Author: Laura Blott
The succulent plant aloe vera has been used for its ‘medicinal’ properties for thousands of years. You may well have used it in the context of relieving sunburn or healing injuries and become aware of an increasing number of hair products and masks which suggest it can improve hair health. Some articles suggest aloe vera might ‘aid’ hair growth, but what does the current body of research suggest? Research on aloe vera and hair growth is extremely limited and while some studies suggest its properties may promote a healthy scalp and therefore ease some conditions, there is little to suggest it can actually stop hair loss or cause hair growth and it’s always best to consult an expert.
What are the benefits of using aloe vera?
Aloe vera is anti-inflammatory which is why it is so soothing when applied topically to inflamed skin such as after sunburn. It is also a good moisturiser as it stimulates fibroblast production which is beneficial for collagen and elastin fibres that are important to skin structure and youthful appearance. Due to its antioxidants, aloe vera is also commonly used in anti-ageing products.
Is aloe vera good for the scalp?
In order to have healthy hair, it’s important to have healthy scalp too. If aloe vera has any effect on stimulating hair growth, research suggests this might be due to its ability to boost blood circulation and improve delivery of oxygen and nutrition to hair follicles. Aloe vera could help to maintain a healthy scalp because of its moisturising, anti-inflammatory and healing properties. However, there is limited research on aloe vera as a hair loss treatment, therefore it would not be advisable to use it as a standalone treatment.
Are the properties of aloe vera more effective as a supplement or as a lotion?
It depends on its purpose. Aloe vera contains vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B12, choline and folate. It also contains minerals such as selenium and zinc which are important for hair skin and nail health. However, if looking to combat a deficiency, these vitamins and minerals are better ingested at a safe and controlled level through supplements such as Hair Vitalics by The Belgravia Centre as there is insufficient research on the efficacy and safety of direct oral administration of aloe vera.
A 2012 Iranian clinical trial, carried out on mice investigated the therapeutic and healing benefits anecdotally associated with aloe vera use. Researchers concluded that topical application of aloe vera gel (the jelly-like substance taken directly from inside the plant’s leaves) could improve wound healing by stimulating fibroblasts during skin tissue formation, increasing collagen concentration and tensile strength. This suggests it could protect against traction damage from excessive hair styling or hair pieces.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Drug Delivery & Therapeutics suggested that using a hair gel containing an antidandruff drug and aloe vera could increase the drug retention and improve the effectiveness of antifungal agents as aloe vera helps to keep the hair moisturised, and prevents against damage and drying.
Could aloe vera help to treat hair/scalp conditions?
When it comes to more complicated skin conditions such as psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis (SD), aloe vera would not be the first line treatment option as there are better products and medications that can manage such conditions in the long term. Aloe vera extract might just be an ingredient that could be added to support some of these treatments due to its moisturising and anti-inflammatory effects. Controlled studies are required to prove the effectiveness of Aloe vera under various conditions.
It is rare to be deficient in vitamins A, C or E nowadays, although B12 and folate (vitamin B9) deficiencies are more common. A deficiency in any of the above vitamins could cause thinning hair from a condition called Telogen Effluvium (TE). This disrupts the hair growth cycle, causing diffuse thinning from all over the scalp which lasts roughly six months but only becomes noticeable roughly three months after being triggered. It is also worth noting that regular excessive vitamin A consumption can also cause this temporary shedding. If a deficiency is severe it could cause not only TE, but also the worsening of other hair loss conditions such as female pattern hair loss or alopecia areata. It would be best to consult a professional regarding treatment, however.
A small, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of aloe vera emulsion suggests it could be an effective treatment for SD. SD is a chronic inflammatory condition that often affects the skin folds (or skin flexures) e.g. the inside of the knees and elbows. It is also very common in sebum-rich areas such as the chest, face and scalp. It is a type of eczema that can come and go throughout the years and when it flares up, the skin usually becomes inflamed, itchy and flaky. There is a yeast called Malassezia furfur which naturally lives on the skin but is associated with SD. Sometimes it triggers an inflammatory response on the skin which might be due to overproduction of this yeast, or simply an autoimmune reaction of the skin to it (or maybe both). Yeasts are types of fungi and since aloe vera has both anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties, it is logical that it could soothe such a condition.
Is aloe vera safe to use?
Although aloe vera is a ‘natural’ product, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is ‘safe’ to use or ingest. It is always best to consult a professional before use. Regarding the oral use of aloe vera, there is insufficient research on efficacy and safety and there is also no established regulation on the dose of administration. Taken orally, the extract could have a laxative effect which, if taken in the long term, could lead to electrolyte imbalance. Although applying aloe vera to your scalp is unlikely to be harmful, there remains little scientific evidence on how it could stimulate hair growth and, although rare, some people might have allergic reactions.
Should I consult a specialist before use?
Overall, the use of aloe vera extract needs more research. For those with hair loss, it is important to have a specialist consultation to establish a diagnosis and best course of safe and suitable treatment according to one’s medical history. For the most common hair loss condition – androgenic alopecia – topical minoxidil (for men and women) and oral finasteride 1mg (for men) remain the only clinically proven treatments. In cases of TE caused by vitamin deficiency, it would be more important to treat the deficiency rather than using aloe vera.
The Belgravia Centre is an organisation specialising in hair growth and hair loss prevention with two clinics and in-house pharmacies in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world’s largest gallery of hair growth comparison photos and demonstrates the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time to arrange a free consultation.