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Reserving it just for sunburns? Total. Missed. Opportunity.

By Susan Brickell
December 19, 2018
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I keep an aloe plant within reach in my apartment to quickly treat stove burns, irritation from boiling water, and even minor incidents with my curling iron. I simply snap off part of the thick, fleshy green leaves to reveal the juicy gel inside, and rub it onto my skin to relieve pain and reduce redness. How much more natural can you get? Plus, aloe vera gel is my go-to (and probably yours) for soothing gnarly sunburns after a day at the beach.

It might interest you to know, though, that the benefits of aloe vera extend way beyond treating burns and peeling tans. The gel from the aloe plant contains anti-inflammatory properties, is a natural antiseptic, and even acts as a natural pain reliever, says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City. It also drastically hydrates dry skin, improves skin texture, and facilitates healing.

The superhero ingredient may also help prevent pimples. "Aloe is rich in compounds called anthraquinones, which have been shown to reduce levels of various types of bacteria on the skin, including acne-causing bacteria," explains Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

One Reddit user even claims to have cured her dry, itchy scalp with aloe. User a0udkh wrote that they applied a generous amount of aloe vera gel to her scalp, allowed it to sit for a few minutes, then rinsed. "Aloe vera gel is very lightweight and it DID NOT weigh my hair down or make it look greasy," the user wrote, adding that their favorite brand is Lily of The Desert Aloe Vera Gelly Soothing Moisturizer ($7; amazon.com).

Well, Reddit for the win, because aloe vera can do wonders not only for your skin, but also your hair and scalp, experts say. Dandruff and flakes are caused by an overgrowth of yeast on the scalp and an inflammatory condition called seborrheic dermatitis, says Dr. Nazarian. "Aloe vera works to decrease the yeast proliferation on the skin and also decreases inflammation to improve dandruff and flakes and even the itch associated with the condition," she tells us.

Toying with the idea of adding a bottle of aloe vera gel to your shower caddy, but need a bit more guidance on how to actually use it? New York dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, recommends smoothing the gel directly onto your scalp and massaging it in. Leave on for five minutes, then rinse with warm water.

Another strategy is to mix the gel in a bowl with water. Apply this serum to hair and work through from roots to ends with a comb, then rinse, Dr. Jaliman says.

Bottom line? The pulp of the aloe plant itself can be used alone or as an extract in hair and skincare products. From body wash to face masks to pure organic aloe vera gel, we've got your dry skin and hair covered with nine dermatologist-approved picks.

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