Keep Your Aloe Vera Gel Fresh For Longer: 5 Storage Tips + When To Toss It
In the world of natural skin care, aloe vera gel is one of the coolest kids on the block. (Pun intended.) Not only can it soothe gnarly sunburns and manage acne, but it could hydrate your scalp too. But despite all these benefits, there's just one drawback: It has a super-short shelf life. As an all-natural, preservative-free ingredient, pure aloe vera gel can be difficult to keep fresh.
Once scooped from the leaf, the flesh needs to be used immediately or stored in the refrigerator. Here, it can last up to one week, but it will likely spoil within 24 hours at room temperature. In either scenario, you should definitely toss aloe vera at the first sign of discoloration, funky odors, or mold.
1. If you only do one thing: Keep it cool.
Humidity and temperature1 are the most critical influencers of aloe vera's freshness. So if there's only one thing you do, always (always) store the gel in the refrigerator. While the aloe vera plant thrives in warm and tropical climates, the tables turn once you cut off a leaf. The gel instantly starts to decompose thanks to natural enzymatic reactions1 and normal bacteria on the plant. This reduces the function of its active compounds, but refrigeration can help slow things down. This will keep the gel fresh for about five to seven days.
2. Use an airtight container.
Like humidity and temperature, oxygen is bad news for aloe vera gel. Oxygen exposes the gel to harmful bacteria and makes it go rancid faster1. That's why it's crucial to use an airtight container, just like you would with leftover food. Opt for a bottle or jar with a screw-on top (instead of a Tupperware-like container) so you can be sure it's 100% sealed.
3. Keep it safe from light damage with non-clear containers.
While your aloe vera gel will spend most of its life in the refrigerator, it wouldn't hurt to protect it from the light too1. Store it in an amber bottle or jar, which absorbs UV radiation and protects the gel's beneficial compounds. Finally, always use a clean container to limit the risk of bacterial contamination. Wash it with warm, soapy water and let it dry completely before using.
4. For longer shelf life, freeze the gel into ice cubes.
When you have more aloe gel than you'll use within a week, freeze it. This will feel ah-mazing on a sunburn while significantly extending its shelf life. To freeze the gel, pour it into an ice cube tray and stick it in the freezer. It's a heck of a lot easier than freezing a large portion of aloe gel and trying to cut it later on. To make things even simpler, use a flexible silicone tray so you can easily pop out the cubes.
Once frozen, transfer the cubes into a sealable bag and store in the freezer for up to a year. Do Mother Nature a favor and opt for a freezer-safe reusable bag, if possible. You can use a strip of masking tape to label and date the bag. When it's time to use the gel, thaw a cube at room temperature until it reaches a spreadable consistency.
5. Trim the leaf, cube the flesh, then freeze.
If you just bought or cut an aloe leaf, you can cube and freeze the flesh instead of pureeing it into a pourable gel. First, wash the leaf to remove the bacteria on its surface. Stand it upright in a container for eight to 24 hours to let the sap drain out. Trim away the jagged edges, then carefully slide a knife under the top layer of skin. Use a spoon to gently scoop out the flesh in one big piece. Cut the flesh into 1-inch cubes, then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze until completely solid, then place in a freezer-safe bag. Done and done.
Does aloe vera gel expire?
Yes, fresh and all-natural aloe vera gel will expire in about one to two days when stored in room temperature, about a week when refrigerated, or up to a year when frozen.
When it comes straight from the plant, it's preservative-free. While preservatives get a bad rap in the beauty space, they are needed in many products to ensure a shelf life. (Otherwise, they'll go bad or worse: grow mold and bacteria.) Without them, you can only use ingredients when freshly harvested.
There are ways to to prolong all-natural aloe vera's shelf life (ahem, what this article is about), but please be careful about holding onto the gel for too long. It can be dangerous to use spoiled products, so toss it at the first sing of discoloration or odor.
If tossing your fresh gel every week (max) sounds too much work for you, then perhaps DIY isn't your route. While there are many benefits and reasons to harvesting aloe at home (cost and freshness, for example), store-bought gels will last longer. These are made with preservatives, which mean their shelf-life extends to about two years.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you store fresh aloe vera?
Refrigerate fresh aloe vera gel in an airtight container—this will extend the shelf life for up to one week. Toss it at the first sign of it going bad: Look for discolorations or odor.
How do you store aloe vera gel for a long time?
The best way to store aloe vera gel for an extended period of time is by freezing it. Pour the gel into an ice cube tray and stick it in the freezer. Once solid, remove it from the tray, put it in an airtight container, and place it back in the freezer.
With these aloe vera storage tips, you can make the most out of the wonderfully cooling gel. Just be sure to keep an eye out for any signs of spoilage: smell or change of color. If anything looks or smells unpleasant, go ahead and toss it. Your skin will thank you—and it will also thank you after using these aloe vera masks.
Kirsten Nunez is a health and lifestyle journalist based in Beacon, New York. She has a Master of Science in Nutrition from Texas Woman's University and Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from SUNY Oneonta. Kirsten specializes in nutrition, fitness, food, and DIY; her work has been featured in a variety of publications, including eHow, SparkPeople, and international editions of Cosmopolitan. She also creates recipes for food product packaging.