Certain alternative medicines and at-home remedies may help relieve eczema symptoms like dry skin, itchiness, and scaliness. Some MyEczemaTeam members have reported that apple cider vinegar (ACV) helps provide relief from eczema’s bothersome symptoms.
Apple cider vinegar is a type of vinegar made by double-fermenting apple juice. The fermentation process produces acetic acid — a naturally occurring substance in plants — which gives ACV its health and skin care benefits. ACV also contains probiotics, or friendly bacteria for your gut health, and antioxidants, which protect your cells from damage caused by the environment — like tobacco smoke or radiation.
The National Eczema Association (NEA) notes that there is little scientific evidence to prove ACV’s health benefits for managing skin conditions like eczema (atopic dermatitis). However, the NEA does suggest that ACV may help some people living with the condition. When used properly, ACV can be a safe option to try for relief from eczema symptoms.
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, more acidic level.
In general, pH levels range from 1 to 14 — 1 is the most acidic and 14 is 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 worsen eczema. A high pH can also:
ACV may work as an anti-inflammatory to calm eczema-related inflammation. Thanks to its antimicrobial properties, it’s been used for centuries to prevent infections in wounds.
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 — talk to your dermatologist or another 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 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.”
ACV can be used in several ways for eczema symptoms, depending on the severity and location of eczema.
Some MyEczemaTeam members have reported success with applying diluted ACV 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 that it “cleared up redness and itching.”
The NEA suggests trying ACV in a bath. Add between 1 cup and 1 pint of ACV to warm (not hot) bathwater 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.”
In addition to ACV and bleach baths, colloidal oatmeal baths can provide relief for some people.
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. This strategy can rehydrate and calm the skin and even help improve the relief from topical medications.
Start 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. To help keep the wet dressing in place, wrap it with dry cotton fabric. Remoisten the wraps with more of the ACV solution to be sure they don’t dry out.
A fourth 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 produce 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, a sore, or a skin infection. If you see red streaks, pus, or yellow scabs on your skin, report the symptoms to your dermatology provider 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, such as insulin and diuretics (water pills). 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, but 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 balance 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.
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Have you tried apple cider vinegar for eczema? What was your experience? Share your experience in the comments below or by posting on MyEczemaTeam.