was found to have antimicrobial activity against bacteria and yeasts such as E. coli, Staph and Candida (see claim: “The results demonstrate ACV has multiple antimicrobial potential with clinical therapeutic implications.”)

Apple cider vinegar may also contain significant amounts of citric acid, an ingredient which may help in the prevention and treatment of acne. In a 2016 study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, researchers found that zinc oxide mixed with citric acid resulted in a high antimicrobial activity that could potentially inhibit P. acnes, a type of bacteria commonly implicated in the development of acne (see claim: “The results of our study suggest that ZnO may be an anti-microbial ingredient for the prevention of and treatment of acne when mixed with CA.”)

Apple cider vinegar may also have high amounts of malic acid (it all depends on the brand), a powerful alpha-hydroxy acid. According to a 2000 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, alpha-hydroxy acids have been shown to improve skin conditions such as acne by gently sloughing off the top layer of the skin (see claim: “…AHAs improve these disorders by thinning the stratum corneum, promoting epidermolysis, dispersing basal layer melanin, and increasing collagen synthesis within the dermis.”)

Given these studies, it’s possible that apple cider vinegar can help improve your acne. However, there needs to be more research on the topic to say with absolute certainty.

man applying facial cream

Is Apple Cider Vinegar Harmful for Skin?

If you’re still thinking about giving apple cider vinegar a try, we urge you to take caution. While using apple cider vinegar can potentially help improve your acne, it can also have unwanted side effects.

Some apple ciders may be rich in malic acid, which has been known to result in discoloration of the skin in darker skin types. Apple cider vinegar can also cause skin irritation in those with sensitive skin.

If you’re going to use apple cider vinegar, be sure to dilute it with water first. If you have an oily skin type, you can use a 50-50 mix of water and apple cider vinegar. For sensitive skin types, consider using three parts water and one part apple cider vinegar.

Take the skin care quiz

The Bottom Line

To answer the question, “Does apple cider vinegar help acne?” the answer is an unsatisfactory maybe. At the end of the day, you can find the same antimicrobial and natural exfoliating properties of apple cider vinegar by using an acne cream containing Salicylic Acid.

A potent acne-fighting ingredient, Salicylic Acid is a beta-hydroxy acid—meaning, it’s oil-soluble and, thus, able to penetrate oily skin much more effectively. It’s also scientifically-proven to be a safe and effective treatment for acne blemishes.

We’re not trying to talk you out of using apple cider vinegar for acne. Ultimately, it’s up to you to examine the research and make the right choice for your skin. However, we do want to point out that you have science-backed options to help you achieve clear skin.

References

Yagnik, Darshna, et al. “Antimicrobial Activity of Apple Cider Vinegar against Escherichia Coli, Staphylococcus Aureus and Candida Albicans; Downregulating Cytokine and Microbial Protein Expression.” Scientific Reports, vol. 8, no. 1, 29 2018, p. 1732. PubMed, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-18618-x.

Bae, J. Y., and S. N. Park. “Evaluation of Anti-Microbial Activities of ZnO, Citric Acid and a Mixture of Both against Propionibacterium Acnes.” International Journal of Cosmetic Science, vol. 38, no. 6, Dec. 2016, pp. 550–57. PubMed, doi:10.1111/ics.12318.

Tung, R. C., et al. “Alpha-Hydroxy Acid-Based Cosmetic Procedures. Guidelines for Patient Management.” American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, vol. 1, no. 2, Apr. 2000, pp. 81–88. PubMed, doi:10.2165/00128071-200001020-00002.

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