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These products claim to contain aloe vera — they don’t

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Aloe vera-fication of skin gels from Walmart, Target, and CVS

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Skin gels said to contain aloe vera at Walmart, Target, and CVS were found to have no evidence of the plant, according to a Bloomberg News investigation. The store-brand products were tested in a lab for aloe’s chemical markers; the chemicals were absent, indicating that no actual aloe plant is in the skin gels.

Aloe vera is a plant that’s been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Today, aloe is used in products purporting to treat skin burns and cold sores, as well as constipation, although there’s no conclusive evidence aloe vera helps for most of these things. (There’s some evidence it’s a laxative!) The US market for products that say they contain aloe accounts for $146 million, an 11 percent increase in the past year, Bloomberg News reports. The US Food and Drug Administration, however, doesn’t approve cosmetic products before they’re sold, so the agency doesn’t check whether claims on packaging are accurate.

The aloe gel samples analyzed by Bloomberg News all listed aloe leaf juice as their main ingredient, or the main one after water. However, when they were tested for the plant’s three chemical markers — acemannan, malic acid, and glucose — the products were found to have no evidence of aloe. None of the samples contained lactic acid, either, which would indicate degraded aloe vera. Instead, they contained maltodextrin, a sugar used as a food additive that is sometimes used to imitate aloe and is much cheaper. (Bloomberg News also analyzed an aloe gel from Walgreens; it contained one aloe marker, meaning that the plant’s presence can’t be confirmed or ruled out.)

Several law firms have filed lawsuits against Walmart, Target, CVS, and Walgreens, after separate tests also found that no aloe is present in the retailers’ store-brand gels. “No reasonable person would have purchased or used the products if they knew the products did not contain any aloe vera,’’ attorneys wrote in a complaint filed in September, according to Bloomberg News.

Target declined to comment, while Walmart Stores Inc., CVS Health Corp., and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. all told the news organization that their suppliers had told them their products were authentic. The products Bloomberg tested are Walmart’s Equate Aloe After Sun Gel with pure aloe vera; Target’s Up & Up Aloe Vera Gel with pure aloe vera; CVS Aftersun Aloe Vera Moisturizing Gel; and Walgreens Alcohol Free Aloe Vera Body Gel.