Some people use apple cider vinegar as a remedy for various skin disorders, including eczema. But does it work, and is it safe?
Eczema can result in dry, cracked, and itchy patches of skin, and it may be painful or frustrating.
Finding natural, soothing treatments can be life-changing. Apple cider vinegar is one home remedy that many find effective.
The vinegar results from apple cider that has fermented. Some believe that it can heal eczema by rebalancing the skin's acidity levels and reducing the risk of infection.
Eczema is common, affecting over 30 million Americans, for example. The term eczema usually refers to a condition in a group that includes atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and dyshidrotic eczema, among others.
In this article, we look at the scientific evidence that apple cider vinegar can help to heal eczema. We also describe how to use it and the risks.
No high-quality research suggests that the vinegar can improve symptoms of eczema, though there are a few reasons why it could help.
According to a testimony on the National Eczema Association's Scratch Pad, adding 2 cups of apple cider vinegar to a warm bath helps to moisturize and soothe the skin.
The many reported benefits to the skin may come down to apple cider vinegar having the following effects:
Balancing the skin's acidity levels
Acidic substances may improve symptoms of skin disorders, including eczema, by helping to restore the skin's acidity level. The skin is naturally acidic, which helps it to protect against bacterial infection.
A 2016 study in mice found that applying a vinegar-based cream helped to maintain the pH of the skin and inhibit the development of eczema lesions. Researchers have yet to investigate these effects in humans.
Meanwhile, authors of a study from 2017 concluded that highly alkaline, or basic, soaps and cleansers can irritate the skin and aggravate eczema.
Managing inflammation and infection
Further lines of research suggest that apple cider vinegar can reduce inflammation and infection. Applying it to the skin, therefore, may reduce eczema-related swelling and help prevent broken skin from becoming infected.
Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic, which can benefit the health in certain ways. However, in some cases and when overused, the vinegar can harm the body, for example by causing chemical burns.
Researchers and doctors have documented several examples of these injuries, including that of a child who sustained burns after his mother applied apple cider vinegar to the site of an infection and an adolescent who sustained burns after attempting to use apple cider vinegar to remove facial moles.
Always talk to a doctor before using natural remedies on sites of eczema or other skin conditions. It is important to use small, diluted amounts of vinegar and to check the skin carefully for any reactions.
If a person experiences a burning sensation or any other side effects, they should stop using the vinegar and visit a doctor as soon as possible.
People use apple cider vinegar topically to treat eczema in many ways. For example, by:
- Adding it to a warm bath. Mix 2 cups of apple cider vinegar with a warm bath, soak for 15 minutes, and rinse the body in cool water.
- Using it in a wet body wrap. Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1 cup of warm water. Dip some clean cotton fabric, gauze, or paper towel in the mixture. Wrap this around the area affected by eczema.
- Applying it as a hair mask. Mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1/4 cup of sunflower oil. Apply it to the scalp right after a shower. The vinegar may act as a protective barrier for the skin and improve its moisture retention.
Others report that apple cider vinegar is an effective toner and moisturizer.
No guidelines or research suggests that apple cider vinegar is safe for infants or babies. The substance can cause chemical burns, and it may damage an infant's sensitive skin.
Speak to a doctor before using apple cider vinegar to treat symptoms in a baby.
The following may help:
- Coconut oil. This anti-inflammatory moisturizer and may soothe skin and reduce symptoms.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Taking these supplements can boost the immune system and help prevent flare-ups of eczema symptoms.
- Vitamin D. These supplements can also prevent flare-ups.
- Probiotics. Regularly taking probiotics may combat or prevent eczema.
Eczema is a common issue, and apple cider vinegar may reduce symptoms by restoring the skin's acidity levels. Also, some people report that adding the vinegar to baths helps to reduce dryness.
However, apple cider vinegar can also cause chemical burns if it is misapplied.
Always talk to a doctor before using natural remedies, including apple cider vinegar.