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Aloe vera is a succulent that grows in sunny climates all over the world. The fleshy leaves of this plant contain a gel that has many uses in natural remedies.
It’s best known for helping to relieve sunburned skin and other surface wounds, but emerging research is starting to uncover other health benefits, too.
Due to its moisturizing properties and nourishing vitamins, aloe vera has gained popularity as a treatment for dry hair and skin. Research has shown that it may help with dandruff relief, and that the plant compounds may also help promote healthier hair.
Here’s a look at the benefits of using aloe vera in a hair mask, recipes and steps for making one, and other ways you can use this natural ingredient in your hair.
Very little research has specifically looked at the benefits of aloe vera for hair. But
- anti-inflammatory actions that may help reduce scalp irritation
- moisturizing effect
- enzyme and fatty acid content that may help reduce inflammation
- vitamins C, E, B-12, folic acid, and choline content that may help nourish and strengthen hair
There isn’t any research that points to aloe vera being best suited to a particular hair type. However, hair care professionals may recommend aloe vera if you have:
- oily hair
- brittle, dry, or damaged hair
- curly hair
- natural hair
Trying aloe vera gel in your hair may be the best way to find out whether it works for you. You may notice a film after using the gel in your hair, so be sure to wash it out completely after using it as a conditioner or hair mask.
A hair mask is a leave-in treatment that can benefit your hair in several ways.
Because hair masks often contain more oils and conditioning agents than a typical conditioner, and you leave them in your hair for a longer period of time, they may promote more intense healing and repair than your usual hair care routine.
You can purchase many types of hair masks at a drugstore or online, but you can also make your own.
You can combine aloe vera gel with coconut oil to make a simple yet effective hair mask. Coconut oil may help your hair feel softer and promote strength and shine. It may also help reduce frizziness.
Here are the steps to make this mask.
DIY aloe vera and coconut hair mask
- Gather your ingredients: 2 tbsp. of aloe vera gel (fresh or store-bought) and 1 tbsp. of oil. If you’re using coconut oil, use virgin coconut oil at room temperature. You can melt solid coconut oil in your microwave.
- Stir the oil and aloe vera together until they form a smooth, blended paste.
- Protect your clothing with a towel or old shirt.
- Apply the mask to your hair with your fingers. Dividing long hair into sections can help make the application easier.
- Begin the application at mid-shaft and work toward the ends. Once you’ve worked the mask into the ends of your hair, you can go back and gently apply it to your scalp. However, you may want to begin at the scalp if you’re specifically applying the mask to help treat dandruff.
- When you’ve finished applying the mask, comb your hair with a wide-toothed comb. This helps spread the mask through your hair evenly.
- Cover your hair with a shower cap or plastic wrap. Then wrap a towel around your head. This helps protect the mask from dripping, but it also helps keep your hair from drying out. Warming up the towel may help the mask have even more of a moisturizing effect.
- Leave the mask on for 30 minutes. You can leave it on for up to an hour for extra conditioning.
- Rinse the mask out of your hair. You’ll probably want to wash your hair to make sure you get the mask out completely, since aloe vera gel can leave a filmy residue in your hair.
- You can replace your normal conditioner with this mask as often as once a week to help boost your hair health.
Note: You can easily double this recipe for long or thick hair.
You can use many different ingredients in your own hair masks. Here are a couple more recipes you can try using aloe vera.
Aloe vera and apple cider vinegar
This recipe can be particularly effective for a flaky, itchy scalp, as some people claim that apple cider may also work as a natural remedy for dandruff.
To make this mask, mix together:
- 4 tbsp. aloe vera gel
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp. honey, if desired (honey can lock moisture into your hair, and it also has a smoothing effect)
Follow the application instructions for the aloe vera and coconut mask recipe with these exceptions:
- Begin applying the mask at your scalp.
- Rinse out the mask after 20 minutes.
- Use this mask every other week.
Aloe vera and yogurt
According to a 2017 study, the probiotics in yogurt may also help with dandruff.
Choose full-fat, plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt. To make this mask, mix together:
- 2 tbsp. yogurt
- 2 tbsp. aloe vera gel
- 2 tsp. honey, if desired
To apply this mask, follow the instructions above, but don’t leave the mask on for longer than 20 to 30 minutes. For best results, use once a week.
Applying aloe vera gel to your head is generally considered safe, although some people may be allergic to the plant. You’re more likely to have an allergy to aloe vera if you have an allergy to garlic or onions.
If you haven’t used aloe vera gel on your skin or hair before, do a patch test before using it. To do this, simply apply the gel to a small area of skin on your inner elbow or wrist.
If you don’t notice any redness, itching, or swelling within a few hours, it may be safe to use aloe vera in a hair mask.
If you use steroid creams such as hydrocortisone, check with a healthcare provider before using aloe vera in the same area. Aloe vera gel can make your skin absorb more of these creams.
Besides a 1999 study that points to the effectiveness of aloe vera for dandruff relief, there isn’t a lot of research on the other hair benefits of aloe vera. However, anecdotal evidence shows that aloe vera gel is often used to:
- strengthen and condition natural hair
- promote hair growth
- smooth natural curls
- lock in moisture
- reduce frizziness
- detangle hair
Aloe vera is fairly easy to find. If you live in a sunny, dry climate, you may have the succulent in your yard, or you may know someone who does. You can also purchase precut aloe vera leaves at many natural food stores.
The best way to get pure aloe vera gel is to extract it yourself from fresh leaves. To extract the gel from the leaves, all you need is a knife, a bowl, and some counter space.
Once you’ve scooped the fresh gel from inside the leaves, you can store the gel in a sealed container and keep it refrigerated for up to a week. Or you can freeze it so that it lasts longer.
If you can’t find aloe vera leaves or don’t want to extract the gel yourself, you can buy aloe vera gel at a drugstore or online.
When purchasing aloe vera gel, keep in mind that it will most likely have added ingredients, such as lavender or other herbs, thickening agents, or even medications. Some of these may not be beneficial for your hair, so try to find a gel with as few added ingredients as possible.
You might be most familiar with aloe vera for its sunburn-soothing properties, but this plant has other uses, too. You can apply it to your skin and even use it in your hair.
Although there’s limited evidence on the benefits of aloe vera for your hair, it’s become a popular ingredient in hair masks and conditioners to help strengthen, moisturize, smooth, and repair hair.
If you’re interested in making a DIY mask to nourish your hair, you may want to consider adding aloe vera as an ingredient. If you haven’t used the gel before, be sure to do a patch test first to make sure you aren’t allergic to the plant.