Aloe vera is a natural plant that has been used for centuries as a treatment for all sorts of skin-related problems like acne, cuts, burns and minor abrasions. The scientific community has long studied the positive effects of aloe vera on acne and other skin conditions like psoriasis, dandruff, and seborrhea.
People use the plant’s gel as a topical treatment and some even drink aloe vera juice, believing in its properties as an internal cleanser. For the purposes of acne, however, it’s the topical application of aloe that we want to examine.
Using aloe for acne is a smart move for anyone who prefers safe, natural remedies over chemical treatments. There are probably hundreds of reasons to use aloe vera as an acne treatment, but here are just a few of the more popular ones:
- Aloe is a natural substance: It’s not a chemical laboratory creation like so many other acne treatments, which means you can grow it in your backyard or inside your home as a potted plant. The stuff is easy to take care of and grow.
- Aloe vera is inexpensive and easy to find in stores: If you don’t want to grow your own aloe plants, simply buy aloe gel or juice in your local store. It’s sold at most every pharmacy and grocery store in the U.S.
- It has a long history all over the world as a remedy for skin problems of various kinds: Aloe is a tried-and-tested natural remedy. Unlike some of the shadier herbal treatments that lack science, aloe has been around for a very long time and has been used to treat skin conditions for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.
- Unless you are allergic to it, aloe has no negative side effects: Very few people are known to be allergic to aloe. That means just about anyone can use it with no worries.
- Aloe can easily be mixed with other natural substances to make your own skin treatments: This is where the fun comes in for people who like to combine their own, home-made skin and acne remedies with aloe. Some of the popular combinations are discussed below, but millions of consumers mix a bit of aloe gel in with their face scrub or daily skin lotion for an added dose of healing power.
- You can leave aloe gel on your face overnight and rinse it off in the morning: For acne treatment, it’s very common for sufferers to apply an aloe-based gel on the troublesome areas overnight. When you wash it off in the morning, it’s great to see clearer, cleaner skin with reduced signs of acne pimples and scars.
- Aloe doesn’t have a strong odor or leave staining on your skin or clothes: Unlike numerous other natural products, aloe doesn’t have a pungent odor or irritating sting. It won’t stain your clothing and doesn’t leave discoloration on the skin after use. (Don’t worry if aloe appears to stain clothing. It’s not permanent and will typically come out after just one wash cycle).
Those are the key reasons to use aloe for acne, but the question remains: what does aloe vera do to your skin that makes the substance so effective as a treatment for acne? Here is the answer:
How Does Aloe Vera Impact Your Acne?
First, a little history: The aloe vera plant most likely came from Northern African thousands of years ago and spread around the world because of its popularity as a natural healer for the skin. It was probably also used in ancient medicines too.
Nowadays, the plant, officially known as a “succulent,” shows up in hundreds of products like sunscreens, facial washes, beauty soaps, moisturizers, and more. We know from written history that the ancient citizens of Rome and Greece used aloe to reduce inflammation and as a remedy for cuts and abrasions. Some legends point out that Cleopatra applied aloe vera gel to her skin every day.
How does aloe work as an acne remedy? The plant’s gel works seven different ways to fight against acne. Aloe can actually heal acne-related pimples and even help diminish the scars that result. What are the plant’s properties that make this possible? Here is how aloe wages war on acne:
- Aloe vera gel is a natural anti-bacterial substance. That means it can be directly applied to the skin, kill acne-causing bacteria, and help lessen the associated redness that seems to follow acne around like a shadow.
- Aloe gel contains a significant dose of magnesium lactate. This natural chemical is an itch-reducer, sunburn treatment, and rash remedy. Getting rid of the constant itching associated with chronic acne is a big step because it removes the urge to scratch. When you don’t scratch, you won’t be making acne worse. Plus, aloe’s magnesium lactate is able to take the sting away from painful acne pimples.
- Aloe is well-known as a natural astringent. Many people, even those who don’t have acne, use it for this reason alone. But for acne sufferers, there’s good news here. The gel’s astringent power can pull dirt and other impurities (like oil) out of the skin, thus helping to avoid a breakout. Pimples that are already inflamed, as well as cysts the sometimes arrive with an acne breakout, can be significantly reduced by the astringent properties of aloe vera.
- Aloe also contains a chemical called “anthraquinone.” It’s hard to pronounce but does a bang-up job on the acne-scarred skin by diminishing scars and helping the skin cells to regenerate. This leads to healthy restoration of the skin and causes an invigorated, glowing look. What many people do not know is that anthraquinone is one of the key ingredients in aloe that can get rid of scars and make the skin look great again.
- One of the interesting characteristics of aloe is its ability to lighten the skin and thus make smaller scars and acne blemishes appear to “vanish.” Just by reducing pigmentation of the skin, aloe works as an effective acne treatment.
- Another ingredient of aloe is a chemical compound called “saponin.” This family of substances (one of which we know by the name “polysaccharide”) is one of the most powerful acne-fighting components of aloe. It not only kills skin viruses and bacteria that lead directly to acne but works to unclog the skin’s pores. That means a significant reduction in whiteheads and blackheads. Aloe’s generous dose of natural salicylic acid is responsible for that little trick. Finally, aloe’s saponins and salicylic acid are capable of re-setting the skin’s pH to normal levels.
- When we apply aloe to the skin, it causes the pores to shrink and tighten. That helps keep out all sorts of impurities like bacteria-laden dirt and grime. Fewer germs are able to enter the skin when the pores are closed and/or tight.
There is strong scientific evidence for all the acne-related properties of aloe vera. One study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology discussed the plant’s history and the science behind its incredible healing properties.
How Do You Use Aloe Vera for Acne?
There are endless ways to use aloe for acne. You can make your own topical creams, lotions, scrubs, and even combine aloe with dozens of other natural products for an added acne-fighting boost. Here are some of the most popular and effective ways to treat acne with aloe vera:
Pure Aloe Vera
This is the purist’s remedy. It consists of aloe gel and nothing else. Because aloe is a known anti-oxidant, as well as an anti-inflammatory agent and antibacterial substance, you can use it full strength on your skin as a strong acne fighter. The best part about using pure aloe gel for spot-treatments or on your entire face is that you can leave it on all night. Just be sure to rinse it off in the morning. Repeated nightly use of pure aloe has worked wonders for many people who suffer from chronic acne. The gel’s anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce swelling, and the other natural ingredients in aloe work to kill bacterial and alleviate soreness.
Aloe Vera With Honey and Cinnamon
Aloe vera, cinnamon, and honey have all earned their reputation as acne fighters. That’s because they’re all able to kill bacteria that can lead to this serious skin condition. For a triple-whammy mask that smells great and works like a charm at fighting acne bacteria, combine 4 tablespoons of your favorite organic honey with 2 tablespoons of aloe gel. Toss in about one-half tablespoon of organic ground cinnamon and mix well. You’ll want to end up with a mask that is pretty thick and easy to apply. If it’s too watery just add a little more honey. Apply to your acne problem areas or to the entire face and leave on for about 7-12 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry.
Aloe Vera With coconut oil and sugar as a scrub
This one really packs a punch in the fight against acne. Combine about one-third cup of coconut oil, cane sugar, and aloe gel together and mix them well. You can store the scrub in your refrigerator and use it daily. Be careful to avoid the eye zone. Apply the scrub to your face and rinse completely after a minute or so. Coconut oil is also an anti-bacterial so you’re getting a double dose of healing. The sugar works as an exfoliant to remove dead skin cells and open the pores to the healing power of aloe and coconut oil.
Aloe Vera As a stand-alone spray
Simply combine 3 parts water to 1 part aloe gel and shake well inside a plastic mister bottle. Cover your eyes and spray the solution directly onto your face for a quick anti-bacterial shot of acne-fighting awesomeness.
Aloe Vera With lemon as a mask
Citrus fruit juices have been used as acne remedies too. Combining aloe gel with lemon juice (10 parts aloe to 1 part lemon) makes a solution that you can apply to your face and leave on for about 10 minutes. Be sure to rinse clean, and mix the solution properly because too much lemon can irritate the skin. This mask can help kill bacteria and cleanse the pores efficiently and effectively.
Aloe Vera With tea tree oil
You can simply add a couple drops of tea tree oil (a natural anti-bacterial with a long history of its own as an acne-fighter) and a tablespoon of purified water to your aloe gel and apply to the face. Be careful, though, because you can’t leave tea tree oil on your skin for more than a minute or so. Make sure you rinse this combination remedy off after one minute.
Aloe Vera With baby oil
Because baby oil contains vitamin E, it has the ability to hydrate the skin naturally, as well as heal and nourish it. By adding just one or two drops of baby oil to a teaspoon of aloe gel, you can make a cream that works to soothe and help heal acne. Leave it on for about an hour before rinsing clean with warm water.
Aloe Vera With apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains large amounts of malic acid. In addition to acting as an astringent, the malic acid works to exfoliate all those dead skin cells away, help return the correct pH level, and kill any bacteria present on the skin. Mix a tablespoon of aloe gel with a one-half teaspoon, each, of purified water and apple cider vinegar. Apply the resulting mixture to your face with a swab or cotton ball. Give it about 20 minutes to dry and wash clean. Note: You might want to skip this treatment if your skin is very sensitive. Apple cider vinegar has the ability to cause skin irritation in some cases.
Consumers who wish to understand the causes and standard treatments for acne, including the use of aloe vera and other natural remedies, can use the Mayo Clinic’s acne resource
as a starting point. Mayo’s discussion offers an overview of acne, points out common symptoms and suggests when it might be time to see a doctor for severe cases.