The other day, I was reminded of something Alexandra and I discovered when we were writing the book: That basically every beauty biff under the sun could be ameliorated with a little aloe. As we started studying ingredient lists on our old products, we noticed that so many products we’d known and loved for years had aloe listed first on the ingredient list, which, remember, means there’s more of it in there than any other ingredient.
So if aloe was doing much of the heavy lifting (or taming, as the case may be) in so many of our products, couldn’t we use it on its own, too?
But of course. One of the great things about familiarizing yourself with ingredients—and not just finished products—is that you start to figure out what works well for you and why. If you’re buying aloe, some things to remember: Go organic; get 100% pure aloe; and make sure there are no green dyes or fragrance in there. You can get it at any health food store in gel form—which is the consistency of what comes out of the plant when you rip open a leaf, kind of like a slippery, thinner version of hair gel.
Now, without further ado: Here are the 10 (sort of) science-backed uses for aloe vera:
1. To tame frizz before drying or for air-drying. Pretty obvious one. Aloe is the primary ingredient in many conditioners and most defrizzers that aren’t silicone-based (which is most of them) because its consistency makes it easy to apply and coat the hair with. Plus, the pH is slightly acidic, but just slightly, which can help seal the cuticle of the hair, making it more likely to behave. This works amazingly well on my wavy thick hair for air drying, but I like it blown out, too. If you want to buy something instead of using pure aloe, I like this.
2. As a shaving gel for legs or face. We’ve told you many times that we do not use shaving cream, and if you’re still using the traditional stuff please stop immediately! We use whatever is lying around and is kind of silky feeling. Because aloe is also antiinflammatory, thanks to the enzymes, and hydrating, thanks to the very high water content, this stuff works like a charm on legs (or whevever) for a very close shave.
3. As a topical treatment for razor burn or makeout burn. If you’re like me, you’ve probably at some point thought dry shaving your legs with a not-especially-new razor was a great idea. It’s not, but if you end up with razor burn—or if you’ve been making out with someone scruffy who makes your face a little red—aloe is a godsend. Slather it on after you shower, then again before bed.
4. Instead of an oil-free moisturizer, especially if you’re acne-prone: Studies show that aloe can be an effective humectant, increasing water retention in the skin. It also contains antioxidants in the form of vitamins A, C and E, and enzymes that can help calm inflammation and irritation—which is probably why it’s in so many moisturizers for acne-prone skin. I think it just feels nice, especially in the summer. Keep it in the fridge during heatwaves for an amazing way to wake up your skin, post shower.
5. As a personal lubricant: TMI Alert! My favorite lube is from Aloecadabra, and it’s aloe-based. I don’t care for the flavored ones so much, but the plain aloe lubricant has been my go-to for some time. I’ve also given bottles of it to two of my friends! Plus, it’s condom-safe and pH balanced, which is important for girls.
6. On dry hair or your eyebrows. If you’re lucky enough to have brows like Alexandra, maybe you want to use a little on them with some powder to darken or define them, and keep strays in place. This works on blondes too, with powdered eye shadow in a taupe or very, very light brown. It can similarly be used on dry hair as a way to prevent flyaways, if those bother you.
7. On seborrheic dermatitis or psoriasis. Ugh. If you have or have ever suffered from either of these you know how bad it can get. I have not personally, but I’ve seen friends suffer through both, and boy does it suck. Enter: your favorite succulent. The data is limited, but studies have shown it to be effective in the treatment of both.
8. To help infections heal. There’s some evidence that the antibacterial qualities that make it a great lotion for acne-prone skin may also help with wound healing in humans, and in rats. I have tried this (I’ve also done it with honey), and I think it works. Can’t be sure, but it can’t hurt.
9. On cooking burns. Hopefully you had a cool mom who taught you this when you were a kid (hi, mom!). If not, you can be that cool mom or dad now or later. Oh, except wait… Despite the fact it seems like it would be a good idea, NIH says it doesn’t work on sunburns. [Ed's Note: Alexandra used it on the backs of her legs, after she burned them during a surf lesson while on vacation. She's convinced the cooling aloe eased some of her pain.]
10. Make a face mask out of it. We know some of you out there love your DIY. For you, combine aloe with oats and your favorite face oil in whatever proportions feel nice to you and slap the stuff on your face. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and you’ll be left with a nice, slightly taught face (in a good way, weird as it sounds).
What’d I miss?
Image (cc) via Flickr user Erik Mallinson