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Is aloe vera lotion really good for skin? Episode 156

Is aloe lotion good for skin?

Gemma asks…I am a huge fan of Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Fresh lotion. However, I have found another aloe lotion that is even cheaper: Perfect Purity. So I’m wondering can you tell me if the Perfect Purity will perform as well as my beloved Vaseline? Or should I just bite the bullet and save my dollars for a big bottle of the Vaseline Aloe Fresh?_mg_3478

Thanks to Gemma for taking the time to record her question. We can answer this pretty conclusively just based on reviewing the ingredients and we’ll cover that first. But then we we want to take this opportunity to talk more about aloe vera itself and discuss why it is (or isn’t) so good for your skin. So, let’s break down the differences between Vaseline and Perfect Purity.

The Vaseline product contains 4 key moisturizers let’s look at each one in order of descending concentration. First there’s glycerine. Glycerine is a humectant which means it attract and bind water to skin. That’s one of two basic ways that a moisturizer works.

The other way a moisturizer works is to occlude the skin which means it seals the moisture in by preventing evaporation. That’s how the second ingredient, mineral oil, works.

The 3rd key ingredient is dimethicone which is a silicone that not only helps seal in moisture but it also protects the skin from detergents and other harsh ingredients. Which is why it’s approved by the FDA as a skin protectant.

The 4th ingredient is petrolatum which is one of most effective, if not the most effective, occlusive moisturizing ingredients.

So Vaseline contains a potent cocktail of simple but effective moisturizing agents. Now let’s look at all the effective moisturizers in Perfect Purity. Ready? Here we go:

Mineral oil. That’s it. The rest of the formula is just emulsifiers and control agents. Vaseline is better because a mixture of different occlusive agents blended with a good humectant will moisturize more effectively than just a high level of mineral oil.

In addition, Vaseline has a better balanced emulsion system so I’d expect it to be more stable and more aesthetically pleasing. Finally, for what it’s worth, the amount of aloe in either formula is pretty much irrelevant.

And that brings us to the second part of the discussion – what is aloe and is it or isn’t good for skin?
What is aloe vera?

Aloe vera gel is harvested from the aloe vera plant by cutting open the leaves and collecting what oozes out. This thick, clear “ooze” is known as a mucilage. The term mucilage comes from the work “mucus” or it least it comes from the same Latin root. Talked about pituitous.

The gel is sterilized, through Pasteurization, and filtered. It can be sold that way or it can be spray dried and turned into a powder.

Most of the mucilage is water about 99.5%. The other 0.5% is a combination of mucopolysaccharides, choline and choline salicylate.

The polysaccharides include pectins, some celluloses, and sugars like mannose derivatives. It also contains amino acids, lipids, and sterols like lupeol.

Interestingly, the specifications for aloe allow it to contain 1 ppm arsenic, 2 ppm lead and 0.01 ppm mercury.
What does aloe do for skin? Here’s the good news. This stuff really works.

According to Dr. Zoe Draelos, MD a dermatologist who is frequently quoted on matters of cosmetic science, aloe vera is a good treatment for burns.

Mucopolysaccharides are film formers that create a thin, protective covering over the burn as the aloe dries; this film helps shield exposed nerve endings. Choline salicylate (which is chemically similar to the active ingredient in muscle rub creams) is an anti-inflammatory that soothes burned skin.

WHO agrees that it works for burns. “Aloe Vera Gel has been effectively used in the treatment of first- and second-degree thermal burns and radiation burns. Both thermal and radiation burns healed faster with less necrosis when treated with preparations containing Aloe Vera Gel.” I saw at least one test that compared it to a petroleum jelly coated gauze and it was statistically better. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js2200e/6.html

But wait, there’s more! Aloe also has anti-inflammatory properties. There both in vitro and in vivo studies showing aloe is reduces acute inflammation (at least in rats.) The mechanism appears to be based on enzyme active and through inhibition of prostaglandin F2. The sterol components of aloe (specifically lupeol) are thought to be responsible.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But here’s the bad news: aloe is effective only under very specific conditions.
Things to look for in aloe product

A lot of aloe lotions contain aloe powder. But Dr. Draelos points out that reconstituted powdered aloe vera doesn’t contain the same 0.5% of goodies that make the aloe work. That means it won’t have the same activity.

The research summarized by WHO confirms this. They say …”At present no commercial preparation has been proved to be stable. Because many of the active ingredients in the gel appear to deteriorate on storage, the use of fresh gel is recommended.”

In addition, WHO says that concentrations of between 10% and 70% of the fresh gel are required to get the benefits. That’s a lot! (The described dose or posology)

So, it seems unlikely that most of the aloe lotion products on the market will provide all the benefits we described. Don’t have the right posology. It’s a poser!

If you’re still determined to use aloe here are a couple of things to look for. First make sure you’re getting the right kind of aloe.

Actually, the first step is to make sure you’re getting aloe AT ALL. One of the products that Gemma asked about in her email was “Dermasil Aloe Fresh.” But when you look at the ingredient list it doesn’t actually contain any aloe! (Of course this could be a typo on the ingredient list but still…come on!

But back to the right kind…To make sure you’re not getting the reconstituted version look for “juice” in the ingredient name. Allowed names include “aloe barbadensis leaf juice” or just “aloe vera juice.” If it says aloe or aloe extract you not getting the right stuff. (Mention difference between different INCI versions. 2nd edition vs 9th edition.

Second, look for high concentrations. You won’t find 10 to 70% in a typical lotion but there are products on the market that use aloe at this level. One that we found is Jason Natural Cosmetics Aloe Vera Super Gel. It’s not fresh but this kind of product has the best chance of providing aloe benefits – just keep in mind that it won’t replace a conventional moisturizer because it doesn’t contain the type of ingredients we talked about at the top of the show.

Aloe is an effective natural ingredient but only when used fresh and at high concentrations. Most commercial products won’t provide the full benefits you get from the plant itself.

We should mention that Gemma has her own blog which is  visagemaquillage.blogspot.com

Ingredient lists
Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Fresh lotion ingredients:
Water, glycerin, stearic acid, isopropyl myristate, mineral oil, glycerl stearate, glycol stearate, dimethicone, peg-100 stearate, petrolatum, cetyl alcohol, tapioca starch, phenoxyethanol, magnesium aluminum silicate, methylparaben, acrylates/c10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, fragrance, propylparaben, disodium edta, xanthan gum, stearamide amp, aloe barbadensis leaf juice powder, titanium dioxide (cl77891)

Perfect Purity:
Water, stearic acid, cetyl alcohol, glycerol monostearate, mineral oil, triethanolamine, carbomer, aloe vera, tocopheryl acetate (vitamin e) , propylene glycol, diazolidinyl urea, iodopropynyl, butylcarbamate, DMDM hydantoin, fragrance, Yellow 5 (CI 1940) Blue 1 (CI 42090)

Jason Aloe Vera Super Gel ingredients
Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Gel, Aqua (Purified Water), Vegetable Glycerin, Allantoin, Polysorbate 20, Panthenol (Vitamin B5), Potassium Carbomer, Argnine, Natural Menthol, Benzyl Alcohol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Chlorophyllin-Copper Complex, Fragrance Oil Blend

Dermasil Aloe Fresh lotion:
Water, glycerin, Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Stearic Acid, Dimethicone,, Glycol Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Peg-40 stearate, Cetyl alcohol, Cetyl Acetate, sodium hydroxide, fragrance, dimethicone, phenoxyethanol, carbomer, Helianthus Annus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, disodium edta, Acetylated Lanolin, methylisothiazolinone, iodopropynyl butylcarbamate, magnesium aluminum silicate, lecithin, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Cholesterol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Prunus Amygoalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Ethylene Brassylate, Santalium Album (Sandalwood) Oil, Rosa Damascena Extract, Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract, Stearmide Amp, Disodium Edta, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Dmdm Hydantoin, and other Ingredients. Helianthus Annus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Glycerin

Are serums really necessary?

Sheila asks…Thank you for recommending The Age Fix. I read the book and have throughly enjoyed it. My question is are the use of serums really necessary?

I‘m glad to hear you enjoyed The Age Fix! Remember that’s the book by friends of the Brains Dr Tony Youn who runs the Celebrity Cosmetic Surgery website. Very entertaining! Check it out.

First let’s talk about serums. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer because the term “serum” is used differently by different companies. 
All it really tells you is the consistency of the product – it’s not a liquid, or a cream or a lotion. I think in most cases the term has just come to mean “a product with a heavy consistency.” Typically clear and applied with a dropper or some other controlled dispensing packaging.

Whether or not a product provides a benefit is not typically dependent on the product form but rather the active ingredients it contains. For example, a serum with retinol? Probably worth the money. Unless you’re using a cream or lotion with retinol in which case you don’t need both. What about a serum with chamomile extract? Probably won’t provide much benefit.

So maybe the question shouldn’t be “are serums necessary?” But rather something like “which active ingredients are necessary to provide the benefit I’m looking for.” Once you’ve decided that you can decide which product form is best for you.

Is this a good nail oil package?

Sonja in our Forum says…. A lot of nail art bloggers and Instagrammers swear by this nail oil pen, but I can’t help but wonder if packaging nail oil this way is safe. The pen has a brush on one end and the oil comes out through the brush, which you can sweep across your cuticles and nails. I can see how it’s =convenient, but I worry that the brush would pick up germs from my hands and then the germs could migrate back into the reservoir of oil and contaminate the product. Is this kind of packaging safe?

I don’t think there’s much to worry about because this kind of product is not very prone to microbial contamination. If you look at the ingredients you’ll see that there’s no water in the product which means bacteria and mold won’t be able to grow very well.

Plus, the pen packaging prevents direct exposure to moisture so the product is likely to stay uncontaminated. For anhydrous products that are more exposed to the moisture in the environment (think of a bath oil in an mouth container) there’s still concern but I don’t think there’s much danger here.
Simply Pure Hydrating Oil Pen ingredients: Jojoba Wax Ester, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Fragrance Oil Blend, Olive Squalane, Vitamin A Oil, Vitamin E Oil, Tea Tree Oil http://www.myblisskiss.com/simply-pure-hydrating-oil-pen/

{ 20 comments… add one }

  • Ye Won Clay October 28, 2016, 2:39 am

    Hello Randy and Perry! Love your blog posts and podcasts!! I have learned SO much from your efforts! Thank you so, SO much for creating something like this and inspiring us all to be a lot more smart about beauty!

    Anyways, I’m sorry this is unrelated but I didn’t know where else to post my question. If you have time to respond at all, that would be really, really helpful.

    Soo, my question is, is it safe to wear your false eyelashes UNDERNEATHE your lash line (instead of above your lash line)? It’s a trend going around recently, and apparently lots of professional makeup artists use this trick for their models, for decades now, or so I have heard.

    It looks so natural and I have been thinking about trying it, but I’m afraid that it’s a dangerous thing to do. I already have sensitive eyes but I really, really want to ditch the caked on mascara, liner, and layers and layers of eyeshadow. I am of East Asian descent so saying my own lashes are “lacking” would be an understatement.

    If it IS relatively safe, what kind of ingredients should you watch out for in false lash adhesives? Latex or non-latex? Clear or dark? Preservatives? I have read in a forum that every lash glue, no matter the kind, has a little bit of toxins and poisons in them. Is this safe long-term? Many mono-lidded Asian people say wearing false lashes everyday is much easier and effective than having mascara smear all over the place due to the extra fat on the eyelid. I have also heard many people using “weave glue” for lashes. Is that dangerous as well?

    Thank you so much! I just got off work and I cannot wait to read your latest posts!

    • Randy Schueller October 28, 2016, 9:50 am

      This is not our area of expertise but from what we’ve seen, there are dangers associated with putting pretty much anything under the lash line. Adhesives in particular may contain unreacted bits of polymers that can be irritating.

      • Ye Won October 29, 2016, 3:25 pm

        Awww. Well, it was worth a try! Thanks Randy! Off to google what unreacted polymers are…

    • Eileen October 28, 2016, 4:24 pm

      Hi Yi Won,

      There are so many trends and hacks published online that it is hard to separate the good from the bad. You’ve obviously read about the benefits of applying false eyelashes underneath, but you should also read up on the problems associated with it (the problems go beyond just glue). Then, you can decide if it is worth taking the risk because there are definitely risks to consider. For example: Applying lashes underneath can lead to corneal abrasions because the eyelash band moves over the eye with every blink or eye movement. Until you become adept at applying the lashes, there is a chance that you’ll poke or injure your eye. The glue can migrate onto the eye and cause irritation (stinging, red, itchy, watery eyes, etc.). Injury or ulcerations to the eye can lead to serious infections. You get the idea. There’s a lot to consider. Most of the Instagram beauty bunnies and bloggers tell you about the good, but you need to know about the bad as well in order to make a safe decision. If you do decide to give it a try, though, be sure your glue has been ophthalmologist tested and has been proven safe for use in and around the eyes. Good luck!

      • Eileen October 28, 2016, 4:26 pm

        I’m so sorry I misspelled your name, Ye Won. Dang autofill!

      • Ye Won October 30, 2016, 3:02 am

        Hi Eileen!

        Thank you for your concern. :’) I tried to google many times about the risks of putting them under the base of the lashes, but could not find anything about it other than all the beauty blogs recommending it. Yikes.. sounds scary… Maybe I’ll practice the traditional way and if I get good I might proceed with caution.. I just bought the glue but couldn’t find any ingredient list for it. It’s from overseas. Anyways, thank you very much (I always read your insightful comments on all the blog posts when I’m lurking, which is like 99.8% of the time 8D)!

  • Jimmy November 1, 2016, 12:28 am

    Regarding the aloe vera gel, there is a ready made product: Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel.

    Ingerdients: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (80%), Propolis Extract (10%), Glycerin, Arginine, Allantoin, Betaine, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Cross Polymer, Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit Extract, Pulsatilla Koreana Extract, Usnea Barbata (Lichen) Extract

    However it is aimed more towards facial use.

    • Randy Schueller November 1, 2016, 8:56 am

      And it has the “freshness” issue.

      • disillusion November 2, 2016, 9:05 am

        Also no listed preservatives, so it could be dangerous

  • bard November 4, 2016, 7:53 pm

    What do you think of Deciem’s Fountain products? which are basically drinkable supplements supposed to help with many different thinks such as give you a boost of energy or help with better looking skin etc. fountain.co

  • Christopher November 10, 2016, 9:17 am

    No new posts/podcasts the past couple of weeks. Is everything ok with the Brains? Hope all is well!

    • Randy Schueller November 12, 2016, 8:59 am

      Hi Christopher. Yes, all is well but I’m occupied with some other matters that are keeping me from doing much Beauty Braining for the foreseeable future. Thanks for asking!

  • Tracy November 23, 2016, 4:45 am

    Coincidentally, Bloomberg News did a small Aloe expose and found zero traces of aloe in major chains’ own brand aloe gel products: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-22/no-evidence-of-aloe-vera-found-in-the-aloe-vera-at-wal-mart-cvs
    Its method of testing for aloe seems to differ from anything you mentioned above. They tested for malic acid, acemannan and glucose.

    • Randy Schueller November 23, 2016, 8:54 am

      Very interesting article, Tracy! I really have to wonder abs the test methods used though. I find it hard to believe that some of these major manufacturers would sell an aloe product with NO aloe at all. (But I’m not surprised they use low levels of it!)

  • Melissa November 28, 2016, 2:21 pm

    A bit off topic, but I was wondering if you could recommend products for me? I have highlighted, shoulder length, slightly wavy hair that I try to only wash every few days, with occasional dry shampoo usage in between.
    I tend to go for clear shampoos, since creamy formulas tend to weigh down my hair and my color tends to look dull. However, most clear shampoos feel a bit drying on my hair. I prefer conditioners that are easy to comb through my hair, and I definitely appreciate any smoothing capabilities.
    Lastly, if you have any recommendations for an oil free hair serum to polish my ends/lengths, please let me know!

    P.S. My hair seems to like behentrimonium chloride in conditioners, is behentrimonium methosulfate similar?

    • Randy Schueller November 29, 2016, 8:00 am

      We can’t really recommend products but perhaps another one of our readers will give you some suggestions. I can tell you that “behenitrimonium” based conditioners work particularly well because of the length of the carbon chain so it’s not surprising you like it. The two versions you cited are similar but the chloride version will work better because it sticks to hair better than the methosulfate version.

      • Melissa November 29, 2016, 9:48 pm

        Thank you for your reply!
        I completely understand not being able to suggest products, I should have realized that, my apologies.
        I was wondering, I usually apply a silicone serum that contains some oil(s) to my hair before air drying. It leaves my hair silky and it cuts down on frizz. Sometimes if I overdo it, I look greasy. If I were to switch to an oil free serum, would my hair still look and feel the same as the oil/cone serum, just less grease?

        • Randy Schueller November 30, 2016, 9:28 am

          I don’t know it depends on what else is in the product. The silicones need to be diluted in some kind of carrier but you might be able to find an oil free one.

  • Grace November 29, 2016, 7:12 am

    I really miss you guys. That is all. Carry on and get back here!

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