Whether it’s eating apples to tackle bad breath or rinsing your hair with lemon juice, there are so many weird food hacks out there. And drinking apple cider vinegar for better skin is one that’s definitely been on the rise over the past couple of years.

With many of these fads being quickly debunked as nothing but quasi-health garbage, it’d be easy to condemn the drinking of apple cider vinegar, too. Go on TikTok and you’ll likely be served a short video of a self-declared health guru boasting the benefits of necking it like a shot of sambuca. Some people have even begun to take it in gummy form.

But does drinking apple cider vinegar actually work? Will it genuinely improve your skin and your overall health. There’s a lot to unpack, so we sat down with some of the UK’s leading nutritionists to get to the core of it all.

What is apple cider vinegar?

Yep, you’re right in thinking that it’s the same stuff that you might already have in the kitchen cupboard, ready to drizzle on a particularly dull salad.

Apple cider vinegar is made through a simple fermenting process and it’s by no means a new thing, even if TikTok and Gwyneth Paltrow only discovered it in the past five years. It’s actually been around for a long, long time, being used in ancient civilisations such as Babylonia, Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire. In fact, Hippocrates, the founding father of Greek medicine, actually recommended his patients drink it for quicker healing.

The fermentation process essentially turns apple juice, using yeast and bacteria, into acetic acid (a byproduct of fermentation, which gives apple cider vinegar its signature sharp scent). And that’s the stuff that people are downing in shot glasses each and every morning.

What are the benefits?

1. Acid reflux

“The big thing about apple cider vinegar is that it helps with acid reflux,” says Andy Daly, nutritional therapy practitioner at Dr David Jack and member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine, who has been drinking apple cider vinegar every single day since the ’80s. The high pH intensity of the vinegar can neutralise stomach acid, bringing balance to the levels of acid, and preventing it from flowing back up, which is the root course of heartburn.

2. Cholesterol

According to a 2023 study, researchers found that there were some links between apple cider vinegar intake and the reduction of bad cholesterol. Furthermore, it showed that consuming it actually increased lipoprotein cholesterol concentration, which is essentially the good cholesterol that’s meant to lower the risk of heart attacks and similar conditions. But it’s worth noting that this was just a small study, and there’s a lot more testing to be done.

3. Blood sugar

“Personally, I find that it helps with my digestion and blood sugar control, especially when I’m overtired,” says Rhian Stephenson, nutritionist, ex-CEO of Psycle and founder of supplements brand Artah Health. “Apple cider vinegar isn’t a magic bullet, but it does have proven benefits when it comes to blood sugar regulation and postprandial insulin response.”

4. Feeling fuller

“Other studies have shown that apple cider vinegar increases the subjective rating of satiety; meaning, the participants who had the vinegar before the meal reported feeling more satisfied and ‘fuller’ afterwards,” says Stephenson. “It’s also thought to help with digestion, ACV will help acidify the lumen of the stomach, which is an important aspect of digestion.”

5. Weight loss

During a 12-week clinical trial conducted by Holy Spirit University of Kaslik in Lebanon, it found that those regularly taking apple cider vinegar had significantly reduced body weight, BMI, and visceral adiposity index (a smart way to measure the accumulation and effects of internal fat). However, this was also a small study, and there’s little scientific evidence to further support these claims.

Will it help your skin?

Gut and skin health sort of go hand-in-hand. Researchers and dermatologists have found that when your gut health is off-centre, then the balance of your microbiome also takes a hit, which results in breakouts and unevenness in tone. That said, simply shotting apple cider vinegar might not actually do much for your skin, as some TikTokers believe.

“I’m a big believer that a healthier gut is linked to the health of your skin, but one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar three times a day with a glass of water is not going to help what your dermis is doing, sadly,” says Daly. “A lot of gut issues are caused because of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which is when the stomach acid is not strong enough. This is because you have an overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine that feed on undigested food particles. Apple cider vinegar alone can’t help with that, and so you need to deal with that first in order to then see benefits in the skin and elsewhere.”

Which apple cider vinegar should you be using?

“When looking to buy an apple cider vinegar, you need to get one that has ‘the mother’ in it,” says Daly, by which she refers to the build-up of bacteria and yeast you’ll see floating in some apple cider vinegars. “It’s very important if you want the benefits of apple cider vinegar. Then you know that you’re getting the fermented goodness, like Bragg’s.”

There are actually lots of different blends of apple cider vinegar to choose from, and some have been mixed with other ingredients such as beetroot, ginger, honey, and tumeric. Some are even mixed with other fruit juices to make them more appetising.

What’s the best way to consume it?

“You don’t want to down it like a shot straight from the bottle on a regular basis,” says Daly. “It’s extremely acidic and over time this will actually do damage to the enamel on your teeth.” Instead, as Daly has done for many years, you should dilute concentrated vinegar from the bottle with half a cup of water and drink it that way. “It’s actually a lot more palatable that way too, as let’s face it: drinking vinegar isn’t nice.”

“I take raw, organic apple cider vinegar, pretty much daily and have done for years,” says Stephenson. “I also use it for dressings and salsas; it’s a nice way to include a functional food with proven health benefits to everyday meal prep.”

Who should avoid apple cider vinegar?

“Some people say it could interact with some medications, especially those used to treat diabetes The medicine Metformin, which is used to treat type two diabetes, in particular,” Daly says. “If somebody was to come to me, I always want to know what medications they’re on. And then I look at drug-nutrient interactions. So if anyone is on medication, I would suggest they consult an official health practitioner before starting to take apple cider vinegar.

“Importantly, if you’ve got a bacterial infection in the small intestine or SIBO as it’s medically known, and you’re on a specific protocol of medication or a strict diet, you can’t have anything fermented because that encourages the growth of these bacteria. So apple cider vinegar should definitely be avoided.”

Do apple cider vinegar gummies work?

“I wouldn’t take those,” says Daly. “In order to get the benefits of apple cider vinegar, with the mother, you need to take the actual stuff and you’re not going to get that in gummies.”

“I haven’t seen any indication that a gummy with added sugar and preservatives would have the same effect,” says Stephenson. “Also, there’s the obvious link with blood sugar; if you’re struggling with cravings, blood sugar control, and appetite, eating a sweetened gummy is unlikely to be supportive and can reinforce your taste and cravings for sweets.

“I’ve also found that the ritual of actually drinking apple cider vinegar for people is hugely beneficial; they usually increase their water intake, and generally become more mindful of what they’re putting into their body. If you’re doing something on a daily basis that is super easy and effective, it’s easier to build on this momentum and add in other foods, practices or habits that are beneficial.”