Does Aloe Vera Clear Acne and Scars?

Chris Gramly/iStock

Aloe vera is a popular plant remedy for many skin problems. But what about for acne?

Does aloe vera clear acne or get rid of acne scars?

What Is Aloe Vera?

Aloe vera is a succulent plant native to Africa. Inside of its plump leaves is a pulpy middle filled with copious amounts of mucilaginous gel.

Aloe vera has been used traditionally on all manner of skin irritations. The fresh leaves can be broken off of the plant, the gel squeezed out and applied directly to the skin.

It's a popular houseplant and can be found at any local nursery. But you have plenty of other options if you'd rather not grow your own aloe plant.

The plant's gel is used as a base for the over-the-counter aloe gels you can buy at the store. Aloe vera is used in a plethora of skin care preparations, from cleansers to moisturizers, masks, and more.

Aloe Vera Is an Anti-Inflammatory

There's a good reason that aloe vera is used for so many skin problems—it has anti-inflammatory properties. That means that aloe vera can help reduce swelling.

Putting aloe vera on a red, swollen pimple can help reduce tenderness and pain. Aloe also has wound healing effects, so it may help heal open acne blemishes.

Aloe Vera Can Soothe the Skin

At some point, you've probably aloe gel on a sunburn. Just as aloe soothes the sting of sunburn, it can also soothe a host of other skin irritations including acne.

If acne treatments are leaving your skin dry and irritated aloe vera gel, or a moisturizer containing aloe, can be especially helpful.

Your skin will be more comfortable, so you'll be less likely to ditch your acne medications.

Aloe Vera May Boost Effectiveness of Acne Treatment Medications

The benefits of aloe vera may go beyond just soothing irritated skin. Some research has shown that aloe vera may boost the effectiveness of acne medications.

One study, published in the April 2014 issue of the Journal of Dermatological Treatment, compared two groups: one using topical tretinoin and aloe vera gel, the other using tretinoin and a placebo.

The group treated with tretinoin and aloe vera had less redness, and less pimples, than those treated with tretinoin alone.

Aloe vera also has antibacterial properties. Because acne is, in part, caused by bacteria called propionibacteria acnes, it's speculated that aloe may play a part in reducing these bacteria. This has not been proven, though. It's possible aloe has no effect on propioni acnes.

Acne Won't Clear Up With Aloe Vera Alone

Although there is some exciting preliminary research, we're still a long way from saying that aloe vera is an effective acne treatment. The research, as of yet, is very limited.

So far, it doesn't seem aloe does much more than reduce redness and inflammation. This, obviously, can be helpful in soothing inflammatory acne.

But acne isn't caused by inflammation alone.

It's also caused by a buildup of dead skin cells, over-active oil glands, hormones, and even genetics. Aloe vera won't do anything for these factors.

What's more, every pimple starts off as a blocked pore. Aloe vera doesn't prevent pores from becoming blocked, so in the long run it won't stop acne from developing.

Aloe Vera Can't Erase Acne Scars But May Help With Hyperpigmentation

Aloe vera can't fix depressed or pitted acne scars. These are caused by a loss of skin tissue. Truly the only way to improve the appearance of these types of scars is with dermal fillers. You can ask your dermatologist for help in treating pitted acne scars.

But aloe vera may help fade post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, those dark acne marks left after pimples have healed. This is due to a constituent in aloe vera called aloin.

Aloin is a compound that is naturally found in aloe vera gel. It is a depigmentation agent, so it helps to lighten dark areas on the skin.

And, because aloe vera reduces inflammation, it may keep post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from developing in the first place.

Should You Add Aloe Vera to Your Treatment Routine?

Aloe vera isn't a necessary addition to your acne treatment program. But, if you have inflamed pimples, or your skin is irritated and dried out from acne medictions, aloe vera products may be helpful.

One thing to remember is every aloe gel is different, so read the ingredient listings. You may be surprised to find that the "aloe" gel you've bought contains very little aloe vera.

Just don't expect aloe vera to be a miracle cure—it's not. You will still need to use a conventional acne treatment medication, like topical retinoids or benzoyl peroxide, to really see improvement of your skin.

Most importantly: If you're using any prescription acne medications, ask your dermatologist before adding aloe vera gel to your acne treatment routine.


"Aloe Vera." National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. 2012. Web.

Ali SA, Galgut JM, Choudhary RK. On the Novel Action of Melanolysis by a Leaf Extract of Aloe Vera and Its Acne Ingredient Aloin, Potent Skin Depigmenting Agents. Planta Medica. 2012;78(8):767-71.

Chularojanamontri L, Tuchinda P, Kulthanan K, Pongparit K. Moisturizers for Acne: What are their Constituents? Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2014;7(5):36-44.

Hajkeydari Z, Saeedi M, Morteza-Semnani K, Soltani A. Effect of Aloe Vera Topical Gel Combined with Tretinoin in Treatment of Mild and Moderate Acne Vulgaris: a Randomized, Double-Blind, Prospective Trial. Journal of Dermatological Treatment. 2014;25(2):123-9.

Tabassum N, Hamdani M. Plants Used to Treat Skin Diseases. Pharmacognosy Reviews. 2014;8(15):52-60.

Continue Reading