• Aloe vera helps relieve sunburn pain and redness by reducing inflammation.
  • Aloe vera also stimulates the production of collagen to speed up the healing process. 
  • Make sure you're using a product with real aloe, or take the gel straight from the plant itself.

Aloe, or aloe vera, is a succulent plant that's long been known for its healing properties. People have used the clear gel from its leaves for thousands of years to treat minor skin conditions like burns, rashes, and psoriasis. 

Today, people still use the gel from plants, as well as creams and lotions that contain aloe, for relief.

Research backs up aloe's soothing properties, too. Using aloe vera gel can help heal your sunburn and reduce pain and redness. Here's how. 

Why aloe vera is good for sunburn recovery

"Aloe is the gold standard at-home treatment for sunburns, given it is anti-inflammatory and calms the skin," says Dr. Caren Campbell a dermatologist with a private practice.

Sunburn — or the more severe sun poisoning — is not pleasant. In the short term, you wind up with tight, red, painful skin. Long-term, it can increase your risk of skin cancer and premature aging. But aloe vera can help you find relief, at the very least.

Aloe vera works in a number of ways to treat sunburn:

  • Reduces inflammation: Aloe has several ingredients that reduce the pain, redness, and swelling associated with inflammation from sunburn. First, aloe vera inhibits the cyclooxygenase pathway, which creates an anti-inflammatory effect. The plant also contains bradykinase, which reduces inflammation when applied topically. 
  • Stimulates collagen production: Aloe can improve the feel and appearance of sunburn through stimulating the production of collagen, which improves skin firmness, dryness, and elasticity. 
  • Moisturizes skin: Aloe contains substances called mucopolysaccharides, which are sugars that help retain moisture in your skin. It also contains a number of amino acids, which soften hardened skin cells.
  • Contains salicylic acid: Salicylic acid is both an anti-inflammatory and an antiseptic, which means it can ease pain while also preventing infection.
  • Contains vitamins: Aloe has numerous vitamins, including vitamins A, C, and E, which are antioxidants that can neutralize free radicals to decrease sun damage, says Dr. Kenneth Mark, a skincare and cosmetic dermatology expert with a private practice. 

How to use aloe vera to treat sunburn

"If possible, use the gel straight from the plant itself. Cut open the plant leaves and squeeze out the clear gel inside," says Dr. Marie Hayag a dermatologist at 5th Avenue Aesthetics.

However, you can certainly use a lotion or moisturizer containing aloe instead. If you can find a product with 100% aloe, choose that one, says Hayag. Also, make sure the product is fragrance-free, as added fragrances can irritate sunburned skin. 

"In general, the higher the percentage, the better," says Mark.

Apply aloe vera gel directly to the sunburned area of skin, ideally after a cool bath or shower, says Hayag.

You can reapply it several times per day, or as needed. Make sure to apply enough to completely cover the sunburned area, Mark says.

However, don't get too enthusiastic with your reapplications. "Aloe vera does contain natural enzymes, which can have a mild exfoliating effect on the skin over time, so be sure not to overapply," Hayag says.

Make sure you buy real aloe

In order to get all the benefits of aloe, you need to make sure the product you're using actually contains real aloe. 

A 2016 Bloomberg investigation found that some brands of aloe don't contain any markers — such as the beneficial polysaccharide acemannan — that prove they're made with actual aloe. 

To make sure what you're buying actually contains aloe, check the ingredients list. The first few ingredients listed should be aloe vera or Aloe barbadensis (the plant's botanical name).

Better yet, source your aloe vera gel from the plant itself.

Insider's takeaway

Aloe vera is an excellent treatment for sunburn because it reduces inflammation, stimulates collagen production, and moisturizes skin. 

The best way to apply it is to use aloe from the plant itself and rub it into the sunburnt areas. You can reapply it several times a day, as needed. 

Read the original article on Insider