by Faiha Khan
Would you rub a prickly plant all over your face? Well, here’s why you should!
I still remember the shock of watching my aunt rip off a large leaf of her beautiful house plant. I was eight years old and visiting her house in New Jersey. The first thing that caught my eye when I walked in was this pointy, inhospitable-looking plant in the living room. I was immediately intrigued. What was this plant that looked as though it was trying to keep anything that could disturb it away from itself with its prickly edges?
Shortly after our arrival, I saw my aunt talking about the plant to my mom and I hurried over to learn more. I learned that this plant was a succulent and was called aloe vera. That was when my aunt snapped off that leaf. As she tore it open, I saw a gooey, glistening, gel-like substance oozing from the wound. She said that I could rub the gel onto my skin because it was a naturally hydrating substance that was good for skin care. I remember thinking “This is the coolest thing ever.”
From that day on, aloe vera plants have been one of my favorites. I am still intrigued that I can use the gel straight from the plant, unlikely so many other plant-based products that require much more processing. Aloe vera gel has numerous uses and health benefits. One cool property of aloe vera gel is its anti-inflammatory property. This can be useful if your skin gets irritated as it can relieve burning and itching rather quickly and soothe your skin. This is why people frequently use it for sunburned skin! My favorite use for the gel is to moisturize my skin because I find that it helps to prevent moisture loss. I am really interested in skin care and because of this, I incorporate aloe vera into my daily/nightly routine. I use it in the morning, after washing my face. I also put it on before I put on my makeup because it reduces oil buildup on my face. I also apply the gel after I shower or wash my face at night, which reduces inflammation of any irritated skin or acne as well as keep my face moisturized through the night. I find that aloe vera makes me feel refreshed in the morning. Aside from routine skin care, I have also used the gel to help reduce inflammation from irritated skin as well as help soothe skin from burns. The soothing effect really helps to relieve pain rather quickly.
Since my discovery of Aloe plants at my aunt’s house, I raise my own aloe vera plants. I harvest the fresh gel by cutting the leaf off the plant, carefully opening the leaf and scooping the gel out into small jars to use for later. Although I have not tried this myself yet, I hear that Aloe plants are easy to propagate since they are succulents – which means you could have tons of new Aloe plants, or “pups,” just from one plant! All you have to do is dig up a pup from your parent aloe plant and replant it! This pup will grow into a full Aloe plant. I can’t wait for my own aloe plants to produce pups, so I can bring one to my aunt who taught me all about aloe in the first place.
Faiha is 22 years old and a student at the University of Pittsburgh studying Bioinformatics on a pre-medical track. She lives just outside Pittsburgh.
Photo credits: Aloe leaf (courtesy Wikimedia Commons, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=210489); aloe leaf with gel (courtesy Wikimedia Commons, By Pava - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 it, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25587169