People have been using aloe vera products as a part of their health and beauty routines for thousands of years, whether ingesting parts of the plant or applying its gel topically.
In fact, it’s even believed that Cleopatra used aloe vera on her skin! Since then, people from all walks of life have used aloe vera topically as a remedy for skin problems ranging from sunburns to eczema to acne to unexplained redness or inflammation.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is the most prevalent skin condition in the United States, affecting a whopping 50 million people annually. Due to the plant’s healing properties, many use aloe vera for acne relief. Ready-to-use aloe vera gel and aloe plants are easily accessible and cost effective, making it a great choice for people looking for a natural acne remedy.
Does Aloe Vera Help With Acne?
There are several reasons why aloe vera gel for acne can be an effective remedy. According to board-certified dermatologist Kautilya Shaurya MD of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, there is research — although limited — that has found some benefits of using aloe vera to help treat acne.
Here are some of the properties of aloe vera that may contribute to fighting acne that Shaurya broke down for Public Goods.
There are many causes or triggers for acne, and bacteria is one of them. Studies have been conducted that have tested aloe’s bacteria fighting effects, and found that the plant does in fact have antimicrobial/antibacterial effects.
Researchers have found that oxidative stress can be a cause of acne. Oxidative stress occurs when the body has too many free radicals, which can cause damage to otherwise healthy cells. Antioxidants can prevent free radicals from doing damage to cells, and studies have shown that aloe vera does contain antioxidants.
Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory properties. According to Shaurya, this trait is in part due to the presence of plant hormones auxin and gibberellins found in aloe vera, which seem to be the components most directly linked to combatting acne-related inflammation.
Should You Combine Aloe Vera With Traditional Acne Treatment?
There’s also some evidence to suggest that applying aloe in conjunction with a traditional acne treatment can result in greater overall success. A 2014 study showed that using a topical retinoid along with aloe vera for acne made the treatment more effective than relying on the retinoid alone. Nonetheless, the study was small (using 60 people with mild to moderate acne), and more research should be conducted to substantiate the claims further.
Different Ways to Use Aloe Vera for Acne Treatment
There are plenty of DIY aloe vera face masks and skin care creations you can make using aloe vera, as well as pre-made products containing aloe. Here are some ideas.
Aloe, Cinnamon and Honey Mask
For a sweet smelling and effective mask, mix together aloe, cinnamon, and honey. Studies show that cinnamon has acne fighting properties because it can kill acne causing bacteria. Honey also has antibacterial properties, and can also act as a moisturizer in this trio.
How To: Mix honey and aloe vera gel at a 2:1 ratio and then stir in 1/3 teaspoon of cinnamon. Leave the mask on for about 10 minutes.
Aloe, Coconut Oil and Brown Sugar Scrub
If you’re looking to exfoliate your skin while you fight acne, brown sugar is a great exfoliant, especially when mixed with moisturizing aloe vera and nourishing coconut oil. Exfoliating dead skin cells away can help the aloe and coconut oil penetrate the skin more deeply and leave you with softer skin.
How To: Mix two tablespoons of aloe vera gel and two tablespoons coconut oil and then stir in 1/4 cup of brown sugar. The mixture should not be too liquidy. Scrub all over face and neck, then rinse thoroughly.
Aloe, Tea Tree Oil and Jojoba Oil Mask
You can make a powerful aloe vera acne treatment when you combine aloe vera and tea tree oil. In clinical studies, tea tree oil has been proven to be as effective as traditional acne treatment benzoyl peroxide. However, when using essential oils to your skin, you should always use a carrier oil to dilute it and ensure that the oil doesn’t irritate your skin. In this case, jojoba oil is a great carrier oil to use along with the tea tree oil since it is moisturizing, gentle, and also has anti inflammatory properties that can combat redness.
How To: With essential oils, a little goes a long way. Add just a few drops of tea tree oil to a 1:1 mixture of aloe and jojoba oil.
Aloe and Witch Hazel Toner
If you have oily, greasy acne-prone skin, this aloe vera acne treatment is for you. Witch hazel has been used topically for years as a natural toner or astringent. Its properties allow it to dry up acne and tighten pores. Add some aloe vera to the witch hazel to make the toner a little less harsh and more moisturizing to the skin.
How To: Mix equal parts of aloe vera and witch hazel and then use a cotton ball or pad to apply a small amount of toner to your skin. You don’t have to rinse it off unless you experience any discomfort.
Aloe and Lemon Juice Face Mask
Many acne sufferers also deal with acne scars or dark spots leftover from where pimples once were. Lemon juice is used as a natural remedy for both clearing up current breakouts and fading old acne scars. More concrete research on this subject is needed, because most of the evidence we have is anecdotal.
Lemon juice is acidic and can be harsh, so as with the witch hazel, adding aloe will help tone it down.
How To: Mix equal two tablespoons of aloe with 1/2 tablespoon of lemon. To keep it from being acidic, be sparing with the lemon juice. Leave on for about 10 minutes and then rinse thoroughly.
Ready-to-Buy Skincare Products That Include Aloe
Skincare companies recognize the beneficial properties of aloe vera for acne , and there are many products out there that contain aloe as an ingredient. Here are some of fan favorite aloe-containing products:
This is a gentle cleanser that works for all skin types. It’s gentle, fragrance free, and vegan.
This serum is made with various fruit extracts, contains vitamin C, and organic aloe. It also has natural salicylic acid which clears breakouts.
This moisturizer contains both aloe vera and tea tree oil. It’s lightweight, doesn’t clog pores, and helps to calm acne breakouts.
The Glycolic Acid in this toner acts as a chemical exfoliant that can help even out skin tone. Amino acids, ginseng, and aloe nourish the skin.
Can You Use Aloe Vera for Acne Scars?
While aloe does have many benefits, there is very little evidence to prove that reducing acne scars is one of them. San Francisco-based board-certified dermatologist Caren Campbell, MD told Public Goods, “Theoretically, if aloe could help with collagen production, which it has been shown to do in limited studies, yes, but there are far more effective ways to treat acne scars.”
Shaurya agreed that aloe vera is not the best choice for ridding your skin of acne scarring. Instead, look for products and treatments that are designed specifically for acne scars.
Campbell recommended topical retinoids or in-office procedures such as microneedling or laser treatments. She also stressed the importance of wearing sunscreen — not just to prevent sun damage, but in this case, also to prevent acne scars from getting worse.
Can Aloe Vera Cause Acne?
Everyone’s skin is different and reacts to products differently. What works well for one person might backfire for another. Nonetheless, there is a possibility that using aloe vera gel for acne might make you breakout worse.
Campbell said one reason why aloe products could cause acne is if there are other ingredients in the formula that are comedogenic, meaning that it clogs pores. Acne occurs when pores get clogged with oil, dirt and bacteria. According to Campbell, whenever you use a topical product on your skin that may clog your pores, it becomes a breeding ground for acne.
If you aren’t using aloe vera gel fresh from the plant, make sure you pay close attention to the ingredients list of the product you’re using. You’re more likely to have a bad reaction to other ingredients in the formulation than pure aloe.
Remember to Ask the Pros for Help
If your acne is chronic and not responding to any aloe treatment or home remedy, make an appointment with your dermatologist.
“With moderate to severe acne, there is a higher risk of scarring, so in these situations a reliable, prescription medication that has demonstrable results would be preferable,” Shaurya said.
A lot of the time, acne treatment is trial and error. It can take some work and patience to find the products that are the most effective for your skin. But once you find your perfect treatment, it’ll all be worth it.
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