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Understanding Skincare Ingredients – Aloe Vera

If you are a huge fan of skin care products, you will have noticed that one of the most often used ingredients is aloe. In fact, you do not even need to be a skin care fanatic to notice that aloe vera is commonly used in skin care products because even as a little kid, I can remember seeing sunscreen and after-sun lotions that contained aloe. I didn’t really care too much about what aloe was or what aloe did back when I was younger but now that I am older, I tend to be more curious and careful about the ingredients in my skincare products. After all, I have to know what it is I am slathering all over my body and so should you.

A lot of you may have been in the same boat as me where I would read about aloe vera being used in skin care products but wouldn’t really know what it was or what it was supposed to do. I remedied my situation and learned all I could about aloe vera so I can help you understand this ingredient better and perhaps appreciate it more.

What is Aloe Vera?

Most of us may have seen “with aloe vera” labels on our skin care products but do not know what it is, let alone what it looks like. Well, the aloe vera plant looks a bit like a cactus and is part of the succulent plant species. This species is most often used in herbal medicine and has been since the very beginning of the first century AD. Not only are extracts from the aloe vera plant used in alternative medicine but also in cosmetics.

What makes this plant so popular in the alternative medicine and cosmetics industries is that it is purported to have healing, soothing, and rejuvenating properties. While I am okay to leave it at that, I also did some further digging and found out that further studies are being carried out so that the benefits of the plant can finally be cleared up since some studies negate the claims made by cosmetic and alternative medicine experts.

History of Aloe Vera

Aloe vera has been used for medicinal purposes in different cultures throughout the ages. For instance, it was used in Greece, Egypt, China, Japan, and Mexico. It was so special that the fabled queens of Egypt such as Cleopatra and Nefertiti were rumored to have used it as part of their beauty and skincare regimen. Alexander the Great was said to have used the plant to treat wounds and so did Christopher Columbus. If it is good enough for the legends, then I am sure it is good enough for me!

The very first mention of aloe vera was translated by John Goodyew to English back in AD 1655. He took the information from the Medical Treatise De Materia Medica that was written by Dioscorides. By the time the early 1800s rolled it, people in the US used aloe vera not on their skins but as a laxative. This all changed in the middle part of the 1930s because it was that time when aloe vera was used to successfully treat severe and chronic radiation dermatitis and after that, it became a very popular cosmetic ingredient.

Properties of Aloe Vera

While I agree that those fabulous people from history did great things, I really want to know more about the plant and what makes it so effective. The active components and properties that it contains are rumored to reach up to 75 and they are: enzymes, lignin, saponins, salycilic acid, amino acids, and vitamins. I was so impressed with those 75 active properties that I just needed to learn more so check them out below:

  • Vitamins – It contains beta-carotene and vitamins C and E which are well-known antioxidants. The plant also contains choline, folic acid, and vitamin B12.
  • Enzymes – The 8 enzymes this plant contains include amylase, aliiase, alkaline phosphatase, catalase, cellulose, lipase, bradykinase, carboxypeptidase, peroxidase. Bradykinase, when applied topically to the skin, can reduce inflammation. The others work to break down sugars and fats.
  • Minerals – This plant contains chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, calcium, potassium, zinc, and sodium. They are essential to the proper functioning of the body and some are known antioxidants.
  • Sugars – When ingested, aloe vera juice or gel contains several types of sugars that act as anti-allergens and anti-inflammatory agents.
  • Fatty acids – Aloe vera has 4 plant sterols and they are cholesterol, camperterol, β-sisosterol, and lupeol. They are all known to have anti-inflammatory properties while lupeol has shown to have potent analgesic and antiseptic properties.
  • Hormones – It contain auxins as well as gibberellins that work to help wounds heal and they also contain anti-inflammatory properties.

Upon more digging, I found out that the salicylic acid and anti-inflammatory properties it contains are the top reasons why it is so common in cosmetic products. Lignin which is an inert substance found in the gel is often used in topical lotions and gels because it helps other ingredients penetrate the skin faster. The gel is made up of about 3% saponins and it contains antiseptic and cleansing properties as well.

Products that Contain It

Now that we all know more about aloe vera, what it can do, how it was first used, and who used it, is time to know what products it is used in. below is a short list I have compiled for your reading pleasure.

  • Sunscreen and other SPF products both for adults and kid
  • After-sun lotions and gels to bring down redness and reduce pain from sunburn
  • Burn relief topical solutions
  • Facial masks
  • Deodorants
  • Facial washes
  • Body washes
  • Moisturizers
  • Shavers
  • Soap
  • Topical medicines for skin diseases

Now those are just some of the products that I managed to dig up and there might be more out there. Now that I know more about the plant and what it can do, I find myself appreciating it more. It really is amazing what aloe vera can do.

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