Apple Cider Vinegar and Acne: Does ACV Help Acne?

Apple cider vinegar

Does apple cider vinegar actually help acne? Here’s why we don’t recommend it…

It’s true – apple cider vinegar (ACV) seems like pretty amazing stuff.

No two ways about it.

It’s been used for likely over 5,000 years, by the Babylonians, the ancient Egyptians, and the ancient Greeks.

Columbus even reportedly took barrels of ACV on his ships to prevent scurvy among his sailors![1]

There’s a lot of “folk wisdom” floating around about using ACV as some kind of magical cure-all, from soothing sore throats to eliminating dry skin.

Let’s dive into the science, and along the way, we’ll tackle the only question that really matters to you and me: does apple cider vinegar actually help acne?

What is apple cider vinegar?

Okay, let’s just go over the basics.

ACV is made from fermenting raw apple cider, and is typically sold raw (unpasteurized) to preserve the probiotic benefits and the bacterial and yeast colonies that grow (the “mother”).

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Does ACV actually help acne?

There are plenty of other articles about ACV’s general health effects.

I’m going to skip over that, and just focus on apple cider vinegar and acne.

So does ACV actually help acne?

Well, the scientific literature has a few clues for us.

First, taking apple cider vinegar may lower cholesterol, triglycerides, and HbA1C (glycated hemoglobin).[2]

These are good signs of improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, which can both contribute to healing acne.

No one’s really sure why this happens yet – it could be the pure acetic acid itself, slowing down the release of sugar into your bloodstream when you’re digesting carbohydrates.[3] Or it could be some other phytochemicals in ACV that haven’t been identified yet.[4]

Second, assuming you get unpasteurized ACV, it contains lactic acid bacteria (the “mother”), and if you have a severely compromised gut flora, these bacteria may help to rebalance your gut flora somewhat, which generally reduces inflammation and also redness and swelling of acne, and improves nutrient absorption in the small intestine, which could improve any vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

In this way, ACV might have the same acne benefit as other probiotic-containing, fermented foods. That said, there are a few reasons why I do not recommend taking ACV to try to cure your acne.

Why I don’t recommend taking ACV as an oral supplement

Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic – it’s typically 5% acetic acid by volume.

That’s really great for stripping enamel off your teeth and damaging your throat tissue!

(Case in point: my grandfather stripped off his tooth enamel by eating a lemon with every meal for decades. Drinking an ACV tonic regularly could potentially have a similar effect! Some people recommend swishing your mouth out with baking soda after taking ACV to prevent the enamel destruction, but that just seems ridiculous to me. We’re going for Occam’s Razor, here – simplicity is our goal. We’re trying to cure acne in the simplest, most permanent way, and ACV + baking soda make things too messy for us.)

ACV also tastes horrible taken straight, in this author’s humble opinion!

You might think you can just take ACV pills to avoid the bad taste, but research shows that many “apple cider vinegar pills” may not actually include any ACV.[5] There are no regulations about apple cider vinegar supplements, so there’s no guarantee you’re actually getting any ACV, or that it’s in a potent and beneficial form.

Yes, it’s true – taking ACV may slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream after your eat carbohydrates. It may increase insulin sensitivity. It may promote healthy gut bacteria.

But if you follow the diet recommendations in our book, you’ll be cutting out most of these high-glycemic carbohydrates and supporting a healthy gut anyway. So the supplemental ACV is totally redundant and unnecessary.

Why I don’t recommend putting ACV on your skin

Some people have reported improvement in their skin by applying apple cider vinegar to their acne topically.

This may have to do with the acidity of ACV, helping to restore your skin’s natural acidity and bacterial flora. Then why not use it every morning and night, if it might help your acne?

This is where Sonia and I, at Clear Skin Forever, say the opposite of what most people will tell you.

Basically, we don’t recommend using apple cider vinegar topically as an acne treatment because it’s still a topical treatment. It’s not that different from using a cream like benzoyl peroxide.

Yes, it is “natural,” and yes, it will not bleach your towels like BP, but it’s still just a topical treatment.

The problem with topical treatments for acne, generally speaking, is that they only work as long as you keep using them. When you stop using them, the acne often comes back.

That’s not good enough for us!

Our main goal at Clear Skin Forever is to get you acne-free, permanently, without having to use any topical treatments or take any medications. We want to help you cure the root causes of your acne, with diet and lifestyle changes.

Using ACV, topically or orally, doesn’t fit into that picture.

It’s an example of Western “allopathic” medicine: treating the symptoms instead of the root cause.

And the worst part is that if you’re covering up your symptoms at the same time as you’re working to heal your skin from the inside, you are obscuring essential feedback from your body. It’s these messages from your body that you use to determine the foods that work best with your body, and those that tend to trigger breakouts.

We’re going for holistic cures here. Once you cure the root causes of acne, you’ll have developed a diet and lifestyle that support clear skin.

Do you really want to be blotting ACV on your face with cotton swabs for the rest of your life?

Once you develop a diet and lifestyle that support clear skin naturally and automatically, and you don’t even have to think about acne. No treatments, no remedies, none of that extra, unnecessary stuff.

Life is already complicated enough, don’t you think?

ACV as food

Now, there are some great household and culinary uses for ACV!

Sonia uses ACV to make poached eggs, because it makes them taste better than if she uses white vinegar. The apple cider vinegar helps the eggs hold together in the pot of water during cooking, making for some really beautiful poached eggs.

Apple cider vinegar can also add a wonderful tang to home-made olive oil salad dressings.

We want you to think about ACV as food. Yes, it’s probably good for you in small amounts. So is black pepper. So is turmeric. So are blueberries. So are sweet potatoes & yams. So is grass-fed beef. So add it to nutritious foods to your taste, but don’t pour it down your gullet because it’s “good for you.”

Key Takeaways

There is some evidence that apple cider vinegar may have positive effects on acne breakouts, either applied topically or taken internally.

But using apple cider vinegar for acne, specifically?

We (Devin and Sonia) don’t recommend it.

Why?

Because it doesn’t address the true causes of acne, and can instead hide useful feedback from your body as you’re working toward a total acne cure.

It’s much more effective instead to figure out the root dietary and lifestyle causes of acne, which includes:

  • Figuring out how to relax and de-stress your life
  • Removing the top four acne-causing foods (dairy, vegetable oil, gluten, and sugar)
  • Getting 8+ hours of sleep per night in a dark room
  • Moving your body frequently

This is all the stuff we cover in our book, and it’s these big changes that will make a big difference in your skin.

Taking ACV internally, or applying it your face, is not a big change, and will probably not solve your acne problem.

Our e-book illustrates the much more powerful diet and lifestyle changes you can make to start getting your acne under control, and to gain control over your skin.

We invite you to grab a copy of our e-book and get started now.

Have you tried using ACV for your skin? Share your experience with us in the comments!

{ 56 Comments }

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Carey! We’ve had a few readers of our book report good improvement in their rosacea from following our program. I’d target the same triggers – inflammation, gut health, reducing toxin load, increasing nutrient density of the diet, etc. – as I would for acne. Good starting point on our home page if you haven’t seen that yet:

      Clear Skin Forever – Start Here

      • Amanda Alexander says

        I have been dairy free for about eight weeks now (strict for a couple of exceptions when i’ve eaten the smallest amount of chocolate). The difference in my skin is astonishing. I have taken antibiotics on and off for 10 years for “acne rosacea” and have had creams/potions for psoriasis. BOTH conditions have vanished. I’m obviously thrilled, but feel a little let down that no health professional ever thought to consider a food intolerance. Every morning I wake up an first thing i do is feel my chin and it’s smooth….feels like a new lease of life. I’m 50 and am just astonished i’ve had to go through years of this…i do miss ice cream (never drank milk) and chocolate and when i’m feeling brave in a few weeks, i may try and see what happens.

        • Devin Mooers says

          Hey Amanda! This is wonderful news, congrats!! Feels good to figure out a trigger like this, eh? Like a big mystery novel / whodunit of your own health. The number of health professionals aware of the link between diet and most health conditions is astonishingly small. Hard to design studies around these things, too – much easier to run studies on individual drugs (and more profitable for pharma companies that fund the studies, too!).

          Curious, what kind of dairy were you eating? Was it just ice cream, or other things? What brands? (Same question with chocolate.)

          • Amanda Alexander says

            Hi

            Thanks for the response and yes it does feel unbelievable. As an acne sufferer it’s unreal and I keep wanting to shout/bore people….I’m in the UK and not sure where you are based so brand may vary. I was eating Hagen Das ice cream, mostly Cadbury’s chocolate and Danio Yoghurts & cheese (any brand – I love (or loved….) Stilton etc or any of the blue cheeses. As I said previously, I’ve never had milk. I had something called pyloric stenosis as a baby (projectile vomiting) and my mum said I wouldn’t take milk after that (six weeks old)…..I do wonder if there’s a link to pyloric stenosis & milk intolerance but PS is a condition that not many physicians are that interested in. My son had reflux when he was born & he’s had acne…I’m convinced he’s intolerant too but he won’t give up pizza. I was put on medication at one point for reflux like symptoms (Omniprazale/Ranitidine) and had a dreadful reaction to them so stopped and in hindsight I think it was after I’d been on holiday and eaten a lot of dairy!!!! My acne is still clear…..I went out on Saturday to someone’s house and had the tiniest, tiniest piece of shop bought chocolate cake and am guessing there was butter or cream as I had the tiniest spot on Sunday but it wasn’t angry…just went down. I will eventually try and find a doctor to try and test to see if I am officially intolerant….sorry for waffling on…..

          • Devin Mooers says

            Hey Amanda! Sorry for the ridiculous delay in getting back to you… I totally dropped the ball on answering blog comments. My apologies!

            Being based in the UK, you’ve probably got iron-fortified wheat flour. I wouldn’t be surprised if the shop-bought chocolate cake you ate triggered a little spot because of either that, or perhaps vegetable oil. I doubt a small amount of butter or cream would trigger a spot like that, but people differ in their reactions. I think that raw dairy from pasture-grazed heritage-breed animals can be quite healthful (provided you can digest it), but much commercial dairy isn’t that way at all (in the US, at least). Crazy to hear about the PS, wonder what the etiology of that is?

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