The Ancient Egyptians called the aloe vera plant the “plant of immortality,” which should give you some insight into its amazing healing powers.
Actually a cactus from the lily family, this powerful plant is native to northern parts of Africa. It also grows in dry climates like those found in the Canary Islands, the Mediterranean region, Australia, and even some areas in the United States.
Aloe, also known as Barbados or Curaçao Aloe, was used as a medicine for centuries (1). In fact, history shows that Aristotle advised Alexander the Great to conquer the island of Socotra (off the coast of Africa) to secure supplies of aloe vera to treat his wounded soldiers.
The mighty Cleopatra also used aloe daily to keep her skin beautiful and young. There is even mention of the plant in biblical times. Amazingly, after the horrific atomic bomb was unleashed during WWII, the Japanese exposed to radiation applied aloe gel to their wounds and reported faster healing and less scarring (2).
Potent Healing Properties
The thick leaves of the aloe plant secrete a powerful clear gel filled with 75 potentially active constituents including vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, and amino acids (3). It also contains a variety of antioxidants and six antiseptic agents including lupeol, salicylic acid, urea nitrogen, cinnamonic acid, phenols, and sulfur that inhibit the growth of bacteria, which can cause infections and inflammation (4).
Numerous studies show the healing properties of aloe for just skin conditions alone are endless. This hearty plant can help to soothe a long list of issues including dermatitis, psoriasis, genital herpes, burns, wounds, pressure ulcers, mucositis, radiation sores, acne frostbite, and just plain dry and aging skin (5,6).
The healing properties of aloe are so effective for burns that one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study showed that the anti-inflammatory effects of 97.5 percent pure aloe vera gel significantly reduced UV-induced erythema after 48 hours and was actually superior to 1 percent hydrocortisone in a placebo gel (7). That’s pretty powerful!
Aloe Vera Skin Benefits
Studies show that the mucopolysaccharides in aloe help to bind moisture to your skin, which is why this amazing plant is such a powerful moisturizer.
Aloe also stimulates fibroblast, which research shows produces collagen and elastin fibers that make your skin more elastic and less wrinkled looking. Aloe also has cohesive effects on the outer skin cells that help them essentially stick together, making your skin softer.
The numerous amino acids in aloe also help to soften hardened skin cells while the zinc in the gel acts as an astringent to tighten your pores. Studies also looked at the moisturizing effects of aloe to treat very dry skin associated with occupational exposure with respect to people who constantly wash their hands or are exposed to elements that can damage their skin.
These studies show that aloe vera gel gloves actually improved the skin’s integrity and decreased the appearance of fine wrinkles and erythema. Another study even showed that aloe vera can “significantly improve wrinkles and elasticity in photo-aged human skin, with an increase in collagen production…” (8).
How To Use Aloe
Everyone should keep an aloe vera plant around simply for unexpected scrapes, burns, and sunburns.
For everyday skin care, however, all you need is to one long leaf from your plant. If you don’t have a plant, you can use a commercial aloe vera gel as long as it doesn’t contain preservatives or artificial colors (11). Some commercial brands, even some that claim to be all-natural, contain other ingredients that can aggravate sensitive skin or make some conditions like acne, worse.
Once you have your leaf, cut it into 4 pieces about an inch long each. Now, slice the pieces horizontally, exposing the nourishing gel within.
These pieces will do four things:
- Cleanse—to cleanse your face using fresh aloe, first rinse it with water to moisten. Next, apply the fresh aloe gel to your entire face and gently wash it. Once covered in the aloe gel, use a clean tissue to remove any excess gel and dirt.
- Scrub—sprinkle a little rice flour or organic sugar on one of the pieces of exposed aloe. This will act as a gentle abrasive agent to scrub away dead skin and toxins. Rub the aloe and abrasive agent on your face for about 1-2 minutes then rinse with warm water. Use the scrub 2-3 times a week.
- Tone—to make an aloe toner, gently remove the juice from one of the four pieces by scraping the gel off into a shallow dish or bowl with a sharp knife. Add 2 tablespoons of rose water and 2 tablespoons of mineral water and mix well before adding the mixture to a small spray bottle. You can store this natural toner in your refrigerator for 7-10 days. Make sure to shake it well each time before using. Apply the toner in a gentle mist and allow it to air dry for best results. Use the toner every time you wash your face.
- Moisturize—Use the fourth piece of aloe as a moisturizer. Simply rub the exposed gel all over your face and let it soak in. Your face will feel amazingly soft without the greasiness many moisturizers leave behind. One study showed that aloe is “… a natural effective ingredient for improving skin hydration, possibly through a humectant mechanism.” (12). It is also perfect for acne-prone complexions.
Follow this routine for 2 weeks and you will see amazing results for everything from dry, flaky skin, to acne, wrinkles or just a dull, lifeless complexion. It will even help to remove dark spots caused by aging.