Summer Skin Saviour , 0 Comments

The temperatures are rising, and that means that it's officially summer! But beach time can wreck havoc on your skin (hours in the sun, the rough wind off the ocean, abrasion from the sand), and one of the best remedies for sunburnt, wind-chapped, or just plain irritated skin is also the simplest: pure aloe vera. You might have noticed tubes of aloe vera gel in pharmacies before (more often than not, tinged a phosphorescent green), but nothing can compare to the raw deal. I'm talking about those long, spindly stalks that you see in the produce section of your market. What makes pure, raw aloe vera gel so great for summer skin? For starters, aloe vera is vulnerary, which means that it is used in the healing of wounds. It is also naturally astringent and analgesic, as well as being an all-natural emollient. What it comes down to is multi-tasking: fresh aloe vera gel will heal, cleanse, soothe and moisturize, all at once. Not to mention that it's antibacterial, antiseptic, antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal, germicidal, and a fantastic disinfectant!

And getting at the gooey goodness inside those cactus-like leaves is easier than you might think. Start by purchasing a leaf that is completely green. Make sure that the ends of the spikes haven't started to dry up and turn brown (a sign that the aloe leaf has been separated from its mother plant for quite some time). Rinse it with a solution that is one part apple cider vinegar to three parts water (this is my preferred method for cleansing fruits and vegetables too!). Pat dry, and lay it down on a sheet of paper towels or wax paper. Using a cutting board is an option, but not one that I favor, since you'll have to really scrub at it to get the bitter taste of the aloe leaf off after you're done. Starting at the base of the leaf, cut it crosswise to remove the bottom half-inch of the plant (the part that is thinner and not filled with clear gel). Adjust your knife, and cut lengthwise down the side of the leaf, just enough so that you remove the thorny bits. Next, cut crosswise to give yourself at least five one-inch-thick pieces of the aloe leaf. 

Once you have your slices, cut them lengthwise through the clear gel center, separating the pieces into two. The clear gel on the inside is quite slippery, so be careful! Now that you have 10 pieces, lay them skin-side down on the paper towels and make little notched cuts in the clear gel of each piece (I like to do at least 3). This allows more of the liquid from the gel to be released when  you rub the pieces on your skin. Start by rubbing the slices on your face, neck, and decolletage, making sure to get a thorough layer onto the skin. Continue down your body, alternating slices as they dry out. You can also re-notch pieces in the opposite direction to really get your money's worth from the leaf. Once your face and body have been covered in the gel (be sure not to get it into your eyes or mouth, raw aloe vera gel has an extremely bitter taste!), allow yourself to dry for at least 10 minutes before putting on clothing, sitting, or laying down. 

- Maria Vasylivna