Acne scars are lesions rooted quite deeply in the skin that are sometimes left behind when an acne breakout clears up. Deep scars are more difficult to treat, even more so when a lot of time goes by from the moment they first appeared.
Various studies regarding the effectiveness of aloe vera have been carried out on people suffering from acne and acne scars. For example, one recent study has found that people given topical aloe vera alongside a topical retinoid cream healed faster than those given a topical retinoid cream only.
However, aloe will only address the symptom, not the cause; it will reduce existing acne lesions, but it will not prevent new breakouts, even though some people claim it has diminished the severity of their symptoms, eliminating almost entirely blackheads and small bumps.
Bear in mind that aloe vera is unlikely to cure your acne on its own; you will also need to adjust your diet and lifestyle to achieve the best results. However, aloe may help acne scars fade away faster than they normally would due to the plant’s skin-healing properties, such as vitamin C, antioxidants, glucomannan, and the anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal saponin, alongside its other 70+ potent compounds. Moreover, aloe vera is known to speed up the healing of second-degree burns, and boost the formation of collagen during healing.
Aloe can be a pain-free alternative to invasive and painful scar treatments, like glycolic acid peels or laser resurfacing. It is recommendable to use aloe mostly for healing old acne scars, but it also helps recent acne heal without leaving marks. Even so, it may take a while for scars to diminish or vanish, especially if they are really old.
To heal acne scars, it is advisable to clean your face as you would normally, then apply aloe 2 or 3 times a day, every day, for as long as it takes scar tissue to heal; this can be anywhere from one week to a couple of years. Be sure to use hypoallergenic pure organic aloe, that is at least 90% aloe vera, or as close to 100% as possible; you can find it in natural foods stores.
You may want to try a more liquid gel formula that contains no preservatives, artificial colors or other harmful chemicals that give typical gel products their thickness. A more liquid aloe gel spreads more easily and lasts longer, without caking or flaking that much. With all formulations, however, you will feel your face tighten slightly as the aloe dries, even though the plant has very light moisturizing properties. In order to fix this, you will need to loosen the aloe by simply scrunching around your face a little.
The thicker the layer you put on, the tighter your skin will feel, and the flakier it will get after the aloe dries. The skin can also look shiny, and feel somewhat dry, giving you that uncomfortable feeling of having a mask on; this doesn’t mean the aloe is ineffective, but it may be bothersome to some people, especially since applying makeup on dry skin is quite difficult. One recommendation would be to apply only a thin aloe layer in the morning, and a much thicker one at night.
Alternatively, you can also use a fresh aloe plant, and some users report amazing results with this approach. If you can get pure aloe vera, take the stem, cut it open, and apply the gel within directly on your face; this is better than using a bottled gel off the shelf because the fresh aloe keeps all of its strong properties intact, untouched by pasteurization, preservation and storage processes.
However, while store aloe is less potent than fresh aloe, it still retains much of the plant’s original properties, especially if proper care is taken during its processing. Moreover, aloe plants are not readily available in all countries, and it can take more time to prepare your own gel rather than simply squeeze it out of a bottle. Another downside is that since it is stronger, fresh aloe may dry your skin more than its store-bought version, making your face feel quite tight.
Regardless of the type of aloe you choose, with regular use, you will notice newer scars healing right away, while older scars will take a little longer to fade.
There is some disagreement and conflicting research regarding the internal use of aloe vera. On the one hand, studies on rats have shown that ingesting aloe can lead to GI problems and even cancer, while people may experience diarrhea, low mineral levels, and kidney dysfunctions. Aloe has also been reported to conflict with some types of conventional medicine. Moreover, the leaf in particular tastes bad; the inner plant tastes watery, though.
On the other hand, it is argued that the stem of the plant is safe for human consumption, while the outer part (the leaf, that is) is poisonous. Therefore, as long as you avoid aloe products that use or are labeled as “whole leaf”, or make your own drink by cutting open the plant, scooping out the contents and blending them, you should not experience any adverse reactions.
While aloe is safe to use for most people, test it first, especially if you plan to apply it topically. Do a patch test on your elbow or forearm to make sure you are not allergic and to avoid having your skin fill with small pimples (a common complaint of people with sensitive skin), redness, irritation, and sun sensitivity.
Although rare, if you notice any of these possible side effects, stop using aloe vera. In case you get a bad reaction from the aloe, like small pimples, try applying some gel over the areas affected by acne, leave it on for about 20 minutes, then wash it off. This way, the aloe will get a chance to heal your scar tissue before your face begins to feel overly tight. At the same time, ponder whether stress or something you ate are not to blame for your outbreak, and make any adjustments as needed.
People with sensitive skin or with other skin conditions besides acne should be extra careful. For example, while aloe is great for healing acne marks, it can also trigger eczema breakouts in people who already have this condition. If aloe is otherwise good for you, try to avoid those patches where it triggered eczema breakouts until they clear out, and apply the gel on the rest of your face in the meantime. Your skin may become less sensitive to the aloe in time.
In rare cases, it can also cause an allergic reaction upon contact with the fingers, so wash your hands immediately after handling the gel to prevent that.
Aloe vera does not treat acne per se, but it can be a real help in your strive to heal acne scars, even old ones. However, this can take some time, and you must apply it regularly before you can see positive results. To keep acne under control, not just treat its symptoms (the marks left behind), alter your diet and lifestyle in addition to using aloe.