The Kitchen Cosmetician explores Vinegar

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This Green Monday, look no further than your kitchen!

We have all heard beauty folklore that involves ingredients from the kitchen. This month in order to suss out the truth to these popular rumors, I became a Kitchen Cosmetician.

I’ve been testing the hypothesis that common and natural kitchen ingredients can be comparable to drugstore and department store products. There are many kitchen products to explore and we’re beginning this series with an item found in every kitchen, vinegar. (image at right: vintage booklet via superimposium’s Etsy shop)

In the past I have experimented with white vinegar on my face, hair and nails. For my research for wht, I set off to see if plain white vinegar is effective as a cleanser or toner. Or if this common kitchen staple can extend the life of my manicure. And what effect would it have on my hair and scalp?

My first step was to fill my travel bottles with half vinegar and half filtered water. I used this 50/50 mixture on my face to see if it can be used as a toner/cleanser in the morning instead of traditional washing. The theory behind this application is that it is gentler on your skin than the traditional route where cleansing may strip your skin.

Every morning I used a cotton ball and soaked it with the vinegar mixture and put it on my face and chest. I let my face air dry to seal in the moisture. In the evening, I followed my normal skin care routine.

Skin Pros:
Gentle on skin.
Acne seemed to heal faster. Was it the vinegar killing the bacteria?
Does double duty as a good spot treatment for pimples.

Skin Cons:
Oily skin – though it seems to work on acne, this solution is a bit too gentle to fight oil.
Combination skin – this may only work if you alternate between traditional cleansing and this mixture.

(image: vinegar cruet via theturniptruck’s Etsy shop)

For my second experiment, I used the same 50/50 vinegar and water mixture with a cotton ball on my nails and let them dry naturally. The theory behind this application is that the vinegar will clean the surface of the nail (again without striping natural oils) and the polish will last longer.

Originally, I tested this on my left hand and foot and followed up with typical nail polish base, two coats of color and a top coat. The right hand and foot was my control group, and I used the same polish application without first cleaning with vinegar.

To be honest, I was shocked at the difference in lasting power that 50/50 mixture gave. For me using this on my nails as a “primer” of sorts, increased the staying power 30% to 40%. From now on, if I am going to paint my nails I will not skip the vinegar primer.

Nail Pros:
Costs next to nothing.
Accessible to anyone.

Nail Cons:
Takes a little bit of extra time.

My third experiment uses full strength vinegar in a spray bottle on my hair and scalp. The theory behind this application is that vinegar will erase all of the buildup on my hair by soaking and then thoroughly rinsing it out (the scent is strong!)

I also was hopeful that vinegar applied to my scalp would help reduce my seborrheic dermatitis. I sprayed all over, combed through and let the vinegar sit on my hair for approximately 30 minutes. After a complete rinse, my hair was very shiny and my scalp seemed to itch less.

Hair Pros:
Did not affect the color of my highlighted and dyed hair.
Does not take a lot of time.

Hair Cons:
I still have seborrhetic dematitus.
Can you handle the scent?

For the safe, natural benefits and the super cheap cost, I was very impressed with the beauty perks to be found in a bottle of vinegar. This is beauty folklore that deserves to be passed on to future generations! Stay tuned for more economical and effective experiments from The Kitchen Cosmetician!

we heartsters – have you ever used vinegar for a beauty application? What were your results?


  • hao9703

    Holly is a Midwestern gal living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She loves gardening, animals and is a skin care junkie. She's always on the quest to try something new or old and live the best life possible. skin tone: NW 20 skin type: a true combo; normal, dry and oily favorite beauty product: skincare

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  1. I have discovered vinegar as a safe household cleaner- it is a miracle worker around the I will have to try it on me! Thanks for the eye opening vinegar uses!

  2. Vinegar is one of my favorite at-home beauty treatment ingredients. I also used this on my nails and I definitely noticed the difference. My bails are stronger and yes, it contributed to the staying power of my polishes too…

  3. Holly you are the best!! Thanks for doing all of the research work for us! I have long wondered about the vinegar myth. And now I know that it probably wouldn’t be that great for my oily skin. Mystery solved! Are you like Daphne or Velma from Scooby Doo? :)

  4. When I started this experiment, I did not expect to like vinegar as much as I do. I always have plenty of the 50/50 vinegar mixture on hand and it is part of my beauty routine. I use this vinegar mixture at night on clean skin as a final step. I have noticed less breakouts and congested skin.

  5. I love all these tips! I’ve used vinegar for cleaning, but never cleaning my face or nails! I’ll definitely have to try it tonight….

  6. I’m loving the nail advice! I’ve never heard that and am going to try it, too. I may try the hair buildup trick, too. My stylist told me I had to detox my buildup before I came back and I just ran out of my expensive Aveda product that does that job – so I’ll probably just have to see if vinegar will do the job – thanks Holly!

  7. Holly, I’m always excited to see when a post of yours goes up :) This is GREAT. You did such a scientific beauty analysis, and it was really helpful! I don’t know that I’ll try the vinegar toner, because my skin is so oily, and I’m not sure that I could handle having the smell of vinegar all over my hair. But I will ABSOLUTELY try it to prime my nails. Anything that will extend my mani and pedi, and only costs a few bucks, sounds like a fabulous idea to me!

  8. @hao9703 , I love how analytical you are. Now we can all benefit from your beauty experiments! I’m so excited about the vinegar nail primer, which I never would have thought to try. Thank you!!

  9. These tips sound great! I am scared of vinegar because of the smell but if it’s helpful and multipurpose then it’s worth a try :)

  10. I’m a little late Holly @hao9703 but wanted to chime in on the love for this post! I too use vinegar for household cleaning but not so much on my body (not a big fan of the smell.

    But the nail and hair tips are great – and certainly can’t hurt anything. I remember as a kid we put vinegar in our ears after swimming – do people still do that?

    1. I thought about adding an essential oil to the vinegar mixture to change the scent when I was testing this for the article. However, I did not add anything because I wanted to keep the results “pure”. I am used to the smell now. But, next time perhaps I will add some tea tree oil and see what happens.

  11. I use a vinegar rinse, too! I have psoriasis on my scalp, which spreads to my face when I get stressed. While vinegar doesn’t *cure* the psoriasis it does help with the itch. Sadly, my husband hates it, he says I smell like salad dressing. :P (The smell DOES go away after my hair is dry.)

  12. Sandra JT says:

    I do use vinegar for all sorts of things, including my skin & hair. But NEVER white vinegar. It’s totally stripped of all the benefits that excellent quality vinegar has.

    The vinegar people should be trying out is apple cider vinegar with the ‘mother’. Never Heinz. Good quality apple cider vinegar, such as Bragg’s, is not clear. It is somewhat cloudy looking & should have some sediment at the bottom. This type of vinegar has acids in it which are very beneficial to skin, hair & people’s health in general. Although I would never use it full strength on my hair. It’s unnecessary to use it thus strong & it will burn your eyes if even a little gets in them.

    Apple cider vinegar can easily be mixed 1/2 and 1/2 with water as a hair rinse, or even 1/4 part vinegar & 3/4 part water. Allow to sit on the hair a few minutes and rinse out with cool water.

    It can also be mixed with real hydrosols, chosen based on your skin type, and used as an after cleansing, non stripping ph balancer. Toners are terrible for the skin as they strip it & either cause your skin to over produce oil, leading to more acne, or totally dry out already dry skin leading to acne, flaking & other problems. Mix 1 part ACV to 1 part distilled water and 4 parts hydrosol such as rose, sandalwood, tea tree, lavender or helchrysium, and about 4 to 5 drops of the same type of essential oil. Choose by your skin type. Make enough for a 2 ounce bottle. Put in a fine misting bottle & use after cleansing or even as a skin refresher during the day.

    ACV can also be added to bath water to soften the skin. Pretty self explanatory. Add about a cup per tub full if water. Drop in a few drops of real essential oils as well and soak.

    It can also be added to your manicure soak to reduce stains from your nails and soften cuticles. 1 part ACV to 4 or so parts warm water.

    It can also be taken internally. Try taking a tablespoon full 3 or 4 times a day when you feel a flu coming on or when your sinuses/throat are congested. It works gently but very effectively.

    ACV has many uses and is great for the body. White vinegar simply does not have the same properties, health benefits or the same effect on your hair and skin. Do your research. There are quite a few books out there which discuss the many benefits of ACV. Just Google or check Amazon.

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