When you soak up too much sunshine, your skin will usually let you know with a red, peeling, and sometimes painful sunburn. This is often remedied with a cool bath and soothing aloe (ahem... coupled with the preventive measures of wearing sunscreen and staying out of the sun). Aside from sunburn relief, aloe vera has been used for centuries as a key ingredient in hair, face, and body treatments, as well as in a wealth of other beauty products to help with everything from inflammation to dry hair.
I discovered the multitude of aloe benefits on my natural hair journey and fell in love — so much so that when someone once asked me what my favorite beauty product was, aloe vera was the first thing that came to mind. Their expression suggested they were a little confused by my answer, however, once I explained my love for the natural powerhouse ingredient like I was leading the aloe vera campaign for public office, they got it.
I keep a bottle of pure aloe vera and other aloe-based products in my never-ending rotation of beauty buys-and-tries, because it truly is magic. Here are just some of the many ways to use this vitamin-rich ingredient.
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To Keep Your Hair & Scalp Moisturized And pH-Balanced
Finding the right products for your hair type can be a bit of trial and error, especially if you're going natural for the first time or dealing with styling damage. Look to aloe vera, as it adds moisture to thirsty hair and also helps keep strands pH-balanced. "In order to have healthy hair, you need the pH of products to be in the range of 4.5 to 5.5 — that's the range that healthy hair sits in," says Dr. Isfahan Chambers-Harris, trichologist and founder of Alodia Hair Care. "Aloe naturally helps lower the pH of products, since it sits at a natural pH of 4.5." This, in turn, can "help to seal the cuticle so that it can reflect the light and look shiny and healthy," she says. Try aloe-infused shampoos, conditioners, leave-ins, and styling products to maximize the hydrating, gloss-ifying benefits of your hair routine. Bonus points if the formulas are also sulfate-free, paraben-free, and contain sustainably-sourced aloe, like the shampoo-conditioner duo below.
For An Added Vitamin Boost
Even though there aren't any peer-reviewed articles confirming the beauty effects, "drinking aloe juice can have a wide range of benefits," says Dr. Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, Miami-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta skin care. "A 9-ounce glass can contain up to 9,000 mg of vitamin C, so this is a great natural source of C. I have patients who report to me that drinking aloe has helped their skin and hair." With that information, aloe juice may be worth a try, but just keep in mind that it can have a laxative effect. "I suggest starting with a 4-ounce glass every other day to be sure it doesn't change your bowel habits too drastically," says Ciraldo. Try adding it to smoothie for a delicious and nutritious boost of vitamin C.
As A Nighttime Under-Eye Treatment
Most people use an under-eye cream to brighten and de-puff the skin in that area. Aloe's anti-inflammatory properties (thanks to its natural vitamin C content) can help. "Applying aloe topically helps keep the skin surface plump and hydrated," says Ciraldo. Who doesn't want those benefits in an eye cream — or in all skin care? That likely explains why many companies use the ingredient in products such as cleansers, eye creams, and under-eye patches. Whatever kind of formula you're applying, gently dab or tap it on with your ring fingers for the lightest touch.
To Soothe Overzealous Exfoliation Or Pimple Popping
Scrubbing too often or too harshly, aggressive pimple popping — these are the bad habits skin-care nightmares are made of. But we've all been there, done that, and we have the hyperpigmentation and acne scars to prove it. If you ever find yourself in the mirror on the inflamed end of a similar situation, here's what you can do to repair irritation. Aside from laying off the chemical and physical exfoliants (and keeping your hands off your blemishes), a little aloe can go a long way. "Applying aloe topically is very calming to skin," says Ciraldo. "It works in a similar way to topical cortisone to lessen redness, swelling, and discomfort." Encourage your face to chill out with a gentle face mist that you can reapply as often as needed throughout the day.
As A DIY, Multipurpose Salve
Need a shave gel that helps combat razor bumps and ingrowns? How about a cooling face mask to calm a summer flush? There are so many do-it-yourself uses for aloe, particularly if it's kept in the fridge. It's even useful as a pre-shampoo treatment. "[People] take the aloe plant, open it up, and put it on their scalp," says Chambers-Harris, who adds this is especially helpful for those dealing with dandruff and certain types of dermatitis. Really, there isn't much this botanical ingredient can't do.