Aloe Vera is purchased for a wide variety of reasons. All of the major stores sell Aloe Vera products for topical and internal use. Many of them also offer a generic store-brand version that is less expensive. Unfortunately, it has been reported that many of these products have very little if any actual Aloe Vera in the ingredients. This has raised concerns about the widespread mislabeled aloe vera products.
After testing, the store brand aloe gel products sold at CVS, Target and Walmart seems to lack one important essential ingredient – which is aloe vera. This shocking statement is based on a study reported by Bloomberg News. They commissioned a laboratory to carefully check the full ingredients in the products.
All of these generic products listed the aloe vera barbadensis juice as the first or the second ingredient (right after water). However, during testing not one of them produced any of the three chemical markers that would signify the existence of any significant aloe vera. These aloe vera products were missing the key ingredient – aloe!
The actual mislabeled Aloe vera products:
- Target’s Up & Up Aloe Vera Gel
- Walmart’s Equate Aloe After Sun Gel
- Walgreens Alcohol Free Aloe Vera Body Gel
- CVS Aftersun Aloe Vera Moisturizing Gel
It is also interesting that in every sample that was tested the component lactic acid was absent. Lactic acid normally indicates the presence of degraded aloe vera.
Except for color additives, cosmetic products and their ingredients don’t need approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Consumers that questioned the ingredients in aloe products have initiated lawsuits. They have filed lawsuits alleging negligent misrepresentation and false advertising, among other issues.
“No consumer would have bought the product had they understood it contained no aloe vera,” alleges one lawsuit filed against Target. Citing pending litigation, Target said it was not able to comment on Bloomberg’s report.
Walmart isn’t intending to remove any of the aloe gel products from its stores, spokesman Randy Hargrove said. “We hold our providers to high standards and are committed to providing our customers the quality products they expect. We contacted our supplier, and they stand behind the authenticity of their products,” he said.
Aloe manufacturer Fruit of the Earth, the retailer’s provider, said it contested Bloomberg’s research. “We have also had tests conducted on the raw aloe material used in our gel goods, which demonstrate the presence of the alleged mark (acemannan) that Bloomberg reported finding no evidence of,” general counsel John Dondrea wrote in an e-mail.
CVS also vigorously defended the quality and quantity of aloe in its gel. “We are committed to bringing high-quality products to consumers, and maintain continuing contact with providers to make sure that they meet our high standards,” the firm said in a written statement. They further added, “We have reviewed with all the suppliers, and they have affirmed the product’s credibility.”
What’s actually inside the bottles if there is no actual aloe vera in the goods? The testing found maltodextrin, which is well known as a very inexpensive ingredient that is occasionally used as one of the fillers in aloe vera products. The samples of aloe vera gel that were tested by Bloomberg used nuclear magnetic resonance to look for the three chemical markers for aloe; acemannan, malic acid and glucose. Walgreens’ aloe gel did include malic acid, but it did not show the other two markers.
Acemannan is a polysaccharide that is found to be about 15% of the aloe plant. The CVS, Target and Walmart brands all contained the cheaper sugar-based maltodextrin.
It is expensive to produce hand-harvested unadulterated aloe vera. Last year the products containing aloe vera increased by 11%. The increased demand also brings competition and those that want to shortcut. Aloe vera is often listed as an “active ingredient” in supplements, body lotions, night creams and moisturizers. The biggest supplier of true raw aloe powder is called AloeCorp. According to Jeff Barrie, a spokesman for AloeCorp, “That means they’re not selling aloe. Aloe powder can cost as much as $240 a kilogram (2.2 pounds), while the same amount of maltodextrin can cost a few dollars.”
ConsumerLab.com is a business that performs independent evaluations on health and various nutritional products, commented on testing it had done on aloe vera products. Its tests found that only about fifty percent of aloe products featured satisfactory rates of aloe. Many products had no aloe vera or only a very small amount. The president of ConsumerLab, Todd Cooperman, clearly stated that “You have to be very careful when you select and use aloe products.”
To be fair, this debate has not been satisfactorily concluded. The companies’ products that were tested and the testers are in total disagreement. To be on the safe side it may be best to at least temporarily use only products regularly tested and verified by the International Aloe Science Counsel (IASC). This is an independent non-profit organization that monitors the products used in the industry. Products that bear the IASC certification logo can be trusted for containing the stated amount and purity of aloe.
Currently, there may not be a foolproof way to know if a retail product has very little aloe vera or even none at all. Aloe vera users do have one other solution to be sure they’re applying the real thing: Use an actual aloe vera plant!