What Is Apple Cider Vinegar?
You are probably aware of apple cider vinegar if you’re into preserving, salads, and even apple cider vinegar shots. What you may not know is of its uses in skincare and hair care.
Apple cider vinegar is purported to help improve the brightness of the skin as well as improve the appearance of blemish prone skin. However, there is more that you should know about this little fermented liquid you have hiding in your pantry.
Apple cider vinegar has been popular in the ‘wellness’ community being touted as a ‘fat burning elixir’, while the studies don’t necessarily support that claim, the research on apple cider vinegar for the skin is more interesting. The main thing to remember is that you must use it correctly and safely, more on that later.
Apple Cider Vinegar
the good: Apple cider vinegar may help to gently exfoliate the skin, improving the appearance of texture and brightness.
the not so good: Apple cider vinegar can be irritating to the skin, reducing skin barrier integrity and contributing to water loss.
Who is it for? All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.
Synergetic ingredients: Works well with most ingredients but is most often used by itself.
Keep an eye on: Make sure to dilute apple cider vinegar if you choose to use it.
Why Use Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar also known as ACV is made from the fermentation of apples to create an acidic, vinegar solution. It is most often advocated to be used as a toning solution or spot treatment.
As apple cider vinegar is acidic it may help to reduce the severity and prevalence of bacteria on the skin. This obviously has benefits to wound healing and supporting the treatment of blemishes or breakouts.
Apple cider vinegar isn’t just one ingredient, as it is derived from apples it is a complex mix of different compounds. Some of those compounds include acetic acid and malic acid. Acetic acid is responsible for the antimicrobial properties but also contributes to the exfoliating benefits that malic acid provides.
Malic acid works in a similar way to alpha hydroxy acids or AHAs. Gentle exfoliation of the skin can help to reduce clogging of the pores and may help to reduce the frequency of breakouts.
Skin pH is a complex issue, the skin has a slightly acidic barrier that helps to protect it from bacteria and allergens. However, this pH balance can be disrupted, disruption of the skin’s pH has been linked with irritation and sensitivity. Apple cider vinegar has been purported to help support the skin’s natural pH barrier, minimising excess oil and mitigating bacteria.
The most important thing to remember here is that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing pretty quickly. If you use apple cider vinegar too often or in high concentrations it can actually damage the skin’s pH barrier.
Hyperpigmentation is always a tricky thing to reduce the appearance of. However, malic acid may help to reduce the visible hyperpigmentation on the skin. This is because malic acid may decrease the production of melanin which is responsible for giving the skin its color and pigment. There haven’t been many studies that confirm these benefits on the skin but in theory and anecdotally it may be useful for hyperpigmentation.
As always, one of the best ways to reduce hyperpigmentation is to use sunscreen. The sun can worsen the appearance of hyperpigmenation and is considered to be a leading contributing factor to the formation of hyperpigmentation.
What Are The Cons of Apple Cider Vinegar?
The main issue with using apple cider vinegar on the skin is that it can disrupt the skin’s natural pH barrier. If apple cider vinegar is over used or used in a high concentration it can damage the delicate balance of the skin’s pH. Disruption of the skin’s pH or mantle barrier has been linked with irritation, sensitivity and dehydration. This is because the barrier that keeps the skin’s water content in and protects the skin from damage has been disrupted.
If you want to try apple cider vinegar for its benefits, make sure to dilute the apple cider vinegar with water before use. If you experience sensitivity or irritation, dilute the apple cider vinegar more, reduce how much you use it or stop using it.
Over exfoliation can have similar negative effects to disruption of the skin’s pH barrier. This is because overexfoliation can also damage the ways in which the skin protects itself. While it is tempting to use an exfoliator often to give your skin that smooth feeling, it is easy to overexfoliate.
However, malic acid from apple cider vinegar is consdiered to be milder than other skincare acids so it may be easier to use without drying out the skin or causing irritation.
Some studies have shown that some of the components of apple cider vinegar, namely acetic acid, can cause chemical burns on the skin. This is why it is so important to dilute the apple cider vinegar before use.
The best way to avoid the negative side effects of apple cider vinegar is to use a product that has been formulated to reduce irritation and sensitivity.
Is Apple Cider Vinegar Vegan?
As apple cider vinegar is derived from apples and as such is considered to be a vegan ingredient. Always ensure that any product that you are looking to purchase, doesn’t contain any animal-based ingredients.
Novosel T, Rundle CW, Yu JD, Jacob SE. Art of prevention: The importance of bath time and avoiding extended exposure to irritating and allergenic chemicals. Int J Womens Dermatol. 2019;5(3):152-154. Published 2019 Mar 1.
Johnston CS, Gaas CA. Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect. MedGenMed. 2006;8(2):61. Published 2006 May 30.