Aloe vera has minimal antifungal activity against Malassezia. However, aloe has a multitude of other skin benefits including anti-inflammatory and skin-healing properties. In human studies, topical aloe has been shown to help reduce symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis over weeks. The icing on the cake? Aloe vera also stimulates local collagen production, helping repair the skin barrier and reducing signs of aging.
Let’s take a deep dive:
What is aloe vera?
Aloe vera is a succulent plant species of the genus Aloe. An evergreen perennial, it originates from the Arabian Peninsula but grows in tropical, semi-tropical, and arid climates around the world. The species is also cultivated for agricultural and medicinal uses.
Aloe vera has been used for centuries for its healing properties. The leaves of the plant are thick and fleshy, and the gel inside them can be used to treat burns, wounds, and skin irritations.
There are two ways to make use of aloe vera – topical application and ingesting it. When applied to the skin, aloe vera gel can help to soothe. When taken orally, aloe vera juice can help to cleanse the digestive system and improve overall health.
Skin benefits of aloe vera
Aloe gel is made up of 96% water but also contain minerals, enzymes, vitamins, amino acids, and other compounds that have numerous benefits for the skin. In fact, aloe gel was found to contain over 200 biologically active substances! These components work synergistically to give aloe its anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, and healing benefits.
Aloe vera can be used to treat minor skin trauma like sunburn, small abrasions and cuts. Some people even use the gel on cracked nipples, pressure ulcers, and burns. Aloe’s magical healing properties come from glucomannan and gibberellin. These compounds stimulate an increase in skin collagen and hyaluronic acid production, accelerating wound healing.
Aloe reduces production of inflammatory cytokines like prostaglandin-E2, histamine and mast cells. This makes it a good treatment for inflammatory-like conditions like cold sores, eczema, psoriasis and acne.
In fact, aloe is a great anti-aging compound. It binds moisture to the skin, preventing water loss. It stimulates collagen production and fibroblasts.
If you have oily skin and have found that creams are too heavy for you, try using aloe vera as a moisturizer instead.
Is aloe vera antifungal?
Aloe vera has antifungal properties. Lab studies have shown that aloe vera extract can inhibit Aspergillus nigrans and other plant fungi.
Unfortunately, a study found that aloe had no effect on Candida albicans, a common yeast that causes thrush in humans. Other lab studies showed that aloe extracts can inhibit Candida, but only at a high concentration.
A lab study found that aloe extract inhibited Malassezia that was resistant to clotrimazole. However, another found that aloe vera showed no antifungal activity against the fungus at all.
Can aloe vera help treat seborrheic dermatitis?
Two small human studies have shown that aloe vera is an effective treatment for seborrheic dermatitis. One of these was a double-blind placebo-controlled trial looking at the effect of using aloe vera emulsion on SD. They found a significant decrease in scaliness, itch and severity of flare. However, surprisingly, it did not improve on redness.
The other study showed that after 6 weeks of treatment with an aloe vera cream, participants reported improved itch, scaling and redness.
There’s no good evidence that aloe vera has antifungal activity against Malassezia. However, the gel has a multitude of other benefits, including being antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and has skin barrier healing properties. In fact, aloe can help skin cells stick together, softening the skin and reducing flaking.
Even though the studies are small, these human studies show that topical application of aloe vera cream improve symptoms of seborrheic dermatitis. Based on what we know of aloe properties, I’m not surprised.
There are no studies specifically looking at the effect of aloe vera on dandruff but based on what we know so far, you should be able to use aloe to treat dandruff as well.
How to use aloe vera for seborrheic dermatitis
There are a variety of ways you can use aloe vera on seborrheic dermatitis lesions. Here are a few ideas:
Aloe spot treatment
Apply pure aloe gel directly to seborrheic dermatitis lesions twice a day. For more benefit, mix in a few drops of tea tree oil or other essential oil that’s good for SD.
Aloe face oil
You can add a few drops of aloe vera gel to your favorite oil, such as squalane oil or MCT oil, and massage it into your face.
Aloe night mask
Apply aloe vera gel to your face and neck at night before going to bed. Leave the gel on overnight and rinse it off in the morning with lukewarm water. Repeat this process every night until the symptoms improve.
You can also use aloe as a regular mask but you get a lot more benefit when its left overnight.
Aloe face scrub
You can make an aloe face scrub by mixing 1/4 cup of aloe vera gel with 2 tablespoons of sugar. Massage the scrub into your face gently for several minutes before rinsing it off with lukewarm water. Repeat this process 2–3 times per week until the symptoms improve
You can apply aloe vera gel directly to the scalp and massage it in for several minutes. Rinse the gel off with lukewarm water and shampoo as usual. Repeat this process 3–4 times per week until the symptoms improve.
You can make a hair mask by mixing equal parts of aloe vera gel, coconut oil, and apple cider vinegar. Apply the mask to your scalp and hair, cover with a shower cap, and leave it on for 30 minutes before rinsing it off with lukewarm water. Shampoo as usual after. Repeat this process 2–3 times per week until the symptoms improve
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You can make a conditioner by mixing 1/4 cup of aloe vera gel with 2 tablespoons of honey. Apply the conditioner to your hair after shampooing, and leave it on for 3–5 minutes before rinsing it off with lukewarm water.
Aloe hair spray
You can make a hair spray by mixing 1/4 cup of aloe vera gel with 1 cup of water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and spritz it onto your hair and scalp as many times a day as you want.
Precautions with topical aloe vera
Aloe vera is generally considered safe when used topically. However, some people may experience skin irritation, redness, or burning. If you experience these side effects, discontinue use and consult your doctor.
When using aloe vera topically, it’s important to do a patch test, especially if you have sensitive skin. To do a patch test, apply a small amount of the product to a small area of your skin and wait 24 hours to see if there is any reaction.
If you’re using an aloe vera gel that isn’t 100% pure, read the label carefully before purchasing and avoid gels that contain alcohol or other harsh ingredients that could irritate your skin.
To wrap up
Aloe vera is a great natural remedy for seborrheic dermatitis and has anti-inflammatory and skin-healing properties. It’s gentle on the skin and can be used daily. Commercial aloe vera can be found in many forms, such as lotions, gels, and oils. Try aloe vera the next time you have a flare up of seborrheic dermatitis.
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