Historically used for wound healing, aloe vera (or aloe barbadensis) is a type of aloe plant famous for its anti-inflammatory action and cooling effects on the skin – especially if you’ve skimped on SPF. More recently, however, it’s being included in an increasing number of products on account of its multi-benefits – think moisturizing, antimicrobial and antioxidant, on top of its traditional uses. But, as with most powerhouse ingredients, type and quality matters to achieve maximum results. “There’s aloe vera extract and aloe vera juice, which comes from the pulp of the plant’s leaves,” says Dr. Marko Lens, a renowned surgeon. The juice is the most effective form, since the way it’s produced keeps the plant’s active ingredients intact. “While the majority of aloe juice is water, the other parts contain a gel that’s rich in sugars, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and phenolic molecules.” However, according to aesthetics expert Dr. Barbara Sturm, these active components degrade rapidly after the plant is harvested, so it’s essential to find a good-quality formulation in which the plants’ potency is stabilized and preserved while it’s still fresh – such as the Dr. Barbara Sturm Aloe Vera Gel, which uses 90 percent pure hand-selected and hand-harvested organic aloe leaf juice.
Aloe makes your products work harder
Given that it’s suitable for all skin types, boasts multiple benefits (including reducing irritation) and can be combined endlessly with many actives, it’s no wonder aloe vera’s latest role utilizes the power of pairing. “We’re [becoming] more concerned about the health of our skin, so reducing any irritation or discomfort that may arise from treatments or exposure to UV rays and other sources of damage is more essential now,” says dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman, who continues: “[That’s why aloe vera is] being used in combination with other ingredients that make it stronger and more effective.” Take AHAs, for example – when paired with lactic acid in Shani Darden’s Lactic Acid Exfoliating Serum, aloe helps to take the heat off any sensitivity or redness that may come from an AHA exfoliator. Meanwhile, in Augustinus Bader’s The Cream, aloe’s healing, anti-bacterial and moisturizing benefits work to fortify the skin and encourage collagen production alongside rice proteins and vitamins A, B, C and E.
It’s a mega-moisturizer
If you have dry, dehydrated or sensitive skin, aloe should undoubtedly be a part of your skincare routine, say our experts. “Aloe provides a nice cushioning effect to the skin, which also improves how your creams and serums feel when you apply them,” says Dr. Lens. “But more than just a feel-good texture, it’s increasingly included in many types of products because it’s such an excellent hydrator and helps to support the skin barrier, which is the main defense for good skin health.” Aloe can also amplify hyaluronic-acid production. “It helps bind moisture to the skin, which is why you’ll find it in some of my most rejuvenating and hydrating products, including the Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Mask and Hydrating Face Mist,” says Dr. Sturm.
It’s highly effective for boosting collagen
“Not many people are aware that the sugars contained in aloe vera are proven to have collagen-boosting benefits,” says Dr. Sturm. “By stimulating fibroblasts, which produce both collagen and elastin fibers, it increases skin elasticity and minimizes wrinkles. Plus, it improves blood circulation, which is why it’s known to speed up wound healing, too.” As for its glow-giving reputation, that’s down to aloe’s intense hydrating properties as well as its enzymes and antioxidants, which can further reduce inflammation, protect skin from free radical-damage and, ultimately, improve the signs of aging.
It helps prevent breakouts
“While aloe hydrates and soothes, it doesn’t clog pores in oily skin,” says Dr. Sturm. “It contains antiseptic agents such as lupeol, urea nitrogen, cinnamic acid, phenols and sulphur, which all have antibacterial and astringent effects on the skin and is why aloe vera is often used in products that target breakouts, since bacteria is a big factor here.” Its blemish-busting benefits go even further, thanks to naturally occurring salicylic acid, which assists with keeping pores clear and acne at bay. One study even suggests using aloe alongside tretinoin (commonly known as Retin-A) was more effective in treating breakouts than tretinoin alone.
It soothes a stressed scalp
The same antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that treat skin can all benefit your scalp and hair, too. In fact, last year’s famous DIY aloe vera hair mask that went viral on TikTok focused on using gel straight from the succulent plant to condition and treat dull, damaged strands. Oribe’s dedicated Serene Scalp ranges uses aloe in the Soothing Leave-In Treatment and Thickening Treatment Spray. Here’s where aloe’s cooling effect, which occurs when it evaporates on the skin, can really help to calm and soothe any itchy, angry and stressed-out scalp concerns, while Philip B’s Weightless Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner are infused with aloe to add major hydration to hair without any heaviness that can weigh down fine or limp strands.