The botanical that needs so little but gives so much.
Words by Natasha Were.
As well as compounds like vitamins C and E that brighten and plump the skin, the potent, clear gel inside the leaves has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial components, all of which help heal wounds and soothe irritated and sunburned skin.
The power of aloe is not a recent discovery: Ancient Egyptians used the preservative gel as an embalming fluid, whilst their ruler, Cleopatra, applied it to her famously-beautiful face to keep her skin soft and supple.
To this day, aloe vera remains a popular ingredient in burn relief products but is also, increasingly, added to soaps, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, aftershaves and even juice drinks.
GROW YOUR OWN
Manufactured products may be labelled ‘aloe vera’ yet contain only 0.5% of actual aloe vera gel. Rather than splash out on dubious processed products, why not grow your own at home?
Also known as the lily of the desert, aloe vera thrives in dry, tropical climates, making it an ideal indoor plant for this part of the world. It’s a plant every household could benefit from having at hand and, as it requires little care other than occasional watering, even the least green-fingered person can keep one of these alive.
EXTRACTING THE GEL
Select a plump outer leaf and cut it off at the base. Stand upright for 20 minutes to drain out the dark yellow latex. Cut off the serrated, spiky edges, then slice off the outer skin, until you have a strip of clear gel. Whizz this up in the blender until it liquefies and store in the fridge.
USES FOR THE GEL
Apply gel directly to:
• Soothe sunburn/minor burns
• Disinfect and soothe abrasions
• Calm rashes
• Relieve psoriasis
• Cure cold sores
• Moisturise the skin
• Remove make up
• As a mouthwash to prevent plaque build up
MAKE YOUR OWN ALOE VERA PRODUCTS
If you have some extra gel, try making all-natural, chemical-free skin products at home. This soothing shaving cream is great for both ladies and gentlemen.
• 1/3 cup aloe vera gel
• 1/4 cup Castile soap or hand soap
• 1 tbsp almond oil
Mix all the ingredients in a jar or soap dispenser and refrigerate for up to 6 months.
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