Aloe vera: benefits and risks!
Written on 18.Mar.20 by Anne-Marie - Updated 24.Dec.20
Aloe vera is everywhere in cosmetics! Super Ingredient, basic to always have on hand: it appears as a real all-purpose miracle plant. Too good to be true? It's quite possible...
Aloe vera: a plant of legend(s)
Aloe vera, or Aloe barbadensis Miller, is a tropical plant hyper resistant to drought. It is said that the amount of water it can store in its leaves would allow it to live for years without a drop of rain! The scene is set: Aloe vera is the object of all superlatives.
His wealth? Its leaves. And especially the pulp they contain. We use it, and not just a little: soaps, shower gels, creams or shampoos... but also washing-up liquid, detergents and even toilet paper or razor blades! A big " Aloe vera " on their packaging should convince us of their effectiveness in respecting the most sensitive skins. On DIY natural cosmetic sites, Aloe vera is part of the basic kits for skin, hair or even oral use.
The recurring argument? Its age-old use. Egyptian papyrus from the 16th century B.C. boast its laxative, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious properties against skin diseases, haemorrhoids and even hair loss. It is said that Alexander the Great engaged certain conquests in order to seize plants to treat his soldiers, that Cleopatra and Nefertiti owe their beauty to him. Prestigious historical cautions... or legends?
Anyway,in cosmetics, Aloe vera is praised for a long list of properties : softening, collagen stimulating, anti-aging skin, healing accelerator, beneficial against skin conditions (acne, eczema, psoriasis) or sunburn but also moisturizing. Not bad...
Aloe vera and your cosmetics go green...
On paper, the juice of Aloe vera has arguments, with no less than 75 active compounds: minerals and trace elements (magnesium, calcium, copper, iron, zinc ...), vitamins C, B1, B2, B3, B6, regenerating polyphenols and phytosterols, beta-carotene ... Among others! The most interesting? Its exceptional richness in antibacterial, antifungal, healing and anti-inflammatory polysachharides. But in cosmetics, it is used in two more or less transformed forms.
Aloe gel, Aloe barbadensis leaf juice , is taken from the leaves and then filtered to remove its laxative substances. Problem: like the pure juice, it is primarily composed of... water. A 99% ! Its active molecules are actually concentrated in a very small 1% and, above all, it does not keep at all: if it is not consumed as soon as it is extracted, it oxidizes and moulds very quickly. Consequence: it is inevitably treated. Pasteurized, heated, enriched with preservative additives and pH adjusters. An already less natural product with treatments that can cause it to lose up to 85% of its properties.
Aloe vera also exists in powder form,Aloe barbadensis leaf juice powder, a priori more concentrated in active ingredients ... but most often obtained by spraying at high temperature which destroys the nutrients in the juice. A cold process exists, freeze-drying, but complex and expensive, it is generally reserved for pharmaceutical uses. And even so: study the composition of your cosmetic " Aloe vera " ... read to the end ... bingo:Aloe barbadensis leaf juice powder often appears at the very end of the list. In other words, your skin care product, or even your tube of Aloe Vera gel, supposedly pure, contains a derisory percentage of it.
Because in cosmetics, we most often encounter a combo of these 2 problems: your Aloe vera has a good chance of being a reconstituted gel. In other words, a powder with degraded qualities AND drowned in a large quantity of water with a bunch of additives (perfumes, gelling agents, preservatives). This does not prevent some cares from boasting a huge and misleading percentage of Aloe vera.
Advantage? He's gaining stability. What's its real use? Mmm, mostly inflating the organic content of a cosmetic. Yes, water that's not labeled is often a good part of it. Aloe gel, even when reconstituted, can be labelled if the plant has been grown without synthetic phytosanitary products. And there you go, your care product, which in reality always contains the same amount of water, magically meets the requirements of the specifications of a label. Clearly, a large part of the Aloe vera market is a magnificent greenwashing ...
Aloe vera is not a must-have in slow cosmetics.
Have you found a quality, cold-stabilized Aloe Vera gel with an interesting content of active ingredients, a natural gelling agent and a natural preservative? It's very rare, but it does exist. What to expect?
Used alone, Aloe vera has a serious limitation: it is an essentially aqueous ingredient that contains no fat. And fat is the sine qua non condition fora skincare product to penetrate the epidermis. Its reputation as a premium natural moisturizer? Usurped! Your Aloe gel can neither pass the fat barrier of the epidermis nor reinforce its capacity to retain water: most of it evaporates very quickly after application, leaving only an ephemeral sensation of freshness and a film with a slight tightening effect.
Aloe vera is humectant and filmogenic but certainly not moisturizing . Without a fatty substance to emulsify it, it may even carry with it the water of the epidermis, as long as it is cold or very hot. In other words, to dry it out. In short, used alone, whatever its richness, it cannot act in depth.
Its anti-inflammatory and healing virtues, its relatively rich content in salicylic acid can be interesting in curative surface treatment against acne and on recent scars. But other natural active ingredients, much easier to find of quality, can be just as effective while helping your skin to regulate itself in depth: vegetable oils, essential oils, hydrolats... Adding Aloe vera to them won't bring much in the end and will make the mixture difficult to keep without additives (more information : Adult acne: do you follow these golden rules to get it over with? ).
Of course, Aloe vera is not without interest, with a calming, soothing effect after hair removal, an insect bite, irritation or after-sun. As an ingredient, it confers a creamy texture and a pleasantly fresh feeling to cosmetics. As a natural styling gel, it helps to tame frizz. But it's still a long way from the star ingredient!
A plant that doesn't just want good things for us...
Finally, although it is generally well tolerated, a few precautions are necessary: it is photosensitizing and can cause contact dermatitis and pimples. Be particularly careful with recipes that combine Aloe vera and essential oils without a fatty phase : this is like applying your pure essential oil. Risky and aggressive for the skin.
Above all, the fashion for Aloe vera is accompanied by serious excesses. Entering " Aloe vera benefits" in a search engine will show you real Prevert-style lists, right up to the so-called cure of cancers! Limit if it would not allow the return of the loved one and eternal life. Distrust, really: you can find anything and everything, with more or less serious consequences, from diarrhea to liver disorders.
Finally, if you're planning to run your own Aloe vera at home, be careful! It's trendy, but your nursery plant, often grown with fertilizers and pesticides, is a home depollutant. Your homemade gel may be particularly rich... in all the chemicals it has absorbed.
Do you buy leaves in organic stores? It's better, but collecting the juice correctly is not something you can improvise: severe hand irritation and, above all, oral poisoning, possible DNA damage and doubts about an endocrine disrupting action. The culprit? The highly toxic yellow latex, classified as a possible carcinogen by the WHO, which surrounds the juice and is delicate to remove. To be totally banned during pregnancy (it contains in addition to abortifacient substances), breastfeeding (risk of dehydration by diarrhoea and allergy in your baby), in young children or fragile people.
Beware of commercial juices: growing demand has been accompanied by massive industrialization with dubious practices (whole shredded leaves, including toxic substances, for example). Subjects deemed serious enough for the European Food Safety Agency to take up.
In summary, Aloe vera gel as it is commercially available cannot be considered as a cosmetic ingredient that cannot be ignored, nor can it always be considered as a natural cosmetic ingredient. Between fashion effect and marketing scams, there are even reasons to be wary of it. Yes, it has real virtues. As long as it is fresh, natural, without processing or additives, that the plant has been grown in a specific climate, harvested at the right time... and this is extremely rare!
For us, the virtues of Aloe vera are not so numerous or unique that they would justify taking away an expensive product, which comes from far away and is difficult to preserve without additives. At oOlution we have made other choices with ingredients that guarantee a deep action to your skin and allow our products to be truly 100% natural.