People have been using aloe vera for a long time: Its earliest recorded use dates back some 6,000 years ago, during the time of the pharaohs. The ancient Egyptians called it the “plant of eternity” and used it in skin care and medicine – even embalming. The ancient Chinese used aloe vera to treat various ailments, while the ancient Japanese valued it as an elixir and as a potent pain reliever.
Today, aloe vera is known for its wide range of medicinal properties and applications. It’s still a highly valuable and effective product, especially when it comes to skin and hair care. Research suggests that aloe vera contains many natural compounds that do wonders for both.
Here are just some of the surprising benefits for your skin and hair that you can expect from using aloe vera.
1. It helps reduce acne
Acne vulgaris is a skin disorder that affects the sebaceous (oil) glands. When sebum and dead skin cells accumulate in pores, they increase the number of bacteria naturally present in those follicles. This causes the skin to get inflamed and produce bumps that we call acne.
Aloe vera is known for its ability to prevent the growth of bacteria and soothe inflammation. This is why it is a popular ingredient in many anti-acne products. According to several studies, aloe vera leaf extract is effective against Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes (1), two strains of bacteria involved in the development of acne vulgaris (2).
If you have mild to moderate acne, try adding aloe vera gel to your skincare routine. Research suggests that the combination of aloe vera and other acne treatments like tretinoin effectively reduces inflammation and the appearance of skin lesions (3).
Aloe vera gel can be bought from stores, but if you have an aloe vera plant at home, you can make your own gel by following these simple steps (4):
- Take a sharp knife and cut off a leaf close to the base of the plant. The leaves near the base are more mature and will give you more gel.
- Wash the leaf using cold running water and let it sit upright to drain off any yellow or white resin as this can cause skin irritation.
- Use a vegetable peeler or your knife to remove the skin of the leaf on one side.
- With a clean spoon, scoop out the aloe vera gel. Avoid getting any skin in it.
- Place the gel in a clean glass container that can be tightly sealed. You can refrigerate the gel as it is or add natural preservatives to prolong its storage life.
- If you wish to preserve it, you can mix 500 mg vitamin C or 400 IU vitamin E for every ¼ cup aloe vera gel using a blender.
- Place the resulting foamy gel in a clean, airtight container and refrigerate. This can last for two months.
2. It hydrates and moisturizes the skin
Water is essential to our skin’s health. A well-hydrated or well-moisturized skin doesn’t just look good; it also fulfills its function and protects us from damaging external elements. If your skin is dry, consider using aloe vera to address your skin’s hydration needs.
Aloe vera is a natural hydrator and moisturizer. Its gel consists mainly of water – about 98.5% – and polysaccharides, as well as small amounts of amino acids, lipids, and sterols (5). Because of its composition, aloe vera gel can replenish the water content of cells and improve the skin’s ability to absorb moisture and nutrients. It also helps lock in moisture to build the skin’s protective barrier. This barrier can prevent the loss of water and keep the skin soft and smooth (6).
Another good thing about aloe vera is that it doesn’t discriminate between skin types. Whether you have normal, oily, dry, or sensitive skin, you can use aloe vera as part of your skin care routine. Here are some simple recipes for DIY aloe vera face masks that are suitable for different skin types (7).
For dry skin
- Combine aloe vera gel with olive oil and add shea butter. You can use shea butter creams as an alternative.
- Mix them well until they form a thick paste. Apply the paste to your face and neck.
- Keep the mask on for at least 20 minutes then rinse it off with warm water to seal in moisture.
For normal skin
- Combine 1 tablespoon of aloe vera gel with 1 tablespoon of gram flour, 1 teaspoon of orange peel powder, and some curd.
- Mix them well and apply the mixture to your face and neck. Make sure to avoid the areas around the eyes.
- Keep the mask on for 30 minutes then wash your face and neck with warm water.
For sensitive skin
- Combine aloe vera gel with enough cucumber juice and some curd to make a paste.
- Mix them well and add 3 drops of rose water or any essential oil of your choosing. Some useful oils for sensitive skin are lavender, frankincense, cedarwood, tea tree, geranium, and ylang-ylang (8).
- Keep the mask on your skin for 15 minutes then wash with warm water.
For oily skin
- Boil aloe vera leaf (washed) in water then grind it into a paste.
- Add a few drops of natural honey to the paste and mix well before applying it to your face.
- Keep the mask on for 15 minutes then rinse it off with warm or cold water.
3. It is a gentle exfoliant
Exfoliation is necessary in every skin care routine. This process allows us to slough off dead skin cells from the outermost layer of the skin. Exfoliation, when done correctly, can improve the appearance of our skin (9), unclog pores, and even reduce pimples.
Aloe vera contains salicylic acid, a compound that can alleviate pain, bring down fever, and reduce inflammation (10). This plant compound is also an excellent but gentle exfoliant that breaks down the connections between skin cells and dissolves skin debris that clogs pores (11). These activities of salicylic acid explain why it is a popular ingredient in chemical exfoliants.
To enjoy the hydrating, moisturizing, acne-relieving, and exfoliating benefits of aloe vera, use aloe vera gel daily on your face and body. If the gel alone doesn’t satisfy your exfoliation needs, you can buy commercial exfoliants that contain aloe vera or, even better, make your own homemade aloe vera scrub by following this recipe (12):
- Combine 1 tablespoon of aloe vera gel with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/3 teaspoon fresh lemon juice.
- If you have sensitive skin, replace the sugar and lemon with baking soda.
- If you have oily skin, add two parts honey, one part baking soda, and one part sea salt to the aloe vera mixture.
- Keep the unused scrub (if you made extra) in an airtight glass container and store it in the refrigerator for later use.
4. It prevents premature aging
One of the most dreadful events we all wish to avoid is premature aging. This abnormal process can deprive us early of our youthful looks and tax our skin with the undesirable effects of aging. These effects come in the form of fine lines, wrinkles, and skin that is drier, thinner, and lackluster. Fortunately, premature aging is preventable (13).
According to studies, aloe vera is rich in antioxidants that can prevent or delay skin aging caused by free radicals (14). One study compared the antioxidant activity of aloe vera with butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – an antioxidant food preservative – and vitamin E, and found that three-year-old aloe vera has the strongest free radical scavenging activity of the three (15).
Another study reported that aloe vera gel can reduce wrinkles and improve facial elasticity by increasing the production of collagen (16). This was corroborated by a recent study in which supplementation with aloe sterols effectively increased skin elasticity, collagen production, and skin hydration in women aged 30 to 59 (17). Collagen is a protein that keeps the skin firm and helps skin cells regenerate and repair damage.
To get the anti-aging benefits of aloe vera, use it as a day-and-night moisturizer or make your own DIY aloe vera sunscreen using this quick and easy recipe (18):
- Obtain aloe vera gel from the leaf of the plant. You can follow the instructions provided above.
- Combine the aloe vera gel with a pinch of turmeric, which has antiseptic properties. Turmeric can protect the skin against bacteria from sweat.
- Mix well and freeze the mixture in ice cubes. Rub a cube on your face and neck every day and let it dry before you leave.
5. It promotes wound healing
Aloe vera makes wounds heal faster – another great skin care benefit. According to a review written by researchers from Iran, the healing properties of aloe vera come from its glucomannan content. Glucomannan is a polysaccharide that stimulates the growth of fibroblasts, which are cells that produce collagen. By increasing the production and secretion of collagen, aloe vera accelerates the healing of cutaneous wounds (19).
A similar study on the effects of aloe vera reported that it promotes the proliferation and migration of another type of skin cell (20). These specialized cells called keratinocytes produce keratin, a structural protein that allows skin cells to stick together and form a protective layer outside the skin. These keratinocytes, together with fibroblasts, speed up wound healing. And because aloe vera has antibacterial properties, applying it to your wound can also prevent infections.
Aloe vera gel obtained from aloe leaves can be applied directly to wounds. Make sure to clean your wound thoroughly before applying the gel and to let it dry on your skin before covering.
6. It soothes skin inflammation
Aloe vera has long been used to relieve redness and swelling. Its cooling and soothing properties make it an ideal remedy for skin irritations or injuries caused by various factors.
Studies on the chemical components of aloe vera suggest that it is rich in active compounds that inhibit inflammation. For instance, anti-inflammatory agents like indomethacin and dexamethasone can be found in aloe vera extracts (21). These extracts inhibit the activity of an enzyme called cyclooxygenase, which is responsible for producing prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are lipids that promote inflammation, pain, and fever.
The results of clinical trials also suggest that aloe vera is an effective treatment for first- and second-degree burns. Researchers from Thailand reported that the use of aloe vera shortened the healing time of burns by eight days compared with non-aloe treatment (22).
Experts from the University of Arkansas also recommend the use of aloe vera oil to treat sunburn (23). Based on initial research, aloe vera oil aids the healing of sunburned skin by moisturizing the affected area, which also prevents peeling. To immediately cool sunburned skin and stop any itching or stinging, you can refrigerate aloe vera oil before use.
7. It protects the skin from radiation
Aloe vera is a great addition to your lineup of summer skin care essentials. During this season, the skin is constantly exposed to the sun and harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, so it needs additional protection. UVA and UVB are the two types of radiation that damage the skin. UVA penetrates the skin deeper than UVB and causes photoaging (premature aging), ocular damage, and skin cancer. UVB, on the other hand, causes erythema or skin redness and sunburn (24).
A recent study suggests that aloe vera can protect skin cells against photoaging caused by UVA radiation (25). Researchers reported that aloe vera was able to reduce photodamage both in cell cultures and in animals exposed to UVA. They associated this protective ability of aloe vera with the maintenance of cell membrane integrity, which decreased the production of lipofuscins (aging pigments) and prevented cell death.
To enjoy the UV protection that aloe vera offers, use it as a sunscreen or lotion. Here are two easy-to-follow recipes to make your own homemade aloe vera lotion (26).
Aloe vera-lavender lotion
- Set a small pot on a stove and put a large heat-proof bowl on top of it.
- Combine grated beeswax, 1/3 cup coconut oil, ¼ cup avocado or sweet almond oil, and 1 cup cocoa butter or unrefined shea butter in the bowl.
- Melt the ingredients using medium heat with occasional stirring.
- Add 1 tablespoon of aloe vera gel and 1 tablespoon of natural honey. You can also add a few drops of lavender oil or any of your favorite essential oils for fragrance and additional benefits.
- Once the ingredients are fully dissolved, remove the bowl from the pot and let it sit at room temperature until it is cool enough to refrigerate. Give the mixture a few hours to harden.
- Using a blender, mix the mixture for five minutes or until it looks like runny whipped cream.
- Pour it into a glass container with a lid and wait for three to four hours until it solidifies.
- Apply the lotion to your skin and store it in the refrigerator after each use. This lotion can be stored for up to two months.
Aloe vera lotion for sunburned skin
- Grate 2 large carrots and a cucumber and mix them together with ½ cup sesame oil in a large saucepan.
- Set the stove to the lowest heat setting and heat the mixture for 20 to 30 minutes with occasional stirring.
- Pour the mixture through a strainer into another large pan. Discard the vegetables.
- Put the pan containing the liquids back on the stove. Add 1 teaspoon of beeswax and 1 teaspoon of emulsifying wax to the mixture. Stir until they fully melt.
- Add ½ cup aloe vera gel and 1 teaspoon of vitamin C powder to the mixture. Whisk until it is smooth and creamy.
- Pour the lotion into a glass container with a lid and let it sit until it thickens.
- Apply liberally to sunburned skin and store the lotion in the refrigerator after use.
8. It promotes hair growth
The benefits of aloe vera extend beyond the skin and reach even the hair follicles. These hair benefits are mostly associated with proteolytic enzymes, which break down proteins inside the body into peptides and amino acids. These proteolytic enzymes are involved in many biological processes, such as digestion, healing, and cell death. They are also believed to contribute to the medicinal properties shown by various plants (27).
The proteolytic enzymes in aloe vera help repair damaged cells in the scalp. This activity is favorable for hair follicles and indirectly enhances hair growth (28). Aside from this, proteolytic enzymes also stimulate dormant hair follicles and induce the regrowth of hair. While few studies focused on the hair benefits of aloe vera, researchers believe that they are partly due to aloe vera’s ability to improve blood circulation, oxygen delivery, and nutrient transport to hair follicles (29).
Aloe vera is commonly found in shampoos and conditioners. But if you want to avoid chemicals and prefer a natural DIY treatment for your hair, watch the video below to find out how to make aloe vera oil for hair growth.
9. It prevents dandruff and keeps the scalp healthy
Of course, the benefits of aloe vera doesn’t stop at hair growth: it also prevents dandruff and keeps the scalp healthy. If you incorporate aloe vera into your hair care routine, it can keep your scalp free of bacterial or fungal infections because of its antimicrobial properties. Microbial infections in the scalp can cause dandruff, flaking, and painful skin conditions, such as folliculitis.
The anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera also contribute to scalp health by keeping inflammatory skin conditions at bay. One study investigated the effects of aloe vera extracts on seborrheic dermatitis, a skin disorder that is only managed by topical treatments and has no cure. The results of the clinical trial showed that aloe vera can improve the symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis, which include scaliness and pruritus, among others. The improvements found in patients who used aloe vera were also higher than those observed in patients who were given a placebo (30).
10. It reduces hair fall and strengthens and repairs strands
Aloe vera can improve blood circulation. Good blood circulation is crucial to the growth of hair as it ensures the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles (31). On the other hand, inflammation can cut off blood circulation and triggers pattern hair loss. By taking advantage of aloe vera’s ability to promote blood circulation to the scalp, you can prevent potential hair loss.
Aloe vera also strengthens and repairs damaged hair (32). Aloe vera gel is rich in nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, and E, which promote healthy growth and make hair look shiny. Aloe vera also contains vitamin B12 and folic acid which prevent hair from falling out. By giving your hair more elasticity, aloe vera prevents hair strands from breaking and reduces hair fall.
Aloe vera is multi-purpose
Aloe vera is the go-to beauty product of women since ancient times. It clears the skin of acne, relieves dryness, and keeps it younger-looking and healthy. Aloe vera also soothes away many skin problems and offers your hair a lot of benefits. If you’re looking for a multi-purpose product that can effectively improve your hair and skin, take advantage of this age-old natural remedy that is a gift from Mother Nature and start pampering yourself with aloe vera today!
Do you know of other skin care benefits of aloe vera that didn’t make it on this list? Share your knowledge by dropping a comment below!