Among the lesser discussed ills of social media, in my opinion, are the absolutely chaotic DIY 'ideas' that it's birthed. Those 'epic meal ideas' combining gallons of cheese with hot dogs and barbecue sauce, which serve more as an affront to God than as food; those 'home decor solutions' that take two pieces of rubbish and turn them into one piece of super-rubbish – you get the gist. And beauty is no different. I’ve seen so many Instagram videos where they give a recipe for what should really be a salad dressing and then say it’s a face mask, or they start making a dessert and then bung it on their head. It’s the Wild West!
Aloe vera is unique in that it actually has some pretty special beauty benefits for your hair. "Aloe vera is actually a really good treatment to use before washing your hair," confirmed trichologist Ebuni Ajiduah. "It’s soothing and hydrating, but if you have any kind of flaky or dry scalp issues, applying aloe vera before washing can help sort of lift up the flakes and make them easy to wash away," she explained. Ebuni said she isn’t usually big on DIY hair treatments but that aloe vera has a lot of properties that she likes, thanks to its wound-healing power and how soothing the gel is. "While it’s not going to make dandruff go away, it’s a really good way to calm and hydrate the scalp, especially because a lot of the medicated treatments can be quite drying," she explained.
If that sounds like something you could get into, Ebuni recommended leaving it on for no more than 10 to 15 minutes, then rinsing out in the shower. It’s not great to leave aloe vera on your scalp indefinitely as it can become irritating or dry, and Ebuni said some people do have allergic reactions to it, so always patch-test first behind your ear. Ebuni is old-school with it: she gets the aloe vera plant, hacks it open and scoops out the gel, but you can buy a tube of pre-made gel from health food stores like Holland & Barrett and Planet Organic. "For some of my clients who have scarring or sensitivity on their scalp, or even some kinds of alopecia, [the conditions] can really burn and be uncomfortable," explained Ebuni. "What I recommend them to do is get the gel and freeze it into little ice cubes which they can use to relieve the burning sensation."
Aside from being a pre-treatment for a sore scalp, Ebuni said you can use aloe vera as a detangling aid before washing your hair. "It’s very gentle and can help reduce breakage, so if your hair is feeling fragile and brittle, it might help," she explained. Again, without knowing exactly which tutorials you’ve seen online I’m not sure what you’ve been promised, but one thing aloe vera can’t do is make your hair grow faster.
"There’s nothing topical that can encourage hair growth apart from minoxidil," confirmed Ebuni –minoxidil being the super-strength ingredient often found in treatments for more advanced alopecia and male pattern hair loss. If you are experiencing any kind of hair loss, keep heart: as Ebuni told me, many incidences of hair loss are brief and temporary, albeit distressing. "It’s normal to lose up to 100 strands of hair a day and when your body is under stress, hair is one of the first things to feel the effects," she confirmed. "It’s always worth getting a blood test if you’re concerned and getting an expert opinion, but even a nasty case of flu or sickness or big changes in your diet can affect your hair, and you might notice the thinning or breakage up to three months afterwards," she concluded.
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