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Does Apple Cider Vinegar for Acne Actually Make It Worse?

acv for acne

Does Apple Cider Vinegar Help Acne?

Over the years, apple cider vinegar has become increasingly popular for its health benefits. While some people take it orally, others apply it topically for skin conditions such as acne. In addition to some favorable anecdotes claiming that apple cider vinegar is good for acne, there is some research to suggest that it has acne-bacteria killing properties.

Let’s take a closer on how the use of apple cider vinegar is used for acne and whether or not apple cider vinegar is good for acne.

Causes of Acne

Acne is caused by a number of factors including diet, inflammation, poor hygeine, hormonal imbalance, and zinc deficiency. Read more about the 5 causes of acne.

Knowing the 5 causes of acne is essential to figuring out how apple cider vinegar may work for acne.

How is Apple Cider Vinegar Used for Acne?

Users of apple cider vinegar for acne claim that applying apple cider vinegar to the skin as a toner is helpful for acne. To prevent chemical burns they recommend diluting the acne to make it less powerful.

Apple cider vinegar's main ingredient is acetic acid. The way it could help with acne is if this acid is able to kill the acne-causing P acnes bacteria.

Acetic acid is a carboxylic acid. A prescription drug for acne featuring carboxylic acids is azelaic acid. Azelaic acid has antimicrobial, comedolytic, and mild anti-inflammatory properties. Azelaic acid and vinegar are similar in that they both feature carboxylic acids in their chemical structure. 

Not many studies exist regarding the topical application of apple cider vinegar for acne but here are the risks of applying acetic acid to the skin:

Chemical Burns

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid. Application of undiluted acetic acid may cause chemical burns.1 If you use apple cider vinegar or acetic acid for acne be sure to dilute it.

Skin Irritation

Undiluted apple cider vinegar may cause irritation. Skin irritation has been known to worsen acne. Increased irritation may cause inflammation which may lead to hyperpigmentation or darkening of acne scars.2

acv for acne


Does Apple Cider Vinegar Work for Acne?

Vinegar is known to inhibit the growth of bacteria5 such as Proteus vulgaris, Acinetobacter baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa even at the low concentration of 3%. There are no studies on the effects of acetic acid on P acnes but based on the effects of acetic acid on other bacteria it is plausible that it works for acne.

Alternatives to Apple Cider Vinegar for Acne

Until research proves that the active ingredient of apple cider vinegar is able to inhibit the growth of P acnes we recommend the use of proven topical antibiotics like clindamycin or over the counter benzoyl peroxide for acne.

You can also try salicylic acid and/or glycolic acid for acne. These other acids may not kill P. acnes but have been shown to exfoliate the skin and prevent the clogging of pores.4

If you prefer using a toner to help with acne, try one with anti-inflammatory properties. These include:

  1. Calendula Toner
  2. Willow Bark Toner
  3. Chamomile Toner
  4. Green Tea Toner
  5. Witch Hazel Toner

Alternatives to Apple Cider Vinegar for Acne Scars

While some use apple cider vinegar with the hope to treat acne, others do so to diminish acne scars. Acne scars are difficult to remove so the best treatment for them is prevention.

While apple cider vinegar has some potential to treat acne and prevent acne scars there aren’t many clinical studies on it. Furthermore, there are affordable and well-studied alternatives that provide great acne benefits. We recommend trying other proven acne treatments before considering apple cider vinegar for acne.


acv for acne

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