Over the years Aloe Vera has gained quite the following.
Celebrated as a liquid for all occasions, it’s blessed with soothing, anti-itch, and wound healing qualities.
But wait, there’s more! Aloe vera is also considered anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and hydrating.
Its also at the top of the dehydrated skin list, with impressive skin-loving properties that read like a refreshing drink for the skin.
Phew! How can so much good stuff come from such a small plant? And is it all true?
Join us as we find out, whether it really is deserving of its superstar status.
Aloe Vera skin love
So what do we know about aloe vera?
We know its a succulent, it has a very unusual chemical composition which gives it a real affinity with our skin:
Hydrating and barrier protecting: Polysaccharides are hygroscopic, meaning they are water-loving and provide a type of moisture ‘mesh’ over the skin. This mesh is like a waterproof coating that creates a barrier on the skin, helping to preserve it, keeping skin moisturised and hydrated – restoring youthfulness and plumping fine lines.
UV protecting: Anthraquinones are important anti-microbial phytochemicals, they absorb UV light roughly around the same range as our skin, so they help to prevent UV damage. Aloesin is isolated and used as a skin whitener and anti-oxidant in personal care products.
Anti-inflammatory and anti-reddening: Aloe contains ß-sitosterol – phytosterols that help skin that has been damaged by sun damage and wind chapping – reducing redness, inflammation, and itchiness.
Wound-healing and prevents scars: The gel contains two hormones: Auxin and Gibberellins; these hormones not only help to repair wounds but they are also anti-inflammatory. Giberellin is known to act as a growth hormone, stimulating the growth of new cells – enabling the skin to heal quickly and naturally with little scarring.
Boosts cellular renewal: Glycoproteins found in aloe vera contain an anti-allergen that goes by the name of alprogen, it’s a cell proliferator and potential skin thickener.
Antioxidant: Flavones help with oxidative stress, quenching free radical scavengers warding off premature ageing.
So breaking this down further the skin-loving benefits are:
- wound healing
- anti Inflammatory
- plumps fine lines
- soothing and healing
- shampoo and scalp treatments
- it’s also a great ‘after sun’ ingredient
How do we get it into our skincare products?
Careful selection of the Aloe Vera you use is important.
If you can get access to a whole plant, then go for gold, and rub that gooey green goodness all over your skin.
Because we now know that in its natural state, it’s a multitasking – do-everything type gel, that helps pretty much anything you put it on, so you know you are taking advantage of its skin-loving properties.
However, we appreciate that is not always practical for those of us who are not quite so green-fingered.
In skincare, Aloe vera comes in a powder, liquid, and gel form, to learn exactly how it’s extracted, we are going to have to get a wee bit technical.
How aloe gel is extracted
We know that Aloe leaves secrete a clear gel when broken.
Traditionally, extracting the gel was carried out by pulling down the leaf at the edges; a process referred to as “Filleted Aloe Vera”, but there is a problem with this method. The part of the leaf which sits just behind the skin of the rind is toxic. These toxins are known as Aloins and can easily find their way into the end product, contaminating the gel.
To avoid this problem, the gel has to go through a process to turn it into a commercially viable product. This is carried out by large machines, which remove the spines and break down the leaf before it is pulped to extract the gel.
The Aloe Vera gel is then pasteurised and stabilised. During this process, the Aloins are also completely removed, so the product is safe to use.
The raw material that begins its life as a liquid or gel is often made into a powder, for use in skincare, this is a process that involves evaporating the water.
Beware of ‘organic Aloe’ and the snake oils salesman
As with most things in life, there are unscrupulous manufacturers of skincare out there.
A number of organic companies make 90% of claims with just a small amount of organic ingredients. And it just so happens that Aloe is the perfect ingredient that they can incorporate into their products, to help them make those claims.
For instance, a personal care product that markets itself as 90% organic-only has to contain a mere 0.5% organic Aloe powder, without having to contain any other organic ingredients. Manufacturers achieve this by “reconstituting” organic Aloe powder with water – at a ratio of around 1:200 and voila, they can now declare their complete formula as organic.
So how do you avoid this? We recommend becoming your own label detective and look out for the term ‘Aloe barbadensis leaf juice or powder’ on the ingredient list, it will usually have a star next to it.
If there are stars featured next to other ingredients listed, then chances are, the Aloe is likely to be being used to increase the organic percentage. However, if no other ingredients listed feature stars, then that 0.5% Aloe is the only organic ingredient in the product.
The naked truth
So to sum up this truly is a wonder plant that has a real affinity with the skin, that us folks at the Naked Chemist prefer to use in its natural form.
It’s not a complete miracle cure for the skin like some companies would have you believe, and it is not a medication that is regulated by the FDA or any governing body for that matter.
As we mentioned above, watch out for the snake oil salesman, who may be misleading their customer and selling their Aloe product as completely organic.
In its natural form, it is a gorgeous, succulent hydrating plant. Lay down a thin film of Aloe on your skin, and you’ve got a wonderful protective barrier – a cooling, hydrating sieve that will slowly let in nutrients over time.
It’s incredibly soothing, calming minor skin irritations and sunburns, literally helping to take the fire out of the itch. So we think you’d agree, that this humble plant is worthy of its cult status – all hail the lovely Aloe.