The effectiveness of aloe vera for sunburn varies and usually depends on the form of aloe vera being used and how bad the sunburn is. Many people claim that applying the clear gel directly from the leaves of an aloe plant is most effective. If the plant itself is not available, then one should use the freshest form of aloe vera possible since aloe is believed to lose some of its healing properties over time. When used as directed, aloe can effectively treat discomfort and often can prevent the blistering caused by a sunburn.
Aloe is a plant native to Africa, yet it also grows wild in locations such as Latin America and the Caribbean. Historically, the aloe plant has been used for a variety of medicinal purposes, including burns and other skin conditions. Pure aloe gel can be obtained from the center of the spear-shaped aloe leaf, but most pharmacies, grocery stores and other retail outlets sell prepared aloe vera products. Aloe can be taken orally as a juice, a tablet, or a capsule; the different products containing aloe vera for sunburn, however, usually consist of creams, lotions and gels.
When using aloe vera for sunburn, it is usually applied to clean skin, either directly from the plant as pure aloe gel or as a cream or lotion containing aloe as one of its ingredients. Many people prefer aloe vera for sunburn because it soothes pain and moisturizes the skin. According to many skincare professionals, aloe acts as an anti-inflammatory and can help prevent skin from peeling. One caveat they often include with their recommendations is that aloe should not be used to treat severe sunburn or be applied to open wounds.
Some people are at risk of experiencing an allergic reaction, depending on the form of aloe vera they use. For example, aloe capsules might interact with other oral medications, and taking aloe latex, previously thought to aid constipation, is not generally recommended for most people, especially those with intestinal disorders. Additionally, when applied topically, certain aloe gels or creams might cause skin irritation. Some natural alternatives to aloe vera for sunburn include Vitamin E, cucumbers and oatmeal.
Scientific studies have produced mixed results and different conclusions regarding the effectiveness of aloe vera for sunburn. It might be most effective at treating sunburn when it is combined with other remedies, such as over-the-counter pain relievers. Aloe does provide a protective layer when applied directly to the skin, possibly keeping bacteria away, but there is no definitive evidence that using aloe vera for sunburn also prevents infection. Specific concerns about its use should be addressed with a medical professional.