Aloe vera is known for its skin-soothing properties, but it’s gained a following among people who swear it also makes a great hair and scalp mask. While the evidence is largely anecdotal, there are some properties about aloe vera that support the claims. The internet is filled with DIY recipes for aloe vera masks to help make hair shiny and to promote a healthy scalp—here, our recommendations from the top experts.
How to make an aloe vera hair and scalp mask:
A very simple two-step guide for making an aloe vera mask.
1. Find fresh, pure aloe vera.
There are a few different ways to create a hair or scalp mask using aloe vera, but, in general, you want to make sure you use pure aloe vera. “Fresh aloe vera is best, as the medicinal properties deteriorate over time,” says California dermatologist Cynthia Bailey, M.D., a diplomate of the American Board of Dermatology. Also, she adds, “Many commercial aloe vera gels and juices contain other ingredients such as preservatives.”
The best way to get pure aloe vera is to actually get a plant and extract the aloe yourself. Bailey recommends snipping off a leaf, letting the cut edge of the leaf sit for eight to 24 hours to let the sap drain, and then removing the outer skin. “What is left is the inner gel-like flesh with its medicinal value,” she says.
Some aloe vera hair mask recipes online call for blending the gel with other ingredients, but it’s best to leave it on its own. “Avoid ingredients that cause buildup on the scalp and hair shaft at all costs,” says hairstylist Shab Reslan, a trichologist and host of the hair-and-scalp-focused podcast Hair Like Hers. “Buildup on the scalp will lead to inflammation, scalp issues, and subsequent hair thinning or loss, [and] buildup on the hair shaft results in dull and easily tangled hair.”
2. Apply it for 20 minutes, max.
Reslan suggests applying the pure aloe vera to your scalp, by itself, 20 minutes before you shower. “Apply it directly onto your roots and gently massage to spread and help nutrients penetrate,” she says. Try to have a clean scalp beforehand if you can help it. “The cleaner your scalp, the better for penetration. You won’t gain all the benefits if you have lots of buildup,” Reslan says. (Read: Don’t do this if you have three days’ worth of dry shampoo at your roots.)
Just don’t let aloe vera sit on your scalp for much longer than 20 minutes. “It is great for hydrating and cleansing the scalp but not for long periods as it will lose the moisturizing effect and potentially cause irritation and drying out the scalp,” Reslan says. It can also be tough to wash the aloe vera off if it sits too long, she points out.
Why is aloe vera good for your hair and scalp?
Here are five very good reasons to give it a try:
1. Aloe very is hydrating.
The biggest perk of aloe vera is that it’s moisturizing for skin and keratin structures, like your hair, says Bailey. “Studies have focused on skin benefits primarily, but one can make some extrapolations to hair given that it is also composed of keratin,” she says.
2. It has anti-inflammatory properties.
Aloe vera also has anti-inflammatory properties, “so it may benefit those with scalp inflammation and irritation,” says Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
3. It may help fight flakes.
There’s not a lot out of published research on aloe vera’s impact on the hair and scalp, but one older study published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment found that an aloe vera mixture was significantly better than a placebo at clearing up cases of seborrheic dermatitis, a common skin condition that’s often behind dandruff.
4. It can repair strands and balance the scalp.
Aloe vera contains seven of the eight amino acids, Goldenberg says—isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, and valin—and that can “help repair hair damaged by coloring or overdrying.” Aloe vera also has a neutral pH, similar to your hair’s own pH, Goldenberg says, which “helps balance [the] pH of scalp and hair, allowing for healthy growth.”
5. It improves circulation, which may lead to growth.
As for claims aloe vera can actually help your hair grow, there may be something to that as well. “Aloe vera contains vitamins A, C, and E, which are essential for hair growth,” says Reslan. “These antioxidants help reduce and neutralize free radicals known for causing hair loss.” Aloe vera also contains vitamins B12 and B9 (aka folic acid), which are also important nutrients for hair growth, Reslan says.
Unfortunately, there are no scientific studies directly linking aloe vera to hair growth, but that doesn’t mean the plant can’t help hair grow. “Aloe vera applied topically has been shown to increase skin microcirculation, potentially stimulating hair growth,” Bailey says.
Can anyone use it?
Typically, yes. “All hair types can benefit from an aloe vera scalp and hair treatment, especially when hair is dry or the scalp is itchy or inflamed,” Bailey says.
In general, people with dry hair, curly hair, and coarse hair tend to get the most benefits, Bailey says. But people with fine hair can also get perks. “Even oily scalps can benefit because aloe vera has been shown to help remove excess oil,” Bailey says.
The bottom line:
Interested in trying out an aloe vera mask for your hair and scalp? There’s no reason not to. Just be on the lookout for signs like itching, irritation, or redness, Goldenberg says. While aloe vera is known to be soothing for skin, it’s possible to have an allergy to it or to develop irritation from it. If you notice that happening to you, stop using the aloe vera immediately and wash it off your scalp, Goldenberg says.
There’s no hard and fast rule for how often to use an aloe vera mask for your hair and scalp, but it’s generally best to do it about once a month, Reslan says.
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