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You’ve probably heard about the health and skin benefits of aloe vera gel as it can be found in many consumer products, such as face creams, body lotions, beverages, and many others.
And, indeed, for more than 5000 years, aloe vera has been used as a therapeutic remedy by many civilizations. Originating from the Arabian Peninsula, this amazing succulent plant grows today wild in deserts and tropical areas worldwide.
In this article, we'll focus on the benefits of aloe vera in cosmetics and explain how you can harvest and use aloe vera gel at home.
What Is Aloe Vera?
Aloe is a succulent plant with thick and fleshy leaves, allowing it to retain water and grow wild in arid climates and extreme temperatures.
Aloe vera gel is often used in cosmetics due to its revitalizing properties. The gel is transparent and light. You can, of course, buy it or harvest it yourself. Freshly obtained aloe vera gel will likely have a higher concentration of active ingredients and, therefore, better effects on your skin, maintaining its appearance and health.
Aloe vera is a frequent tenant in many households. Some grow it for aesthetics – it's a beautiful plant. Others have it for its many beneficial properties. If you don't have one, we're confident you will, after reading this article!
So, first, let's quickly go through all of its fantastic skin benefits.
What Are the Benefits of Aloe Vera for Skin?
This miracle plant nourishes the body from the inside and out. It contains numerous active ingredients, 75 to be more precise [source], including various vitamins, minerals, sugars, enzymes, and acids:
- Vitamins, such as vitamin C, E, and B12, are potent antioxidants that fight free radicals and skin aging;
- Minerals, such as calcium, copper, magnesium, selenium, and others, crucial for proper metabolism and functioning of enzymes as well as maintaining healthy skin;
- Enzymes, such as aliiase, amylase, catalase, lipase, peroxidase, and bradykinase, which are very effective in reducing skin inflammation when applied topically;
- Sugars, such as monosaccharides (fructose, glucose) and polysaccharides (glucomannans) – natural sources of glycolic acid, essential for skin nourishment and wrinkles fighting; some of them even have anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory properties;
- Hormones, such as auxins and gibberellins, promoting wounds healing and are, therefore, excellent in fighting pimples and scars;
- Fatty acids, such as plant steroids lupeol, campesterol, and cholesterol, with anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and analgesic properties;
- Salicylic acid with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties;
- Lignin, enhancing the absorbing ability of other products into the skin;
- Saponins, natural cleansers with strong antiseptic properties, and;
- Amino acids, including eight essential amino acids and 22 humans required amino acids.
With all these incredible ingredients, aloe vera is a truly powerful natural skincare product with a number of skin benefits:
Moisturizes the Skin
For people with oily skin, finding a proper moisturizer can be tricky. Aloe vera gel will provide excellent hydration without leaving a greasy film on the skin [source]. It will provide all the good nutrients, minerals and vitamins, and create a protective layer on the skin, locking all the moisture in.
Heals Burns and Wounds
Aloe vera can speed up the process of cell regeneration up to eight times and can penetrate the outer layer of the skin, i.e., epidermis, faster than water. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, it's excellent for healing cuts, wounds, burns, and sunburns [source].
Slows Down Skin Aging
Packed with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and sugars, aloe vera can be your greatest ally in fighting skin aging [source]. It boosts the collagen production in the skin, improving its elasticity which can prevent premature aging and eradicate existing lines and wrinkles.
Protects Against UV Radiation
When applied to the skin, aloe vera gel triggers the production of an antioxidant protein, called metallothionein, in the skin, reducing its sensitivity to UV radiation and repairing the existing sun damage at the same time [source]. However, it shouldn’t be used instead of your regular sunscreen.
Helps With Acne
Thanks to its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, aloe vera gel is a natural cleanser, flushing out dirt, sebum, and microbes. It contains polysaccharides and gibberellins, speeding up the process of cell regeneration and reducing inflammation. Hence, aloe vera gel can be very effective in fighting acne and healing acne scars [source].
Diminishes Dark Spots
Aloe vera slows down the melanin synthesis in the skin, helping with hyperpigmentation and eliminating dark spots [source].
Heals Itchy Scalp and Dandruff
Thanks to its hydrating, anti-microbial, and antiseptic properties, aloe vera gel can help with dry as well as oily scalp, fighting fungal infections and keeping dandruff at bay [source].
Now, when we covered all the great benefits of aloe vera for skin, let’s learn how to harvest it and use it at home.
How to Harvest Your Aloe Vera Plant
Extracting aloe vera gel is pretty straightforward. All you need is the plant itself and a sharp knife or scissors and a wooden spoon. To get the highest ingredients concentration, make sure you have a mature plant that's two years old at least. You'll know your plant is mature or ripe if the tips of its leaves turn rosy in color.
It’s best to use the outer larger foliage as they are the thickest and contain a lot of juice or gel. Therefore, if you plan to harvest your plant often, you should have at least three plants in rotation.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to extracting aloe vera gel:
Step #1: Inspect the leaf you want to cut to make sure it’s free from any damage or mold.
Step #2: Cut the leaf close to its stem, but avoid the roots - the stem is usually the juiciest part of the plant.
Step #3: Wash it thoroughly and dry it;
Step #4: Use your knife or scissors to get rid of the prickly edges;
Step #5: Cut the leaf in half along its length;
Step #6: Use your fingers or a clean teaspoon to extract the gel.
Step #7: You’ll notice some yellow sap draining from the leaf. It’s the plant’s latex. If you don’t need it, you can throw it away. If you plan to use it, collect it in a container.
You can cut the gel into cubes or blend it to get a smoother consistency. You can store it in a fridge for a couple of days, but it's best to use it as quickly as you can. If you want to store it for a more extended period of time, keep it in a freezer.
So, now you may ask – What to do with the freshly extracted gel? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! Next, we’ll talk about how you can use it and share some ideas for DIY home spa treatments with aloe vera gel.
How to Use Aloe Vera Gel
If you only have aloe vera gel at hand and no other ingredients, no problem! You can use fresh aloe vera gel on its own. Simply, apply a thin layer of the gel to your face and neck and let it sit for about an hour. You'll instantly feel refreshed.
Here are other ideas on how to use aloe vera gel:
#1: For Moisturizing the Skin
Combine one tablespoon of aloe vera gel with one teaspoon of your favorite hydrating face oil (like jojoba oil, argan oil, coconut oil, or grapeseed oil). Apply the mixture to your face and neck and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water and continue with your moisturizer while your skin is still damp.
Note that coconut oil is comedogenic, meaning it can clog your pores and cause acne. So if you have oily, acne-prone skin, avoid using coconut oil on your face.
#2: As Body Exfoliator
Mix one cup of aloe vera gel with one tablespoon of sugar or baking soda (you can also use ground coffee or finely ground almond instead). While showering, gently rub the mixture on your elbows, feet, and other areas that need softening. After you're done with peeling, rinse thoroughly with tepid water.
#3: As Acne Treatment
If you feel like you're about to break out, aloe vera gel can help and soothe your skin. You can make an aloe DIY face mask to fight acne by blending one tablespoon of aloe vera gel with one tablespoon of fresh lemon juice. Apply the mask to your face and leave it on for about five minutes. Then rinse with lukewarm water and continue with your skincare routine.
#4: For Healing Wounds
If you have an insect bite, or minor scratches, cuts, or burns, aloe vera gel will accelerate the wound healing process and decrease itching or pain. Mix one tablespoon of aloe vera gel with one teaspoon of colloidal oatmeal (finely ground oats) and apply to the damaged skin. Since both ingredients have potent anti-inflammatory and soothing properties, you'll feel the relief almost instantly.
As you can see, aloe vera gel is greatly beneficial for the skin, moisturizing, healing, and nourishing it. Plus, the plant itself is very easy to maintain and is probably the most cost-effective cosmetic ingredient – if you have your own plant, of course.
If we convinced you to get one, bear in mind that there are over 200 species of this succulent. To get the best-quality gel, you’ll need Aloe barbadensis.
Aloe vera and its products are relatively safe to use, but some people can be allergic or sensitive to it. If you haven’t used it before, we would recommend doing a 24-hour patch test. If you don’t have any rash or redness, it’s safe to use.
Can you put aloe vera gel on your face?
You can use pure aloe vera gel as a face moisturizer. Apart from hydrating your skin, aloe vera gel treats different skin conditions, such as sunburns, acne, eczema, minor cuts and wounds, and is also great as an anti-aging ingredient. You can extract your own aloe vera gel from the aloe vera plant or buy a ready-to-use product.
Is aloe vera gel good for skin?
Aloe vera gel contains numerous skin-loving ingredients, including various vitamins, minerals, sugars, enzymes, and acids. It's hydrating, healing, nourishing, and moisturizing. Plus, it's suitable for any skin type and condition.
How can I use aloe vera on my face?
You can harvest your own aloe vera gel and apply it directly to your skin. Also, you could blend it with other ingredients, such as honey, jojoba oil, green clay mask, and others for treating your specific skin concerns. Another option is to buy a pure aloe vera gel or other products containing it.
How long does it take for aloe vera to lighten skin?
For any visible lightening effects, you'll have to regularly apply aloe vera gel and wait anywhere between 2 to 4 months. The time you'll have to wait will depend on your skin type and your skin tone. The darker the skin tone, the longer the wait.
Can aloe vera gel replace moisturizer?
Even though nourishing and moisturizing, aloe vera gel contains certain enzymes that act as exfoliants. So, it's not recommended to use aloe vera gel as an everyday moisturizer as too much of it can lead to excessive oiliness, dryness, or irritation. Instead use it only sparingly, 2 to 3 times a week.
Should I wash my face after applying aloe vera gel?
Aloe vera gel acts as a mild exfoliant, so it's recommended to wash your face after applying aloe vere gel. You can leave it on your skin 30 minutes to one hour, but no longer than that. Over-exfoliation can lead to skin irritation, purging, and dryness.