I Swapped My Pricey Toner for a DIY Version—and My Skin Cleared Up

woman with cotton round

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Apple cider vinegar (AVC for short), is alive and well within the beauty industry. It's dripped into haircare to dismiss unwanted brassiness and residue; it's chugged faster than Fireball circa freshmen year of college by countless holistic health enthusiasts, and, perhaps most importantly for our purposes, it's credited by many as one of the best au naturel solutions for acneic skin. The biggest selling point? It's purported to be a natural astringent, which, in a more straightforward translation, means it may score an A++ where the reduction of oils and other such skin debris is concerned.

ACV is also claimed by many to help balance the skin's pH, making you both less oily and less dry depending on your skin type. In other words, it might be a dreamy option for those struggling with stubborn breakouts. To learn all there is to know about how to use an apple cider vinegar toner as a natural toner for the face, we tapped celebrity esthetician Joshua Ross as well as board-certified dermatologist Purvisha Patel.

Meet the Expert

  • Joshua Ross is a celebrity esthetician and the founder of SkinLab in Los Angeles.
  • Purvisha Patel, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Visha Skincare.

Learn the skin benefits of apple cider vinegar and how to whip up your own DIY toner at home, ahead.

The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar on Skin

clear skin portrait

ohlamour studio / Stocksy

ACV is a first-choice solution for acne-prone skin types—and for good reason. For one, it contains antimicrobial properties that may fend off breakout-causing bacteria. "The antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antiviral properties of the malic acid found in raw apple cider vinegar make it an excellent weapon against acne and acne-inducing bacteria," says Patel. "The acidic environment is not conducive to microbial growth and ACV also has been shown to down-regulate the body's inflammatory cascade in reaction to microbial growth."

Those with reactive skin types may benefit from ACV's potential ability to restore the skin's pH. Here's how: Our skin is covered by a protective layer called the acid mantle, which has a pH of 4 to 6. As Patel notes, this delicate mantle can be disturbed by something as simple as water (which has a pH of 7), as well as some shampoos and soaps. "A damaged acid mantle allows in bacteria, pollution and leads to moisture loss and free radical damage, which can result in redness and inflammation of the skin," Patel explains. Because of the acidic nature of ACV, it might restore the mantle to normal—an important quality especially in those with sensitive or reactive skin.

Lastly, ACV is a good source of exfoliation: "The malic acid found in ACV is considered an alpha hydroxy acid and is similar to lactic or glycolic acid, which can help exfoliate the skin to increase cell turnover," says Ross.

DIY Apple Cider Vinegar Toner

There are two main ingredients to the Dr. Axe ACV toner recipe we recommend here at Byrdie: apple cider vinegar and witch hazel. (Though if you have very sensitive skin, you'll want to avoid the latter.) Since Dr. Axe also called for optional aloe vera juice, which may benefit more reactive skin types, you can choose to dilute your ACV vinegar with Thayers Witch Hazel ($11), which expertly marries the two.

All you have to do is follow a few simple steps:

  • Mix two tablespoons of ACV with about 1/4 cup (or more depending on how sensitive your skin is) of the Thayers. Et voilà!
  • For storage, keep the DIY toner in the fridge (to keep the ACV well and good) and preferably in a dark glass container of some sort.

How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar Toner

person cleansing face with apple cider vinegar

ohlamour studio / Stocksy

ACV is potent stuff and you'll want to work with the raw, unfiltered, and organic kind to get results. It may be best used with ingredients that are soothing such as caffeine, niacinamide, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid. You can also use it in combination with water-based products to try to avoid dryness, and if you're feeling fancy, you can add in essential oils. Like ACV, essential oils are also naturally potent and should be used sparingly regarding contact with the skin. When choosing the oils to include in your toner, it's important to invest (sorry, you pretty much get what you pay for with these guys) and choose oils that are labeled 100 percent pure and organic. To avoid overwhelming the skin, it's a good strategy to just stick with one to two drops of one specific essential oil (such as lemon, tea tree, lavender, or frankincense). And if you have sensitive skin, it's best to avoid fragrances and essential oils altogether; they could prove to be irritating, or trigger allergic contact dermatitis.

To use your DIY toner, dampen a cotton pad with the DIY toner and gently wipe across clean, makeup-free skin. Repeat nightly as part of your skincare routine.

Is ACV Toner Suitable For All Skin Types?

In general, oilier skin is better suited to using it as a skincare ingredient, as it may be drying. That being said, Ross notes that no matter what skin type is using it, ACV needs to be diluted heavily to reduce the risk of dryness and irritation. If you have an allergy to vinegar, extremely sensitive skin, or open raw skin, Patel warns against using ACV on the skin.

Shop More ACV Skincare

S.W. Basics Liquid Oil Control Facial Toner
S.W. Basics Toner $20.00

If you're looking for a natural, organic, and shoppable option, this pick by S.W. Basics can't be beat. It's made with only five ingredients and lists essential oils along with organic raw apple cider vinegar and witch hazel as its hero ingredients.

Organic Apple Cider Vinegar Unfiltered
Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar Unfiltered $7.00

It's an Amazon bestseller for good reason. Bragg's certified organic raw apple cider vinegar is diluted to 5 percent acidity for healthy skin—sans irritation.

Face Vinegar
Gallinée Face Vinegar $35.00

Where your skin's microbiome is concerned, this face vinegar promises to provide all the support with its plethora of healthy bacteria. What's more, not only is it meant to shrink pores and purify the skin, but it also promises to exfoliate and allow for better penetration of your other skincare products.

TrueCider Face & Body Serum
Cheryl Lee MD TrueCider Face & Body Serum $22.00

The only thing better than a serum that you can use on both your face and body is one that's formulated by a dermatologist. Enter TrueCider, a gentle, serum that highlights the beauty benefits of apple cider vinegar, gluconolactone, and lactobionic acid meant to get the skin's natural pH back in order and naturally fend off infection.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Yagnik D, Serafin V, J Shah A. Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans; downregulating cytokine and microbial protein expressionSci Rep. 2018;8(1):1732. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-18618-x

  2. Kuo SH, Shen CJ, Shen CF, Cheng CM. Role of pH value in clinically relevant diagnosisDiagnostics (Basel). 2020;10(2):107. doi:10.3390/diagnostics10020107

  3. Levin J, Momin SB. How much do we really know about our favorite cosmeceutical ingredients?J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010;3(2):22-41.

  4. de Groot AC, Schmidt E. Essential oils, part IV: contact allergyDermatitis. 2016;27(4):170-175. doi:10.1097/DER.0000000000000197

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