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Can Vinegars Cause Acne & Breakouts


Careful, your salad dressing could be giving you breakouts

In the last blog post I shared one of my favourite, super simple green salad recipe. I love this salad because it’s delicious, easy to make, and none of the ingredients will give you breakouts.

I hate to say it, but even some health foods and homemade foods can give you breakouts.

As much as I promote eating a healthy diet for clearing up your skin, I don’t want to brush over the fact that there are some health foods and ingredients you’ve got to watch out for. Some health foods and ingredients do cause breakouts and acne.

I get really frustrated when health educators and coaches tell people that “as long as it’s healthy, you can eat it.” That’s sort of advice is too vague, and many times far from the truth, especially if you’re trying to clear up breakouts and acne.

I will say that the lucky ones who do clear up their skin just by switching to a healthier diet do exist, but they are rare. Most people I know have to do a lot more digging by making additional changes and adjusts to their already healthy diet to get the skin clearing results they want (and unfortunately that’s not always as straight forward as we would like it to be).

And not everyone is the same. Some foods that give you breakouts, might not have the same effect on others. So you have to do the experiments for yourself to really know for sure.

This whole process of having to figure out what foods are messing up your skin can be very frustrating (and we all know it’s not always easy to have the patience for this sort of thing). I get emails about this every single day. And I’ve been in your shoes as well. It took me many years to figure out which health foods are neutral, and which ones are potentially acne causing.

As frustrating as this process is – it’s definitely worth it. Every food or ingredient that you uncover to be giving you issues with your skin is leading you another step closer to clearing up your skin. As discouraging as it is to realize some of your favourite foods are giving you breakouts, it’s also a relief to finally know exactly what they are.

So today, we’re going to talk about vinegars and how some of them could be causing breakouts and acne.

Find out which vinegars can cause breakouts and acne.

Can vinegars cause acne and breakouts?

I know you’re eating healthy foods to clear up your skin, and I strongly recommend eating at least one fresh green salad every single day (this will help your complexion tremendously!). But I want to warn you: be careful with what vinegars you are using.

Many of my coaching clients first come to me because they are on a super strict, healthy diet but still getting breakouts. Sometimes their breakouts got even worse once they started eating healthier (gasp!). They’re overwhelmed and frustrated. I find one ingredient that is commonly overlooked that could be causing or contributing to your acne and breakouts is certain VINEGARS.

You might be unaware that the vinegar you are pouring all over your salads every single day can be causing you acne, breakouts, redness, inflammation, dermatitis, and rashes. Really? But you made your own salad dressing from scratch, you’re eating all fresh, healthy food, and you may have even bought the vinegar from the health food store or high-end grocer, how can that be?

3 types of vinegars cause acne & breakouts:

Before I get into the 3 types of vinegars that could be causing your breakouts, I want to emphasize that not all vinegars will cause you breakouts. It’s these three types of vinegars I want you to watch out for the most, read the labels on the packaging, and take a break from for 2-4 weeks to see if your skin improves.

Balsamic Vinegar

There’s a few different varieties of Balsamic vinegar, but for skin clearing purposes, we’re going to divide Balsamic vinegars into two groups: pure Balsamic vinegars, and Balsamic vinegars that contain caramel colouring, sweeteners and/or thickening agents.

You’d be surprised, majority of Balsamic vinegars sold at grocery stores, health food stores, and high end delis and grocers sell the Balsamic vinegars that are made with all sorts of less-than-healthy ingredients added to them like caramel colouring, sweeteners, and other additives.

In actually, it’s not always easy to even find a pure Balsamic vinegar without the caramel colour and other nasties added to it.

If you’re reading this right now and thinking about the salad you eat every single day that you generously pour Balsamic vinegar all over, check the label on the bottle and make sure your Balsamic vinegar is just made out of grapes!

You’ve got to read the ingredients label! Even on vinegars, you need to double check to make sure what you’re consuming is in fact what you think it is.

So what’s the big deal about caramel colouring, even if it’s just a tiny bit?

Well, if you’re eating caramel coloured balsamic vinegar every single day, it adds up. Your breakouts and acne might actually be a reaction to that caramel colouring (many people have a sensitivity or allergy to it). It could very well be the hidden ingredient that’s causing your skin issues.

If you are reading this right now, and you consume balsamic vinegar regularly, take a break from it for 2-4 weeks and see how your skin responds. You’ll then know for sure if it’s contributing to your acne or not.

Wine Vinegars

Red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, and also Balsamic vinegar all contain naturally occurring sulfites (and some products even contain added sulfites).

Some people are sensitive or allergic to sulfites (naturally occurring ones, and added sulfites). Reactions to sulfites include getting breakouts, rashes, digestive disturbances, skin inflammation, etc.

If you ever notice you get breakouts after drinking wine, then you should definitely avoid all wine vinegars as well (red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, etc.)

Like the Balsamic vinegar, you can take a break from wine vinegars for 2-4 weeks and see how your skin responds.

“Seasoned” Rice Wine Vinegar

There are two different types of rice vinegar / rice wine vinegar: “plain” and “seasoned”.

When you buy a rice vinegar or rice wine vinegar, it will always indicate on the label if it’s seasoned or not. Usually the plain variety will just be called Rice Vinegar or Rice Wine Vinegar, and the seasoned variety will be called Seasoned Rice Vinegar or Seasoned Rice Wine Vinegar.

The “plain” rice vinegar is tart and sour.

The “seasoned” rice vinegar is sweet and sour.

Majority (if not all) bottled seasoned rice vinegars contains a lot of ingredients that are terrible for your skin including high fructose corn syrup, MSG, ribotides, food coloring, and other additives. There can be a whole list of terrible additives in this one vinegar!

The plain rice vinegar on the other hand is usually just pure rice vinegar without the sweeteners and flavour enhancers (do always check the ingredients label to make sure).

If you eat a lot of asian food, especially Japanese foods like sushi, seaweed salads, and other asian salads, most likely these dishes are all made with seasoned rice vinegar (btw, all sushi rice is prepared with seasoned rice vinegar). If you are eating these types of foods regularly, and you’re dealing with chronic breakouts and inflamed skin – do take a complete break from these foods for at least 2-4 weeks to see how your skin responds.

If you love sushi and other dishes made with seasoned rice vinegar, you can always make your own seasoned rice vinegar by adding a drop of honey to plain rice vinegar (vegans can use a few drops of fresh orange juice instead of honey). This is just as tasty as any store-bought version of seasoned rice vinegar and a skin-friendly alternative.

What should you use instead of vinegar?

Now that you know the 3 vinegars to stay away from:

  • Balsamic Vinegar (containing caramel coloring, sweeteners, thickening agents)
  • Wine Vinegars like red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar (because of the sulfites)
  • Seasoned Rice Vinegar (containing high fructose corn syrup, sweeteners, MSG, ribotides, food colouring, additives)

What should you use instead?

If you want to go the super pure route, I would suggest using fresh lemon or lime juice for your salad dressings. Lemon and lime juice are really good for your skin, and if you were to use it for 2-4 weeks instead of vinegar, then you’ll be able to really see how your skin responds to your diet without any vinegars in it.

Alternatively you can always substitute the vinegars mentioned above with a raw, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar or a plain rice vinegar (make sure to read the label that no flavour enhancers or colourings have been added to them).

I have to say that sometimes it’s one key ingredient that’s playing havoc on your skin, other times it’s a combination of ingredients and foods. One way or another, it’s definitely worth experimenting and monitoring your skin to see what happens when you take a break from, or switch the vinegars you are using.

Already know that vinegars cause you breakouts?

If vinegars cause you breakouts, I’d love to hear your experience of how or when you discovered the connection between the vinegar and your breakouts.

For myself, my skin doesn’t react to most vinegars except seasoned rice wine vinegar. It took me many years to figure this one out. A long time ago (way before I was into healthy eating) I was addicted to an asian cucumber salad I would prepare with seasoned rice wine vinegar. I was eating this salad every single day for years! At the time, my acne was really bad, and I always had breakouts and a bumpy rash all over my forehead. At some point I just stopped eating the salad, and I stopped using the vinegar in my cooking as well, and the bumps and rash all over my forehead started to get a lot better. For me, there was a lot more than just the seasoned rice vinegar I needed to take out of my diet to clear up my skin, but taking that one ingredient out, did improve my skin significantly.

If you have a similar story or are willing to take a break from vinegar to see how it will affect your skin, please comment below, I would love to hear what you plan to do, or what you have already done that’s working for you.

About the Author
Hi, I’m Natasha St. Michael, Founder of Inspire Beauty. I’m also a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Natural Health Educator accredited by the Institute For Integrative Nutrition. I’m obsessed with skin care and self-care. I’m 47 years old, struggled with adult acne until I was 30, and now I’m all about preserving the youthfulness of my skin (and sharing all my tips and tricks). If you have a question about a product or need a recommendation, feel free to contact me anytime.


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4 Responses

  1. Hello! I wanted to say thank you so so much for the article you wrote about the vinegars causing flareup acne problems . For over 20 years since 1997 I started having an allergy almost like a rash acne on my elbows and on my face. Now I know for sure it’s these kinds of vinegars or any better kinds of vinegars in high amounts causing this reaction. Also the chocolate sugar dairy combo creates inflammation I’ve noticed and then the vinegar just exasperates it.
    It’s been so upsetting and I know you understand because being an adult with this kind of acne flare up is terrible for seeing family. friends, job interviews or meeting people for work on Zoom/video calls too. I’ve spent weeks of my life hiding out when I have this flareups. Because it can take almost 5-7 days to heal after that acne rash flares up. I don’t understand why vinegar does this. Do you know scientifically why? And why it doesn’t affect more people and just a small percentage of us have these issues? How will we be able to deal with this for our whole lives? Vinegar is in so many things. That it’s so hard to avoid. Even vegan mayonnaise has apple cider vinegar; which I’m afraid to eat that too more than once a week.
    Any advice on how you manage never eating vinegar, chocolate, butter, or too many inflammatory omega 6’s? My holistic doctor says sugar and fats are had on the liver/cause inflammation. Corn and yeast can too I think?
    Anyways, this article on vinegars contributing to acne has changed my life. Knowing I am not the only one and one I don’t feel so alone. Wish I had learned this in 1997 and I wouldn’t have acne scars. Thank you… thank you from the bottom my heart and I will keep reading this article to remind me to stay away from the Freaking vinegars.:(

  2. PS- I watched your video on the vinegars (on the rice wine differences and about caramel coloring/preservatives in balsamic). I didn’t know that, and many don’t you said. Thank you, that helps a lot to understand why I’m having reactions to certain Vinegars more than smaller amounts of apple cider vinegar in salad dressing for example. I read online that the PPM’s of sulfites are higher in those other vinegars (that you gave) than apple cider. That must be why people have less reactions to the less parts per million kinds.
    To give some feedback over the past 20 years. I’m now connecting the dots more on when I’ve had flareups. They have all been related to vinegar and even capers (that most are stored/bottled in vinegar) that were on cauliflower. Along with Italian dressing that was made at a restaurant with balsamic. That I ate a lot of years back. Each of those time periods, I had elbow rashes and a cystic kind of rash acne. Then last week I had some vegan coleslaw with white wine vinegar with some ketchup on french fries It created a major break out rash. Like I wrote above. Kind of like chickenpox bumps, that were very painful. Since I’ve cut out any kind of vinegar (after finishing that food). It is now healing and the inflammation is way down. There is definitely a correlation like you say and I’m thankful you shared this information, and I’m not alone in this. Poor to the flare up my skin was starting to break out mildly under the surface. I think the chocolate with dairy days before set into motion why the vinegar would add fuel to the fire. It’s sad that once or twice a year I can’t have much chocolate or vinegar.
    I read in your other article about chocolate and how if you have it more than a few days in a row it can create a flareup. * i’ll experiment later on try and cook chocolate like you mentioned versus raw. I agree because if I eat it once here in there I don’t notice a flare up, but last week I had many chocolates with hot herbal tea at night for a few nights; which started the problem and the vinegar in that damm coleslaw just added to it. What a nightmare. I’ll stop rambling or typing so much, but I just wanted to thank you again.
    I see the correlations it’s just hard when other people don’t have to worry or nitpick everything they eat. Guess we all have something… Have a nice holiday season… Gracr

    1. Hi Grace,
      I’m so glad to hear you figured out what was causing your skin issues. A pain yes, but once you know, it becomes a whole lot easier to stay away from it. Unfortunately some of us are just more sensitive to food additives than others. I’ve learned to make a lot of my condiments and sauces from scratch which helps a lot. Wishing you all the best.

  3. Hi Natasha,

    I just read your article on vinegar breakouts. It was very informative. I have been eating mayonnaise and mustard all my life along with balsamic vinegar and olive oil at Italian restaurants. I am 63 and never had a problem with them until lately. By the process of elimination figured out that it was the vinegars that were giving me rashes and terrible breakouts worse than when I was a teenager. I also figured out that what ever brought this on also made me have breakouts with honey and mushrooms, Not sure what that is about yet. I have never had any problems with any of these products before. Thanks for putting this information on the internet it really helps narrow down what’s going on with our food products and our bodies.

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