Soothe Skin Naturally: The Best Aloe Vera Gel
You’re probably most familiar with aloe vera gel as a sunburn remedy or relief after a mosquito attack. The clear or green gel you squeeze out of a tube and onto your hot, red skin after a day at the beach without enough sunscreen probably brings back childhood memories.
Aloe gel definitely provides sunburn relief and helps with bug bites, but it’s also a great addition to a natural skin care regimen and can even be ingested for additional health benefits. (Just make sure you’re buying aloe juice or gel that’s intended for internal use. It should say it right on the bottle. Ask for help at your health foods store if you’re not sure.)
The best aloe vera gel products for topical use have as few ingredients as possible and absorb well into the skin without leaving a sticky residue behind. The best ingestibles are made with pure aloe leaf juice with as little else in the bottle as possible.
But not all aloe products are created equal, and sometimes aloe is a great complement to other natural ingredients to create a synergistic effect on your skin. Let’s talk about the benefits of aloe, how to choose the best one for you, and why it makes for such a great ingredient in other topical products.
Benefits of Aloe Vera
Aloe is a key ingredient in a number of skincare formulas because it's anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and very soothing to inflamed or irritated skin. Rich in vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamin B12, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E, folic acid, and choline, aloe is a powerhouse of nutrients for your skin, jump-starting the healing process and collagen production.
Using natural aloe vera gel as a topical skin treatment can help reduce damage from sun exposure, boost the antioxidants in your skin, and encourage healthy cell turnover. Ideally, you'd apply it topically, allow it to completely absorb, and then use a daily moisturizer with an SPF to protect your skin from further damage.
When ingested, aloe is a powerful digestive aid due to its live enzymes and alkalizing pH. It's also internally healing to the digestive lining, which can help improve acne-prone and condition-prone skin from within. It's also shown to help relieve pain and discomfort from digestive issues like heartburn, IBS, and even chronic conditions like ulcerative colitis.
Aloe can be used as a gentle laxative, so if you decide to try ingesting it, start slowly. You can add it to a smoothie or drink it straight, bearing in mind that many of the beneficial botanical properties of the plant render the juice a bit bitter and unpleasant. Aloe juice meant for ingestion should be labeled as such, and it should also be refrigerated after opening. Generally speaking, the ingestible variety has fewer preservatives than topicals.
How to Choose the Best Aloe Vera Products
The purest way to get topical aloe vera gel is to grow an aloe vera plant at home. The aloe plant is a desert succulent with long, thick, liquid-filled leaves. When you have a need for aloe gel, whether it’s sunburn, insect bites, irritated skin, dry skin, or itchy scalp, you simply snip off a piece of the aloe leaf, filet it open, and rub the gel-like leaf interior on the affected area. Applying aloe in this way ensures that you’re getting nothing but pure, natural aloe vera.
Of course, not everyone lives in a climate hospitable to aloe plants, and not everyone wants to take the time to grow one. If that’s the case for you, there are a number of high-quality options out there for you, both of pure aloe vera gel products and also with aloe as an ingredient in natural skincare products.
Interestingly, gel from the plant isn’t actually as thick and viscous as the bright green stuff. Rather, it’s a lot thinner and more liquidy than that. The thicker versions of the gel likely include some sort of additive like agar agar or xanthan gum to thicken it up. While agar agar is a relatively neutral substance, some people react poorly to xanthan gum, so be sure to spot test your product on a small area of your body before rubbing it all over, just in case you react to it.
Top Aloe Vera Brands
Choosing the best means opting for organic aloe vera gel that has as few other ingredients as possible. Ideally, you’ll be purchasing from a cruelty-free company that uses only natural preservatives (if any), like vitamin E tocopherols, citric acid, or essential oils. Some brands use potassium sorbate as a preservative, which is fine for some, but irritating to others. Again, spot test to be sure that you don't react before doing an all-over application.
The best brands sourcing organic topical aloe vera are:
- Amara Organics
- Aubrey Organics
- Lily of the Desert
- Green Leaf Naturals
- Seven Minerals.
These brands all offer 99 percent or higher pure aloe vera gel with natural preservatives. Aubrey actually uses a fermented radish preservative in order to remain true to their natural ingredients standards.
Aloe as an Ingredient
Some of the best skincare products feature aloe leaf juice or aloe vera gel in their formulas.
Far more hydrating than water, aloe makes a terrific base for facial masks like the Brilliant Bamboo Charcoal Facial Sheet Mask and Harmony Rose Petal Facial Mask by Feel. Both of these products boast anti-inflammatory benefits, as well as skin-clearing, brightening, and antioxidant nourishment. In both formulas, aloe complements the other antioxidant ingredients, like hyaluronic acid, rosehip oil, rose petal extract, and activated charcoal.
In cleansers like Renewed Pumpkin Walnut Facial Cleanser by Feel, aloe acts as a gentle makeup remover, providing deep, penetrating moisture while washing away the day's dirt and grime alongside gentle exfoliating walnut powder and pumpkin seeds.
The benefits of aloe are extensive, far beyond the sunburn relief you've always used it for. Whether you're considering using it alone, creating your own body care with it, finding it in top quality body care, or ingesting it, you now know the vast benefit of including it as part of your self-care routine. Make sure you're choosing a brand that uses as few ingredients as possible in order to avoid any unwanted side effects, and refrigerate any ingestible aloe in order to avoid spoilage.