Kiran Rai is somewhat of an ambassador for aloe. “I offer it up to everybody I meet,” says the founder of Indian-inspired scarf line Sir Alistair Rai. “If somebody says to me, ‘Your skin looks good,” I immediately say ‘It’s because of aloe vera!'”
While the powerful plant has been known for its soothing skin-care properties (hello, sunburn) for ages, Rai is part of a growing cadre of holistic-leaning ladies in New York—and beyond—who have added sipping the succulent’s juice to their daily beauty regimens. “It’s amazing how good it makes your skin look!” she gushes.
Nicki Minaj recently credited her perfect complexion to drinking aloe water, and gorgeous raw food goddess Sarma Melngailis adds it to her smoothies for clear skin. And while the potable product used to be mainly available in Korean delis, Juice Press now sells the water made from he inner leaf or fillet of the plant at its many trendy shops. Organic Avenue and Juice Generation both offer it in booster shot form.
(Wellness note: The outer leaf is what is sometimes used in stronger laxatives, and a compound in that part of the plant was shown in one animal study to have possible carcinogenic effects.)
Aloe’s super skin-care powers
When you talk about aloe, lots of people immediately say that it’s been used as a natural remedy and supplement for a really long time—in ancient Egypt, for example. “I’m a fan of recommending almost anything that’s been around long enough to predate history,” says Miraval Resort nutritionist Junelle Lupiani, R.D. “And we’ve seen aloe depicted in ancient cave paintings!”
A lot of the thinking around drinking aloe vera for vanity has to do with its hydrating properties (it’s mostly water), since well-hydrated skin usually equals glowy skin. But its hype also has to do with other properties, says naturopathic doctor Karuna Sabnani, N.D., that come from its antioxidant content, anti-inflammatory effects, and soothing effect on digestion. “If it helps with elimination, right there it’s going to help your skin glow. It’s going to help heal the gut, which will help you absorb what you need and eliminate what you don’t need—and that’s associated with beauty.”
Bicoastal eyebrow guru Jimena Garcia, who recommends ingesting aloe to many of her clients, agrees. “Whatever’s happening to your skin is a reflection of what’s happening on the inside, and people don’t realize that,” she says.
For instance, she says, since it’s a cooling agent, it can help prevent redness from waxing, and she says she’s also seen it help with brown spots, eczema, and stretch marks.
“I personally drink it a lot in the summertime because it’s so cleansing and cooling—and it helps with water retention,” Garcia adds.
When it comes to Western medicine, there’s little research to turn to when it comes to whether ingesting aloe vera gel will really help prevent breakouts, redness, or wrinkles. (And we just don’t see a peer-reviewed study on that happening.) So, aside from some studies that have shown some topical skin healing benefits, “there’s no meaningful evidence that it’s effective for any other purpose when taken internally,” notes Lupiani.
But go ahead, try to tell that to the blemish-free women glowing from behind their aloe-spiked smoothies. “I do absolutely everything you can imagine in terms of holistic remedies and treatments,” admits Kiran Rai. “Like, I might go on and off apple cider vinegar. But this I never stop, I never ever stop doing this.” —Lisa Elaine Held
Are you an aloe-sipper? Or would you try it? Tell us in the Comments, below.