Apple cider vinegar soaks [0.5%] as a treatment for atopic dermatitis do not improve skin barrier integrity

Pediatr Dermatol. 2019 Sep;36(5):634-639. doi: 10.1111/pde.13888. Epub 2019 Jul 22.


Background/objectives: Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a common chronic inflammatory skin condition associated with high transepidermal water loss, high skin pH, and Staphylococcus aureus skin colonization. The treatment of AD with bath additives remains highly debated. Recent evidence suggests that dilute apple cider vinegar (ACV) may improve skin barrier integrity in AD, but its safety and efficacy are not well studied. This pilot split-arm study analyzed the effect of dilute apple cider vinegar soaks on skin barrier integrity in patients with atopic dermatitis as measured by skin transepidermal water loss and skin pH.

Methods: A total of 22 subjects (11 AD and 11 healthy controls) were enrolled. Subjects soaked both of their forearms for 14 days, with one arm in dilute ACV (0.5% acetic acid) and the other in water 10 minutes daily. Transepidermal water loss and pH were measured pre- and post-treatment.

Results: In both groups, transepidermal water loss increased and pH decreased at 0 minutes post-ACV treatment, but these effects were not sustained at 60 minutes. In total, 72.7% (16/22) of subjects reported mild side effects from ACV with improvement after discontinuing the soaks.

Conclusions: Dilute ACV soaks have no significant effect on skin barrier integrity but caused skin irritation in a majority of subjects. Study limitations include analysis of a single brand, dilution, and application of ACV. Future studies are needed to explore whether lower concentrations of ACV soaks or other applications such as a leave-on acidic ointment could improve skin barrier integrity in a safe, nonirritating way.

Keywords: apple cider vinegar; atopic dermatitis; eczema; epidermal acidification; skin barrier integrity; skin pH; transepidermal water loss.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Administration, Topical
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / drug therapy*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / physiopathology*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malus*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena / drug effects*
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Acetic Acid