Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a vinegar made by allowing apples or apple juice to ferment. It may have some mild health benefits due to the type of acid in the vinegar and other compounds.
Natural, or unfiltered, ACV contains byproducts from fermentation, such as strands of bacteria, proteins, and yeast. This collection of byproducts is known as the "mother" of the vinegar.
Because of these additional byproducts, advocates of ACV claim that unfiltered ACV has more health benefits than filtered ACV.
Adding ACV to a bath may promote general skin health. It may also help soothe the symptoms of any skin infections or other sources of irritation.
Keep reading to learn more about the possible benefits of taking ACV baths.
There may be some benefits associated with adding ACV to a bath.
People all around the world use vinegar for medicinal purposes in varying forms. Scientific research supports this to a certain degree, as the acetic acid in vinegar does appear to have some health benefits. Also, the acidic nature of ACV may be responsible for its apparent benefits.
The reason that these factors could help is that the barrier on the outer layer of skin, or the acid mantle, is naturally acidic. It protects the skin from viruses, infections, and other potential hazards.
Any breaks in this barrier, or factors that cause the skin's pH levels to change, may lead to skin problems.
Adding ACV to a bath makes the water more acidic, which may promote skin health by restoring the skin's pH balance and protecting this outermost layer.
However, a recent study of 22 people found that soaking in ACV may have detrimental effects. In this study, most of the participants who took ACV baths reported no improvements to the skin barrier and found that the ACV actually caused irritation.
That said, this was a very small study, and researchers must continue to explore ACV baths before claiming that there is significant evidence either for or against this form of treatment.
Keep reading for more information about some of the possible health benefits of ACV baths.
The sections below discuss some specific conditions that ACV baths may help with.
ACV baths may help with wound healing and the prevention of skin infections. The acetic acid in ACV is a potent antibacterial compound, even at low concentrations.
One study in the journal PLOS One notes that acetic acid can kill germs that often infect wounds in the skin. Though the study focused on burn wounds in a laboratory setting, the bacteria the researchers tested commonly infect most types of wounds on the skin.
Adding ACV to a bath may help prevent these infectious bacteria from growing out of control.
Early evidence also suggests that ACV may help treat candida infections on the skin. A laboratory based study, the results of which feature in the journal Scientific Reports, found that ACV was effective at killing a number of infectious germs, including Candida albicans, a common cause of fungal infections.
However, researchers will need to conduct further studies in humans to prove these claims. It is also important to note that it took equal parts water and ACV to be effective in treating candida. In a bath, this is not possible, as it would be too acidic.
People with atopic dermatitis, or eczema, may find that taking ACV baths is helpful in soothing their skin.
The skin's natural acid mantle is important for its protection. However, pH levels can become imbalanced for a number of reasons.
One study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that people with eczema were more likely to experience a breakdown of this protective layer. This is one of the triggers for the condition.
Using ACV in a bath may promote the repair of this skin barrier, which could aid eczema treatment.
Dandruff and dry skin
Many body and hair products can strip away natural oils or disrupt the acidic pH levels of the skin.
For people with sensitive skin, this can lead to reactions and other issues, such as dryness, itching, and dandruff.
Conversely, using ACV may lead to healthier hair. Again, this could be due to the acidic nature of the vinegar, which may help balance the natural acidity of the hair. ACV can also help if a person's dandruff has a fungal cause.
Sometimes, body odor is not preventable. Many forms of body odor come from certain bacteria in the skin. Finding ways to control and eliminate these bacteria may help control it.
As ACV is a natural antibacterial, it may help. However, research would be necessary to confirm this.
The antibacterial and antifungal effects of ACV may also help with some causes of acne breakouts, such as on the buttocks and back.
If the breakouts occur due to bacteria, fungi, or pH changes to the skin, ACV may help fix these factors and clear the acne.
There is no direct scientific evidence supporting this, but theoretically, it might be mildly helpful.
Although there is limited evidence as to the beneficial effects of ACV, some people may wish to try taking an ACV bath.
A person can add 1–2 cups of ACV to a warm bath and soak for 20–30 minutes. Doing this regularly may be enough to promote overall skin health.
People may also choose to add a number of other ingredients to a bath, such as lavender buds, Epsom salts, or colloidal oatmeal. These may each have their own beneficial effects, as well.
After bathing, rinse the skin under cool water to close the pores and remove excess vinegar.
People with localized conditions, such as a fungal infection in the foot, may want to isolate the area and only apply diluted ACV or soak the affected area.
Although many claims surrounding ACV have little scientific backing, there could be some benefits to soaking in an ACV bath.
The acidity of ACV may help balance the pH levels of the skin and hair, and the acetic acid may kill off infectious germs. That said, ACV is not a treatment itself, but rather a supportive care tool for various skin issues.
Studies focusing on the antibacterial effects of ACV have generally involved laboratory tests. Researchers will need to conduct more studies in humans to confirm any initial findings.
Anyone looking to use ACV in their bath should take care to dilute it properly. There are also times when a person may not want to use ACV in their bath and should consult a doctor instead.
Anyone experiencing skin symptoms that do not improve with ACV baths, or that get worse over time, should see a doctor for a full diagnosis.