There are countless reasons to love apples, especially during the fall when the famed fruit is ripe and ready to be picked from the tree. Not only is apple picking a fun activity, but there is a never-ending list of recipes you can make and bake with the fruit. But another often overlooked reason to love apples is the benefits it provides for your skin and hair.
Apples boost your levels of vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, which helps your body produce collagen. Apples also contain a slew of other nutrients such as copper, a melanin-containing mineral that arms your skin against UV rays and vitamin A, which plays the role in the overall functioning of your skin.
If you don’t feel like chomping down on an apple, a great way to score the beauty benefits of the fruit is by incorporating apple cider vinegar into your skin care regimen. This all-natural, all-purpose staple has been used for all sorts of things—from kitchen solutions to health remedies.
Just as you’d think, apple cider vinegar is made from crushing and squeezing the liquid out of apples and then adding bacteria and yeast that cause this liquid to ferment. Jackie Cochran, Executive Sous Chef at the Stowe Mountain Lodge in Stowe, Vermont explains that this process turns the sugar and sweetness found in apples into alcohol. A second fermentation process occurs, this time converting that alcohol into vinegar.
While we mostly use apple cider vinegar to make things like salad dressings, marinades and chutneys, it also doubles as an efficient (and affordable) product for your skin and hair. Here are six simple and satisfying ways to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your beauty routine in no time.
“The anti-inflammatory properties of apple cider vinegar soothe skin and the acetic acid softens skin,” explains Dendy Engelman, M.D., director of dermatologic surgery at Metropolitan Hospital in New York City. “It contains alpha hydroxy acids that chemically exfoliate to remove dead skin buildup and reveal healthy new skin cells.”
How to use: It’s always a wise idea to use apple cider vinegar with water, as concentrated apple cider vinegar may disrupt the skin barrier leading to skin inflammation. So, to reap skin-soothing benefits, an easy solution is to pour some straight into your tub. In a regular-sized bathtub, add one cup of apple cider vinegar to warm water. Soak for anywhere from 15–20 minutes to allow the protective acid to soak into your skin. “This will help balance the pH levels of your skin, preventing it from becoming too oily or too dry,” says Dr. Engelman.
You can also use apple cider vinegar on your hair. In fact, it comes in handy when fighting dandruff. “Dandruff is essentially your body’s inflammatory response to high levels of yeast that may grow on your scalp,” explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., the director of cosmetic and clinical research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. “Apple cider vinegar helps lower the amount of yeast growing on your scalp, which, in turn, helps protect against dandruff.”
How to use: Mix together an equal-parts solution of apple cider vinegar and water and apply to your hair and scalp before you shampoo. If you’d rather not deal with the intense stench of using it solo, you can also add some to your shampoo bottle, which should mask the smell entirely.
As Dr. Engelman explains, apple cider vinegar possesses the triple threat of being a potent antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral substance, which makes it capable of keeping bacteria at bay and pimples from forming. It works to reduce the levels of acne-causing bacteria and exfoliates the dead skin cells sitting atop your skin’s surface. As Dr. Zeichner notes, ACV may also help treat or prevent blemishes.
How to use: Use a cotton swab to apply it to the jawline prior to the cheeks to make sure the skin doesn’t feel like it is “burning.” “If the jawline reacts (red, burning, itchy after five minutes) then stop using it,” says Dr. Zeichner. “If not, apply a thin layer all over the face avoiding anything dripping on or around the eyes.”
Apple cider vinegar works as an all-natural astringent, working to remove dirt, oil and grime with the swipe of a cotton pad. “After you apply it to your skin with a washcloth, your skin will feel smoother and it will help reduce fine lines,” says Lily Talakoub, M.D., board-certified dermatologist at McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center in McLean, Virginia. “It also helps absorb excess oils on the skin.”
How to use: Dampen a cotton round with a mix of apple cider vinegar and water (aim for one tablespoon of ACV for every two cups of water). Don’t worry about rinsing—with proper dilution, the apple cider vinegar won’t cause irritation and will leave your skin feeling fresh and revitalized.
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“The acids in the apple cider vinegar will alter the pH level of your skin, which fights off bacteria and neutralizes odors,” explains Dr. Engelman. Believe it or not, thanks to its antiseptic properties, it can even stave off the stench of smelly feet and has also been known to help with athlete’s foot.
How to use: Mix 1/4 the amount of apple cider vinegar in with 3/4 the amount of water and let your feet soak. You can also apply this mixture to stench-heavy areas—for example if Fido pees on the rug again! Let the mixture soak and dry before applying the rest of your cleaning supplies.
Since apple cider vinegar restores your skin’s pH levels, it works quickly to reverse some of the damage caused by overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays.
How to use: Don’t forget to start with well-diluted ACV. While you can use the bath method we mentioned above to soothe your sunburn, you can also douse a mixture with a washcloth and apply directly onto your sunburned skin.
If you’re suffering from acne or dandruff and ACV is not helping, visit a board-certified dermatologist for a prescription option tailored to your skin need.