The best ways to use aloe vera for great skin, hair and health

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There’s a lot of hype surrounding aloe vera, and it’s well-deserved. The plant finds itself starring in many beauty products, but that’s not where it’s versatility ends. While it wildly thrives in tropical climates around the world, it is commercially cultivated in the dry regions of Africa, Asia, Europe and America. In India, the best variety of aloe vera comes from Rajasthan, where this succulent plant can grow to its peak potential owing to its ability to thrive in arid regions. Here’s a holistic guide to tapping into aloe vera’s complete potential.

Aloe vera for your hair
Pure aloe vera gel is a potent antidote to hair fall and thinning. It contains certain proteolytic enzymes that repair the damaged cells on the scalp. These enzymes also stimulate dormant hair follicles, promoting hair growth. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties soothe itching and flaking. Aloe vera gel on its own has been found effective in reducing dandruff. Mix a few drops of tea tree or neem oil in pure aloe vera gel and apply this mask to the hair 30 minutes before the wash. If you find making your own cumbersome at home, try herbal shampoos, conditioners and masks that use aloe as their hero ingredient. “Hydrating and soothing, it works for all hair and skin types,” states Jhelum Bose, founder of Jhelum Loves, a bach flower and aroma remedies-based beauty brand.

Aloe vera for your skin
Aloe vera works like a dream on sunburnt, dehydrated and acne-prone skin. “Studies have shown that it contains about 75 constituents such as vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, salicylic acids and amino acids all of which play a role in skin’s health,” explains Dr Neena Chopra, co-founder and director beauty and technical, Just Herbs. “Human skin is held together by a mesh matrix of collagen and elastin—the main structural proteins that keep skin elastic and resilient. Aloe vera is known to slow down the enzymes responsible for breaking down this matrix, thus keeping skin supple, elastic and healthy for a longer time.”

But while we are all for going green, a word of caution: be cautious of rubbing a steam out of the potted aloe vera on your sunburns. “Aloe Vera has anthraquinones in the latex-like material in the outer part of the leaf which is known to cause allergic reactions so if you must use aloe vera straight from the plant, it is best to apply it to a small area first to test for a possible allergic reaction,” advises Chopra.

Aloe vera for your health
Why would you include this slightly-sour, majorly insipid-tasting green juice in your diet? Because it’s a beauty elixir. Rich in antioxidants, it heals and protects the cells against the free radicals in the environment, helping the body to retain its youthful appearance. Drinking it on an empty stomach, early in the morning boosts metabolism, eventually leading to weight loss. Have it religiously for two weeks to notice a visible difference in the tone and texture of the skin and on the sides of your waist.

Aloe vera can be consumed raw, straight from the plant. The trick, however, lies in extracting it right from the stem. “The outer green layer, which has slight thorns all along, has to be peeled or chopped off,” says Shrutti Agrawal, genetic health counsellor. “The gel inside can be had raw by a spoon. But, because of its viscosity, many find it easier to churn the aloe gel with some water and consume it as a juice.” Food blogger and chef Ruchira Hoon advises that it can be also be blended with milk or yogurt for a healthy smoothie, but you should use a small quantity as more might make the whole preparation bitter.