I believe in natural products, but I realize that natural doesn't always mean safe.
How Pure Is My Aloe Vera Gel?
I have used store-bought aloe vera gel in several DIY self-care and first aid products in my home. Recently I considered buying the leaf from our local co-op and extracting my own gel. That’s when I started my research and realized that the store-bought product that I swore by might not be as pure as I thought. I was annoyed because the bottle clearly says, ‘100% Aloe Vera Gel’. While it might be true that the product contains aloe vera, it also contains water and a bunch of preservatives.
What Is Aloe Vera Gel?
There are more than 400 varieties of aloe vera plants, but the Aloe barbadensis miller is considered the most powerful variety used in skin care.
The leaf is made up of three parts. As we cut through a leaf, we will see:
- The outer green ‘rind’ or skin;
- then the thick yellow middle sap that contains latex;
- and finally, the center that holds the nutrient-rich gel.
The center section (the gel) is the part of the aloe plant that is used in skin care and skin care products. It’s made up of 99% water but is also packed with beneficial vitamins and minerals. There are over 12 vitamins, 18 amino acids, 20 minerals, and 75 nutrients in aloe vera gel.
What to Look For When Buying Aloe Vera Gel in a Bottle
It’s ok to be critical and to scrutinize the store-bought aloe vera gel. You are your skin’s advocate and protector. Judge the product on its ingredient list, color, concentration, and more. Here are a few things to look out for.
In the last few years, aloe vera gel and the products that include it have become very popular. This is a good thing in a way because it’s an amazing product, but where there is a great demand we often see a dip in quality to meet the demand. Just because a product makes promises and has fancy packaging, doesn’t qualify its purity.
- Color: Pure aloe vera gel is light translucent yellow. It can be clear as colors may vary based on the time of year that the leaves are harvested. Some store-bought aloe vera is green which means it has been artificially colored. This is a definite red flag.
- Listed Ingredients: Aloe vera gel must be the first ingredient on the list. The first ingredient in any store-bought item indicates that it is the main ingredient in that product. Some products will show water as the first ingredient which dilutes the effects of the little plant in the product.
- Too Many Ingredients: Aloe vera gel shouldn’t need a host of included ingredients. It’s great on its own. So be wary of long ingredient lists.
- Smell: Aloe vera gel smells earthy and a bit like garlic. If your products smell sweet or flowery, chances are pretty high that the supplier added a fragrance. Fragrances can cause breakouts or skin rashes for sensitive or inflamed skin.
- Percentage of Aloe Vera: If you decide to purchase a moisturizer that claims to contain aloe vera, make sure that the percentage of aloe vera is not lower than 15%–20%. Anything lower than that is ineffective.
- Avoid Alcohol: Make sure that there is no alcohol in the product. Alcohol provides a cooling effect on the skin but also dries the skin out. It’s far too harsh. If you enjoy the cooling effect of the store-bought kind, consider placing your no alcohol gel in the refrigerator to achieve the same cooling effect.
- Name: The bottle may say ‘Aloe Vera 100% Gel’ but the play on words could be a marketing trick. By putting ‘100% gel’ after the words ‘Aloe Vera’, may be a hint that although aloe vera is present, the supplier could have added other cheaper gels to bulk it up or make the product cheaper.
- Extract vs. Gel: Aloe vera extract is not the same as the gel.
- IASC: Look for the IASC seal on the packaging. This organization keeps the producer honest and certifies that it offers the highest quality and purity.
- EWG.org/Skindeep: Another way of checking the purity of any skincare product, is to type the name of the product into ewg.org/skindeep. The Environmental Working Group website will highlight the safety of every ingredient in the product and if the product was tested on animals or not. They will rate the product on a scale from 1 (best) to 10 (worst).
Read More From Remedygrove
How Aloe Leaves Are Harvested
What Are the Benefits of Aloe Vera Gel?
Aloe vera has been used for thousands of years and is revered for its healing, calming, and soothing properties.
- Burns and Sunburns: Apply pure aloe vera gel to minor burns and sunburn to soothe the skin. Apply up to three times a day.
- Dry skin: Aloe vera gel is an excellent moisturizer and great for anyone with acne oily skin. It doesn’t leave an oily layer and absorbs quickly.
- Cold sores: The gel can be applied to a cold sore on the outside of the mouth to promote healing. Apply twice a day.
- Eczema and Psoriasis: The plant gel contains enzymes that can help to combat the itchy dryness associated with these skin conditions because of its moisturizing and soothing properties. It can also alleviate inflammation. Apply twice a day.
- Acne: Many acne treatments leave the skin dry. Aloe vera gel has excellent anti-inflammatory properties. Use a cotton swab to apply aloe vera gel directly to the individual acne eruptions to promote their healing, moisturize and soothe the skin.
- Versatile and nourishing: Aloe vera gel can be used on the skin from head to toe. The gel is packed with vitamin A, and C, antioxidants, and beneficial enzymes.
- Insect bites: Since aloe vera gel can soothe, calm, and promote healing, it can help to calm an insect bite. Including those pesky, itchy mosquito bites.
Allergies and Skin Reactions to Aloe Vera Gel
Always do a spot test on your skin before you use aloe vera gel as a moisturizer or first aid for minor burns, cuts, and scrapes. Sensitive skins may not react well to aloe vera and develop rashes.
If you are allergic to latex, do not use aloe vera gel. The thick sticky yellow stuff between the aloe leaf skin and the gel contains latex and may be present in the gel after harvesting.
While the aloe vera gel will alleviate some inflammation and soothe skin, it is not a cure and should not be considered a treatment for inflammatory skin conditions. Always talk to your doctor and follow doctor’s orders if you are diagnosed with a more serious skin condition.
- Wilson, Celeste. Isla Verde Spa Training Academy Certificate of Aromatherapy Course.
- Wilson, Celeste. National Higher Certificate in Beauty Therapy. The Durban University of Technology.
- The International Aloe Council
- U.S. National Library of Medicine; Composition and Applications of Aloe vera Leaf Gel
- U.S. National Library of Medicine; An evaluation of the biological and toxicological properties of Aloe barbadensis (miller), Aloe vera
- Mayo Clinic
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2022 Celeste Wilson