Aside from the occasional pimple breakouts before my period, I usually have clear fair skin. People often ask what my skincare routine is, and I tell them it’s fairly simple: a mild facial cleanser to wash my face in the morning and at night, removing makeup properly with a makeup remover, a bentonite clay face mask twice a month, and moisturizing my face before applying makeup with aloe vera gel moisturizer.
Many are surprised by that last bit. Sometimes, I use aloe vera gels you can buy in drugstores and beauty stores. In other times, though, when I’m using aloe vera gel for more than just beauty, I have plants at home that I use. Here’s why it’s safe and effective moisturizing tool.
What Is Aloe Vera?
Aloe vera is a type of succulent plant. We can trace its origins to the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East, but it’s become a common plant everywhere in the world, particularly in tropical and semi-tropical climates. This is because mankind has recognized aloe vera’s special agricultural, medicinal, and cosmetic properties. Like other succulents, it can also be used for decorative purposes.
Aloe Vera’s Uses
Aside from ornamental purposes, aloe vera is used for the gel naturally found inside its leaves. When you break off an aloe vera leaf from a plant, you’ll find that the insides are full of a clear mucus-like gel. This substance serves many purposes.
Its most common purpose is a topical medication, which means it can be used on the skin. It can be used purely on its own or mixed into other topical medications to soothe certain skin conditions. These can include minor to acute burns, wounds, frostbites, or rashes. While it can soothe the inflammation and discomfort of these conditions, there’s no evidence to suggest that it can heal the skin.
For cosmetics, it can be used on its own or mixed into lotions, soaps, and other cosmetic products. This can treat dry skin or, as I do, use it to keep my skin moisturized and lock in that moisture before applying makeup.
Aloe vera can also be used in food. You can find small traces of aloe vera in yogurts and other deserts. However, it is very minimal due to the side effects of eating it.
Is Aloe Vera Safe?
While aloe vera is safe when used topically, it can be dangerous to use in large amounts or when eaten. Aloe vera contains a compound called aloin, a bitter substance that was once used in laxatives but later banned by the Food and Drug Administration.
While aloin can be removed through processing, it is possible that some traces of it could remain. Side effects can include abdominal pain, stomach cramps, and diarrhea. Long-term consumption can lead to hepatitis, hematuria (blood in urine), weight loss, and kidney disorders.
Aside from the dangers of taking aloe vera orally, it’s generally safe to use topically. In fact, use of aloe vera as a medicinal plant date back as far as 512 AD as written in the Juliana Anicia Codex.
Aloe Vera Gel As a Moisturizer
You can use aloe vera gel as a facial moisturizer. Alternatively, you can also use it to soothe and moisturize sunburnt skin, flaking or peeling skin, other dry skin areas such as if you have cracked heels or you have dry legs and arms. You can tell your skin is dry if you try scratching your skin and you see white lines that take a while to go away.
Why Does It Work?
Aloe vera gel is an effective moisturizer because of its hygroscopic properties. The aloe vera plant can survive in any climate even in hot temperatures because they can absorb and retain moisture from both the air and the water in the soil absorbed by its roots. Because of this, it has good moisture-retaining properties.
This is similar to the way commercial moisturizers work. Moisturizers supply water to the skin and have a greasy substance that holds the moisture in place. However, unlike aloe vera gel, this greasy substance is often inorganic. It is also the reason why plenty of moisturizers leave a sticky after-feel as it dries. Some greasy substances can also block pores, leading to breakouts.
Aloe vera gel, on the other hand, has no greasy substance required to lock in the moisture. This makes it preferred by those who don’t like that greasy feeling. And while some aloe vera moisturizing products may contain inorganic materials, it’s easy to obtain aloe vera plants and make your own 100 percent natural aloe vera moisturizing gel from the comfort of your home.
Where To Find Aloe Vera Gel Naturally
You can buy your own aloe vera plants at your local florist, gardening store, garden emporium, or plant nursery. Aloe vera is a common plant, so it isn’t that expensive. Plant vendors may sell aloe vera in your area ranging from $3 to less than $15. The price depends on factors like size, age, quality, soil used, and the demand in the area. The cheapest aloe vera I found in Walmart costs $4.99.
An aloe vera pulp will require three to four years to grow into a full-grown plant with mature leaves. If you want to use aloe vera immediately, it’s best to buy mature ones.
Aloe vera plants are succulents, so they’re best kept in dry, warm, and bright conditions. Aloe vera requires less water, so either buy cactus potting soil mix or mix regular soil with perlite or sand, as these can reduce the amount of water in its pot.
Make sure your pot has plenty of drainage holes. Aloe vera plants can die if they’re watered too often or left in moist soil for too long. Water it once, and then let the soil go completely dry before drenching it again. Depending on the climate of where you live, watering your plant once a week should be a good estimate.
How to Trim Aloe Vera Leaves
To harvest your own aloe vera gel, you’ll need a sharp everyday knife. You can also use your hands, but this could damage the rest of the plant if you only want to harvest the gel of one leaf, so be careful.
Take one of the outermost leaves and cut it as close to the center of the plant as you can. Be careful not to damage the center where all the leaves are attached to.
If you’ve managed to snap the leaf off whole, slice the bottom of the leaf. If you see a yellow latex-like substance, drain it from the leaf. This is the aloin substance we mentioned earlier that has laxative-like properties. To avoid the yellow substance, cut the leaf from the bottom at the point where the leaf starts to look dark green.
Slice off both jagged edges of the leaf. This will cut open its sides. Next, slice off the top side of the leaf. If you’ve ever tried filleting a fish, the movement is somewhat similar to slicing off one side of the leaf. This will expose the gel underneath. You can fillet the other side of the leaf, or you can simply scoop the aloe vera gel with a spoon.
For excess aloe vera you can’t use immediately, store it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge. If you have a particularly long leaf and don’t want to use the whole leaf, you can cut it in half, wrap the unused leaf in cling wrap, and store it in the fridge. An aloe vera leaf can up to two weeks in the fridge and up to six months in the freezer. Aloe vera gel, on the other hand, is best used right away, but it can be stored in the fridge for 10 days.
Store-Bought Aloe Vera Gel
If this seems like too much work for skincare, you can always opt for aloe vera gel moisturizers sold in stores. However, not all aloe vera gel products are alike, so be careful when you buy them.
For instance, the brand of aloe vera gel moisturizer I use is Esfolio, a Korean beauty brand. They sell different types of aloe vera products, including an aloe vera gel mist, and actual gel tubs. I make sure to buy the 100% aloe vera, although I know that it isn’t totally 100% pure aloe vera (be sure to check the ingredients). You might also find other brands of aloe vera gel ranging between 92 to 100 percent.
While dry skin isn’t a serious skin condition, it can lead to breakouts, redness, flaking, cracking, and open wounds associated with dry skin. Even if you have oily skin, it helps to moisturize every day.
If you’re using makeup, it’s important to moisturize particularly if you’re using matte makeup. Not all makeup is bad for your skin, but matte makeup like foundations, concealers, and lipsticks dries out your skin. Applying moisturizers and waiting for it to dry before applying makeup can hydrate your skin and keep the moisture even after you apply makeup.
Using makeup on dry skin can also risk breakouts and clogged pores. When your skin is dry, it’s prone to peeling and flaking. When applying makeup like foundation, you could risk mixing your foundation with dead skin when you dab it on your skin. This can clog your pores and cause pimple breakouts.
When it comes to makeup, aloe vera gel is a good moisturizer to use. Take some of your extracted aloe vera gel or store-bought gel and spread it around your face like you would with ordinary moisturizers. Let it dry first before applying your makeup. This ensures that your skin remains hydrated throughout the day.