The Science Behind: Raw Apple Cider Vinegar


One day raw apple cider vinegar popped on the scene and it seemed like the cure to everything; weight loss, acid reflux, allergies and acne. The use of ACV for a variety of ailments dates back thousands of years, and just like many ancient remedies, it became a modern fad, especially in the skin care world. 

But what is the science behind the benefits of ACV? Why exactly is ACV a good antibacterial? Why is it a natural exfoliant? How does apple cider vinegar reduce the appearance of acne scars? How does it prevent inflammation? 

Apple cider vinegar contains organic compounds that provide it’s beneficial properties. The organic compounds that make ACV a skin care essential are malic acid, acetic acid and sulfur.

Malic Acid

Apple cider vinegar contains malic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid that is found in apples. Malic acid provides ACV with it’s exfoliating properties, skin lightening properties, collagen production properties, and the ability to balance the skin’s pH.

Malic acid has the ability to break the bonds between dead skin cells in the stratum corneum (outer most layer of skin). The act of breaking these bonds, helps get rid of dead skin cells and promotes the production of new skin cells. The sloughing off of dead skin cells and promoting cell renewal makes malic acid a natural exfoliant.

Malic acid doesn't only work on the outer layer of skin, it also has the ability to travel into the dermis and increase gene expression of collagen and hyaluronic acid. An increase in collagen and hyaluronic acid production causes the skin to be more elastic, hydrated, and aids in the healing of acne scars.

Malic acid also has the ability to maintain the skin’s acid-mantle layer. The acid-mantle layer acts as a protection layer against pathogens and has a pH of between 4.5 and 6.2. Malic acid acts as a better buffer capacity, meaning it won’t disrupt the skin’s pH, but balance it.

Acetic Acid

Apple cider vinegar also has antimicrobial properties due to it’s acetic acid component. Acetic acid is a carboxylic acid found in vinegar. Acetic acid has been proven to move through membranes and kill a wide range of microbes. It has the ability to prevent the growth of bacteria, prevent the production of biofilms (a thin, film of bacteria), and breakdown already established biofilms. This is important for acne because P. acnes (acne causing bacteria), is known to create biofilms.


ACV has anti-inflammatory properties and has the ability to even skin tone because of it’s sulfur content. Sulfur has the ability break down keratin which is normally done by a process called keratinization. Keratinization is the body’s ability to naturally get rid of dead skin cells. People with acne experience hyperkeratinization, where dead skin cells do not shed the skin’s surface. Sulfur makes up for the keratinization process by breaking down keratin in those who suffer from hyperkeratinization. Getting rid of build up on the skin’s surface promotes an even skin tone. Sulfur also has the ability to inhibit the expression of genes that promote inflammation.

Apple cider vinegar makes a great skin care ingredient. ACV should be looked for in scrubs and toners.


Acetic Acid

Acetic Acid, Found in Vinegar, Shown To Be Effective Against Bacteria Found in Burn Wounds

Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) / Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA).” Naturopathica, Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) / Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA)

The Antimicrobial Effect Of Acetic Acid--an Alternative To Common Local Antiseptics? H Ryssel-O Kloeters-G Germann-T Schäfer-G Wiedemann-M Oehlbauer -

 Ingredient Spotlight: Why a Sulfur Acne Treatment Is So Powerful Alexis Diaz -

Malic Acid: Skin Care in a Wine Glass

The Role Of Follicular Hyperkeratinization in Acne