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Aloe is one of the most prolific ingredients and recognizable botanical names in all of skin care. Widely available — you can find it potted in its succulent form mere feet away from its bottled extracts at virtually any CVS — aloe vera (the most commonly used species of the aloe genus when it comes to beauty and personal-care products) has been used on the skin for centuries, New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D., says, though "there is limited scientific evidence and research on the role of aloe vera in skin care." That said, it is widely believed by experts and average shoppers alike to have undeniable dermatological benefits.
"Aloe is well known for its ability to help provide anti-inflammatory and soothing benefits to the skin, hence why it's so commonly used to help treat sunburn," cosmetic chemist and founder of BeautyStat Ron Robinson tells Allure. "It can also hydrate and provide antioxidant benefits. Because of this, it is being used more and more in skin care and hair care."
Whether you've found yourself a little overexposed to the sun or you're simply in search of something calming for your sensitive skin, there's always a good reason to keep aloe vera around — and we asked skin experts to explain exactly why.
What exactly is aloe vera?
Aloe vera is a species of the aloe plant that grows around the world — perhaps even in a pot a few feet away from you as you're reading this, as it's a common houseplant. But in addition to being a lovely succulent with distinctively spiky leaves, what's in those leaves makes it a very desirable topical treatment.
"The leaf of the aloe vera plant is rich in water, particularly in the innermost layer of the leaf, so it helps to hydrate the skin and lock in moisture," Dr. Garshick explains. "The sugars, also known as mucopolysaccharides, help to retain moisture in the skin."
Drew Barrymore famously applied a piece of aloe vera "meat" (basically a chunk of the inner part of the leaf) to an irritated area of skin on her face and said it drastically reduced redness in a short timespan — a claim that dermatologists don't shoot down. "Aloe is actually a natural antiseptic agent, meaning it stops or slows the growth of microorganisms and helps prevent infections," Stacy Chimento, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in South Florida, tells Allure. "Aloe can also help [a bug] bite heal faster and reduce itching, swelling, and pain."