Does Apple Cider Vinegar Clear Acne?

Celebrities rave about it and you'll find countless dubious claims that apple cider vinegar (ACV) can do things such as lowering blood pressure, boosting metabolism, soothing heartburn, and banishing warts. One of these claims is that it could be used to clear up acne.

ACV can be pretty awesome. It makes a yummy vinaigrette. You can whip up an apple cider vinegar hair rinse and an apple cider vinegar toner that are great if you like homemade beauty products. But can apple cider vinegar clear up acne? No.

In fact, there are many reasons why you should not use apple cider vinegar for acne. Here are just a few.

ACV Can Burn Your Skin

Cider vinegar.
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Many sources claim that because apple cider vinegar is natural, it has no side effects. Not true.

If you put apple cider vinegar on your skin, undiluted, it can cause a nasty burn. Even ACV diluted in water is strong enough to burn skin that is sensitive to it.

Medical journals report several recent incidents of chemical burns from apple cider vinegar applied to the face.

ACV Isn't Effective Against Acne

ACV proponents say apple cider vinegar works on acne by killing bacteria. They also surmise that, because it is acidic, it removes dead skin cells and unblocks pores.

The bottom line is there haven't been any good studies done on the effects apple cider vinegar may have on acne. So while it may control bacteria in the lab, it can have a different effect on bacteria on the skin.

More importantly, apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, not the acne-fighting salicylic acid or glycolic acid. It just won't work the same way.

It Stinks

Apple cider vinegar smells crazy bad. Some people liken the scent to sweaty gym socks. Admittedly, this is a personal thing. But if you're at all scent-sensitive, you'll not like the aroma.

Drinking ACV Doesn't Work to Clear Acne Either

There have been more studies done on the effects of apple cider when taken internally. But again, none show that it has any clearing effect on acne.

Taking apple cider vinegar internally can also have side effects. It can erode the enamel of your teeth, and if taken undiluted in large quantities can cause damage to your esophagus, stomach, and other parts of your digestive tract.

Instead of Using ACV, Try Proven Acne Treatments

If you're researching apple cider vinegar for acne it's likely you've tried other acne treatments without results and are desperate for a solution. 

But apple cider vinegar just isn't an acne treatment. Because we want you to get real improvement, we're suggesting you forgo the ACV.

Instead of apple cider vinegar, try this:

  • For mild acne, try an over-the-counter treatment like benzoyl peroxide.
  • For moderate to severe acne, you'll need a prescription treatment. A dermatologist can help develop a treatment plan that will work for you.
  • If one treatment doesn't work, don't give up. There are treatment options that will work for you.
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Article Sources
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  1. Bunick CG, Lott JP, Warren CB, Galan A, Bolognia J, King BA. Chemical burn from topical apple cider vinegar. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Oct;67(4):e143-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2011.11.934

  2. Chang J, Han SE, Paik SS, Kim YJ. Corrosive Esophageal Injury due to a Commercial Vinegar Beverage in an Adolescent. Clin Endosc. 2019. doi:10.5946/ce.2019.066

  3. [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Acne: Do lotions, tablets or light-based treatment help? 2013 Jan 13 [Updated 2019 Sep 26].

Additional Reading
  • Bunick CG, Lott JP, Warren CB, Galan A, Bolognia J, King BA. "Chemical burn from topical apple cider vinegar." J Am Acad Dermatol. 2012 Oct;67(4):e143-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2011.11.934.
  • Hill LL, Woodruff LH, Foote JC, Barreto-Alcoba M. "Esophageal injury by apple cider vinegar tablets and subsequent evaluation of products." J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105:1141-4.