What Is Aloe Vera?

Aloe vera comes from the leaves of the Aloe barbadensis plant, which is a cactus-like succulent that commonly grows in tropical parts of the world. Aloe vera has been used for thousands of years, and has historically been used to soothe various skin conditions, and has even been used as a laxative. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed all aloe vera laxative products from the market in 2002 due to lack of safety data.

Aloe vera contains a lush supply of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids, making it an attractive compound for use in skin care products.[1]

 Leaves of Aloe Vera in a Star PatternCari Corbet-Owen on Unsplash

What Does Aloe Vera Do?

In personal care products, aloe vera is used to produce a clear gel.  Aloe vera gel is primarily used topically on the skin to soothe sunburns, psoriasis, wounds, and to treat certain rashes.[2]

  • Psoriasis – there is some evidence that topical aloe vera can help psoriasis.[3]
  • Diaper rash – evidence shows aloe vera may help treat diaper dermatitis.[4]
  • Sunburns – scientific evidence does not support the use of aloe vera to improve sunburns.[5]
  • Moisturizer – aloe vera used in skin care products improves skin hydration.[6]
  • Wound healing – aloe vera has been used with wound care dressings for acute and chronic wounds.[1,7]


Potential Side Effects of Aloe Vera?

  • Aloe vera used topically is likely to be safe
  • Based on a study in rats, oral consumption of nondecolorized aloe vera extract may have potential to induce cancerous activity in the intestines.[8] Researchers believe a compound called aloin in aloe vera is responsible for the tumor-causing effects.[9]
  • Abdominal cramps and diarrhea when taken orally
  • Aloe vera may lower blood sugar levels and should be used cautiously in people with diabetes.


The Aloe Vera Sunburn Myth

It is a popular belief that aloe vera can help heal sunburns after a long day out in the sun. However, once a sunburn has occurred, the damage cannot be reversed, and your skin will heal and regenerate on its own over time. Aloe vera gel and moisturizers containing aloe vera can help create a soothing effect and can be used to help sunburns feel less painful.


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