Aloe Vera for Skincare - Benefits for your skin
In this Article (Index)
- What is Aloe Vera?
- The Aloe vera plant
- Aloe Vera Gel
- Aloe skincare properties and benefits
- Components, Chemistry and how they help your skin
- Skin care properties of aloe’s components
- Antimicrobial and Antifungal Activity of Aloe vera gel
- As an Anti-inflammatory
- Is it good for sunbun?
- Skin whitening
- Not a Source of Vitamin E
- Wound Healing
- Adverse Effects on the skin
- Make your ouwn homemade Aloe Vera gel
What is Aloe Vera?
The Aloe vera plant
Aloe vera is a succulent plant that can grow to a height of 25 to 40 inches (60 cm to 1 m). Its name combines the Arabic word alloeh that means "bitter and shiny substance" with the Latin word vera or "true".
It grows in arid, tropical and subtropical settings and reproduces by "pups". It has a short stem and a crown of thick leaves whose fleshy tissue is adapted to store water. They taper off into a sharp tip and whose deges are serrated (saw-tooth shaped) with tiny barbs. Pictured below:
Aloe Vera Gel
The aloe vera gel is extracted from the juicy, meaty innards of the plant's leaves.
The inside of the aloe leaves consists of three layers, the outermost one is known as rind, and is the tough waxy green skin that helps the plant retain moisture. It is followed by a thin yellow layer consisting of a toxic bitter liquid called sap. Then comes the inner thick core of the leaf enveloped by a thin outer layer called mucilage gel that contains the juicy colorless hydro-parenchima cells that hold water, the gel.
This pulp is formed of cells that hold the gel, their cell walls are rich in Galacturonic acid, and their bodies contain the Liquid gel rich in Manose.
Aloe skincare properties and benefits
Skin treating properties and uses
Aloe vera is well known for its widely advertised properties as a treatment for sunburn and minor burns. Other reported benefits include is efficacy in treating skin conditions and wounds including genital herpes and seborrheic dermatitis. However its use efficacy against psoriasis is inconclusive.
Current clinical trials have shortcomings because they have only involved a small number of subjects, and many lack strict methodology and a common specification for the aloe gel so that others can compare and replicate the results.
Historic uses of Aloe Vera for Skincare
Greek pharmacologist, botanist and physician Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40–90 AD) is known as "the father of pharmacognosy." He wrote about aloe in his medical encyclopedia De materia medica (4) describing its skin treating properties as follows: "... not useful for poultices, but for sticking wounds, it is aptly ground up... dry wounds it sticks and heals ulcers and suppresses, and it heals especially ulcerated vulvae... it also cures warts." It seems that Dioscorides borrowed from Pliny the Elder (c.23-79 AD)or vise versa, because Pliny reported the same therapeutic properties in his book "The Natural History" (13).
False claims say it was used by Cleopatra and Nefertiti and also involve Alexander the Great and Marco Polo, but they aren't true:
Components, Chemistry and how they help your skin
Chemistry of aloe gel
The freshly obtained aloe gel is almost completely water; it is made up of 99.1% water and only 0.9% solid content.
It has an acid pH ranging from 3.5 to 4.7.
This "dry matter" is made of of the mesophyll cells of the plant and is mainly (83.1%) liquid gel, the rest bein cell walls and other cellular components.
Dry matter is mainly composed of sugars (72%), twenty minerals including zinc, calcium and magnesium (16%), twenty amino acids included in the proteins (7%), lipids (4%), vitamins (A, B1, B2, C, E, niacin and folic acid), phytochemicals and enzymes in small amounts (7) (5).
The main sugar is mannose forming almost 63% of the liquid gel's sugar content. It also contains a type of sugar known as polysaccharide (a chain of sugars linked together) in the form of glucomannan and acemannan.
Skin care properties of these components
Magenesium forms a salt (Magnesium lactate) that is present in the gel and can act as an antihistamine prventing the production of histamines and the itching and irritation they provoke on the skin (6).
Glucomannan has regenerative properties healing woudns by interacting with a type of cell know as fibroblast, that secretes collagen. Glucomannan stimuates fibroblasts to increase in number and to become more active, boosting the production of collagen. The aloe vera gel also modifies the composition and cross-linking of the collagen network improving healing.
The aminoacids together with the zinc and the polysaccharids help the skin retain more moisture, reduce redness (erythema) and help prevent skin ulcers (6).
Water in the gel increases skin flexibility and reduces its fragility (6).
The gel also contains small amounts of phytochemicals such as saponins, phenols, and flavonoids the last two have potent antioxidant activity while the saponins are soapy substances that have a cleansing and antiseptic effect as well as anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties (8) (7).
Other trace components include sterols like lupeol (anti-inflammatory and antioxidant), comperterol and β-sitosterol which may help treat atopic dermatitis (9), and also Salicylic acid which is the precursor of aspirin, reduces itching, is anti-inflammatory and helps beak down thick outer layers of skin (as in psoriasis) allowing moisture and other topical ingredients to penetrate the skin (10) (7).
We summarize some of these chemicals' beneficial properties in the following table (7):
antiviral, quick wound healing
Antimicrobial and Antifungal Activity of Aloe vera gel
As it is used in topical cosmetics, its role againts skin microorganisms such as Staphylococcus aureus, S. epidermidis, and S. lugdunensis was studied by Añibarro-Ortega et al. (2019) (3), the aloe vera extracts were antimicrobials but not as effective as the antimicrobial streptomycin.
Aloe vera extracts have a potent antifungal activity against Aspergillus flavus, A. niger, and Penicillium funiculosum that is "superior to that of the positive control ketoconazole." Furthermore, they "were more effective than ketoconazole in inhibiting ... or killing ... the opportunistic yeast Candida albicans, which is the most prevalent fungal pathogen in humans." Candida albicans infections known as candidiasis affec the mouth, skin and vaginal mucosa.
Aloe vera juice also has antibacterial properties against Gram- positive bacteria. (7).
As an Anti-inflammatory
Aloin, is one of the components of the outer part of the leaf, the rind, but isn't found in the aloe vera gel. Aloin has anti-inflammatory properties (11). Another component of aloe vera gel, C-glucosyl chromone also displays anti-inflammatory effects (1).
Is it good for sunburn?
Many lotions containing aloe vera gel are popular as a treatment for sunburn. Its anti-inflammatory effects support this notion. A radnomized, double blind trial conmpared the effects of a 97.5% pure aloe vera gel against a placebo and a 1% hydrocortisone cream (the standard medical treatment for mild sunburn).
It found that if the aloe vera was covered by an occlusive bandage, one that doesn't allow air or moisture to reach the skin, it reduced inflammation much more than the placebo but "was less effective than 1% hydrocortisone cream". (5)
In a double blind randomized trial involving 20 volunteers, Puvabanditsin and Vongtongsri (2005) (11) tested the efficacy of an aloe vera cream to prevent burn and tan from an ultraviolet source mimicking sunlight in comparison to a placebo. The cream was applied before, during and after treatment, and for a period after the irradiation ended.
The study concluded that "the aloe vera cream has no sunburn or suntan protection and no efficacy in sunburn treatment when compared to placebo."
Aloe vera gel will cool your skin but it does not have a noticeable effect on sunburnt skin.
More skin benefits
Añibarro-Ortega et al. (2019) (3) tested the ability of aloe vera extracts to inhibit tyrosinase.
Tyrosinase is an enzime that is found inside in specialized cells in the skin called melanocytes that are responsible for producing melanin, the dark pigment that colors human skin.
Tyrosinase catalyzes (speeds up and makes more efficient) the production of melanin.
The extracts did display some tyrosinase inhibiting effects and therefore depigmenting potential but were far lower than those of the control agent. However aloesin, a chromone found in the extracts has been reported to have tyrosinase inhibiting activity.
Little or none skin whitening effects from aloe gel.
Not a Source of Vitamin E
Aloe vera extract containts four types of Tocopherols, a group of fat-soluble phenolic compunds of the vitamin E family. The most relevant was α-tocopherol. The concentration however was very low, only 93μg per 100 g of wet aloe fillet. This is very low compared to palm, wheat germ, sunflower, olive, peanut, soybean or corn oils that have 500 times more Tocopherols than aloe.
As expected from a product containing 99.1% water, the fat content is low and therefore vitamin E which has an affinity for fats, is found in very small quantities.
The reports on the effects of aloe vera gel from three separate clinical studies are inconclusive, some show it is effective, others that it isn't. (5)
Studies have confirmed that its use to treat dry skin (xerosis) is justified and a study showed that aloe vera "resulted in increased water content in the stratum corneum after ... application of a hydrophilic cream containing various concentrations of freeze-dried aloe vera concentrate compared to the base cream alone" (5).
Aloe vera acts upon a compound known as thromboxane, produced by the body, that prevents wound healing. As aloe inhibits thromboxane it improve the wound healing process, and reduces inflammation.
It has been shown to be very effective in treating mild (first degree) and moderate (second degree) burns, and "was more effective than petroleum jelly gauze dressing, silver sulfadiazine 1% ointment, and framycetin cream... it reduced the recovery time, prevented infection in the wound area, and prevented redness and itching" (6) (5)
Adverse Effects on the skin
Sensitivity or irritation
The topical use of aloe ver gel is generally regarded as safe, but there have been several reports of contact dermatities and hypersensitivity reactions (5).
The recommendation is to discontinue use of aloe vera gel products if a skin irritation develops or becomes worse (5).
Pregnancy and Lactation
As with most medications and topical products, it is not recommended to use aloe vera gel during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. (5).
Make your ouwn homemade Aloe Vera gel
The process to obtain the gel, described by Jalal and Ahmad (2019) (1) is the following:
- Harvest. Cut mature aloe leaves from the base and wash with clean water to remove any dirt that may taint the gel obtained in the following steps.
The plant can be harvested every 6 to 8 weeks by removing 3 to 4 leaves per plant .(7).
- Drain. Stand the leaves in an uprigh position for around 20 minutes to drain off the toxic yellow sap.
- Trimming. Trim the tip and the sides to remove the saw-tooth barbs.
- Filletting. Use a sharp knife to remove the outer rind layers to obtain the inner colorless hydro parenchyma core. rinse with clean water.
- Extraction. Cut the core into cubes and blend at low speed in a blender till it a smooth thick liquid is obtained. Filter with a thin muselin cloth to remove fibers. The resulting liquid is fresh Aloe vera gel.
The following images show these steps:
Storing the aloe vera gel
Place the gel in amber or brown jars with screw tops. This will protect them from light and the oxygen in the air which can degrade the bio-active components of the aloe gel and also prevent it from yellowing. Store in a refrigerator for up to one week it will slow microbial degradation.
Long Term preservation of the gel
Billy Coats' US patent for a hypoallergenic stabilized aloe vera gel (2) treates the gel by adding 2.6 parts of 3% hydrogen peroxide per 100 parts of gel, and heats the mixture to 120°F (49°C) for 10 minutes, this apparently degrades certain proteins that can cause facial sensitivity. It may however have a negative effect on the other bioactive components in the gel. The gel is cooled quickly. Ascorbic and Citric acids are added as antioxidant and antimcirobial preservatives in very small quantities: Ascorbic Acid, 0.02 oz/gal (150 ppm) and Citric Acid 0.5 oz/gal (3.75 g/l); they will give the gel a buffer acidity with a pH of 4 to 6. Coats adds more preservatives such as sorbitol 70%, sodium benzoate and vitamin E to allow storage up to 20 months withouth color changes.
Jalal and Ahmad (2019) (1) suggest a similar processing hoewever their use is for preservation of vegetables, so they employ larger quantities of ascorbic and citric acids.
Virgin Coconut Oil based body lotion recipe with Aloe Vera Gel
This recipe for a mineral oil free, Virgin Coconut Oil body lotion was published by Satheeshan, Seema and Meera Manjusha (2020) (12). It is a moisturizer, has antiseptic properties activity and protects the skin from UV radiation.
The ingredients used in this recipe are: Virgin coconut oil, Aloe vera gel, Bee wax, cocoa butter, and essential oils (rose, lavender, peppermint). The proportions are shown in the following table:
Melt the beeswax and cocoa butter in a stainless steel double boiler (a bowl or pot placed over a larger pot containing simmering water). Once the preparation melts, add the virgin coconot oil to the mixture and continue the melting process. Mix.
Strain the moilten wax and oil blend using a muslin cloth while it is still warm and flowing. Let it cool for about 20 minutes.
Once cool add the Aloe vera and whip with an electric handheld beater until it turns fluffy and light. Add a few drops of essential oils and mix. Bottle and place in jars.
References and Further Reading
(1) Abdul Jalal and Naveed Ahmad, (2019). Aloe vera as a bio-preservative for keeping quality of horticultural products. Research Journal of Food Science and Nutrition Volume 4(4), pages 82-89, August 2019 Article Number: 5FBEABF22 ISSN: 2536-7080 https://doi.org/10.31248/RJFSN2019.070.
(2) Coats Billy C. (1978). Hypoallergenic stabilized aloe vera gel . US Patent 4178372a.
(3) Añibarro-Ortega et al., (2019). Compositional Features and Bioactive Properties of Aloe vera Leaf (Fillet, Mucilage, and Rind) and Flower. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019 Oct 1;8(10):444. doi: 10.3390/antiox8100444. PMID: 31581507; PMCID: PMC6826699.
(4) Pedanius Discorides. Aloe. De Materia Medica.
(5) Oliver Grundmann, (2014). Aloe Vera Gel Research Review. An overview of its clinical uses and proposed mechanisms of action . January 16, 2014. Natural Medical Journal.
(6) Hekmatpou D, Mehrabi F, Rahzani K, Aminiyan A., (2019). The Effect of Aloe Vera Clinical Trials on Prevention and Healing of Skin Wound: A Systematic Review. Iran J Med Sci. 2019 Jan;44(1):1-9. PMID: 30666070; PMCID: PMC6330525.
(7) Ahlawat KS, Khatkar BS., (2011). Processing, food applications and safety of aloe vera products: a review. J Food Sci Technol. 2011 Oct;48(5):525-33. doi: 10.1007/s13197-011-0229-z. Epub 2011 Jan 18. PMID: 23572784; PMCID: PMC3551117.
(8) Sweeta Akbari, Nour Hamid Abdurahman, Rosli Mohd Yunus, Ali Hassan Abdulrahman Alsaggaf, Noormazlinah Ahmed, (2021). LC-QTOF-MS analysis of phenolics and saponins extracted from Aloe vera leaves via microwave technology in optimal condition. South African Journal of Botany, Vol 139. 2021, p 362-373, ISSN 0254-6299, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sajb.2021.02.027.
(11) Puvabanditsin P, Vongtongsri R., (2005). Efficacy of aloe vera cream in prevention and treatment of sunburn and suntan. J Med Assoc Thai. 2005 Sep;88 Suppl 4:S173-6. PMID: 16623024.
(12) KN Satheeshan, BR Seema and AV Meera Manjusha, (2020). Development of virgin coconut oil based body lotion . The Pharma Innovation Journal 2020; 9(5): 96-101.
About this Article
Aloe Vera for Skincare - Benefits for your skin , A. Whittall
©2023 Fit-and-Well.com, 18 Aug. 2023. Update scheduled for 18 Aug. 2025. https://www.fit-and-well.com/wellness/aloe-vera-for-skin.html
Tags: aloe vera, aloe vera gel, sunburn, aloe vera and your skin