Aloe after sun products are typically gels, lotions, and creams that contain, as a primary active ingredient, the gel from the aloe vera plant. These topical treatments are often marketed as skin moisturizers, and are used after tanning or sunburn has occurred. Many products claim to limit skin damage and signs of premature skin aging caused by sun exposure. While aloe products are likely to help prevent dry skin caused by sun exposure and treat the pain and inflammation of sunburn, clinical data does not support their ability to prevent or reduce sun-related skin damage.
Raw aloe gel has been used to treat minor burns, such as sunburn, for centuries. It is thought to reduce the pain and inflammation of sunburn and other burns affecting the top layers of the skin. By increasing blood circulation to affected areas and reducing the spread of foreign bacteria, it is also supposed to speed healing time of burns and minor wounds. Clinical data shows some correlation between the use of aloe products and relief of sunburn symptoms. The link between aloe usage and faster healing is much weaker, with some tests suggesting that the use of aloe products can actually lengthen the time it takes for minor burns and wounds to heal.
Using aloe after sun products is likely to help moisturize the skin and help prevent sun-related skin dryness, as well as some of the peeling associated with sunburn. Aloe gel is an effective moisturizer, and many of the creams and lotions used as after sun products contain secondary moisturizers. Some after sun creams also provide limited protection from further UV exposure, which can help to prevent further sun damage and drying.
It is unlikely that aloe after sun products can prevent or reduce skin damage caused by sun exposure. By the time an after sun product is used, damage to the skin has already taken place. While these products can help mitigate the lingering symptoms of sun exposure, this does not affect the long-term effects of tanning or sunburn. Clinical trials have shown no meaningful link between post-exposure aloe treatment and the reduction of skin damage.
Topical application of aloe gel is considered safe, with no known side effects, maximum safe dosage, or drug interactions. It can cause moderate to serious irritation if it comes into contact with the eyes, and it can cause laxative effects and possible medical complications if ingested. The content of aloe after sun products can range from nearly pure preparations of raw aloe gel to concentrations of as little as 0.5% aloe. Aloe products are typically applied to affected areas of skin up to three to four times daily, or as part of a regular moisturizing regimen.