Aloe Vera

EWG Score: 1-3What is EWG?

Aloe Vera is a plant famously known for its hydration and moisture properties, and has been cultivated from the distant past to this day for both agricultural and medicinal uses.  The plant itself can is described as ‘succulent’, lending to its many leaves that are much more thicker and fleshy than the average plant.  When the leaf itself is opened, a near-transparent gel-like interior is revealed; this is the portion most often used a wide array of products including beverages, yogurts, skin lotions, and ointments (after appropriate processing, of course).

Aloe Vera is said to be excellent for its hydration and moisture-infusing properties.  Another word that is often associated with Aloe Vera is ‘cooling’, a sensation caused by moisture-retaining properties found in the gel itself (sterols, polysaccharides) in combination with the water found in that same gel.

Ingredient Safety

Because knowing what goes into your skin is important.

Aloe Vera has been generally deemed as safe in supplements and skincare products, so long as they have been ‘decolorized’.  This plant continues to be a key ingredient in countless product offerings all over the world, going far beyond skincare.

EWG: 1-3 (Low to Moderate Hazard, Depending on Processing)
With over 350 different products listed by EWG, and an immensely larger number available out in the general public, products with Aloe Vera is not at all uncommon.  With EWG alone, over 100 different products have been noted as some form of moisturizer for the skin.

Aloe Vera is relatively unique in that despite the range in potential scoring, many of the skincare products available score a 1 or 2, lowest hazard range, upon review.  In general, in order for products to obtain a low hazard score for this ingredient, the Aloe Vera must be processed in a particular way to remove certain ingredients (aloin), in a process known as decolorization.
You can view EWG’s Aloe Vera entry here.

US FDA:  Reviewed and approved as a food additive.  The NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has also noted that Aloe Vera, used topically (on skin), is likely to be safe, in addition to a degree of evidence which supports assistance and treatment of certain conditions such as psoriasis and rashes.
Read more at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Website.

Author’s Note:  The majority of literature that denotes Aloe Vera risk is specific to non-decolorized Aloe Vera; for products that follow this processing, the risks are considered minimal in most regards.  To support this statement, California’s Proposition 65, a very strict state-operated standard designed to protect its citizens from potential cancer-causing substances, specifically noted only the non-decolorized version/form of Aloe Vera.
Read Allure’s article “Why Aloe Vera is Controversial Right Now, According to Experts”
Visit the California Office of Environmental Health Assessment (OEHHA) Website

Effect Types

Categorization of what the effects of Aloe Vera may be when used on the skin

Heat Relieving: The high water content naturally found in Aloe Vera, along with the other compounds that prevents it from evaporating, offers noticeable heat-relieving properties.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “application of aloe gel appears to shorten the duration of wound healing for first- and second-degree burns.”

Hydrating: Similar to the above heat-relieving effect, the high water content in addition with the other compounds such as sterols and polysaccharides can help hydrate dry skin.  Do note that aloe itself is not an emollient, and that you should follow up any aloe-heavy application with a moisturizer to help keep the moisture sealed in.

Acne Management:  Aloe Vera is considered to hold antimicrobial properties, and studies have shown that when used in combination with tretinoin, a direct topical medication meant to treat acne, that the outcome may be better used together compared to the topical medication alone.  Other anecdotal sources have noted visible improvements with their acne using Aloe Vera alone.

References and Further Reading:
Proposition 65 List – California Office of Environmental Health Assessment (OEHHA)
Aloe Vera | NCCIH (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
ALOE BARBADENSIS (ALOE VERA) || Skin Deep Cosmetics Database | EWG
Aloe: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warnings – WebMD
Aloe – Mayo Clinic

Recommended products with Aloe Vera