The 12 Best Aloe Gels and Lotions to Soothe Irritated Skin

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For so many of us, aloe vera was one of the first “skincare” products we used. It might have been to soothe a cut, a burn, or overexposure to the sun, but even now with years and products under our belt, it’s still something we call on regularly.

Aloe vera is effective when it comes to soothing and cooling the skin, which is why it’s associated with sunburn. It’s essential to use SPF all the time and avoid unprotected sun exposure where possible, but if the unspeakable happens and you’re caught out, it is a great at-home solution.

But besides treating sunburn, aloe vera is a useful ingredient in terms of general hydration and nourishment. The plant gel itself is full of vitamins, enzymes, minerals, salicylic acids, and amino acids, making it great for every skin type.

So here we’re looking at the hero ingredient in detail, specifically our favorite aloe vera-rich gels and lotions for the face and body. Experts Melanie Grant and Marnie Nussbaum have also weighed in.

Meet the Expert

  • Melanie Grant is a trusted aesthetician and the brains behind some of the most enviable complexions in the business. 
  • Marnie Nussbaum, M.D. FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist based in NYC.

Keep reading to learn more about the best aloe vera gels and lotions we are loving right now.

Best Overall: Seven Minerals Aloe Vera Gel

Seven Minerals Aloe Vera Gel

 Courtesy of Seven Minerals 

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Organic

  • Alcohol-free

  • Minimal ingredients

What We Don't Like
  • No other skin-beneficial ingredients

Made up of organic, cold-pressed aloe and seaweed, this lightweight gel cools the skin immediately on application. It’s quite thin and absorbs easily (i.e. not sticky in the slightest), so you can get dressed afterward without staining your clothes. And while we’re not condoning sunburn, this will work to reduce redness and prevent skin peeling.

Active Ingredients: Organic aloe vera, seaweed extract | Skin Type: All | Size: 12 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Budget: Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe Lotion

Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe Lotion
What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Lightweight

  • Smells good

What We Don't Like
  • Small percentage of aloe

This body moisturizer is a fan favorite for a reason. Enriched with simple but effective glycerin, cucumber, aloe, and panthenol, it’s a softly scented lotion that leaves the skin hydrated but not greasy. The fresh gel texture and soothing inclusion of aloe make it a great all-over pick for summer, too.

Active Ingredients: Pure aloe extract | Skin Type: Dry, stressed, sun-damaged | Size: 9.9 oz. or 20.2 oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Body Gel: Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Gel

Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Gel
What We Like
  • Cooling sensation

  • Contains nourishing ingredients

  • Smells good

What We Don't Like
  • Not overly hydrating

Honestly, this stuff makes for a great body treatment whenever the mercury rises. It’s fresh and enriched with ingredients like vitamin E and tea tree to help nourish, soothe, and cool the skin. The scent is super clean and summery, as well.

Active Ingredients: Aloe lotion, vitamin E | Skin Type: Dry, sun-damaged | Size: 8 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best K-Beauty: Holika Holika Aloe 99% Soothing Gel

Holika Holika 99% Aloe Soothing Gel

iHerb

What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Smells good

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note the bottle breaks easily

If you love using pure aloe plant gel but hate the weird smell, this is the best thing. Made from fermented aloe pulp from South Korea’s Jeju Island, it’s hydrating and refreshing—and great on dry, stressed-out skin. The unique jelly texture and aloe-shaped bottle are a bit of fun, as well.

Active Ingredients: Aloe vera, nelumbium, centella asiatica, bamboo, cucumber, corn, cabbage, watermelon | Skin Type: Dry, stressed | Size: 8.45 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Face: Innisfree Vitalizing Soothing Gel With Aloe

Innisfree Vitalizing Soothing Gel With Aloe
What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Works on face, body, and hair

What We Don't Like
  • Small percentage of aloe

If you want a simple aloe vera gel that works on both face and body, this choice from Innisfree will be your new best friend. Refreshing and super juicy, it contains soothing aloe from Jeju Island plus camellia oil, orchid, and glycerin to calm the skin and help improve barrier function. Fun fact! You can even use it on your hair.

Active Ingredients: Organic Jeju Aloe Extract | Skin Type: Dry, stressed | Size: 10.14 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Splurge: Santa Maria Novella Aloe Gel for Face and Body

Santa Maria Novella Aloe Gel for Face and Body
What We Like
  • Smells good

  • Concentrated

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

This soft, milky emulsion is like sweet relief for dry, red skin on the face and body. Made on a base of aloe vera, it’s full of lavender essential oil and lemon balm, so not only does it work a treat, but it feels incredibly luxurious and smells even better.

Active Ingredients: Aloe vera, lavender essential oil, lemon balm | Skin Type: Dry, sun-damaged | Size: 8.4 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes

Best After Sun: Clinique After Sun Rescue Balm with Aloe

Clinique After Sun Rescue Balm with Aloe
What We Like
  • Luxurious texture

  • Hydrating

  • Smells good

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

While touted as an after-sun product, we love this year-round, thanks to its reparative, hydrating, skin-soothing properties. While the hero is aloe vera, there’s also wheat germ, squalane, and hyaluronic acid to plump up the skin and replenish lost moisture, especially so after exposure to the elements. It has a fresh, summery fragrance too.

Active Ingredients: Aloe, wheat germ, squalane, hyaluronic acid | Skin Type: Dry, sun-damaged | Size: 5 oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Breakouts: Dr. Zenovia Skincare Aloe Vera Blemish Soothing Moisturizer

Dr. Zenovia Skincare Aloe Vera Blemish Soothing Moisturizer

Sephora

What We Like
  • Works on the face

  • Lightweight

  • Suitable for breakout-prone skin

What We Don't Like
  • Expensive

Aloe is often called on to calm acne-prone skin. This gentle moisturizer lotion is rich in both aloe vera and botanical extracts to reduce redness, mattify shine, and soothe the inflammation associated with breakouts. There’s also squalane to hydrate and promote barrier strength. The texture is also beautiful and light, so it’s excellent underneath makeup.

Active Ingredients: Squalane, Curated Antioxidant Blend, medical-grade aloe vera, REG-ulate360 Complex, bakuchiol | Skin Type: Acne-prone | Size: 0.5 fl. oz. or 1.5 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Skin: Dr. Barbara Sturm Aloe Vera Gel

Dr. Barbara Sturm Aloe Vera Gel

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Concentrated

  • Fragrance-free

  • Great for sensitive skin

What We Don’t Like
  • Expensive

Formulated with 90% pure fair trade aloe vera, alongside Dr. Sturm’s signature purslane, this formula claims to moisturize and soothe the skin immediately on contact. The minimalist formula is fragrance-free and suitable for even the most sensitive skin.

Active Ingredients: Aloe vera gel, purslane, panthenol (vitamin B5) | Skin Type: Dry, sensitive | Size: 4.2 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Scent: Coola Radical Recovery Eco-Cert Organic After Sun Lotion

Coola ER+ Radical Recovery After Sun Lotion

 Courtesy of Revolve

What We Like
  • Smells good

  • Hydrating

  • Vegan

What We Don’t Like
  • Small percentage of aloe

This after-sun lotion makes for an oh-so refreshing moisturizer, especially during the summer months. It contains aloe vera alongside sunflower seed oil, shea butter, and lavender essential oils to soften and smooth the skin. And don’t even get us started on the scent—with notes of cedarwood, mandarin, and rosemary, it’s fresh, zingy, and herbaceous.

Active Ingredients: Aloe vera | Skin Type: All skin types | Size: 5 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Pure Gel: Green Leaf Naturals Cold Pressed Aloe Vera Spray

Green Leaf Naturals Cold Pressed Aloe Vera Spray

Amazon

What We Like
  • Organic

  • Minimal ingredients

  • Lightweight

What We Don’t Like
  • No other skin-beneficial ingredients

Simple, clean, and effective, this aloe gel from Green Leaf Naturals contains only a handful of ingredients, including the hero-certified organic aloe vera juice. Whether it’s to soothe limbs post-exposure to the elements or just as a natural hydrator, this affordable buy is one of the best out there.

Active Ingredients: Aloe vera | Skin Type: All | Size: 4 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Organic Formula: Badger Aloe Vera Gel

Badger Aloe Vera Gel

Courtesy of Badger

What We Like
  • Concentrated

  • Lightweight

  • Works on face, body, and hair

What We Don’t Like
  • No other skin-beneficial ingredients

What’s unique about this formula is that it’s made from 100% organic aloe vera plants certified by the Texas Department of Agriculture. As for the composition, the formula itself contains 99.75% aloe, while the additional 0.25% is a plant-based preservative to prevent any mold or bacteria growth. Light and not at all sticky, you can apply this multi-purpose wonder onto skin, through hair, or even on pets.

Active Ingredients: Aloe vera, citric acid | Skin Type: Sensitive | Size: 8 fl. oz. | SPF: None | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Final Verdict

Aloe vera is without a doubt a versatile, soothing skincare ingredient. It comes in many forms, namely creams, lotions, and gels, all designed to hydrate and nourish the skin on our face, body, or both. While we’re partial to a few of the above for differing reasons, team Byrdie undoubtedly has a few favorites: Seven Minerals Aloe Vera Gel for its lightweight texture and cooling sensation upon application; Innisfree Vitalizing Soothing Gel With Aloe for being the best non-drying, non-sticky gel of our dreams; Clinique After Sun Rescue Balm with Aloe because it’s luxurious to use and makes the skin feel incredibly soft; Finally, Holika Holika Aloe 99% Soothing Gel because it’s simple, effective, and the texture is 10/10.

What to Look for When Buying an Aloe Vera Gel or Lotion

Consider Your Skin Concerns 

It’s always important to assess what’s going on with your skin and if aloe will help (or hurt) your goals. According to aesthetician Melanie Grant, aloe vera is a “predominantly water-based succulent plant that has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, making it a wound-healing hero and perfect for those experiencing redness and irritation.” She adds that it also shares the same pH as skin, which makes it gentle enough for those of us prone to irritation. 

So unless you have a specific allergy or sensitivity, aloe is great if you want to soothe skin and reduce redness. 

Pure Aloe Vera

So what about aloe in skincare? Is this still effective or should we be looking for pure gels only? Grant suggests that for those who require constant soothing (such as after a sunburn), applying pure gel is a great solution as the skin will receive the direct benefits in the most potent form. As it heals the skin, itching is soothed, redness is minimized, and hydration is replenished. 

But with that being said, she explains that it’s still a wonderful addition to skincare products, so don’t hesitate if it's listed as one of the ingredients. 

FAQ
  • What does aloe vera do for your skin?

    According to dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum, MD, aloe vera helps to soothe irritation, prevent trans-epidermal water loss, cool and hydrate sunburned skin, and even promote the healing of breakouts thanks to the natural amount of salicylic acid it contains. "Aloe is rich in vitamins, amino acids, polysaccharides, and phytosterols, so it has all these calming, great properties," she says. "Additionally, it has vitamins A, C, D, and E, and it also has minerals, including zinc, potassium, and magnesium, so it is this rich gel or extract that can be used for a variety of things."

  • How should aloe vera be used?

    You can apply aloe vera topically to the area in question. Nussbaum recommends spreading it on two to three times a day until the burn or irritation is soothed. "You can even put the gel in the refrigerator to get that cooling sensation and reduce the inflammation even more," she adds.

  • Are there any side effects of using aloe vera?

    Like with any ingredient, Nussbaum notes that it's possible to have an allergic reaction to aloe vera, so if you've never used it before, she recommends spot-testing your formula of choice before spreading it all over.

Why Trust Byrdie

Aside from the fact that Emily Algar loves researching and investigating skincare ingredients, she has also tapped many professionals to help us understand what works, what doesn’t, and why.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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  2. Becker LC, Bergfeld WF, Belsito DV, et al. Safety Assessment of Glycerin as Used in Cosmetics. Int J Toxicol. 2019;38(3_suppl):6S-22S. doi:10.1177/1091581819883820

  3. Papakonstantinou E, Roth M, Karakiulakis G. Hyaluronic acid: A key molecule in skin aging. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):253-258. doi:10.4161/derm.21923

  4. Huang ZR, Lin YK, Fang JY. Biological and Pharmacological Activities of Squalene and Related Compounds: Potential Uses in Cosmetic Dermatology. Molecules. 2009;14(1):540-554. doi:10.3390/molecules14010540

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