Everyone remembers their first time. The first time they got badly sunburnt, that is.
The heat, the stinging, the white handprint left on the skin when you dared to touch the spot. You could barely stand a cold cloth let alone a pack of ice, but before you knew it you were clamouring for the Aloe vera gel. Stashed away in the back of your bathroom cupboard or in the door of the fridge, there it was - that bottle of gooey green relief.
Slightly onion-y in odour, its full botanical name is Aloe Barbadensis Miller, and it belongs to Asphodelaceae (or Liliaceae) family. Native to Africa, Asia and Europe, it is often called the “plant of immortality” because it can live and bloom without soil. Aloe vera is an incredibly tough and resilient short-stemmed succulent, with long cactus-like spiked leaves and a thick syrupy centre.
It is best known for its healing powers and medicinal properties in many cultures, and has been used to aid various health conditions for thousands of years. With a focus on repairing, replenishing and revitalising, Aloe is particularly potent on the skin as it is rich in nutrients and actives including vitamins C and E, enzymes, antioxidants, minerals, and amino acids.
It can come as a cream, ointment, in a capsule or as liquid to boost internal health and well-being, but is most popular in pure Aloe vera gel form as a topical treatment for minor burns, insect bites, shallow wounds, cuts and frostbite. Its number one use though? For soothing the symptoms of sunburn, of course.
The mere thought of a blistering burn will have you reaching for the nearest tube of Aloe, and with Australian melanoma statistics still worryingly high, it’s no surprise that Summer time is peak Aloe period. With its big four anti-irritant properties: anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial, pure Aloe vera gel is great for the face and the body after UV overexposure.
People4Ocean’s 200mL After Sun Solution (3-in-1) is plant-based and paraben and silicon free. It contains a moisture-locking base of Organic Aloe vera, Green Tea extract and pure Sodium Hyaluronate, and is naturally scented with Australian Lavender and Chamomile essential oils. The gel consistency is the perfect for skin in distress, reducing inflammation, improving hydration and preventing further dryness and itchy flaking. Its light, silky and non-greasy texture is suitable for sensitive skin and children over 6 months.
Although the best way to deal with sunburn is to avoid it in the first place (by wearing sunscreen every day) on the days that you forget or the amount you applied was not enough, Aloe is the after sun answer. It’s also extremely versatile and can be used as an after-shave balm, after cleanse, wax and more – so not just an after sun lifesaver!
Aloe vera is good for all skin types - oily, dry, combination and normal – and can be used as a moisturiser, primer or toner as part of your daily skincare routine.
Aloe improves skin elasticity, boosting collagen to promote a plump, dewy complexion, as well as reducing wrinkles and other premature signs of ageing such as dark spots and puffy eyes. It can even work in conjunction with other treatments to minimise the effects of acne, psoriasis, hives and other rashes, eczema, cold sores, stretch marks and scars.
To cool and calm irritated skin, apply it generously to kick start epidermis repair, and keep a tube in the fridge for enhanced cooling. To tone, apply pure Aloe vera gel in the morning and evening after cleansing to tighten the skin and remove make-up. Squeeze a small amount on to a wet cotton pad and wipe it gently over your face, neck and décolletage. If you’re after an Aloe mask, smear on a thick layer, leave for 10 minutes and wash off.
As well as after sun care and skincare, there are many other amazing uses for Aloe vera. As nature’s own preservative, a coating of Aloe vera gel can come in handy for keeping fruit and vegetables fresh and extending their shelf life.
In these crazy COVID times where panic buying resulted in a stubborn shortage of household staples, keeping our hands clean became paramount (here’s hoping you were doing it anyway!) And if you couldn’t get the good stuff in time, you could use Aloe vera gel to make your own hand sanitiser instead.
Although beauty and skincare varieties are for external use only, I can hear you asking – is Aloe vera edible? In short, yes, it is, if prepared correctly. It has a clean, refreshing taste and is commonly added to smoothies. Cut off the spiky skin, remove the clear gel inside and dice it into cubes (and wash them thoroughly). Aloe vera skin is generally safe to eat too, with a mild flavour and a crunchy texture. You can soak it in water for 10 - 20 minutes before adding it to salads or dips like salsa and hummus.
Aloe vera juice is also recommended to boost your immune system, lower blood sugar levels and provide relief from heartburn. As a natural laxative, it will aid digestion and relieve constipation, and as a mouthwash, it can reduce dental plaque build-up and treat ulcers and other minor gum infections.
Aloe is only a positive plant in our eyes, but of course like most things, moderation and health and allergy considerations are key. Don’t use pure Aloe vera gel on severe or infected burns, deep wounds or sores, especially not gel straight from the plant, and overconsumption could cause stomach cramps or diarrhea due to its emetic effects.
So, if you need something strong yet soothing for a sunburn or bite, or a full body boost, Aloe vera is your go-to for sore skin relief – and almost everything else for that matter!