Washington Post reported: Is Aloe Vera the key to perfect skin?

Dermatologists and other skincare experts speaking to The Washington Post noted that while applying aloe vera to the skin is generally safe, it may not be a solution for every issue.
Washington Post reported Is Aloe Vera the key to perfect skin

Lacy Gill, Assistant Director at the Cosmetology, Aesthetics, and Massage Institute in Houston, remarked, ‘Everyone on TikTok says ‘It’s great for me.’ I just want to say: ‘Yes, maybe it’s good for you. But it doesn’t mean it’s good for everyone else.” Aloe vera has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, but its modern popularity has been boosted by social media. According to market researcher Grand View Research, the global market for aloe vera extract was valued at $1.6 billion in 2018 and was expected to expand with a compound annual growth rate of 7.6% through 2025.

David Leffell, Chief of Dermatologic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology at Yale School of Medicine, noted, ‘Because it’s something that doesn’t require a prescription and is easily grown in the soil, people will want to try it.’ While dermatologists and other skincare experts generally consider aloe vera safe for topical use, it may not be beneficial for everyone. Beyond claims made on social media, there are factors users must consider to achieve desired effects.

What is Aloe Vera?

Aloe vera is a succulent plant native to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, consisting of 96% water. Studies have identified over 75 compounds in the remaining 4%, including polysaccharides, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and seven essential amino acids, as well as anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antiseptic effects. Research suggests many of its benefits stem from polysaccharides found in the clear gel inside aloe vera leaves.

However, Oliver Grundmann, a clinical professor of medicinal chemistry at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy, noted the lack of rigorous clinical studies to determine the precise mechanisms behind aloe vera’s effects. This is partly because aloe vera gel formulations sold as cosmetics do not require FDA approval. Additionally, isolated natural products are often exempt from patentability. Many experts have pointed out that researchers are thus not incentivized to allocate financial resources to understand how aloe vera works.

Is Store-Bought Gel as Good as Gel Extracted from the Plant?

Dermatologists stated that there is no significant risk associated with store-bought gel. However, experts noted that store-bought aloe vera gel lacks standardization. Consumers are not informed about how the gels are sourced or what auxiliary or inactive ingredients they contain.

How to get raw gel?

Missy Gable from the University of California advised selecting a plump and fleshy mature leaf and cutting it close to the base without damaging the roots when extracting gel from an aloe vera leaf. Then, clean the leaf with soap and water. Allison Keeney, assistant director at the University of California’s Los Angeles Mathias Botanical Garden, added that the yellow sap under the leaf’s skin, which has a foul smell, should be drained.

Research shows that aloe vera latex contains anthraquinones, which have strong laxative effects and can be harmful, including promoting phototoxicity. ‘If pure latex gets on your skin, it can be irritating,’ Keeney said. ‘Let the latex drain slowly, or better yet, soak the leaf in water since aloe vera dries out quickly,’ she suggested.

Gable advised placing the leaf flat on a surface with the rounded side up, then cutting thin strips from the edges and removing the spiky tips. Finally, you can use a knife to peel off the outer layers of the leaf. What remains should be a clear or slightly cloudy gelatinous substance. Keeney noted that the gel can be stored in a glass container in the refrigerator for up to a week or frozen for up to a year. Grundmann added that refrigeration is also preferred because glucomannan can break down over time when exposed to sunlight.

Is aloe vera useful for skin care?

Gill stated that aloe vera has anti-inflammatory, exfoliating, and moisturizing effects, making it beneficial for the skin. Specifically, she mentioned that aloe vera gel is useful for treating acne. Gill also added that aloe vera can be used occasionally as a face mask or as part of a daily skincare routine. As a face mask, apply a thick layer of aloe vera gel to clean skin. After waiting 20 minutes or until the mask dries, remove the excess and rinse your face with water instead of a cleanser.

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