You likely know aloe vera for one of two things: a) being a popular houseplant amongst millennials or b) the gooey substance that gives you relief from sunburns. And while the spiky succulent is both of these things, its uses are slightly more widespread.
So much so that over 2000 years ago, the plant was referred to as “the universal panacea” by Greek scientists and “the plant of immortality” by Egyptians. Though we wouldn’t exactly recommend it to solely ward off death, it still does a lot of good. When it comes to beauty benefits, dermatologist Lian A. Mack, MD refers to aloe vera as a “natural healing agent” thanks to its abundance of antioxidants, enzymes, and vitamins A and C. The name aloe vera was derived from the Arabic word “Alloeh” originating in the Arabian Peninsula and its history of being used for medicinal purposes dates back to ancient Egypt. “In order for the plant to survive the harsh climate conditions it originated from, the plant stores water in its leaves,” she explains. “Because the aloe plant thrives in dry, unstable climates it is known to help keep skin clear and hydrated.”
So, if you’re currently looking for natural, eco-friendly skincare alternatives, it’s worth giving it a try. Keep in mind that natural doesn’t automatically mean safe (case in point: poison ivy). Dr. Mack notes that some people “might experience skin allergies from hypersensitivity.” She recommends doing a patch test for a few days to ensure you don’t have a negative reaction.
Once you’re in the clear, you’re in luck because the plant has a myriad of uses. From treating pesky pimples, to acting as a makeup remover, to de-puffing the eye area, ahead are some of the ways you can incorporate aloe vera into your beauty routine:
“The water-dense leaves combined with specific plant compounds called complex carbohydrates make [aloe vera] an effective face moisturizer,” says Dr. Mack. Which explains why you’ll see it on ingredient lists for a lot of “soothing” and “hydrating” face creams. The lightweight consistency and healing properties also make it ideal for skin during the dog days of summer.
2. Pimple Spot Treatment
Dr. Mack also says aloe vera can help treat acne, but notes it works best “on superficial surface acne rather than cystic or deeper acne.” So, if you have any pesky whiteheads, try dabbing on some of the gooey substance to bring some of the inflammation down.
3. Makeup Remover
Dr. Mack likes aloe vera as an alternative to oil-based makeup removers. “The skin on our face, especially around our eyes, is considered to be one of the most delicate parts of skin on our entire body,” she tells us. “Because of its moisture, aloe vera is able to easily and gently remove makeup.”
4. Breastfeeding Relief
Dr. Mack knows from personal experience that the magic plant works for breastfeeding saying “it has become a lifesaver for my overworked, sore nipples.” Specifically, she uses Mum & You’s Hands Off Nipple Saviour Spray which includes the succulent and wheatgerm oil. “Since aloe vera is known to deeply soothe the skin, the spray aids in healing nipples when they are too tender to even touch,” she says. And it’s safe if your baby somehow ends up inadvertently ingesting it.
5. Repair Damaged Skin
Skin conditions like Psoriasis and Eczema are usually caused by defects in the skin’s moisture barrier and/or triggered by internal infections such as strep, cold weather, and skin injuries, Dr. Mack says. Given aloe’s hydrating capabilities, it can be helpful in treating either. “It replenishes the moisture of the skin, which is severely compromised in both of these skin conditions,” she explains.
6. After Shave
As mentioned before, aloe vera is most commonly used to aid and soothe sunburn and other bodily burns and that extends to the razor burn that often occurs as a result of shaving. Aloe vera can provide some temporary relief—particularly around the bikini area where it tends to be worse for most women.
7. Under Eye De-Puffer
With aloe vera’s ability to reduce inflammation and its powerful antioxidant properties, the ingredient can also be great for de-puffing the eye area. Gently apply the gel under your eyes to improve circulation, flush out the fluid build-up, and reduce swelling. Bonus points if you keep it in your fridge ahead of time which will add a cooling effect.
8. Bug Bite Relief
“Aloe vera is a great at-home remedy combined with OTC hydrocortisone for bug bites,” says Dhaval Bhanusali, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist. “It calms the inflamed area, and hydrocortisone stops the itch.”