Growing up, I always abided by the rules and rarely got in trouble. I never got a single detention, and I got a dress-code violation only once. In my old age, I’ve apparently become a rule breaker — beauty-wise, at least. (I haven’t broken any laws as far as I know.) I constantly infuriate my mother by getting tattoos and — until recently — I popped my pimples. Lately, I’ve also been using a skin-care product not recommended by dermatologists.
I swear it was completely accidental. This wasn’t a snake-oil type of situation in which I slathered my skin with a cult-favorite product that has (allegedly) negative side effects but only people who are friends with beauty editors or scroll through the SkincareAddiction subreddit know the truth. Instead, I’ve been spraying my face with Cocokind’s Raspberry Vinegar Toner, which is made of only raspberry vinegar and water. Yes, it temporarily makes my skin smell like a salad, but no one is getting close enough to it to tell. (Disclaimer: [read the following in Oprah’s voice] I. Love. Vinegar.)
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve noticed my acne-prone skin has been clearing up, getting smoother and looking brighter. I typically don’t feel comfortable putting pictures of my makeup-free face on the Internet, but the toner has helped me to do so. Plus, everyone and their grandmother swear up and down about the healing abilities of apple cider vinegar, so I didn’t think twice about my love for the toner. Before I could spread the gospel about it, though, I reached out to Shari Marchbein, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine in New York City, to find out more about the seemingly magical skin-care powers that vinegar possesses. Right away, she simply told me, “I’ve never recommended vinegar for breakouts.” Damn.
And it went downhill from there. I talked to two other dermatologists, and their insights on the acidic stuff and acne weren’t exactly positive. Shasa Hu, a Miami-based dermatologist, tells Allure, that she frequently sees patients because of their improper use of vinegar. “The potentially harmful effects range from irritation, exaggerated sunburn, superficial chemical burn (from repetitive application), and depigmentation as a result of the initial irritation,” she explains. Ouch.
Vinegar does have potential antimicrobial properties, though. Hu acknowledges that and says it helps reduce the pH of the skin with its acidity. Lily Talakoub, a dermatologist at McLean Dermatology and Skincare Center in McLean, Virginia, adds that this acidity also helps to chemically exfoliate the skin, dry up acne spots, and remove dead skin cells. “However, vinegar does not have any proven effectiveness against Propionibacterium acnes, the most common bacteria contributing to breakouts,” Hu explains. Also it could strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to overproduction of sebum or more oiliness in the long run. I already have an issue with oily skin, so this is terrible news for me.
With all this in mind, Talakoub says my beloved vinegar toner should be used with caution. “You should use it once daily, especially in the evening after removing your makeup,” she recommends. I’ve taken this into account because I’m not ready to stop using it full stop. I love it too much to let it go, and my skin apparently doesn’t hate it either. Also, I should avoid other exfoliants, like glycolic acid or retinol, when using it. Noted. Hu, on the other hand, says, “It’s much safer and healthier to incorporate vinegar into your diet, treat the skin inside out, rather applying to the delicate skin.” I do love pickles, so that’s totally doable, too.
- I Stopped Popping My Pimples for a Month and This Is What Happened
- If You Own an At-Home Microneedler, You Need to Read This
- Here’s Why This Woman’s Cystic Acne Routine Is SO Controversial
Now, see what happened when an Allure editor smeared eggs all over her face:
Follow Devon Abelman on Twitter and Instagram.