When you think of aloe vera what pops into mind? For most people, myself included, I think of an effective alleviation for sunburn, but aloe vera is good for much more than a remedy for a long day at the beach.
Aloe vera is an amazing plant with several medicinal uses including heartburn relief, natural laxative, skin care, and even mouthwash! Oh you thought I was done? This is a hair loss blog after all. Yep, there may be some evidence suggesting that aloe vera can benefit people suffering from hair loss.
The aim of this article is to break down those claims to understand the mechanism behind how alea vera may be able to help hair loss and look at how strong the scientific evidence is (if there is any) supporting those claims.
Let’s get into the nitty gritty.
What is aloe vera?
Aloe vera is a succulent evergreen perennial that originates from the Arabian peninsula. It is cultivated around the world for both agricultural and medicinal purposes.
As I stated above, aloe vera has many uses, almost too many too count, which is why it is found in everything from beverages to lotion and pretty much anything in between.
How can aloe vera help hair loss?
Though it is commonly recognized for its skin care benefits, many people are still relatively unaware of the fact that aloe vera may also be able to help people with hair loss. The reason why has to do with how it helps heal wounds.
Aloe vera has been proven (1) to be very effective at wound healing (burns, pain, irritations, etc.) because it is made up of many vitamins, nutrients, and phytochemicals, some of which include vitamin A, C, E, calcium, fatty acids, and magnesium. But, two compounds called choline salicylate and mucopolysaccharides are primarily where the hair loss benefits may be held.
First let’s talk about choline salicylate.
Choline salicylate has been proven to help reduce inflammation (2). This applies to hair loss because hair loss and inflammation are inherently correlated to one another (3). Scientists believe that inflammation is both the result of androgenic alopecia (AGA; pattern hair loss) and contributes to its worsening because long-term (chronic) inflammation damages the hair follicles.
Aloe vera was shown in a 1998 study to effectively reduce inflammation associated with dandruff (4). Although aloe vera hasn't been studied in depth for its anti inflammatory effects on the scalp, the data we have solidifies it as a powerful anti inflammatory agent that can help dandruff and potentially hair loss as well.
No on to mucopolysaccharides.
Mucopolysaccharides are long chains of sugar molecules. Studies have shown that they are effective at helping bind moisture to the skin (5). There was also a spanish study that showed that they helped improve blood flow (6) (although this study was conducted on rabbits).
But what do these benefits have to do with hair?
People have proposed that due to the moisture retaining benefits, aloe can help alleviate dandruff. If this were true, the case could be made for hair loss as well because in some instances dandruff can worsen hair loss, but the evidence is lacking.
If mucopolysaccharides could improve blood flow it would make a very strong case for its hair loss benefits. Blood carries vital oxygen and nutrients that the hair uses to grow and complete healthy cycles which is why popular hair loss treatments like minoxidil target blood flow. But once again the evidence is lacking. The only study that has ever been conducted on mucopolysaccharides for blood flow was done on rabbits in 1961.
Aloe vera may be very effective for treating skin conditions, but we may have jumped the gun on hair loss.
The compounds that are in aloe vera have led people to make assumptions about benefits that it may have for hair loss. Namely there are many claims that aloe vera can reduce inflammation and improve blood flow.
If there were scientific data to back them, the case for aloe vera as a hair loss treatment would be quite strong as both inflammation and blood flow are very important to target when trying to overcome hair loss. But, unfortunately the data is insignificant on both fronts.
That's not to say there hasn’t been interesting findings that warrant further investigation, there certainly has, but for now we cannot say one way or another if aloe vera can help hair loss.
That being said I do not think that aloe vera should be disregarded completely. Its proven benefits such as moisture retention and the benefits some of the vitamins it contains have make it worth considering adding to your regimen. In short, aloe vera can help create a healthy scalp environment that may help other treatments be more effective. Use aloe vera as a tool, not as the entire tool kit in the fight against hair loss.