Eczema affects more than 30 million people in the United States . The itchy, burning, red rash that can cause your skin to swell and peel is painful, can be embarrassing for some, and is often difficult to get rid of.
Finding an all-natural treatment for the skin condition can be life-changing, and you could have it in your cupboard right now. Apple cider vinegar has been used in a variety of ways to treat skin conditions, and an apple cider vinegar bath may be an effective treatment for eczema, however, there are some things to consider first before you try it.
What is Apple Cider Vinegar?
Apple cider vinegar, or ACV, is fermented apple juice. When yeast is added to apple juice, it converts the fruit sugar into alcohol, which is then turned into acetic acid by bacteria. This acid is what gives ACV its sour taste and strong smell.
What Causes Eczema?
Healthy skin is protected by an acidic barrier and typically has a pH under five. Scientists think that people with eczema have elevated skin pH. For reference, a pH under seven is considered acidic, and over seven is basic.
When you have an elevated skin pH, that acidic barrier doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to. This allows moisture to escape and lets skin irritants in. Additionally, without that barrier, your skin is not able to guard against bad bacteria, which is why people with eczema are more prone to staph infections, because they have more staph bacteria colonizing on their skin .
Eczema can also be triggered by soaps, detergents, and even some tap water because washing your skin with soaps and other cosmetic products can significantly raise the pH of your skin .
There is currently no cure for eczema, so the goal of treatment is to ease uncomfortable symptoms .
Apple Cider Vinegar for Eczema
It is important to note that very little research has been done on the effects of ACV and eczema, and therefore there is little to no scientific evidence to support the use of apple cider vinegar for treating the skin condition.
Most of the evidence that supports ACV for eczema is anecdotal, and there are two main reasons why apple cider vinegar may be useful for treating eczema.
The first is that it could help balance the skin’s acidity levels. A 2016 study conducted on mice found that when a vinegar-based cream was applied to the animals’ skin, it helped balance the pH level and stop eczema skin lesions from forming . This study, however, has not been conducted with humans.
The second way ACV might help reduce the symptoms of eczema is by reducing inflammation and infection. When applied to the affected skin, it could reduce swelling and stop broken skin from becoming infected .
Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic, which can benefit the body in many ways, but can be harmful if it is overused. It could potentially injure soft tissues such as the tissue in your mouth, throat, stomach, and kidneys .
Topically, ACV can also cause chemical burns when used in excess. For this reason, it is always important to check with your doctor before using any natural remedy for eczema, and always use small, diluted amounts of vinegar, and to check the skin carefully for any sign of an adverse reaction .
As mentioned, there is also very little scientific evidence to suggest that apple cider vinegar is an effective treatment for eczema. A study conducted by Lydia Luu and colleagues at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, found that after the vinegar was applied to the skin, the skin’s pH declined immediately, but the effects did not last for more than an hour.
They also found that more than 70 percent of their patients experienced mild side effects from using apple cider vinegar.
“We often consider natural treatments as harmless, but our study showed that this may not necessarily be the case,” said study co-author Richard Flowers, MD. “This highlights the importance of patients reaching out to their dermatologist or provider before undertaking home remedies for their skin, to ensure they are doing them in the safest and most evidence-based manner.” .
The team did acknowledge that recent research is showing that diluted apple cider vinegar could improve the skin barrier integrity in patients with eczema, but more study is needed .
How to Prepare an Apple Cider Vinegar Bath
The following directions are from the Eczema Rescue Store:
- Mix 2 cups of ACV into a warm bath if using a tub. Use 4 tsp. per gallon, if using a baby tub.
- Soak in the bath for 30+ minutes. Toys help a child soak.
- Rinse well with clean water
- Gently pat the skin dry with a soft, cotton towel. Leave the skin slightly moist.
- Moisturize immediately while the skin is still damp with an eczema moisturizer.
- After applying an eczema moisturizer, apply eczema clothing to reduce itching and allow emollients to stay in place for optimum treatment.
- Repeat 3-4 times a week for best results .
Other Ways to use Apple Cider Vinegar for Eczema
The Eczema Rescue Store also suggests using apple cider vinegar as a toner to spot-treat your eczema, that can be kept in a jar in your bathroom:
- Mix 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar with 1/2 cup of water. For particularly sensitive skin, you can start with just 2 tbsp. of ACV in 1 cup of water.
- Use a cotton ball to apply the ACV to the affected area(s) as a skin toner.
- Repeat 1-2 times a day.
The authors of the site also strongly encourage rinsing and moisturizing your skin very well after applying ACV, since vinegar can be drying, as well as diluting it before applying it to the skin. If you notice your skin reacting to the vinegar, they suggest diluting it further .
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.