Can aloe vera treat acne?
Actually, yes. “In Ayurvedic medicine, aloe is often used to treat inflammatory skin conditions, like psoriasis, acne and eczema,” says Lauren Fine, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Chicago Cosmetic Surgery and Dermatology.
The aloe vera plant actually is filled with natural ingredients that make it so good at treating acne. The plant hormones auxin and gibberellins, for example, promote growth and play a role in the wound-healing response, says Fine. “It can help reduce redness in skin,” she says, while helping a bit with any acne-related inflammation.
It also has polyphenols and other antioxidants that may have some anti-bacterial perks, which will help fight against acne-producing bacteria, says Fine.
One thing aloe vera can’t do: fade acne scars. “Since post-acne scarring is not an active inflammatory process, [aloe vera] is probably less useful,” says Fine. So it might help make your pimples look less red and angry in the moment, but it’s not as useful for the more lingering effects of acne once the blemish itself is gone.
How to use aloe vera at home
When it comes to using aloe vera for acne, Fine says it’s pretty easy to incorporate it into your skincare routine. “Aloe vera gel can be used like a face mask a few times a week as part of an acne or anti-redness treatment regimen and can safely be used in conjunction with other products,” she says. Just don’t forget to do a spot-test on your inner arm to make sure your skin doesn’t freak out before slathering it all over your face.
Fine recommends keeping your aloe vera in the fridge so that it lasts longer and is even better at calming your skin (you’re literally chilling out your acne).
In general, though, Fine recommends always opting for fresh aloe vera from a plant rather than the packaged gel you buy at the store. “It’s hard to tell the concentration of aloe vera in store-bought products,” says Fine. (In fact, Bloomberg found in 2016 that several stores sold “aloe vera” products that didn’t have any aloe vera in them!)
In case you don’t have a green thumb (or any space/time to just start casually growing aloe vera at home), check out the ingredients list on any aloe vera product you’re thinking of buy. If aloe vera is among the first few ingredients on the list, you’ll know that the product is mostly made with aloe.