12 Aloe Vera Uses You Might Not Know
Crack open the plant's thick leaves to reveal a jelly filled with vitamins and anti-inflammatory properties that can do everything from treat insect bites to condition your hair.
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Who knew aloe vera could be so handy?
Succulents—cute plants named for their ability to retain water—are having a moment right now. One of the most popular is aloe vera, an evergreen perennial known for the healing properties of its gel. The plant originates from the Arabian Peninsula but it’s hardy enough to grow almost anywhere in the world, making it a cheap and convenient addition to any household. (You can get one here.) Not to mention its beautiful leaves and bright color. From skin to teeth to bowels, you’ll be amazed at all these aloe vera uses.
Treat insect bites
Covered in itchy, bumpy mosquito bites after a summer night? Rub aloe vera gel or juice—from the plant or a bottle from the drugstore—on the bites. Its anti-inflammatory properties could relieve the itch, keep you from scratching, and ease swelling, according to Debra Jaliman, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai hospital and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top NYC Dermatologist. It can also be used as a natural remedy for poison ivy. Check out these other natural remedies for mosquito bite relief.
Aloe vera gel used on your teeth may help reduce tooth sensitivity, whiten teeth, and prevent cavities, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy and BioAllied Sciences. The researchers found that aloe vera tooth gel was more effective than two commercially popular toothpastes in controlling cavity-causing germs, including strep and e.coli. Yes, e.coli is the bacteria found in poop, and, yes, it is very common to get it on your toothbrush.
Settle an upset stomach
Drinking aloe vera juice led to a significant reduction in symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, including constipation, diarrhea, bloating, pain, and nausea, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility. Aloe vera juice has a strong laxative effect and improves gastrointestinal motility, reducing stomach issues, they noted. Best part? No adverse side effects reported.
Makeup can be fun to put on but the party ends when it comes time to remove it. Harsh chemicals can leave you red-eyed and sore but many “natural” recipes don’t work. However, if you’re looking for an effective natural makeup remover that’s cheap and won’t irritate skin, aloe vera mixed with a little oil can break up makeup while cleansing and rejuvenating skin, Dr. Jaliman says.
Rub aloe vera gel on a full blister—it’ll make the redness and swelling go down, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, Dr. Jaliman says. Applying it to the skin may also help it heal faster and keep you more comfortable in the process. You’ll want to memorize these other 18 home remedies that actually work.
Slathering the soothing gel on sunburned skin might be one of the most famous uses of aloe vera. Other traditional moisturizers containing petrolatum, lidocaine, or benzocaine trap heat, making your burn worst—but not so with aloe vera, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Its cooling properties will soothe the burn, and its moisturizing powers will prevent peeling and speed up healing, Dr. Jaliman says.
Moisturize and brighten skin
Aloe vera is a great moisturizer for the whole body, but it’s especially pleasant on your face because it doesn’t leave skin feeling greasy, Dr. Jaliman says. It can also improve skin texture and evenness. But be careful not to overuse it—it’s also a natural exfoliator, so using it too often could actually irritate your skin and make it look drier.
Aloe vera uses go beyond your skin. In fact, instead of your regular conditioner, squeeze some aloe vera gel into your hands and massage it into your hair. Let it sit for about five minutes before rinsing and your hair will be naturally soft, smooth, and shiny. Aloe vera helps add moisture and nutrients to your hair, plus promote growth, says Lucy Garcia Planck, senior hairstylist at the John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman.
Since aloe vera is incredibly hydrating, it makes a great natural alternative to traditional shaving gels. Razors glide smoothly, cutting back on razor burn or nicks, and as an added bonus the aloe vera’s natural moisturizing properties also prevent skin from drying out, Dr. Jaliman says.
Sounds almost too good to be true, but aloe vera can help you get rid of breakouts. It banishes inflammation to reduce redness, while its antibacterial properties fight the bacteria that gave you acne in the first places, Dr. Jaliman says. Try it as a face mask, she suggests, spot-testing on another area first in case your skin is sensitive to the gel. Check out these other 10 healing benefits of aloe vera.
Get rid of dandruff
Instead of shelling out for special dandruff shampoo, dig aloe vera gel out of your medicine cabinet, Planck says. A review of medicinal aloe vera uses found that the plant shows promise in easing seborrheic dermatitis—a common condition that causes dandruff. Squeeze the gel out and massage it into your scalp with your fingertips or look for a shampoo that incorporates aloe vera, she says.
Ease a burn
Sun damage isn’t the only type of burn that this miracle gel can heal, Dr. Jalisman says. A 2019 meta-analysis of 23 studies on aloe vera found that the gel can provide some pain relief and speed healing of first- or second-degree burns. Next, check out these other 53 old-time home remedies that need to make a comeback.
- Journal of Pharmacy and BioAllied Sciences: “Benefits of Aloe vera in dentistry”
- Lucy Garcia Planck, senior hairstylist at the John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman
- Debra Jaliman, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai hospital and author of Skin Rules: Trade Secrets From a Top NYC Dermatologist.
- American Academy of Dermatology: “How to Treat a Sunburn”
- Europe PMC: “Aloe vera in dermatology: a brief review”
- Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences: “The Effect of Aloe Vera Clinical Trials on Prevention and Healing of Skin Wound: A Systematic Review”
- Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility: “Aloe vera Is Effective and Safe in Short-term Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis”