Developing acne at any age can be a real confidence sapper. And with hormones, lifestyle, and the environment often triggering a flare, it is no wonder so many of us are looking for more natural ways to get those breakouts under control.
Amongst many of the at-home acne remedies you can now try, apple cider vinegar is gaining a reputation as being the latest beauty regime game-changer. With its antibacterial and antifungal properties, many swear by its skin healing properties, but it has not yet been scientifically proven to work. With this in mind, we look into the latest natural health remedy on the skin care block and ask – can you really cure your acne with apple cider vinegar?
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar – or ACV – is simply apple juice that has been fermented with yeast and friendly bacteria to produce a highly acidic liquid where acetic acid is its main active ingredient. Alongside acetic acid, ACV also contains other compounds and nutrients, including enzymes, antioxidants (including polyphenols and flavonoids) as well as probiotic bacteria, which gives it its slightly cloudy appearance.
ACV, ideally organic, has a wide range of uses, from cooking and preserving food to making natural household cleaners. And it’s the antibacterial and naturally acidic properties of raw, unpasteurized ACV that also make it a popular natural beauty and skin health remedy.
Should You Use Apple Cider Vinegar to Cure Acne?
While it does have some excellent properties, apple cider vinegar is not going to be the acne fighting cure-all for everyone with the skin condition. For some skin types, it can work as a toner and exfoliator as well as help to kill bacteria and re-balance the natural PH of the skin.
However, as it is so acidic, ACV can also be harsh and irritate sensitive skin, and may not work with severe acne, even making acne breakouts worse.
So, with the beauty jury out as to whether apple cider vinegar should be used to cure acne, we give the lowdown on its main pros and cons.
It May Kill Acne-Causing Bacteria
As well as its ability to exfoliate away dead skin and re-balance the acid levels of your skin, ACV’s high concentration of acetic acid means it also has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial benefits. And it is these properties that raises its potential when it comes to halting acne in its tracks.
One bacterium in particular – Propionibacterium acnes, or P. acnes – is known to contribute to acne. And while there is no definite research on AV’s ability to kill P.acnes, it does contain acetic, lactic, citric and succinic acid which have all been shown to have an impact on the bacteria. So, while more research is needed, it is reasonable to suggest that apple cider vinegar may be able to kill off the bacteria that causes acne.
It May Reduce the Appearance of Scarring
The powerful cocktail of acids in apple cider vinegar for acne not only offer anti-bacterial properties, but they also work as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to exfoliate the skin – a natural type of ‘chemical peel’ to reveal fresh, healthy skin.
Overtime, these AHAs may also work to exfoliate the skin pigments caused by acne and reduce acne scars, with lactic acid also potentially improving the skin’s appearance. But the key word is ‘may’ as there is currently no scientific data to confirm that it actually works to fade acne scars.
But, Applying It to Your Skin Can Cause Burns
There’s no getting away from the fact that apple cider vinegar is very acidic and so can be harsh when applied directly on to the skin, especially if too much is used, or it is used too frequently. It can also cause skin irritation and even burns if used neat, or for prolonged periods of time. And it goes without saying that apple cider vinegar should never be used on damaged or broken skin or open wounds.
To prevent such reactions when using apple cider vinegar, it should only be in small amounts that have been diluted and if you experience burning sensations, cease using it straight away. Skin experts also say that ACV is better suited to oily or combination skin, rather than on sensitive or dry skin.
How to Treat Acne with Apple Cider Vinegar
When it comes to treating acne with apple cider vinegar as a personalized home treatment, it can be used as a face wash, toner and exfoliator, as well as a spot treatment.
As long as your skin is suited to the use of acidic skin products (it is wise to avoid if you have sensitive skin), then trying ACV should be safe, but you do need to follow these tips:
- Aim to get the best quality apple cider vinegar for acne, ideally organic
- Dilute the cider vinegar as used neat, it will be too harsh for your skin
- Always test spot the solution if it is the first time using to ensure you don’t have an adverse reaction
- The minimum dilution should be one part apple cider vinegar to three parts water or more
- Avoid using your fingers to apply the ACV mix directly to your face, but use a soft cotton ball. If you are using it as a spot treatment, use a cotton bud
- If using as a face cleanser, thoroughly rinse with fresh warm water then gently pat your face dry
- Only use one to three times a week, gradually building up so your skin is not irritated
- If your skin goes excessively red or you experience burning sensations, rinse the affected area immediately with cool, clean water
- Always avoid using apple cider vinegar on broken skin or open wounds.
The Final Word
With limited scientific evidence that ACV is actually a wonder cure for acne, there is certainly a case for recognizing its potential. Any decision to use apple cider vinegar for acne should come down to a host of factors, including your skin type, the severity of your acne and what you want it to achieve.
For skin exfoliation, scar reduction and reducing bacteria, apple cider vinegar may well work. But it’s acidic base means it can also be pretty harsh on most skin types. So, while it is natural option, there may be other, gentler options to help control and heal acne-prone skin.