An amazing after-sun soother that cools and moisturizes without added oil…
I recently ticked two important things off my wellness to-do list: I visited a dermatologist for the first time, and I had a skin cancer screening. May was Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and after playing the avoidance game for far too long, I figured there was no time like the present to get my freckles checked. Or at least no time like the present to make an appointment and wait a month. My appointment finally rolled around last week, and while I’m happy to report no abnormalities, I did catch myself in a lie. When the doctor asked “have you had many sunburns?” I found myself unconvincingly replying “nooo… not really.” Truth is, I’ve probably averaged one sunburn per summer since I was a teenager. As someone with very fair skin, for a long time I thought of that inevitable early-summer burn as the precursor to a tan (this thinking is very very flawed, I know), or at least a solid excuse for why I forgot my sunscreen yet again. I even walked down the aisle on my wedding day with a bright red X singed into my back after forgetting my SPF the previous afternoon while doing yard work. Well, “never again!” I say. This year I’m doubling down on sun protection. With so many natural and non-greasy SPF formulas available, there’s really no excuse… but what if you do get too much sun? Aloe vera is an amazing after-sun soother that cools and moisturizes without added oil. Unfortunately, many of the aloe formulas available in stores contain additives — some even contain alcohol, which dries out skin even more. Today I’m diving into the health and skin-soothing benefits of this beautiful green plant. From aiding in digestion to calming skin post-sun, aloe is the plant we should all have on hand at home. Read on to learn more.
What is it? One in a genus of over 500 species (Aloë), aloe vera is commonly known as “true aloe” and is the most widely recognized species. Characterized by long, spiked stems that produce a jelly-like substance when split open, aloe is native to tropical climates, and the gel has been used for centuries in ayurvedic and traditional medicine to ease digestion and soothe skin. Many store-bought aloe products are highly processed and contain additives, which is why fresh aloe gel is your best bet for harnessing the benefits of this amazing plant! One note: Always drain and rinse freshly-cut aloe to remove the bitter sap, aloin, which has been found to be an antinutrient.
What are the benefits? When applied to skin, fresh aloe vera gel could have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiseptic properties, making it ideal to use on minor cuts, scrapes and sunburns to encourage healing and reduce redness. Aloe has been found to have positive effects on skin affected by psoriasis, and could heal burns faster by preventing UV-induced suppression. The vitamins B6, B12, and vitamin C present in aloe vera have been found to ease pain and increase immunity, which could be why the pain of a sunburn is eased when aloe is applied. Highly moisturizing aloe moisturizes skin, hair and scalp, and could be a good option for those seeking hydration without the grease of traditional oils. If you suffer from dandruff or dry scalp, aloe could offer some relief! When consumed, aloe vera juice could be beneficial for those suffering from stomach issues such as ulcers and constipation. When consumed, aloe vera increases mucus production and intestinal peristalsis, the contractions of the intestine that help break down food.
How do I use it? The best way to have access to fresh aloe 24/7 is to grow it yourself! However, if you’re not blessed with a green thumb, fresh aloe leaves are available at many large grocery store chains and at some smaller speciality food stores. Fresh aloe can be used to make juice or as an addition to fresh juice, by adding the gel to water or juice and blending. (Note: we’re talking fresh, real aloe, here. Not the neon green “after sun” aloe vera gel at the drugstore. Don’t eat that.) To prepare fresh aloe, slice off one end to expose the inside gel, then submerge it in water to allow the aloin to drain out. Aloin is the bitter-tasting sap produced by the aloe plant – you want to be sure to remove as much of this as possible before consuming as it has been found to irritate the digestive system (I recommend watching this video for a great primer on preparing aloe).
If you’re suffering from a sunburn or minor wound, the gel can be applied for a little relief. Simply slice off a leaf and expose the gel within, or use the recipe below to make your own after-sun soother. Note: Real, fresh aloe gel deteriorates quickly, so be sure to use it immediately or store in the fridge for up to a day.
DIY Cooling Aloe Gel
1 large fresh aloe leaf
3 drops peppermint essential oil
5 drops chamomile essential oil
Tools: Blender, vegetable peeler
Method: Use the vegetable peeler to carefully peel away one side of the outer aloe skin. Rinse under cold running water to remove the aloin. Scoop out the gel with a spoon and place in a blender with essential oils. Blend until smooth (note: it’s normal for your mixture to be foamy). Optional: Add a teaspoon of melted organic unrefined coconut oil for additional moisturizing benefits.
To use: Apply a small amount to clean skin for soothing relief post-sun.
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This information is not intended to treat, diagnose or prevent any disease or issue. Please seek your doctor’s advice for any questions regarding a specific condition and before beginning any exercise, diet or health-related regimen.