About The Author: FutureDerm is pleased to welcome Leah Argento to our staff as a Contributing Writer. For a complete bio please visit our About page.
For centuries the Aloe Vera plant has been called “the beautician” because of her many benefits for the skin. She may not be glamorous…rather more of a wholesome natural beauty, but today she is (again) the “it” ingredient in skin care.
“When people think of aloe, they think pure, organic, soothing, calming, healthy” says Lisamarie Jaconi, esthetics educator for Naturopathica. “Aloe contains a message of healing.” What’s more, negative effects and/or allergic reactions to aloe vera are quite rare.
The succulent plant, grown in subtropical and tropical locations, has been used in many cultures for thousands of years to heal a variety of conditions, especially burns, wounds, and skin irritations. Aloe was one of the most frequently prescribed medicines throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries and remains one of the most commonly used herbs in the U.S. today, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Where to Find Aloe
It is available commercially in ointments, creams, and lotions, as well as in some yogurt, beverages, and desserts. Aloe gel can be found in everything from high-end cosmetics to drugstore brand after-sun repair lotions.
What is it made of?
Aloe is made mostly of water, however, the mucilaginous aloe gel also contains numerous phytochemicals (phytochemicals are completely natural chemical compounds found in plants) like glycoproteins, polysaccharides, sterols, lipids, and vitamins – all of which have been studied for bioactivity.
Benefits for the Skin
For example, glycoproteins help speed the healing process by minimizing pain and inflammation, while polysaccharides stimulate skin growth and repair. Vitamins C and E in aloe gel improve the strength of the skin tissues and pack a powerful, hydrating punch to dehydrated or aging skin.
Some of the most promising research on aloe focuses on Biopeptide Aloe Complex (BAC) for oily and acne-prone skin. Basically, BAC uses aloe polysaccharide as a vehicle to enhance cutaneous penetration for optimized delivery of active ingredients into the skin. Bonus: this material has also been shown to increase fibroblast and collagen production!
What’s more, Aloe Vera’s anti-inflammatory properties can reduce redness and help skin heal more quickly, as shown in this study whereby aloe vera inhibited MMP production in the skin, making it effective for skin ailments like psoriasis.
Processing Is Important
Although Aloe Vera has been widely cultivated for its healing and medicinal properties, the process by which Aloe Vera is harvested is extremely important. The gel of the aloe plant, when exposed to oxygen for four or more hours, oxidizes, rendering it worthless. After harvesting, it must be stabilized through a cold-temperature process to retain its nutrients. Unfortunately, due to improper processing many products on the market that contain Aloe Vera contain very little to no active ingredients. As always: buyer beware! The most effacious Aloe is that derived from whole-leaf Aloe and cold-processed, like Aloe 99 Gel ($2.23 at Amazon.com).
While it appears that more studies on Aloe Vera are needed to clinically validate its medicinal wound-healing use, it is clear that aloe gel is a widely used & accepted botanical ingredient with positive effects for the skin. And with all the interest in green products & ingredients showing no sign of abating, Aloe Vera could be the natural ingredient you’re looking for. Another bonus: it’s affordable!