Battle of the Aloe Vera Gels: Which under P400 AVG is the best buy?

We had potted aloe vera plants on our window sill while I was growing up. Aside from providing succulent décor, we would often use the plant itself for various skin, hair, and medicinal purposes. It was our family’s equivalent to Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and hummus in You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. For us, it was the solution to burns, scratches, pimples, scars, thinning hair, and more! We would simply pluck a leaf from the plant, squeeze it on the affected area, and let it do the job.

It seems that scientists have been showing interest in this miracle plant, as well. Recent studies* have shown that aloe vera and cape aloe extracts have skin-healing and barrier-strengthening properties. The plant's leaves, roots, and extracts have been shown to contain many skin-caring ingredients including “vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, salicylic acids, and amino acids.”

So I wasn’t surprised when aloe vera products, particularly aloe vera gels (AVGs), started gaining popularity in the beauty scene. Many influencers have raved about how it works so well in varying applications from head to toe, as soothing gels, moisturizers, sleeping packs, and even hair treatments. The hype began to gain even more momentum when suddenly, it seemed like every Korean skincare brand had their own version! With the AVG obsession still ongoing, we are so spoiled for choices that it can be overwhelming. Don’t they all look, smell, and feel the same? Well, I decided to find out! I gathered five of the most popular brands from the mall and put them to the test.

1NatureRepublic.jpg

Nature Republic Aloe Vera 92% Soothing Gel (P245 at Nature Republic)

Said to be the OG soothing gel that started it all, this unassuming tub still remains as one of the best-selling Korean skin care products. I had to wait for a restock just to get this! It’s pretty affordable at P0.82/mL but it comes in standard AVG packaging: a green plastic tub without a spatula, which is one of my pet peeves.

It’s made of 92% aloe leaf extract from California, followed by an unspecified alcohol as second on the list. I'm not too alarmed about it though; remember that everything after the aloe leaf extract makes up just 8% of the product. It was likely added to make sure the product absorb into the skin faster, as well as kill pathogens once the product is opened. Some ingredients like sodium hyaluronate, calendula flower extract, and spearmint extract might afford additional if minute benefits. Take note that a small amount of perfume is added - something to consider if you’re sensitive to fragrance.

ingredientsNR.jpg

All things considered, I feel it’s a good buy. Sure, improvements can be made to the formula (to make it friendlier for sensitive skin) and the tub packaging but it comes at a reasonable price. I personally prefer their aloe vera mist, which made our list of good facial mists under 500. The mist is a bit pricier but I prefer the hygienic spray packaging.

The Face Shop Jeju Aloe 99% Fresh Soothing Gel (P199 at The Face Shop)

Not to be outdone, The Face Shop (TFS) made their version with a whopping 99% of aloe leaf extract. The plants they use come from Jeju Island in Korea, which is famed for having nutrient-rich soil thanks to its resident volcano. It’s more affordable than Nature Republic's at P0.66/mL and if you’re lucky, you might even chance upon this during their regular 1+1 promos! Another bonus: the gel is also available in tube packaging, which I unfortunately have yet to find in stock. The one I have almost used up comes in typical AVG tub packaging, and again without a spatula, grr!

ingredientsTFS.jpg

Since the aloe leaf extract makes up 99% of the product, everything else in the ingredients list would have to make up all of 3mL. It might not make much of a difference but I do like seeing a bunch of fruit, flower, and herb extracts, allantoin, and lactobacillus/ aloe ferment filtrate in the mix. Do note that again the inclusion of (unidentified) alcohol and fragrance might be of concern to those sensitive to these ingredients.

Dare I say it? This is an excellent buy that beats Nature Republic’s! When it comes to aloe content and price, TFS simply is leagues ahead of the NR's OG formula. If only I could find this in tube packaging, it’d be a dream come true!

3Bench.jpg

Bench Organics 94% Aloe Soothing Gel (P189 at Bench)

I did a double take when I spotted this on the shelves of the popular clothing store. I knew they had personal care products but the fact that they've come up with their own AVG further confirms that the aloe craze has indeed hit our country hard. At P0.63/mL, it’s even more affordable than TFS’s. Off the bat though, I didn’t like that the product line is named “Organics”, which will likely mislead people into thinking that the products are organic (there is no actual organic certification provided). Yet again, it comes in that dreaded tub packaging without a spatula.

ingredientsBench.jpg

The ingredients list makes the product even sketchier. I feel iffy that the ingredients list doesn't explicitly state the percentage of aloe leaf extract unlike the previous two, which makes me wonder if it truly contains 94% as the name suggests. Denatured alcohol is also on the bad alcohols list but at least it was properly identified. Still , the product looks, feels, and smells exactly like most other AVG’s I’ve tried; not surprising since the top ingredients have all been pretty similar. I like that it lists sage leaf, camellia flower, and tea tree leaf extracts but my advice is to skip this and shell out few more extra bucks for a better formula. I like seeing local brands thrive but you can get a higher concentration of the extract with TFS's version for just P10 more.

Watsons Aloe Vera Soothing Gel (P149 at Watsons)

Finally, an AVG in a tube! I shushed the voice in my head that questioned the “certified organic” stamps I saw on the label and added this to my cart. When I got home, I realized this was more expensive at P0.75/mL; the tube only had 200 mL compared to the previous tubs' 300mL.

ingredientsWatsons.jpg

A closer look at the label made me question my life decisions. Why isn’t the aloe leaf extract the first ingredient when it says “99% CERTIFIED ORGANIC ALOE VERA FROM SPAIN” on the sticker? As it turns out, water is the major ingredient of the product because the aloe leaf juice (as well as the green tea leaf extract) is from concentrate. Even its fragrance content is higher up on the list! I was so mad and felt cheated out of my P149! Sure, it has other skin-caring ingredients (avocado oil, cucumber fruit extract, and tocopherol or vitamin E) but apart from glycerin, they're so far down the list that I don't know what kind of skin-caring benefit I can hope to get. 

Long story short: Skip this. Save your money and get something with actual aloe extract in it.

Etude House 99% Aloe Soothing Gel (P378 at Etude House)

The newest addition to my AVG collection has honestly made me so happy! A 99% AVG in a tube? I didn’t mind shelling out more at P1.51/mL. This is a recent addition to the K-beauty brand’s extensive product line, and is also available in a watermelon variant.

ingredientsEH.jpg

I was initially disappointed when I saw that aloe leaf extract was only at 93.5% in the ingredients, when there’s a giant 99% stamped in front. I would have thrown a fit but the rest of the ingredients kind of made up for it! This is the only AVG in the bunch that has been formulated with ceramide and has the shortest ingredients list! My skin loves it, plus the AVG does not smell obnoxiously aloe-y, which may be because there's no fragrance added to the ingredients. I haven’t had the chance to use this extensively yet but I find the mix of ingredients very promising for my sensitive combination skin.

Etude House may be the priciest of all the other AVG’s on this list but I won't hesitate to say it's the best one I’ve seen yet. I plan on using this exclusively for the face - as a moisturizer and sleeping pack - and look forward to seeing good results.

They may all seem identical but a closer look at the ingredients list shows that AVG’s aren't all the same. The difference in pricing isn't very large, as all of these are still under P500 each, but the real deal breaker is actually getting your money’s worth for quality products. A good deal is when you get skincare that actually works.

Do you use aloe vera gels in routine? How does the quality of their ingredient lists fare compared to these five?

*Sources: NCBI1, NCBI 2