“Mommy, I need some aloe!”
I hear this at least once a week and it makes me much happier than hearing, “Mommy, I need a band aid!” The girls have realized that aloe is my solution for almost every owie, and our aloe plants get regular use. Especially in the summer, when bug bites and sunburns are common!
Here are a few common skin problems I treat with aloe.
Heat burn: this is actually how I first got an aloe plant. I’d burned my finger on a pot just before going to visit friends and while there, because my finger was still hurting, I asked for an ice cube. They gave me that plus an aloe leaf to hold against my burn and when I left, they gave me the whole plant. Now, when I get a burn, I alternate holding an ice cube against it until its achingly cold, then holding the inside of an aloe leaf against it until it begins to burn again, and back to ice. I’ve had several burns heal quickly without scars this way.
Sunburn: whenever I noticed red skin after a day spent in the sun, I apply aloe. It often causes the sunburn to disappear overnight and leaves skin feeling smooth and refreshed. This summer, I gave myself a really bad sunburn that took a couple days to heal, but I put aloe on it every night and avoided that icky burnt feeling that a sunburn usually leaves. Aloe is also cool, gentle and refreshing against tender, burnt skin.
Chemical burn: last summer, I had the chance to try out some new Veet products. Unfortunately, the facial products didn’t agree with my skin. After staring at my red face in the mirror and reading some horror stories about Veet burns online, I turned to my aloe plant. In an hour, the redness was gone; by the next morning, the dry, burnt feeling had left too.
Bug bites and Rashes
Here on the west coast, we see fewer mosquitoes than in Alberta, but the girls still get the occasional bug bite. Telling them not to scratch never works, of course. Aloe lessens the itch within a few minutes and also helps the bug bite to heal more quickly.
I’ve also used aloe to treat diaper rash and other mysterious skin problems that the girls get. For a while, Jade had dry, patchy skin on her arms and legs and would often scratch them until they started bleeding. I never figured out a cause (allergy testing came back normal) other than the fact that she has dry, sensitive skin. Aloe helped the rashes go away and now I use lotion regularly on her skin.
Scrapes and Cuts
With a toddler in the house, it seems like we’re always dealing with skinned knees. Jade hasn’t had any nasty falls lately, but her tears over a minor scrape usually disappear when I say, “We’ll put some aloe on it.” If the cut or scrape is bleeding, I’ll use a band aid to stop the bleeding and apply aloe once a scab has formed.
How to apply aloe
Pick a large, fat leaf on your aloe plant and cut it off with a knife or scissors. Then split the leaf open, either with a knife or with your fingernail. Slide the cool, juicy inside of the leaf against the burn, bite, or cut. The aloe gel will dry within a few minutes; there’s no need to rub until its gone, like a lotion.
For smaller cuts or owies, I’ll cut just the tip of a leaf off and then squeeze the gel out onto the skin. Again, it can be rubbed in or it can just be left to dry on its own. Sometimes, the gel will leave a slight green tinge to the skin that can be washed off later, but usually it is clear and leaves no trace.
Aloe is especially gentle on skin that is sensitive to touch because of burns or bites.
Caring for your aloe plant
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a green thumb, but none of my aloe plants have died. I’ve had an aloe plant in the house since Sunshine was a baby and our friends gave me that first plant. Right now, I actually have three plants; I split one plant into two pots and was going to give away the smaller plant, but then we had a lot of sunburns and bug bites so I was glad to have all the plants.
Aloe plants don’t like direct sun, so I’ve often kept ours in the bathroom (making it easy to use for first aid!). They do like regular watering but last quite a while without water if necessary. And they will fill the pot and reproduce, so when they seem to be overflowing the pot, carefully repot them and put each plant in a separate pot to keep growing.
If you don’t have an aloe plant…
If you don’t have an aloe plant, there are other aloe products available. Two that I’ve tried and would recommend include Jason Soothing Aloe Vera 98% Gel and Nature’s Aid All Natural Skin Gel. Jason Gel is completely natural and almost completely aloe; it’s clear and soaks into skin quickly and easily, like a lotion. Nature’s Aid Gel includes Vitamin E, witch hazel, rosemary, and tea tree oil (but is not recommended for kids under 3). Vitamin E is also great for skin and tea tree oil is another of my favourite natural remedies.
Mrs. Happy Homemaker suggests freezing aloe gel into cubes for kids to rub on sunburns. I’m going to have to try that, because it sounds like a great way to soothe burnt skin with both ice and aloe!