Effective Natural Remedies for Actinic Keratosis (Solar Keratosis)

Oct 05, 2016

Actinic Keratosis (solar keratosis) is a common skin condition caused repeated sun damage over many years. While the condition is generally harmless, the risk exists that a solar keratosis patch may develop into skin cancer. Because these skin patches can appear on the head, face, hands and arms, they are a cosmetic concern for many as well. Home remedies for actinic keratosis are inexpensive, effective and easy to use. Apple cider vinegar, borax, iodine and vitamin C are among the simple proven natural cures for actinic keratosis.

Natural Remedies for Actinic Keratosis (Solar Keratosis) 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Raw and organic apple cider vinegar is used internally and externally to treat actinic keratosis.

External Use

Depending on the size of the actinic keratosis, use a q-tip or cotton ball to apply raw, organic apple cider vinegar to the spots 2-4 times a day. If you find that this irritates your skin, dilute it with water - use equal parts of water and apple cider vinegar.

Internal Use

Apple cider vinegar has been used for generations to heal a variety of conditions, including skin problems. Add 1 -3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a tall glass of water once or twice a day.


Borax, found in the laundry section of larger grocery stores, is a very inexpensive natural remedy for actinic keratosis. Make a paste with borax and water. Apply to the lesions 2-4 times a day. One of our readers mixed the borax with Listerine instead of water and found that to be very helpful!

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is best used internally and externally for the treatment of actinic keratosis.

To use vitamin C topically you will Vitamin C powder in the form of ascorbic acid. Mix 1/8 teaspoon of ascorbic acid with 1 teaspoon of water. Use a cotton ball or q-tip to apply this solution to your lesions 2 - 4 times a day. Make a new batch of solution each day.

The ascorbic acid powder can be used as your internal vitamin c supplement, which is also helpful for skin conditions and immune system support. It will be the least expensive way to get your vitamin c anyway. Mix 1/4 teaspoon of ascorbic acid and 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda and 4 ounces of water. This will give you a little over 1 gram of vitamin C in the form of sodium ascorbate, which is easier on the stomach than ascorbic acid. This amount can be taken 2-3 times a day or even more often. If you get loose stools, cut back on the amount you take.


Topical use of iodine has been found effective in healing actinic keratosis. Use a q-tip to apply iodine to the lesions twice a day. Try this first at night. Iodine stains the skin for a time and you may not wish to go out with your skin an orange-yellow color! It is possible you will only want to use this treatment at bedtime. If so, perhaps try one of the other topical solutions above each morning. Lugol's iodine is a popular iodine for internal and external use.

Colloidal Silver

Colorless and odorless, colloidal silver can be used for solar keratosis. If you put colloidal silver in a spray bottle it is easy to apply and won't stain or sting!  Apply colloidal silver at least twice a day.

If you have actinic keratosis, you should protect your skin from over exposure to the sun. Short periods of sun exposure are important for the body, but if you will be in the sun for extended periods, protect your skin. Lightweight long sleeves, pants and hats are preferred over sunscreen. Overuse of chemical sunscreen has been linked to skin cancers.

Have you tried a natural remedy for actinic keratosis? Please share your story with us! And continue reading to find out how our readers have used the above remedies, and others, to treat their actinic keratosis.

Apple Cider Vinegar  

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Posted by Gary (Calgary, Alberta) on 09/01/2016
5 out of 5 stars

Excellent results from apple cider vinegar. I had many sores on my bald head from sun damage accumulated over the years from overexposurer ( Actinic Keratosis). I applied the ACV with a q-tip soaked in the ACV three or four times a day for approximately four days. Scabs began to form within a few days and I was able to gently remove the scabs. So far so good. Actually, amazing .

Posted by Gary (Calgary, Alberta) on 08/30/2016
5 out of 5 stars

Excellent results from apple cider vinegar. I had many sores on my bald head from sun damage accumulated over the years from overexposurer ( Actinic Keratosis). I applied the ACV with a q-tip soaked in the ACV three or four times a day for approximately four days. Scabs began to form within a few days and I was able to gently remove the scabs. So far so good. Actually, amazing .

Replied by Judy
Gainesville, Va

I have been battling skin cancer in various stages for over 3 years. First 2nd stage melanoma tumor removed from the inside arch of my left foot - 2"x2" tumor. Last year I had 7 surgeries for skin cancer in various types & stages with the largest tumor removed from right thigh. I needed a 6 month break from the surgeries and I was due 3 months ago for skin check but want to try some natural healing first. I just tried lemongrass oil on 3 spots to see, one on my right wrist about the size of a pea, my left ankle and another spot about the size of a nickel on my right thigh. I applied it straight with a q-tip and to day is day 3 and the wrist is almost gone and the others are making great progress. Since I have so many more spots I want to try to Apple Cider Vinegar. I am curious approximate how many spots have you treated and how many are gone. You had expressed you did your treatment process for 4 days after it started to dry up did you continue the treatment or just let it take its course? Thank you in advance for your response.

Posted by Kat (NC, US) on 08/27/2014
5 out of 5 stars

Diagnosed with pre-cancerous Actinic Ketosis on my back. Read here, (thank you Earth Clinic for this site and all of you! ) that ACV could help this. Since I'm up for experimenting on myself, I tried it.

I used the ACV straight on the Ketosis after I took a picture of it. It is now healed completely. Also used the ACV straight, no dilution, on my face, and any bumps that I have on my body and under breasts. A small skin nodule under my lip fell off in one day. At first, my skin seemed to get very red, but I think that was the stuff coming out that needed healing. All other bumps (moles, etc.) are getting better but not healed yet.

My husband had a rash on the back of his knee and has been using ACV for the past month and it is much better but not healed yet. ACV rocks!

Replied by Shellie
Grass Valley

How long did you use the ACV? I have been using it for 3 weeks and the scabs seem to come back so I'm thinking the area needs more work. ANY thoughts?

Replied by Rose
Huntingdon Valley, Pa

Dear Shellie. My husband is fair-skinned and doesn't use sunblock so he gets actinic keratoses a lot. Have found: (1) exfoliate often..can use a rough washcloth or charcoal sponge (2) apply aloe vera gel AM and PM (3) always use sunblock.

Good Luck, Rose

Posted by Blindedbyscience (Wnc) on 06/26/2014
5 out of 5 stars

ACV for solar keratosis, basal cell.

If you are not getting results with this, I suggest applying the ACV and leaving it open to air as much as possible. Also try not using oils (even coconut! ) for a while. For me my problem just continued when I used oils. Hydrogen peroxide seems fine. I'm getting much better result this way. You can use a soaked ACV cotton ball to cover the area or expose the problem but then it needs to dry out I believe. I have been messing with a spot for over 3 yrs. I feel I had a setback when I applied orange oil 3 months ago but I've almost knocked out the new area using the above. Yes I've tried almost all the home remedies including Efudex, twice daily x 3wk (probably should have done it longer). BTW I only recently quit applying oil completely because it dawned on me that the times I had the most improvement was when I didn't use oil. I just started experimenting with hemp oil on my good skin to see if it helps with age spots.

Replied by Blindedbyscience

I'm disappointed to have to report that for some reason two tiny areas appeared on the lower edge of the old spot, like little white heads (after soaking with vinegar). I really thought I had it knocked out. I've decided to switch over to a "dryer" approach and start applying Sunspot Es to dry and peel them off. I used Sunspot on the old spot before and it seemed to work but I applied nothing for 4mos and it came back. I'm not sure what is exacerbating things.

Replied by Blindedbyscience

Finally some progress, I decided to only use tea tree oil. I dropped the oil over the spot frequently for the last couple days, it's nice because it dries it up. Well today after my shower I used peroxide to clean and then pulled on the dry skin which peeled off leaving a pretty clean looking pink ulcer. Luckily its only about 2mm so not so scary. Believe me I've had my share of scary. This spot was biopsied as Actinic keratosis 3 yrs ago but the report said it permeated all layers and might be something worse underneath. At that time I was using CO/melatonin paste. I'm gonna continue to tx with tto. And maybe moisture it with CO/TTO/melatonin. One nice thing about this treatment is it doesn't appear to spread things around like some of the other things seem to do. I don't know why the vinegar started giving me problems this time, but I would recommend TTO.

Replied by Mmsg
Somewhere, Europe

Thank you Blindedbyscience for your update. I've got something similar and have been very frustrated by some things causing the affected area to enlarge.

I am finally seeing some progress in halting the spread and seeing the bumpy area get a bit lower, by using Epsom Salt and French Green Clay. Once in a while I also dab on wet Baking Soda. None of these things are causing spreading so I am finally breathing easier on this!

Maybe I'll add Tea Tree Oil, although in the past it did nothing for me.

Replied by Jeff
Portsmouth, Uk

I just wanted to reinforce the previous comment - do not use any oil based product on the area of skin you are treating with ACV. It prevents the healing process. I was treating Solar Keratosis for 6 weeks with only a little success. When I stopped using anything else the process took only two weeks!

Replied by Neall
Campbell River, Bc, Canada

I had liquid nitrogen used about four years ago on four spots on my cheek; they all came back. Now I have just one spot on my right cheek, about 0.5" in diameter. I use coconut oil with frankincense essential oil, about five drops to a Tbsp. of coconut oil, then cover with it several times a day. I alternate with 'DMSO liquid (dimethyl sulfoxide) 99.9% pure', from the health store. It feels 'under control'.

Posted by J.s.c. (Florida, US) on 06/23/2014
1 out of 5 stars

I gave ACV an good 8 weeks, applying 2 to 3 times a day, on a keratosis on my face. It was on the side of my nose, right under my left eye, right where the pads for your glasses would sit. It was the size of the pads of glasses, too.

It didn't work for this keratosis. I had had it biopsied, since I didn't know what it was, at first. Having those two puncture marks in it, I believe made it more difficult to treat, because it wasn't in one piece anymore, and had little grooves and difficult to get at areas.

So, I gave in and let my doctor freeze it with the liquid nitrogen. It was quick, and much less painful than the ACV treatments were. I am still waiting for the freezing to heal, and will let you know how it goes, but I think it does look much better than what I was doing with the ACV.

If I had another one to deal with, and didn't get the biopsy, I might try ACV again. I think that I had let this one go on too long, as it had been there for a couple of years. So, I'm not down on using ACV, but would def use it much sooner, if I ever had to....and hope I never, never need to deal with it again.

Posted by Dan (Uk) on 05/16/2014
5 out of 5 stars

Apple Cider Vinegar for Actinic Keratosis:

About 9 years ago I hit my quite bald head on a lump of rough wood while on holiday. It bled but healed as any other cut would. Then 9yrs or so later (I'm 36 now) after a shower I notice some blood on the towel after drying my slightly balder head. I checked it out and the scar tissue was bleeding, ever so slightly. I didn't think much of it at the time but after a week or so it wasn't getting much better so I had it checked by a derm and he said it was Actinic Keratosis (AK) and prescribed Aldara cream. I didn't go for the cream due to side effects and the fact that I don't place a lot of faith in modern medicine. Instead I did some research which included this website and another one on skin cancer and came up with the ACV alternative treatment which I started immediately because we already had some, with a rather large mother as it was a couple of years old. I started to douse the area with a cotton bud 2-3 times per day and also supplemented with ACV morning and evening (two desert spoons in a glass of water). When the derm had looked at it he pushed and pulled it about and left me with big scab which I was a bit uncomfortable with. I read that you have to be persistent but I was beginning to lose faith a bit after 3-4 weeks and then last night while dousing, the large scab just floated off to reveal what appears to be unblemished new skin! I still have a couple of much smaller scabs an hope these will go the same way so will carry on treating it. I will probably continue to supplement (in water) even when they are gone because I read that these conditions sometimes occur when your body is too acidic and ACV helps to alkalize it. It might be worth mentioning that I have suffered with Candida, a long standing toe nail fungus, for all of my adult life and I believe this contributed to it as well.

Hopefully this will encourage others to try the alternatives but remember that it won't happen overnight and keep going!

Posted by Cobbit (Farnham, Uk) on 10/10/2013
5 out of 5 stars

I was prescribed Efudex for my first solar keratosis in 2008, using it for 6 weeks, and whilst it did work, it left me with a pale mark on my cheek. I recently developed another keratosis, this time on my nose, and my search for a kinder alternative remedy brought me to this website. I used apple cider vinegar and am relieved and happy to be able to say that it has worked. After about four days of applying Raw ACV, a scab developed, and just over two weeks later it has fallen off leaving no sign of the keratosis. Do try it, for me the whole treatment was so quick and now I have plenty of vinegar left over to use for salad dressing!

Posted by Tracy (Austin Texas) on 09/22/2013

I have been trying apple cider vinegar for about 5 days. Applying twice daily and sleeping in my legs wrapped in gauze soaked in ACV. I have about 4 spots that look like a hole has been burned in leg and is yellow and very swollen. Should I keep applying to these spots or stop? Thank you for help! I have been using chemotherapy cream for almost a year with no change at all! I can already tell they are getting better but just worried about these spots that look really bad. Thanks for any advice!

Replied by Mmsg
Somewhere, Europe

Tracy, slow down with your applications. Do much less even if it will take longer to heal.

Replied by Nano Writer
Hotspot, Texas

Tracy, it has been my experience that the growths will get inflamed, turn black, hurt, etc. Before they get better. I compare it to what happens when the body fights an infection from a cut and the area gets swollen, red and painful as the body's immune system does battle. Judging from my own experience and readings about treating skin growths with alternative treatments, what you are seeing is pretty much to be expected.

Posted by Philip (Newcastle, Staffordshire, U.k.) on 09/15/2013

I was diagnosed with solar keratosis in March 2013 and prescribed a Diclofenac Sodium gel (Solaraze) for 90-day application to treat the itchy rashes on my forehead.

The 90-day use was somewhat effective but upon stopping (as the prescription was then expired), the rashes came back with a vengeance.

I looked for a natural alternative and found this website, for which I'm now very grateful. I washed Apple Cider Vinegar into the affected areas morning and night and also took a tablespoon of ACV with sweetening and healing Manuka Honey morning and night too. Straightaway I could see and feel the rashes healing. Now, two months on, I've just been back to the dermatologist who found that all but a small patch on my nose was completely healed. There's some barely visible scarring which I imagine is because the keratosis damages the skin quite deeply. I hadn't been paying so much attention to the patch on my nose but I am doing now, applying the ACV.

Throughout this time I've worn a baseball cap when I go outside if there's any sun to aggravate the rashes. Early on, I forgot my cap one sunny day and the rashes were aggravated so today I'm still using the cap for protection, probably best to do so, I guess.

Posted by Chris (Texas) on 08/21/2013
5 out of 5 stars

I got tired of my Dermatologist poo-poohing then suggesting cutting, scraping, freezing or burning the solar keratosis on my left cheek. Not on my face! This very site turned me on to the apple cider vinegar cure. Applying religiously for three weeks has caused the red patch, originally the size of a pencil eraser, to almost completely disappear. Apply several times daily (more on weekends or when one isn't working) with a q-tip, be patient, and watch the magic slowly happen. The key is to not quit, no matter how bad the keratosis looks, because the apple cider vinegar will attack vigorously at first, even sting and burn. I can't wait to crow about this simple, cost-effective, at-home, remedy when I see the Dermatologist next May. Keep in mind that often times doctors are looking out for their own wallets, not your personal well-being. Who wants to be cut, scrapped, burned, or frozen when, with a little patience, the results can be this rewarding? Thanks to everyone who posted before me about this amazing cure! It's great to have my confidence back and be able to look at myself in the mirror again!!!

Posted by Steve (Dublin, Ireland) on 08/20/2013
5 out of 5 stars

Hi all, I would just like to say I have used ACV on several solar keratosis over the last few months and Yes it definitely works a treat. It takes a good while sometime 4-8 weeks to clear them up but it is definitely worth it. I started applying the vinegar on two on my temple and after a week more appeared and all went crusty, I kept applying the ACV day and night week after week and eventually they all fell off. So the key I found was not to give up and keep at it until they clear. O yeah I also drink it and will continue to do so, have had a cold or been sick in the last year. Thanks Earthclinic brilliant website.

Posted by Ex-nurse (Canterbury, New Zealand) on 07/27/2013
5 out of 5 stars

Twelve days ago, the doctor diagnosed a 'scab' patch on my nose as solar keratosis. I checked the internet and discovered the apple cider vinegar method of treatment. I applied a. C. V. Several times a day and drank a glass with one teaspoon of Apple Cider Vinegar each day. On the 11th day I noticed the scab - which had been becoming firmer, shrunken, then whitish, had dropped off, leaving just a pink mark.

I've not been back yet to find if there are any other suspicious patches, but none are visible, as far as I can see...

Posted by Biff (Peterborough, Ontario) on 05/03/2013
5 out of 5 stars

After asking my doctor to look at a rough patch on my face for 6 years, and dealing with his constant... don't touch it and you'll be fine, I treated my solar keratosis with Apple Cider Vinegar. I soaked a piece of cotton ball in it and placed it over my keratosis with a bandaid at night while I slept. The site I read up on said to do this for 3-4 weeks. After a couple of days it gets red and looks like a bee sting on your face. Then it begins to dry and crack, mine even bled a bit. I was going to give up but kept persevering. After the 3 week the dry scab fell off and my skin was completely smooth. I couldn't believe it. the following summer I was in the sun and the spot began to reappear so I did it again only not as long. I think were people doubt this remedy if it is a solar keratosis is that they don't do it long enough. Or they see it turning red or dry and stop. I think the key is to keep going for several weeks. I swear by it.


Replied by Diane
Port Hope, On

Hi all, , , I have a keratosis sore just above my upper lip. I have been applying ACV several times a day now for three weeks. Some days it bleeds (perhaps due to its location) but most of the time, it just scales over and starts all over again. The last couple of nights, I have placed a band aid over the sore after the ACV treatment, and left it over night. Today when I removed the band aid, all was removed, raw skin was exposed, and it (slightly) started to bleed a bit and harden once again. I am starting to see some improvement, with the band aid at night. Should I keep trying this? or do I need to search medical help? I prefer a natural treatment if at all possible. Thanks in advance.

PS, I am drinking it orally (1tbs a day)

Posted by Kgd (Saint Louis, Mo) on 04/30/2013
1 out of 5 stars

I treated 10 actinic keratosis lesions that were in a 3"X4" area on top of my head using apple cider vinegar. I slept every night with a stocking cap over duct tape holding a cloth soaked with ACV against the affected area. There was a very strong reaction. I felt a mild burning sensation every night, they turned red, repeatedly formed scabs, and gradually seemed to fade. The skin became smooth but the outlines of the lesions were still there.

As the first batch of AK's faded, about 20 more AK's of various sizes appeared within the same area, so I continued the treatment. ACV gently removes the outer layers of skin, and I otherwise wouldn't have known that I had so many AK's because they were hidden underneath the skin.

I continued the treatment every night for many weeks because I wanted to give it a chance to succeed. During that entire time the change was so gradual that I was never really sure if it was helping or not.

After 3 months the affected area looked so bad that I started wearing hats in public. At that point I decided to try something else. Within 48 hours of stopping the ACV treatment the smooth AK lesions became rough again indicating that ACV had no effect other than exposing AK's that were previously hidden underneath the skin.

Replied by Tashimoto

Did you also drink ACV to work on the issue from the inside out? If you put duct tape next to vinegar, the vinegar might be leeching chemicals from the duct tape, thus creating a less than ideal mixture for your skin.

Posted by Mexicogirl (Chapala, Jalisco, Mexico) on 10/16/2010

I live in Mexico and cannot find good natural (with mother) vinegar. Will just regular vinegar that you use in cooking work as well? Trying it on keratosis and also several dark spots on face. Thanks so much.

Replied by Clo
Oakland, Ca

Will begin a regimen of APV to address one stubborn spot of AK on left cheek; have also a spot on upper lip, but as has been my method for years, just keep scraping the small ones off, apply calendula or some other soothing ointment, and eventually the tiny ones go away. Was surprised that a month or so of mild dermabrasion with an OTC product actually worked on a problematic one on nose where my glasses rest--that one was stubborn.