Unfortunately, without regulation or a testing lab at home, you won't know for sure. The ingredients list could give some clues, said Dr. Anne Chapas, New York City dermatologist and scholar of the American Academy of Dermatology. Aloe vera should be listed as one of the first three items, she said, suggesting that it is one of the main ingredients.
Finding Latin names like Aloe vera or Aloe barbadensis on the list can also help verify the authenticity of an aloe product, said Dr. Grundmann. Just avoid any products that say they contain Aloe Ferox, another type of plant that is smaller, grows faster, and cheaper to use than Aloe, but is less well studied, has other medicinal properties, and does not work on sunburns.
Some, but not all, products can list the concentrations of their active ingredients. Dr. Grundmann suggested looking for a 95 percent pure aloe vera gel, although Dr. Ferris warned against placing too much trust in the percentages on the labels.
"There are a lot of products that say 100 percent, but the formulation can be deceiving," she said. “Some say 100% aloe, but they also contain other ingredients, which means that they are not 100% aloe. Others say 100 percent gel, but not that 100 percent of what's in that gel is aloe. ”Because of this lack of standardization of concentrations, she said, it's difficult to recommend a specific percentage on which to go should pay attention.
That being said, buying a bottle of aloe probably isn't going to break the bank. You can purchase a 16-ounce bottle of aloe vera gel from Target for about $ 6.
What other methods can I use to relieve sunburn?
Frequent cool baths or showers can help alleviate the symptoms of sunburn, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Applying a heavy, emollient moisturizer can protect and moisturize the skin, said Dr. Chapas. Drinking extra water can also help prevent dehydration, and pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen can reduce swelling, redness, or discomfort.
Short-term use of corticosteroid creams can also soothe itchy, inflamed skin, said Dr. Grundmann. (Storing the cream in the refrigerator can have a cooling effect, he added.) And always take care to protect sunburned skin from further exposure to the sun while it is healing.