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Stop Using the Wrong Aloe! A Guide for Smart Growers

You know aloe vera, that spiky succulent famous for soothing sunburns. But did you know that beneath that familiar green exterior lies a whole world of diversity?

With over 500 species in the Aloe genus, these plants offer way more than just a sunburn salve. If you grow your own aloe, choosing the right type is key to getting the most of this amazing plant.

Best Aloe Vera for Skincare & Topical Use

When you picture “aloe vera gel,” you’re likely envisioning Aloe barbadensis Miller.

This is known as “true aloe vera” and is the absolute superstar for healing and soothing skin thanks to its high concentration of beneficial compounds. Its thick, fleshy leaves are packed with the clear gel we all know and love.

While some other aloe species have minor topical uses, they won’t pack the same punch as Aloe barbadensis Miller for treating burns, cuts, acne, or irritated skin.

Read: Aloe Vera: Your Skin’s Secret Weapon for a Naturally Radiant Glow

Aloe Vera for Consumption

Here’s where things get a little tricky: not all aloe vera varieties are made for eating or drinking. In fact, some contain a substance called aloin just under the skin, which is a potent laxative and can be harmful if ingested in large amounts.

While Aloe barbadensis Miller is technically edible, it’s crucial to remove the outer skin and any trace of aloin before consuming its gel. Focus on the clear inner gel, which can be blended into drinks or taken in supplement form.

Potential benefits of drinking aloe vera juice include improved digestion and skin health, but more research is needed to confirm these claims.

Ornamental Aloe Veras

If you’re looking for a statement plant, some aloe species are visual knockouts! These ornamental varieties might not be your first choice for sunburn relief, but they’ll add unique beauty to your home or landscape:

  • Spiral Aloe (Aloe polyphylla): Known for its mesmerizing spiral growth pattern.
  • Candelabra Aloe (Aloe arborescens): A branching aloe that can grow into a small tree, often sporting bright orange-red flowers.
  • Tiger Aloe (Aloe variegata): Features striking white stripes and triangular leaves.

Considerations When Choosing Aloe Types

So, how do you pick the perfect aloe for your needs? Here’s what to consider:

  • Climate: Will your aloe live indoors or endure the elements outdoors? Some species are far more frost-tolerant than others.
  • Space: Giant candelabra aloe in a small pot won’t be happy. Factor in an aloe plant’s mature size.
  • Purpose: Prioritize medicinal use, edibility, or striking looks.
  • Source: Always buy from a reputable nursery or supplier. Mislabeled aloes are common, leading to disappointment if you’ve got your heart set on a specific variety.


The “best” aloe vera isn’t one-size-fits-all! By understanding the incredible differences between species, you’ll unlock the full potential of these versatile plants.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and discover the exciting world of aloes beyond your basic sunburn soother.

Read: Grow Your Green Thumb: How to Plant an Aloe


Q: Can I grow any aloe vera and use it for skincare?

A: Technically yes, but Aloe barbadensis Miller is the gold standard for skin healing.
Other species may be mildly soothing, but not as potent.

Q: I see aloe vera drinks everywhere. Are they safe?

A: Commercial aloe vera drinks are typically made from carefully processed Aloe barbadensis Miller where the aloin is removed. Don’t attempt to make your own from just any aloe plant.

Q: Where can I learn more about specific aloe varieties?

A: Websites specializing in succulents and cacti are a great resource. Many botanical gardens also have extensive aloe collections.

See our recommended certified aloe vera products