Aloe Vera

A lush supply of nutrients from nature's skin soother

Credits: casellesingold on
Edited By:
Raja Sivamani , MD, MS, AP

 What Is Aloe Vera?

Aloe vera comes from the leaves of the Aloe barbadensis plant, which is a cactus-like succulent that commonly grows in tropical parts of the world. Aloe vera has been used for thousands of years, and has historically been used to soothe various skin conditions, and has even been used as a laxative. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed all aloe vera laxative products from the market in 2002 due to lack of safety data.

Aloe vera contains a lush supply of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids, making it an attractive compound for use in skin care products.[1]

 Leaves of Aloe Vera in a Star PatternCari Corbet-Owen on Unsplash

What Does Aloe Vera Do?

In personal care products, aloe vera is used to produce a clear gel.  Aloe vera gel is primarily used topically on the skin to soothe sunburns, psoriasis, wounds, and to treat certain rashes.[2] 

  • Psoriasis – there is some evidence that topical aloe vera can help psoriasis.[3]
  • Diaper rash – evidence shows aloe vera may help treat diaper dermatitis.[4]
  • Sunburns – scientific evidence does not support the use of aloe vera to improve sunburns.[5]
  • Moisturizer – aloe vera used in skin care products improves skin hydration.[6]
  • Wound healing – aloe vera has been used with wound care dressings for acute and chronic wounds.[1,7]


Potential Side Effects of Aloe Vera?

  • Aloe vera used topically is likely to be safe
  • Based on a study in rats, oral consumption of nondecolorized aloe vera extract may have potential to induce cancerous activity in the intestines.[8] Researchers believe a compound called aloin in aloe vera is responsible for the tumor-causing effects.[9]
  • Abdominal cramps and diarrhea when taken orally
  • Aloe vera may lower blood sugar levels and should be used cautiously in people with diabetes.


The Aloe Vera Sunburn Myth

It is a popular belief that aloe vera can help heal sunburns after a long day out in the sun. However, once a sunburn has occurred, the damage cannot be reversed, and your skin will heal and regenerate on its own over time. Aloe vera gel and moisturizers containing aloe vera can help create a soothing effect and can be used to help sunburns feel less painful. 


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  1. Moriyama M, Moriyama H, Uda J, et al. Beneficial Effects of the Genus Aloe on Wound Healing, Cell Proliferation, and Differentiation of Epidermal Keratinocytes. PLoS One.2016;11(10):e0164799; PMID: 27736988 Link to research.
  2. Aloe Vera. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health;2016.
  3. Farahnik B, Sharma D, Alban J, et al. Topical Botanical Agents for the Treatment of Psoriasis: A Systematic Review. Am J Clin Dermatol.2017;18(4):451-468; PMID: 28289986 Link to research.
  4. Panahi Y, Sharif MR, Sharif A, et al. A randomized comparative trial on the therapeutic efficacy of topical aloe vera and Calendula officinalis on diaper dermatitis in children. ScientificWorldJournal.2012;2012:810234; PMID: 22606064 Link to research.
  5. Feily A, Namazi MR. Aloe vera in dermatology: a brief review. G Ital Dermatol Venereol.2009;144(1):85-91; PMID: 19218914 Link to research.
  6. Dal'Belo SE, Gaspar LR, Maia Campos PM. Moisturizing effect of cosmetic formulations containing Aloe vera extract in different concentrations assessed by skin bioengineering techniques. Skin Res Technol.2006;12(4):241-246; PMID: 17026654 Link to research.
  7. Dat AD, Poon F, Pham KB, et al. Aloe vera for treating acute and chronic wounds. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2012;10.1002/14651858.CD008762.pub2(2):CD008762; PMID: 22336851 Link to research.
  8. Boudreau MD, Mellick PW, Olson GR, et al. Clear evidence of carcinogenic activity by a whole-leaf extract of Aloe barbadensis miller (aloe vera) in F344/N rats. Toxicol Sci.2013;131(1):26-39; PMID: 22968693 Link to research.
  9. Shao A, Broadmeadow A, Goddard G, et al. Safety of purified decolorized (low anthraquinone) whole leaf Aloe vera (L) Burm. f. juice in a 3-month drinking water toxicity study in F344 rats. Food Chem Toxicol.2013;57:21-31; PMID: 23500775 Link to research.
  10. Jin-Fen P, Rong-gen L, Li M. A review of heavy metal absorption by marine algae. Chinese Journal of Oceanology and Limnology.1999;18(3):260-264; PMID: