A bottle of aloe vera gel is one of those products everyone has in the back of their medicine cabinets because hey, even the most diligent of sunscreen wearers get sunburns from time to time. While the plant-derived gel comes in clutch for soothing painful, inflamed skin, it's also become a popular DIY hair conditioner and mask, and even a multipurpose styling product.
It turns out the hype is real because aloe vera is filled with nutrients crucial for maintaining strong and healthy hair.
"Aloe vera contains essential amino acids and fatty acids which help to strengthen hair and vitamins A, C and E, which are antioxidants that neutralize harmful free radicals," says Dr. Jeriel Weitz, dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. "Aloe vera also has enzymes such as bradykinase that reduces inflammation when applied topically to the scalp, as well as minerals such as copper, zinc, calcium and magnesium which are also beneficial for hair health."
The instant shine you get after treating your hair with aloe vera is due to its pH level, which is similar to the natural level of your hair. Dr. Isfahan Chambers-Harris, trichologist, Ph.D. Scientist, and founder of Alodia explains: "Aloe vera also works to lower the pH of the hair (to the ideal range of 4.5-5.5), which helps to seal the cuticles, leaving hair moisturized, shiny, and benefits all textures."
In addition to getting rave reviews for boosting softness and shine, you may have seen claims online that aloe vera is a natural remedy for hair loss. Unfortunately, both Dr. Weitz and Dr. Chambers-Harris say there are no studies to back up this claim. "However because aloe vera calms inflammation of the follicles, it can help with hair growth in alopecias that are caused by an inflammatory condition," says Dr. Chambers-Harris
If you do decide to go the DIY route, Dr. Weitz recommends applying the gel directly to your hair and scalp, letting it sit for 30 minutes, and then rinsing it out with shampoo and conditioner. Just do a patch test first to ensure you're not allergic. "You can also add pure aloe vera juice to your styling products or spritz it on your hair before styling," adds Dr. Chambers-Harris.
VIDEO: InStyle On: Best Beauty Buys
And if you don't want to deal with the mess of extracting the gel from an aloe vera leaf, there are a ton of pre-bottled gels out there, along with styling products. Ahead, some of our favorite aloe vera-infused haircare products.
Seven Minerals Aloe Vera Gel
If DIY-ing an aloe vera juice treatment straight from the plant isn't your thing, try a bottle of pure aloe vera gel: the same stuff you'd use on a sunburn.
Pattern Hydrating Shampoo
On top of cleansing the hair and scalp of buildup and dirt, the blend of aloe leaf juice, honey, and coconut and jojoba oils in Pattern's hydrating shampoo work harmoniously keep wavy, curly, and coily hair texture moisturized.
Ceremonia Oil Mist Con Aloe Vera
For hair that tends to get weighed down by oils, Ceremonia's ultra-fine mist is a solution. The aloe vera and Mexican chia seed-infused treatment nourishes and protects hair, plus instantly boosting shine.
Camille Rose Naturals Aloe Whipped Butter Gel
All hold, no crunch, this buttery gel locks styles in place without drying hair, thanks to a blend of aloe, avocado, sweet almond, and macadamia. Green tea helps reduce inflammation, while castor oil rounds out the formula to help prevent hair loss from traction around the hair line.
TPH By Taraji Mint Condition Tingling Scalp Conditioner
This conditioner moisturizes and refreshes the scalp, thanks to aloe vera, peppermint, shea butter, and eucalyptus oil. The tri-touch applicator is handy for applying under weaves and while you have in braids.
Act + Acre Cold Processed Stem Cell Serum
Yep, serums for your hair exist, too. This plant stem cell-powered formula by Act+Acre helps prevent dryness and fallout, and offers protection against sun damage and pollution. Simply run a pipette of the serum along your hairline and massage it into the scalp as you go through sections of hair, and go to bed. Yes, really — leaving it on overnight yields the best results.
For an extra shot of hydration, a deeply hydrating hair mask is your best bet. Maui Moisture's creamy treatment is specially formulated for wavy and curly hair, and is packed with nourishing ingredients such as aloe vera, shea butter, and coconut and macadamia oils. Bonus: it makes your shower smell divine.
From non-toxic makeup and skincare to sustainability practices, Clean Slate is an exploration of all things in the green beauty space.