How to Use Aloe: 11 Benefits for Skincare, Digestion, and More

Susan Bowerman
M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., C.S.O.W.M., F.A.N.D., Sr. Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

Laura Chacon-Garbato
Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training, and Chairwoman of the Outer Nutrition Advisory Board

Aloe vera is a popular ingredient common in many products. Whether you visit a grocery store or a beauty shop, you’ll likely come across aloe in one form or another: as a juice, in beverages, as a supplement, as well as in ointments, facial cleansers, or sunscreen.

Widely known as a “miracle” plant, aloe vera can be used in many ways. In this guide, we’ll go over the basics of aloe, what you need to know about its versatility, as well as its benefits depending on type and use.

We collaborated with our experts and Global Product Science & Safety teams to share the latest research and practical uses of aloe for everyday consumers.

What Is Aloe and Why Is It So Popular?

Aloe is a genus containing more than 550 species of succulent plants. In today’s vernacular, aloe commonly refers to Aloe vera, the scientific name of a specific tropical succulent plant originating in the Arabian Peninsula thousands of years ago.

Widely known as “true” aloe due to its many uses, aloe vera is a member of the Asphodelaceae Juss family. For centuries, people have cultivated the plant for its beauty and many benefits. Grown around the world, aloe can be found in gardens, in the wild, or even potted on a windowsill.

As a tropical succulent, the plant can survive in hot temperatures with little water, thus storing large amounts of fluid as a gel in the central part of each leaf or fillet.

The leaves are crushed, ground, or pressed to release the gel, which is then filtered and processed to obtain different forms of aloe to be used for food or cosmetic products.

How Is aloe vera gel used?

According to our Global Product Science and Safety team, aloe vera gel can serve many unique purposes depending on how it is processed.

On one hand, many companies use the gel to develop cosmetics and skincare products for external use. Others use the gel for producing refreshing drinks, juices, dietary supplements, and powders safe for consumption. You’ll find aloe incorporated into beverages and teas to support digestion and bowel health.

As a natural ingredient, the final composition of aloe vera may vary depending on the crop and growing factors, as well as manufacturing processes.

Why do companies use aloe for skincare?

Why do companies use aloe for food and supplements?

A Brief History of Aloe Vera Usage

Aloe vera has a long history of use in botanical medicine throughout the world. Evidence of aloe’s medicinal use dates back more than 4,000 years:

aloe facial mask

6 Benefits of Aloe Gel for Skincare

Aloe vera gel, both as a topical gel and as an ingredient in skincare products, is useful for hydrating and cooling the skin, keeping it soft and supple.

Here are a few benefits of aloe gel for skincare

1. It can help reduce and prevent skin flare-ups.

Aloe vera is a very gentle ingredient that also has natural antimicrobial properties. Using it to reduce and prevent mild to moderate flare-ups in combination with traditional anti-acne medication can be a great option for people with skin sensitivities.

2. It moisturizes the whole body.

The benefit of using aloe vera is that it is water-dense, so it’s a great ingredient to use in skincare products for dry, itchy skin. It keeps the skin hydrated and smooth.

3. It cools and hydrates the skin.

Suppose you’ve ever had a minor burn from either a sunburn, cooking, or using a styling tool. You know that the first thing you want to do is apply something cool. Aloe vera gel can help create a better barrier while hydrating and cooling the skin. A great tip is to keep it in a gel form in the refrigerator for that extra cooling sensation.

4. It’s a great ingredient for DIY masks.

Because of its light and versatile texture, you can use aloe vera gel to create your own hair masks, in addition to hydrating face masks which can cool flare-ups. Aloe vera is full of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, enzymes, and minerals that are beneficial to support skin health.

5. It’s gentle for a relaxing facial.

Facials can help restore parched-looking skin and help you feel refreshed. Getting a facial with aloe gel can leave your skin softer, smoother, and with a radiant glow.

6. It hydrates over-styled tresses.

Especially during the summer months, our hair tends to get a little drier. Aloe vera is a great ingredient to use on the hair. Look for products that have a non-drying formula and consist of silkening, moisturizing ingredients like aloe vera. It will leave your scalp feeling refreshed and your locks looking great.

Aloe vera juice

5 Benefits of Consumable Aloe for Health and Wellness

When aloe gel is extracted, processed, and manufactured in a safe-to-consume, ingestible form, you may come across products such as aloe juice drinks or concentrated capsules of powdered aloe.

Many people take aloe vera juice as a supplement, and here are a few reasons why:

1. Aloe vera supports healthy digestion.

When consumed as a tonic for the digestive system, aloe juice can be used to soothe the stomach. In one independent trial*, aloe vera juice consumption was found to help relieve intestinal discomfort and inflammation. Other independent studies* suggest aloe may reduce gastric acid production.

2. It supports nutrient absorption.

As food makes its way through the 20-plus feet of the digestive tract, nutrients – including vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, carbohydrates – and water are absorbed from the intestines into the bloodstream so they can be utilized by the body. These nutrients provide structure to the body – allowing us to grow and repair tissue – and provide energy for everyday activities.

In one independent study*, researchers tested the effects of aloe vera gel and whole leaf extract and the effect of these liquid preparations on the absorption and subsequent blood plasma concentration of vitamins C and E.

The trial found that aloe gel, acting as a time-release agent, slowed down the rate of absorption of vitamin C, keeping plasma levels elevated over a longer period of time when compared with controls. Both forms of aloe had a similar effect with regard to vitamin E.

3. Aloe vera may promote intestinal health and immunomodulatory support.

Prebiotics are compounds in foods that encourage the growth of good bacteria  in your digestive tract. Examples of foods rich in prebiotics include apples, bananas, garlic, and soybeans.

Recent scientific data suggest that compounds in aloe vera may be a beneficial prebiotic ingredient. According to one independent study*, acemannan, a polysaccharide present in aloe vera, may act as a prebiotic and stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.

This change in microbiota composition is typically accompanied by an improvement in the immune system, by modulating immune response. The authors of New Perspectives on Aloe* associate this positive immune effect to the polysaccharides and other specific compounds present in aloe gel.

4. It may boost the body’s antioxidant defense system.

The antioxidants in aloe may help to bolster the body’s antioxidant defense system. Oxidation – a process that occurs in the body naturally as part of everyday metabolism – needs to be kept in check since oxidative stress can cause damage to body cells and tissues.

Antioxidants – widely found in plant foods like aloe vera, keep the processes of oxidation and antioxidation in balance. The polysaccharides and other compounds from aloe vera may also lead to positive protection against oxidative stress. In one independent study*, participants who drank aloe vera extract daily for 14 days saw an improvement in total antioxidant capacity measured in the plasma without any clinical side effects.

5. It’s hydrating and may contain fewer calories than highly sweetened drinks.

Aside from being a dietary supplement that provides digestive benefits, aloe juice – made by blending aloe vera gel with water –  is also a beverage that can support your hydration needs. Hydration is important for our body and organs to function properly.

While most of your fluids should come from water, many people seek other beverages for a change. For that reason, sodas and high-calorie drinks often line the shelves of grocery and convenience stores. Aloe vera juice may be a good alternative but be sure to check the nutrition label for any added sugars.

Why You Shouldn’t Eat Raw Aloe

While raw aloe can be used safely as a topical application, it should not be consumed.

The word “aloe” comes from Greek, which means bitter. Just below the rind of the aloe vera plant, there is a latex substance consisting of a heavy yellowish liquid residing between the leaf’s outer layer and the inner gel.  This latex contains compounds known as aloins which are very bitter, act as a laxative, and should not be ingested.

To be safely consumed, scientists developed a purification process that removes the aloins from the aloe juice. This process is known as decolorization where the pressed juice – either from the whole leaf or the inner fillet – is passed through an activated charcoal filter to remove laxative components, such as aloins, to negligible levels.

Most aloe beverage and supplement companies use these processes in order to deliver the digestive benefits of aloe to consumers. At Herbalife Nutrition, we employ a comprehensive decolorization process and strict quality control measures to produce highly purified, premium-quality aloe vera leaf juice.

All the Ways You Can Use Aloe: A Quick DIY Guide

Today, consumers around the world can reap the benefits of aloe in many forms.

How to Use Aloe in Your Skincare Routine

When looking for aloe-based cosmetics or skincare products, look for ones that are dermatologist-tested and sulfate-free. Look for an aloe gel product that is fragrance-free. If possible, ask for a sample or trial kit, so you can test the product before purchasing. The desired effect should leave the skin feeling smooth, soft, and with an improved appearance.

Here are aloe-based recipes you can do yourself:

DIY Hydrating Face Mask

This moisturizing facial mask feels good on the skin and only needs three simple ingredients:

Directions:

DIY Mask for Oily Hair

This hair mask is great for oily hair and features three simple ingredients:

Directions:

DIY Mask for Skin Flare-ups

This facial mask is soothing, and the ingredients are great for preventing bacteria. All you need are three simple ingredients:

Directions:

How to Use Aloe Vera Juice

As for ingestible aloe, consumers can purchase safe-to-consume aloe vera in juices, concentrates, powdered extracts, or capsules.

Here are a few tips and reminders when incorporating aloe vera into your diet:

And as with any nutritional supplement, make sure to evaluate the brand and compare your options to make sure you’re getting premium-quality aloe vera juice. Adding it to your beverage of choice can help you stay better hydrated and also get the digestive support you need.

*These studies were not conducted on Herbalife Nutrition products.