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Aloe Vera Gel: 6 Skin Benefits, Side Effects & How to Choose It [Dermatologist Approved]

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This article is medically reviewed on November 3, 2020 by:

Picture of Rina Allawh, MD, FAAD

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Skin Benefits

Side Effects

How to choose Aloe Vera gel

Aloe Vera is not only a beautiful plant that you can grow at home. It has many different uses in personal care products, health supplements, and skincare because of its high water content, gel-like texture, and nutrients.

The two main forms of Aloe Vera that you can buy are gel and juice . And while the juice is associated with different nutritional properties (people drink it to stimulate immune response, improve kidney health, support the functions of the GI tract, and more), aloe vera gel is mainly used for skin and personal care. The gel is made from the “meat” of the Aloe leaf. It’s gooey and transparent, as the green parts of the leaf are not used for its preparation.

And as people use the gel for tons of different purposes, this article will guide you through the proven benefits Aloe Vera gel! At the end of the article you’ll also find various tips on how to choose Aloe gel!

Let’s dive in!

Skin Benefits

The advice from Dr. Allawh (Board-Certified Dermatologist):

Potent moisturizer: Aloe vera has been found to be hydrating as it stores water as well as vitamins, antioxidants and amino acids.

Anti-viral benefits: Aloe vera has been shown to have some anti-inflammatory properties as well as anti-viral properties. This explains why in some cultures, it is used in the treatment of cold sores and fever blisters.

Soothing properties: Aloe vera is commonly used to soothe itching and skin irritation from sunburns, bug bites and skin burns. The amino acids, anti-oxidants and polysaccharides in aloe vera promote skin repair and prevent further damage to the impaired protective skin barrier. A helpful tip is to place aloe vera in the refrigerator for a few hours prior to application—the cooling sensation will help further reduce any skin discomfort.

Treats pesky pimples: As a result of its mild anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, aloe vera is helpful in the treatment of acne pimples. It helps to decrease the inflammation that surrounds the oil-producing glands that are responsible for painful pimples.

Lightens hyperpigmentation: Aloe vera may be helpful in the treatment of hyperpigmentation in the skin. How? Well, aloe vera blocks an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is primarily responsible for skin hyperpigmentation.

Nourishes hair: Aloe vera functions by locking in moisture by lubricating and nourishing the hair shaft. However, it has not been shown to impact hair growth. With that being said, use of aloe vera may improve the overall appearance, health and durability of the hair shaft.

Skin irritation: Aloe vera may cause irritation or contact dermatitis (allergic reaction) in some individuals with dry, sensitive or eczema-prone skin. I typically recommend applying a pea sized amount of aloe vera to the forearm as a “test spot” to make sure your skin does not have any reactions.

Dietary intake: Dietary intake of aloe vera has been evaluated in few small studies for the treatment of facial wrinkles; however, no significant result on photoaging has been shown. More studies are needed to really discern if there are benefits of aloe vera intake on the skin.

According to various research studies and review papers that looked into the uses and benefits of Aloe Vera gel, topical application of this substance can be associated with improved skin moisture, fast healing and recovery after injury or burn, reduced inflammation and eczema symptoms, increased skin protection, improved oral health, ulcers prevention, as well as antifungal and antibacterial properties.

But let’s see each benefit in detail!

aloe vera plant

(The information presented below is based on review studies published in The Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine (2015) [1] , The Journal of Pre-Clinical and Clinical Research (2017) [2] , and The Iranian Journal of Medicinal Sciences (2019) [3] .)

Improved skin moisture and integrity

Aloe Vera gel is rich in “mucopolysaccharides” along with amino acids and zinc. These three compounds were found to improve the water retention mechanism of the skin and lock moisture inside the epidermis (top skin layer). Besides, topical application of Aloe Vera gel can result in improved skin integrity and texture: stronger skin barrier, reduced flakiness, and less redness (due to increased blood flow.)

These properties of the gel can be beneficial for people with dry, cracking skin, as well as for those with damaged skin barrier (like eczema, psoriasis, acne, or sunburn)

Faster wound healing

Topical application of Aloe Vera gel can stimulate collagen synthesis, as well as, hyaluronic acid and new skin cells production, to support the skin healing process after injuries, cuts, first- and second-degree burns, ulcers (including herpes ulcers,) wounds, or chronic wounds.

Besides, the gel has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and antiseptic properties, which may prevent infection and reduce itchiness, and redness of the affected areas.

In fact, various studies found the Aloe Vera gel to be more effective than petroleum jelly, silver sulfadiazine 1% ointment, and framycetin cream in stimulating the skin regeneration process.

Related: How to Heal Your Tattoo Faster? [ Quick Guide ] aloe vera leaf

Prevent formation of skin ulcers

Apart from supporting the healing process, Aloe Vera gel may prevent the formation of skin ulcers, including herpes and diabetes foot ulcers, as well as sores.

Skin protection

Topical application of Aloe gel can protect the skin from damage caused by radiation therapy (X-ray, radiation related dermatitis, sun damage.)

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The collagen-boosting, antibacterial properties of Aloe Vera gel can help to reduce periodontitis and gingivitis symptoms, as well as bleeding gums, redness, sores, and bad breath.

This way, application of Aloe gel directly to gums (and tissues in mouth) may support oral health, reduce inflammation, and can limit the growth of bacteria and microorganisms (e.g., in the form of plaque.)

Stronger, shinier hair

Aloe Vera gel has not only skin, but also hair benefits.

According to a 2010 review paper published in the Journal of Chemical and Pharmaceutical research, topical use of Aloe Vera (as a mask for example) can improve the health of your scalp, relieving dandruff symptoms, reducing hair loss, and stimulating hair regrowth. [4]

aloe vera in a pot

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Side Effects

Aloe Vera gel is generally considered to be a safe ingredient.

That being said, a 2016 review paper looking at the toxicity and clinical side effects of Aloe Vera plant, found that topical application of the gel can cause discomfort, hypersensitivity, or allergy (dermatitis) in individuals with sensitive skin, or in people who’ve had dermabrasion or chemical peel recently. [5]

For that reason, asking your dermatologist to do a patch-test for Aloe Vera sensitivity is recommendable.

aloe vera gel

How to choose Aloe Vera gel

Aloe Vera gel is a very accessible product in both pharmacies, supermarkets, and drugstores. However, there are some specific things to look into when choosing which one to buy:

Percentage of pure gel

It’s a good idea to go with a higher percentage (99%). Many products contain only 10% pure gel, which cannot guarantee you the beneficial properties of the true Aloe Vera plant.

Color

The gel is naturally colorless (transparent.) However, many brands add green dye to the products in order to make them look more natural (hmm.. That, in fact, makes them less natural.)

Buying a whole plant

If you decide to go for the most natural version- taking the jelly right out of the leaf, here is one important advice: don’t store the gel, but use it right away. If you store the gel (for too long), it may go off and lose its beneficial properties. This problem doesn’t exist with commercial Aloe Vera gel, as it usually contains stabilizers which maintain its safety and properties for longer.

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