Ingredient Spotlight: Topical Apple Cider Vinegar

Earlier this month, one of my readers, Anne, asked me a question on the Holistically Haute? Facebook page: ?What would someone use to remove a skin tag?? The first thing that came to mind was apple cider vinegar. This was my response to her:


?For skin tags, apple cider vinegar (ACV) can be used topically. Take a small amount of cotton and saturate it with the ACV and tape it on to the skin tag well with surgical tape. You want to tape it really well so it doesn’t dry out. Do this before bedtime and sleep with it. Remove it in the morning and see how it looks. It may have turned white or gray. Cleanse the area well and check it again before bedtime. If it is black that means it will probably fall off and you probably don’t need to do it again, but if it has not changed, do the ACV again for another night. Repeat until it turns black and/or falls off. Keep in mind that the ACV will irritate the skin surrounding the skin tag so maybe treat that with aloe during the day or skip a day if it is too irritated. Once the tag falls off really take care of that irritated skin so it heals. To minimize the irritation, only use as much cotton as you need to cover the skin tag?no bigger than a pencil eraser (for larger lesions, see a healthcare practitioner). If it is really irritating, you can try diluting the vinegar, but that will require more treatments.?

As I was writing this I started thinking about the many different topical uses for ACV. It also has a lot of health benefits when taken (diluted) internally, but that’s for another post. Today I’ll just talk about the topical uses.

Why Apple Cider Vinegar?

ACV, like other vinegars, is an acidic liquid that contains acetic acid. However, it also contains some lactic, citric, and malic acids (these are all alpha hydroxy acids that are often used as chemical exfoliants and peels). Also, unlike many other acidic preparations, ACV actually produces an alkaline reaction in the body, helping to reduce inflammation caused by an overly acidic environment. Again, I will go into more detail about the acid/alkaline (pH) balance in another post: way too much information to add on to this one.

Because of these unique properties, ACV is naturally antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral which makes it incredibly versatile as an ingredient for skin care, hair care, and other topical uses.

Only raw, unpasteurized and unfiltered ACV should be used. Bragg?s is a great inexpensive and widely available option.

Be very cautious with full-strength ACV!

Although ACV produces an alkaline reaction in the body, please be aware that it is still a very strong acid and can cause serious burns which can leave permanent scars if used incorrectly. This is why I stressed in my response to Anne that full strength ACV must only be applied to the lesion and contact with the surrounding skin should be minimized as much as possible. This remedy should not be used for more than a few days in a row. If the skin tag has not yet changed color or fallen off after three nights of treatment, you have to take a couple of days off to make sure you don’t damage the surrounding tissue. After any irritation has subsided, you can try the treatment again. It will work, but the amount of time and treatments required varies depending on size, thickness of skin, and other factors.

This full-strength spot treatment is also very effective for different types of warts (warts are viral infections) including plantar warts, molluscum, and common warts. Ask a healthcare practitioner before using this remedy to remove genital warts or any other type of skin lesion if you do not know for sure what type it is.

Topical uses for diluted ACV:

Diluted apple cider vinegar is wonderful for the skin and the hair. It makes a great toner (with self-preserving properties) and helps kill p-acnes (acne causing) bacteria on the skin. It can also be used to reduce inflammation when sprayed onto common skin irritations like eczema, sunburn, and fungal infections of the nails and skin including athlete?s foot and thrush. To make this toner, simply dilute 1 part raw, unfilter, unpasteurized ACV to 1 or 2 parts distilled water (adjust depending on where you are using it and how sensitive your skin is).

This mixture can also be gargled with to kill canker sores, treat sore throats, gum infections, and yeast infections of the mouth. This should be done sparingly and only when needed since the acids in the ACV can damage tooth enamel.

Diluted ACV is also a fantastic hair conditioner, especially when using a natural shampoo like Bubble and Bee, Dr. Bronner?s, or Elina Organics.

It gets rid of build-up from using chemical hair care products, and makes the hair ridiculously soft and shiny. It is also great for getting rid of dandruff and dry scalp. It takes time for the hair and scalp to adjust to this type of hair care as I mentioned in my previous post about natural hair care; typically 1 to 3 weeks depending on what type of products you used previously. Also, while diluted ACV shouldn’t strip hair color, it won’t protect it either; so if you color your hair you might want to consider a different type of natural conditioner.

I think that raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized ACV should be a staple in everyone?s kitchen (makes delicious dressings and sauces!) and medicine cabinets. Give it a try and see how great it works!


8 thoughts on “Ingredient Spotlight: Topical Apple Cider Vinegar”

  1. You have very helpful information here. I have a question. I had foot surgery 4 weeks ago. Over this last week I have been applying vitamin E oil to the incision areas and the surrounding skin. I developed bad pain whenever I put my foot down. It felt like my blood vessels wanted to pop. Today I noticed purpura all over my foot and up my leg a ways, so my blood vessels were bursting. I researched several sites and thought it might be good to apply ACV. After reading yours though I’m wondering if I should dilute it 1 part ACV to 2 parts water. Should I just wipe it on or bandage it? If I wipe it, how often should I do it?

  2. Hi RobinMom12, I’m sorry to hear of this condition. Truthfully, I would recommend getting it checked by a health practitioner, because many different underlying issues can cause purpura. It can be a simple as a vitamin C deficiency, or can be more complex like a platelet issue or infection–especially since there is pain present. I wouldn’t do the ACV topically in this case…you could try drinking some diluted in water to help reduce inflammation and acid in the body and help detoxify, but I still really think you should get it checked out to rule out anything serious. Feel better!

  3. Hi Rachel,
    This is great information. I have a skin tag on the side of my tongue. I was scheduled to have it removed at the oral surgeon, but think I would like to try this first. Obviously, I can’t tape a cotton ball to the side of my tongue. However, I thought I could rub it on for a minute several times a day. Do you think this would be effective and safe?


    1. Hi Laura! Thanks for reading and for your question. I don’t think that rubbing the ACV on the skin tag on the tongue would work in this case because the saliva would dilute it too much–it really needs to be left in contact with the area for a long period of time, which obviously isn’t possible here as you noted. What you might try is saturating a cotton swab with a “hot” essential oil like oregano or cinnamon and holding it on the area for as long as you can stand it. Not gonna lie–this will not be comfortable and may cause irritation to the surrounding tissue just like it would if it was outside of the mouth (one of those pointed cotton swabs would be a good idea to make sure you are specifically targeting the area and not the surrounding tissue, depending on the size)–but it’s the only thing safe and natural I can think of that might work. I’d only recommend the doTERRA essential oils in this case as well. You can purchase them on my doTERRA site at http://www.mydoterra.com/holisticallyhaute if you would like to try this method. Good luck with whatever you decide!

  4. Hi,

    This is rather embarrassing. But I have a skin tag on my bum. Would it be advisable to use avp in that region?

    I think the tag is from an old heamoriod problem. And I would like go be rid if it. Is it safe to use avp in that region?

    1. Martin–no need to be embarrassed! It’s quite common to get skin tags in the posterior region. Yes, raw ACV is safe to use in that region, just be aware that tenderness/sensitivity may occur so make sure you are using a small enough bit of cotton to cover the tag alone and between treatments make sure you soothe the surrounding tissue with coconut oil or aloe vera gel.

    1. Hi Rose,

      I wouldn’t do it undiluted—that would burn the skin and likely cause more inflammation to an area that’s already expressing some kind of infection. I’d suggest resting, drinking lots of water, green smoothies and probiotics to boost your immune system…if it doesn’t get better in a few days be sure to see your healthcare practitioner!

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