Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist - Written by Shreya Singh (Pharmacist) on 21st Sep 2020
The Many Benefits of Using Aloe Vera For Skin
Most of us are pretty much familiar with the idea of applying aloe vera on the skin. The beneficial properties of aloe vera have been discussed from ancient times. It is an age-old remedy that has been in common practice worldwide since our grandmother's times because of its medicinal and herbal properties.
Dermatologists, skincare professionals, and estheticians sing praises of aloe vera for its healing and soothing qualities. It is used as a cure-all ingredient for treating a myriad of skin conditions, including nasty sunburns, acne, wound healing, and eczema. It is nature's wonder ingredient that is readily available in every Indian household.
Despite its remarkable properties, modern-day research studies have pointed towards mixed opinions regarding the benefits of aloe vera with slight evidence showing that it can cause severe irritation and rashes on the skin. Therefore, it is highly crucial to know how to use it on the face and its concentrations.
In this aloe dedicated article, we will discuss using aloe vera and its several benefits. We'll also touch upon how to use it on the face and its potential risk factors. Read on to discover more about this miracle herb!
What is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is a perennial, spiky succulent plant found naturally growing in tropical areas of Africa, Asia, Europe, and Southwestern parts of the United States.
There are over 400 distinct species of Aloe plant, but aloe barbadensis Miller (aka Aloe vera) is the most extensively used and admired for its soothing powers in the health and beauty realms.
Typically, there are two medicinally beneficial parts of the aloe vera plant.
First, the leaves are loaded with a green, clear watery-gelatinous gooey ingredient, aka Aloe Vera Gel. This translucent gel is known to contain around 96% water, more than 70 potentially active organic and inorganic compounds, minerals, enzymes, sugars, lignins, proteins which contain almost 18 of the 20 amino acids found in the body and lastly, Vitamin A, B, C and E.
The 2nd component found in this plant is aloe latex or aloe juice. The yellow-colored pulp seeps from the outer part of the leaf when cut and has a bitter taste. Studies have shown that this aloe latex, usually taken orally, has powerful laxative properties and is used in O-T-C constipation relieving drugs. Chronic consumption of this latex can cause serious health complications and is generally not safe to use in the long run.
What are the benefits of using aloe vera for the face?
While there's not much evidence explaining the efficacy of Aloe Vera, the biochemistry of this plant has been shown to contain anti-microbial, anti-viral, soothing, and cell regenerative properties which can provide ample of benefits such as:
- Soothes and relieves sunburns: Aloe vera is also known as the "burn plant" because of its ability to soothe and relieve sunburns effectively. Studies suggest that the clear-gel present in the leaves of this plant can help heal mild to moderate degrees of sunburns. Due to the presence of a substance called Aloin, which grants the anti-inflammatory properties to it, it prevents any peeling that might happen after an aggressive sunburn.
Therefore, it's a no-brainer why people prefer slathering a layer of aloe on their skin after sustaining a monster sunburn.
- It speeds up the wound healing process: Aloe vera is everyone's go-to ingredient when it comes to relieving skin irritation and healing wounds. Several studies have proven the aloe gel to be efficient in boosting up the time of wound healing and preventing any further scarring. It does so by penetrating deeper into the skin and renewing your skin cells quicker. Its cooling and anti-inflammatory properties assist in soothing itchiness, redness, infection and rash. Most commonly used on wounds, minor cuts and small abrasions to relieve and manage the condition.
- It moisturizes your skin: As it contains approximately 96% water, it hydrates and moisturizes the skin without making it feel greasy or sticky after use. It also helps in making the top layer of the skin softer and smoother. Oily skinned people can consider using aloe vera as their daily light moisturizer.
- It combats acne and fades dark spots: The anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of aloe vera proves to be a blessing when it comes to keeping the acne at bay. It limits the growth of acne-causing bacteria on the skin, which helps in eliminating acne. The anti-inflammatory and cell regenerative properties present in it are effective in diminishing dark spots and blemishes.
- It slows down the signs of aging: Some studies have shown that regular aloe vera application improves your body's natural collagen production, reducing visible fine lines & wrinkles and making your skin firm, youthful and radiant. Aloe vera gel is rich in vitamin E, C and Beta carotene, which are the essential nutrients for maintaining your overall skin's health.
- It cleanses and mildly exfoliates the skin: Aloe vera is a natural source of salicylic acid that gently exfoliates the skin by shedding off the dead skin cells. It also helps in unclogging your pores and warding off blackheads and whiteheads from the skin, making your skin cleaner and brighter.
- Acts as a penetration enhancer: The lignins present in aloe vera increases the absorption and uptake of other actives and ingredients into the skin.
Potential risk factors and side effects of using aloe vera
Aloe vera is usually considered safe for topical application when used as directed. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn't regulate any aloe vera products. Therefore, it depends mainly on the consumers to use these products cautiously and inform their doctor if they experience any adverse effects. Some people may experience some discomfort and irritation while using aloe vera on their skin due to:
- Leaving aloe vera gel on the skin for too long may cause your skin to dry out. Therefore, it is advised to rinse the gel off your skin after some time.
- Some studies have reported allergic reactions (contact dermatitis) to topical aloe vera in a few patients. Hence, performing a patch test to check for sensitivity is non-negotiable before applying it on the skin.
- Avoid applying aloe vera gel on deep wounds and severe burns because there is slight evidence that suggests that aloe vera can disrupt your skin's natural healing process, especially in the case of severe injuries and significant wounds.
- Aloin, a compound present in the aloe vera gel and latex, is known to cause colorectal cancer in rats and can be harmful to the skin.
- Some components present in the aloe gel such as, Anthraquinone and Lignin, can be irritating to the skin and might agitate your skin's natural barrier. It can make your skin photosensitive and lead to rashes when exposed to the UV rays.
- Since it acts as a penetration enhancer, it can be worrisome if you've been directed to use prescription steroid creams. Over absorption of steroid creams can increase the potential risk of side effects on your skin.
Bottled Aloe Vera Vs. Plant
Natural aloe vera gel from the plant can be sticky, greasy, and leaving it on the skin for more than 15-20 minutes can overly dry your skin. There are also possibilities of bacterial infection, bugs or dirt on the plant. And not to mention, harmful components such as Anthraquinone and lignins present in the plant aloe gel that can be sensitizing to the skin.
On the other hand, companies manufacture aloe vera products by filtering, processing, and doing various things to remove all the irritating and harmful compounds. As a result, you get a nourishing product that moisturizes the skin and is free of dangerous components.
Therefore, it is safer to use aloe vera extracts in skincare products instead of obtaining the gel from an actual plant. However, either one is effective and works.
With all that being said, analyzing the ingredients list and knowing what goes in your product is the right approach when you're looking for effective results.
Most skincare companies formulate their products using water or aqua as their base (70-80%), which only acts as a volume filler or solvent and does nothing to your skin.
Brands like Minimalist have uniquely replaced this water base with Aloe extracts in their serums and products, which provides an additional benefit of soothing and calming the irritation that could probably occur by using actives on your skin. Having aloe vera as the base ingredient allows their range of products to have no or least irritation with maximum benefits and makes them unique from other brands in the marketplace.
The Bottom Line
Aloe vera, no doubt, is a wonder ingredient that can help treat sunburn, moisturize, exfoliate, hydrate, restore, reveal, and provide constant nutrition to the skin when incorporated into personal care regimen.
However, some consumers may experience slight irritation and burning sensation while using aloe vera on their skin and could have some sensitivity to the gel. They should discontinue its use immediately and consult their dermatologist.