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Natural beauty remedies are all the rage, and aloe vera is one of the most beneficial, all-natural beauty ingredients on the market. This perky green plant has been used for centuries to treat ailments ranging from sunburn to dry skin, and is available in oil or pure aloe extract. Each type is a little different, but both pack a powerful, healthy punch.
Aloe vera looks like a prickly, pointy beast, but it’s actually a tender, delicate plant. Native to arid regions of the world -- including Sudan, Nepal, India and Africa -- aloe grows in long, hardy stocks filled with soft pulp. This pulp is packed with moisture, nutrients and vitamins that nourish skin, promote healing and soften dry, scaly skin. Even Cleopatra, well known for her stunning beauty, was a fan of this spiky green plant.
Aloe oil is a bit of a misnomer; it’s actually a combination of aloe vera and a light carrier oil such as soybean or grape seed oil. The aloe stalks are pressed and heated with the carrier oil, which is then strained, cooled and bottled. Aloe oil can be swiped over itchy ailments such as psoriasis and eczema, or mixed in lotions and hand creams. If you’re feeling a bit stressed, add a little aloe oil to a scent diffuser and breathe in the calming scent.
If you’re looking for a quick aloe fix, grab a stalk and get your squeeze on. The squishy pulp inside the aloe plant can be used on the skin straight from the plant. Pure aloe can be used on small cuts as a soothing antibacterial and antifungal agent, and is great for calming skin if you spend too much time in the sun. Break a stalk off near the base of the plant and massage it gently with your fingers. Squeeze the stalk near the break to force the pulp out and rub it over your skin.
Aloe may be healthy, but it can still be hazardous if used incorrectly. People who are allergic to plants in the liliaceae family -- including tulips, garlic and onions -- should avoid aloe like the plague. Aloe may be ingested to treat certain conditions such as constipation, but don’t gnaw on a stalk unless directed by your doctor. If you’re pregnant or nursing, ask your obstetrician before ingesting aloe or rubbing it frequently on your skin.