BY REBECCA GILLAM AND PERDITA NOURIL

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Given the sustained spike in houseplant ownership over the past few years, chances are, you’re the proud owner of some very Instagrammable succulents.

But know that aside from looking dazzling on your desk, some of these tiny plants are powerhouses when it comes to your beauty routine. One standout in particular? Aloe vera.

Native to North Africa and Southern Europe, this spiky lad is now one of the most studied plants on the planet, with research showing that it has the ability to reduce skin inflammation from sunburn to psoriasis.

Here, Dr Johanna Ward, founder of Zenii Skincare and Mays Al-Ali, a nutritionist, reveal everything you need to know about one of nature’s best skin and body healers. 

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So what exactly is aloe vera?

‘A perennial succulent of the lily family, aloe vera is a thick, short-stemmed shrub with triangular, fleshy leaves composed of three layers; one of which contains the slimy, water-filled gel that we typically associate with aloe vera products such as after sun,’ explains Dr Ward.

‘It’s also the main part of the plant that ends up typically in all skincare products. This gel is mostly made up of water (as much as 99%) which is why, once it evaporates on the skin, you feel a cooling effect,’ she adds.

‘The remaining 1% contains a huge amount of nutrients that are amazing for the skin. These include vitamins A, C and E (which are antioxidants), vitamin B12, folic acid, enzymes, fatty acids and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc.’

‘It’s commonly known to treat sunburns topically’, says nutritionist Mays Al-Ali. ‘But drinking this healthy elixir in juice, smoothie or shake form provides you with a number of other health benefits.’

What is aloe vera good for?

Aloe vera can share its benefits in various forms, including juices, powders, gels, creams, supplements – and even mouth wash.

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Aloe vera benefits for body, skin and hair
1. Speeds up the healing process of burns

Probably most commonly linked to soothing skin after sun exposure, aloe vera is recommended as a topical medication for all types of burns.

2. Kills germs

Known for its antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, aloe vera has been shown in studies to inhibit the growth of some bacterias that can cause harm to humans.

3. Reduces wrinkles

Research has shown that aloe vera gel applied to the skin can have an effect on wrinkles and collagen production, according to a study on 30 women over 45 years old.

Al-Ali says: ‘The antioxidants and vitamins have also been shown to neutralise the effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, repairing your skin from existing UV damage and helping prevent fine lines.’

Another study found baby aloe vera may protect against sun-related ageing.

4. Improves acne

It makes sense that aloe vera would improve acne, due to its antibacterial properties, but it’s also been shown to enhance the properties of Ocimum oil as well as benefit alongside traditional treatment.

‘Hydrating aloe vera juice may help reduce the frequency and appearance of acne’, explains Al-Ali.

5. Soothes skin

‘Aloe vera is loaded with phytosterols which help to soothe itchiness and irritation,’ says Dr Ward.

6 . Prevents water loss in your skin

‘It gives protection to prevent TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss) – so it’s ideal if you tend to suffer from dryness and dehydration,’ says Dr Ward.

7. Helps psoriasis

Studies on humans have suggested aloe vera may help with skin condition psoriasis when used in combination with propolis, a compound produced by bees.

8. Thought to help with hair growth

Though there’s no solid evidence to support the claims that aloe vera supports hair growth, many of the deficiencies that lead to unhealthy hair or loss could be benefited by the herb’s multiple nutrients and minerals.

‘Aloe vera contains several enzymes known to help in the breakdown of sugars and fats and to keep your digestion running smoothly, so it may help decrease irritation in the stomach and intestines as well as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other inflammatory disorders of the intestines such as ulcerative colitis’, says Al-Ali.

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9. Improves symptoms of diabetes

Aloe vera gel and juice has been shown to successfully reduce blood sugar levels in human studies, which causes insulin resistance in people with type two diabetes.

‘In human and animal studies, aloe vera gel helped reduce blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity’, says Al-Ali. ‘It’s also been shown to reduce body fat and improve insulin sensitivity by activating AMP-activated muscle protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme responsible for glucose and fat metabolism’.

10. Balances acidity

Due to its alkaline properties, aloe vera can help to reduce acidity and balance the pH in the body, improving symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux — particularly in juice form.

Al-Ali explains: ‘The compounds present in aloe vera juice help control secretion of acid in your stomach which may give relief from heartburn and combat gastric ulcers, preventing them from getting larger’.

11. Increases hydration

Aloe vera helps to keep the body in sufficient moisture, which allows for the smooth runnings of the detoxification processes that happen in the liver and kidneys.

12. Source of B12

Aloe vera is one of the only vegan sources of B12, a vitamin that is essential for our production of red blood cells and DNA, and is mostly found in meat.

13. Helps IBS

Though more research needs to be done, it looks as if aloe vera can help with inflammation in the bowel, suggesting it may be useful as a treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms.

14. Improves periodontal health

Aloe vera juice has been shown to reduce plaque when used in the place of a mouthwash in multiple studies.

15. Protects from cavities

Another area of mouth decay, it’s proven to fight cavities as effectively as leading toothpastes — especially recommended for those with sensitive teeth due to the gentle nature of aloe latex, which contains anti-inflammatory anthraquinone.

16. Speeds up the healing and reduces pain of mouth ulcers

When applied topically, aloe vera has shown to reduce the size, discomfort and inflammation of an ulcer.

 

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REFERENCES:

  1. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/uk/health/conditions/a29474597/aloe-vera-benefits/
  2. REBECCA GILLAM Bex is a wellbeing writer, brand consultant and qualified yoga and meditation teacher who likes baths, crystals, running with her pup Gustav and making unboring vegan-ish food.
  3. PERDITA NOURIL Perdita Nouril is the Beauty Editor for Women’s Health UK.