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- 1 History of Aloe Vera
- 2 What is Aloe Vera?
- 3 Aloe Vera Juice vs. Gel
- 4 Aloe Vera Benefits for Skin
- 5 How to choose the best Aloe vera gel for your skin
- 6 Final Thoughts
Aloe vera has been used for centuries for its medicinal and skin care properties. Aloe vera creams, gels, ointments, capsules, and liquids contain the clear gel found in Aloe vera leaves. This article discusses the skincare benefits of Aloe vera gel.
History of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a succulent plant with a long history of use for medicinal purposes. It was mentioned in a collection of Sumerian clay tablets dated 2100 B.C. Later, around 1550 BC, the medicinal properties of Aloe vera were discussed in more detail in the Papyrus Ebers, an Egyptian scroll. It has also been used in Greece, India, Mexico, Japan, and China for thousands of years.
There has been considerable discussion about where Aloe Vera originated. The locations put forth as possibilities include Sudan, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Canary Islands.
In 2015, a group of scientists from various countries conducted extensive studies of the plant, including DNA testing and evolutionary relationships, to resolve the evolutionary history of Aloe vera. Their research findings suggested Aloe vera originated in the Arabian Peninsula.
What is Aloe Vera?
There are over 400 species in the genus Aloe. One of these species is the Aloe barbadensis miller (Aloe vera), used for medicinal purposes. It is a cactus-like succulent plant that is grown in hot, dry environments.
Currently, this plant is grown mainly in the dry region of Africa, Asia, Europe, and America. It is also cultivated in other parts of the world that have a warm climate.
Each leaf of the aloe vera plant has three layers. The outer layer is the skin or rind and protects the other two layers.
A study published in December 2018 looked at the chemical composition of Aloe vera grown in Chile. Their results indicated the peel is the best part of the plant producing nutraceuticals or cosmetics products for its greatest number of bioactive compounds. This is interesting because the peel is usually thought of as being waste and discarded.
The middle layer contains a bitter-tasting yellow substance called “aloe latex”. Aloe latex contains aloin which may have strong laxative properties. However, according to Mayo Clinic, there are safety concerns regarding the use of aloe latex.
The inner layer contains an odorless and clear gel that is extracted and processed. It is used as a topical treatment for burns, skin abrasions, and other ailments. Although the gel is about 99% water, it also contains more than 75 active ingredients, including vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, lipids, sterols, and salicylic acid.
Aloe Vera Juice vs. Gel
Aloe Vera juice and gel are extracted from the leaves of the Aloe vera plant.
Aloe vera leaf juice (liquid) is produced through grinding, crushing, or pressing the Aloe vera plant’s leaves. The outer rind and aloe latex are removed, leaving the gel substance to be processed (filtered and stabilized) into juice.
Aloe vera juice can be made from a fresh leaf or store-bought gel.
Aloe vera juice is mixed with preservative(s) and a thickening agent to produce a gel used in food, healthcare, or skincare products.
Regardless of where you plan to use Aloe vera gel, it’s best to test it on a small area of your skin (not your face) to ensure no ingredients could cause an allergic reaction. Wait for 1-2 hours to see if you have an allergic reaction.
Aloe Vera Benefits for Skin
Helps soothe sunburn
Aloe vera may provide sunburn relief because it contains compounds that can reduce inflammation and help soothe and cool skin. It provides a protective layer for the skin and helps retain moisture.
Zaineb Hassan Makhzoumi, MD, MPH, a dermatologic surgeon at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says, “The clear, jelly-like substance in the inner part of the [aloe vera] leaf contains glycoproteins, which reduce inflammation and swelling from a sunburn.”
If you have severe sunburn, you should see a qualified medical professional.
Boosts wound healing
Aloe vera is beneficial for treating certain types of wounds. It can reduce healing time in first (involves the skin’s surface) and second-degree (affects the outer and second skin layer) burn wounds. This is due in part to the anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties of Aloe vera.
Aloe vera accelerates wound healing by boosting skin cell reproduction and stimulating cell movement.
Helps moisturize skin
Aloe vera exhibits moisturizing properties for two reasons. First, the innermost layer of the leaf is rich in water. Second, the mucopolysaccharides in aloe vera help bind moisture into the skin.
According to Dr. Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist, the Aloe vera helps hydrate the skin and lock in moisture.
One of the benefits of Aloe vera is that it does not leave a greasy film on your skin.
Can Aloe vera help acne?
The studies conducted on the effectiveness of using Aloe vera alone to treat acne are contradictory. However, one scientific study concluded the combination of Aloe vera and the prescription Tretinoin cream was a more effective acne treatment than Tretinoin alone.
How does acne occur?
The sebaceous glands are oil glands under our skin. They produce an oily substance called sebum. This oil travels from the base to the top of each hair follicle and then moves onto the skin’s surface. When the oil moves, it takes dead skin cells with it.
Acne develops when hair follicles become clogged with sebum and dead skin cells. If bacteria, especially Propionibacterium acnes (p. acnes), a bacteria that lives on your skin, gets trapped inside the oil-clogged pores, it multiplies. When the blocked pores are inflamed or infected with bacteria, lumps under the surface of your skin (pimples) develop.
This study describes data and clinical evidence that suggests inflammation can occur very early in the development of the acne lesion and the later stages of acne.
Can Aloe vera help unclog pores?
Salicylic acid, one of the ingredients in aloe vera, is included in some acne products, toners, and face cleansers in varying concentrations. It is helpful because it can get through the skin’s lipid barrier and reduce oil production, which helps keep pores unclogged.
Salicylic acid also exfoliates by breaking the bonds that hold the skin’s cells together. When the bonds are released, the dead skin sloughs off, which helps unclog the pores.
Aloe vera and Bacteria
One type of bacterium that can cause acne breakouts are some strains of Propionibacterium acnes (P.acnes). When this bacteria is trapped, it turns the oil (sebum) into fatty acids that induce inflammation in adjacent skin cells. The result is red, itchy breakouts.
Although studies have reported antibacterial properties of Aloe vera gel, we did not find a study whose results showed Aloe vera alone could kill p. acnes. Topical products containing benzoyl peroxide are typically used to kill p. acnes.
Do the moisturizing properties of Aloe vera help heal acne?
Aloe vera is beneficial for moisturizing skin for two reasons. First, it contains mucopolysaccharides (long chains of sugar molecules) which have agents that help bind moisture into the skin, making it moist. Second, the Aloe vera gel materials hydrate the skin.
These moisturizing characteristics in Aloe vera might help treat acne breakout. Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, a board-certified dermatologist, opines the moisturizing properties of aloe vera are beneficial to those with acne that is drying up. The rationale is that a moist environment is better for healing.
When applying Aloe vera, this study showed patting (as opposed to pressing) Aloe vera on the skin improves the roughness and shine of the skin.
Does Aloe vera reduce acne inflammation?
As previously mentioned, there is evidence that inflammation can occur during all stages of acne development. Salicylic acid reduces skin lipids and possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
Two hormones found in Aloe vera, Auxin and gibberellins, reportedly help wound healing and have anti-inflammatory properties that reduce skin inflammation.
However, we could not find a scientific study that presented evidence to support the notion these two hormones helped reduce acne-related inflammation.
Aloe vera and Tretinoin Cream for Acne
In a randomized, double-blind trial, the 60 participants had mild to moderate acne vulgaris.
One group received a combination of Tretinoin cream, a prescription topical cream used to treat acne or sun-damaged skin or reduce the appearance of fine wrinkles, and a placebo. The other group received a formulation of Tretinoin cream and Aloe vera leaf gel. The researchers concluded the combination of Tretinoin and aloe gel was more effective than the Tretinoin and placebo (control group) at treating mild to moderate acne vulgaris.
Can Aloe vera help psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic disease that causes rough patches on the skin that are often red, scaly, itchy, and inflamed. There is no cure, but there are treatments to help manage the symptoms.
According to the Mayo Clinic, using aloe vera cream on psoriasis may also help reduce the scaling, redness, and irritation in those with mild to moderate psoriasis.
The National Psoriasis Foundation suggests using creams containing .5% aloe. They also advised that aloe plant gel can be applied to the skin up to three times daily.
How to choose the best Aloe vera gel for your skin
There are hundreds of Aloe vera products available from which to choose. If possible, select a product that has been tested by a third-party laboratory or is certified by the International Aloe Science Council. It is best to buy a product that has a high percentage of aloe vera.
Read the label carefully
Commercial Aloe vera gel is formulated with preservatives to extend its shelf life. Don’t be fooled by companies that say their product is 100% gel or Aloe vera 100% gel. These products are 100% gel, not 100% pure Aloe vera.
Read the list of ingredients
- Look for the percentage of Aloe vera gel. In general, the higher the percentage, the better since it will contain fewer additives.
- Do not buy a product that has “aloe latex.”
- You’ll want to avoid aloe vera products that contain additives such as alcohol since that will decrease the moisturizing effects.
- Products with other additives such as fragrance, synthetic color, or lidocaine should be avoided to avoid the risk of skin irritation. The color should be clear, not green.
- It is best not to use it with chemical exfoliants since the combination could irritate your skin.
Potassium sorbate is a preservative used in food, skincare, cosmetics, and other products. Its purpose is to prevent the growth of bacteria, fungi, and mold. Although the likelihood of it causing harmful side effects, such as skin irritation, is low, we thought the possibility should be mentioned.
There are benefits of using Aloe vera gel for skin care. It can soothe sunburn, boost wound healing, moisturize your skin, and help manage acne and psoriasis.
To get the best product for your money, read the label and ingredient list to ensure you buy a high-quality product.
However, before adding Aloe vera to your skincare routine, check with your healthcare provider. You’ll want to ensure it does not interact with your current medications, especially if you use prescription acne products.
As with any product applied to your skin, it is best to put it on a small area on your inner arm to test for an allergic reaction. If you experience itching or slight burning or develop a rash, stop using the product at once.
Aloe vera juice can be added to a variety of fruit and vegetable juices such as carrot, apple, and pomegranate.