Bustle 10/1/2022 Megan Gray
Aloe vera has been used medicinally in several cultures for thousands of years, and the best aloe vera gels for hair growth have a high amount of aloe without harmful additives. They may also be infused with honey or fruit stem cells, or come in a shampoo or detangler, so keep an eye out for extras or formats that appeal. To help you find the best option, I’ve consulted with two Board-certified dermatologists to break down what you should look for (and what to avoid) in aloe vera gels.
Emmanuel Loucas, M.D., is the director of SINY Dermatology and an assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, with practices in Manhattan and Palm Beach.
Howard Sobel, M.D., is the director and founder of New York City’s Sobel Skin dermatology practice and has been a clinical attending physician in dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital for 34 years.
What To Look For When Considering Aloe Vera Gel For Hair Growth
Aloe vera is rich in vitamins A, C, and E, and according to Dr. Emmanuel Loucas, “These vitamins help in cell turnover, which promotes healthy cell growth and healthier hair. Vitamin B12 and folic acid are also found in aloe, which may help reduce hair loss.” To get these benefits, Dr. Howard Sobel advises, “Aloe vera (and other naturally soothing ingredients) should be the more prominent ingredients,” adding, “Look for organic and plant-based ingredients whenever possible.”
This means when you’re checking the ingredient list, aloe vera should be near the top — the farther down it is, the less there is in the product. Keep in mind that it’s uncommon (and, for many, impractical) to get a gel that has 100% aloe vera because preservatives are needed to keep it fresh.
What To Avoid In Aloe Vera Gels
Aloe vera gel should not contain additives that can damage your hair or irritate your scalp. Dr. Sobel recommends: “Anyone who experiences irritation should avoid all alcohols,” synthetic ingredients (including fragrance, acids, parabens, and phthalates), and “low pH acidic ingredients,” such as apple. It’s also good to do a patch test before using to make sure you don’t have a negative reaction and steer clear of any aloe vera gels that are green, which suggests the addition of synthetic colors or alcohol.
To start using aloe vera gel in your hair-care routine, take a look at some of the best aloe vera gels for hair growth.
1. A Wildly Popular Aloe Vera Gel
- Over 60,000 reviews and an overall 4.5-star rating
- Includes an e-book with aloe recipes and tips
- Contains 98.7% organic aloe vera
- No alcohol or added water
- Contains citric and ascorbic acids as preservatives
With over 44,000 five-star ratings, this aloe vera gel is a popular pick. It has 98.7% aloe vera from freshly cut aloe leaves, which is certified NSF organic and has met the International Aloe Science Council’s certification standards for the quality and purity of its aloe vera. There’s no added water or alcohol, but there is citric and ascorbic acid, so it’s recommended to spot test the gel before use. To thicken the gel, it uses a seaweed extract known as agar, which won’t leave a sticky residue in your hair, and there’s no refrigeration needed. You can also download a 47-page e-book (link on the bottle), which includes hair mask recipes to try out and other ways to use the gel.
A helpful review: “I was really happy with this product for the price. I use aloe vera to stimulate hair growth. I put it on once a week and leave it for an hour. My hair was really oily and needed a wash when i put it on but after leaving it for an hour it didn’t feel greasy anymore, it felt clean and gelled. No fragrance, no reaction (my skin is very sensitive), and it has a very high concentration of aloe vera.”
2. A Highly Rated Aloe Vera Gel In A 2-Pack
- Over 3,000 reviews and an overall 4.6-star rating
- Organic and International Aloe Science Council certified
- Contains 99% organic aloe vera
- Contains alcohol and ascorbic acid
This two-pack of aloe vera gel contains 99% aloe vera that comes from organically-grown, chemical-free aloe vera from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and the Mexican desert. It also meets the International Aloe Science Council’s certification standards for the quality and purity of its aloe vera. There are no parabens, artificial colors, or added water, and it’s cruelty-free. However, the current ingredient list contains alcohol and ascorbic acid, which may give a reaction to those with sensitivities, so make sure to spot test before use. You can use the gel as a leave-in conditioner for your hair after the shower, use it on your skin, or combine it with other ingredients for a DIY hair mask that you can wash off after an hour for growth benefits. One thing to note: Although the gel appears greenish-yellow in the bottle, reviewers report it’s actually clear.
A helpful review: “So me and my girls are mixed (Black and Asian) curly girls. I hated using gels that would flake and they all flake plus having to put moisture etc etc.. this gel is IT. It’s all natural. You can still apply your leave in first and then coat with this gel it does NOT flake and does NOT dry your hair out. As a matter of fact it adds and holds moisture. [. ] If you add a little water to gel when applying to hair you can stretch it and use less. I can’t even use other gels anymore.”
3. An Expert Pick: An Aloe Vera Hair Gel
- Natural cucumber scent
- Includes rainforest antioxidants guayusa, rahua, and sacha inchi
- Suitable for all hair types
- Includes citric acid
- Doesn’t have many Amazon reviews yet
This next aloe vera gel is strictly for hair. According to Dr. Sobel, it’s a “professional quality, lightweight gel with aloe vera and other anti-inflammatory ingredients to help soothe the scalp and leave the hair soft and flexible. So you’re getting the benefits of a styler and aloe vera in one.” Some of those soothing ingredients are green antioxidants like cucumber and chlorophyll and rainforest-grown antioxidants like guayusa, rahua (aka ungurahua oil), and sacha inchi oil.
The aloe vera gel can promote shine and healthy hair for all hair types, with a flexible hold. Just apply to towel-dried hair, work through, and then air or blow dry. The amount of organic aloe vera used isn’t specified, but it is second on the ingredient list after water. It does contain a small portion of plant-derived citric acid, so spot test if you have sensitivities.
4. An Aloe Vera Gel Without Citric Or Ascorbic Acid
- Over 2,000 reviews and an overall 4.6-star rating
- Contains 96% organic aloe vera
- Certified USDA organic
- Processed within 12 hours of harvest
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- No acids
- Reviewers report the gel has a thin consistency
If you have sensitive skin, then this aloe vera gel might be a good option for hair growth. It contains 96% USDA organic aloe vera that’s been hand-harvested and processed within 12 hours of collection. There’s no aloe powder concentrate, parabens, mineral oil, GMOs, hormones, sulfates, or acids. It does contain propylene glycol, a synthetic food additive that belongs to the same chemical group as alcohol, but is “significantly less volatile,” according to the brand. Plus, the brand notes propylene glycol is good at retaining moisture, making it “ideal as an additive in skin care products.” Just apply to wet hair as a gel or leave-in conditioner, or mix with other ingredients for a DIY hair mask.
A helpful review: “I am so satisfied with this product. I first did a test on a patch of my head to make sure I wasn’t allergic. I use it once daily with a few drops of hair moisturizer lotion. It is not only cooling and soothing but also healing.”
5. The Gel With The Most Organic Aloe Vera
- Over 13,000 reviews and an overall 4.5-star rating
- Pump bottle
- Contains 99.75% organic aloe vera
- Certified USDA organic
- Vegan and cruelty-free
- Reviewers report the gel can be liquidy
- Contains citric and ascorbic acids
Containing 99.75% organic, cold-pressed, filtered aloe, this aloe vera gel has the greatest percentage of aloe vera on this list. It comes in an easy-to-dispense pump bottle and boasts over 10,000 five-star ratings. You can use it as a light styling gel or nourish hair by applying it to wet strands from root to end and rinsing after five minutes. One reviewer raved, “I can feel the hair growing.” There are only five ingredients, but two of those are ascorbic and citric acids, so those with sensitivities should spot test before using.
A helpful review: “Highly recommend this product, I use it for so many things. hair gel,facial toner, bug bites etc. My hair was damaged from over processing and products that were drying it out, but since I’ve been using this I can see a difference and now finally it’s starting to get healthier and grow.”
6. A Travel Size 3-Pack Of Aloe Vera Gel
- Over 3,000 reviews and an overall 4.7-star rating
- Contains between 97 to 98% aloe vera
- Does not contain alcohol, acids, or synthetic fragrance and colors
- The package reads “100% gel,” but the actual percentage of aloe vera is lower
If you’re traveling, this three-pack of aloe vera gel is a solid choice for hair growth on the go. It’s a non-oily formula with no added colors, fragrances, alcohol, or acids in the ingredient list. But keep in mind that while the label reads “100% gel,” that doesn’t indicate the amount of aloe vera in the product. According to the Fruit of the Earth representative I spoke with, the actual percentage is between 97 and 98%.
A helpful review: “I use this stuff to do my two strand twist..I love the way it makes my hair feels..no heaviness..non greasy and nourishing to my scalp! Win Win. ”
7. An Aloe Vera Gel Made With Manuka Honey & Apple Stem Cells
- Over 11,000 reviews and an overall 4.5-star rating
- Contains 86% aloe vera
- Contains Manuka honey and apple stem cells
- Does not contain alcohol
- Apple is a low-pH ingredient that may irritate sensitive skin
- May contain acids
- Pump can be hard to use, according to reviewers
What sets this aloe vera gel apart is the addition of Manuka honey (from responsibly sourced New Zealand wild bees) for shine and moisture and apple stem cells to help stimulate skin renewal. There are also no mineral oils, sulfates, SLS and SLES, phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde, or artificial fragrances. The non-greasy formula locks in moisture, and one reviewer raved, “My hair even started growing back in faster!”
However, the description may read “100% pure aloe leaf gel,” but that means it was sourced only from the aloe leaves instead of the entire plant. When I wrote an email to Honeyskin, the brand clarified that there’s 86% aloe vera in this gel. And while citric and other acids aren’t on the ingredient list on the Amazon page, they are listed on the bottle that some reviewers received.
A helpful review: “My scalp has been dry, irritated and itchy for many, many years. [. ] My days have been spent with a burning, itchy, painful scalp that I couldn’t heal no matter what organic product or natural oil I used. Hair breakage and loss was also a real issue. That is, until I found this marvelous product. The minute I put it on my scalp, it calmed down. No more itch, no more irritation, no more dryness. [. ] My scalp is finally happy. My hair, although still fine, is moisturized and growing.”
Also Nice: An Expert-Approved Shampoo Packed With Aloe Vera
- Over 6,000 reviews and an overall 4.5-star rating
- Includes aloe leaf juice, coconut water, bamboo fibers, castor oil, and neem oil
- Contains alcohol, synthetic fragrance, and citric acid
Dr. Loucas has found that his patients are more likely to apply aloe vera when it’s included in a shampoo or conditioner and has gotten positive feedback on this popular shampoo. It’s ideal for wavy to tight curls and can renew color-treated, transitioning, and natural hair types. Maui Moisture has packed this shampoo with aloe vera (it’s the first ingredient), plus coconut water, bamboo fibers, castor oil, and neem oil to soften and thicken strands. There are no silicones, parabens, mineral oil, or synthetic dyes, but there is alcohol, synthetic fragrance, and citric acid, so may not be ideal for sensitive scalps.
A helpful review: “I have been using this for over 6 mo. One huge thing is my hair doesn’t seem to get as greasy as quick. When your hair is wet it does feel a bit stiff but the end result is soft, great smelling. Now for the BIG question?? YES it seems to be growing new hair. I was getting a bald spot on my forehead and it’s filling in and I see new growth all around. I will continue to use this. LOVE IT!! ** I use both shampoo and conditioner**”
Also Nice: An Expert-Recommended Leave-In Detangler Infused With Aloe Vera
- Over 2,000 reviews and an overall 4.5-star rating
- Includes aloe extract and vitamin E
- Contains alcohol, synthetic fragrance, and citric acid
Dr. Loucas recommends his patients pick an aloe vera product that “is easy to use and one that you will continue to use” and has received positive feedback on this leave-in detangler. Just spray on wet hair and comb through your strand for soft, smooth, shiny hair. It’s infused with aloe vera and vitamin E, free of silicones and parabens, and safe for everyday use. Just note that it does contain synthetic fragrance, citric acid, and alcohol, so may not be ideal for those with sensitivities.
A helpful review: “I only wish I found this sooner! It works amazingly! Within a day my hair was smoother. softer and bouncier than it’s been in years. The leave in conditioner has no left over film at all. feels like there’s nothing in your hair! Will definitely buy more!”
Emmanuel Loucas, M.D., director of SINY Dermatology and assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, with practices in Manhattan and Palm Beach
Howard Sobel, M.D., director and founder of Sobel Skin in New York City and a clinical attending physician in dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital