The Magic of Aloe
By Felicia Tomasko
Our skin is our valuable protective layer, buffering us against the elements. However, while it protects us, we must also protect our skin, as it can be ravaged by such elements as the sun, dry air, sweat, wind, and sand, which can lead to rashes, breakouts, dry skin, and skin cancer. During a recent trip to Palm Springs, I hiked through the desert and then went for a long swim, forgetting to re-apply sun block. Even though I managed to avoid getting sunburnt, I still felt the drying effects of the sun, sand, and chlorine. Luckily, I was at a spa, where I could retreat for an indulgent body wrap, featuring cooling aloe and rosehip, designed to recondition my skin.
Ruth Ann Merritt, manager at the Spa at Marriott Desert Spring Resort in Palm Desert, where I was pampered in layers of aloe, often directs sunburnt spa-goers to the soothing desert aloe wrap. Many spas drenched in abundant sun often offer an aloe-infused body wrap for people who have spent too much time in the sun.
Traditionally, aloe is used to recondition the skin; it has also been a vital ingredient in indigenous medicine around the world. Ancient Egyptian lore relates that Cleopatra was pampered with the plant, and the Indian sages of Ayurveda named aloe Kumari, after a beautiful maiden, reflecting its rejuvenating power. In Ayurveda, aloe is not only used as a beauty aid; it is also used therapeutically to improve digestion, immunity, and liver function. The Greeks and Romans applied aloe to wounds and infections for its antibacterial properties, and it has been used in regions from China to Latin America as a liver cleanser, laxative, and in the treatment of diabetes.
Modern medicine has also embraced the use of aloe, both internally and externally. Research studies have found that aloe is effective for treating the skin condition psoriasis. In addition, preliminary studies have suggested that aloe gel taken internally is useful for lowering blood sugar and blood lipid levels.
Some health practitioners suggest the use of aloe both internally and externally. Naturopathic Doctor Nancy Welliver, faculty member at Bastyr University, states that aloe vera is unparalleled as a burn treatment. She suggests using aloe vera as a first line of treatment for sunburns and kitchen burns because aloe is cooling and prevents blistering. Dr. Robert Reynolds, a Santa Barbara-based naturopath, finds the natural gel a helpful bitter and soothing digestive aid. Herbalist and acupuncturist James Bailey recommends the juice for internal use and cites its effectiveness for improving digestion and absorption, balancing liver function, and increasing energy. Consult with your healthcare provider before using; although aloe vera is safe, it is also powerful. When shopping, look for organic products that contain 100% whole leaf aloe.
Aloe not only soothes burns; Kat James, beauty expert and author of The Truth About Beauty (Beyond Words Publishing, 2003), raves about aloe's healing power for the skin. James notes that aloe accelerates the healing of the skin and soothes sunburns, scrapes or abrasions due to aloe's natural salicylic acid, mild collagen-stimulating effects, and anti-inflammatory properties.
These properties not only heal sunburnt skin but also sooth skin weathered by cold, wind, or the stress of travel. The Fairmont Turnberry Island Resort in Aventura, Florida, features an aloe-based wrap with Kerstin Florian products. Spa manager Anastasia Ramsey suggests the wrap for people who have just disembarked from airplanes where they are exposed to dry, recirculated air or snowbirds arriving from cold winter climes.Â
It's not necessary to travel to a spa in the desert or by the ocean to indulge in aloe's benefits; you can bring the spa home. Keep some aloe juice or gel in the refrigerator in case of burns or wounds and apply often to irritated skin. Aloe is most potent when fresh, and aloe gel from the inside of a cut leaf can be a skin saver. If you are lucky enough to live somewhere where you can cultivate aloe outdoors, grow some plants outside. For those is cooler climes, don't fret; a potted aloe plant is easy to care for and a beautiful addition to any room.Â
Products with the soothing magic of aloe vera
Alba Botanical Aloe & Green Tea Oil-Free Moisturizer, www.albabotanical.com
Aubrey Organics Vegecol with Aloe & Oatmeal Soothing Mask, www.aubrey-organics.com
Avalon Organics Aloe Moisturizing Cream Shave, www.avalonorganics.com
Aveda Flax Seed and Aloe strong hold sculpturing gel, www.aveda.com
H2O Plus Body Soother Solar Relief Gel, www.h2oplus.com
Jason Natural Cosmetics Swimmers & Sports Rejuvenating Shampoo and Conditioner with aloe, www.jason-natural.com
Kerstin Florian Soothing Body Gel with aloe and algae, www.kerstinflorian.com
Aloe at Home
If you have some aloe juice or gel you can make up this soothing skin spray. Be careful to keep out of your eyes.
After-Sun Healing Spray
1/2 cup distilled water
1/2 cup witch hazel lotion
1/4 cup aloe vera gel or juice (whole leaf extract best)
8 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops chamomile essential oil
1 drop geranium essential oil
1 tsp. honey
In an 8-ounce (or larger) spray bottle, add water, witch hazel, and aloe. In a small bowl, combine the essential oils and honey and mix very well with the end of a spoon. Add the aromatic honey to the water mixture. Shake well. Label the bottle with directions for use: Shake well before applying to the skin. Avoid the eye area. Apply freely several times per day.Recipe from Healing Home Spa by Valerie Gennari Cooksley, RN. Published by Prentice Hall Press, 2003. Used with permission of the author.