- Hyperpigmentation refers to dark spots or patches on the skin.
- While apple cider vinegar lightens hyperpigmentation, it may not be suitable for all skin types, and can cause damage.
- Other home remedies may be more effective and safer for treating dark spots.
Hyperpigmentation is characterized by areas of skin that are darker in color than the surrounding skin. 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. While no research supports using apple cider vinegar for hyperpigmentation, it remains a popular DIY treatment.
Types of hyperpigmentation include freckles, age spots, melasma and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation due to injury or acne.
How Does Apple Cider Vinegar Treat Hyperpigmentation?
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid. When applied topically, this acid functions as a chemical peel to gradually exfoliate dead skin cells to reveal healthier 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 first for safe application.
- 1 tsp vinegar
- 3 tsp water
- Combine both ingredients in a small container
- Apply the mixture over pigmented areas once per day using a cotton pad
- Let rest for two to three minutes; rinse with lukewarm water
- Apply moisturizer and continue with your usual skin care routine
To help counteract the drying effects, you can add the contents of a vitamin E capsule to the mixture.
Is It Safe?
Topical application of apple cider vinegar is not appropriate for everyone. While individuals with oily skin can benefit from its astringent properties, it is not recommended for dry or sensitive skin.
Vinegar must be diluted before being applied topically; when used undiluted, it is known to cause chemical burns.
However, even when diluted, this vinegar is highly astringent, and its acidity can disrupt natural skin pH levels. Side effects include dryness, redness, irritation and burning sensations; if you experience these symptoms, discontinue use.
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 hyperpigmented areas 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
- Essential oils
- Green tea extract
- 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 best known for its lightening properties. It contains citric acid which is an alpha-hydroxy acid, and citral, a tyrosinase inhibitor. It also has high levels of vitamin C, a natural exfoliant.
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid which can lighten hyperpigmentation when applied to the skin. For safety, it must be diluted with water.
Individuals with oily or acne-prone skin can usually tolerate apple cider vinegar’s astringent effects and are therefore able to use it to treat hyperpigmentation. Those with dry or sensitive skin may find that it irritating.
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