This post will introduce aloe vera and its many uses throughout history. The post will then outline the proven healing properties of the plant, as well as what conditions related to hair loss that aloe vera may treat.
Finally, you will learn tips for using aloe vera at home.
What is Aloe Vera?
The aloe vera plant, scientifically known as Aloe barbadensis miller, is a perennial plant known for its thick, triangular leaves and serrated edges (1). These plants contain three distinct layers:
- The innermost layer which contains a thick, clear gel;
- The middle layer which consists of a yellow sap; and
- The outermost layer which forms a thick rind.
The various layers are full of vitamins, nutrients, and phytochemicals. These include vitamins A, C, and E, minerals like calcium and magnesium, enzymes, and fatty acids (2).
Aloe vera is known for treating skin irritations and burns, but it is also a potential remedy for stopping hair loss and helping promote hair growth.
The plant has been used for centuries around the world, including in Greece, Egypt, India, Mexico, Japan, and China (1). The most common uses were cosmetic, but it was also used for wound treatments, to treat radiation dermatitis, and even as a laxative.
The Proven Healing Properties of Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a plant with an array of both proven and unproven benefits.
Here is a closer look at the proven benefits this plant may provide.
The main component of aloe vera is choline salicylate, which is an anti-inflammatory substance.
It is especially effective in the conditions mentioned above since it reduces pain, irritations, and inflammation (3). Another component is Mucopolysaccharides, which is rich in chondroitin sulfate (1). It can heal wounds and different scalp conditions.
According to one Spanish study, mucopolysaccharides also have moisturizing properties and improve blood circulation, which are necessary aspects for healthy hair (4).
NOTE: The above-mentioned study was carried out on rabbits.
Another substance is choline, a natural nutrient with even better moisturizing properties. Proper moisture levels eliminate itching and dryness, which relieves irritation and swelling.
Once applied, aloe needs around 40 minutes to provide beneficial effects to the scalp. Aloe vera is a barrier that prevents further irritation. Be aware that it is possible to be allergic to aloe vera, so you will want to test first. Apply the gel to the inner arm, in an area no larger than a quarter. If no reaction in 24 hours, it should be safe to use. If you develop a reaction to aloe vera over time, discontinue use.
What Conditions Might Aloe Vera Help Treat?
The rich chemical makeup of the aloe vera plant makes it an excellent treatment option for a variety of skin and scalp conditions.
Scalp and conditions that affect the scalp benefit the most from this herb. Hence, understanding main scalp conditions will help understand how aloe vera deals with these conditions.
Dandruff is a condition where dead skin cells exfoliate at a much higher rate than normal (5). Those cells build up on the scalp which leads to the creation of patches of dead skin. Chemicals in shampoos and conditioners can also cause further irritation of the scalp.
As an ingredient with moisturizing properties, aloe vera may be helpful in treating dandruff.
This condition is similar to dandruff, but the scalp is much more irritated.
There is a natural oil called sebum that keeps the scalp moisturized and prevents dryness. However, the overproduction of sebum makes the scalp oily. This can be a physiological condition, but seborrheic dermatitis can be also caused by stress or yeast infections.
These scalp conditions clog pores and irritate follicles which affects hair growth and makes hair weaker.
Aloe vera can moisturize the scalp as mentioned above. Its anti-inflammatory properties can also reduce swelling so as to promote healthy hair growth.
Pattern Hair Loss
While aloe vera has not been proven to treat hair loss directly, it may have an indirect effect on the follicles and hair strands. The anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties of aloe vera certainly make it a good treatment for the hair and scalp. An additional way that aloe vera may help with hair growth is its ability to increase blood flow.
Blood circulation to the hair follicles is critical for hair growth. This is because blood delivers oxygen and key nutrients.
Unfortunately, the inflammation that triggers pattern hair loss slowly cuts off this blood flow. The hair loss then worsens as a result.
To fight the vicious cycle, you can increase blood circulation to the scalp.
Aloe vera may increase blood flow to the area it is applied (7). The plant’s gel can also moisturize surrounding tissues and even break down dead skin cells.
Types of Aloe Vera Treatments
With a greater understanding of how aloe vera can benefit your scalp, here is a look at some popular aloe vera treatments.
Shampoos and Conditioners
There are plenty of shampoos on the market with high aloe content that claim to give you healthy hair. However, the majority of shampoos are quickly washed away which means they do not have enough time to penetrate the scalp.
The shampoo below should be left on the scalp for at least three minutes before rinsing.
- Water (1/2 cup)
- Liquid Castile Soap (1/2 cup)
- Aloe Vera Gel (1/3 cup)
- Olive oil (1 teaspoon)
- Almond Oil (2-3 teaspoons)
- Geranium Essential Oil (10 drops)
Combine the above ingredients, and mix well. Lather onto wet hair, and massage into the hair and scalp for complete coverage. Let sit for three minutes, and then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm (or cold) water.
The liquid castile soap gently cleanses the scalp, while the aloe vera gel moisturizes and soothes any irritations. The olive oil acts as both a hydrator and moisturizer, while both the almond and geranium oils reduce inflammation and increase circulation to the scalp.
For additional benefit, you can also use an aloe vera conditioner.
Aloe vera can be easily added to store-bought conditioners or, even better, added to your own homemade ones. You can then apply the conditioner to the scalp, leave it on for 20 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.
Applied Directly to the Scalp
If you would like to increase the chance of aloe vera penetrating the scalp, your best bet is to apply it directly to the scalp. This can be done after the shower while your pores clean and open.
To apply to the scalp, pour the aloe vera oil into your palm. Massage between your hands, and apply in a thin layer across the scalp.
Here’s a tip: Lightly heat the oil before use. This will make it spread more easily, and it can also open the pores for deeper penetration. You can then leave it in until it is dried, and rinse with lukewarm/cold water.
To increase the benefits of aloe vera, you can also practice scalp massage while applying it. To do so, place your fingertips on either side of your head and move in a circular motion. Be gentle, and apply varying levels of pressure as you go along.
You can massage the entirety of your scalp, and this will manually improve blood flow as well as relieve stress.
It may seem counter-intuitive to apply oil to an oily scalp, but aloe vera can actually help to reduce the amount of sebum your scalp produces.
Should You Use Store-Bought or Homemade Aloe Vera Treatments?
While you can purchase shampoos, conditioners, and hair masks that contain aloe vera, it is best to use pure aloe vera oil on your scalp. It is not weighed down by artificial ingredients that store-bought products have.
Getting pure aloe vera gel from your local health food store will offer the greatest convenience unless you have plenty of plants for harvesting.
Another option includes mixing aloe vera gel with your favorite conditioner or shampoo. It may lessen the effect of aloe, but high-quality shampoo mixed with it is a great remedy to treat hair loss.
How Long Will It Take to Work?
Just as hair loss did not happen overnight, neither will hair growth. It will take time to see results, which is why consistency is key.
The relief of scalp symptoms – including itching and inflammation – may be noticeable within a matter of weeks. But a reduction in hair loss, and even growth, can take months.
However, it is also important to understand the causes of your scalp conditions, such as infection, stress, or poor nutrition. With this understanding, you can then treat them directly. And a healthier scalp will bring your hair follicles back into normal condition, which can improve hair growth.
Aloe vera is probably not a very effective treatment for scalp conditions and hair loss. However, it may help with individual symptoms and create an overall healthier scalp environment. It’s also low cost and easy to find and there aren’t really any downsides to using it, aside from a bit of mess when preparing it.
If you are looking for an effective way to treat hair loss then you may want to look towards FDA approved treatments, along with talking to a medical professional for a thorough diagnosis.