Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a common find in kitchen pantries around the world, but it is more of a multipurpose ingredient than just a culinary one. It has long been used for various kitchen and household solutions as well as home remedies.
The healing potential of ACV can largely be traced back to a cloudy mass in it called the “mother,” which is a combination of good bacteria or probiotics, beneficial enzymes, and proteins formed during the fermentation process. This healthy component is filtered or reduced during processing, which is why you must always opt for raw, unfiltered ACV to retain maximum mother content.
ACV has been used as a healing agent from as far back as 400 BC, which means it has stood the test of time as nature’s very own medicine. It has strong antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Plus, it contains a slew of nutrients such as acetic acid, malic acid, vitamins C and B, nutrients that can benefit your skin, hair, nails, and overall health.
ACV can be used for treating a variety of ailments and it can improve your health in different ways, but this article will focus on its topical beauty benefits.
Beauty Benefits of ACV
Here are some topical ACV remedies that are great additions to your beauty regimen.
Caution: Always dilute ACV before applying it to your skin as it can be too acidic in concentrated amounts. Before trying any of the following remedies, patch test it on a small area of unaffected skin to make sure you are not allergic to ACV or any of the ingredients used. If you notice any irritation or redness, best not to use the remedy to avoid any extreme adverse reaction.
1. Helps treat skin blemishes
Pores clogged with germs and other impurities are one of the main causes of skin infections such as acne and generally unhealthy-looking skin.
ACV has antiseptic and antibacterial properties that can help sanitize your skin. It is readily absorbed in the skin to eliminate the bacteria, oil, and dust settled deep in your pores. Moreover, ACV works as a natural skin toner that can tighten your pores to keep them from getting clogged in the future.
Your skin’s natural pH is slightly acidic, which inhibits the growth of microbes to keep infections away. When the pH of your skin increases, it becomes an effective breeding ground for bacteria, which then leads to acne breakouts. (1) Hence, the acidity of topical ACV can help correct this imbalance.
How to use:
- Dilute 1 part ACV in 3 parts water. Dip a clean cotton ball in this solution, and apply it to your pimple, acne, or other such blemishes. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Rinse it off with water.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of raw and organic honey with 1 teaspoon of lemon juice. Add 1 teaspoon of ACV to it. Mix well and use the paste for spot treatment. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Rinse it off with cool water.
2. Soothes sunburnt skin
Excessive or prolonged sun exposure can severely damage, tan, or burn your skin, even if you have sunscreen on. This is mostly due to the harmful ultraviolet rays in sunlight that can deeply penetrate the skin and destroy it at the cellular level.
Good-quality sunscreen with above 30 SPF can block out some of the UV radiation, but not all of it. And soaking in the harsh sun for hours can overpower even the best of sunscreens and give you sunburn. In fact, your skin absorbs the heated radiation and continues to burn even after you are out of the sun.
Sunburnt skin appears red and is itchy (2) and painful. Excessive sunburn can also lead to blister formation. ACV works as an astringent that absorbs the heat to cool down your sunburnt skin immediately. It also possesses strong anti-inflammatory properties that can soothe the pain, redness, swelling, irritation, and itchiness associated with a sunburn.
When used properly, ACV can accelerate the healing process and help you bear the discomfort better.
How to use:
- Mix equal parts of ACV and cool water, and gently massage this solution all over the sunburnt skin several times a day for a week or until your condition improves.
- Pour 1–2 cups of ACV in your lukewarm bathwater, and soak in it for about half an hour every day or as needed.
3. Helps treat scalp infections
Dandruff is a common problem that mainly affects people with an excessively greasy scalp. The scalp harbors various harmless microbes, which can trigger infections if allowed to overgrow. One such microbe is a yeast-like fungus called Malassezia, which feeds on scalp oils to multiply rapidly and take the form of dandruff.
ACV works as a natural antifungal agent that can curb the growth of this fungus to prevent or reduce dandruff. (3)(4)(5) Besides addressing the root cause of the problem, ACV can also help you manage it better.
Dandruff is characterized by the excessive shedding of dead skin from your scalp in the form of white flakes. These flakes often get trapped in the sebum and buildup on the scalp, eventually clogging your hair follicles and causing further hair problems.
Topical ACV can be used for deep cleansing your scalp, thanks to its alpha-hydroxy acid content. This acid helps loosen the dandruff flakes and break down the oil film to facilitate their easy removal. Thus, ACV exfoliates the dead skin and excess oil from your scalp to minimize dandruff.
This natural astringent also helps maintain the normal scalp pH. Plus, the anti-inflammatory properties of ACV can calm the scalp itching and irritation associated with dandruff.
How to use:
- Mix 2 tablespoons of ACV with 2 tablespoons of water.
- Pour 10–15 drops of tea tree oil in the solution and give it a stir.
- Massage this solution all over your scalp for 5 minutes, and let it sit for another 5.
- Wash your hair with shampoo and water.
4. Eliminates foul foot odor
Not many people know this, but foul body odor and smelly feet are the result of bacterial activity more than anything else. Many strains of bacteria live on human skin without causing any harm, but their buildup can trigger a number of health and hygiene issues.
Since these bacteria need hot and humid conditions to grow rapidly, they tend to thrive in poorly ventilated areas of the body that trap sweat, such as your underarms, skin folds, and feet. When these skin bacteria mix with the sweat, they break down certain acids present in it to produce off-smelling waste products, which accounts for body odor.
Thus, your sweat is essentially odorless but begins to stink when it comes in contact with the bacteria dwelling on your skin. The antimicrobial properties of ACV can help kill the malodorous bacteria or fungi to subdue your body odor or stinky feet. This remedy especially comes in handy when you have athletes’ foot.
How to use:
For body odor: Simply add 1–2 cups of ACV in your bathwater, but don’t do this too often.
For foot odor:
- Take 4–5 cups of warm water in a tub or bucket.
- Mix in 1 cup of ACV.
- Immerse your feet in the solution for 10–15 minutes.
- Use an antibacterial soap and plain water to give your feet a final wash.
Note: Although topical application of ACV might smell a bit at first, the odor soon dissipates as the solution dries off.
5. Helps tone and moisturize the skin
ACV is a wonderful astringent for all skin types – it helps remove excess oil, shrink pores, and balance out the skin pH.
ACV also contains alpha-hydroxy acids that help exfoliate dead skin cells from the surface of the skin while increasing microcirculation under it to speed up the skin regeneration process. These acids also moisturize (6) the skin to render it smooth and even toned.
How to use:
- For normal or dry skin, dilute 1 part ACV in 3 parts distilled or filtered water/rose water. For oily skin, dilute 1 part ACV in 2 parts distilled or filtered water/rose water (more concentrated). For sensitive skin, dilute 1 part ACV in 4 parts distilled or filtered water/rose water (more diluted) to avoid any irritation.
- You can add a few drops of essential oil, such as lavender oil, to the mixture for added skin benefits.
- Dip a cotton ball in this solution and apply it all over your skin. Let the solution get absorbed for a couple of minutes.
- Wash your skin with cool water.
6. Conditions hair
Many hair products claim to make your hair shiny and silky, but their ingredient list will suggest otherwise. They contain harsh chemicals such as sulfates, added fragrances, parabens, and formaldehyde, which can damage and dry out your hair in the long run.
Some of these harmful substances cling to your hair and scalp despite your best shampooing efforts. In fact, hair products often leave behind residue on the scalp, which can end up clogging your hair follicles. The products that actually deliver their promises without any unforeseen, long-term side effects often come with a heavy price tag.
ACV is a cost-effective alternative that not only can help remove all of the product residue sitting on your scalp and your hair strands but also can condition your hair and make it soft, silky, and shiny. These hair benefits can be attributed to the acetic acid in ACV.
How to use:
- Mix 1/3 cup of ACV in 4 cups of water.
- Massage this solution on your hair and scalp after shampooing.
- Let it sit for about 10 minutes, and cover your head with a shower cap to avoid dripping.
- Wash your hair and scalp with cold water.
7. Brightens yellow nails
Nails with yellowish or brownish stains may not be a grave health concern, but they can reflect poorly on your hygiene and lifestyle. This discoloration can be the result of regularly handling chemicals or dyes, fungal nail infections, nicotine exposure in chain smokers, poor diet, and other unhealthy lifestyle habits.
ACV may help remove these stains from your nails, add a healthy shine to them, and even kill any underlying fungal growth. This nail-brightening effect can be attributed to the malic and acetic acids in ACV.
How to use:
- Mix ½ cup of ACV with an equal amount of lukewarm water.
- Dip your stained nails in this solution for 20–30 minutes, and then wash them.
- Massage a few drops of extra-virgin olive oil on each nail plate to let it be absorbed into the nail bed.
- Repeat twice daily until your nails lose the stains.
8. Helps lighten the skin
ACV may reduce hyperpigmentation such as dark spots, age spots, and even dark circles. (7)
The malic acid in ACV works as a bleaching agent when used topically. It is an alpha hydroxy acid that seeps into the skin to curb the activity of specialized cells called melanocytes, which produce melanin (the skin pigment). The more the melanin, the darker the skin.
Hyperpigmentation occurs due to the concentration of melanocytes at specific spots, thus producing excess melanin, which makes that area darker than the surrounding skin. (8)
How to use:
- Grate a peeled potato and extract its juice.
- Pour the potato juice into a clean bowl and mix in 1–2 tablespoons of ACV.
- Apply this solution all over your face or only on the hyperpigmented areas.
- Let it sit for 15–20 minutes before washing your face with plain water.
9. Helps whiten stained teeth
Just like your nails, ACV can help remove stains from your teeth. Staining of the teeth is usually the result of drinking too much caffeinated beverages, consuming tobacco products, negligent oral hygiene, or some dental infection.
ACV is a mild acid that can scrape off the yellow tinge from your teeth and even eliminate the infection-causing bacteria inside your mouth for better oral health. All you have to do is use diluted ACV as a mouthwash, but not every day. Too much acid can erode the dental enamel and disrupt the pH balance of the oral cavity.
How to use:
- Take a small amount of diluted ACV in your mouth and swish it around for 20–30 seconds without swallowing. Spit out the solution and rinse your mouth with water afterward.
- Mix a bit of baking soda with the diluted ACV to form a thick paste, and then use it to brush your teeth. Brush for a few minutes, avoiding the gums, and then rinse your mouth with plain water.
10. Treats razor bumps and insect bites
ACV is also very effective when it comes to treating razor bumps and insect bites such as bee stings. These skin injuries are marked by inflammation, which manifests as swelling, pain, itching, redness, and irritation.
ACV is a strong anti-inflammatory agent that can quickly curb the skin inflammation and thus relieve these discomforting symptoms.
How to use:
- Soak a cotton ball in undiluted ACV.
- Dab it on the sting site or razor bump.
The antibacterial, keratolytic, and skin-lightening properties of ACV can be attributed to the acetic acid, malic acid, and beneficial vitamins found in its raw form. This potent liquid can be used as a skin toner, deodorant, mouth rinse, hair conditioner, teeth whitener, nail polisher, and antifungal agent, among others.
But ACV has to be used properly for it to deliver the desired results. Make sure to use the recommended dilution ratios for your specific skin type and not the concentrated form.