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Skin

Aloe vera: nature’s skin-soothing superfood?

August 22nd 2017 / Ayesha Muttucumaru Google+ Ayesha Muttucumaru / 0 comment

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Anti-inflammatory and an antiseptic and antioxidant too, aloe vera could be your garden’s best kept skincare secret. Just ask Jennifer Aniston

Sunburned? We’ve all been there and according to Jennifer Aniston, the solution for helping remedy it could lie in your garden.

Highlighting sunbathing as her number one vice in a recent interview for Refinery29, she revealed that one of the ways she looks to offset its ageing effects is by applying homegrown aloe vera. “Sunbathing is a toughie for me," she says. “I struggle with it, because I love it so much, but I've been trying to be better. To counteract the damage it does, I first try to do less of it, and then make sure to highly moisturise after. I also throw in some aloe vera from our garden when I can.”

It certainly looks to be working. Offering a range of beauty benefits, here’s what you need to know about this potential skincare superfood.

Where does it fit into a skincare regime?

As both an SOS salve for sunburn and other skin ailments, as well as a daily moisturiser. The secret behind its sought-after skin-soothing abilities? Its wound healing and anti-inflammatory properties, highlights holistic aesthetic doctor Dr Rabia Malik, founder of The Peel Boutique, qualities that also offer welcome relief to those who suffer from other chronic inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema. “Aloe vera gel contains polysaccharides that stimulate new cell growth, helping with healing and cell renewal,” explains Dr Malik. “It also contains glycoproteins that help reduce inflammation, which in turn decreases skin redness and itchiness.”

On a day to day basis, Dr Malik also highlights aloe vera gel’s use as an effective moisturiser (especially for oily skin types - more on that in the next point), plus its antioxidant properties give it an extra edge when it comes to supporting skin’s defences. “Due to its rich content of vitamins C and E, aloe vera, either on its own or as part of a formula in skin creams, may be of value for its anti-ageing benefits,” highlights pharmacist, natural health specialist and co-founder of Victoria Health, Shabir Daya. “Vitamin C helps promote collagen production and vitamin E aids cellular regeneration.”

What skin types does it suit?

Many - it’s refreshingly universal in its appeal, with some provisos. “Sensitive skin that is prone to redness and itchiness may respond well to aloe vera gel, as well as oily skin types which would benefit from its antiseptic and hydrating properties,” recommends Dr Malik. While hydrating though, particularly parched skin types may require an additional moisturiser on top as in her experience, it may not be sufficient on its own.

Is homegrown or store-bought best?

While aloe vera can be grown at home like Jennifer Aniston or bought from the shops, factors such as space, shelf-life and texture are worth bearing in mind. As facialist and GTG Expert Abigail James points out: “Homegrown is obviously the freshest version and it’s on tap too which is great for quickly treating sensitivities and burns. However, store-bought will last longer and is easier to transport and apply. It’s also usually less sticky,” she highlights.

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If the DIY route doesn’t appeal and you’d rather opt for in-store options, Aloe Pura Aloe Vera Gel, £6.49, carries Shabir Daya’s seal of approval and for a body moisturiser that works as an effective after-sun too, we love the satisfyingly non-sticky, Sukin Aloe Vera Gel, £8.97.

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Can you eat aloe vera?

Yes, you can. Well, drink it more accurately. When taken orally, it offers many of the same skincare benefits offered by topical solutions. “Aloe vera contains mucopolysaccharides that support moisture levels in the skin,” explains nutritional therapist and GTG Expert, Zoe Stirling. “It also stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, well known for their anti-ageing effects.”

“More research certainly needs to be done on the cosmetic benefits of aloe vera, but one study showed that over 90 days of supplementing aloe vera significantly decreased the appearance of fine lines as well as improving elasticity of the skin. The theory is that aloe vera has a regenerating effect on epidermal and muscular tissues in the body, as well as having a healing and anti-inflammatory effect on the skin, among a number of other benefits particularly on inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis.”

What are the best ways to incorporate it into your diet?

Its juice form seems to be the easiest way to up your daily dose in the absence of food-based alternatives. “There doesn’t tend to be any food forms of aloe vera on the market so it needs to be supplemented,” says Zoe. However, look for products made from the gel rather than the whole leaf. “The aloe vera leaf is made up of an inner part containing aloe gel and the outer rind. The yellow sap on the inner side of the rind is known as aloin and contains a substance called latex,” she explains. “The gel is the safest part of the plant as aloin and latex can have very strong laxative effects and can aggravate certain medical conditions.”

Her top pick is Pukka’s Aloe Vera Juice, £15.99 for 1 litre, due to the fact that it only contains the unfiltered inner leaf gel (and therefore none of the aloin and latex). Plus, it also has organic certification and (in case useful for your needs), is made without dairy, gluten, added sugar or soya.

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Any other side-effects to bear in mind?

“Like with all supplements, not all of them are for everyone," cautions Zoe. "Aloe vera can cause allergic reactions if someone is allergic to plants in the liliaceae family or if they cannot tolerate any of the active compounds in aloe vera. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid using aloe as it is thought to cause uterine contractions. When introducing any new supplement, always check for any interactions with medications and/or ask the advice of a nutritionist or nutritional therapist for more tailored advice as to whether it is suitable for you."

If you decide to go down the homegrown route when it comes to a topical option, just make sure that what you’re growing is the real deal. A lesson that a vlogger from China learned in the worst possible way after eating agave Americana, a poisonous plant from Mexico, after mistaking it for raw aloe vera. Hopefully your experiences will be much safer.

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