Aloe and Acne: Does Aloe Really Help Acne?

Aloe Vera and Acne

Aloe won’t cure acne (you need to fix your diet and lifestyle to do that), but it may help heal acne scars.

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.[1]
  • 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!)[2]
  • 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:

Read about “Vitamin D and Acne”

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.[3] 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.[4]
+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.[5]

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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.[6]

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).[7]

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.”

– Mike

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,[7] 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.[7]
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:

 

aubrey-organics-pure-aloe-vera

Aubrey Organics Pure Aloe Vera

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.[8]

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…

Some people react badly to aloe. Why? Nobody knows. It’s rare, but just watch out for it. It might cause irritation, redness, and sun sensitivity.[9] [10]

Needless to say, stop using it if you get a bad reaction!

Key Takeaways

Sources (click to expand)

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aloe_vera ^
  2. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/aloevera ^
  3. http://tamilnadu.com/herbs/kathalai.html ^

  4. “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 ^
  5. “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 ^

  6. 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 ^
  7. “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 ^
  8. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/abs/10.1108/00346651311313553 ^
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17613130 ^
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16690538 ^

{ 161 Comments }

  1. Mira says

    Hey there,
    Mira here. My skin has been acting up pretty badly. I got clogged pores on my forehead and tiny bumps due to using a wrong product. After that, I started using aloe vera’s product that’s calmer and soothing to my skin. However, like what you’ve mentioned earlier using aloe vera does not prevent new breakouts. Ive been using this for almost a month now and it does not really heal the old acne scars on my forehead and I still get new breakouts. This is making me pretty nervous. What should i do ? Do I look for a different product that might be more suitable for my skin condition? Help me.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Mira! Have you read any of our other articles, the ones more focused on dietary changes? Sounds like you’re dealing with some acne right now, and aloe (or another topical product) is not really going to fix that problem, because the triggers are just about always deep internal ones in the body that need to be addressed farther upstream with diet and lifestyle tweaks. This is a good place to start diving in if you haven’t yet:

      Start Here

      Let me know if I can clarify anything!

  2. Shanice benjamin says

    STARTED USING ALOE VERA ON MY FACE TWO WEEKS NOW AND AM SUPRISE AT THE RESULT,MY FACE IS MUCH SMOOTHER AND MY ACNE SCAR ARE FADING.I MIX THE APPLE CIDER VINEGAR WITH THE ALOE VERA GEL,THIS IS MUCH CHEAPER AND BETTER FOR ME

  3. Kerri G. says

    Thank you so much for the great article! Yes, aloe vera is highly beneficial to the skin, as it has anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties. It also contains within it cellular regenerating properties that are capable of not only regeneration of the skin, but also regeneration of the DNA – which makes it an excellent anti-wrinkle cream, too. It’s believed that Cleopatra herself used the magical plant as a part of her beauty routine.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Anam! That’s what our whole book is about! Did you have specific questions about methods?

  4. Natasha Lee says

    Great Blog! Aloe is one of the best solution for the skin. I have also used its gel many times on my face but its result is very slow. It is better to use some other products which can give you better results naturally. I have used Acne skin care products Sydney. These are good products you guys can also use it.

  5. Sara says

    Hi,
    Can you please elaborate on how to apply the Aloe Vera gel? Can I apply it in the morning and then go out in the sun? or should I wash it off before leaving home?

    Thanks,
    Sara

  6. Thelma Sturrup says

    Aloe is very good for the body. I have a plant in my yard and every so often take a leaf of and eat a spoonful the raw gel inside the plant. It has never made me sick, but can give a good bowel movement. I will now try it on acne and see how it works. But certainly its not harmful to me.

  7. Maria says

    Worked wonders for me! Aloe vera alone, the plant itself, cured my acne!!! I would just apply it on my face first and then I noticed the changes. so soon I began to apply it on my body acne and keratosis pilaris on my arms…I might let you know how it goes.
    oh and my facial scars heal much faster.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Maria! This is great to hear!! About keratosis pilaris, have you read about the vitamin A and zinc connection? I used to have keratosis pilaris on my arms as well, and it went away naturally when I started increasing my zinc and vitamin A intake through improving my diet quality and eating more nutrient-dense foods than I did when I was growing up. Taking a zinc supplement and perhaps a vitamin A supplement like cod liver oil or FCLO can help too!

    • Patty says

      What part of aloe vera plant you use? The more solid gel part or the sticky substance thats more runs out of plant when you cut it? Let me know as i will start this healing experiment soon, please

      • Devin Mooers says

        You probably want to avoid the really sticky white latex from the leaves, but the translucent gel in the middle is the good stuff to put your face.

  8. Jamie says

    Your tip to avoid aloe internally couldn’t be further from the truth. Eating raw organic aloe Vera fillet from the whole leaf is extremely beneficial to all humans. It literally heals you from the inside. It can be detoxing and remove parasites from your intestines. It should be eaten in moderation and not every single day. You should research for correct info on this topic. It’s also a natural food preservative and is awesome in smoothies and salsa.

    • Devin Mooers says

      I’m always happy to be proven wrong! Do you have any links to more research on taking aloe internally? Just had a baby, so a bit pressed for time :)

  9. Carol says

    I buy the aloe leaf and put a little in my smoothies. I never feel ill, and I’ve read it’s fine to ingest it. I’m curious to know more about why it is cancerous. Is there an article I can read? Going to the steam room clears out pores instantly, especially those stubborn black heads! I agree that eating well helps prevent them. I’d stay away from “junk food”.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Carol! It’s important to remember that rat studies don’t always parallel what happens in humans, but here’s a description from the page referenced:

      “A 2-year National Toxicology Program (NTP) study on oral consumption of non-decolorized whole leaf extract of aloe vera found clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in male and female rats, based on tumors of the large intestine. According to the NTP, from what is known right now there is nothing that would lead them to believe that these findings are not relevant to humans. However, more information, including how individuals use different types of aloe vera products, is needed to determine the potential risks to humans.”

      https://nccih.nih.gov/health/aloevera

      So it looks like it hasn’t really been studied in humans, but MIGHT be applicable. Just seems a tad risky!

      • Jackie Sue says

        Just wanted to put a follow up comment here that this study applies to WHOLE leaf aloe vera. The NIH unfortunately did a sneaky study of (of course) the bad parts of the plant and not solely on the good part (the inner gel) that is actually known to KILL cancer cells. It’s very very healthy for our body and does just the opposite of what your post suggests which was in reference to the whole leaf studies. Just thought I’d share! As its misinformation for anyone reading your post. Otherwise, I appreciate the acne information. The references you made to the ancient people considering it the immortal plant included their internal consumption of it. :)

  10. Taylor says

    I know that breakouts can form pretty far in advance, and I feel like I have a lot of pores that are inflamed or clogged that will just take some time to clear up while adhering to the Clear Skin Diet. In this transition time, do ya’ll still suggest just water, aloe vera, and argan oil? I’ve been brainwashed to hold fast to exfoliating and toners to help clear out your pores, but it makes sense to me that that’s disruptive to your skin’s natural oil production and healing.

    As these (hopefully) final breakouts do come, what do ya’ll have to say about extractions? Is the best option always just to leave them alone? There’s a spa by where I live that has an all-natural facial that I’ve gotten a few times. Is it good to get a facial every once and a while for extractions?

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Hey Taylor – there are a couple of approaches you can take to getting on a minimalist skin care regimen. You can transition slowly away from your exfoliants, toners, etc., gradually reducing the frequency with which you use them, to try to minimize any breakouts you may get from a quick change. Or, especially if you’re following our program and eating and living in a way that really supports your skin’s health, you may be able to make a more sudden shift without major (temporary) repercussions. Up to you! (And to confirm – no, you don’t need exfoliants and toners to clear out your pores!)

      Extractions – we’ve gone back and forth about these. If you’re doing the diet and lifestyle program thoroughly as described in our book, and if you still have stubborn blackheads that just aren’t resolving after many weeks, then maybe getting them extracted is worth trying. Otherwise, my current thought is that not interfering is better – let your skin take care of itself as much as possible.

    • Sonia Carlson says

      Marisa, some pharmacies or drug stores will have aloe vera gel, though you’d probably have better luck at a natural food store. Also, you can follow the link in the article above to buy it online!

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