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Aloe vera can help cool your skin after an excessive beach sesh, but can it help folks with eczema relieve symptoms? Possibly, although research is a little thin on the ground.
Traditional medicine practitioners have used aloe vera gel to treat skin conditions, like burns, cuts, and psoriasis for thousands of years. Some practitioners tout it as a cure-all.
Eczema is one of the most common (and annoying) skin conditions. If you’ve got it, you know how much it sucks — but you’re certainly not alone. It causes reddish to purple, itchy skin rashes in 15 to 20 percent of children and 1 to 3 percent of adults worldwide.
There are no one-size-fits-all solutions to those irritating rashes. You may see that your eczema evolves to outsmart certain treatments, or that it doesn’t respond at all. Damn you, eczema! But some people successfully use aloe to relieve their eczema symptoms.
There are some things you should know before slathering aloe all over your body. Let’s delve into the science.
It’s tricky to find much research that confirms aloe can relieve eczema. Saying that, according to a 2008 review, the plant’s clinical applications include, among many other conditions, seborrheic dermatitis. (This study is a pretty early one, though.)
This skin disorder causes an itchy, flaky rash, with redness on lighter skin tones and light patches on darker skin tones. It’s a chronic type of eczema.
Aloe’s polysaccharides (long chains of carbohydrates) encourage collagen production. According to the review, this may speed up wound healing.
Aloe vera contains a bunch of antioxidant vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and other active compounds. These give this wonder plant its healing, moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
The combination of these properties may make aloe a valuable addition to your eczema-fighting arsenal. Seeing as it doesn’t take much for irritated, broken skin to develop bacterial and fungal infections, aloe could be just the thing to help control these secondary infections.
Going on this info, aloe vera may help your eczema. Hurrah!
Buuuuut bear in mind that aloe vera can trigger an allergic reaction in some folks. You could see your eczema worsen and have new patches of contact dermatitis. Great!
If you’re new to aloe, patch test it on a small area of skin first. Then, wait 24 hours to see if it makes your skin unhappy.
Irritation and rashes can plague babies’ skin because of its sensitivity and general newness. And while eczema is bothersome enough for an adult, it can be agonizing for babies (and their caretakers).
The catch-22 for younglings, however, is that their skin is not only more susceptible to issues like eczema, but there’s also a higher risk that it might react to topical treatments. What about a natural product like aloe vera?
A 2012 clinical study checked out how aloe works on another type of dermatitis in infants, diaper dermatitis (aka diaper rash). The researchers found that consistent use of aloe vera successfully relieved and, in some cases, even healed the rash.
It’s possibly even more reassuring that none of the children in the trial experienced adverse reactions or side effects. Parents often worry about introducing new products to a baby’s delicate system, so it’s good to know that aloe seems like a safe option.
It stands to reason that if you can safely use aloe vera to treat dermatitis on extremely sensitive areas of babies’ skin, you can also use it for eczema elsewhere. That’s great news for parents and caretakers of little ones with the condition, as all-natural products are the gold standard for use on babies. And what’s more natural than plant goo?
While aloe juice is available as a drink, it’s not recommended as an eczema treatment.
Aloe juice is a well-known laxative, which is great if you want to add enthusiastic pooping to your agenda. But this can mean some abdominal discomfort. Plus, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you might want to pass on drinking aloe, as it might affect unborn or newborn babies.
Various studies show that drinking aloe juice can positively impact weight loss, diabetes, hepatitis, and IBS. However, there’s nothing suggesting that a delicious aloe smoothie will help your eczema.
If you’ve got the eczema scratchies and want to give aloe a try, stick to smearing it on your skin. There’s a ton of gel and cream options.
When you’re choosing an aloe product for eczema, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
Number one is to look for the purest product with the highest aloe concentration. By checking that it’s first on the ingredients list, you know you’re getting more bang for your buck.
Also, be aware of the differences between organic aloe gel and conventional aloe gel. Mass-produced aloe gel often has chemical or potentially toxic additives, which could cause further skin irritation. On the other hand, organic aloe gel contains no additives or only natural additives that complement the effects of the aloe.
Tips for choosing
Here’s the lowdown on picking an aloe vera product for your skin:
- Check the percentage of pure aloe — the more the merrier. 💯
- Read the label to check for any chemicals or toxic additives. 🧪
- Search for products without:
- parabens (a type of preservative)
- dyes that color the finished product
- fragrances for that after sun (or eczema) smell
- phthalates (keep cosmetics flexible)
- sulfates (a cleaning agent)
- other harmful additives
- Look for aloe gel directly from the leaf. 🍃
If you happen to have an aloe plant at home, the purest option is to cut open a leaf and apply the gel from the plant directly to your skin. Think of it like a farm-to-table situation. Only in this case, it’s plant-to-person.
Lastly, you could also whip up some homemade eczema cream with aloe vera at home. A mixture of pure aloe gel, coconut oil, vegetable oil, and an essential oil of your choice will do the trick. It stays fresh for around a month if you keep it refrigerated, too.
While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
Here are some excellent aloe products that just may help soothe that itchy old eczema. These products are fragrance-free, pack at least 99.7 percent of the good stuff, and have outstanding customer reviews.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, topical use of aloe vera doesn’t trigger side effects in most people. But there have been a few reports of minor burning and itching.
If you decide to ingest aloe instead of applying it to the skin, the experts tell us you might experience a few health problems, including:
- diarrhea, vomiting, and gut pain
- low blood potassium
- kidney failure
- extreme light sensitivity
- hypersensitive reactions
Although aloe’s played a role for thousands of years in traditional medicine, you should be careful if you’re allergic to other plants in the lily family, like onion and tulips (yep, onions are lilies — stop the press). For some peeps with allergies, aloe can cause skin irritation, hives, stomach pain, and diarrhea. You’ve been warned.
There’s no concrete evidence that points to aloe as a treatment for eczema. However, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence from people who swear by its healing properties, and it has a long history in traditional medicine. So you may find some relief in its gooey goodness.
It shouldn’t make your skin sitch worse, so it could be worth a try. But don’t go for a whole-body application on the first day — try it on a tiny patch first.