9 Benefits Of Using Aloe Vera For Skin Care & More
Aside from being a staple in your mother's medicine cabinet for sunburned skin, aloe vera has been used by different civilizations for centuries for a range of skin care, health, and medicinal purposes. A cactus plant that naturally grows in arid climates, the succulent-like leaves of the aloe plant house a clear gel that's home to more than 75 (and perhaps up to 200) different active compounds, including vitamins, minerals, sugars, enzymes, salicylic acids, and amino acids. Suffice it to say, all of these components have been shown to provide a wide array of benefits for skin care and beyond:
1. It soothes sunburn.
Topping off our list is aloe vera's most well-known usage: soothing sunburned skin. Because of its naturally moisturizing, and subsequently healing, properties, research has shown that aloe vera may help heal first- and second-degree burns on the skin, although the mechanism in which it does so has yet to be fully understood—probably because it is a combination of factors.
Some research has found that aloin, a compound found in the aloe plant, has anti-inflammatory properties that aid in the skin-healing process. Aloe is also chock-full of antioxidants, and one antioxidant protein, in particular, called metallothionein, has been found to have a protective effect on skin that's been exposed to and damaged by UV rays. The plant is also incredibly hydrating, which could help combat the skin peeling that usually takes effect post-sunburn.
2. It helps fade dark spots.
Dark spots on the skin, also known as hyperpigmentation, can leave their mark for a variety of reasons. Whether from sun exposure, acne, or just the normal aging process, all dark spots typically have one thing in common: They're stubborn. However, a compound called aloesin, found in the aloe vera plant, could help lighten things up. According to one study, when applied four times per day for 15 days, aloesin was found to be effective in treating UV-induced and post-acne hyperpigmentation. Another study found that the topical application of aloesin can directly inhibit hyperpigmented skin from producing more melanin, the pigment that, when overproduced, causes dark spots to form.
3. It moisturizes skin.
Aloe vera's moisturizing properties are twofold. "The leaf of the aloe vera plant is rich in water, particularly in the innermost layer, so it helps to hydrate the skin and lock in moisture," explains board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D. "The sugars [it contains], also known as mucopolysaccharides, [also] help to retain moisture in the skin."
Mucopolysaccharides, as found in the aloe plant, help retain moisture in the skin. When applied topically, aloe vera has been shown to increase the water content of the outermost layer of skin (called the stratum corneum), making it an ideal ingredient for dry skin types.
4. It makes a restorative scalp mask.
Though there is little research specifically on aloe vera as a scalp mask, all of the plant's beneficial properties for skin—namely, moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial—also lend themselves to the scalp (which is also skin, after all). Applying it as a scalp mask can help soothe irritation, exfoliate, replenish hydration, and even strengthen and smooth hair follicles. "It can also be used to keep hair smooth and shiny and also for the scalp to help eliminate dead skin cells," Garshick says.
5. It provides healthy aging benefits for skin.
Hydrated skin is happy, healthy skin, and as we know, sufficient moisture also helps stave off the visible signs of aging (e.g.: fine lines and wrinkles). In addition to its ability to help replenish and retain moisture in the skin, aloe also stimulates the production of hyaluronic acid and collagen and elastin fibers in the skin—all of which are necessary to keep skin hydrated, firm, and supple, and all of which decline naturally with age. Applying aloe vera topically has been shown to help restore skin elasticity and decrease the appearance of fine lines.
6. It can help clear up acne.
"There is data to suggest that aloe may have antimicrobial properties and may help acne-prone skin," says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research, department of dermatology, at Mount Sinai Hospital. "It should not take the place of your traditional acne medications but can be used alongside them."
In addition to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, aloe vera is also a natural source of salicylic acids, "which can also help with breakouts such as blackheads and whiteheads," Garshick says. Aloe's acne-busting powers are backed by science: One study found that the topical use of aloe in combination with tretinoin cream was found to be effective in treating inflammatory and noninflammatory acne.
7. It soothes psoriasis and eczema.
Skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis signal general inflammation and a compromised skin barrier—both of which can be helped by aloe vera. Additionally, skin with a broken barrier is also more prone to fungal and bacterial infections, and aloe vera "can be considered an antiseptic acting against fungi, bacteria, and viruses," Garshick says. According to the Mayo Clinic, using aloe vera cream on psoriasis may also help reduce the scaling, redness, and irritation caused by the disorder.
8. It treats and prevents dandruff
Dandruff is a form of seborrheic dermatitis, and aloe vera has been found to be an effective treatment for the scalp irritation, scaliness, and flakiness caused by seborrheic dermatitis. In one study, participants who applied aloe vera onto the scalp saw a significant reduction in symptoms, namely scaling and itching. According to another body of research, the antibacterial and antifungal properties of the plant help prevent and treat dandruff altogether.
9. It may help fade stretch marks.
Another unwanted skin signal of aging, as well as pregnancy, are stretch marks. According to some research, the topical application of aloe vera has been shown to be effective in lessening the appearance and preventing the spread of stretch marks. Although the exact mechanism is still unknown, aloe's ability to help fade stretch marks is likely in part due to its skin-restoring and anti-inflammatory properties (promoting the production of hyaluronic acid, collagen, and elastin).
The bottom line:
"Despite the emergence of many new botanical ingredients in skin care, aloe has been used in the skin for centuries and has proven skin benefits," explains Zeichner. In other words, while it may not be the newest, trendiest skin care ingredient on the market, aloe vera is tried and trusted, and its benefits are backed by plenty of research.
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