Is aloe vera the key to perfect skin? This is what science says.

Is aloe vera the key to perfect skin? This is what science says.
Is aloe vera the key to perfect skin? This is what science says.

In social media, aloe vera is praised as a “miracle plant,” especially for skin care.

In videos that have gone viral, people are rubbing halved aloe vera leaves on their faces, freezing the gel in facial rollers and even consuming the juice – despite a ban by the Food and Drug Administration. to using over-the-counter aloe vera as a laxative – to improve their skin. A TikTok lists the benefits of aloe vera for skin as moisturizing, sunburn relief, acne treatment, scar reduction, and skin lightening.

“On TikTok, everyone says, ‘Oh, this is great for me,'” said Lacy Gill, associate director of the Institute of Cosmetology, Esthetics and Massage in Houston. “I just want to say, ‘Yeah, maybe this is good for you. But it’s not necessarily good for the other person.'”

Aloe vera has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, but the plant’s modern popularity has been driven by society’s emphasis on a “healthy lifestyle,” a study says.

The global aloe vera extract market was valued at $1.6 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.6 percent from then until 2025, according to market forecaster Grand View Research.

“If there’s something that doesn’t require a prescription, that somehow comes from the earth and is perceived as natural, people want to try it,” says David Leffell, division chief of dermatologic surgery and cutaneous oncology at the Yale School of Medicine.

Although dermatologists and other skin care experts say aloe vera is generally safe for topical use, it may not be the solution for everyone. And there are best practices—beyond what’s being claimed on social media—that users should follow to achieve the desired effects.

What is scientifically known about aloe vera?

Aloe vera is a succulent plant native to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It is 96 percent water.

Studies have identified over 75 compounds in the remaining 4 percent, including polysaccharides, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and seven essential amino acids, as well as anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antiseptic effects.

Studies have shown that many benefits are due to the polysaccharides in the clear gel in aloe vera leaves.

However, there is a lack of rigorous clinical studies to determine the exact mechanism of action of aloe vera, says Oliver Grundmann, clinical professor of medicinal chemistry at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Florida.

This is partly because formulations of aloe vera gel do not require FDA approval because they are sold as cosmetics. Even isolated Natural products are largely exempt from patentability, so researchers have no incentive to provide funding for research into how aloe vera works, several experts said.

If there have been clinical studies on aloe vera, many of them were conducted in vitro or on rodents, added Joseph F. Fowler Jr., a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

What scientists do know, Grundmann said, is that aloe vera gel contains glucomannan, a carbohydrate that coats the skin and reduces inflammation. When applied to uninjured skin that shows no signs of deep redness and flaking, topical application of aloe vera gel is safe, he said.

Is store-bought gel as good as plant-based gel?

According to dermatologists, there is not much risk with store-bought gel.

However, commercially available aloe vera gel lacks standardization, Leffell said. Consumers do not know how their gel was obtained and what excipients or inactive substances it contains, he added.

For those who want to use it in their daily skin care routine, store-bought gel may be more convenient, Gill said. (That’s because a cut leaf doesn’t hold up well due to aloe vera’s high evaporation rate.)

In these cases, buy clear gel (as it occurs naturally), as other gels often contain additives, Gill said. And avoid aloe vera gel sold with the local anesthetic lidocaine; it has limited ability to penetrate intact skin, Grundmann said.

How do you harvest raw gel?

When harvesting gel from the aloe vera leaf, choose a mature leaf that is plump and fleshy, says Missy Gable, director of the University of California’s Master Gardener program. Cut as close to the base of the leaf as possible without damaging the roots. Then clean the leaf with soap and water.

Drain off the latex, the foul-smelling yellow sap beneath the leaf skin, said Allison Keeney, deputy director of the Mathias Botanical Garden at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Studies have shown that aloe vera latex contains anthraquinones, which have a strong laxative effect and can be harmful, including promoting phototoxicity. “If the pure latex comes into contact with the skin, it can be irritating,” Keeney said.

Allow the milky sap to drip out gradually or, better yet, place the leaf in water, as aloe vera dries out very quickly, Keeney said.

Next, lay the leaf on a flat surface with the round side up, Gable said. Cut thin strips from the leaf edges and remove the spines. Finally, use a knife or your thumb to peel away the outer layers of the leaf, leaving only the clear or slightly cloudy gelatinous substance. Refrigerate it in a glass container for no more than a week, or freeze the gel for up to a year, Keeney said.

Storing it in the refrigerator is also preferable, said Grundmann, because glucomannan can break down if exposed to sunlight for a long time.

Is aloe vera good for sunburn?

Aloe vera can’t protect against sunburn, says Shari Lipner, a dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine. Only sunscreen can do that. She said.

However, if sunburn has already occurred, aloe vera can reduce the inflammatory response that occurs in the body in response to UV radiation, Grundmann said. “Inflammation essentially causes the skin to become warmer because the body wants to break down invading pathogens, for example bacteria,” he said.

To reduce inflammation, first place a cold, damp towel on the affected area. The water will evaporate on the skin, which will reduce inflammation. Then apply cooled aloe vera gel.

Aloe vera gel is more effective than aloe vera cream products because of its high water content, he said. Cream “may stick a little longer, but the evaporation of the (gel) liquid also leads to a cooling of the skin,” said Grundmann.

Is aloe vera good for skin care?

Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory, exfoliating and moisturizing effects, Gill said, making it a good “food” for the skin. Aloe vera gel in particular is good for acne treatment, she said. It can also help repair the skin barrier and relieve itching in those with eczema, Fowler said.

Aloe vera can be used as an occasional facial mask or as part of a daily skin care routine, Gill said.

As a face mask, apply a thick layer of aloe vera gel to clean skin. Wait 20 minutes or until the mask dries, scrape off the excess and rinse the face with water – not a cleanser – she said.

Aloe vera gel also works well in a multi-step skincare routine. Cleanse and tone your skin, then apply a thin layer of the gel before applying richer serums, moisturizers and sunscreen, Gill said. Only a small amount is needed to penetrate the skin, and press the gel in rather than rubbing it in so it doesn’t settle on the skin, she added.

Unlike chilled aloe for sunburn, aloe at room temperature is best for daily use.

“The skin needs to be warmer so the product can penetrate and the follicles can expand,” Gill said. “If you make it cold, the follicles will contract, so you won’t get the same penetration.”

Use aloe vera gel only if it works for you, advise dermatologists and cosmeticians. However, if an aloe vera treatment does not improve the skin condition or even worsens it, it is best to see a dermatologist, say experts.

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