From hair treatments to dirty countertops, it seems like (almost) all of life's problems can be solved with apple cider vinegar. Many people are even adding the trendy ingredient to their baths, thanks to its anecdotal reputation as an all-star skin treatment.
Of course, there's not a ton of research surrounding the ingredient—so much of the purported benefits are not study-backed as of yet. However, there's some evidence that apple cider vinegar might help your skin and body in a few ways. Here, learn about six benefits you might get by soaking in a therapeutic apple cider vinegar bath:
1. Fungal infections
Fungi normally live on the skin, but the little buggers can cause problems if they overgrow. Many cases are caused by Candida albicans1, a fungus known for causing awfully itchy skin infections. Other symptoms include thickened skin, redness, and irritation.
Research suggests apple cider vinegar may help. In a 2018 study2, scientists found that the vinegar can inhibit growth of C. albicans in a petri dish. It works by destroying the fungus' cell structure, along with certain enzymes it needs to survive.
Though the experiment involves a dish instead of humans, the results are promising. It's worth dipping into an apple cider vinegar bath if you have a fungal skin infection.
2. Body acne
Feeling sour about body acne? Try adding apple cider vinegar to your next bath. It has strong antibacterial properties3 that may work against Propionibacterium acnes, the bacteria that often causes pesky breakouts.
According to Kate Denniston, N.D., a licensed naturopathic doctor and founder of Los Angeles Integrative Health, apple cider vinegar may also manage acne by balancing your skin's pH. "Bacteria are capable of thriving on alkaline (high pH) skin, making us more prone to breakouts," she explains. "Diluted apple cider vinegar can bring down the skin's pH and balance our natural barrier to protect against bacteria."
This effect on pH might also help your skin's natural defenses. Normally, our sweat contains antimicrobial molecules called dermicidin and nitrites. But according to a 2017 study4, their activity decreases as skin pH increases. By mixing apple cider vinegar into your bath, you can lower your skin's pH and make it easier for dermicidin and nitrites to do their thing.
If you have eczema, the pH-balancing powers of an apple cider vinegar bath may have a place in your self-care routine. That's because eczema, like body acne, is associated with elevated skin pH levels.
So, remember that natural skin barrier? It needs an acidic (low) pH not only to protect against bacteria but to retain moisture too. However, scientists have found5 that people with eczema tend to have higher skin pH levels than those without. Plus, in folks who do have eczema, skin lesions usually have a higher pH than unaffected skin. Studies have shown that lowering the pH reduces the inflammatory TH2 response and speeds up barrier function recovery6, both of which are key drivers in eczema.
Theoretically, apple cider vinegar could help soothe eczema by lowering skin pH. And while scientists haven't specifically tested it out, the National Eczema Association says it has potential. An apple cider vinegar bath may be just what you need to naturally control eczema flare-ups.
4. Body odor
Body odor might be embarrassing, but let's be real—it happens to the best of us. You can thank bacteria7 on your skin, like Corynebacterium striatum and Staphylococcus haemolyticus. When sweat mixes with these microbes, the result is a seriously stinky situation.
Take a dip in an apple cider vinegar bath. As a natural antibacterial, the remedy may keep odor-causing microbes in check. Additionally, by decreasing your skin's pH, it could make your skin a less desirable environment for excess bacteria.
Again, these benefits are hypothetical, as researchers haven't studied how vinegar baths affect body odor. But if you're looking for a natural way to deodorize, soaking in diluted apple cider vinegar might lend a hand.
Warts8 are caused by the human papillomavirus, also known as HPV. Some people treat them with apple cider vinegar, even though there isn't any hard research9 on its efficacy. It's said that the vinegar has antiviral properties that can heal warts. Others believe apple cider vinegar is like salicylic acid—a standard treatment option—which dissolves warts over time.
Yet, the only link between HPV and vinegar is seen in screening tests. The acetic acid in vinegar turns HPV lesions white, which makes them easier to notice.
Despite the lack of evidence, many folks stand by apple cider vinegar as an anti-wart remedy. It's typically diluted and applied to the wart or added to a bath. Either way, you'll be glad to know that warts usually disappear on their own in a couple of weeks or months.
6. Body wrinkles
In a world of facial serums and jade rollers, it's easy to forget about preventing wrinkles on the body. Creases and folds, after all, can show up in areas like the neck and arms. This is especially likely if your skin has a high pH, which is associated with wrinkling. (More acidic skin, on the other hand, is linked to less wrinkle formation10.)
Enter the pH-balancing properties of apple cider vinegar. "The acid mantle is the natural barrier on your skin [that's] composed of natural oils," says Denniston. "[But] as we get older, our skin becomes more alkaline, which weakens the ability of our acid mantle to protect against wrinkles." She adds that an apple cider vinegar bath can lower skin pH on the whole body, making the skin less prone to future wrinkling.
How do you make your own?
Ready to enjoy a therapeutic apple cider vinegar bath? Here's what you need to make one:
- 1 to 2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 10 to 20 drops essential oils of your choice
Pour the apple cider vinegar into a lukewarm bath. For extra feel-good benefits, add your favorite essential oils. Stir the bathwater to combine the ingredients. Soak for 20 minutes, then gently rinse your body with cool water. Moisturize as usual.
What else should you know?
Though apple cider vinegar is a natural remedy, it can cause irritation11 in some types of skin and hair. It may also irritate the body when used in a bath, so start with the smallest effective dose—1 cup—and slowly work your way up.
If apple cider vinegar doesn't jibe with your skin, Denniston recommends trying jojoba oil in your bath instead.
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Kirsten Nunez is a health and lifestyle journalist based in Beacon, New York. She has a Master of Science in Nutrition from Texas Woman's University and Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from SUNY Oneonta. Kirsten specializes in nutrition, fitness, food, and DIY; her work has been featured in a variety of publications, including eHow, SparkPeople, and international editions of Cosmopolitan. She also creates recipes for food product packaging.