Actinic Keratosis Remedies

| Modified: May 27, 2020
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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 overexposure 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

Posted by Edith (USA - Midwest) on 05/26/2020
4 out of 5 stars

Better But With Side Effects

Hi All, I just wanted to post my experience with Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) and possible Actinic Keratosis. I had not received a medical diagnosis for the small, irritated spots that appeared on my nose. I'm 47 years old, Irish ancestry, with a history of extreme sun exposure as a child. I would get one spot on my nose, it would get irritated and ulcerate, and then wouldn't heal like a pimple would. There was no pus and the spot turned black. I was worried that it was basal cancer, impetigo, or a staph infection. With some research, I thought that maybe this was actinic keratosis. The first spot took about a month to heal on its own with a lot of coconut oil. It was very unsightly. About a month later, I got another spot on the left side of the tip of my nose. It was very inflamed, itchy, and unsightly. I decided to treat this with ACV. I put ACV on a cotton ball and put it on the spot. It stung badly and felt like it was burning my skin. I continued with the treatment as I thought that I couldn't just leave the spot to fester on my face and that the ACV was probably a good treatment. After 3-4 weeks of applying the ACV, the spot was just so unsightly and raw. It had become an open ulcer and it appeared that I had burned through the skin and could see the dermis below. It was about .25 inches in diameter and circular. I decided to stop with the ACV and apply Aloe and coconut oil to see what would happen. After about a week, the spot seemed to begin to heal. Now, several months later, I have a very deep scar on my nose where the sore was. It is the deepest scar on my face and I have wondered if I overdid it with the ACV. I have since gotten new sores on my nose, usually one at a time, on the tip of my nose. I haven't been treating these with ACV because I'm afraid of unnecessarily scarring myself again. I have a new red, scaly, spot that has just developed beside the place where I have my scar from my first ACV treatment. I'm unsure of what to do now, but I think that I will try colloidal silver.

Replied by ORH

EDITH,,,,,,,,,,, ORH here,,,,,,,,,, my mother was named Edith. Been down your trail all my 83 years and suggest that you first do 5% Fluorouraicil and if that does not work , use Curaderm. Otherwise , you likely to be talking skin cancer and a dermatologist. I was a life guard, played tournament tennis and gardener. Now am reaping the whirlwind with my skin. My Mississippi country grand dad always wore a long sleeve shirt and his skin was like ivory. I now wear long sleeve shirts in the hot Tn summers. Do as I say, and not like I did. Our ancestral wemmins wore bonnets and they were not weathered like the lassies of today. You need some sun for vitamin D, but only about half an hour a day. ====ORH====

Posted by Skygirl (San Angelo, Texas) on 07/11/2018
5 out of 5 stars

The comments about apple cider viniger being uncomfortable, orther substances being painful, are unique to each individual. I think just treating a small part of the area at first would be common sense, why treat with a substance when you don't know how you will react. But it's proven that apple cider viniger and many of the other DIY remedies help with skin lesions such a actinic keratosis. In the absence of doctors who will aggressively people, especially older people afflicted with this condition, I think whatever we can do in a common sense way to help ourselves, is smart. I can tell you, as a former nurse, I saw people who just gave up on the lesions on their necks, face, scalp, and especially their backs. Those lesions itch and are unsightly and it's darn hard to put up with it. If you find a dermatologist who will welcome you, treat treat them, and you can afford it, please let us know. Most of us are met with the standard...Oh those things, like skin tags, and keratosis just come with age, they are harmless." You are left to live with it. So I get steamed when I see people try a remedy and just because they got uncomfortable, they beat the topic to death. As for me, I would much rather put on my big girl britches, use my cheap vinigar and be free of unsightly skin patches. I treat regularly and see results. I also make sure to get a yearly skin examination to make sure nothing is developing that needs a biopsy. I don't claim to be a doctor, but we'd be in sad shape if we just ignored common sense and proven helpful education to share here on other sites.

Posted by Jodi (Florida) on 12/28/2017
0 out of 5 stars

OMG I put ACV on my entire nose and chin 2 times for actinic keratosis and will never use it again. My face is bright red and blistered bad. I even rinsed it off after the 2nd time. I don't know how anyone can apply ACV 4-5 times a day for weeks. They are a tougher person than I am (I am 60 years old)

Posted by Jk (Uk) on 10/02/2017
5 out of 5 stars

I had a tiny scab that wouldn't heal on my upper lip and I had it for at least a year. I was slightly concerned that it may be a type of skin cancer and to be honest having already had moles removed in the past and the scars that were left, I didn't fancy going down the conventional doctor route as a first port of call. I came aross the reviews that folks kindly shared on this great site and saw that it was something called Actinic Keratosis - often caused by sun damage.

I was thinking about buying the curaderm cream which is based on the aubergine remedy however as a first off I thought I would try apple cider vinegar. I had seen some folks say it gets worse before it gets better. It stung a bit when I first applied it and then within about 24 hours of applying it neat a few times a day just using a bit of cotton wool ( I used the mother Apple Cider Vinegar ) I noticed that other scabs were appearing ( about 5 on my upper lip ) and my lower lip also scabbed over. My mouth was in a bit of a mess to be honest and I was really self conscious when I saw people as I thought it looked like I had a ton of cold sores.

I had read that the Apple Cider Vinegar can bring out the hidden stuff so I just gritted my teeth, kept a fairly low profile as much as possible and carried on in the good faith that if it had worked for all these other folks then it would work for me. Within about 5/ 6 days things were looking considerably better and I could see that my lips were actually healing. About another 3 days after that so about 9 or 10 days in total my lips were looking totally normal again. I finished the treatment about 2 months ago ( was extra careful putting on a high sunscreen when I went on holiday ) and glad to say they are still looking great.

ACV rocks. to think that I could have gone to doctors and quite possibly ended up with some chemical chemo type cream which would have side effects, what I can say? Thrilled that this worked.

Posted by Bobbi (Pa) on 01/09/2017
5 out of 5 stars

The first Actinic Keratosis lesion I had was removed by my Dr. I had been applying a dissolved Vitamin C tablet covered by a Band-Aid to that lesion for a few weeks prior to removal, and it seemed to remained unchanged by that treatment.

About a year later, to my dismay, another lesion showed up. This time I decided I was going to give organic ACV a try. For the first few days I just applied the ACV to a swab and dabbed vinegar on in the am, dinnertime, pm, and bedtime. I did that for about a week, with no apparent changes. I wondered if I should be more aggressive, so I applied the ACV to a small piece of cotton and kept it in place on the lesion with a Band-Aid. I would re-wet when needed to keep the area moist, changing out the old cotton every day. The Band-Aid was removed at bath time. I kept it on almost continually, but did give the area fresh air a few hours per day or sometimes overnight. This is when changes started happening much more quickly. The lesion changed to a dark pink, and I would experience burning and stinging. I felt something was happening so kept up the routine. At around the two week mark, the lesion had begun to separate from the healthy surrounding tissue. I was amazed! It took about four more days for the lesion to let go.

That was about two weeks ago that the lesion let go completely. The spot is still a slightly pink color. It is flat and smooth. If I didn't point out the spot to you, you would not see it. I apply natural ointment and liquid Vitamin C to facilitate healing. Of course, I have no idea if will come back again, but I will leave another review if it does to state that has happened.

Replied by Nigel


has anybody used for actinic chellitis of the lips? I have on my top lip on the pink bit. I had some removed by laser above my lip and it didn't go well. Any advise re ACV for the lip? Also, any advise how to reduce the white scar tissue look from the lasered part?

Thanks, Nigel

Replied by Nigel


has anybody used for actinic chellitis of the lips? I have on my top lip on the pink bit. I had some removed by laser above my lip and it didn't go well. Any advise re ACV for the lip? Also, any advise how to reduce the white scar tissue look from the lasered part?

Thanks, Nigel

Posted by Good Sam (Baltimore, Md) on 12/14/2016
5 out of 5 stars

I had a small spot of actinic keratosis on my face next to my nose about 1/4" diameter. The dermatologist performed cryosurgery on the spot three time without success. So, I tried apple cider vinegar and cured it myself. Now it's completely gone and the skin is smooth as silk. I used organic, raw, unfiltered ACV. I applied it undiluted with a Q-tip swab 4 times per day for 5 days. Held it on the spot for one minute each time.

I did not use the ACV internally. It stung a little. On the second day, I had a little bleeding and scabbing. On the fourth day, the scab floated off. It's been over a month now, and there are no signs of AK.

Posted by Jeff (Bucerias, Mexico) on 11/08/2016
5 out of 5 stars

ACV for Solar Keratosis:

10 days into the treatment; 2-6 times a day, dabbed on with cotton wool, and the difference is amazing. Got worst before it got better. Uncomfortable/painful. The full extent of the problem was exposed by the ACV. That was worrisome. Now I only have scabs on my pate in a few places. They are diminishing daily. Could not be any happier or more relieved, after years of using diclofenac. I have toasted myself in the sun & on sunbeds all my life despite being blond and fair skinned. I say try it, persevere with it. Tell someone else about it.

Replied by David

Hi, good luck with the final bit of the treatment. I'm just about to start. Do you keep putting on the ACV to the Keratosis when the scabs are formed or do you stop and let them dry out?

Thanks, David

PS. Pity about the smell, my kids can't stand it :) Oh and I'm telling everyone

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 .

Replied by Nigel

Hi, do you know whether you keep applying the ACV once the scab has formed or do you stop? I have AK on my nose, temple, cheek and a number on my scalp and want to get right Thanks Nigel

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'.

Replied by Becky
San Diego

I've used SunSpot ES for years ... spots always come back.

Replied by Martin W.

Yes, liquid nitrogen will make a keratosis form a scab and peel off, leaving fresh-looking skin, but the keratosis will come back after a couple of years. So it's an effective medium-term remedy, but not a cure. I don't know about ACV ... I'll give it a try!

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.