Dealing with your hair feels like a minefield in today's over-commercialized marketplace. There are a thousand different shampoos, conditioners, gels, treatments, and straighteners available to solve pretty much any problem, but how often are the solutions worse than the problems?
With modern chemical-laced hair products, it's no wonder we're all dealing with frizzy, dry, dead hair. To deal with hair problems naturally, while maintaining healthy hair beneath it all, feels like a pipe dream.
Thankfully, there are some options for you. One such option you may not have thought of before is the good old Aloe plant.
Aloe Vera is a succulent with long, thick fronds full of a cool gel-like substance. This gel is what is harvested and used for everything from a tasty snack to a delicious juice to a skin treatment to, yes, a hair product.
The Benefits of Aloe Vera for Hair
Aloe Vera has a lot of potential benefits as a hair treatment, and by that, we don't mean that it's something you necessarily have to eat to make your hair more vibrant. We certainly have plenty of ideas for that, which you can read about here, but this isn't one of them.
First of all, aloe vera is extremely good at hydrating hair. One of the main components of aloe vera is water, but the gel that the water is suspended in is great at keeping that moisture there in your hair. This lets your hair better absorb both the water and the nutrients present in whatever aloe mixture you're using.
Next, aloe vera is very nutritive. The gel from the aloe plant contains nearly 100 different enzymes, nutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other beneficial ingredients. Many of these can be absorbed into the hair or the scalp directly, which helps to strengthen and restore weak hair.
Aloe is, of course very soothing. There's a reason it's used for sunburns and wound care, after all. The gel is naturally cooling, and the gel helps form a protective layer over your skin and scalp that helps minimize dryness. When used in hair, it saturates the scalp, and it can soothe an itchy scalp, reduce dryness and flakes, and might even help a little with psoriasis, though that last one hasn't been tested as far as we know.
Aloe vera also has anti-inflammatory properties when used on the skin, which can extend to the scalp. Inflammation is the root cause of a wide array of ailments and symptoms of illness, so anything you can do to reduce or alleviate it in any part of your body will make you feel better and help your body heal whatever is causing the inflammation in the first place.
Is Aloe Right For My Hair?
Different people have different kinds of hair. If you have naturally thin, dry, brittle hair, aloe might be a very good treatment for you. This extends to curly hair as well. African Americans typically have both dry and curly hair, making aloe a very powerful option.
On the other hand, if your hair is naturally very oily and thick, you might not need aloe as a treatment and would be better served with a shampoo that strips excess oil and replaces it with a protective moisturizer. As with any personal care, every person is different, so the products that work for one person might not work for you. Luckily, aloe is quite cheap, so you can pick some up and give it a try and the worst thing you'll do is waste a few dollars. At the very least, aloe vera is not going to damage your hair.
Picking the Right Aloe
There are a few different ways you can find aloe, so which kind of aloe vera is right for use in your hair?
The first and the least processed variety of aloe is simply an aloe leaf. You can often find these in the produce section of a grocery store, and you can simply grow aloe yourself and harvest the fronds when you need them. One leaf will provide plenty of aloe gel for multiple treatments.
The downside to harvesting aloe yourself is that it can be toxic. The aloe vera plant has a compound called aloin in the leaves, which is removed through processing. When you're harvesting the aloe yourself, you aren't getting that processing, so you need to be careful with using naturally harvested aloe.
You can pick up processed aloe gel at a store as well. This is the same thick gel you get from an aloe frond naturally, but it has been processed to have the aloin removed. This is food-grade aloe and can be used as part of a dessert or as part of a natural hair treatment, so feel free to experiment.
A third way to find aloe is in aloe juice. Aloe juice comes in several forms, ranging from one like this that is almost entirely aloe vera, water, and some preservatives, to more beverage-style aloe juice that includes other fruit juices, like grape and lemon. We recommend avoiding the second type because mixing fruit juice into your hair will get sticky and unpleasant very quickly and necessitate a wash, which defeats the purpose of using the aloe in the first place.
Now let's talk about specific ways you can use aloe vera for your hair.
The Aloe Vera Hair Mask
A simple treatment using aloe vera on your hair is a mask. A mask works to lubricate your hair, making it easier to brush or comb out tangles, while serving to moisturize, infuse your hair with vitamins and minerals, and protect it from the environment.
To make a mask, all you need is some aloe vera and some oil. We like coconut oil for this. If your coconut oil isn't liquid at room temperature, give it a bit of heat in the microwave until it's liquid. You want about two tablespoons of aloe and one tablespoon of oil. You may need a bit more if you have exceptionally long or thick hair. You can also make a large batch at once and store it in the fridge, heating it up to room temperature when it's time to use it.
Once you have the two ingredients, simply stir them together until they form a smooth paste. You can apply this paste to your hair with your hands quite easily. If your hair is thick or voluminous, it's easier to divide it into sections to apply your mask more easily.
When applying the mask, start about halfway down your hair and work it into the ends first. Once you've done this, massage some of the hair mask into your scalp and work down from there. Finish off application by combing or brushing through your hair to remove excess and make sure it's evenly spread throughout your hair.
You'll want to let the mask sit for 30-60 minutes. We recommend using a warm towel or a shower cap to keep from getting aloe/oil all over your clothes and furniture, and to help minimize evaporation.
Once you've let the mask sit, rinse it out. You can rinse with water, or you can use a light organic shampoo to rinse out the residue. It depends on your hair and how well it lets the aloe residue go. Repeat once a week.
The Aloe Vera Detangler Spray
If tangles are your primary concern, you can mix up a hair spray that will add a slippery coating to your hair and make it much easier to remove tangles through simple brushing or combing. It makes hair care a lot less painful, that's for sure!
For ingredients, you'll need half a cup of distilled water and half a cup of aloe vera juice. Make sure to get the kind without the added fruit juices! That's the base. You can also add some or all of these:
- Half a teaspoon of silk amino acids helps your treatment bind to keratin and last longer.
- One teaspoon of panthenol, a name for vitamin B5, works as a moisturizer.
- One teaspoon of vegetable glycerin helps retain the B5 and keep moisture in.
- One teaspoon of guar gum serves as an emulsifier to make your spray thicker and creamier once it's applied, and helps add slickness to detangle hair.
- A few drops of your favorite essential oils. Rosemary oil stimulates hair follicles to help grow hair, for example. Others, like mint or lemongrass, are great for their scents.
Mix up all of these ingredients into a blender or in a bowl with an immersion blender. Mix well for several minutes, or until it's all nicely mixed. You can put the resulting liquid into a spray bottle and store it in the fridge until you need it.
To use, simply spray enough into your hair to moisten it and work out your tangles with a brush or comb. If you use too much you can rinse your hair out afterward, but since the majority of the liquid is water, you don't need to right away.
The Simple Aloe Detangler
If you don't have access to ingredients like silk amino acids or vegetable glycerin, you can make a simple detangler spray out of pure aloe juice. All you need for this recipe is the aloe juice itself and whatever essential oils you want to smell. Lavender, orange, and rosemary are all good options, alone or together with one another.
All you really need to do with this is add some aloe vera juice to a spray bottle and spray it into your hair while working to remove tangles and knots. Depending on your spray bottle, 5-10 sprays usually do the trick. Brush out tangles and let the juice air dry for the best effect.
Are There Risks to Using Aloe Vera for Hair?
One thing you're probably going to be concerned about is the risks of using something like aloe vera in your hair. So are there any that you should be concerned about?
Luckily, the answer is generally no. Aloe vera is not guaranteed 100% safe for everyone, but the same can be said of literally anything. Aloe vera is a plant, and there are going to be some people who have a sensitivity or allergic reaction to that plant.
In very rare cases, using aloe vera can result in allergic reactions like contact dermatitis, a rash, or hives where the aloe is in contact with the skin and scalp. In some rare cases, aloe vera also causes phytotoxicity, which is a skin irritation similar to a sunburn.
We recommend testing a small amount of aloe on a relatively insensitive part of your body, like a patch of your arm or the back of your hand, and wait for a while to see if you have any sort of skin reaction. If you do, obviously, don't use aloe in your hair. If not, however, you should be fine.
There are some reports of various internal problems with aloe vera, like kidney problems, stomach problems, and electrolyte imbalances, but that's all a result of eating aloe. In fact, aloe is largely food safe if it's prepared properly, and many of these side effects come from improperly prepared aloe. If you're using aloe in your hair you don't necessarily need to get food-grade aloe, but you should make sure you aren't consuming aloe that's not fit for consumption.