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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 specifically is effective when it comes to soothing and cooling the skin, which is why it’s associated with sunburn. Obviously, 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 really is a great at-home solution.
But further, than sunburn, aloe vera is a useful ingredient in terms of general hydration and general nourishment. The plant gel itself is full of vitamins, enzymes, minerals, salicylic acids, and amino acids, making it a great inclusion 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.
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
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 absolutely not condoning sunburn, this will work to reduce redness and prevent skin peeling.
Best Budget: Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe Lotion
This body moisturizer is a cult 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.
Best Body Gel: Sun Bum After Sun Cool Down Gel
Honestly, this stuff makes for a great body treatment whenever the mercury rises. It’s really 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.
Best K-Beauty: Holika Holika Aloe 99% Soothing Gel
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—great on dry, stressed-out skin. The unique jelly texture and aloe-shaped bottle are a bit of fun, as well.
Best for Face: Innisfree Vitalizing Soothing Gel With Aloe
If you want a simple aloe vera gel that works on both face and body, this buy from Innisfree will be your best friend. Refreshing and super juicy, it contains soothing aloe from Jeju Island plus camellia, orchid, and glycerin to calm the skin and help improve barrier function. Fun fact! You can even use it on your hair.
Best Splurge: Santa Maria Novella Aloe Gel for Face and Body
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.
Best for Breakouts: Dr. Zenovia Skincare Aloe Vera Blemish Soothing Moisturizer
Aloe is often called on to calm breakout-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.
Best Scent: Burt's Bees Aloe & Coconut Oil After Sun Soother
We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again. Don’t go in the sun without SPF. But if the unthinkable happens, there’s this post-sun soother from Burt’s Bees. Balmy but quickly absorbed, it’s formulated with coconut oil, aloe, shea butter, olive extract, and jojoba to really nourish and leave the skin baby-soft.
Best After Sun: Clinique After Sun Rescue Balm with Aloe
While touted as an after-sun product, we actually 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 really plump up the skin and replenish lost moisture, especially so after exposure to the elements. It has a fresh, summery fragrance too.
Best for Sensitive Skin: The Body Shop Aloe Soothing Body Butter
If most body creams irritate but you’re after something a little more upmarket than humble sorbolene or CeraVe, this rich option from The Body Shop is made for you. It deeply hydrates, thanks to the inclusion of shea butter, aloe vera, glycerin, lanolin, and cacao seed butter to nix even the driest patches of skin (knees and elbows, we’re looking at you). While it takes a minute to work in, the silky results are well worth it.
Aloe vera is without a doubt a really 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: Innisfree Vitalizing Soothing Gel With Aloe (view at Amazon) for being the best non-drying, non-sticky gel of our dreams; Clinique After Sun Rescue Balm with Aloe (view at Ulta) because it’s luxurious to use and makes the skin feel incredibly soft; and Holika Holika Aloe 99% Soothing Gel (view at Beauty Bay) 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 actually 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 anti-bacterial 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 in short, unless you have a specific allergy or sensitivity, aloe is great if you want to soothe, calm, 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 is receiving 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 shy away if it's listed as one of the ingredients.
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, like zinc, potassium, and magnesium, so it really 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 to 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 on 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.
Meet the Expert
Melanie Grant is a trusted expert in the field and the brains behind some of the most enviable complexions in the business.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any aloe vera gels and lotions from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.