With all that aloe does to help heal and restore the body—and given its extensive history as a natural moisturizer and beauty treatment—it’s no wonder that it’s also one of the most popular ingredients in cosmetics, cosmeceuticals and skin care products on the market today. Skin care manufacturers interested in providing the best products make it a point to include aloe as an ingredient.
Since the times of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, aloe gel has been used in cosmetics. In fact, Cleopatra and Queen Nefertiti both used aloe vera in their beauty regimens, realizing that it kept them looking young. For this reason, the plant is also known as “the fountain of youth.”
Although the cosmetics industry’s use of plant-derived ingredients is as old as cosmetics themselves, in the 1990s interest exploded, as new benefits were discovered, greater standardization and control of raw materials became possible, and formulation techniques were improved.
Today aloe-based cosmetics and skin care items abound. Look on any cosmetic counter anywhere in the world and you’ll see products containing aloe, including body lotions, creams and gels; facial cleansers; bubble baths; sun creams and lotions; shampoos; moisturizers; lipsticks; facial towelettes—and the list goes on. It’s even projected that, thanks to its skin-softening benefits, aloe may soon be found in such products as dishwashing liquids and fabric softeners.
Why do so many products start with aloe vera as their basis? While hundreds of people have reported that, due to its enzyme activity, aloe reduces and eliminates scars, age lines, liver spots, marks and blotches, it’s probably aloe’s ability to accelerate new cell growth and lead to younger-looking skin that makes it such a popular ingredient. Queen Nefertiti and Cleopatra were right! Aloe’s assortment of age-defying and skin-healthy botanical components is amazing.
Just Some of the Benefits of Aloe for Skin
- Aloe vera penetrates deep into the dermis, naturally. The ability of aloe to deeply penetrate helps transport other beneficial ingredients into the skin’s layers.
- Aloe vera helps renew the skin by helping to repair and maintain it.
- Aloe vera gel preserves, nourishes and moisturizes cells, resulting in very soft skin.
- It balances and acts as a natural humectant to provide a radiant glow.
- It protects the skin by supporting the cells’ immune function.
- As an anti-Inflammatory, it helps reduce skin blemishes, soothing the skin and eliminating redness.
- Aloe improves the condition of dry or damaged skin by reducing flakiness and restoring suppleness.
Though similar promises have been made about other natural ingredients, none has the background of millennia of use, testimonial evidence and the scientific proof the ancient aloe vera can boast.
For example, glycerin (a common ingredient found in many cosmetics), like aloe, is used in cosmetics to help hold moisture against the skin and prevent dryness. But the amount contained in a product shouldn’t be more than 20% and despite its many benefits, glycerin isn’t appropriate for everyone.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, people with sensitive skin, atopic dermatitis or eczema shouldn’t use glycerin—especially when combined with rose water—because it can boost dryness. It can also cause allergic reactions.
Some ingredients used in the cosmetics industry, especially man-made chemical ingredients, have been shown to be toxic. It’s estimated that women use an average of 12 of these types of products daily, and men 6. The combined effect of these synthetic ingredients on our world, as well as our bodies, may be increased toxicity.
Aloe’s Benefits Go Deep
The skin has three layers—the epidermis on the surface, then the dermis and finally the subcutaneous tissue. Aloe vera penetrates deep into all three layers, something that very few ingredients can do on their own.
The “Father of Aloe,” Dr. Ivan E. Danhof, professor of clinical pharmacology and physiology, researcher and author of a number of books about aloe, conducted research revealing that aloe vera gel penetrates human skin more than three times faster than water. It’s partially due to this super-penetrating ability that aloe is added to skin cleansers, moisturizers and aftershave creams.
Dr. Danhof’s research also uncovered aloe’s unique ability to boost production of fibroblast cells—up to eight times faster than normal cell production. Found in the dermis of the skin, fibroblasts help create collagen, the skin’s “support protein” responsible for keeping it supple, firm and youthful-looking.
Danhof discovered that the presence of aloe vera not only improved fibroblast cell structure, but it also accelerated collagen production. As a bonus, aloe’s a super-softener and emulsifier too, so it not only penetrates but also moisturizes the skin’s under layers.
Aloe, unlike water, is absorbed deep into the skin’s layers. This is partially due to the presence of lignin, a substance similar to cellulose. Aloe’s amazing ability to penetrate allows it to function as an excellent “carrier” for its own and other moisturizing and inflammation-reducing components used in skincare products
In the marketplace today, skin care products known as cosmeceuticals contain natural active ingredients that have been shown to interact physiologically on the skin and to be beneficial in treating sun-damaged and/or aging skin.
Examples of these ingredients include:
- Alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids (AHAs & BHAs) such as citric acid, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), salicylic acid, lactic acid and glycolic acid, which have been proven to increase skin exfoliation and cell turnover, decrease uneven pigmentation, and help the skin retain moisture.
- Retinol (a vitamin A derivative), which helps reverse the effects of ultraviolet radiation (sun-damage) and stimulates collagen production.
- Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, which help protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation by decreasing the number of free radicals that damage skin cells. Vitamin C is also believed to repair collagen and stimulate its production.
Not only does aloe help these ingredients to do their best work by transporting them deep down into the skin’s layers, but aloe-based skin care products also deep-clean as they tone and moisturize. This four-fold action helps to preserve the skin and minimize the signs of aging.
Aloe vera is Mother Nature’s most powerful skin moisturizer. It naturally collects and retains moisture, and penetrates deeply to give skin a fresh, natural and youthful glow. In fact, a study evaluating the effects of cosmetic formulations containing various concentrations of aloe vera extract on skin hydration using skin bioengineering techniques proved that aloe extract is a natural, effective ingredient for improving skin hydration.
Because it’s good for resolving hair problems, aloe is also an excellent base ingredient in shampoo. Partially due to its weak acidity, aloe can help stop hair loss. Aloe has an average pH value of 6, which is close to the pH of skin (around 5.5). This helps aloe’s nutrients to penetrate the scalp easily, thus revitalizing the hair follicle, strengthening it and promoting regrowth of the hair.
When taken as a juice, aloe helps promote overall skin health and beauty. Its antioxidant properties help protect the body at the cellular level, which helps to promote younger-looking, more beautiful skin, while its other properties work to support pain relief and systemic inflammation.