- Hyperpigmentation refers to dark spots or patches on the skin.
- While apple cider vinegar lightens hyperpigmentation, it can cause damage to the skin.
- Other home remedies may be more effective at treating dark spots.
Hyperpigmentation is characterized by areas of skin that are darker than your natural skin color. It is the result of an excess of melanin, a pigment occurring in the skin, and caused by several factors including genetics, hormones and sun exposure.
Types of hyperpigmentation include freckles, age spots, melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or acne scars.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is commonly recommended as a treatment for hyperpigmentation. However, there is no research proving its efficacy for this purpose and it has the potential to harm the skin if not properly diluted.
How Does Apple Cider Vinegar Treat Hyperpigmentation?
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid. When applied topically, the acid works like a chemical peel. It exfoliates the outermost layer of dead skin cells to expose new skin beneath.
Other benefits of apple cider vinegar
Diluted apple cider vinegar can be an effective toner for acne-prone or oily skin. As an astringent, it removes excess oil, reduces blemishes and tightens large pores. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties.
How to Use Apple Cider Vinegar for Hyperpigmentation
Apple cider vinegar is highly acidic and must be diluted to be safely applied to the skin.
- 1 Tsp apple cider vinegar
- 3 Tsp water
- Prepare the treatment by combining ACV and water in a small container
- Apply the mixture over pigmented areas once per day using a cotton pad
- Let sit for two to three minutes, then rinse with lukewarm water
- Apply moisturizer and continue with your usual skincare routine
To help counteract apple cider vinegar’s drying effects, you can add the contents of a vitamin E capsule to the mixture.
Is It Safe?
The application of undiluted apple cider vinegar is known to be unsafe and cause chemical burns.
Even when diluted, apple cider vinegar is highly astringent and its acidity can disrupt natural skin pH levels. Side effects include dryness, redness, irritation and burning sensations. It is not recommended for dry or sensitive skin types. Discontinue use if irritation occurs.
Apple cider vinegar should not be used in conjunction with other chemical exfoliants such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid as there is an increased risk of irritation.
Other Home Remedies for Hyperpigmentation
Other home remedies for skin discoloration may be more effective and less harmful than apple cider vinegar. They work by exfoliating the skin or inhibiting the production of tyrosinase, an enzyme necessary for melanin formation. These include:
- Aloe vera gel
- Green tea extract
- Essential oils
- Lemon juice
- Licorice extract
- Mulberry extract
- Papaya seed oil
- Tea tree oil
These ingredients can be applied to dark patches once a day. Any essential oils must be diluted before topical use.
Of these home remedies, lemon juice is the best known for its skin lightening properties. It contains citric acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid; citral, a tyrosinase inhibitor and vitamin C, a natural exfoliant.
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which when applied topically can lighten hyperpigmentation. However, apple cider vinegar is highly acidic and due to the risk of skin irritation, it is not recommended as a DIY skin lightening treatment.
Safer natural remedies for hyperpigmentation include aloe vera, lemon juice and turmeric, among others.
- Feldstein, S., Afshar, M., & Krakowski, A. C. (2015). Chemical Burn from Vinegar Following an Internet-based Protocol for Self-removal of Nevi. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 8(6), 50.es. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4479370/
- Gopal, Judy, et al. (2017) “Authenticating Apple Cider Vinegar’s Home Remedy Claims: Antibacterial, Antifungal, Antiviral Properties and Cytotoxicity Aspect.” Natural Product Research, vol. 33, no. 6, 2017, pp. 906–910. doi:10.1080/14786419.2017.1413567
- Matsuura, R., Ukeda, H., & Sawamura, M. (2006). Tyrosinase Inhibitory Activity of Citrus Essential Oils. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 54(6), 2309–2313. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf051682i
- Smit, N., Vicanova, J., & Pavel, S. (2009). The hunt for natural skin whitening agents. International journal of molecular sciences, 10(12), 5326–5349. doi:10.3390/ijms10125326