We've long reached for aloe vera to soothe our sunburn, but amidst the coronavirus pandemic it's been flying off the shelves for a different reason entirely. Aloe vera gel is one of the key ingredients needed to make your own hand sanitizer . Couple it with rubbing alcohol (AKA isopropyl alcohol or surgical spirit) and a few drops of essential oil and voila, you've made your own hand gel - ideal if the shelves of your supermarket are bereft of the stuff.
The isopropyl alcohol is responsible for killing off the germs, while aloe vera is needed to stop your hands for drying out too much - the alcohol itself has the ability to leave hands very cracked and sore, so the aloe vera makes the formula more gentle and adds in moisture. As for the essential oils? They're just for scent.
How to make your own hand sanitiser at home using aloe vera
To be effective against viruses, your hand sanitiser needs to be at last 60 per cent alcohol. "The bottom line is that alcohol is the active ingredient. If you drop below 60 per cent, the effectiveness drops dramatically," Professor Miryam Wahrman from William Paterson University, New Jersey told Business Insider.
Dr David Agus, professor of medicine and engineering at the University of Southern California agrees, telling NBC: "Homemade hand sanitisers are just as effective as what you buy as long as you use the right percentage of alcohol."
We recommend one part aloe vera to three parts alcohol. Pour the ingredients into a bottle (we bet you've got a few empty hand sanitiser vessels in handbags, or maybe some travel size bottles forgotten in suitcases), shake well and leave to settle for 72 hours so the ingredients mix well. If you want to add in essential oils, add in 10-15 drops after the aloe vera. Tea tree has natural anti-bacterial properties so could be a good choice to make this a real all-rounder.
Aloe vera isn't just good for hand sanitiser though, so if you're left with lots after you've made your potion do hold onto it.
How does aloe vera 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.”
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 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.”
We've also found it aloe vera be a great conductor gel for electro current facial toning devices such as the Nuface.
What skin types does aloe vera 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 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.