A Close Look at Aloe Vera Barbadensis and It’s Effect on Hair Health

Aloe vera barbadensis has been treasured as a sacred botanical since ancient times, revered across many cultures for its numerous health and healing properties for the hair and the body as a whole. The juice from the plant has been called the “Blood of the Gods.”  Aloe vera has also been referred to as “the plant of immortality.” It has earned the name, kumari in Sanskrit which translates as the word, princess, implying the plant’s anthropomorphized feminine and regal existence upon the physical plane. Native Americans thought of the pointy plant spears as each being a “wand of heaven,” using the aloe vera juice to beautify as well as protect their skin and hair from the sun and adverse weather.

Aloe vera barbadensis has been used since antiquity as a hair treatment, among many other health benefits

Aloe vera barbadensis has been used since antiquity as a hair treatment, among many other health benefits

The ancient Greeks used aloe vera as a natural hair loss treatment. In Egypt, these plants were drawn on temple walls, where they were depicted as spiritual offerings to the deceased. Legendary queen, Cleopatra used aloe vera as a regular part of her beauty ritual to achieve silkier hair and softer skin.  According to ancient texts, the aloe plant held the secrets to health, beauty, and even immortality.  

It's believed that Egyptian queen, Cleopatra used aloe vera for both hair and skin.

It’s believed that Egyptian queen, Cleopatra used aloe vera for both hair and skin.

The rich lore and mythology surrounding the health and hair enhancing properties of aloe vera is fascinating without a doubt. Our modern scientists of today are furthering humanity’s interest in aloe’s healing capabilities.  Through the lens of research, they are looking into the benefits offered by the aloe vera barbadensis species. These efforts are revealing some rather positive findings for the plant’s potential to support the hair’s overall health.

Aloe Vera Hair Benefits – What Research Has to Say

Several prominent research studies document the use of  aloe vera extracts ( either directly or as contributors) to enable significant improvements in the health of the hair as well as the scalp

Researchers are finding new answers to the question, what does aloe vera do for hair?

Researchers are finding new answers to the question, what does aloe vera do for hair?

 STUDY: Can Aloe Vera Barbadensis Help Improve Hair Loss Due to Inflammation?

One research study ¹ observed the results of using a topical herbal formulation that included aloe vera barbadensis as one of the key ingredients. Others included Accacia concinna, Eclipta alba, Emblica officinalis, Lawsoni ainermis and Nadosstachys jatamansi. 50 participants took part in this study. They were each diagnosed as having mild to moderate hair loss, along with dandruff, a symptom related to inflammation which adversely affects the follicles.

The subjects were asked to massage the formula onto their scalp and leave it on for 30 minutes before rinsing it off. This was repeated twice a day for 7 weeks. 75% of the subjects reported that they experienced a noticeable improvement in their hair loss as well as the main symptoms of their dandruff condition which included scalp dryness, irritation, and itching. Interestingly the subjects also noticed an increase in their hair tensile strength.

Since aloe vera barbadensis was one of several ingredients used in this study’s herbal mixture, it is not clear what exact role it played in the final results. Nonetheless, the decreased hair loss and improved dandruff symptoms due to plant-based ingredients which included aloe vera is still a significant finding worth noting, especially for men and women who are hoping to find more natural, non-synthetic forms of treatment for scalp inflammation and hair shedding issues.

Internal Consumption of Aloe Vera Fosters Hair Growth In Sheep

According to researchers, aloe vera hair benefits even apply to sheep when they consume the juice internally

According to researchers, aloe vera hair benefits even apply to sheep when they consume the juice internally

One interesting animal study focused on the internal consumption of aloe vera juice on hair loss symptoms.

The scientists studied a sample of 40 sheep ² who displayed alopecia (hair loss) symptoms due to the progression of various skin diseases and administered aloe vera orally to these animals twice a day. After just 15 days, 90% of the sheep showed significantly noticeable hair growth in the areas affected by alopecia.

The authors of this study attribute the observed hair growth effects on the presence of enzymes, anthranols, and mucopolysccarides within the aloe vera plant.

Although the new hair seen on the sheep is certainly a remarkable phenomenon, generalizing the correlation between aloe vera and hair growth to humans would require further research.

A Double-Blind Research Study Tests an  Aloe Vera Hair Treatment for Its Effects on Seborrheic Dermatitis

Aloe vera barbadensis controls inflammation that affects the hair follicles and scalp

Aloe vera barbadensis controls inflammation that affects the hair follicles and scalp

Seborrheic dermatitis is a very similar condition to dandruff, but with more extreme symptoms that include large greasy grayish, white or yellow scales of skin and patches of crustiness. Affected individuals also experience severe forms of redness, itchiness and even burning sensations.

Both seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff are caused by an overgrowth of skin yeast. While dandruff is associated with the Malassezia organism, seborrheic dermatitis may be caused by either Malassezia or Pityrosporum.

The presence of these microbes will trigger the body’s inflammatory responses in order to destroy these invading organisms. However, the persistent production of sebum will continue to support their overall growth and proliferation. The yeast and the high oil production in the skin both contribute to inflammation that may attack the hair follicles and lead to subsequent hair loss.

In one published overview of aloe vera gel’s clinical uses and proposed action mechanisms ³, a mixture of 30% aloe vera prepared as a hydrophilic emulsion is cited as an effective treatment for seborrheic dermatitis when it is topically applied two times a day to the affected area.  According to this source, the mechanism of action attributed to the active aloe vera ingredient is due to its ability to stimulate two types of cells:

  1. macrophage cells which engulf foreign microbes
  2. collagen-producing fibroblast cells which to help rebuild and renew the scalp’s skin surface.
Aloe vera barbadensis is being shown by research to be effective for dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis

Aloe vera barbadensis is being shown by research to be effective for dandruff and seborrheic dermatitis

In a double-blind study ³, 44 adults with seborrheic dermatitis were treated with a topical emulsion consisting of aloe vera barbadensis (30% crude extract) as the active main ingredient.

Participants were required to apply the treatment twice daily for 4-6 weeks.The double-blind research design meant that neither the participants nor the researchers knew which treatment was being administered to specific subjects. The results of this study show that the participants who received the aloe vera treatment experienced a marked improvement in seborrheic dermatitis symptoms like scaliness (p<0.008)  and pruritus (p<0.046), but not erythema.

The authors of this double-blind study concluded that a crude extract emulsion of aloe vera can be considered as an effective form of treatment for patients suffering from seborrheic dermatitis.

For the treatment of dandruff 4, researchers recommend an aloe vera preparation as a 0.5% gel within a hydrophilic cream.

Study on Aloe Vera Barbadensis As a Natural Anti-Microbial Ingredient For Hair Products

With potent antimicrobial properties, product manufacturers are justified in considering aloe vera hair benefits when choosing their ingredients

With potent antimicrobial properties, product manufacturers are justified in considering aloe vera hair benefits when choosing their ingredients

Many skin and hair products boast the use of aloe vera as one of their ingredients. But does this labeling only heighten the allure of these products? Or does aloe vera actually play a useful and beneficial role in the consumer’s skin and hair?  A group of researchers decided to investigate these questions further 5.

Prior to the study, they identified the two main chemical compounds in aloe vera barbadensis which are most likely to have pharmaceutical effects:

  1. Flavenoids – plant metabolites (end products of metabolism resulting from enzyme reactions
  2. Alkaloids – naturally occurring, nitrogen-containing organic compounds with a diverse range of effects often used or replicated for pharmaceutical applications

The researchers used the method of disc diffusion to successfully isolate the alkaloid and flavonoid compounds from the aloe vera pulp. These extracts were applied to different strains of infectious or disease-causing bacteria, including  S. aureus, B subtilus, Streptococcus sp., S. typhi, and E.coli.

The aloe vera compounds were shown to be quite effective at killing these micro-organisms. Therefore, the authors of this study concluded that aloe vera can be used as a natural substitute for certain types of antibiotics. And furthermore, the results support the addition of aloe vera as a hair treatment in products like shampoos, moisturizers, and soaps.

Inflammation due to the presence of bacteria can harm the hair follicles and undermine their ability to grow healthy hair. Therefore, hair products with aloe vera as an ingredient can indeed help to counter these harmful processes.

Aloe Vera For Hair As A Sun Protectant

Researchers are finding that keeping hair shiny and healthy may require protection from UV rays.

Researchers are finding that keeping hair shiny and healthy may require protection from UV rays.

Scientists are starting to find that UV rays from sunlight change and denature the hair’s protein structures. Prolonged exposure over time will result in more brittle, rough texture, breakage,  decreased shine and elasticity.  

FS Daud and SB Kulkarni, the authors of a study on the sun protecting properties of aloe vera 6, explained that although  synthetic compounds exist which have been studied for sunscreen activity, “the need for exploring an agent from a natural source was thought to be important.”

Through an interesting design, their research study confirmed that aloe vera does have the ability to act as a sun protectant for the hair.

Researchers are finding that aloe vera for hair can protect the strands from becoming denatured by the sun

Researchers are finding that aloe vera for hair can protect the strands from becoming denatured by the sun

The research team observed the effects of UV simulated sunlight on different types of Asian hair strands. They also tested and compared the results of using processed and fresh aloe vera juice.

Researchers used a lamp that emitted UV simulated sunlight on different types of Asian hair:

  • Untreated with chemical dyes (black)
  • Grey hair colored with henna and washed
  • Grey hair treated with artificial chemical colorant and washed

Sample hairs were placed on glass slides and exposed to a lamp that emits both UVA and UBA light.

An identical group of hairs (as above) were treated with fresh aloe vera barbadensis juice.

A third group (identical to the above) was treated with processed juice from the same species of aloe vera.

The researchers measured chemical damage as protein degradation in terms of tryptophan content. Mechanical damage was also noted as changes in physical properties and texture.

The untreated hair ( no dye, no aloe vera) experienced the most damage. The least amount of damage was experienced by chemically colored treated hair that received fresh aloe vera juice.

Processed aloe vera barbadensis juice also offered photoprotection, but not as much as the fresh aloe vera juice.

The UV protecting compounds within the unprocessed aloe vera juice are believed to be the resins and polysaccharides within the plant.

Conclusion – Aloe Vera Hair Benefits

The clear, viscous juice from the aloe vera is packed with numerous restorative and healing compounds that benefit the body in a multitude of ways. A growing number of research studies continue to unveil the effectiveness of aloe vera on various aspects of hair health, supporting its immense potential as an effective treatment ingredient for the scalp, follicles and hair strands.

Aloe vera hair benefits are supported by research studies as a natural agent for keeping the hair healthy, soft and lustrous

Aloe vera hair benefits are supported by research studies as a natural agent for keeping the hair healthy, soft and lustrous

FAQ – Aloe Vera Barbadensis and Healthy Hair

Will drinking aloe vera juice have positive benefits on my hair?

Aloe vera juice is rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and anti-oxidants and surely offers a wide range of benefits for the entire body. However, the effects of drinking aloe vera juice on the health and quality of human hair is not yet conclusive due to a lack of research in this area. If you are interested in adding aloe vera juice as a regular part of your diet,  do so with the broad intent of improving your general state of health, rather than trying to influence your hair’s growth or the way it looks and feels.

If I want to use aloe vera barbadensis externally on my hair, what is the best way to do this?

The most common forms of aloe vera that are commercially available include the juice, which is available in many health food sections and the skin gel. Both may leave a residue on your hair. However, either form can be used as a simple and easy aloe vera hair treatment. For the most direct route to hair follicles, it is important to look for a carefully formulated natural botanical hair product that contains aloe vera. 

If I think my hair loss is caused by inflammation, will aloe vera help?

The research studies described above support the antimicrobial capabilities of aloe vera. Since inflammation is triggered by microbes, getting rid of these foreign invaders will reduce the likelihood of triggering inflammatory responses that ultimately undermine the health and functioning of the hair follicles.  Based on this mechanism, aloe vera is likely to help with hair loss issues related to inflammation.

But rather than investing your time and efforts entirely on a DIY approach to treatment,  check with a dermatologist or a hair restoration specialist to rule out other factors that may be responsible for your hair loss such as side effects from prescription medications, iron deficiencies, and other possible variables. If your hair loss is not caused by inflammation, a doctor would also be able to determine whether or not you are suffering from genetic pattern hair loss.

What does aloe vera do for the hair when it is applied topically?

Each hair strand is made of proteins structures arranged in intricate patterns around a central core that holds water.

Because aloe vera is 95% water, it serves as a potent moisturizer. Not only can this add hydration to the skin, but also condition, replenish and repair dry hair.

Is it true that an aloe vera hair treatment could work as a reparative and moisturizing conditioner?

The nutrient-rich aloe vera gel contains a specific group of protein compounds with an overall composition that’s very similar to keratin. When applied externally to the hair, aloe is capable of helping to refortify the cuticles and restoring lost moisture. Therefore aloe vera juice mixed with water can work as a natural type of leave-in hair conditioner when sprayed or gently massaged into the hair strands.

References

  1. Madan A, Arun A, Verma S. A noncomparative open-label pilot study to see the efficacy and consumer response of Vegetal Hair Well in preventing hair fall and promoting hair growth. International Journal of Advanced Research 2014;2(2):475-81.
  2. Grundmann O. Aloe vera gel research review. An overview of its clinical uses and proposed mechanisms of action. Natural Medicine Journal 2012;4(9).
  3. Vardy AD, Cohen AD, Tchetov T. A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of Aloe vera (A. barbadensis) emulsion in the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis. J Derm Treatment 1999;10(1):7-11.
  4. Feily A, Namazi MR. Aloe vera in dermatology: a brief review. G Ital Dermatol Venereol  2009;144(1):85-91.
  5. Noreen S, Khan SJ, Chouhdary S, et al. Evaluation of Aloe vera barbadensis for its antimicrobial, phytochemical, and ethnobotanical status. J Med Plants Res 2012;6(49):5876-80.
  6. Daud FS, Kulkarni SB. Comparative evaluation of photo-protective effect of Aloe vera Tourn. ex Linn. on UV damage in different Asian hair types. Indian Journal of Natural Products and Resources 2011;2(2):179-83.

Further Reading:

  1. Learn more about aloe vera as a superfood which can help with diabetes and heart disease 
  2. Discover 21 benefits of aloe vera which may surprise you
  3. Read more about how drinking aloe vera juice can benefit your body 

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