Aloe Vera Uses – 12 Things You Can Do With Aloe Vera Gel
There’s a reason you always turn to aloe vera gel to soothe a painful sunburn: The plant is known for its ability to reduce inflammation and irritation, fight bacteria, and deeply moisturize parched skin. That’s why people have been reaching for the trendy succulent since ancient Egypt, where it was known as a “plant of immortality,” according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Aloe vera is composed of triangular leaves that contain three layers, with the innermost layer containing 99 percent water and an abundance of beneficial nutrients, per a review published in the International Journal of Research and Medical Sciences. That’s why you’ll find tons of creams, capsules, soaps, and sprays enriched with either the gel or the pulp of the plant.
But scientific studies on the benefits of aloe vera are mixed. Because aloe contains so many different properties, it’s hard to focus on each one specifically. Plus, every study published on aloe uses its own unique form of the plant (there are 420 species of aloe!), making it difficult for scientists to accurately compare the effects of aloe vera among the ever-growing body of research.
Still, most dermatologists agree that the aloe vera’s properties are very promising, especially when applied topically as skin care.
How to choose the best aloe vera gel
The following aloe vera uses are only as good as the product you buy. The higher the percentage of aloe vera in your bottle, the better. Always aim to buy 100 percent aloe vera gel without any added ingredients, such as alcohol, fragrances, and coloring. The best bottles list aloe vera as the first (and only) ingredient on the label. Check out these dermatologist approved picks:
Seven Minerals Aloe Vera Gel
This gel is harvested from freshly cut aloe leaves, making it one of the purest and strongest on the market. Because it contains seaweed extract as a thickener, it absorbs quickly.
Amara Organics Aloe Vera Gel
The thinner consistency of this aloe vera gel makes it spread easily, go on smoothly, and absorb quickly, leaving your skin feeling silky and smooth.
Green Leaf Naturals Aloe Vera Gel
Dermatologist Nazanin Saedi, MD loves this brand because there is no trickery—just pure organic aloe vera gel with a small amount of safe preservatives so that you don’t have to refrigerate it.
Earth’s Daughter Aloe Vera Gel
Organic and cold-pressed to ensure optimal freshness, Earth’s Daughter’s aloe vera gel contains no added color, fragrance, or alcohol, and absorbs quickly sans stickiness.
What’s the best way to use aloe to its full potential? Next, experts share the aloe vera uses that are worth a try.
Moisturize your skin
When you crack open an aloe vera leaf, you’ll find a gel-like consistency that’s made up of mostly water, as well as a wealth of beneficial nutrients for dry skin, says Noelani González, MD, director of cosmetic dermatology at Mount Sinai West in New York. This includes nourishing vitamin E and skin-brightening vitamin C, antioxidants that can strengthen and protect the skin’s barrier. The result? A softer, smoother, and healthier-looking complexion.
Soothe a sunburn
Aloe vera has pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe a sunburn, says Shari Lipner, MD, PhD, board-certified dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian. “Aloe vera contains sugars that play a role in collagen synthesis and contribute to wound healing,” she explains. These sugars, such as acemannan, also help bind moisture to the skin, which helps treat the dryness that often comes with too much sun.
In addition to its antifungal and antibacterial compounds, aloe vera contains salicylic acid, an exfoliating ingredient that unclogs pores, says Dr. González. Plus, it can help moisturize dry patches that result from harsh acne medications. While more research needs to be done to truly understand how aloe interacts with acne, it’s a popular natural remedy that yields positive results for many people, she adds. Just note that using aloe alone probably won’t be enough to treat severe, cystic pimples. You’ll likely need to work with your dermatologist to find the right zit-zapping plan for you.
Remove your makeup
Because aloe vera is often gentle on the skin, moisturizing, and has a gel-like consistency, it could be a good, natural option for removing makeup, Dr. González says. Simply squeeze a dollop of 100 percent aloe vera gel onto a cotton ball and swipe away the day for a simple and effective alternative to greasy oils. To be totally safe, make sure you do a patch test beforehand to ensure you don’t have an allergic reaction to it. “I usually suggest doing a test spot on your arm before applying it on your face, to make sure you don’t have any unwanted reactions,” Dr. González says.
Ease eczema and psoriasis
Aloe vera gel also contains compounds that help reduce inflammation, meaning it may be helpful in easing skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Just be sure you consistently use a heavy-duty moisturizer that contains ceramides (aka, natural fats in your skin) as well, suggests Carolyn Jacob, MD, founder and director of Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology. (We recommend CeraVe’s Moisturizing Cream.) Again, make sure you do a patch test before applying aloe vera to red, aggravated skin to ensure you don’t cause further irritation.
Make a natural shaving cream
Because aloe vera is hydrating and has a slippery texture, it makes a great natural alternative to expensive shaving gels. For a nice, close shave, you can use it on its own or combine with other nourishing ingredients like vitamin E. Erika Katz, author of Bonding Over Beauty, recommends this aloe-based shaving gel recipe: Mix 1/3 cup aloe vera gel, 1/4 cup Castile soap or hand soap, 1 Tbsp almond oil, 1/4 cup distilled warm water, 1 tsp vitamin E oil, and 5 drops of eucalyptus oil in a foaming bottle or a clean soap pump dispenser. Shake well before you use and refrigerate up to six months.
Exfoliate your skin
Exfoliation is a must if you want smooth, glowing skin. Aloe vera makes a great base for a DIY body scrub, since it contains salicylic acid to help gently slough away dead skin. For the scrub, simply mix ½ cup aloe with just enough brown sugar, oatmeal (if you need extra moisture), or Himalayan salt to create a gritty texture. Then, rub it on your elbows, heels, arms, or wherever else needs softening in the shower.
Use as natural lubricant
Yes, aloe vera gel is safe to use as a natural lubricant, since it doesn’t contain any oil to break down the efficacy of condoms, Jennifer Wider, MD, recently told Prevention. Just be sure to use an organic, 100 percent aloe vera gel that doesn’t contain any perfumes or additives to avoid potential irritation.
Relieve itchy bug bites
If you have a mosquito bite that just won’t quit, turn to aloe vera. “It can help soothe irritated skin, such as from bug bites, because of its anti-inflammatory properties,” Dr. González says. “It can also help reduce redness in that area.”
Dr. Jacob agrees that aloe can provide itch relief, but just note that it may take a few days. “Consider using an ice cube or a cold, damp wash cloth on itchy areas for quick relief,” she suggests.
Rinse your hair with it
Aloe vera also does wonders for your hair. Not only does it make a nourishing hair mask (simply apply aloe vera to your strands and let it sit before showering!), but you can use it to make a greasy hair solution. Add 1 to 2 tsp of aloe vera gel and 1 Tbsp of lemon juice to 1 cup of water and mix well. Rinse your hair with the solution after shampooing, leave it on for a few minutes, and rinse with cold water. The mixture will act as an astringent to reduce oil on the scalp, Jennifer David, DO, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in Northfield, New Jersey recently told Prevention.
Make an eyebrow gel
Aloe vera gel tends to harden when applied to hair—so consider using it as a DIY eyebrow gel. Just dip a clean mascara wand in some aloe vera gel and sweep it over stray brow hairs for serious stay-put power. Bonus: It’s super easy to wash off at the end of the day.
Heal dry, cracked feet
Petra Strand, creator of Pixi Beauty, incorporates this ultimate green beauty ingredient into a foot mask that makes dry, cracked feet baby soft. Mix together 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup corn meal, 4 Tbsp aloe vera gel, and 1/2 cup unscented body lotion and rub all over tired feet until well exfoliated. Let it sit for 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water.
You can also buy moisturizing socks, such as these from NatraCure on Amazon, that already contain aloe vera, vitamin E, and shea butter to intensely hydrate skin.
Additional reporting by Nina Elias and Krissy Brady.
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Currently an assistant editor at Prevention.com, Nicol is a Manhattan-based journalist who specializes in health, wellness, beauty, fashion, business, and lifestyle.