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Certain alternative medicines and at-home remedies may help relieve symptoms like dry skin, itchiness, and scaliness from eczema (atopic dermatitis). Some MyEczemaTeam members have reported that apple cider vinegar (ACV) provides relief from eczema’s bothersome symptoms. Let’s explore the science surrounding apple cider vinegar’s effectiveness as an eczema treatment and how to use it.
One of the many types of vinegar, apple cider vinegar is double-fermented apple juice. Sugar and yeast are mixed with the juice, and natural bacteria and yeast cause the fermentation process. After the sugar is fermented into alcohol, the alcohol ferments into acetic acid (a naturally occurring substance in plants). The acetic acid gives ACV its health benefits.
ACV comes in both pasteurized and raw forms. It contains natural probiotics — friendly bacteria for your gut health — and antioxidants, which protect your cells from oxidation and damage caused by food or environmental pollutants like tobacco smoke or radiation.
The National Eczema Association (NEA) is clear that there is little scientific evidence to prove ACV’s health benefits for managing skin conditions like eczema. However, the NEA suggests it may help for some people living with the condition. When used properly, ACV can be a safe option to try for eczema symptom relief.
Healthy skin is protected by an acidic barrier. People with eczema have elevated skin pH levels — that is, more alkalinity and less acidity. ACV may help restore pH levels to a healthier level.
In general, pH levels range from 1 to 14, with 1 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. Whereas healthy skin has a pH of less than 5, people with eczema usually have higher pH levels. Notably, a person’s skin pH level can change over time with age. A high pH level can disrupt the protection provided by the skin’s acidic barrier. This is one reason that soaps, which have an alkaline pH, can exacerbate eczema. A high pH can also:
Some MyEczemaTeam members swear by apple cider vinegar’s benefits. “The apple cider vinegar gives almost instant relief from itchy, hot patches,” wrote one member. “And it also seems to help speed up healing.”
Before trying any new treatment method — even natural remedies — it is important that you talk to your dermatologist or other doctor.
If your doctor says it’s OK to use ACV on your skin, try it on a small, discreet patch to start. Wait a few days to be sure you don’t have a bad reaction. To prevent irritation, consider diluting the ACV with water before applying it to affected areas. One MyEczemaTeam member recommended exercising caution when using ACV to treat a child’s eczema symptoms: “You might want to dilute the vinegar for a little one, as it does sting a little initially.”
Some MyEczemaTeam members have reported success with applying diluted apple cider vinegar directly to the skin. As one shared, “Today, I mixed apple cider vinegar and water and applied it with a cotton ball. Much less itching, and the redness is going away!”
Another had a similar experience, writing that they “applied apple cider vinegar diluted with water” and it “cleared redness and itching up.”
The NEA suggests trying ACV in your bath. Add between 1 cup and 1 pint of ACV to warm (not hot) bath water, and soak in it for 15 to 20 minutes. Thoroughly rinse your skin with clean, cool water; pat yourself dry; and apply your favorite moisturizer.
One member found this method as beneficial as a traditional eczema bleach bath. “I was doing bleach baths suggested by my dermatologist,” they wrote. “I switched to unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Both feel good to the skin.”
Another shared that they were “managing the itch with apple cider vinegar (strange, but it works wonders!) and coconut oil in the bath.”
You may find it more convenient to try an ACV wrap. Wet wrap therapy can relieve especially intense eczema flare-ups and the accompanying painful, itchy skin. It can rehydrate and calm the skin and even help improve the relief from topical medications.
Starting by mixing 1 cup of warm water with 1 tablespoon of ACV. Soak clean cotton strips or gauze in the solution and apply them to your irritated skin areas. Leave them on your skin for about three hours or overnight. It helps to keep the wet dressing in place by wrapping it with dry cotton fabric. Remoisten the wraps with more of the ACV solution to be sure the wraps don’t dry out.
A third way to use ACV is as a hair mask. Mix 1 tablespoon ACV with a quarter cup of sunflower oil. Apply the mixture to your scalp right after a shower. It can act as a protective skin barrier and improve moisture retention.
ACV can have side effects in some people — especially when used excessively.
Take care not to overuse ACV on your skin, because it may cause chemical burns if applied too frequently. Stop using ACV if you have any burning sensation. Never use it on an open wound or sore or skin infection. If you see red streaks, pus, or yellow scabs on your skin, report the symptoms to your doctor right away.
Drinking ACV is not necessarily recommended for eczema. Moreover, because ACV is highly acidic, consuming it can sometimes damage tooth enamel, cause mouth and throat tissues, upset the stomach, and worsen existing kidney problems. ACV can also interact with some medicines, like insulin and water pills (diuretics). Whether drinking ACV or using it externally, check with your doctor before using it to ensure it won’t negatively interact with your medications.
ACV may help calm and soothe your irritated skin. It’s important to remember that eczema is different for everyone. People have different eczema triggers, and what helps one person may not help you. Although ACV will not modulate the overactive immune system that causes eczema, it may help relieve the symptoms.
Some people may experience mild relief from ACV baths, soaks, or wraps. Be sure a dermatologist says it’s OK to use ACV and assures you it won’t cause problems with the medications you take.
MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people with eczema and their loved ones. Here, more than 36,000 members from around the world come together to swap stories and advice, discuss daily life with eczema, and meet others who understand the diagnosis.
Have you tried apple cider vinegar for eczema? Share your experience in the comments below or by posting on MyEczemaTeam.