Aloe vera has been around for centuries as a skincare staple. In fact, Aloe barbadensis was an ancient panacea once used to treat wounds, hair loss and even hemorrhoids. An evergreen perennial, aloe vera is a succulent that’s globally cultivated and found in warm and tropical climates, originating in the Arabian Peninsula. Its long, pointed leaves form a dense rosette that contains a gel that is extracted for its therapeutic properties. The earliest records of aloe vera used as an herbal remedy go as far back as ancient Egypt, where it was deemed the “plant of immortality” and presented as a funeral gift to pharaohs. Aloe was also used medicinally in ancient India, China, Japan, Mexico and Greece. Today, it is commonly used as a topical remedy for skin conditions such as burns, minor wounds, frostbite and psoriasis. However, this natural wonder is experiencing a well-deserved resurgence in modern beauty regimens. With the demand for effective skincare products expanding, aloe-centered products can reach a new and existing client base. Here’s what you need to know!
GOOD ’TIL THE LAST DROP
Aloe has been studied scientifically and it’s important to know a few things in order to choose a quality product that delivers results. First, be leery of unsubstantiated claims. Inside the aloe leaf is a rather slimy tissue that stores water. This is actually the gel substance that one usually associates with aloe and is what contains most of its bioactive compounds, which include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and amino acids called polyphenols. According to Medical News Today, these bioactive compounds are what make aloe an effective wound and burn ointment, as they can help inhibit the spread and growth of bacteria. A review of experimental studies established that topical aloe vera helped burns heal more rapidly than conventional medication alone. Likewise, clinical trials by The Journal of Natural Medicine concluded the efficacy of aloe vera to topically treat burn wounds, genital herpes and seborrheic dermatitis, though proof of other medical benefits remain scarce.
For beauty professionals and storeowners, aloe vera as a skin, body or haircare treatment are of primary interest. Indeed, many industry leaders praise aloe for its moisturizing and antiaging properties. While post-sun exposure is its most widely known usage, the gel’s amino acids help strengthen skin and promote skin and hair renewal. According to Tracy May-Harriott, global director and brand ambassador for Priori Skincare, aloe vera may speed up cell reproduction and growth due to its natural polysaccharides. It also has a wound-healing effect and can penetrate injured tissue, making it especially appealing to ultra-sensitive or even damaged skin.
“It stands the test of time as a gold-standard skincare ingredient, regardless of skin type or condition. It is chock-full of amino acids, polysaccharides and minerals,” she says.
In addition to aloe vera’s benefit to all skin types, its anti-inflammatory and soothing qualities make it especially favorable to sensitive or reactive skin. Aloe has helps push moisture deep into the dermis, which may aid in the reduction of swelling, redness and irritation. As a natural antiseptic, it is becoming widely used in anti-acne treatments and gels.
For all of these beauty benefits, it is no wonder aloe is in growing demand. Heather Florio, COO of Desert Harvest, says, “The market for aloe continues to grow as people rediscover the infinite uses of aloe. It is often ignored because it is not trendy or new, but is a reliable go-to as a key ingredient. We do not see an ingredient as versatile as aloe, and it needs to be celebrated.”
GETTING OPTIMAL RESULTS
It’s important to note that a number of beauty products contain a synthetic aloe, which not only lacks key benefits but can also have harmful side effects, warns Tod Cooperman M.D., president of consumerlab.com. Dr. Cooperman explains that some synthetic aloes may harden to a glue-like consistency, which can be extremely difficult to remove from hair or skin. He warns consumers to read labels carefully and to have realistic expectations.
Florio says proper processing is critical to a quality aloe product. After harvesting, aloe vera has six hours before its nutrients oxidize. To avoid this, processing should begin immediately. Fresh aloe with pulp is typically labeled juice of aloe vera or leaf juice, otherwise it could be a poorly processed dehydrated powder lacking in any healing properties.
It is extremely important to distinguish between aloe vera and aloe extract. Aloe vera extract is mostly water and is useless as an aloe product. This also holds true if water is the first ingredient on the label. A bona fide aloe vera product should have aloe vera listed as the primary ingredient.
Aloe vera is highly photosensitive, so if a package or bottle is made from clear plastic, any fresh aloe would be ruined, if there was any to begin with. Also, aloe vera pulp is translucent and becomes yellow after processing: The green color of many aloe-type products, especially those labeled as gel or gelee, is artificial. Stabilizers are a necessary element in the preservation of aloe vera. Common and acceptable preservatives seen on product labels include: xanthan gum, potassium sorbate, tocopherol, citric acid and ascorbic acid.
By choosing product carefully and becoming familiar with a brand’s ingredients and philosophy, retailers can educate customers on aloe’s array of benefits. Whether found in face oils, moisturizers, face masks, hair gels, creams or lotions, this is one skincare and haircare savior that can be used for much more than just summertime, post-sun aftercare.