Is Aloe Vera an Effective Skincare Ingredient?

Aloe Vera is a natural herb that has found immense uses in cosmetology. The name Aloe vera is derived from the Arabic word "Alloeh," representing a shining bitter substance, and the Latin word "vera," meaning true. In Greece, this plant was regarded as the universal panacea for all ills, while in Egypt, it was considered as the plant of immortality.[1]

The use of Aloe Vera in skin care treatments is not a new concept. It is believed to have been used by Egyptian queens, Cleopatra and Nefertiti, as part of their regular beauty regimen. Christopher Columbus and Alexander the Great are also said to have used this plant to treat soldiers’ wounds.

Today, aloe vera is widely used in various skincare and cosmetic products. Aloe vera comes in various forms like powder, gel, liquid, etc., and is an active ingredient in many moisturizers, masks, and gels.

Aloe vera is rich in vitamins, phytosterols, minerals, polysaccharides, and amino acids. It has a low risk of causing skin allergies or reactions and is a very versatile product.

Types of Aloe Vera Formulations

Aloe vera is used as an ingredient in different skincare products. Here are some of them:

#1. Aloe Vera Gel:

Aloe vera is rich in polysaccharides. It is for this reason that aloe is commonly found in many skincare gel formulations. Polysaccharides bind with water paving the way for a better moisturizing effect. They additionally help in protecting the epidermal layer of the skin.

#2. Aloe Vera Leaf Exudate:

The leaf exudate originates from the green peel of aloe vera leaf. It has been researched extensively for its medicinal and antioxidant properties. The exudate component, however, may contain many components that cause erythema and skin irritation.

Hence, of the above two formulations, aloe vera gel is most popularly used in skincare as it is safer on the skin.

Benefits of Aloe Vera in Skin Care

Aloe vera offers several skincare benefits. However, if you are dealing with a chronic skin condition, it is better to consult a dermatologist before using any aloe vera products.

Some of the common benefits offered by this plant in skincare are:

1. Burns and Cuts

Aloe vera has for long been used for treating burns and is popularly known as the ‘burn tree’ or the ‘first-aid plant’. Studies have shown that for minor burns, aloe vera gel can be applied thrice daily to the affected area.

Due to its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, aloe vera accelerates the healing process of burn wounds. It is popularly used to treat first-degree and second-degree burns and significantly reduces the recovery time. Aloe vera can also be used for treating minor cuts like razor cuts and functions as an after-shave treatment. [2]

2. Sunburns

While aloe vera gel helps soothe sunburn, aloe vera oil is an excellent moisturizer and helps reduce skin peeling which is normally associated with sunburns. Aloe vera also helps relieve itching and pain and helps soothe the skin, and aids in the healing process. It achieves this by preventing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL). This is really important when you are suffering from sunburn or windburn.

3. Small Abrasions

In case of a scar or skin abrasion on your face, you can quickly apply aloe vera to the affected area for prompt relief from the burning sensation and the associated pain.

4. Dry Skin

Aloe vera gel doesn't leave a greasy film on the face and gets absorbed easily, thus making it the perfect choice for oily skin. In fact, aloe vera unclogs the pores and softens the skin.

It can help with dry skin conditions too, thanks to its healing and hydrating properties.

5. Minimizes Acne:

The polysaccharides and gibberellins in aloe vera help to fight acne including inflammatory acne like nodules and pustules. The compounds in aloe help the growth of new cells and also minimize redness and inflammation.

They also work as an astringent and minimize the size of pores by eliminating excess sebum, dust, and dirt.

6. Anti-Aging Properties

The vitamin C, E, and beta carotene present in aloe vera help in eradicating blemishes and fine lines and also aid in minimizing wrinkles. Furthermore, it helps to boost collagen production. Collagen helps in promoting skin elasticity and helps in maintaining a firm and younger-looking skin.

6. Frostbite

Frostbite can become a serious condition that may require emergency medical treatment. Aloe vera gel has been used historically as a frostbite remedy. While severe frostbite may require immediate medical care, mild frostbites can be healed faster with aloe vera.

For instance, in the case of superficial frostbites that have been rewarmed, aloe vera gel application can enhance tissue survival and thus act as a good remedy.

7. Cold Sores

Aloe vera helps to treat the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which is an underlying reason for cold sores.[3]

8. Eczema

The anti-bacterial and moisturizing effects of aloe vera can help in relieving the symptoms of dry and itchy skin associated with eczema (atopic dermatitis) and prevent it from becoming infected. Aloe vera also helps in alleviating seborrheic dermatitis. While you may take natural aloe vera straight from the leaf for treating eczema, if you prefer topical gels, look for products that contain pure aloe vera as the base ingredient.

9. Psoriasis

As with the case of eczema, aloe vera may help in minimizing itching and inflammation from psoriasis.

10. Hair and Scalp

The anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera also help to treat dry skin, fungal infections, and excessive oil production. All these are major causes of dandruff. As such, aloe vera paves a natural way to get rid of dandruff. It also helps to enhance blood circulation to the scalp, thereby aiding new hair growth. Also, it helps to condition the hair and make it soft and shiny.

The Bottom Line:

While considered safe for topical use, it must be noted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate aloe vera products.

Though aloe vera helps in treating first- and second-degree burns, one must stay clear of it in case of severe burn injuries as aloe vera can, at times, decrease the skin's natural ability to heal itself from profound surgical wounds.

If you find that you are sensitive to aloe vera or are experiencing any form of rashes or hives, it is best to discontinue its use and refer to a dermatologist.

Aloe vera gel must not be used on infected skin, because the protective layer of the gel can disrupt the healing process and worsen the infection.

Overall, aloe vera is still a great and effective skincare product with very minimal side effects and is suitable for almost all skin types.

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