Aloe! Is it me you're looking for?

22nd February 2019

Lisa Botwright looks into the properties of this gloriously potent and healing plant…

With its tough and prickly exterior that belies its soft and soothing interior, aloe vera is a wonder plant when it comes to natural healing.

It’s been valued for cosmetic and medicinal purposes for millennia. The ancient Egyptians – who called it the ‘plant of immortality’ and the ‘blood of the gods’ – used its potent anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties to embalm their mummified dead. The very first influencer, Cleopatra, is known to have applied it to her skin to keep it youthful. Alexander the Great had great faith in aloe for healing the wounds of his warriors and Christopher Columbus wouldn’t set sail without the hardy evergreen perennial growing in plant pots all over his armada.

When my children were young, there were few ‘war wounds’ that couldn’t be cleared up with a hot bath and a cold dollop of aloe gel (if it’s good enough for Alexander the Great…) and of course, it’s the best, instant relief after a little too much sun.

Perhaps we should all take a leaf out of Columbus’s book and have an aloe vera plant or two around the house. They’re attractive, easy to grow in sandy potting soil, and love a sunny window sill. During the winter, they may become dormant (and will need little water) but they’ll snap back, come Spring.
The leaves are thick and fleshy, in shades of green to grey-green, with a distinct serrated edge – slice into one and you’ll find it oozing with the mineral-rich gel-like liquid that can be applied neat to minor burns and scratches, or as a treatment or moisturiser.

Aloe vera gel contains salicylic acid and other antiseptic compounds that kill off the bacteria that cause acne; it’s also packed with minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, and E, which all work together to reinforce the skin’s barrier, making it incredibly moisturising. Its real strength lies in helping conditions like rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis, which are often linked to dryness and inflammation. The plant’s fatty acids, along with an enzyme called bradykinin, can really help to calm the skin.

In light of its celebrated healing powers, it’s little wonder that aloe has been harnessed a staple ingredient for all sorts of beauty products, especially those designed for sensitive and troubled skin… like The Body Shop’s Aloe range, which I tested on my teenage daughter’s exceptionally sensitive face. We’ve experimented with all sorts of high street brands that claim to work well for skin such as hers, but just make her face flare up to a sore, itchy and angry red. As she applied the light and creamy cleanser and night cream, we held our breath, but this time her skin remained pink, calm and hydrated. We’ll definitely be buying them again.

Equally soothing are the Faith in Nature body wash, and JĀSÖN face and body cream. The body wash has a lovely smell (from the added citrus – aloe vera doesn’t really have a smell) and is full of natural ingredients that don’t leave any kind of itchiness.

After shaving my legs with the Clinique for Men aloe shave gel (very effective, a little goes a very long way), I applied the JĀSÖN cream. It’s gorgeously nourishing, but does have a little bit of an unusual medicinal smell, at odds with its gentle ingredients.

The aloe vera shampoo and conditioner from organic champions, Green People, are divine. Despite the lack of parabens and sulfates (the suspicious chemicals that artificially activate foaming) it lathers beautifully and leaves hair feeling soft and shiny, with a subtle lingering scent of lavender.

Cleopatra, Aexander the Great and Christopher Columbus were right to be so impressed with the health-giving liquid of this humble plant. May it remain a bathroom staple for the next few thousand years.

Body Wash (400ml) - £5.45
www.faithinnature.co.uk

Calming Cream Cleanser (250ml) - £8
www.thebodyshop.com

Soothing Night Cream (50ml) - £14
www.thebodyshop.com

Daily Shampoo (200ml) - £12.50
www.greenpeople.co.uk

Clinique for Men Shave Gel - £16
www.clinique.co.uk

JĀSÖN 84% Crème- £7.99
www.jasonnaturalcare.co.uk

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