Potential Antimicrobial Properties of: Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar


The world has increasing concerns about antibiotic resistance. This has prompted enormous research into new drugs as well as efforts to find new means of combating various microbes.

Apple cider vinegar has long been touted as having antimicrobial potential. It is frequently used by many patients to soothe the scalp and treat a variety of scaly, flaky conditions. Many use it as a clarifying agent if abundant hair styling products are used. Increasingly, I am recommending it among treatments when there is a need for safe soothing anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial agents. They may not be as effective as some standard antimicrobials but they may be safer long term and therefore need to be considered. Antimicrobials like hexachlorophene (banned in many countries and triclosan (banned in 2016 by United States FDA) are increasingly banned. While I still recommend chlorhexidine from time to time, we need new strategies to treat scalp diseases that are affected by bacteria.

A new study set out to investigate the antimicrobial capacity of apple cider vinegar (ACV) against two bacteria (E. coli, S. aureus) and one yeast (C. albicans). Interestingly, ACV was effective in vitro to inhibit growth of these microbes albeit at different concentrations. 
For C. albicans, a 1/2 ACV had the strongest effect, S. aureus, a 1/25 dilution ACV was required, whereas for E-coli cultures, a 1/50 ACV dilution was required (p < 0.05). ACV was found to alter cell membrane integrity and affect a variety of biochemical pathways inside these microbes.

The results demonstrate that apple cider vinegar has potential as a bona fide antimicrobial agent and deserves further study. I frequently recommend the use of 1 part ACV to 4 parts water as a starting point. This is added to a spray bottle and sprayed all over the scalp after the hair is shampooed. The ACV is left on 5 minutes before rinsing and conditioning. Provided it is not irritating, I may recommend increasing to 1:1 dilutions.


Yagnik D, et al. Sci Rep. 2018.

Dr. Jeff Donovan is a Canadian and US board certified dermatologist specializing exclusively in hair loss. To schedule a consultation, please call the Whistler office at 604.283.1887

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