Aloe vera was a staple skin remedy when I was growing up. My mom always kept a jar of that gooey green jelly in case of sunburns or bug bites, and I truly believed it was magical. These days, aloe vera is one of the most common skin care ingredients, showing up in everything from cleansers and moisturizers to masks and exfoliants. Mainstream and organic brands alike use the plant juice and extract, often instead of water, and the result is often nice and nourishing.
I’ve selected the best aloe vera products for the skin, with a comprehensive list that includes all kinds of products to suit all skin types. I then go into detail about exactly what aloe vera gel is, and what aloe vera’s benefits for the skin are. I also talk a bit about side effects, and any concerns you may have about aloe vera and California’s Proposition 65.
Aloe Vera for Skin: Contents
- 15 Best Aloe Vera Skin Products to Buy
- What Is Aloe Vera Gel?
- Aloe Vera Gel Skin Benefits
- Which Skin Types Benefit from Aloe Vera?
- Does Aloe Vera for Skin Have Any Side Effects?
While you can use fresh aloe vera on your skin, here we bring the best ready-made aloe vera skin products for different concerns and skin types.
1. Kiehl’s Since 1851 Calendula & Aloe Soothing Hydration Mask
Because of its reputation as a sunburn remedy, aloe has instant appeal to those with skin that gets easily irritated for other reasons. This gentle, hydrating mask celebrates that by combining aloe vera with anti-inflammatory calendula extract. The formula is a light gel that should work for all skin types, although it does contain quite a few essential oils to be aware of. Buy it from Sephora!
2. Mario Badescu Aloe Vera Toner
This is as simple as a toner can get. It’s just water and aloe vera with a bit of preservative to keep things fresh. If your skin is sensitive, this is a wonderful way to load the skin up with hydration just before you moisturize, as the simple formulation is unlikely to cause any dreaded redness. I recommend fitting it with a spray nozzle so you can use it to cool down throughout the day. Get it at Nordstrom!
3. Earth Tu Face Rose + Aloe Facial Toning Mist
If your skin is more tolerant of fragrance and leans just a touch towards oiliness then you will love this beautiful toning mist. It combines penetration enhancing rose water with soothing aloe and pore-tightening witch hazel, making for a formula that simultaneously soothes, hydrates, and firms. The intoxicating blend of floral essential oils in it will definitely put you in a happy mood. You can use it before serums and moisturizers, as well as to refresh your makeup. It is available at Nordstrom.
4. Skinfood Aloe Vera 93% Soothing Gel
This light gel moisturizer really celebrates aloe vera for skin, as it makes up 93% of the formula. The following 7 percent is more humectants and occlusives (including some hyaluronic acid!) to help all of that aloe sink into the skin and stay there. It’s a great night-time moisturizer choice for anyone with oily skin, while for those with dry skin it can be treated like a pre-moisturizer booster. You can find it at Ulta.
5. Naturopathica Aloe Cleansing Gel
Aloe vera juice totally replaces water in this natural cleansing gel, making for a product that is gentle and soothing. It’s a sulfate-free cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin of oils but still cleanses thoroughly. It contains ferments and humectants to reinforce the skin barrier and improve hydration, and is fragranced with lavender and rose to help quiet your mind before bed. Order it online from Dermstore!
6. Indie Lee CoQ-10 Toner
Supple, soft skin is the goal with this beautiful, all-natural toner. Aloe acts as the base in this formula, holding Coenzyme Q10, which is a potent antioxidant that protects the skin against environmental damage, hydrating hyaluronic acid, as well as some skin-soothing extracts. It’s a fabulous toner for all skin types, especially if you’re feeling a little dehydrated. You can buy it at Sephora.
7. Biossance Squalane + Peptide Eye Gel
The skin around the eyes also deserves some of that aloe vera love! This light eye gel also relies on gentle aloe as a base to hold some of my favorite skin care actives, like niacinamide, panthenol, and a variety of anti-aging peptides. The formula also includes caffeine to tighten and squalane to soften. It is sold at Sephora.
8. Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment
I’ve mentioned this wonderful lactic acid treatment before since it is a wonderful chemical exfoliant even for those with very sensitive or dry skin. While helping to resurface the skin, this treatment lotion also gives it a hydrating glow with aloe vera extract, as well as prickly pear and blue agave extracts. There is also a touch of licorice root extract in the blend to brighten the skin. Pick it up from Nordstrom!
9. Herbivore Pink Cloud Rosewater Moisture Crème
You will feel so pampered while massaging this silky pink cream into your skin. Aloe vera for skin shows up instead of water in this formula in order to boost its nourishing ability. It also contains super hydrators like hyaluronic acid and glycerin. To keep the moisture in the skin the cream contains sunflower oil and kukui oil, which make it creamy yet still suitable for all skin types. You can order it from Sephora.
10. Juice Beauty Nutrient Moisturizer
This is another all-natural moisturizer choice for those whose skin cannot get enough of aloe vera. It’s a rich moisturizer that also contains a vast collection of botanical oils, along with skin-soothing calendula and chamomile extracts. It’d be best for those with combination or dry skin. The antioxidant compounds that occur naturally in all of the plant-based ingredients here will help keep your skin looking youthful. Find it at Ulta!
11. Odacité Oleosomes Time Release Delivery Crème
This moisturizer gives the most intense skin soothing effect since its main ingredients are all extracts that are known for their skin-calming and destressing effects. Beyond the aloe vera extract, this formula also holds flavonoid-rich tea leaf extract as well as soothing calendula. Shea butter helps lock the good ingredients in, and safflower oleosomes give a time release effect that ensures that your skin will still plump all day long. It is available at Nordstrom.
12. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum
If your skin is a little heartier then a nightly glycolic acid treatment is a great way to get it looking smooth and glowing. Glycolic acid, also known as AHA, can be pretty intense, so this formula makes sure to counter that with a whole collection of skin-soothers and hydrators, including aloe vera for skin and grape juice extract. This Drunk Elephant product also contains some salicylic acid to target acne, and hyaluronic acid to keep the skin plump and soft. Pick it up from Sephora!
13. Winky Lux Dream Gelee Hydrator
This cooling gel will hydrate your skin and give it the softest texture possible. It is made with both aloe vera for skin and some stronger humectants like butylene glycol, hyaluronic acid, and glycerin. The silkiness comes from ultra-occlusive silicones, which make this gel an excellent overnight moisturizer even in arid climates or a great base for makeup. Give it a try no matter your skin type! You can get it from Ulta.
14. Dr. Jart+ Dermask Water Jet Soothing Hydra Solution
When your skin is feeling particularly dull, dry, or irritated, a sheet mask is going to give you the quickest relief. The aloe vera extract in here gives a soothing effect that is boosted by an incredible amount of both traditional and newer humectants. To brighten the skin a bit the formula also includes licorice root extract as well as a range of antioxidant extracts. Buy it at Sephora!
15. TonyMoly Daily Fresh Aloe Mask Sheet
This is another sheet mask reinforced with aloe vera for skin that you can try when your skin needs that extra moisture boost! This mask is just as hydrating, but it also provides some tightening and anti-inflammatory effects courtesy of witch hazel extract. It should work beautifully for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin. It is sold at Ulta.
Aloe vera is very popular in skin care, either on its own as a gel or as a juice or extract used in skin care. The juice or gel is taken directly from the aloe vera plant, which is a type of succulent that grows well in hot or dry climates. The leaves of the plant are thick and fleshy with a dark outer skin that protects the gel inside.
The pure aloe vera gel taken directly from the plant is primarily composed of water with some polysaccharides – two ingredients that are simple yet lovely for the skin. The high water content in aloe vera is the reason why it often shows up in skin care products at high percentages, and why it often replaces water altogether.
As you may already know, water is an essential ingredient in skin care, since it makes our skin stronger, healthier and suppler. However, water doesn’t really stay in the skin on its own. That’s where the polysaccharides in aloe come into play.
Polysaccharides, when applied topically, act as humectants. They can pull moisture into the skin and help keep it there. This is why aloe vera, even on its own, is more moisturizing and soothing to the skin than plain water would be.
Then there are a few other traces of beneficial ingredients that remain, like amino acids which also have a moisture binding effect, lipids which help to soften the skin, and sterols and vitamins which have skin-soothing and antioxidant effects.
It is important to note that often the aloe vera used in skin care may undergo some processing first, so the composition might be slightly different. Manufacturers of raw materials for cosmetics will usually take the gel, dry it out into a powder, and then rehydrate it in water so it can become more stable and may even hold a more concentrated quantity of certain beneficial ingredients (although it will lose others).
There are many benefits you’ll get using aloe vera for skin, all of which are presented below!
The blend of water and polysaccharides in aloe vera means that it is wonderful to load the skin up with moisture! The polysaccharides ensure that some of that water will get into the skin and stay there. Keep in mind that since the polysaccharides are present at a low percentage, products with aloe vera should still contain other humectants, as well.
The polysaccharide and phytosterol content in aloe vera makes it a lovely skin-soothing ingredient that helps it to calm down redness, control itch and reduce irritation. These compounds have anti-inflammatory effects, although since they show up in aloe vera at fairly low percentages these benefits are mild and the soothing effect is light. This is why aloe vera is seen as more of a boosting product or a base for carrying other, stronger anti-inflammatories.
Aloe vera for skin contains phytosterols and vitamins that reinforce the skin against the sun and pollution damage that causes extrinsic aging. Because of these ingredients, it provides some anti-aging protection.
Aloe vera, especially in its pure gel form, has a lovely cooling and refreshing effect when applied to the skin.
The beautiful thing about aloe vera for skin is that it is beneficial to all skin types. It is a mild, non-comedogenic ingredient that primarily helps to increase water content in the skin and to keep it soothed. Dehydration and sensitivity are concerns that often plague all skin types, so keeping the skin hydrated and fortified with formulas that contain aloe vera is always a good idea.
Aloe vera as it shows up in skin care products does not have any side effects for the most part. Allergies, of course, are possible with aloe vera as they are with any other natural ingredient, although they are quite rare. It’s always extra surprising when someone is allergic to aloe since it is considered a skin-soother.
If you do have an allergy to aloe vera it will probably manifest as redness, stinging, or hives. It’s always important to patch test new skin care products for a few days on the upper arm or behind the ear to check for allergies before applying it to large parts of the face or body.
Consuming aloe vera gel, however, can have its risks. You may have heard that aloe is restricted under Proposition 65 in California. The reason for this is that ingesting aloin, a yellow liquid that is present in the aloe vera plant might be carcinogenic. It also happens to be a laxative, so even if it doesn’t cause cancer in humans it can still have an unpleasant physical effect.
When making aloe vera gel (even at home!) it is pretty easy to drain the plant of the aloin-containing exudate, and there is none of that stuff in any aloe vera-based skin care products you can buy in stores. Even if there were, aloin doesn’t seem to pose an issue when applied to the skin topically.
Photos via @danaemakai, @kiran_muchandimath