I Tried Apple Cider Vinegar As A Toner & I'm In Love

by Alexa Tucker

Apple cider vinegar has received its fair share of buzz over the past few years, thanks to the supposed health benefits of drinking it. But recently, a trendy new way to use the stuff has people testing its benefits in a more, well, surface-level way — on their skin. And as someone who will try just about anything once in the name of skin care research, I saw it as my sworn duty to find out: Does apple cider vinegar really work as a toner?

It can, according to Laura and Diana Palmisano (fondly known as the Derm Duo) of Schweiger Dermatology in NYC. "Because of the acidity of the ACV, it can help balance the skin's pH and restore a better environment, aiding in better skin function, prevention of bacterial growth, and exfoliation of dead skin cells," they tell me. "It may also help with acne by reducing oil and helping to unclog pores."

Sounds like a no-lose situation, right? Well, not exactly. Yes, its antibacterial and antiseptic properties can be be beneficial for a whole host of skin issues, but it's not for everyone. ACV is a pretty harsh ingredient, so if you have super sensitive skin, acne problems, or you're using an intense skin care ingredient on the reg (like retinoids, glycolic or salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide), use extra caution before trying ACV as a toner.

As for me, my skin is pretty dry and sensitive, so I admit that I was a little nervous going into it. To my surprise, though, I was pretty impressed with the effects of ACV as a toner.

Here's how I did it:

I Diluted The ACV With Water

This is probably the most crucial step in the whole process: Dilute the ACV with water. I repeat, dilute the ACV with water. On its own, it's way too strong for skin.

How much you dilute it depends on your skin type. You can play with what works for you, but these are the Derm Duo's reccomended starting points (in parts ACV to parts water).

  • Sensitive skin: 1:4
  • Dry skin: 1:3
  • Normal Skin: 1:2
  • Oily Skin: 1:1

For the first time you try it, though, they recommend starting with at least a 1:3 ratio (even if you're normal or oily) and gradually building up until your skin gets used to it. Since I have dry skin anyway, I went with their guidance and used one part ACV to three parts water.

After Washing My Face, I Applied The ACV Toner With A Cotton Pad

If you've never gotten a whiff of ACV before, just know that this ish is pungent, so putting it on your face isn't the most appealing thing ever. (Hey, better than drinking it though, I guess.)

Nevertheless, I persisted. I started by washing my face with a gentle cleanser and drying it off (as most good skin care practices start, with clean skin). I dipped a cotton pad into my ACV/water concoction and squeezed out the excess, then wiped down my face with it (avoiding my eye area to avoid irritation, per the Palmisanos' advice). I admit, it burned a little bit, but nothing too intense.

Finally, I Followed Up With Moisturizer For A Super-Smooth Result

I noticed instant results from my little experiment — the texture of my skin felt way more even, and it looked a little brighter. Overall, my face just felt so, so clean.

Now, oils are a natural part of healthy skin, so it's not a great thing for your face to feel that matte and squeaky all the time. But it was insanely satisfying in this case.

Because ACV is drying to the skin, I followed up my toner with a gel moisturizer with hyaluronic acid. And I have to say, after all was said and done, it was one of the smoothest skin nights of my life. (Plus, the moisturizer helped cover up the ACV smell, so there's that.)

The Final Verdict

Overall, I'd absolutely try using ACV as a toner again. The Derm Duo suggests easing it into your routine by using it once or twice a week because it is such an intense ingredient, so I'll start there (and maybe stick to just doing it a couple of times a week, since I do have dry skin). It was an unexpected surprise to like it as much as I did, but I'm not questioning it.