Can You Use Apple Cider Vinegar to Treat Acne? We Investigate

Updated 10/22/18
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Treating acne is tricky, as everyone's specific skin is different. Plus, there are so many factors at play—environment, lifestyle, hormones, and the like. So you won't ever find a treatment for breakouts that is one-size-fits-all, but that doesn't mean you can't experiment in order to find what works for you. 

Over the years, we've made strides in getting our beauty routines cleaner, opting for natural solutions over chemical products. While we can't get enough of our chemical exfoliators and active ingredients, there's something to be said for keeping things simple. Enter apple cider vinegar for acne. Is it a myth, or does it really work to clear skin? We did some investigating to find out. Below, find exactly what it does and how it works. 

Bragg Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
Bragg Raw Organic Apple Cider Vinegar $5
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It balances your pH

"It's the best astringent in nature because it helps to balance the skin's pH, making you both less oily and less dry," says S.W. Basics founder Adina Grigore. She warns that apple cider vinegar is strong (and pungent), so you should always dilute it before using. "I recommend using a mixture of one part vinegar to four parts water. Apply to your face with cotton or a spritzer. No need to wash it off," she says. 

It's a natural way to treat body acne, too

Lamees Hamdan, the founder and CEO of Shiffa, says if you prefer to keep your skincare routine as clean as possible, "you can try making your own [anti-acne body product] using apple cider vinegar." Simply add 10 drops of tea tree essential oil to apple cider vinegar (and witch hazel if you have it). Apply it to the blemished areas on clean skin for the best effect.

You can use it as a spot treatment

One of our most active readers wrote in for advice on this one. "Put it on a Q-tip, let the Q-tip run under water to dilute, and then apply it to your acne," Alex No suggests. In fact, Sejal Shah, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, told Women's Health that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar has both antibacterial and keratolytic properties. "In other words," she says, "it has the potential to help zap your bumps from the source."

But it can be irritating

The resounding takeaway from all of this is you can garner real, helpful results from using apple cider vinegar, but you have to be careful. If you don't dilute it, it can irritate your skin and even cause chemical burns, according to Shah.

There isn't a lot of science-backed evidence

This doesn't mean it won't work, but there haven't been specific studies to find the effect apple cider vinegar has on acne specifically. However, it is known for its ability to kill bacteria and viruses, and it contains acetic, citric, lactic, and succinic acid, all of which have been proven to help with breakouts. One study found more than half of its participants experienced a significant reduction in acne after using lactic acid lotion. 

Below, find a few more natural acne-fighting products.

Spring Valley Tea Tree Oil $7
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Osmia Organics Spot Treatment
Osmia Organics Spot Treatment $22
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Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay
Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay $11
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Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser
Tata Harper Purifying Cleanser $70
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