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Aloe vera is a plant that’s been used for thousands of years to treat a number of conditions, namely, to soothe skin irritation and wounds. Some people may also recommend it to treat a specific wound type — acne scars.

Discolored, depressed, or raised acne scars are the remnants of damage to pores. They may appear on the face, chest, back, or other areas of the body.

Could aloe vera be the missing and all-natural link to treating acne scars? Keep reading to learn what research has revealed, as well as what type of aloe vera to use, and how to apply.

There are a few ways aloe vera applied to the skin may help to reduce acne scar formation. Examples include:

  • Boosting immune response. A 2009 article published in the International Journal of Natural Therapy reports that aloe vera may increase the immune system’s response to inflammation, and this in turn may reduce the appearance of acne scarring.
  • Increasing collagen and elastin fiber production. These fibers are responsible for repairing scarred areas. Applying aloe vera may help to especially stimulate collagen compound production, according to the Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences. Increased production of these fibers may also help to reduce the signs of aging.
  • Reducing inflammation. Applying aloe vera may help reduce inflammation that can lead to acne scarring, according to an article in the Pharmacognosy Review.

Many studies surrounding aloe vera gel and scarring is related to burns and surgical scarring. However, the benefits have the potential to extend to acne scarring as well.

Another consideration is how old your acne scars are. Usually, the earlier you can start applying medications and treatments to prevent acne scars, the better your results will be. However, some evidence suggests that aloe vera regularly applied to old scars can also reduce their appearance.

A 2018 review of studies found that a compound in aloe vera called “aloesin” may help to reduce hyperpigmentation in acne scars. Aloesin helps reduce the overproduction of melanin, a darker pigment that can make acne scars more noticeable.

The authors cited one study where people applied a combination of aloe vera and arbutin, another topical agent, 4 times a day for 15 days. The authors found these two compounds were better able to reduce darkened acne scars than when each compound was used by itself.

Acne scarring usually progresses through three stages. These include:

  1. Inflammation. The damaged skin area first responds by tightening blood vessels and restricting blood flow to the area. This effect stimulates melanin production that can cause the skin area to darken. Inflammatory compounds come to the scarred area.
  2. Scar tissue formation. The skin replaces the damaged tissue and creates new small blood vessels. New collagen is produced about three to five days after the wound first occurs. While healthy skin has about 20 percent collagen I fibers, acne-scarred skin has 80 percent of type I collagen.
  3. Remodeling. Imbalances in skin proteins can cause excess tissue to form. The results can be higher or raised scars known as hypertrophic scars.

Unfortunately, scar formation often takes less time than treatment. Often, you have to apply compounds like aloe vera to the skin on a twice-daily (or more) basis for several weeks or months to see an improvement in acne scarring.

That’s because skin cell turnover can take 28 days or more (slower as you age). As a result, you may need to apply aloe vera regularly.

You can incorporate aloe vera into your skin care routine, both for your face and body. Steps can include:

  • Cleanse skin with a gentle cleanser and warm (not too hot) water.
  • Apply an aloe vera-containing gel or cream to affected skin areas. You may choose a spot treatment on smaller areas or apply aloe to an entire area of skin.
  • Apply the aloe-containing cream to the scarred area and slightly around it to ensure you are targeting the damaged skin.
  • Continue your skin care routine by applying further products as desired.

Aloe vera is available in a number of preparations. You can even purchase an aloe vera plant and break off one of its leaves, squeezing the clear gel out and applying it on the skin.

You can purchase aloe vera-containing gels at most drugstores and online. However, not all are intended for the face. Look for labels that use wording like:

  • fragrance-free
  • noncomedogenic
  • suitable for face and body

Some aloe vera preparations are made with topical anesthetics to reduce burning sensations when a person has a sunburn. These aren’t usually intended for the face; also look for “100 percent pure aloe vera gel.”

You may have heard about using a combination of aloe vera and witch hazel for acne scar treatments. Witch hazel is a compound from a flowering shrub that is usually applied as a toner. That’s because it may tighten pores and remove excess oils.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any studies to point to this as a winning combination. Still, some people use witch hazel to treat acne by reducing skin oil.

Others may have irritation reactions to witch hazel or find it over-dries their skin. Therefore, a lot of skin care pros don’t recommend it for treating acne or acne scarring.

There are lots of other approaches to treating acne scars. These include:

However, there are lots of acne scar types that may or may not respond to these treatments. If you try aloe for one to two months and don’t see results, talk to your dermatologist for other options.

Dermatologists haven’t found a “miracle” scar eraser yet — but aloe vera may be able to lighten acne skin scars and reduce their appearance.

While aloe doesn’t usually cause significant side effects, stop using it if you have skin irritation and swelling.