Aloe Season Is Here!
Earlier this week, we got our first order of the season for aloe vera sun gel. Since Toronto temperatures have been fickle at best and the sun is still in hiding most days, I have to admit I was surprised when that first brave Ontario soul raised their hand to ask for after-sun care. Smart person, as we usually sell out of our awesome, cooling natural aloe gel by midsummer!
Of course, you can't make real aloe gel without the aloe. On our last family vacation to Cuba a few years back, I was stunned to see enormous aloe plants growing freely everywhere, lining the path between the resort grounds and the beach with long, pointy stalks reaching a couple of feet high. My grandmother always kept at least one big aloe plant in the house and would break off a piece any time she got a cut or scratch in the garden, to treat kitchen burns, and even cracked winter skin. I thought the juice had an unpleasantly sweaty smell, but marveled at the slickness of the sap that oozed straight from the plant and soothed my papercuts and skinned knees.
From ancient healing to the modern drugstore
Aloe has been used since pre-Biblical times by cultures across the world to treat a wide range of medical complaints. Believed to have originated in Sudan and later introduced to the Mediterranean, the plant Aloe barbadensis has been used in traditional Indian medicine to treat constipation, skin diseases and infections; in Chinese medicine for fungal conditions; in ancient Greece for wounds, ulcers and hemorrhoids; and finally in the US as an established skin protectant and purgative. You can eat, drink and apply aloe to every part of the body. Today in the West, aloe is big business - $110 billion USD worth of cosmetic products such as shampoos, moisturizers, sun lotions, creams and ointments containing aloe were sold in 2004. You can read more about how aloe works, the medical conditions it's used for, and the clinical research that has been done on aloe vera's properties here.
Commercial producers of body care and food products obviously believe in the value of aloe. But are drugstore aloe vera products actually any good?
A 2016 Bloomberg report referenced in Harper's suggests astonishing findings: many commercially sold aloe vera products do not contain any aloe at all! As with many mass-produced bath and body care products that advertise natural ingredients on the label, I expected these products to contain only small amounts of costly natural aloe... but none at all, even in skincare that lists aloe in the top five ingredients? When Bloomberg tested several aloe vera products sold at major US drugstore chains, they found that "None of the products tested contained the compound acemannan, which is responsible for aloe vera's healing, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties. Without the presence of acemannan, it's safe to assume the products are next to useless; a mix of nothing more than cooling water and alcohol." (The claims were refuted by the brands, who cited unreliable methods for detecting aloe levels in highly processed cosmetic products). Yikes.
Once again, greenwashing was apparent as a ploy to sell products to eco-conscious consumers and people with sensitive skin who favour more natural products. But at the end of the day, when you've gotten too much sun at the beach, does it really matter what you slather on, as long as it cools you off? We think it does. Aloe vera is a powerful plant-based medicine that's great for soothing the skin. It relieves the pain and redness of sunburn by reducing inflammation. It also stimulates collagen production, which helps in healing minor skin conditions and irritations like burns and rashes. It moisturizes the skin, eases pain and prevents infection with naturally occurring salicylic acid, and contains Vitamins A, C and E, which are known antioxidants (substances that reduce free radical damage to the skin). Why deprive your thirsty skin of these real deal aloe vera benefits just to save a buck or two?
Try our amazing aloe vera after-sun gel instead! It doesn't just contain aloe, it IS aloe - pure aloe vera gel and juice - with added coconut oil for moisture and a cooling lavender-peppermint essential oil boost. Get it now before it sells out! Here's to our favourite season: sun, sun, and more sun.