Article by: Perry Romanowski

Aloe Vera. Aloe Vera Gel. Aloe Vera Juice. Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice. There are even more names here for this nearly ubiquitous ingredient found in both skin and hair care formulations.  Many people swear by it claiming all kinds of benefits for aloe including things like being good for burns, wound healing and even hair growth!  But as a formulator you have to wonder, does aloe vera really do anything when delivered from a topical cosmetic formula?  aloe-plant-cosmetics

Warranted Skepticism

Before I got into the cosmetic industry I had the impression that aloe was something you should use on burns because it can make the injury feel better and help with healing.  In fact, my mother used to keep an aloe plant for this reason and the idea was drummed into my head for years.  But when I got into the cosmetic industry and learned about claims ingredients I began to get a bit skeptical.  Especially when I learned that we were putting Aloe in our shampoos at a level of 0.1% of a 1% solution.  Therefore, the actual amount of aloe in that shampoo was 0.001%.  With the rest of the formula SLS and Lauramide DEA it didn’t seem reasonable that the Aloe was doing much of anything (except getting people to buy the product).

Of course, just because the Aloe wasn’t doing anything in a hair care product when used at really low levels that doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t do anything in a product when used at a higher level or when used in a leave-on formula like a skin lotion.  So, I was still left with the question, does Aloe Vera do anything when delivered from a topical cosmetic product?

Go with your gut

My gut feeling has been that it doesn’t.  I generally discount claims about any folkloric ingredient as they are almost overwhelmingly non-scientific and non-verified.  Just because an ingredient has been used for some purpose for thousands of years doesn’t mean that it actually has the claimed effect.  Which also means that just because my mother put Aloe on my burns when I was a kid doesn’t mean that it was having much of an effect beyond a placebo, psychological one.  But despite my skepticism I’ve remained curious.

Aloe Vera research

It turns out I’m not the only one.  Researchers have been investigating the effectiveness of aloe for years.  Here is an article I stumbled on published in the British Journal of General Practice (medicine) which does a systematic review of all the clinical trial research done on aloe vera.  And here is what they found…

Ten clinically controlled research studies were found in published literature.  They ignored all the studies that were not controlled which is what you would want to do if you are looking at what science has to say about a subject.  There were only a set number of claims they could find data about.

1.  Wound healing – It was unclear whether wound healing was promoted by using aloe.  Some studies suggested it was, other larger studies said it wasn’t.

2.  Genital herpes – It could be effective for treating this condition

3.  Psoriasis – It could be effective for treating this condition.

Of course, in all cases the researchers concluded that there was not sufficient data to make any firm conclusions.

I looked through the Journal of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists and couldn’t find any real research done on looking at the effectiveness of aloe.  Other sources about aloe similarly resulted in little data to support many of the claims made by supporters of aloe.

Does aloe do anything in a cosmetic?

As far as I could find…not likely.  Based on the best science about the subject there is no real good reason to include Aloe in your formulas except for the purposes of making a claim.  And if you’re using it as a claims ingredient you don’t have to add more than 0.001% to do that.  If you’re putting in more than that, you’re probably wasting money.


  1. Fred Castle

    I use Aloe Vera juice instead of just plain water in my haircare formulations and my customers seem to like it. This is a fractionated Aloe so does not need refrigeration. Does anyone see a problem with it, outside of cost.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      No problem except that you should list “WATER” as the first ingredient unless you are following the USDA certified organic labeling system.

  2. iulia

    What would anybody expect aloe to do in a soap? Just wondering 🙂

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Moisturizing skin I would guess.

  3. Alfred

    Thank you for posting great reviews like this one! I was just reviewing a LOI for a product I wanted to try to make and was curious about the purpose of the aloe. The cosmetics industry is great in some respects and not so much in instances such as this. If the general public were aware of things like this, we would have a much different industry. Hopefully one aimed at selling to informed consumers.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Yeah, this type of thing is unfortunate. However, there are two forces that continue to propagate things like this. Marketers need some way to differentiate their otherwise similar products and consumers want to believe stories.

  4. MichelleReece

    If you look at the studies overall, you need 1) a lot of aloe vera (25-50%+) and 2) a specific standardized extract. Problem is, aloe vera has various chemicals and possibly several active ingredients. Some of the “active” ingredients have a difficult time penetrating the skin, specifically aloesin. Supposedly the vitamins and amino acids in aloe vera work, but it’s not like they can’t be found elsewhere and in purer forms.

  5. Clive

    ABSTRACT Burn injury is associated with a high incidence of death and disability; yet its management remains problematic and costly. We conducted this clinical study to evaluate the efficacy of aloe vera cream for partial thickness burn wounds and compare its results with those of silver sulfadiazine (SSD).
    Thirty patients with similar types of second-degree burns at two sites on different parts of the body were included in this study. Each patient had one burn treated with topical SSD and one treated with aloe cream, randomly.
    The rate of re-epithelialization and healing of the partial thickness burns was significantly faster in the site treated with aloe than in the site treated with SSD (15.9 +/- 2 vs 18.73 +/- 2.65 days, respectively; P < 0.0001). The sites treated with aloe were completely healed in less than 16 days vs 19 days for the sites treated with SSD.
    These results clearly demonstrated the greater efficacy of aloe cream over SSD cream for treating second-degree burns.

    Aloe versus silver sulfadiazine creams for second-degree burns: a randomized controlled study. – ResearchGate. Available from: [accessed Mar 24, 2015].

    1. Perry Romanowski

      Did you see the review article I posted in the blog post?

      The conclusion wasn’t that aloe does nothing, it’s more that it likely doesn’t have as much effect as people think. At least there’s not much science to support that conclusion.

    2. Fred Castle

      I use Aloe Vera juice instead of just plain water in my haircare formulations and my customers seem to like it. This is a fractionated Aloe so does not need refrigeration. Does anyone see a problem with it, outside of cost.

  6. Clive

    I have to almost completely disagree with the above. I say “almost” because I agree that putting aloe vera in small amounts is a complete waste of time and money. However, several years ago I discovered a study of aloe vera against silver something-or-other as a burns treatment. (The silver compound is still the main treatment). The aloe vera was better than the standard treatment in every respect.
    So I formulated a light cream with 100% aloe vera content, using concentrate so as to be able to achieve this. In tests at the beach we found that it was very effective at treating sunburn. Later we had a customer who used it to treat some rather nasty burns from a welding set, with excellent effect.

    1. Clive
      On day 25, the mean wound size was 5.5, 4, 0.78 and 4.1 cm2 in control, base, aloe and silver group, respectively. The wound size was significantly smaller in aloe group as compared with other groups. Histologic comparison showed aloe to increase reepithelialization in burn wounds significantly as compared with other cream-treated wounds. The results of this study showed aloe cream to significantly increase reepithelialization in burn wounds as compared with silver sulfadiazine.

      1. Perry Romanowski

        Interesting study. I think it was included in the review study I mentioned in the post above.

    2. Perry Romanowski

      Thanks for the comments. I would be happy to be shown wrong but the study I cited in the post above was the conclusion of a rigorous review of all the studies done. So based on the cumulation of all the science, there doesn’t appear to be any provable benefit. But I could be wrong, I just haven’t seen the evidence that I am. Anecdotal evidence, while interesting, is not convincing.

  7. Heraklit

    Enough with aloe vera!! I never liked this plant.
    I have three plants in pots. They are so tough and resistant!
    I never use it in my creations. Only one time i made a few olive soaps with aloe – nothing special.

    1. Perry Romanowski

      One thing I can say for Aloe, it does help sell products when you put the word on your products.

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