The powerful plant can be used for many different purposes, besides the obvious.

By Melanie Rud and Maddy Sims
June 29, 2021
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You likely already know that aloe vera is a great ingredient for your skin, but we're willing to bet that you likely only think of it in the context of being a top-notch sunburn soother. (We certainly did, until recently.) But make no mistake about it, aloe is no one-trick pony. The natural ingredient can do all kinds of great things for your skin and hair. From using aloe vera for hair growth to an aloe vera face mask, dermatologists share how to use the aloe vera plant and some different ways to incorporate the green plant hero into your skincare routine. 

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1 Hair growth

If your tresses are in serious need of some hydration, Mona Gohara, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City, says that aloe vera can be a good option. "Some of the proteins, minerals, and amino acids may act as a good hair conditioner," she says. "Leaving it in may also decrease inflammation in the scalp and help with hair loss." Gohara recommends using it a day or two after getting hair colored to repair any damage done to your mane. Be sure to wash thoroughly after using it to make sure there's no buildup left behind.

2 Post-injury treatment

There's good reason why aloe vera gel is a go-to when you accidentally get too much sun. "Aloe vera has an abundance of benefits, including being highly anti-inflammatory, innately cooling, and helping the skin retain moisture," says Annie Gonzalez, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Miami. So yes, while  it can be a total life-saver if you're sunburned, all of those properties mean it's also ideal for dabbing onto any kind of burn, bite, rash, cut, you name it. Along with those aforementioned benefits, it's hugely helpful for speeding up the wound healing process, too. "Aloe vera has been shown to decrease a chemical called thromboxane, which is known to slow down wound healing," explains Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. And, as an added benefit, it also contains magnesium lactate, a chemical that can decrease itching and irritation, she points out. She recommends dabbing on pure aloe vera once or twice per day for two weeks after any kind of skin injury.

3 Spot treatment

We know what you're thinking…aloe as an acne treatment? Yep. "Aloe's natural antimicrobial properties can treat pimples without damaging the skin," explains Dr. Gonzalez. But the blemish-busting benefits don't stop there. She adds that it's a natural source of salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that helps dissolve excess oil and unclog pores (and is a very common ingredient in all kinds of over-the-counter acne treatments). And as if all of that weren't enough, let's not forget that those anti-inflammatory effects are great for helping to calm swollen pimples, Dr. Gonzalez says. Again, opt for pure aloe; dab it on, just like you would any spot treatment, onto blemishes and leave on overnight.

4 Base of a DIY body scrub

Because aloe is so naturally moisturizing and soothing, it makes the perfect base for a DIY body exfoliant. Dr. Gonzalez suggests combining 2 teaspoons of aloe vera gel with 1 teaspoon of baking soda and letting it sit on the skin for up to 10 minutes. Or combine it with some raw sugar (use as much as is needed to achieve a texture with your preferred level of graininess) to help buff away dead skin. Either way, you're also getting a little bit of chemical exfoliation from the salicylic acid in the aloe, says Dr. Gonzalez.

5 Anti-aging face mask

"Studies have shown that aloe vera increases growth factors for fibroblasts—the cells that make collagen," says Dr. Nazarian, who goes on to say that this is potentially the reason why aloe is so effective at healing wounds and scars. (Remember, more collagen equals fewer wrinkles.) Dr. Gonzalez adds that aloe is also a rich source of vitamins E and C; both are powerful antioxidants, and vitamin C also helps boost collagen production. Couple that with the fact that, unlike so many effective anti-aging ingredients (ahem, retinol, we're looking at you), aloe vera is extremely well-tolerated and very unlikely to cause any kind of irritation or allergic reaction, says Dr. Nazarian, so much so that it's even often recommended for those with skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis. There are plenty of anti-aging moisturizers and serums that contain aloe vera, but Dr. Nazarian suggests using pure aloe whenever possible, so that you can be certain of the purity and concentration you're getting. Use it in lieu of moisturizer, or in tandem with any more potent anti-aging products.

6 Makeup remover

Got leftover mascara from yesterday on your face? Try out aloe vera gel as a gentle way to clean it off for good. The gel will lift away stubborn makeup and hydrate your skin in the process. 

7 All-natural brow gel

For a natural DIY eyebrow product, try swiping some aloe gel onto your brows with a clean mascara wand. The gel is gentle and will give you a flexible hold, but it will make sure that your hairs stay in place. Since aloe vera gel is super hydrating and conditioning, your brows will be extra soft and feathery after you use it.