Aloe vera is a succulent that is a popular treatment for various skin conditions, particularly sunburns. In addition, people use aloe vera to treat acne. This practice shows some great promise. Studies have found that aloe vera is effective in combination with more conventional acne medications. This was shown to be more effective than acne medicine alone.
However, the jury is still out for aloe vera alone. While some studies show real benefits, others are far less clear. However, aloe vera has a long history of use. It is safe to try and could provide benefits to some people.
What is Aloe Vera?
It is a hardy plant that is fairly easy to grow. It needs very little water and likes well-draining soil, high in coarse sand and perlite. Though aloe plants can be grown in many climates, freezing temperatures will kill them. If it drops below freezing, make sure your aloe plant is inside!
Aloe vera has very attractive flowers that grow from a central stem. Though it can be hard to make an Aloe flower, it is very worth it when they do! Aloe plants are most likely to bloom during the summer.
What’s in Aloe?
Aloe gel contains many different biologically relevant chemicals. Some of these have well-established benefits and effects. Others are less understood and require more study.
Here is a list of some of the most studied components of aloe vera:
- Vitamins and Minerals: Aloe vera contains many vitamins which are essential to normal cell function and health. These include vitamins A, C, E, B12, and folic acid. In addition, it contains the minerals calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, and zinc.
- Enzymes: Enzymes are proteins that catalyze a chemical reaction. They are present in all living things. Some proteins may have unique properties and benefits. The enzyme bradykinase in aloe vera is responsible for some of its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Anthraquinones: These are compounds produced by the aloe plant with biological activity. Their role in aloe’s effects is not entirely known. They have various effects including acting as laxatives.
- Plant Steroids: Aloe contains cholesterol, campesterol, β-sisosterol, and lupeol. These compounds are anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and reduce pain.
- Plant Hormones: Aloe contains auxins and gibberellins. These are plant hormones that can also help heal wounds.
Is Aloe Vera Safe?
Aloe vera has been used for thousands of years for a number of conditions. However, as with any product, natural or artificial, you should be careful when trying this product for the first time.
It is unlikely that Aloe vera poses any risks when used topically. However, a study of aloe vera leaf gel eaten by rats showed carcinogenic effects. As a result, many Aloe vera products carry California’s Prop. 65 cancer warning.
The general consensus is that Aloe vera products are safe to use on the skin (topically). Though there is mixed evidence on the effectiveness of these products, topical aloe is safe. However, consuming Aloe vera products by mouth may pose a risk and is not recommended.
Some people may be allergic to aloe vera. Testing a small amount of any skin product is wise. An allergic reaction could cause a rash and uncomfortable itching. Raw unprocessed aloe products may be more likely to cause negative reactions.
If you experience an adverse reaction to aloe products, immediately stop using them! Seek help from a medical professional. Though aloe vera is a natural product, it can still be harmful. If you have underlying skin or allergy conditions, make sure to check with your medical team before using aloe vera. If you are uncertain about aloe vera, talk to a dermatologist or other healthcare professional.
People also use aloe vera as a laxative. The latex of the aloe plant contains laxative compounds. The latex can be found just below the skin of the plant. Conversely, the leaf gel from inside the aloe leaves is used to treat skin conditions.
The FDA has removed Aloe latex-based laxatives from the US market. This was due to companies failing to provide safety information and the general misbranding of these products. The safety of Aloe as a laxative remains unclear.
How to Use Aloe Vera For Acne
Some studies have shown promise using aloe vera for acne. This is likely due to aloe vera’s antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and immune system support effects. However, few studies have been conducted testing Aloe vera’s direct impacts on acne. Aloe may provide benefits for acne and high-profile examples appear to support this. However, more research is needed to know how effective aloe is for acne. Aloe is a safe option that may help mild cases of acne by reducing inflammation and slowing bacterial growth.
Apply Aloe to Affected Area
Before using any Aloe product, test a small amount on your skin to ensure you aren’t allergic. Give at least a few hours to ensure your body has time to react.
There are many products containing Aloe vera available. These topical gels and ointments come with a wide variety of ingredients. Some of these include other moisturizers, vitamins (such as vitamin E), and xanthan gum.
Some products may even contain lidocaine, a local anesthetic. These products treat painful burns and are not appropriate for treating acne.
You can also use fresh aloe vera leaves on the skin. You can apply the gelatinous interior of Aloe vera’s leaves directly on the skin. However, undiluted aloe vera may be too strong and can cause uncomfortable reactions. Diluting aloe vera to 10% may help.