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Aloe Barbadensis

September 3, 2012

Aloe Vera or Aloe Barbadensis extract is often the first thing that you see listed on the label of an organic cosmetic.  This can be for many reasons, not least because this is one very skin-friendly botanical with a long history of skin success.

This species of succulent isn’t native to Australia (where I am writing), in fact it was only brought into the country in the late 1970’s according to my google searchings (by a lady called Jennifer McDougall from here: http://aloeveraaustralia.com.au/about-us.html). It  soon started to thrive in the water rich soil of Queensland and  production in that region continues to this day.

As far as my daily work is concerned I am most often requested to use  Aloe as a soothing agent in leave-on skin products such as moisturisers, serums and balms although I have never really looked into the evidence to support this claim and so I thought that it was time that I did!

A quick look at the structure and chemistry of Aloe shows us why this plant is such a good moisturising agent – it’s the polysaccharides or sugars that predominate. These sugars are hygroscopic (water-loving) and paired with the fact that these sugars form a strong meshed structure they are both substantive and moisturising to the skin.   Folk law attributes many more healing properties to these polysaccharides but I can’t find much to substantiate this.  I reckon that the sugar matrix may be responsible for what I’ll call ‘the raincoat effect’  i.e:  You put on a raincoat in a storm and you stay warm and dry, a warm and dry body is less likely to catch a cold and so you stay well.  The raincoat isn’t anti-viral or anti-bacterial, it merely protects and preserves what you have already.   Aloes moisture mesh protects and preserves the skin so that it can remain (or return to) optimum condition.

But that isn’t all that Aloe has got, within the gel reside a banquet of vitamins, amino acids, trace minerals and enzymes not all of which will be skin-soothing/ healing but some will.  So that paired with the excellent moisture barrier potential does seem to put Aloe into the running for a well deserved skin care golden globe.

Of course in skin care we don’t JUST rely on solid scientific evidence to justify an ingredients use, there is the history, the mystery, the look, feel and smell to consider and when the ‘big picture’ looks as good as it does for Aloe it would be rude not to include it!

But what about its legendary cooling power?  Well, I think that is down to two things,  Aloe can remain hydrating at low levels which means that it doesn’t leave the skin that sticky (rather like hyaluronic acid but cheaper) which means that you can rub it all over without feeling uncomfortable.  Plus its hygroscopic nature means that along with the aloe you attract (and spread what is bound) water to the skin’s surface and moisture on the skin feels cold (that’s one reason why we sweat) = cooling and soothing!

Anyway, I love Aloe and will continue to use its  soothing and moisturising power both in my formulations and directly onto the skin thanks to the lovely little plant friend of mine that sits right by the kitchen sink.

Have fun and if you want more info these links below are useful.

European Pharmacopea: http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Herbal_-_Community_herbal_monograph/2009/12/WC500017826.pdf

National Toxicology Program: http://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/materials/aloe_vera_508.pdf

Aloe Vera Uses: http://www.dpdotcom.com/freebie/Aloe%20Vera%20Extract.pdf

 

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 3, 2012 10:49 am

    Thanks for another great post Amanda. I’ve been a little confused when buying Aloe. Firstly the difference between the juice and the gel. One vendor I spoke with claimed that the juice is more concentrated. I’ve also noted that some gel is reconstituted from Aloe Vera powder. Finally, I’ve purchased gel from two reputable sources – both included a preservative in the gel, which is ok but needs to be taken into consideration when formulating. Neither of my sources mentioned colour yet one was quite a rich green and the other was perfectly clear.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      September 4, 2012 4:30 pm

      Hi there,
      This is worth a separate post as I too find it confusing! Aloe can be prepared in many ways for addition to cosmetics. The stuff that comes out when you break a leaf is the leaf Gel. This is commercially harvested by taking the leaves, skinning them to remove the green outer bit and the pigment cells called aloin (this isn’t good for us). The leaf inners are then mashed and filtered. This could be bought fresh or could be dried. The dried powder can then be reconstituted by re-adding water and the strength 1x, 10x, 40 x, 200x etc tells you how much more concentrated than the original the gel will be. The juice is what you get when you mash the whole leaf including the outer bit. This would be more colored than the gel. Both are suitable for cosmetic products and both are available.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      September 4, 2012 4:33 pm

      Following on from the last reply, preservatives will be added to reconstituted gels to keep them in good order. The high water content and neutral pH makes these liquids a breeding ground for bugs if in-preserved. The reconstituted gel may also have a thickener added to make it more gel-like as natural aloe can be fairly runny at times. It all depends on the chemistry. The variation between suppliers and samples can also be down to the fact that this is a natural product.

  2. September 5, 2012 7:52 am

    Excellent post! Thank you again for the science behind the ingredients in what we use, it’s super helpful and informative.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      September 5, 2012 8:14 am

      Thank you, I am glad to be of service.

  3. September 28, 2012 1:08 pm

    I use Aloe Vera on my hair to stop falling hair and I sometimes use it on small wounds. I love Aloe Vera ever since and I even planted lots of them in my garden so whenever I need fresh ones, I can get it right away. They are easy to grow so no hassle.

  4. konsta maria permalink
    July 3, 2013 9:54 am

    i am very glad i found your site. i want to ask you this:can i use aloe from my garden in my product? the one we are buying is special treated for cosmetic use or i only have to add preservative and it will be OK?
    I hope this is not a silly question

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      July 3, 2013 12:30 pm

      Hi there,

      Of course you can use fresh aloe from your garden – that is most likely to be the best option rather than using pre-dried product. Just be careful to remove all of the green inner pigment as that is very irritating to the skin. Also be sure to use it quickly – within the day that you pick it – for maximum benefits and minimum risk of contamination. Happy picking and making!

      • konsta maria permalink
        July 3, 2013 7:12 pm

        thank you for answer me immediately. i’m going to make my body lotion using phytocream as emulsifier and preservative12 .

      • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
        July 3, 2013 7:38 pm

        Sounds lovely. Good luck with that and if you do get any problems feel free to come back as I can always have a look over the formula for you.

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