In the 16th century BC, the Egyptians described something they called ‘the plant of immortality’. That plant in question? Aloe vera. It’s been around a lot longer than most civilizations out there, and is still one of the most popular ingredients in skincare to help soothe and repair damaged skin.
So what is it about aloe vera that makes it so useful to combat skin damage? Is it truly a miracle worker, or were the Egyptians raving about nothing? Let’s take a closer look at this plant of immortality, and the claims of how it may help your skin.
What is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is a plant, a succulent to be more exact. It’s right up there with things like agave and sansevieria. Succulents are plant types that tend to hold a lot of water in their leaves or stems, which in the case of aloe vera, means it has a gel-like substance inside its leaves.
This gel is usually the product you will find in aloe vera products. I won’t go too much into all the scientific properties of aloe vera, but let me give you the breakdown of why this plant is so good for your skin.
Aloe vera contains over 75 active ingredients, divided into a couple of categories:
- Vitamins A, C, E and B12 work like antioxidants
- Enzymes reduce inflammation
- Minerals are essential for enzymes to be able to work
- Sugars reduce inflammation
- Anthraquinones are analgesics (pain killers)
- Fatty acids are antiseptic and analgesics
- Hormones reduce inflammation
- Others i.e. amino acids and salicylic acid
Notice a couple of things in this list? I do! Aloe vera gel has lots of anti-inflammatory ingredients, pain killing properties and on top of that, it has antioxidants in it! It’s certainly becoming more clear why the Egyptians were so enthusiastic about this plant!
How It Helped Me
Okay, story time! When I was 16, my best friend at the time invited me to go swimming at her place. It was a hot day, but it was cloudy. I, being the arrogant teenager I was back then, decided I did not need sunscreen because the sun wasn’t even shining. If you’ve read my post on SPF and sun damage, you will know I was horribly wrong.
I spent the entire day lounging in the pool, and when I finally got out at the end of the day and looked in a mirror, I knew I messed up. I literally looked like a fire engine. My entire body, from head to toe, was sun burnt. I could not tolerate clothes, or sleeping, or doing anything that would involve something touching my skin.
I had never burnt before, so I was suffering. Nothing I put on my skin worked either. I tried after sun, I tried zinc cream, nothing worked. I had resigned myself to just bearing the consequences of my actions, until I discovered the magic of aloe vera.
I was in town with my mother when I was approached by a lady from a skincare company. She told me she had the perfect solution for my sunburn: an aloe vera gel. Now, at the time, I was skeptical, but willing to try anything as long as it worked. I paid the lady for her (in my eyes) terribly overpriced gel and went home to try it.
Let me tell you, I have never in my life been so happy with a purchase. Immediately after putting the gel on, the pain lessened and I could finally sleep! It was like my skin breathed a huge sigh of relief, and shortly after, I started peeling and my skin went pretty much back to normal.
Moral of this story? First of all, wear sunscreen! Secondly, aloe vera is the only thing that helped me back then, and I still make sure to always have some with me in case my skin needs some soothing.
If you haven’t noticed from my personal experience that aloe vera will be a fantastic addition to your skincare routine, here’s exactly what this gel can do for you:
- Soothing irritated or sensitive skin, thanks to the anti-inflammatory benefits of enzymes and sugars
- Intensely hydrating, thanks to the high water content
- Anti-ageing, thanks to the vitamins and antioxidants
- Treating sunburn, thanks to the pain relieving and antiseptic fatty acids
The possibilities really are endless, some sources even claim it will help tame frizzy hair and improve hair growth! I would personally really recommend aloe vera gel for sensitive or dehydrated skin types as a daily moisturizer. This could be either as a pure gel or incorporated into any other day cream.
Aloe vera is also a fantastic weapon against wrinkles, dark spots, or skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. It won’t clog pores either because of its light texture, and will soothe breakout-prone skin, making it the ultimate all-rounder for skincare issues!
If you find you have mosquito or insect bites, try using this gel. I always apply it to fresh bites and it stops the itching immediately! Treat razor burn or soothe blisters with aloe vera too!
Best of all? Aloe vera gel is all natural. No chemicals, no harmful substances, it’s all just nature’s goodness, making this product suitable for vegans and people who want to be more environmentally conscious.
As I said before, many skincare lines formulated for sensitive skin will use this ingredient in their products, but it’s important to keep an eye out as to how concentrated the aloe is. I’ve seen moisturizers being advertised as containing aloe vera, only to discover it was literally the last ingredient on the list.
If this is the case, you might see some improvement in your skin condition, but you won’t be receiving all the benefits this gel could have. Personally, I would tell you to choose a product that is pure aloe vera, no weird chemicals or additives, no potential irritating substances.
For a daily moisturizer, I would recommend this one by Holika Holika, a Korean skincare brand, who offer a great range of aloe products, from face masks to pure aloe vera gel. Alternatively, you could try this one by Mario Badescu, which is a great oil-free moisturizer for any skin type with the added benefits of aloe vera.
If you are looking for a pure aloe vera gel, to use in case of sunburns or mosquito bites, this Seven Minerals one is definitely the one I would get. It contains just a few simple ingredients and nothing that will upset or irritate already sensitive skin.
Bringing It All Together
Aloe Vera is a succulent plant that has been used for centuries to treat all kinds of skin issues. Because of the high water content of the gel in the leaves of this plant, as well as lots of healing properties, it has been used since the 16th century BC to treat all kinds of skin issues.
This gel has been proven to be effective in soothing sunburn and increasing wound healing, as well as relieving pain and being an effective anti-ageing solution.
Tons of aloe vera products are available on the market, but not all of them will have a sufficiently high concentration of this magic ingredient. The key is to find products were aloe vera gel is one of the first ingredients on the list, and keep the amount of other ingredients as little as possible.
For effective sunburn and skin healing treatment, find a gel that is 100% aloe vera. Sensitive skin types will benefit greatly from incorporating an aloe vera moisturizer into their daily routine, either in the form of pure gel or the ones I recommended above.
So, did you know all this about aloe vera? Do you already use it regularly to treat skin issues? Let me know in the comments!