Does Apple Cider Vinegar Clear Acne?

Celebrities rave about it.  Countless Youtube videos extoll its virtues.  And a quick Internet search pulls up thousands of pages of information saying it can do everything: lower blood pressure, rev up metabolism, soothe heartburn, and banish warts.

What is this amazing product?  Apple cider vinegar, or ACV, to those in the know.)

Now, I actually love the stuff.  It makes a yummy vinaigrette.  And, since I think homemade beauty products are super fun, I once whipped up an apple cider vinegar hair rinse and an apple cider vinegar toner.

But can apple cider vinegar clear up acne?  No.  

In fact, there are many reasons why you should not use apple cider vinegar for acne.  Here are just a few:

It can burn your skin.

Apple cider vinegar
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Many sources claim that because apple cider vinegar is natural, it has no side effects.  Not true.

If you put apple cider vinegar on your skin, undiluted, it can cause a nasty burn.  Even ACV diluted in water is strong enough to burn skin that is sensitive to it.

It isn't effective.

ACV proponents say apple cider vinegar works on acne by killing bacteria.  They also surmise that, because it is acidic, it removes dead skin cells and unblocks pores.

The bottom line is there haven't been any good studies done on the effects apple cider vinegar may have on acne.

So while it may control bacteria in the lab, it can have a different effect on bacteria on the skin.

More importantly, apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, not the acne-fighting salicylic acid or glycolic acid.  It just won't work the same way.

It stinks.

Apple cider vinegar smells crazy bad.  Some people liken the scent to sweaty gym socks.

Remember the apple cider hair rinse and toner I told you about earlier?  I used them once and that was it.  I couldn't get over the smell.

Admittedly, this is a personal thing.  But if you're at all scent-sensitive, you'll not like the aroma.

Drinking it doesn't work either.

There have been more studies done on the effects of apple cider when taken internally.  But again, none show that it has any clearing effect on acne.

The About.com Alternative Medicine Expert has a great article that lists some of the possible health benefits of apple cider vinegar: Apple Cider Vinegar: What You Need To Know.

Remember, though, that taking apple cider vinegar internally can also have side effects.  It can erode the enamel of your teeth, and if taken undiluted in large quantities can cause damage to your esophagus, stomach, and other parts of your digestive tract.

Instead of using ACV for acne, try proven acne treatments instead.

If you're researching apple cider vinegar for acne it's likely you've tried other acne treatments without results and are desperate for a solution. 

I know because I've been where you are right now.  And if I thought ACV was truly a miracle cure for acne, trust me, I'd be shouting it from the rooftops. 

But apple cider vinegar just isn't an acne treatment.  Because I want you to get real improvement, I'm suggesting you forgo the ACV.

Instead of apple cider vinegar, try this:

  • For mild acne, try an over-the-counter treatment like benzoyl peroxide.
  • For moderate to severe acne, you'll need a prescription treatment.  A dermatologist can help develop a treatment plan that will work for you. 
  • If one treatment doesn't work, don't give up.  There are treatment options that will work for you.

Sources:

Bunick CG, Lott JP, Warren CB, Galan A, Bolognia J, King BA. "Chemical burn from topical apple cider vinegar." J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Oct;67(4):e143-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2011.11.934.

Hill LL, Woodruff LH, Foote JC, Barreto-Alcoba M. "Esophageal injury by apple cider vinegar tablets and subsequent evaluation of products." J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105:1141-4.

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