To find out why there’s an association between apple cider vinegar and keratosis, let’s take a closer look at what the condition is and what helps manage it. First, it’s important to note that actinic keratosis lesions can occasionally develop into skin cancer, so before you try apple cider vinegar on your skin, please get a diagnosis and treatment plan from a medical professional!
What is actinic keratosis?
An actinic keratosis is a skin lesion caused by sun damage. These patches of scaly, rough or thickened skin occur on areas of the body that have been exposed to the sun for many years, like the face, forehead, lower arms, backs of the hands or the V below the neck.
Actinic keratosis lesions tend to appear in older people, especially those with pale skin who have been living in sunny regions or who have worked outdoors for many years. They can itch, burn or feel rough, and are often a different colour to the surrounding skin.
Why should you treat actinic keratosis?
There are three main reasons to treat take keratosis seriously:
- Actinic keratosis lesions can be itchy or sore, so they’re likely to need something to relieve the discomfort.
- People can feel uncomfortable with the way they look, especially as the lesions affect exposed and visible areas of the body such as the face.
- Most importantly, it’s vital to treat actinic keratosis because of the small risk that they develop into squamous cell carcinoma, which is a kind of skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma isn’t usually fatal but it needs to be caught early and treated by medical professionals.
What is apple cider vinegar and why is it used on skin?
Apple cider vinegar is made from the fermented juice of crushed apples; it’s mostly sugar and acetic acid, but the unrefined version of apple vinegar contains yeasts and bacteria too. It’s these microorganisms that are said to be good for you, either taken as a drink or with food, or applied topically on the skin. It’s said to be useful for aiding digestion, rebalancing the ph level of the skin to manage eczema, and to modulate the body’s cytokine response.
It’s this that might lead people to use apple cider vinegar on their actinic keratosis to counter the damage that the sun does to the skin. However, despite fairly good evidence for acetic acid being antifungal and antibacterial when used on the skin, there’s no evidence at all that vinegar, even apple vinegar, is an effective treatment for actinic keratosis.
In fact, there’s a danger it can damage the skin itself, by causing an acid burn, and an even more serious danger that treating AK with vinegar at home instead of getting care from a doctor will mean missing the development of skin cancer.
What’s the best way to treat actinic keratosis?
AK is best managed in three ways:
The most effective way of avoiding AK developing into cancer is to protect your skin from being damaged by the sun. Wear protective clothing, apply a high factor sunscreen regularly, and stay out of the sun during its daily peak between 10am-2pm, depending on geographical location.
Treat AK as early as possible by consulting your doctor at the first sign of thickened, itchy, scaly or stinging skin. They will be able to offer you options for treatment, which might include topical creams, cryotherapy, laser therapy, excision, and photodynamic therapy.
It’s also advisable to look after your skin with emollients that can ease the discomfort of tight, thick, itchy or scaly skin. You can also use apple cider vinegar or topical emollients alongside conventional medical treatment to ease your symptoms and nourish sore skin, but these are complementary to expert medical care, not an alternative to it.
As precancerous lesions, AK need to be regularly checked for signs of them evolving into squamous cell carcinoma. People with actinic keratosis also need to be aware of their increased risk (having been exposed to sun damage over a long time) of developing more serious skin cancers, so it’s important to keep checkup appointments, and watch for any changes to your skin.
See our article What Is The Best Treatment For Actinic Keratosis? for more details about preventing and treating actinic keratosis.
Although actinic keratosis isn’t something you can treat with emollients, moisturising your skin with intensive, non-irritant creams or salves can help keep skin in good, healthy condition before and after treatment. We advise customers not to apply oil-based balms like Skin Salvation to skin exposed to direct sunlight, as the high oil content can cause burning and we don’t add sunscreens to our products. Apply last thing at night instead!
Balmonds Skin Salvation
with hemp and beeswax
Balmonds Cooling Cream
with shea, menthol, aloe vera & lavender
Balmonds Daily Moisturising Cream
with shea butter and calendula
If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.