But there’s no need to apply a slice of the plant itself to your face in order to experience aloe vera’s benefits, of which there are many.
What are aloe vera’s benefits for skin?
Because aloe vera tends to store water, Garshick says, it can be an effective moisturizer. But that moisture can do so much more than simply moisturize.
“Providing moisture to cuts on the skin can help facilitate healing,” she says, explaining that may be due to a compound in aloe vera called glucomannan, which can help with wound and sunburn healing by improving collagen production. That healing is helped along by antioxidant vitamins C and E. Furthermore, “The antibacterial properties allow aloe vera to be useful for the treatment of minor cuts and wounds to prevent infection and also may contribute to how it can be effective for acne.”
In fact, antibacterial properties aren’t the only reason aloe vera may be a boon for acne-prone skin. “In addition to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, aloe vera is a natural source of salicylic acid, assisting with flare-ups of blackheads and whiteheads,” Chimento says.
Garshick points to a study that showed that aloe vera combined with tretinoin, the most bioavailable retinoid that’s often prescribed for topical treatment of acne (commonly as Retin-A), was more effective than tretinoin alone for acne lesions. However, that’s not true of all aloe vera ingredient combos. “Some formulations, when combined with other ingredients, may clog the pores or be irritating on the skin, so it is important to consider this when selecting a product,” she advises.
Due to its cooling effects, Chimento says, aloe vera is often used to reduce inflammation, decrease redness, and keep skin glowing — but Garshick says that glow can also be attributed to its enzymes and antioxidants. They further decrease inflammation and fight off free-radical damage, which may lessen the appearance of signs of aging.
What are aloe vera’s benefits for hair and scalp?
The scalp is simply a hair-covered extension of our facial skin, so it reaps the same rewards from aloe as the rest of our epidermis. Aloe vera can calm a scalp irritated by dandruff by helping to eliminate dead skin cells and, thus, stop the uncomfortable itching, Chimento says.
And aloe is no slacker when it comes to hair, either. “Aloe vera’s active ingredients can also contribute to cell turnover, which repairs and strengthens hair strands,” Chimento continues. Garshick adds that it may help keep hair smooth and shiny.
Pure aloe vera gel versus aloe as one of many ingredients
When looking to reap the benefits of aloe, the dermatologists we spoke to agree that 100 percent pure aloe vera gel is the way to go. In fact, if it’s present in a formulated product, there’s a good chance it’s in there not for the main advantages of aloe, but rather to make other ingredients more tolerable, Garshick says.