3 things you DON’T want in your aloe vera gel

Carlos Chavez/
Carlos Chavez/

Aloe vera gel makes a great lightweight moisturizing foundation, healing ointment and sunburn sting reliever. However, not all aloe vera is created equal. Some drugstore products are marketed as “100% gel” but a lot of other shady ingredients can still lurk on the inside and back of the bottle.

Some don’t even try for the 100% claim.

Here’s the ingredient list for Banana Boat Soothing Aloe After Sun Gel: Water, SD Alcohol 40, Glycerin, Polysorbate 20, Carbomer, Triethanolamine, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Fragrance, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Benzophenone-4, Yellow 5, Blue 1.

Aloe’s kind of low on that list, huh?

Currently, I use plain Fruit of the Earth gel, which I thought was a great, as-natural-as-it-gets-from-a-bottle 100% aloe gel. After my research for this post, I’ve changed my mind.

Read along to see how you aloe matches up!

You might want to can your aloe vera gel if it contains…

SD Alcohol (#): Specially Denatured Alcohol is ethyl alcohol (the kind you can drink) which has been “denatured” so it’s toxic if ingested. Why? So no one uses the cosmetics its in to make home brew vodka (yuck). Like isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol, SD alcohol is drying. Drying is the opposite of what you want to when moisturizing.

Dyes and colors: Coloring your clear-by-nature aloe serves no purpose. If used on your face, the common blue and green varieties can glop unwanted tones onto your skin. Some people are allergic to these dyes and can break out in rashes or other allergic reaction. (The linked article also appeared in Prevention but is hidden behind a sign-up wall.)

Triethanolamine: In sensitive individuals, redness and burning can occur by using products containing this emulsifying ingredient. It’s also not great for  you in the long term. The aloe gel I currently use contains this ingredient, and on occasion my face will get hot and the skin near my eyes will have a burning sensation. Now I know why. Byeeee!

BONUS – pet peeve

Polysorbates: I haven’t found anything to corroborate this online, but in my experience, gels which contain a polysorbate (20, 60, 80, etc.) make my skin tight, shiny and sticky. That’s not natural-looking at all! Until I can find some science to back this claim, it’s just a pet peeve.

Let’s face it, it’s super difficult to find an aloe on the drug store shelf that is dye-free, contains no added pain killers, and is low on stabilizers and preservatives. I know, I’ve tried. I’m heartbroken my go-to aloe isn’t up to snuff, either.

But there is a solution.

Sergio Roberto Bichara/
Sergio Roberto Bichara/

The beautiful little aloe plant (Aloe Barbadensis) itself is the best investment you can make in your beauty routine if you choose to use aloe vera! Take good care of this low-maintenance house plant and it will give you bottles and bottles worth of aloe gel, 100% pure and free of any preservatives!

Snip a leaf off this succulent and pry it open, inside the green skin you’ll see a slimy yellow-ish membrane. Forget that, it’ll leave you sticky. Instead, go for the clear gel in the center of the stalk. Apply to you face as usual. Bottle your extra temporarily to use throughout the week, but snip new leaves as needed so you always have the freshest product.

Problem solved!

Have you found a pure aloe gel free of these nasties? Tell us!

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