For far too long, wonder plant aloe vera has been relegated to a staple of summer skincare, and summer skincare alone. But just because it has the magic touch when it comes to too much time in the sun doesn’t mean you should forget about it when the temperatures drop.
That’s right: aloe can benefit your skin just as much during the winter as it can during those longer, warmer summer days (that seem eons away right now as the sun sets at 4pm). Read on for the lowdown on aloe and how to take advantage of all it has to offer as the frost creeps over your windows.
What is aloe vera, anyway?
It’s a plant! A succulent, to be precise, that tends to grow in dry, tropical climates and has been used medicinally for centuries. When it comes to skin benefits, we’re interested in the clear gel that fills the plant’s leaves we’re interested in.
And what makes aloe vera so special?
Well, aside from the aforementioned CENTURIES OF USE and the fact that ancient Egyptians called it the “plant of immortality,” aloe vera gel is rich in vitamins A, B, C, D and E, as well as minerals like magnesium, potassium and zinc. It’s also full of polysaccharides (hydrating, anti-inflammatory, protective) and phytosterols (soothing, acts as a humectant aka keeps moisture in rather than letting it escape), and auxin and gibberellins, two hormones that provide wound-healing and anti-inflammatory properties, stimulating the growth of new skin cells.
Each of these alone is good for your skin but together, in one single substance, they work magic. Seriously. Not only does it have cooling properties that can soothe irritated or sun-exposed skin, it just generally rocks at reducing all types of dermal irritation and inflammations (couch cough acne and eczema cough). Those vitamins and minerals work to replenish skin when it’s missing something, which is especially true if what your skin is missing it moisture.
Ok, you’ve convinced me. How do I get to the good stuff?
You’ve got a couple of options. If you’re something of a green thumb and already have an aloe plant growing in your house (they’re very easy to take care of, I promise) or property, you can harvest the gel yourself. Look for one of the bigger, fatter leaves and pull gently but firmly from the base. Once the leaf is free, slice away the thorny edges, cut it open length-wise and use a spoon to scrape the gel away from the leaf. Put that stuff in a container and stick it in the fridge.
Not into the idea of manual labor? Many grocery stores carry large, pre-cut aloe leaves in the produce section that you can just slice open. And if that’s still too much, buy some that’s pre-cut and packaged. Just make sure the product is 100% natural with no added colors, fragrance or alcohol. (The ingredient label should read “100% aloe vera,” full stop.)
Now that I have some fresh aloe vera, how do I use it?
Let me count the ways!
For the simplest option, take a filleted leaf and just rub that sucker directly onto your skin as a mask. You’re welcome.
Picked a zit or dried one out with a topical treatment and can’t stand the dry, patchy skin left behind? Dab fresh aloe gel onto the spot to help moisten the cells and get them plumped back up. Alternatively, if you’re battling a fresh, painful spot, consider freezing the aloe vera gel in an ice cube tray, then rubbing the frozen stuff on the inflamed area to calm it down.
No, seriously. It may feel sticky but aloe vera gel is actually the perfect consistency for a natural, DIY shave gel that won’t gunk up your razor blade. And it’ll hydrate and condition skin while you’re shaving. And if you nick your skin during the process, you can use any leftover gel to speed up the healing process on the wound.
DIY your perfect body scrub using aloe vera gel as a base. It’ll lend a nice consistency to the scrub and hydrate while being applied. (Consider mixing it with an exfoliating ingredient like brown sugar and one that will help with slip, like almond or coconut oil.)
Fresh aloe has a seriously high water content, making it a near-perfect serum for oily skin that doesn’t play nicely with oil-based serums. After you cleanse, simply apply the gel to your clean face, then layer a moisturizer right on top to help make sure the goodness of the aloe is fully absorbed.