When I was a kid, I got hooked on cool facts. You know, “300 Stunning Secrets of the Human Body” type facts. “100 Facts About the Universe.” That kind of stuff. I was a total geek.
So this article is about facts.
Aloe? Pretty awesome plant. Here are some surprising facts about it:
- Aloe has been called “miracle plant,” “wand of heaven” and “plant of life” – whoa!
- It’s actually not a cactus (but it is a succulent).
- Aloe has been used in herbal medicine for over 2,000 years.
- In Egypt, there are 6,000-year-old stone carvings of aloe plants!
- These same Egyptians called aloe the “plant of immortality,” and buried it alongside dead pharaohs (apparently aloe didn’t actually prevent them from dying!)
- There are 400+ species of aloe, and the common “Aloe vera” is just one!
- Aloe vera has 75 biologically active compounds, including glucomannan, a polysaccharide (sugar) with some pretty cool healing properties.
Watch this video where I explain why aloe is so cool:
What’s so special about aloe?
So while it doesn’t seem like aloe grants immortality, it does have some potent skin-healing properties. But it’s probably not just glucomannan that’s responsible. Researchers think it’s the synergy between aloe’s 75 compounds that give it its potent healing abilities.
Aloe also contains saponin, a compound with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. That could be good for acne!
Let’s see what the science says about that, though…
Does aloe actually help acne?
In one 2014 study, researchers grabbed 60 people with mild to moderate acne and split them into two groups:
* Group A was given a topical retinoid cream (like Retin-A)
* Group B was given a topical retinoid cream (like Retin-A), plus topical aloe vera
Guess which group’s acne healed faster?
Group B, of course! Turns out that aloe vera combined with the retinoid cream was “significantly more effective” at reducing acne lesions than the retinoid cream alone.
+1 for aloe!
Hold on a sec, though… that doesn’t mean you should run out and A) buy Retin-A (we definitely do not recommend that), or B) buy aloe and slap it all over your face. Why? The thing is, if you do these things, you’re still treating the surface symptom, not the root cause.
And if you browse around on the blog a little more, you’ll quickly learn that we’re all about treating the root causes of acne. Using topical creams doesn’t do that, so we don’t recommend it.
In short, aloe might help heal existing acne, but it will not prevent new breakouts.
So what do you recommend using aloe for?
Short answer – healing old acne scars!
Check it out:
One study found that aloe vera helped heal second-degree burns faster.
Another study found that aloe improves collagen formation during wound healing (that’s good for helping existing/recent acne heal without leaving as bad of marks).
Now, that doesn’t mean aloe is a miracle cure-all for acne scars. Scar tissue can be extremely stubborn. That said, the alternatives are things like glycolic acid peels (which strip off the top layer of your skin – ouch!) and laser resurfacing, which are painful. Aloe is a great non-invasive scar treatment to try.
How should I apply it?
In fact, in 2011 I visited Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, and started chatting with a Mayan healer about Clear Skin Forever. I said, “Okay, I’ve basically figured out the root causes of acne, but what can I tell people about how to get rid of existing acne scars?”
He basically said this: apply 100% aloe to acne scars, twice a day, for as long as it takes to heal. He told me he had seen complete healing of old, old scars after two years of applying aloe daily.
That doesn’t mean it will take two years for you! Here’s a CSF reader’s experience with aloe:
“I’ve been using it for the last 2.5 weeks. I use it 2-3 times a day. The scars that are fading right away are the newer scars. The older scars are fading away, but taking longer to completely fade. There is one beneath my right eye that is very close to matching my original skin tone. But using this product is MUCH better than the rate at which they faded without using anything. It feels like it is tightening up my skin in a good way a few minutes after I apply it. It has made my skin feel tighter and softer.”
I’ve personally used aloe with good results. It seems to make acne scars and marks heal faster than they normally would. While this is not a complete solution to getting rid of acne, it is an awesome treatment to help heal acne scars.
Note: using aloe on your skin is safe, but DO NOT TAKE ALOE INTERNALLY. Besides being the absolute most disgusting thing I’ve ever tasted, it causes some nasty GI problems in rats, and also gives them cancer. Human health effects may include diarrhea, electrolyte imbalance, kidney dysfunction, and conventional drug conflicts.
Best to avoid! Just apply it topically and you should be fine.
Which aloe should I buy?
I personally recommend “Aubrey Organics Pure Aloe Vera.”
Here’s a photo and a link to Amazon, where you can read some great reviews of people who have had success with it:
Note: This is an affiliate link, which means we receive compensation if you make a purchase using this link. Visit our disclaimer page for more information.
I’ve also seen it in Whole Foods and several other natural foods stores – it should be pretty easy to find.
Why this one?
Because it doesn’t have weird, fakey gel-ification chemicals. That does mean it’s more liquid than other aloe “gel” products, but in my experience, that’s actually a good thing! It’s easier to spread and lasts longer, and doesn’t cake or flake like thick aloe gel can.
You might notice a minor feeling of “tightness” on your face after the aloe dries. If this happens, just scrunch around your face a bit to loosen the aloe and you’ll be right as rain.
What about using a fresh aloe plant? Isn’t that better?
In some ways, yes! Fresh aloe is definitely more potent, anyway. Pasteurization and storage reduces glucomannan, Vitamin C and antioxidant levels in aloe, so any bottled aloe you buy will be less strong than fresh-off-the-plant stuff.
That said, there’s still going to be significant levels of bioactive compounds left in properly bottled products like the Aubrey Organics aloe. Keeping an aloe plant around and cutting the leaves off can be kind of a hassle. If you want to try, go for it! It does tend to dry on your skin leaving a weird tight feeling, though. The Aubrey Organics aloe only does that a tiny bit, and it’s easy to get rid of, as explained above.
Watch out for possible side effects…
Needless to say, stop using it if you get a bad reaction!
- Aloe may help heal acne scars!
- It’s not an overnight solution – it can take a while, but many people report success with it.
- Aloe is not a complete treatment for acne, because it doesn’t fix the root causes of acne.
- Aloe can be a helpful addition to a holistic diet- and lifestyle-based treatment for acne.
- You need to fix your diet and lifestyle to really cure the root causes of acne (that’s what our book is all about!).
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloe_vera ^
- http://nccam.nih.gov/health/aloevera ^
- http://tamilnadu.com/herbs/kathalai.html ^
“Effect of Aloe vera topical gel combined with tretinoin in treatment of mild and moderate acne vulgaris: a randomized, double-blind, prospective trial.” J Dermatolog Treat. 2014 Apr;25(2):123-9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23336746 ^
- “Inhibition of Propionibacterium acnes-induced mediators of inflammation by Indian herbs. Phytomedicine. 2003 Jan;10(1):34-8.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12622461 ^
Therapeutic effects of Aloe vera on cutaneous microcirculation and wound healing in second degree burn model in rats. J Med Assoc Thai. 2000 Apr;83(4):417-25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10808702 ^
- “Influence of Aloe vera on collagen characteristics in healing dermal wounds in rats.”” Chithra, P.; Sajithlal, G. B.; Chandrakasan, G.
Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. Apr 1, 1998. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9562243 ^
- http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/00346651311313553 ^
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17613130 ^
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16690538 ^