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Should I Use Aloe Vera to Treat Inflammation?
This scene might be familiar to quite a few of us: You’re a teenager and just returned home from a day out under the sun. It might have been a day out at the beach with your friends, or maybe you had a soccer match, or you were just hanging out in the park. Whatever it is, the sun was super hot that day, and you return home a significant number of shades darker. What’s more, you also develop some redness and there’s the slight tingling sensation of an oncoming sunburn. You open the door and say “hi” to your mother, whose first response is: “Go put on some aloe vera gel!”
We are all pretty familiar with aloe vera gel as the quintessential post-beach day after-sun care. We reach for the tubes on clear green goop and slather it all over our sunburnt bodies. If you’re the kind who keeps your aloe vera tubes in the refrigerator, you’ll be familiar with the supercooling, soothing effect that cold aloe vera has on your warm, red skin. Aloe vera seems to be the immediate go-to product to treat inflammation of the skin. But why is that? And is there any scientific proof that aloe vera is actually beneficial in soothing and repairing damaged, inflamed skin? In this article, we will go through what skin inflammation is including its causes and effects and then dive into aloe vera and its pros and cons for inflamed skin.
What is skin inflammation?
Skin inflammation is a reaction produced by your body’s immune system in response to an irritant. Our immune systems keep our bodies healthy by detecting, fighting, and neutralizing foreign invaders. The immune system consists of a very complex system of cells and proteins that defend the body against infections. They’re kind of like a big, personal, internal army within you ready to attack and protect you. The immune system is pretty neat because it keeps track of every germ or infectious microbe that we have encountered so that it has a playbook of how to destroy the germ once it is encountered again. This is what we mean by building up immunity against infections and germs. When the immune system fights against these foreign germs and microbes, inflammation in the skin can occur. Typically, the skin gets inflamed due to an infection, some underlying diseases or conditions, and allergic reactions.
There are many different ways that inflammation can occur and manifest in the skin. A red, itchy rash is the most common way that inflammation will show. The rashes can look very different — either smooth or scaly in texture, it can feel itchy or have a burning and stinging sensation, it will either be elevated or flat, red, feel hot to the touch, there might be blistering and pimples, rawness, cracking of the skin, bleeding, and the skin area might be thicker.
Skin inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors such as autoimmune diseases (such as lupus), allergies (anything that triggers an allergic reaction, from animal fur to ingredients to environmental pollution), the sun, and heat.
Why is aloe vera a common treatment for inflammation?
Aloe vera is a plant in the cactus family and is a common garden plant. The leaves contain pulp and a jelly-like substance which is what we are familiar with as aloe vera gel. You can easily grow aloe vera if you live in a tropical climate.
Aloe vera has been used for millennia as a skin treatment for its natural soothing texture that provides both physical relief and added moisture. Aloe vera’s soothing properties and ability to treat inflammation resulting from burns come from its glycoproteins which can help to repair the damaged skin cells.
Here are some of the most common types of inflammation in which aloe vera is used as a treatment:
Aloe vera is best known as a topical treatment to soothe burns. It can be very helpful in reducing the irritation and redness that a sunburn often causes. Aloe vera is a very effective topical treatment for immediately soothing the skin, but it will not actually repair the skin of the damage it has suffered. If you experienced a severe burn like a boil, aloe vera will likely not be effective for such injuries.
Rosacea is another skin condition that has unknown causes but it is basically a disease that affects that face causing extra sensitivity. The typical symptoms of rosacea are small, red bumps filled with pus that occur during flare-ups. Rosacea usually occurs on the nose, cheeks, and forehead areas. During a flare-up, the affected area will be very sensitive and one might even experience some kind of burning or stinging sensations. Aloe vera is usually used as a home remedy to alleviate the discomfort and burning sensation at the moment, but it requires targeted treatment should flare-ups occur.
Eczema is a pretty common chronic skin condition that is a result of a weak skin barrier. When the skin barrier is weak, it is unable to protect itself from irritants in the environment, causing itching, redness, and inflammation of the skin. One sign of eczema is crusting of the area that is irritated. There might be an irritant in your surrounding or an ingredient that is causing your eczema to flare up. Like rosacea, aloe vera is meant to provide temporary respite to stop the itching and irritation.
How might aloe vera be bad for my skin?
Aloe vera itself could be a potential allergen. You can be allergic to pretty much anything, aloe vera included. It may be a mild treatment to soothe inflammation but you never know, it might actually cause the inflammation. You will definitely want to do a patch test before using aloe vera on your skin to check if you are allergic. Symptoms of an allergy to aloe vera include some redness, itching, bumpiness, and burning. Immediately stop using it should any of the above symptoms develop.
Aloe vera is no doubt an excellent topical remedy, but as with any product, you do run the risk of being allergic to it. So do a patch test before use, and get a doctors’ advice if you are unsure of what treatment will best work for your inflammation.
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