Aloe vera has a pretty great reputation for healing properties. The spiny cactus cousin’s inner flesh is well documented for healing properties for wounds, burns, and other conditions, for a variety of reasons. And because of its gelatinous consistency, it’s pretty cool to play with too.
So it makes sense that many people experiencing hair loss will wonder if rubbing the super succulent on their scalp will prevent, reduce, or even reverse signs of hair loss. There’s some promise to this idea, but it’s far from tested, and even farther from proven.
The fact is that while an aloe plant isn’t going to sprout your hair like a magic wand, it might have some clear benefits to your scalp’s health in limited context.
But if you’re experiencing hair loss, feeling desperate, and standing in front of a mirror with a knife, a plant, and a plan, do yourself a favor and read this first.
Whether you’ve seen more hair in the drain or less on your head, you may suspect you’re starting to lose your hair. But just because there’s a little hairball in the drain each morning, doesn’t mean anything is going wrong.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), you lose about 50 and 100 of the 100,000 hairs on your head per day normally.
Hair is a pretty complicated part of your body, with each follicle having a multiphase lifespan that can stretch over several years. Those phases can be broken into four parts: the anagen, catagen, telogen and exogen phases.
The hair grows in the anagen phase, which lasts for several years and accounts for 90 percent or so of your follicles.
The catagen phase lasts just a few weeks, and is kind of like retirement for the follicle: it stops producing and just rides out its remaining time before entering the telogen phase.
In the telogen phase, the hair is dead and waiting to fall out. Around nine percent of your hair is in this phase at any given time. And finally, in the exogen phase, your hair that’s done growing sheds.
When those proportions come out of balance, or when the number of follicles active decreases, you’re experiencing a degree of hair loss.
We’ve written about the types of hair loss extensively elsewhere, but as a brief reminder, hair loss can be caused by a multitude of factors.
You can lose hair from trauma to the scalp and the body more generally, or due to autoimmune diseases. Your hair can fall out because of poor diet and exercise, or because your man bun is damaging the follicle.
But while the hair follicle can be injured like any other part of your body, repairing the damaging and healing it aren’t the same as healing a cut on your skin. And so while aloe may have benefits to your hairline, they might not be what you think.
There’s a promising case to be made for aloe vera as a tool in the fight against hair loss. We’re not saying a rubbing your bald spot with a leaf is going to resprout follicles, but there are several correlations between the established benefits of aloe vera and what is needed to treat some kinds of hair loss.
Aloe vera has proven benefits in the healing of wounds to the skin. Aloe vera gel helps skin wounds heal in several ways, including the stimulation of collagen production, which “accelerates wound improvement.”
And while aloe vera is applying these benefits, it is simultaneously providing the skin with amino acids, as well as vitamin E and vitamin C, which do a variety of things for the skin, including further stimulating collagen production, as well as taming free radicals and acting as anti-inflammatories.
All of this is great for the skin generally, but you might be wondering what wound healing has to do with hair.
Well, the answer lies in the fact that, depending on the kind of hair loss you’ve experienced, repairing damage to the skin may be the solution to the problem.
It could also help with conditions like traction alopecia, which is a damage to the follicle itself. Bleaching, dying, straightening—anything you do physically that causes irritation or damage to the scalp might benefit from aloe vera, causing the damage or irritation to heal more quickly.
But the bigger question of scalp health regards conditions like atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, dandruff and other scalp conditions that cause irritation and stress to the follicles as well as the skin.
In these cases, aloe vera could be an effective part of (but not all of) treatment for the condition, and could help prevent or reverse certain instances of hair loss.
Generic for Rogaine®, this FDA-approved over-the-counter version of topical minoxidil is used for regrowth on the crown of the head.
This is the FDA-approved dynamic duo. When used together, men saw better results in clinical trials compared to using either alone.
If you’re looking for something effective but don’t want too many steps in your routine, this once-a-day pill could be right for you.
Clinically proven to regrow hair in 3-6 months, no pills required.
As much as aloe vera might provide a benefit to your hair loss problems, it is by no means a recommended method for regrowing hair. As such, you’re better off with more proven treatments.
But while there are some obvious cases where aloe vera could help, the bigger picture is that treating symptoms doesn’t address the problems.
More cacti in your routine isn’t going to bring back your full head of hair, and it won’t address the myriad problems of genetics, hormonal imbalances, stress, diet, water, exercise, and everything else that can kill your hair.
The first thing you need to do (after putting down the aloe plant), is consult a healthcare professional.
A healthcare professional will be able to help you determine the cause of your hair loss, and prescribe the appropriate treatment (which, yes, may include getting to cut up a plant, if you really want to).
But more than likely it will take the form of one or more proven methods for reversing or halting hair loss in the form of topical or oral medications.
Conditions like androgenic alopecia (the technical term for what we know as male pattern baldness) might net you a prescription for finasteride (brand name Propecia®) or its topical cousin minoxidil (brand name Rogaine®).
Your healthcare professional might prescribe one or both, because the most effective treatment for your hair loss may be different than your friend’s.
The right treatment for you is out there, and a medical professional can help you find it.
The best thing you can do for yourself now is contact one, and discuss treatment options. After all, like your succulents, you want your hair growing and prospering.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.