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!

{ 51 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

  1. Roshni says

    I have sensitive skin.. I use acv lastnight and it’s feel itchy in my face….. It’s normal?

    roshni

  2. Paul Gragon says

    “Nothing is any good but what is in my book ” I have had amazing results with acv you yanks care only about money

    • Devin Mooers says

      Harsh words, Paul! I’m sorry to hear you say this. Yes, we run a business. We have to pay the bills, feed our family, and put a roof over our heads somehow! It’s not like dermatologists are giving out their services for free, so why should there be a double standard for us? It takes a LOT of time to put a website together, do research, read dozens of books and hundreds of scientific studies, experiment with diet for years and years, build a member forum, etc. etc. – I could be doing programming work for Apple or research work for Pfizer, but instead I’m choosing to work on this blog and help thousands of people all around the world get rid of their acne. Is that such a terrible thing to do? :)

      Also, I don’t think we say anywhere that our book is the ONLY approach that works, but it is AN approach that works, and we’ve spent a lot of time building it. There are lots of great books and methods and healers out there!

      • Natasha Young says

        100% right Devin. Why should you give away your knowledge for free? Esp if you have a family to look after. I wonder if Paul gives what he has to offer to the world for free. If Paul wants knowledge for free then Paul can do his own research.

          • Anne Brazier says

            While I appreciate ALL recommendations regarding lifestyle and dietary changes in order to get rid off acne, I would like to point out that hormones/hormonal changes (specifically progesterone) are major contributing factors to acne outbreaks (think puberty, fertility treatments, pregnancy, premenopause). Since acne is both a sign of inflammation and infection, it is prudent to follow an anti-inflammatory diet, however, this does NOT address the underlying hormonal causes. Without addressing these, there is no lasting cure. This is my opinion; I have been struggling on and off with acne since age 18 with the realization that any upset in hormonal status will bring on outbreaks in sensitive, acne prone skin (which one is born with). Thanks for your book as a wonderful resource.

  3. heidi says

    Devin,

    I didn’t have the reply button as an option to respond to your last response.

    I was the person with the contact dermatitis issue. Thank you for your help and your suggestions, I really appreciate it.

  4. Samantha says

    Hi

    Can I use balsamic vinegar as salad dressing (is it a healthy option) or would you not recommend that?

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hi Samantha – balsamic vinegar is fine/healthy to use, though I don’t think it comes with the same array of health benefits as ACV.

  5. heidi says

    Hi Devin & Sonia,

    I have what I believe is “contact dermatitis”. This was also my diagnosis from a dermatologist.

    I began using a product on my face last year in Oct. 2015. I had very little acne, nothing unmanageable but I wanted my skin to be completely blemish free.

    About a week in, my face was reacting to this skin care regimen (included face wash, toner, mask, moisturizer). It stung/burned each time I applied it, however, I continued using it. Every morning, every night for 1+ month.

    Throughout using this, my face was extremely red, irritated and I began to get acne accompanied with the irritation. I called the company and told them it appears I’m breaking out and they told me my skin was purging out the impurities to the surface. I continued using the product.

    My logic was even if I’m having a reaction to this product that’s ok cause it’s killing the acne and when it does I’ll stop using this product and my reactions will subside. Not the case.

    All said and done, I looked terrible and went to a dermatologist.
    I’ve taken 3 months worth of antibiotics, which, I’ll admit reduced the problem greatly.

    I now believe that face wash of any kind is unnecessary, and look forward to using just water from now on.

    Since I brought this on topically, would you suggest treating it topically? I agree on how you feel about topical applications are just treating the symptoms and not the root cause..but I also believe contact dermatitis is some kind of an infection that isn’t the same as regular acne and requires a different approach. What could you suggest?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Heidi! Hmm… sounds like you did have at least a little bit of acne before you started said topical product last year? If that’s the case, I’d recommend treating it internally like we recommend. Your skin should heal after a while, after stopping the product, I would guess, since you’ve removed the problematic stimulus. (Bummer you had such a bad reaction! Doesn’t sound like purging to me, sounds like an allergic or just general intolerance reaction of some kind. I agree – face washes totally unnecessary.)

      You could try applying a mixture of aloe and RSO if you wanted (rosehip seed oil), as that can help heal things up. Also, are you doing anything to rebuild your gut flora? Eating fermented veggies, taking probiotics / prebiotics, anything like that? (our article on probiotics + acne)

      • heidi says

        Yes, I take a probiotic every day (RenewLife women’s vaginal ultimate flora 50 billion live cultures, 10 probiotic strains). I didn’t realize until reading the label that this was geared towards vaginal bacteria. I want something for my gut flora, and that only. Is there a specific probiotic you could suggest? I’ve read your article on probiotics and I understand you recommend Primal defense ultra, AOR probiotic -3, and prescript assist. However, given the magnitude of my problem, is why I ask.

        Yes, I agree this was definitely an allergic reaction to the product I used. That being said, and it being 8 months since stopping use of the product, I still have an infection. I believe the continued use of this product has gotten into my bloodstream and I haven’t been able to rid this out of my body. This is not acne, it is “contact dermatitis”. I do understand that acne can be a symptom of contact dermatitis, however the appearance is more cyst like red large bumps (more of what I would consider a reaction of what you would have anywhere else on the body when coming into contact with a substance you have an allergy to, hive like.)

        I know I’m going into somewhat different territory of your expertise, since this is contact dermatitis, but after having read most of your articles I appreciate your line of thinking. I was hoping just for some suggestions for contact dermatitis, your opinion on this in general.

        Given the severity of my situation, how long it’s lingered after stopping use of the product..what can I do to kill it? Something strong. I’ve considered colloidal silver because of it’s ability to use externally and internally. I’ve never been recommended a topical treatment to kill this. I think that is just as much key as internal treatment. After all, this is something I brought on from the outside of my body, it began through skin contact by product, not diet. Anything you could suggest is very much appreciated.

        Some additional info: I do not eat dairy (in years)
        I do not eat peanut butter
        I take a magnesium, zinc supplement daily
        I take a 3 mile walk every morning and get sun
        I only drink water (64 oz daily)
        I do not eat candy/I avoid sugars deliberately added
        I say this cause I don’t think I’m feeding the infection/allergy.

        • Devin Mooers says

          Jeez, what was the product you were using that seemed to cause this reaction? Amazing that it would still be an active infection 8 months later, never heard of an issue like that before (doesn’t mean it’s impossible).

          Did anything happen in your life around that time? Any stressful events? Any big life changes? Anything traumatic?

          Your diet/supplement routine sounds pretty good. You could certainly try topical colloidal silver – that’s powerful stuff for killing bacteria/fungi, and seems pretty safe from what I’ve read. I don’t have much experience with using it internally but you’re welcome to venture down that path and explore it if you want!

          Are you doing any immune support? Natural vitamin C, that kind of thing?

          • heidi says

            The product I used was andalou naturals (clarifying kit). It consisted of probiotics and willowbark along with other ingredients. (This was a facial cleanser, mask, lotion..)

            No, nothing happened in my life at this time. No traumatic events, no stress.

            Why it’s been an active infection this long? I believe because I kept using it even though my skin was reacting to it. Consistently rubbing something into my skin day after day while it burned me, and continuing to apply it on the hives (dermatitis) it’s created. Worsening my condition day by day.

            I was very consistent for well over a month, this I feel is why my infection has lingered this long. It was constant exposure and contact on the already created irritation.

            No, I’m not taking any kind of vitamin c. I do take a vitamin d3 supplement, and k2 supplement. Do you believe I may not be healing properly due to an immune support issue?

            Do you know of any type of strong topical anti bacterial/anti fungal (besides colloidal silver) treatments? I believe I should treat internally and externally.

          • Devin Mooers says

            I wish I had some better recommendations, but I think you’d get a lot better help by seeing a naturopath in person. Not sure about the immune support issue either, don’t know how to know either way. I don’t have much experience with topical antibacterial/antifungal treatments – I’ve used colloidal silver a bit for toenail fungus but that’s about all! Sorry I can’t be of more help!

  6. Jes says

    As someone who has taken dairy, sugar, veg oil and gluten out of their diet, relaxes and de-stress regularly, gets 8+hours of sleep most nights and walks over 10,000 steps everyday and still struggles with acne I’m not ruling out ACV. I’ve stopped using face washes, cleansers, shampoos, body wash, lotions, facial products (creams and moisturizers) and makeup that all have harmful chemicals in them and gone strictly organic and all-natural. I’ve done lots of research and tried lots of methods and while all these things helped my severe acne, I’ve suffered with it since I was 13 and am now 30, none of them have completely resolved the issue for me. ACV is something I haven’t tried yet and since ‘going to the source of the problem’ with diet changes and I thought I’d tried the ACV before going to a dermatologist the get a prescription for Accutane. I literally just started using ACV today, after lots of research, so I can’t say for sure if it will help but everyone is different so I wouldn’t count ACV out for helping with acne just yet.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Fingers crossed, Jes!

      If you want to get some last-ditch-effort help/advice before you go on Accutane – if it comes to that, hopefully it won’t – we help people troubleshoot all the time on the CSF Forum, which comes with the purchase of our book. It sounds like you’re already doing a lot of the food-elimination part of what we recommend, but there might be some ideas in there of things to add to your diet, for example – and if the book / forum isn’t right for you, we have a 1-year full refund policy!

  7. valarie strong says

    I use proactive, the only thing that works for me with out costing me 200 or more to see a dermatologist, I have bad acne where there is scars lft from brake out proactive works because it clears my face minimize the pores leave me a clear numb free skin ..

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Valarie – if you want a more long-term solution than Proactiv, read around some of the other articles on our blog. Making positive changes to your diet and lifestyle aren’t usually free, but they get at the root of the problem and make you a healthier person overall!

  8. Sofia Mitchell says

    ACV has worked wonders for my skin when I use it and my family has used it as a salad dressing for years and they still have their teeth. Every human is different which is why it may not work for everyone but I personally would recommend it for acne suffers like myself because it works great and it’s healthy for you.

    • Shantee says

      Yes girl, I use the ACV as a toner. I dilute it with water and lemons. It works wonderful for my skin. Highly recommended.

        • Devin Mooers says

          You certainly could, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I generally don’t recommend putting ANYTHING on your face, ever. My own personal experience, and that of many CSF readers, bears this out. The less you do to your face (not even soap), the better it tends to be able to heal and regulate itself. (Provided you’re also fixing your internal triggers of acne!)

  9. Rubay says

    Very happy you do not recommend ACV except as a food. I feel the same and also for Lemons. I did the lemon and hot water in the mornings for nearly 15 years and enjoyed it and felt good for it however my teeth did not! Very sensitive teeth now and it was only when I had a break for a week did I understand the cause.

  10. Isabel says

    Hi guys!! I`ve read you don`t recommend to use a facewash, but what can I do to get all the dirt accumulated from the day out of my skin before I go to sleep?
    When I don`t wash my face before going to sleep I get a lot of pimples, so what option do you guys recommend?
    Thanks so much!

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Isabel! Warm water is enough to remove sweat and light “dirt” accumulated throughout the day. However, if you wear makeup or have a really dirty job or something, you’ll probably want to use a cleanser. You could try oil cleansing (there’s stuff around the internet about that if you google it), or you can choose an all-natural cleanser like Devita Aloe Vera Moisture Cleanser. Hope that helps give you some ideas!
      .

    • Jes says

      In case you haven’t found a face wash/cleanser I do recommend an all natural one I’ve found that helps with my chronic cystic acne. It’s by a brand called Pure Haven Essentials and you can find it online. Its amazing! I can use it on my eyes to take off mascara and open my eyes during the removal process and there is no stinging or buring and it removes every trace of makeup on my face (and I wear a LOT)!They also make an amazing hand sanitizer with no alcohol that’s organic Aloe based and chemical free. I use this on my acne for the worst cystic ones and it helps somuch to kill the infection. Hope this helps .

  11. Paul says

    Of course you wouldn’t recommend putting cider vinegar on your skin – you’re selling something you want people to use instead! I am a 50 year old professional man and out of the blue got an embarrassing breakout on one side of my face. I googled it and after reading many positive reviews about acv I dabbed it undiluted on my face every night for a few weeks and the breakout has virtually disappeared to the point where now it just looks like a mild shaving rash. I would recommend that anyone should try it and if they suffer a reaction then stop, but if it works then all well and good. Come on, vinegar is not sulphuric acid, and is not going to scar you for life after a few dabs!

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Paul! Sounds like you had a great experience using ACV topically – that’s awesome! It does seem to work fairly well for a lot of people. The reason we don’t recommend using topicals like this is because it just skirts around the issue of figuring out the root causes of acne. If someone just had one breakout ever, topical treatments might be just the thing, but most of our readers have chronic acne and need something more industrial-strength. I’m not saying that using ACV in and of itself is a BAD idea, just that for folks who are dealing with chronic acne and want to cure the root causes of it for good, using ACV topically isn’t going to do that.

      Cheers,
      Devin

  12. Valerie says

    I’ve used proactiv for many years , it’s works but now I can’t afford it so I’m using acne free for now , I was using the apple cider vineger for a detoxed to loose a few pounds , as I kept reading it also can help with acne since I’ve ran out of my toner to the ance free , I’m considering using the apple cider vineger for a toner .. I’ll be in touch with the results .

  13. Jacinta says

    Interesting, the different views on things.

    When my son was a teen, despite a healthy diet, his skin began to develop acne, which an absolute tragedy when you’re a teen.

    Not really knowing what I was doing or why, I threw 49% ACV in a spray bottle with 50% distilled water, 0.5% lavender e.o. (for it’s healing qualities) and 0.5% of Liquid Germall Plus (because anything with water added should always include a preservative).

    Got him to spray it on his face twice a day and stop washing his face with anything but cool or tepid water.

    Ok, so he smelled like a salad dressing for a few minutes until it all evaporated, but two weeks later, his skin was clear, he stopped using his mother’s ‘wacky hippie remedy’ and his skin has remained clear ever since.

    That was 10 years ago.

  14. Dani says

    I started using ACV topically and internally for a week and my cystic hormonal acne is almost gone. And this is the week before my period when its usually the worst. This stuff WORKS. I was so skeptical (which is why I am on this site) but its 100% made a difference. The smell is gross, it tastes nasty, yes, it strips your enamel. Brush your teeth after you slam it or chew an antacid. This is the ONLY thing that has EVER worked for me. If you can tolerate the smell and taste its worth it.

  15. Anna says

    Very happy you do not recommend ACV except as a food. I feel the same and also for Lemons. I did the lemon and hot water in the mornings for nearly 15 years and enjoyed it and felt good for it however my teeth did not! Very sensitive teeth now and it was only when I had a break for a week did I understand the cause.

  16. Ally says

    I’ve been using ACV as a toner straight from the bottle. Acne has cleared up and skin is a lot brighter. Have battles with adult acne for many yrs and this and lemon juice is the only think that works. Have a clean diet, sleep well and drink water so not sure what the cause is but wouldn’t stop using ACV.

      • Devin Mooers says

        Hey Valerie, not sure about the question – we don’t really recommend using ACV topically since it doesn’t do anything about the root causes of acne. We don’t recommend using face washes either, preferring a minimalist approach that lets your skin do its thing, and take care of itself like it’s built to. Tends to be less irritating on the skin in the long run.

      • Shantee says

        I use African black soap then use the ACV and lemon juice as a toner. Then I put on SPF moisturizer.

  17. Ashwini says

    Hi Devin & Sonia,

    How do i use ACV in foods? Im a veggie and i dont use eggs :( Let me know how can i internally consume ACV.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Ashwini! Hmm, how about in salad dressings? If you google “ACV salad dressing,” you’ll get a ton of vegan options!

  18. RaNtInGrAgInG says

    I’ve heard really good stuff and I had already been using it topically and internally and I find this combo to have really helped with my acne.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Thanks for the feedback! I’m curious – how much / how often / how do you take the ACV internally?

Like what you read? Have something to share? Leave a comment below! Your ideas are much appreciated, though we can't answer every individual question. :)

- Devin and Sonia

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