Aloe vera (“true aloe”) is the best-known species of the aloe genus, which is native to Africa and certain parts of the Middle East. Renowned for its medicinal properties, aloe vera has been utilized for thousands of years to treat numerous medical conditions ranging from skin irritations and herpes to constipation and diabetes. Indeed, this succulent and mucilaginous plant was one of the most frequently prescribed medicines throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
For the most part, aloe vera remains just as popular in the 21st century. Its green, spear-shaped leaves are a rich source of disease-fighting vitamins and minerals, and it is a common ingredient in countless cosmetic products. Due to its incomparable versatility, however, aloe vera has far more uses than most people realize.
1. Shaving gel
Aloe vera is a perfect natural substitute for those awful, chemical-laden shaving gels and creams found in drug stores. Firstly, the plant consists of approximately 95 percent water, so it provides a nice, slippery surface that allows for a pleasant, close shave. Secondly, it is packed with anti-inflammatory enzymes, making it good for treating shaving nicks and rashes. Lastly, it moisturizes and nourishes the skin, leaving it feeling soft and rejuvenated. You can use aloe vera gel alone for this purpose, or mix it with other skin-friendly ingredients, such as almond oil or eucalyptus oil, for an even more luxurious shave.
2. Treats bad breath
Bad breath, or halitosis, is a common medical condition that affects an estimated 1 in 4 people on a regular basis. Though commercial toothpastes and mouthwashes can help treat it, their aggressive and unnatural ingredients often leave a lot to be desired. Instead, consider aloe vera. Aside from being a potent antibacterial, aloe contains an anti-inflammatory compound named beta-Sisterol that is known to soothe acid indigestion, which (along with oral bacteria) is a common cause of bad breath.
Though aloe vera does work alone as a mouthwash and toothpaste, mixing it with baking soda seems to have a particularly powerful effect. Aloe vera oil can also be used for oil pulling, the ancient Ayurvedic practice of cleansing the mouth by swishing oil around it for between 15 and 20 minutes.
3. Makeup remover
Unlike commercial makeup removers, which often contain harsh chemicals that dehydrate the skin, aloe vera gel is a natural and gentle way to remove makeup (including makeup around the eye, where the skin is most delicate). Simply squeeze a dollop of the gel onto a cotton ball and gently rub the makeup from your face. Incidentally, refrigerated cotton balls soaked in aloe vera make an excellent compress for tired and puffy eyes.
4. Treats sunburn
Aloe vera’s benefits as a skin moisturizer are well-known, but it is often overlooked as a sunburn remedy. Yes, due to its cooling and hydrating properties, aloe vera is very effective at treating sun-damaged skin. Apply the gel or oil onto the affected area and leave it to soak. The aloe will act as protective layer atop the skin and allow it to replenish its moisture (hydrated skin recovers faster from sunburn than dry skin).