Apple cider vinegar is the darling of holistic health remedies. It can help you curb sugar cravings, revive dull strands, and even help you poach the perfect egg. Rumor has it that you can also use it to treat acne, but is that, like, actually safe? And effective?
The dermatologists’ consensus? Kinda.
Jeffrey Fromowitz, MD, FAAD, a Florida-based dermatologist, says there’s some science behind ACV’s acne-fighting claims. “Apple cider vinegar contains organic acids—lactic, succinic, and citric acids—that may kill P. acnes, a skin bacteria that is one of many contributing factors to acne breakouts.” And Shirley Chi, MD, a California-based dermatologist, explains that because vinegar is a mild acid, and your skin is somewhat acidic, “putting a little bit of apple cider vinegar [on your skin] as like a toner, for instance, would kind of balance your pH.” But the problem is that it’s super strong (as you would know if you’ve ever smelled the stuff).
“Applying ACV directly to the skin may cause irritant burns if not properly diluted,” says Dr. Fromowitz. “I think there are safer, more effective and predictable choices to treat acne.” If you really want to try it, he advises that you should dilute it three-to-four parts water to one part vinegar, apply it to acne spots only, and then rinse it off completely after 10 to 20 seconds. “Do not apply it undiluted or leave it on without rinsing it off,” he says.
Dr. Chi adds that it can also cause your skin to get too dry, especially if you already have sensitive or dry skin. If you’re looking for a toner, she recommends La Roche-Posay Micellar Cleansing Water ($16) to use instead. There are also over-the-counter acne-fighting retinols that can help with breakouts too—Dr. Fromowitz recommends using Differin ($13)—or a face wash that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.
Moral of the story? Try if you must, but remember there are much safer (and better-smelling) alternatives. And if you really wanna get the DL on ACV, check out the below episode of You Versus Food, Well+Good’s video series that dives deep into trending foods and drinks.
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