Aloe Vera for Eczema: Relief for Dry Skin

Aloe vera has been used for centuries as a natural moisturizer for dry, inflamed, irritated, or itchy skin. In addition to its soothing elements, it can provide many other benefits to the skin, thanks to its antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant properties. 

Eczema (dermatitis) is a common skin condition that causes patches of irritated, itchy, dry skin. There are many types of eczema. Some are caused by allergens and irritants in the environment, but others do not have a clear cause.

There is no “one size fits all” treatment for eczema, but a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications can help. Some people use natural, at-home treatments to soothe their eczema symptoms. One popular choice is aloe vera. 

Read on to learn how you can use aloe vera to treat eczema and provide relief to your skin.

Closeup of a white person's hand, they are applying raw aloe to the top of their knuckle.

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Can Aloe Vera Treat Eczema?

Aloe vera is a cactus-like plant with leaves that are filled with a clear, gel-like substance. The plant has been cultivated and used for its many health benefits for thousands of years.

Today, aloe vera is used in many personal care products and is a popular natural remedy for treating skin conditions, including eczema.

Aloe vera has traditionally been used to treat skin injuries (e.g., cuts, burns, eczema) because of its anti-inflammatory and wound-healing properties. The polysaccharides contained in aloe vera help stimulate skin healing and growth, which might be helpful in healing eczema.

Most of the evidence that aloe vera is an effective treatment for eczema is anecdotal, and there have not been many studies on the effectiveness of using aloe vera for eczema.

Potential benefits of using aloe vera for eczema include: 

  • Increase hydration: Aloe vera gel is an effective moisturizer and may increase the hydration in your skin. Hydrating the skin may help reduce the tight, itchy feeling that eczema can cause.
  • Prevent infection: Aloe vera has antibacterial, antifungal effects that could help prevent secondary infections in people with irritated, broken skin (which is often associated with eczema).
  • Reduce itching: Aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory properties may calm inflamed eczema and relieve the intense itching that it can cause.
  • Boost effectiveness of hydrocortisone: Some research has found that aloe vera may enhance the absorption of hydrocortisone in the skin. Using aloe vera along with a prescription or OTC topical eczema treatment might be more effective than using the creams alone. Some topical medications contain a combination of aloe vera and hydrocortisone to provide relief for certain skin conditions.

How to Use Aloe Vera for Eczema

Before you apply aloe vera, gently cleanse the area of skin with soap and water and pat it dry.

Apply a generous amount of the aloe vera gel directly onto the affected area of your skin and gently rub it in. The gel can be sticky, so let it dry before you get dressed.

Generally, you can apply aloe vera two to four times a day for relief, but your doctor might give you specific instructions for how much and how often to use the gel.

Types of Aloe That Are Best for Eczema

Aloe vera is one of 420 different types of aloe plant species. Most aloe-based products that are available are produced from the Aloe barbadensis miller plant.

There are many aloe vera-based products available. You can purchase them at health food stores, drugstores, and online.

Look for products that contain higher amounts of aloe vera gel—some products contain only small amounts of aloe vera and will not offer as many benefits.

Avoid aloe vera products that contain added fragrances or alcohol. Both of these substances can cause irritation and worsen the symptoms of eczema.

You can also extract the gel directly from the plant if you have one in your home. Cut off a leaf (or the tip of a leaf) and scoop or squeeze the gel directly from the plant.

Potential Side Effects of Using Aloe Vera for Eczema

Aloe vera is generally safe to use, but some people may have side effects such as mild itching and burning.

Before you apply the gel to your eczema, do a patch test on a small area of your skin that does not have eczema on it. Wait 24 hours, then check for any signs of irritation or allergic reaction. If you do not notice any side effects, you can apply the aloe vera to a larger area of affected skin.

The topical use of aloe vera can cause skin irritation and hives in people who are allergic to plants in the lily (Liliaceae) family—which includes garlic, onions, and tulips. If you are allergic to any of these plants, you should avoid aloe vera.

If your eczema is infected, stop using aloe vera and call your doctor. Signs of infection include increased redness and swelling, pus, pain, and skin that feels hot to the touch.

A Word From Verywell

While the research is limited on the efficacy of aloe vera for treating eczema, anecdotal evidence suggests that it may provide relief and soothe itchy, dry skin.

The at-home remedy might be worth trying if you have mild to moderate eczema, but do a small patch test first and watch for any kind of allergic reaction before applying it to affected areas of your skin.

Talk with your primary care physician or dermatologist about using aloe vera. They will want to know if you plan to use it before they recommend prescribed treatments. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take aloe vera to treat eczema? 

While aloe vera is not a cure for eczema, it may provide relief for itchy, dry skin. Some people get immediate relief after applying the cooling gel to affected areas of their skin.

Aloe vera can moisturize dry skin while offering relief from itchiness. You may need to reapply aloe vera two to four times a day to get continued relief. 

What is the best way to apply aloe vera to the skin for eczema?

First, wash your skin gently with mild soap and water and pat it dry. Rub a liberal amount of aloe vera on the affected area(s). Let it dry before you get dressed. Repeat this process as needed, up to four times a day.

Some OTC treatments that contain aloe vera are available in spray form. You can spray the gel directly onto the affected areas and gently rub it in. 

Which types of aloe vera are most often used to treat eczema?

The most common form of aloe vera directly from the plant source and used in OTC gels is derived from the Aloe barbadensis miller plant.

If you have one of these plants at home, you can clip a leaf or tip of a leaf, squeeze out the gel, and apply it directly to your skin. OTC products that contain aloe vera gel are available for purchase in most drugstores and health food stores. 

Look for products that list aloe vera as the first ingredient. Some OTC aloe products may contain other ingredients that may cause skin irritation. Make sure to carefully read the label before you buy.

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6 Sources
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