If you’re on the lookout for superfoods that can improve the look and health of your skin, you’ve probably heard of apple cider vinegar (ACV). In recent years, this tart, pungent vinegar has surfaced as a versatile solution to younger, healthier looking skin.
But could it be that ACV’s stellar popularity rests more on celebrity endorsements than scientific proof? After all, it’s largely the testimonies of well-known personalities like Katy Perry and Miranda Kerr that have catapulted ACV to a stardom of its own (1). Even Jennifer Aniston, herself a Hollywood A-lister and an avid user of ACV, admits that her vinegary skincare routine may be grounded more in hearsay than hard facts.
“It changes all the time because someone will say, “Oh, my God, you don’t take activated charcoal?”,” admits Aniston to Harper’s Bazaar, on the topic of health trends (2). “Then you go down a Googling hole to understand the benefits of that, or turmeric or dandelion for water retention. Now I’m doing apple cider vinegar in the morning.”
So just how beneficial is apple cider vinegar, really – and how might we use it to improve skincare routines of our own?
Apple Cider Vinegar for Skin
Our skin is the physical and chemical barrier between our environment and the inner workings of our body (7). As a result, it can be seriously damaged by factors like extended exposure to sunlight (UV rays), dryness, cuts, smoking, malnutrition, and natural aging (7), which can leave behind sunburns, wrinkles (9), scars, flaking (10), and even skin-harming compounds called free radicals (oxidants)(8).
Luckily, we can reduce skin damage and improve skin health by avoiding refined sugars (12) and eating skin-healthy foods (11). Foods full of antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E (14), such as fruits and vegetables, have also been associated with healthier looking skin (6).
When it comes to apple cider vinegar, you can get the benefits by both drinking and applying it to your skin. Below are some of the benefits highlighted in research:
- Improving digestion. ACV is a probiotic product that can help support digestion by encouraging good bacteria in your gut to grow (1). The presence of good gut organisms can also help clear up skin problems by helping reduce inflammation (16) and oxidative stress (i.e. free radical damage) (17).
- Helping blood sugar regulation. Vinegar can improve sugar absorption in insulin-resistant people (4) and lower blood sugar levels (3). People with lower blood sugar levels tend to look younger (18).
- Slowing down body fat accumulation. Body fat can translate to undesirable skin folds, and vice-versa (19). Acetic acid, a major component in vinegar, was found to suppress the accumulation of body and liver fat by helping regulate relevant genes and proteins (6).
- Reducing the look of “spidery” veins on the skin. Patients with swollen “spidery” varicose veins who applied apple cider vinegar to their skin while undergoing medical treatments noted that their veins were less visible after treatment (20).
- Reducing sun damage. Vinegar contains polyphenols (22) – plant-based compounds that protect the skin against oxidative (free radical) damage and reduces the risk of developing cancer (21).
Apple Cider Vinegar Side-Effects
Due to the acidic and fermented nature of vinegar, ACV should be used with caution.
If you have gut sensitivity against fermented, vinegary foods, such as sauerkraut or wine, you should avoid ingesting apple cider vinegar, as it can cause symptoms like dizziness, anxiety, nausea, vomiting, and sweating (1). You should also check for skin sensitivity by applying diluted ACV to a small patch of skin and seeing how it feels.
Remember to never drink or use vinegar without dilution. ACV is an acidic product that can erode your teeth (23) and burn your skin (24), mouth, and esophagus (25).
Consult your doctor before incorporating ACV into your diet if you’re on medication.
How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Skin
Enjoy as a food or drink
To harness ACV’s health benefits, try incorporating apple cider vinegar into your cooking by using it in sour vegetable dishes, like coleslaw – or as a salad dressing (5). Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, ½ teaspoon of minced garlic, chopped basil leaves, and a dash of black pepper – and then drizzle over dark green or potatoes to make a tart and savory side dish (5).
You can also try drinking it by itself. Dilute 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar in 1 cup (about 8 ounces) of water and drink the mixture, twice a day, before meals.
You can use apple cider vinegar to make easy, natural skincare products to use at home. Get creative and try crafting:
- An all-purpose skin toner. To lighten dark patches and even out your skin tone, mix 1 part ACV to 4 parts water. Then, cleanse your face and spray the mixture onto it 2-3 times. Allow it to dry naturally – and repeat as desired, several times a day.
- An anti-fungal solution. Mix 1 part ACV to 1 part water, and then apply to any area of your body that is affected by fungal infection (except your eyes and other tender areas). Rinse off the mixture after 30 minutes. Repeat as needed until the infection dissipates.
- A healthy vinegar bath. To nourish your skin and reduce body odor, fill your bathtub with warm water and 1-2 cups of ACV. Soak for 20 minutes, and then rinse off with cool water.
- A treatment for eczema. Mix 4 parts ACV to 6 parts water, and dab onto the affected area with a cotton ball for relief. Use twice a day until symptoms improve.
Check out apple cider vinegar skincare tips here!
Other Skin Care Tips
Make sure to supplement apple cider vinegar use with these tips to keep your skin healthy and younger looking:
- Eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Get enough skin-healthy vitamins and minerals, like vitamins A, C, and E (14), by eating fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes, carrots, butternut squash, and oranges. Make sure to eat healthy fats as well, like olive oil, to reduce oxidative stress from sun exposure (26).
- Apply sunscreen regularly (27).
- Consider drinking a cup of red wine a day. Red wine is full of polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties that fight oxidative cell damage (28).
- Reduce stress as much as possible. Psychological stress can keep your skin from functioning properly (29).
- Avoid sugar-sweetened sodas. Regular intake of sugar-sweetened beverages has been associated with faster aging (30).
- Aim to get 7 hours of sleep every night. A study in 2010 found that sleep-deprived people tend to appear less healthy, less attractive, and more tired than people who get enough sleep (31).
So if you’re on the fence about trying apple cider vinegar (and don’t have gut sensitivity to vinegar), go ahead and give it a try! Packed with probiotic and antioxidant benefits, it could be just what your skin needed to get that healthy, Hollywood glow.
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2) Sedaris, A. (2017). Jennifer Aniston Opens Up Marriage, Ghosts, and Her New TV Show with Reese Witherspoon. [online] Harper’s BAZAAR. Available at: http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a12184505/jennifer-aniston-interview/ [Accessed 23 Oct. 2017].
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