What Is Aloe barbadensis Leaf Extract?
Aloe barbadensis leaf extract, commonly known as Aloe vera, has been used for centuries for its health, beauty, medicinal, and skincare benefits. The plant is made up of three layers: the outer rind, the middle layer that is where latex is derived, and inner gel which is made up of 99.5% water. The other 0.5% of the inner layer is made up of up to 75 identified components such as zinc, potassium, magnesium, and vitamins such as vitamins E, C, and D.
Aloe vera has a long history of medicinal and indigenous medicine traditions. Tracing back 6,000 years to early Egypt, where the plant was depicted on stone carvings. In 1820, Aloe vera was officially listed as a skin protectant by the U.S. pharmacopeia. In 2009, a systematic review summarized 40 studies that involved using aloe vera for dermatological purposes. The studies also showed that aloe vera may be effective in helping reduce the appearance of psoriasis, dermatitis, frostbite, burns, and inflammation. Aloe vera’s most common application is in treating sunburn and minor burns. It does this by helping to cool down the skin and replenish the skin’s moisture and vitamin content.
Despite its long history in medicinal traditions and many indigenous medicine practices, Aloe vera has not been particularly well researched by western science. The anecdotal evidence is strong but not enough to make therapeutic claims. As this ingredient has increased in use over the last few decades, investigations into its safety have been undertaken. In this recent research, evidence has coem to light that Aloe vera may have some links to cancer, particularly when taken orally. While it is important to remember that this research is still new and more studies need to be undertaken to determine causality, legislation has begun to reflect this new research.
Aloe barbadensis Leaf Extract
the good:Aloe vera may help to soothe and hydrate the skin. It is often recommended for mild burns such as sunburn or windburn
the not so good:Aloe vera has not been well studied because of this we don’t have a lot of information about how it helps improve the skin.
Who is it for?All skin types except those that have an identified allergy to it.
Synergetic ingredients:Works well with most ingredients
Keep an eye on:Be mindful not to use aloe vera products that contain alcohol as this counteracts the hydrating benefits. Avoid ointments or oil-based creams on burns as the oils and ointment formulation will trap in heat, worsening the burn.
How Does Aloe barbadensis Leaf Extract Benefit the Skin?
Soothes and cools
Aloe vera is mainly used to help soothe irritated or mildly damaged skin. This effect is due to the cool abilities of the plant. Given that Aloe vera is 99.5% water it helps to cool the skin and prevent heat becoming trapped in the skin. This is great for skin conditions that are heat producing or for minor burns.
Aloe vera may help to prevent transepidermal water loss. Transepidermal water loss or TEWL occurs when water in the skin is lost to the environment and air, particularly in dry environments like heaters and air conditioners. It has been suggested that this ability to prevent moisture loss comes from glycosaminoglycans. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), are a class of sugar molecules that help bind moisture into the skin. GAGs are also naturally found in human skin with a primary role of supporting the proteins collagen and elastin in the dermis. Collagen, elastin, and GAGs form the majority of an important support system called the extracellular matrix (ECM). GAGs readily absorb water, which creates the fluid that fills the space between the collagen and elastin fibers in the dermis, giving it turgidity. Therefore, the GAGs found in Aloe vera are what make this natural ingredient an excellent addition to a skin moisturizer.
Aloe vera may also have anti-inflammatory benefits to the skin. The benefits provided by Aloe vera are due to the 75 active phytochemicals found in this plant. Phytochemicals are natural chemical compounds that are produced by plants to help them grow and survive, such as vitamins, minerals, enzymes, lipids, sugars, salicylic acids, and amino acids. In fact, Aloe vera provides 20 of the 22 human-required amino acids and eight of the eight essential amino acids.
The phytochemicals found in Aloe vera have been extensively studied for their dermatologic benefits. For example, Aloe vera exhibits strong anti-inflammatory activity due to an enzyme, bradykinase. By inhibiting the inflammatory mediators thromboxane B2 and prostaglandin F2, bradykinase helps to reduce excessive inflammation when applied to the skin topically.
Aloe barbadensis leaf extract may be able to protect your skin from the damage of free radicals. Free radicals are produced when the skin experiences oxidative stress. The main cause of oxidative stress is exposure to UV rays. Free radicals damage the skin cells and have been linked with an increased rate of aging. Aloe vera may help to reduce imbalances in free radical production due to a molecule called aloin. Aloin can block up to 30 percent of the ultraviolet rays when applied to the skin’s surface. Additionally, Aloe is rich in vitamins C and E, which are antioxidants that protect the skin from the damaging effects of environmental free radicals, such as UV exposure, pollution, and chemical irritants.
Vitamin C also plays a role in the synthesis of collagen, the protein that gives your skin strength and durability. You can also find beta carotene in the Aloe vera plant, which is a precursor to vitamin A. Beta carotene is just one of the four carotenoids that demonstrate vitamin A activity in humans and also acts as an antioxidant. The concentration of vitamin C and beta carotene in Aloe vera is not significant enough to significantly improve the skin but may help to improve the overall appearance slightly.
Is Aloe barbadensis Leaf Extract Safe?
The safety of Aloe barbadensis has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated the scientific data and based on the available information concluded that Aloe barbadensis leaf extract and the compounds containing Aloe barbadensis were safe for use as cosmetic ingredients.
While it is currently approved for use in skincare and cosmetic formulations it is important to keep in mind that research is ongoing around its potential carcinogenic properties.
Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel (CIR), 2007. ‘Final report on the safety assessment of aloe andongensis extract, aloe andongensis leaf juice, aloe arborescens leaf extract, aloe arborescens leaf juice, aloe arborescens leaf protoplasts, aloe barbadensis flower extract, aloe barbadensis leaf, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, aloe barbadensis leaf juice, aloe barbadensis leaf polysaccharides, aloe barbadensis leaf water, aloe ferox leaf extract, aloe ferox leaf juice, and aloe ferox leaf juice extract’, International Journal Toxicology, vol. 26, pp. 1-50.
Guo, X, & Mei, N, 2016. ‘Aloe vera: A review of toxicity and adverse clinical effects’, Journal of Environmental \Science and Health. Part C, Environmental Carcinogenesis & Ecotoxicology Reviews, vol. 34, is. 2, pp. 77–96.