There are many claims surrounding the benefits of aloe vera gel for skin and hair. But which ones are based on facts, rather than legend? We sifted through dozens of academic research articles to uncover the proven benefits of aloe vera gel.
Here’s a summary of what we found…
Benefits of Aloe Vera Gel for Skin
1. Anti-Aging & Moisturizing
Studies have shown that aloe vera gel has a moisturizing and anti-aging effect on the skin.
A study in the American Jounral of Infection Control evaluated aloe vera gel’s ability to treat dry skin. It found that aloe stimulates the cells in our connective tissue that produce collagen and elastic fibers (West and Zhu). As a result, this makes the skin more elastic and less wrinkled.
Aloe vera gel also helps cells on the surface of the skin stick together, while amino acids soften hardened skin cells (West and Zhu).
These characteristics allow aloe vera gel to make your skin feel soft.
And finally, the zinc present in aloe vera even acts to tighten pores, hence the anti-aging effects.
2. Treating Acne
In our search for the best aloe vera gels, we read thousands of reviews from people who said aloe vera gel helped treat their acne. Well, it turns out there’s research to validate their experience.
A study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment found that a topical tretinoin cream (commonly prescribed for acne) was more effective at treating mild to moderate acne when mixed with aloe vera gel (Hajheydari, et al).
In addition to having better outcomes (less scaling, inflammation, and burning), the cream with aloe vera gel appeared to work much more quickly.
While the study attributed the results to the anti-inflammatory nature of aloe vera gel, another study attributed it to the fact that it’s anti-bacterial (Shupe-Ricksecker).
They found that aloe vera could kill off bacteria partially responsible for acne within a 24 hour period.
Either way, this makes aloe vera gel a valuable ingredient in DIY acne creams, or for use on its own.
Because knowledge about natural living doesn’t come naturally.
3. Healing Wounds
A number of studies have investigated aloe vera gel’s ability to heal wounds.
For example, one study found that aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory components, such as amino acids, Vitamin C, and aspirin-like compounds, accelerate wound healing (Davis, et al).
Additionally, a randomized control trial comparing aloe vera gel to other treatments found that aloe vera was more effective in healing wounds (Tarameshloo, et al).
4. Healing Sunburns
You’re probably most familiar with using aloe vera gel to heal sunburns. Well, according to research, this isn’t just an ancient myth.
Studies have shown that using aloe vera gel to treat inflammatory skin conditions, such as sunburns, is effective (Reuter, et al).
While one study found that hydrocortisone creams were more effective at treating sunburns, there are a number of negative side affects associated with these treatment options, making them less desirable.
Aloe vera gel, in contrast, has little to no side affects. That said, be sure to check out our section below on precautions.
5. Reducing Dermatitis from Radiation Therapy
The anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera gel have led scientists to wonder whether it can effectively protect against dermatitis caused by radiation therapy.
One study had patients use an aloe vera lotion on one half of the irradiated area, with nothing on the other half (Haddad, et al). The degree of dermatitis in each half was recorded weekly until four weeks after radiation therapy. They concluded that aloe vera gel reduced the intensity of radiation-induced dermatitis.
In other words, when aloe vera is used as a preventative measure, twice daily throughout treatment and 2 weeks afterward, it can limit the severity of dermatitis.
Benefits of Aloe Vera Gel for Hair
6. Getting Rid of Dandruff
The 5 benefits we’ve discussed so far all relate to the skin. But aloe vera gel has benefits for hair as well.
A double-blind study looking at seborrheic dermatitis, aka dandruff, found that aloe vera is effective (Da Vardy, et al). The researchers found that the aloe vera treatment reduced flakiness, itchiness, and the number of spots affected by dandruff compared to a placebo.
To use aloe vera for dandruff, simply massage about one tablespoon of aloe vera gel through your hair. Leave on for about 30 minutes and wash out with a sulfate-free shampoo.
Why sulfate-free? Our research found shampoos with sulfates may contribute to dryness, which contributes to dandruff.
Add a drop of tea tree oil to increase your chances of successfully getting rid of dandruff.
6 Benefits of Aloe Vera Gel
Based on Scientific Evidence
Improves elasticity of the skin (moisturizing and anti-aging effects)
Reduces symptoms of mild to moderate acne
Speeds the healing of wounds
Treats sunburns without side affects
Reduces the severity of dermatitis caused by radiation therapy
Effective in getting rid of dandruff
Precautions for Using Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe vera gel has a number of benefits. However, as outlined by a review published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, you should be cautious for the following reasons (Surjushe, et al):
- Topical Side Affects: Although rare, some people react when aloe vera is applied to the skin and hair. Always test aloe vera on a small area to see if you have an allergic reaction. Or, if you know you’re allergic to plants in the Liliaceae family, you are likely allergic to aloe vera gel.
- Oral Consumption Side Affects: If you consume aloe vera, it can cause abdominal cramping, diarrhea, or constipation.
- Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers: Oral consumption of aloe vera could cause uterine contractions and so should be avoided. It could cause gastrointestinal distress in infants if consumed by mothers who are breastfeeding.
- Diabetic Patients: Aloe vera gel can decrease blood sugar levels and so can have a negative interaction with hypoglycemic drugs and insulin.
Given the proven antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits of aloe vera gel, its uses in medicine, dermatology and cosmetic applications are far reaching.
Use it everyday for moisturizing your skin and hair, or pull it out when you need to treat wounds and sunburns. Aloe vera gel is clearly a natural remedy that has scientific support.