From the pantry cabinet to the medicine box, apple cider vinegar has truly emerged as a core part of our lives. Lately, proponents have advocated ACV for acne treatment, and it has left us wondering whether it is safe to use the acidic product on your face.
Let us evaluate what the science says before we put faith in the reputation of ACV for skin health.
Apple Cider Vinegar for Acne
Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar manufactured from the fermentation of apples. The process grants it highly acidic properties, touted for their numerous health benefits. Proponents claim ACV as a home remedy for weight loss, heartburn and indigestion, relieving symptoms of gout and potentially curing acne.
The question is whether the said claims are credible. Can we trust apple cider vinegar for acne?
What causes Acne?
Acne is a skin condition that occurs upon the blockage of hair follicles. This could be the result of dead skin cells or acne-prone bacteria called cutibacterium acnes. It may appear as lesions, whiteheads, blackheads, or simple pimples (zits).
Acne may occur at any age, but it is fairly common in teenagers due to their hormonal changes. Mostly it goes away after puberty, but if not, there are effective treatment options to heal it.
Is it Possible to Get Rid of Acne Scars?
Acne lesions often leave behind scars in the form of discolored blemishes on the skin. This happens, specifically, with deep penetration by the bacteria or dead skin cells. With some people, acne scars fade away over time. However, that is relatively rare and mostly happens for teenagers.
There are several options for treating acne scars, some medicinal and others natural. Either way, with the right choice based on your skin type and severity of scarring, it is possible to get rid of them with time and patience.
Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help with Acne?
Is apple cider vinegar good for acne? The answer is inconsistent regarding the research, but there are indications that ACV can indirectly help.
In the past, many clinical trials have shown that ACV can detox and cleanse your system by pulling toxins out of your body. Going back even further, there is the case of ACV’s alleged use for healing wounds during ancient times by Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine. Did Hippocrates know something we didn’t about ACV’s ability to heal the skin?
To reach a better conclusion, let’s look at the studies regarding the use of apple cider vinegar for acne.
As an Antimicrobial Agent
Cutibacterium acnes is the skin bacteria responsible for acne. While ACV lacks straightforward research claiming its effectiveness against this specific bacteria, studies have confirmed several properties of vinegar may improve your acne situation.
Acids that appear in ACV in small amounts, such as citric acid and lactic acid, are proven to suppress acne-prone lesions and nullify the effect of the bacteria. A trial by the Indian Journal of Dermatology reported a significant reduction in acne vulgaris in subjects. The trial applied a lactic acid lotion to participants for a whole year. (5, 6)
As a Highly Acidic Substance
Research credits the acidity of vinegar for its skin healing tendencies. ACV consists of acetic acid and alpha-hydroxy acid, both of which are proven for their skin-preserving action.
A Polish study examined the use of alpha-hydroxy acids for acne therapy and skin discoloration. It drew positive conclusions regarding their use as an exfoliating treatment. (7)
Another Japanese study from 2006 reported the therapeutic capacity of alpha-hydroxy acids on dermal and epidermal components. (8)
For Acne Spot Treatment
A positive development in the use of apple cider vinegar for acne scars could be a study done that significantly improved atopic dermatitis in mice. Eczema is vastly different from acne. However, the research done for understanding skin barrier integrity is crucial for acne scars.
In 2016, the trial exposed about 30 mice to ACV creams of variable concentrations. The conclusions reported hindrance in the production of lesions and scars on the skin. Additionally, the skin pH levels and integrity both strengthened and reached the optimum balance. (9)
A similar study performed on human subjects in 2019 did not correspond to the animal study. Twenty-two subjects used ACV soaks for 14 days to cure skin lesions but, there was no valuable improvement. Subjects also experienced irritation and skin damage sometime after exposure. (10)
Numerous studies have acclaimed acetic acid’s resistive capacity against skin-infecting microbes. While none could directly prove ACV as a cure for acne, a study by the University of Birmingham reported high antibacterial capacity for acetic acid on skin wounds. Thus, further research should be encouraged on ACV as it pertains to acne treatment. (11)
How to Wash your Face with Apple Cider Vinegar?
The ideal way to use ACV as a face wash is to make an ACV toner. Not only does it cleanse the skin of bacteria, but it also makes for a safer way to apply vinegar on the skin.
Here is how you can make your own natural ACV face cleanser:
- Grab a container you’d like the ACV to be stored in and put in about 1-2 tablespoons of ACV, diluted with 1/4 to 1 cup of water.
- Pour in a few drops of an anti-inflammatory oil, be it tree oil, rose, or eucalyptus. Some people even use turmeric with ACV to create a mask.
- After a thorough mix, it is ready for use.
Now that you have the ACV toner at hand, you must know how to use it correctly lest you fall victim to any skin infections.
- Make sure your skin is clear of any cosmetic substance before application.
- Wash your face thoroughly with water, but make sure you do not apply any soap to it.
- Pour the toner onto a cotton pad to mildly soak it up.
- Gently dab the cotton over your face or the affected areas. Ensure that no ACV comes in contact with your eyes, mouth, or nostrils.
- Let it sit for 5-7 minutes before washing your face.
How Long Does it Take to Work?
You may use an ACV face wash 2-3 times a week. Generally, if the vinegar suits your skin type, you will begin seeing results within 4-6 weeks.
However, if your skin remains unaffected after persistent use, it is advised to stop. Perhaps, an ACV toner does not sit well with your skin type.
Lastly, in the case of any burning sensation or skin damage, immediately give up the toner and consult a certified dermatologist.
Safety Tips when Using ACV on Your Face
- Always test an ACV product before applying it to your face. If the first dab irritates your skin, you should stop using it.
- Never apply it directly on your face without diluting it.
- Do not use it more than 2-3 times per week.
- If you have particularly sensitive skin or persistent acne issues, use higher amounts of water.
- Keep a check on the toner’s appearance and odor to avoid using it past its expiration date.
Other Ways People Use ACV
We don’t need scientific backup to verify ACV’s versatility. Its traditional use reaches far and wide in homes around the world. Here are a few ways you can use ACV apart from topical skin applications.
- Many people drink apple cider vinegar and honey either before bed or in the morning.
- For a more palatable option, people prefer ACV gummies.
- Taking ACV pills can also be an effective health measure, but they are traditionally less effective than gummy vitamins or drinking the liquid itself.
Final Thoughts on Apple Cider Vinegar for Acne
If you decide to use an apple cider vinegar face wash for acne, remember to keep your skin sensitivity in mind. ACV is not a threat, but everyone’s experience will be slightly different. And who knows, it just might help cure your acne!