Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a plant that has thick leaves with a gel-like substance inside of them. It’s found all over the world, and many people even grow their own. Aloe vera gel is cooling and soothing when applied to the skin, which is why it’s sometimes used to treat burns and skin wounds. Aloe vera has been used for centuries for its healing properties. Some claim it has another application besides its skin benefits: It can actually strengthen your hair and make your scalp healthier.

While there’s no clinical evidence to support this claim, aloe vera is safe for most people and may be beneficial. The best form of aloe vera to use on your hair is the raw gel of the plant. You can buy this gel in almost any pharmacy or scoop it out of leaves cut fresh from a live plant if you have one. The gel is clear in color and slightly watery. Rubbing aloe vera into your scalp and hair and letting it penetrate your hair follicles could condition and improve damaged, dry hair. After letting it sit for an hour, rinse the gel off with a mild shampoo.

Aloe vera for hair:
Is aloe vera best suited to a particular type of hair?

There isn’t any research that points to aloe vera being best suited to a particular hair type. However, hair care professionals may recommend aloe vera if you have:

Trying aloe vera gel in your hair may be the best way to find out whether it works for you. You may notice a film after using the gel in your hair, so be sure to wash it out completely after using it as a conditioner or hair mask.

Calms an itchy scalp
Seborrheic dermatitis is the clinical term for the condition we call dandruff. The symptoms of an itchy scalp and flaking skin under your hair can be treated with aloe vera. A 1998 study found that aloe vera helped resolve the scalp inflammation that dandruff causes. The fatty acids found in the aloe plant have anti-inflammatory properties

Deep cleans oily hair
Aloe vera cleanses the hair shaft efficiently, stripping off extra sebum (oil) and residue from other hair products. But aloe vera doesn’t hurt your hair strands while it cleans. Unlike other chemicals in hair products, aloe vera is gentle and preserves the integrity of your hair. Using aloe vera is a great way to get hair that looks healthier, shinier, and softer.

Strengthens and repairs hair strands
Aloe vera contains vitamins A, C, and E. All three of these vitamins contribute to cell turnover, promoting healthy cell growth and shiny hair. Vitamin B12 and folic acid are also contained in aloe vera gel. Both of these components can keep your hair from falling out. However, there are no studies that confirm conclusively that aloe vera has any benefit in preventing hair loss. Aloe vera is a popular product that people use on their skin after sun exposure. This is because of its high collagen content and cooling properties. The vitamin content in aloe vera suggests that it might work to repair sun damage to your hair, too. 

May promote hair growth
When your scalp has been cleansed and your hair has been conditioned with aloe vera, you might see that hair breakage and loss slows down. There are plenty of people who claim that aloe vera actually causes hair to grow much faster. But as of now, there’s little clinical evidence to prove or disprove those claims.

Risk and warning for aloe vera:
There’s usually little cause for concern when using aloe vera gel, but some people are allergic to it. Before using aloe vera topically, do a patch test. Rub a small bit of aloe vera on the inside of your wrist and wait up to 2 hours to see if your skin reacts poorly. This will let you know if you have an aloe sensitivity. You should also be careful with topical aloe if you’re using hydrocortisone cream on your skin. Aloe vera can increase the amount of cortisone that’s absorbed by your skin when the two are used together.

More clinical evidence is needed to definitively prove the benefits of aloe vera gel for hair, and studies are ongoing. But if you want your hair to look its best, you might want to consider trying aloe vera gel as part of your hair care routine. It might not work for everyone, but there’s little to no risk in trying it.

How to make an aloe vera hair mask:

A hair mask is a leave-in treatment that can benefit your hair in several ways.

Because hair masks often contain more oils and conditioning agents than a typical conditioner, and you leave them in your hair for a longer period of time, they may promote more intense healing and repair than your usual hair care routine. You can purchase many types of hair masks at a drugstore or online, but you can also make your own.

You can combine aloe vera gel with coconut oil to make a simple yet effective hair mask. Coconut oil may help your hair feel softer and promote strength and shine. It may also help reduce frizziness.

Here are the steps to make this mask.

DIY aloe vera and coconut hair mask:

  • Gather your ingredients: 2 tbsp. of aloe vera gel (fresh or store-bought) and 1 tbsp. of oil. If you’re using coconut oil, use virgin coconut oil at room temperature. You can melt solid coconut oil in your microwave.
  • Stir the oil and aloe vera together until they form a smooth, blended paste.
  • Protect your clothing with a towel or old shirt.
  • Apply the mask to your hair with your fingers. Dividing long hair into sections can help make the application easier.
  • Begin the application at mid-shaft and work toward the ends. Once you’ve worked the mask into the ends of your hair, you can go back and gently apply it to your scalp. However, you may want to begin at the scalp if you’re specifically applying the mask to help treat dandruff.
  • When you’ve finished applying the mask, comb your hair with a wide-toothed comb. This helps spread the mask through your hair evenly.
  • Cover your hair with a shower cap or plastic wrap. Then wrap a towel around your head. This helps protect the mask from dripping, but it also helps keep your hair from drying out. Warming up the towel may help the mask have even more of a moisturizing effect.
  • Leave the mask on for 30 minutes. You can leave it on for up to an hour for extra conditioning.
  • Rinse the mask out of your hair. You’ll probably want to wash your hair to make sure you get the mask out completely, since aloe vera gel can leave a filmy residue in your hair.
  • You can replace your normal conditioner with this mask as often as once a week to help boost your hair health.
  • Note: You can easily double this recipe for long or thick hair.

Recipe variation
You can use many different ingredients in your own hair masks. Here are a couple more recipes you can try using aloe vera.

Aloe vera and apple cider vinegar
This recipe can be particularly effective for a flaky, itchy scalp, as some people claim that apple cider may also work as a natural remedy for dandruff.

To make this mask, mix together:

  • 4 tbsp. aloe vera gel
  • 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. honey, if desired (honey can lock moisture into your hair, and it also has a smoothing effect)

Follow the application instructions for the aloe vera and coconut mask recipe with these exceptions:

  1. Begin applying the mask at your scalp.
  2. Rinse out the mask after 20 minutes.
  3. Use this mask every other week.

Aloe vera and yogurt
According to a 2017 study, the probiotics in yogurt may also help with dandruff.

Choose full fat, plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt. To make this mask, mix together:

  • 2 tbsp. yogurt
  • 2 tbsp. aloe vera gel
  • 2 tsp. honey, if desired

To apply this mask, follow the instructions above, but don’t leave the mask on for longer than 20 to 30 minutes. For best results, use once a week.

Aloe vera and skin:
Aloe vera is perhaps one of the most widely used herbal remedies for topical skin conditions. This is because the gel-like components of the plant are known to heal the skin from a variety of minor ailments. In fact, you might have even used aloe in the past for sunburn, minor cuts, or small abrasions. Despite its healing powers, you may be wondering if it’s safe for using on your face. Generally speaking, the answer is yes. When used correctly, aloe vera can help with a variety of ailments that might affect your skin. Below are 10 of these benefits.

Base ingredient vs. plant
The aloe vera we use on our skin in over the counter (OTC) gels is derived from plants of the same name. In fact, there’s more than one kind of aloe, with an estimated 420 different species. The most commonly used form for skin conditions is a plant called aloe barbadensis Miller. In conventional medicine, aloe vera is used as a topical gel, which is made from the gel-like substance inside the plant’s leaves. It’s also possible to use the leaves directly by breaking them apart and pressing out the gel. However, it’s much easier to use gel that’s ready to go, especially in the case of emergency burns and wounds. OTC aloe gel may also contain other skin-soothing ingredients, such as echinacea and calendula.

If you’re dealing with a chronic skin condition, it’s a good idea to check with your dermatologist before applying any products to your face. Talk to your doctor about the following potential benefits of aloe vera:

  1. Burns
    For minor burns, apply aloe vera gel to the affected area up to three times daily. You may also need to protect the area with gauze.
  2. Sunburn
    While aloe vera helps soothe sunburnresearchshows that it’s notan effective way to prevent sunburn, so make sure you wear sun protection every day!
  3. Small abrasions
    If you’ve scuffed up your chin or forehead, you can apply aloe vera to the area for quick relief from pain and burning sensations. Use three times per day.
  4. Cuts
    If you’re used to grabbing Neosporin for a minor cut, consider trying aloe vera instead. Its molecular structure helps heal wounds quickly and minimizes scarringby boosting collagen and fighting bacteria. Apply up to three times per day.
  5. Dry skin
    Aloe vera gel absorbs easily, making it ideal for oily skin. However, it can help treat dry skin, too. Consider swapping out your regular moisturizer for aloe after bathing to help seal moisture into your skin.
  6. Frostbite
    Frostbite is a serious condition that requires emergency medical treatment. While aloe vera gel has been used historically as a frostbite remedy, ask your doctor first before trying it.
  7. Cold sores
    Unlike canker sores, cold sores develop on the outside of your mouth. Aloe vera may help treat the herpes virus, which is also the underlying cause of cold sores. Apply a small amount of the gel to your cold sore twice daily until it goes away.
  8. Eczema
    The moisturizing effects of aloe can help alleviate dry, itchy skin associated with eczema. Aloe vera gel may also help alleviate seborrheic dermatitis. While this oily form of eczemais most often found in the scalp, it can also affect parts of your face and behind the ears, too.
  9. Psoriasis
    As with eczema, aloe vera may help alleviate inflammation and itchiness from psoriasis. For best results, apply aloe vera gel twice daily to the affected area of skin.
  10. Inflammatory acne
    Due to the anti-inflammatory effects of aloe vera, the gel may help treat inflammatory forms of acne, such as pustules and nodules. Apply the gel with a cotton swab directly to the pimple three times daily.

What to look for:
The insides of an aloe plant’s leaves are the most potent form of aloe vera gel. However, not everyone has an aloe plant hanging around their house. In such cases, OTC products work just as well. For the best results, look for a gel that lists aloe vera as its main ingredient. For skin ailments, aloe vera extracts don’t work as well as gel. This is because the gel itself has moisturizing elements to protect and heal the skin.

While considered safe in topical form when used as directed, the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate aloe vera products. This means that it’s up to you, the consumer, to use aloe vera safely and to report any adverse skin reactions to your doctor. You may also consider steering clear of aloe vera if you have a severe burn or other significant wounds. In fact, there’s even some evidence that aloe may decrease your skin’s natural ability to heal from deep wounds related to surgery. Some users may experience itching or slight burning as the aloe vera goes to work in your skin. However, if you experience a rash or hives, you could have a sensitivity to the gel and should stop using it immediately.

Don’t use aloe vera gel on infected skin. While the gel has microbial properties, its protective layer can disrupt the healing process and make an infection worse.

Bottom line:
Aloe vera may be a source of natural treatment for a variety of skin ailments. Still, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says there’s not enough definitive evidence to support all the purported benefits of aloe, though it’s safe when used on the skin. Remember that topical aloe gel isn’t the same as using the plant directly on your face. If you use aloe vera on your skin and don’t see any improvements within a few days, call your dermatologist. They can help with specific concerns you have regarding your overall skin health.

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Foster M, et al. (2011). Chapter 3: Evaluation of the nutritional and metabolic effects of aloe vera. Herbal medicine: Biomolecular and clinical aspects, 2nd edition.
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Photo Credit: Christina Rumpf