Aloe vera gel is a champion multitasker: The gooey stuff can do so much more than soothe a sunburn. Whether you pick up a bottle of 100% pure aloe vera ($6)—or buy a potted plant (for around $10) and use the juice from cut leaves as needed—it’s worth every penny. You can use aloe vera on everything from acne to minor wounds to irritation caused by eczema or rosacea. It can even help zap a cold sore. Read on for seven dermatologist-approved tips.
1. Aloe vera can help clear up breakouts.
Aloe vera contains salicylic acid and other antiseptic compounds that kill off the bacteria that cause acne, says Francesca Fusco, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. That makes it a great natural remedy for breakouts, and an excellent cleanser for the skin. One caveat: Before you apply aloe vera to inflamed skin, do a patch test elsewhere in your body. In rare cases, it can cause a reaction in highly sensitive people, says Dr. Fusco.
2. It moisturizes dry skin.
Aloe vera is packed with minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, and E, which all work together to reinforce the skin’s barrier. "It’s incredibly moisturizing,” says Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist in New York City and author of Skin Rules. Aloe also contains polyphenols, which appear to protect against skin cancer and free radicals that age the skin, says Dr. Jaliman.
3. It can soothe irritated skin.
Conditions like rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis are often linked to dryness and inflammation. Aloe vera’s fatty acids, along with an enzyme called bradykinin, can help calm the skin, says Dr. Fusco.
4. Apply it to minor burns and wounds.
In addition to antibacterial properties, aloe vera contains compounds that can reduce inflammation, says Dr. Fusco. The juice is also super hydrating, so it may help boost the skin’s elasticity as it heals. One review of scientific research found that aloe vera sped up the rate of healing for minor burn wounds by almost nine days. But other studies have shown mixed results in terms of the plant’s healing powers—so it’s best to use it only on minor wounds and burns.
RELATED: We Tried It: Full-Body Microdermabrasion
5. Treat a cold sore.
The plant’s antiviral properties may help fight off the herpes virus. Aloe can also provide soothing relief, and cover and protect the irritated skin.
6. Use it as a shaving cream.
Thanks to its gel texture, aloe vera makes a great hydrating shave cream. Its antibacterial properties mean it’s also beneficial for small razor nicks, says Dr. Jaliman.
7. Or a natural makeup remover.
Since aloe vera is gentle on the skin and has a gel-like consistency, it works well as a natural makeup remover. Smooth it on and wipe off with a washcloth to cleanse and moisturize at the same time. "It’s anti-aging and moisturizing, making it a perfect beauty product,” says Dr. Jaliman. "And it’s a good alternative for people who have sensitive skin and can have reactions to ingredients in standard makeup removers.”