Aloe Vera Cream
Not All Aloe Creams are Created EqualThe first thing to understand about aloe creams is what they are made of; the obvious answer is aloe vera but that not the complete answer. There are in fact more than 300 varieties of the aloe plant which are indigenous to different areas the world over. Some varieties are better for healing burns and wounds while other varieties are better for moisturizing skin. It is generally accepted within the aloe community that Aloe Barbadensis Miller is the best type of aloe for use in aloe products, including facial cream. Aloe Barbadensis Miller is even used in burn centers around the world. So, in some respects it is also doctor approved.
As such, Aloe Barbadensis Miller is the most common variety of aloe used in products. To be technical, only Aloe Barbadensis Miller should be referred to as aloe vera. The word Vera is actually Latin and means “True”. So to aloe purists, Aloe Barbadensis Miller is the only “True Aloe”. Regardless of how you feel about the use of the word vera, a quality aloe vera cream will always use Aloe Barbadensis Miller. Be on the look out for it.
The other big consideration here is what types of additives are being used. Normally with aloe products you want to avoid additives as much as possible. Indeed, many other aloe products like to proclaim that they are “99% pure aloe vera”. This is not the case with aloe vera cream though. With creams, extra additives are usually a sign of quality. Most of the best product lines claim to use 10 or more additives that work in combination with the aloe to help bring relief to dry skin, itching and inflammation, among many other things.
In short, if you are considering the use of an aloe cream, look for one that uses Aloe Barbadensis Miller as the primary source of aloe and one which also including additional additives (additives that will aid in whatever use you are buying the cream for). Using a sub-par cream will always result in sub-par results.
How Aloe Vera Cream Actually WorksI know I promised you an unbiased look at aloe vera creams so I’m going to add a disclaimer to this section. *The aloe vera plant fascinates me* Let me tell you why.
Aloe Vera is widely considered to be the plant that most closely resembles the organic makeup of the human body. Analysis of the Aloe Vera plant has conclusively shown that it is made up of a large variety of substances that are found in the human body; vitamins and minerals, amino acids and enzymes. In fact, there are over 200 complex organic compounds found in aloe vera, many of which are also found in the human body. This is particularly true of the skin, hair and digestive track. Indeed aloe vera’s uses go far beyond that of skin creams.
The reason I am telling you this is because once you understand who much like our bodies aloe vera is, it is easy to understand why our bodies absorb it so quickly. If you have ever used raw aloe vera directly from a plant to treat a burn, you know exactly what I am talking about; within seconds the thick gel is absorbed. This is obviously important in the case of creams because you want to them to be absorbed as quickly as possible.
There are up to 7 layers of skin on your body (depending on the actual part you are talking about). Each of these layers has a different cellular makeup and not all creams and lotions are able to effectively penetrate down to the bottom layers. The deeper the penetration, the better a cream will work. Aloe vera, on the other hand, has the ability to penetrate down the bottom layer of your skin. That is one of the reasons that aloe vera become such a popular ingredient in creams to begin with.
Possible Benefits of Aloe Vera CreamThe list of possible uses and benefits for aloe vera in general is extremely long. However, aloe creams are typically used as a beauty treatment or as a treatment for medical conditions (like psoriasis). While most of the products I have seen claim to be good for treating burns, from my experience Aloe Vera Gels are far more effective in treating burns.
After doing exhaustive research on this subject I have used the information I collected to create the table below. It contains possible benefits along with a rating as to how effective they are. I focused on the purported benefits of the most popular brands on the market, instead of listing every possible benefit under the sun. Just to give you a feel for the ratings system. 1 would be an adverse reaction of some kind (a rash for instance); 3 = slightly effectively, 6 = somewhat effective, 8 = very effective, 10 = extremely effective.
|Abrasions and Sores||6|
|Burns (heat based)||4|
|Chapped Lips and Skin||7|
|Cradle Cap and Dandruff||9|
|Itching and Irritated Skin||9|
|Sunburn and Windburn||10|
|General Skin Care||9|
There are many other reported benefits but I restricted myself the ones I felt were the most important. The final entry “General Skin Care” refers to the use of aloe vera cream as a combination anti-aging, blemish reducing and skin moisturizing agent. It’s sort of a catch-all, if you are just using the cream to give your skin a younger appearance and a healthy glow. As you can see, it preformed well for this purpose. Of course, your results may vary.
Clinical ProofThe table above is based purely on my own experiences with high-quality aloe vera creams and to some extent the testimonials of people I know and trust. But are there any clinical studies which back up the claims of aloe vera cream manufacturers? The short and simple is answer; a few, but only a few.
It’s not really that aloe has performed poorly in the few reliable studies which have been done. The issue is more a severe lack of trustworthy studies on the benefits of aloe vera. I say trustworthy because often times aloe vera companies produce “studies” that “prove” their product works but these studies are typically flawed in some way which makes them useless in making a scientific evaluation of the evidence. In any case, you rarely want to trust studies done by companies in any industry. If it’s not independent then the result may well be skewed in favor of the product in question.
Back in 1999, the British Journal of General Practice published a paper by Vogler BK and E Ernst where they examine the current findings on aloe vera. Below is a summation of what they found.
General wounds (cuts and scrapes) healed faster with aloe vera. Women who used aloe vera to treated wounds after gynecologic surgery experienced complications and a significantly longer healing time.
The rate of cure was significantly better with aloe vera with no relapses.
Radiation-induced skin injury:
No significant difference was found when women used aloe vera to treat radiation-induced skin injury associated with the treatment of breast cancer.
A significant portion of the patients (about 70%) were cured. Aloe vera cream worked quicker than gels.
All patients reacted negatively to the treatment.
Possible adverse effects:
The adverse effects in patients who reported them were all reversible. No patients withdrew from the trials because of adverse effects associated with aloe vera cream. Application sometimes led to burning sensations, contact dermatitis and mild itching.
Clinical bottom line:
There is some evidence to show that aloe vera is effective for psoriasis and genital herpes, though the results were based on few patients. There is no high quality evidence of the effectiveness of aloe vera for wound healing, radiation-induced skin injury, hyperlipidaemia. Most of the included studies were small.
This report found aloe vera cream to be helpful for several conditions but concluded that the studies were all too small to conclusively make any assertions as to the use usefulness of aloe vera in treating these conditions.
More recently (Feb. 2008) the Mayo clinic released their findings. Below is a summation of the report. I should point out that I have included only the possible benefits from using aloe vera cream and have purposefully left out any possible benefits from other all products.
Limited evidence from human studies suggests that extract from aloe vera in a cream may be an effective treatment of genital herpes in men (better than aloe gel or placebo).
Early evidence suggests that aloe vera cream may be an effective treatment of psoriasis vulgaris.
Seborrheic dermatitis (seborrhea, dandruff):
Studies suggest effectiveness for treating seborrhea dermatitis when applied to the skin.
Canker sores (aphthous stomatitis):
There is weak evidence that the treatment of canker sores with aloe vera may reduce pain and increase the time between the appearance of new sores.
Early studies suggest aloe may effectively reduce skin dryness. Higher quality studies are needed in this area.
Early evidence suggests that aloe may aid healing of mild to moderate skin burns.
Early studies suggest aloe may help heal skin ulcers. Higher quality studies are needed in this area.
Results of aloe on wound healing are mixed with some studies reporting positive results and others showing no benefit or potential worsening of the condition. Further study is needed.
This study shows a somewhat more favorable view of aloe in the medical community. One can only assume this is because more studies have been done in recent years which have helped shed light on the true benefits of aloe vera cream.
Aloe Vera DosagesThis information is based on generalizations about aloe vera cream. Every product is slightly different and you should always follow the directions on the package or the advice of a physician.
Aloe vera creams are used for a variety of skin conditions. Each product has a slightly different chemical makeup but none have been found to cause the absorption of harmful chemicals into the body. Aloe creams are available that contain aloe alone or aloe combined with other active ingredients. Both types should be used sparingly to begin with in order to ascertain whether there will be an allergic reaction or not. If not reaction occurs you can typically use aloe creams quite liberally (multiple times per day).
For Children (including babies):
The use of aloe vera cream on children is well documented and adverse reactions are not common. Aloe is often used on babies to cure rashes and cradle cap. However it is always a good idea to consult a dermatologist before starting therapy in children.
Aloe Vera SafetyIt’s important to understand that the FDA does not strictly regulate the aloe market and as such there is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products. The effects may vary greatly between a low quality cream and a high quality one. Refer to the first section on this article for tips on selecting a high quality brand. If you are treating a medical condition, you should speak with a doctor about the use of aloe vera cream as a possible treatment.
People with allergies to garlic, onions, tulips, or other plants of the Liliaceae family may have an allergic reaction to aloe. Individuals may also develop a rash after prolonged use.
Possible Side Effects:
The use of aloe on surgical wounds or on the face after a skin-peeling has been reported to cause redness and burning. The use of aloe immediately prior to prolonged sun exposure may lead to rash.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding:
The use of aloe vera cream is generally believed to be safe for use during pregnancy or breastfeeding. However, it is not known whether the ingredients in aloe may be passed on in breast milk.
ConclusionThere are a mind boggling number of uses for aloe vera creams, some of which are more promising than others. The medical evidence to support the benefits of its use is still kind of scarce though. However, the number of people claiming to have benefited from its use can not be ignored. If you have a condition that could possibly be alleviated with the use of an aloe vera cream, don’t you owe it to yourself to at least try? The negative effects of aloe are not only uncommon but also quite minimal (it usually results in a rash).
Considering that most aloe vera creams offer a money back guarantee, you really don’t have much to loose by trying it out and discovering for yourself if aloe vera creams are right for you.