Is Apple Cider Vinegar a Secret Beauty Potion?

Here’s the truth about what it can and can’t do.

Apples and apple cider vinegar

Medically reviewed in July 2021

Updated on February 18, 2022

For as long as there have been folk remedies, apple cider vinegar has been hailed as a cure-all. It’s been said that the fermented stuff can help lower blood sugar, reduce the risk of diabetes, and aid with weight loss.

Some also claim it’s a solution for skin and hair problems. It’s true that this mild acid is preservative-free, antibacterial, and inexpensive. But does it live up to its hype? Here’s what dermatologist Amy Wechsler, MD has to say about four common claims about apple cider vinegar.

The Claim: To speed healing of sunburned skin, apply compresses dipped in cold apple cider vinegar.
The Reality: You don’t want to be putting an acid on a burn. Ouch.

"Rather than offering relief, this might really sting," says Dr. Wechsler. "Instead, just soak the compresses in cold water or dip them in a mixture of cold water and whole milk. The fat in milk is a good skin soother."

The Claim: To restore shine to dull hair, rinse it in lukewarm water, douse with ¼ cup apple cider vinegar mixed into a pint of water, then rinse again with lukewarm water.
The Reality: This one may actually work. Wechsler explains that the acid in vinegar washes away styling products that can cling to hair despite shampooing.

“Just be sure to dilute the vinegar in water for gentler action,” she says.

Colorist Lana Gordon of the Cristophe salon in Beverly Hills adds one caveat: Because the acid closes the cuticle of each hair strand, tresses treated with apple cider vinegar become shinier but flatter. So you may be trading away a little fullness in exchange for more gloss.

The Claim: Dabbing on apple cider vinegar with a cotton ball is a good astringent for oily, acne-prone skin.
The Reality: Bad idea. Vinegar is much too drying to the skin's protective barrier, Wechsler cautions. “Plus, it stinks! If you want to go the do-it-yourself route, try making your own gentler toner. Use one part witch hazel to three parts water."

The Claim: Apple cider vinegar helps control dandruff by killing off the fungus that causes it.
The Reality: Maybe.

"Some reports say cider vinegar zaps the microscopic critters, but some say it doesn't,” Wechsler notes. “Until we know for sure, why give fungus more growing time when there are so many dandruff shampoos that will quickly solve this itchy, flaky problem?”

If you want to try it anyway, use a concentrated rinse of one part apple cider vinegar to three parts warm water, she suggests.

Article sources open article sources

Edwin McDonald IV. Debunking the health benefits of apple cider vinegar. UChicago Medicine. August 23, 2018.
Katherine Zeratsky. Drinking apple cider vinegar for weight loss seems far-fetched. Does it work? April 18, 2020.

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