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:

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]

Got stubborn acne?Get help →

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

About Devin Mooers

Devin MooersHey! Over the past 10 years, I've developed a powerful system for clearing acne with a little-known diet- and lifestyle-based method, and I want to spread the love. That's why I started Clear Skin Forever back in 2011. I studied engineering and product design at Stanford University, and graduated in the top 5% of my class, but afterward, I decided to focus on writing about health, since I found it so fulfilling to help people clear their acne for good. Thanks for reading, and sign up for email updates to stay in the loop with clear skin tips! Also, be sure to check out our book if you haven't yet, all about how to fix acne permanently with diet and lifestyle changes. We've helped thousands of people get clear skin this way!

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 ^
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{ 48 Comments }

  1. Sam says

    Hi Devin,

    How low PUFA diets do you recommend? Do you think you can get all the PUFAs you need from eating beans, whole grains and whole milk? I have always felt terrible every time I have eaten seeds, fish oil and other EFA supplements.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Sam! Yeah, definitely. Very low PUFA is good. It’s all about quality and freshness with PUFA – most fish oils, seeds, supplements, etc. are totally rancid by the time you ingest them. Yes, the Inuit traditionally eat tons of seal blubber (high in PUFA), but it’s extremely fresh and non-oxidized when ingested, and they also eat thyroid glands of seals, which provides loads of iodine and thyroid hormone to block lipid peroxidation of that PUFA.

      How do you feel with raw oysters, have you tried that? They’re a prime acne-busting food, with lots of zinc and also super-fresh DHA.

  2. Brooke Turley says

    Ok, you’re officially talking crappy science, in light of this article about marigolds and chickens. Apparently it very much does indeed improve eggs to have marigolds in the chickens’ diets.

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/scialert.net/fulltext/amp.php%3fdoi=ijps.2017.11.15

    I certainly hope that no one has gone and altered either their own diet or that of their poultry, just because of your half-baked scare tactics. Good grief. “ Fake orange” in nature, indeed.

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Brooke! Wow, color me (majorly) wrong. Thanks for pointing this out! That was really sloppy – I don’t know what I thought that marigold color would not be related to an antioxidant carotene. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. I’m sorry about this carelessness – I have removed this from the post after following up on the articles you linked! I will try to be more careful next time.

  3. Brooke Turley says

    Hi, I hate to burst your anti-marigold bubble, but the thing is, marigolds are orange themselves due to caratenoids! They’re full of nutrients, actually, and there’s no such thing as “fake orange” in nature.

    (Unless I count the time that my dad consumed massive quantities of beta-carotene in his heroic search for a natural “fake tan”. That time, “fake orange” definitely fit the bill.)

    Here’s an article that details the nutritional profile of marigolds:

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464612000734

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Brooke! (Just duplicating the response here to your other comment) Wow, color me (majorly) wrong. Thanks for pointing this out! That was really sloppy – I don’t know what I thought that marigold color would not be related to an antioxidant carotene. Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. I’m sorry about this carelessness – I have removed this from the post after following up on the articles you linked! I will try to be more careful next time.

  4. tom hennessy says

    Researchers in a recent study took 60 women with hyperandrogenemia which has cystic acne as a major symptom, and reduced the iron in 30 by phlebotomy, and gave the ‘standard of care’ to the other 30, found, phlebotomy to reduce iron levels was as effective as the drugs used in the ‘standard of care’.

    Effect of phlebotomy versus oral contraceptives containing cyproterone acetate on the clinical and biochemical parameters in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. J Ovarian Res 12, 78 (2019).

    https://doi.org/10.1186/s13048-019-0554-9

    There seems to be more to the iron than we fully realize ..

    • Devin Mooers says

      Hey Tom – whoa, that’s fascinating! Great find! Amazing that phlebotomy brought on normal menstruation in 44% of subjects – I bet if they also added 3,000 IU of retinol, it would have improved results even more (vit. A boosts ceruloplasmin production to bind excess free iron).

  5. Luo says

    Stress can induce a series of negative effects on the human body. Many people are easily depressed under pressure, which has a bad influence on the treatment of acne.
    Some people overeating under pressure, too much sugar can easily induce acne.
    And stress can make people unable to sleep, and lack of sleep has too much effect on the skin.

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Master your acne in 4 weeks or less
  • Fix the root causes of your acne: fluoride, diet, sleep, stress & more
  • Exclusive forum access with 4,000+ members
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