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!

About Devin Mooers

Devin MooersHey! Over the past 10 years, I've developed a powerful system for clearing acne with a little-known diet- and lifestyle-based method, and I want to spread the love. That's why I started Clear Skin Forever back in 2011. I studied engineering and product design at Stanford University, and graduated in the top 5% of my class, but afterward, I decided to focus on writing about health, since I found it so fulfilling to help people clear their acne for good. Thanks for reading, and sign up for email updates to stay in the loop with clear skin tips! Also, be sure to check out our book if you haven't yet, all about how to fix acne permanently with diet and lifestyle changes. We've helped thousands of people get clear skin this way!

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{ 51 Comments }

  1. kaleigh phillips says

    Starting to use the “teccino” chicory root based coffee replacer and let go of the coffee drinking. What are your thoughts on this ? Different sources I found state it as good for the gut because the chichory fiber is a prebiotic. Any thoughts?

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Kaleigh! Prebiotic fiber can provide great food for beneficial gut bacteria for sure. It’s essentially a root brew decoction, which have been used medicinally for ages. I’ve started making herbal tea in the mornings from bulk herbs (goldenrod, calendula, chamomile, pine needles, fir tips, etc.), many of which we’ve collected ourselves (but many of which we get from the co-op). I definitely feel way better when I wake up, and am not so stressed out later, since dropping coffee!

  2. Sam says

    Hi Devin,

    How low PUFA diets do you recommend? Do you think you can get all the PUFAs you need from eating beans, whole grains and whole milk? I have always felt terrible every time I have eaten seeds, fish oil and other EFA supplements.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sam! Yeah, definitely. Very low PUFA is good. It’s all about quality and freshness with PUFA – most fish oils, seeds, supplements, etc. are totally rancid by the time you ingest them. Yes, the Inuit traditionally eat tons of seal blubber (high in PUFA), but it’s extremely fresh and non-oxidized when ingested, and they also eat thyroid glands of seals, which provides loads of iodine and thyroid hormone to block lipid peroxidation of that PUFA.

      How do you feel with raw oysters, have you tried that? They’re a prime acne-busting food, with lots of zinc and also super-fresh DHA.

  3. Brooke Turley says

    Ok, you’re officially talking crappy science, in light of this article about marigolds and chickens. Apparently it very much does indeed improve eggs to have marigolds in the chickens’ diets.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/scialert.net/fulltext/amp.php%3fdoi=ijps.2017.11.15

    I certainly hope that no one has gone and altered either their own diet or that of their poultry, just because of your half-baked scare tactics. Good grief. “ Fake orange” in nature, indeed.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Brooke! Wow, color me (majorly) wrong. Thanks for pointing this out! That was really sloppy – I don’t know what I thought that marigold color would not be related to an antioxidant carotene. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. I’m sorry about this carelessness – I have removed this from the post after following up on the articles you linked! I will try to be more careful next time.

  4. Brooke Turley says

    Hi, I hate to burst your anti-marigold bubble, but the thing is, marigolds are orange themselves due to caratenoids! They’re full of nutrients, actually, and there’s no such thing as “fake orange” in nature.

    (Unless I count the time that my dad consumed massive quantities of beta-carotene in his heroic search for a natural “fake tan”. That time, “fake orange” definitely fit the bill.)

    Here’s an article that details the nutritional profile of marigolds:

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464612000734

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Brooke! (Just duplicating the response here to your other comment) Wow, color me (majorly) wrong. Thanks for pointing this out! That was really sloppy – I don’t know what I thought that marigold color would not be related to an antioxidant carotene. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. I’m sorry about this carelessness – I have removed this from the post after following up on the articles you linked! I will try to be more careful next time.

  5. tom hennessy says

    Researchers in a recent study took 60 women with hyperandrogenemia which has cystic acne as a major symptom, and reduced the iron in 30 by phlebotomy, and gave the ‘standard of care’ to the other 30, found, phlebotomy to reduce iron levels was as effective as the drugs used in the ‘standard of care’.

    Effect of phlebotomy versus oral contraceptives containing cyproterone acetate on the clinical and biochemical parameters in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. J Ovarian Res 12, 78 (2019).

    https://doi.org/10.1186/s13048-019-0554-9

    There seems to be more to the iron than we fully realize ..

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Tom – whoa, that’s fascinating! Great find! Amazing that phlebotomy brought on normal menstruation in 44% of subjects – I bet if they also added 3,000 IU of retinol, it would have improved results even more (vit. A boosts ceruloplasmin production to bind excess free iron).

    • Sean says

      Hey Rey, do you consume Magnesium through supplements or are you making an effort to eat Magnesium rich foods?

      (just curious)

  6. Luo says

    Stress can induce a series of negative effects on the human body. Many people are easily depressed under pressure, which has a bad influence on the treatment of acne.
    Some people overeating under pressure, too much sugar can easily induce acne.
    And stress can make people unable to sleep, and lack of sleep has too much effect on the skin.

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Master your acne in 4 weeks or less
  • Fix the root causes of your acne: fluoride, diet, sleep, stress & more
  • Exclusive forum access with 4,000+ members
  • Food Explorer App with skin safety ratings of 450+ foods
  • 96% of customers satisfied