It’s commonly recognized as a bit of eye-catching greenery, but its benefits run deeper than its decorative appeal: Aloe vera, or “true aloe,” as the name translates, is a wellspring of nutrients. One of hundreds of aloe species in the lily family, this succulent’s thick, pointed leaves protect a middle layer of bitter yellow latex (harvested primarily for use as a laxative) and, beneath that, a fleshy gel that boasts amino acids, lipids, sterols, and a veritable alphabet of vitamins and minerals. According to the National Library of Medicine, some of these elements appear to kill bacteria and increase circulation in the blood vessels in the skin; more research is necessary to say for certain, but current findings suggest that aloe gel may help speed the body’s healing process.
Additional scientific analysis might be required to determine its efficacy, but that hasn’t stopped businesses from mining aloe vera’s inner riches for everything from pharmaceuticals and burn-care remedies to makeup and dietary supplements. Aruba Aloe, one of the only companies in the world to grow and harvest its own plants, was an early pioneer in the field of aloe-based cosmetic goods. Its first crops were planted in 1890, and today the company manufactures 70-plus skin-, sun-, and haircare products, with new formulas in development every year. “Aloe vera thrives in very hot and dry climates on a variety of soils, as long as the soil is not continuously moist—hence its successful growth in Aruba,” says creative director Zena Neme.
The island’s optimal conditions prompted the landscaping team at the Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort Spa and Casino (Palm Beach) to plant a small aloe garden so that the hotel’s ZoiA Spa would always have the skin-saver on-hand. “Aloe is a core component in our wellness approach, so we are developing a plan that permits us to use our own resources,” says spa manager Ady Toro, who hopes to incorporate home-grown aloe into the treatment menu by the end of the year. In the meantime, the Aloe Devotion Facial ($145, 60 minutes) uses locally reaped aloe gel in combination with algae, lavender oil, and other active botanicals to repair, calm, and nourish the skin. “Aloe is great for soothing relief, making it the perfect ingredient to treat sun-damaged skin,” says Toro. Boldijarre Koronczay, president of Éminence Organic Skin Care, agrees. “Aloe’s superior healing qualities—its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial action, as well as its ability to promote cell growth—make it ideal for after-sun care,” he says.
Given its widespread reputation as a sunburn curative, aloe vera is unsurprisingly integral to spa menus in many warm-weather locations. “Aloe-based products are very popular with our clients in sunny destinations year-round and during the summer in other areas,” says Koronczay. As part of The Modern Facial ($190, 80 minutes) at The Spa at the Modern Honolulu, Éminence’s Aloe Mint Hydrating Cream Gel revives overexposed skin. “Being in Hawaii, guests love enjoying the sunshine and hanging out at our pool, but they tend to forget how strong the sun is here,” says spa manager Makiko Braxton. “Even though they apply sunscreen, it is very easy to get too much exposure. This facial helps to calm, soothe, and cool the skin instantly while preventing it from dehydrating and peeling—no one wants that during vacation.” Back on the mainland at the Spa Desert Springs at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort (Palm Desert, CA), the Healing Aloe Wrap ($75, 30 minutes; $135, 60 minutes) has been a client favorite for more than 25 years. “Due to our warm, dry desert conditions, we sell 50 to 60 of these hydrating treatments per month and more in the summertime,” says spa director Dawn Ferraro. “It’s perfect for after sun.”
No one-trick pony, the plant’s palliative properties alleviate discomfort from myriad other complaints, as well. “Aloe naturally provides relief for common issues such as cuts, scrapes, and abrasions, minor burns, insect bites, eczema, and psoriasis,” says Mark Smith, director of sales and marketing for Zim’s, whose pharmacist went with “old-school trusted ingredients” when concocting the brand’s Advanced Crack Creme with Hydrocortisone, which also features aloe and arnica. Aloe is even purported to promote hair growth and treat thinning hair, according to global beauty and nutricosmetics expert Paula Simpson. “The antibacterial, pro-circulatory, and anti-inflammatory properties of aloe are key factors in encouraging a healthy scalp and hair,” she says. “And it has also been clinically shown to effectively treat dermatitis and dandruff.” It’s used to that end at the Radisson Aruba Resort’s Larimar Spa, where an aloe-and-aromatherapy scalp rub caps off the signature Aloe Vera and Rum Massage ($185, 80 minutes).
Aloe vera dovetails nicely with any number of traditional treatments, thanks to its inherent healing and strengthening qualities. Ciaté chose the plant for its pedicure-worthy Coconut & Kukui Foot Oil for just those characteristics, says founder and CEO Charlotte Knight. “Aloe contains antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamins C and E, which improve the skin’s firmness, and it slows down inflammation and eases swollen joints,” says Knight. At The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, Amala’s aloe-based Rejuvenate products are used for their calming, cooling results in the Advanced Firming Facial ($165, 60 minutes), an anti-aging procedure that includes aroma-point stimulation to strengthen and brighten the skin, a scalp massage to target energy points, and an application of a firming complex to restore a youthful look to the skin. “Aloe deeply moisturizes the skin, stimulates healthy cell renewal, and aids in the healing process, especially for sensitive skin,” says says Amala founder Ute Leube. It also plays well with others at AJ’s Millennium Spa (Beachwood, OH), where master esthetician Zeinab Othman relies on the aloe-laced Refining Treatment Cleanser from Vertere Skin Care for multiple facials, from the Express Facial ($50, 15 minutes) to more elaborate affairs involving fruit-acid enzymes, oxygen, or caviar. “Aloe has wonderful anti-irritant properties,” says Bethany Hilt, Vertere’s founder, president, and CEO. “It’s also a great water-binding agent and an antioxidant with more than 200 nutritional substances.”
From simple to more complex treatments, the quintessential cure for a sunshine overdose adds a universally soothing, healing note to any spa menu. The early Egyptians called it the plant of immortality; modern-day spa-goers might simply describe it as a multitasking miracle-worker. But any way you slice it, aloe vera is a timeless classic.—Maya Stanton
Help clients soothe their sun or wind-burned skin with these aloe-based products.
Amala Rejuvenate Advanced Firming Complex: Formulated with aloe leaf juice, cocoa seed butter, and sweet almond oil, this cream helps to restore facial contours and smooth the appearance of fine lines. www.amalabeauty.com
Ciaté London Coconut & Kukui Foot Oil: Formulated with aloe vera and kukui oil, this treatment derived from a unique Hawaiian nut helps soothe and moisturize dry legs. www.ciatelondon.com
Clean + Easy Citrus Aloe Vera Paraffin Wax: Combining aloe vera extract and citrus oils, this hydrating paraffin helps moisturize the skin. www.cleanandeasyspa.com
Clean + Easy Soothe Aloe Vera Gel: Infused with allantoin and aloe vera, this gel helps cool, soothe, and reduce irritation and redness for immediate, calming relief. www.cleanandeasyspa.com
Dermalogica After Sun Repair: This cooling treatment balm contains aloe leaf juice and cucumber extract to help calm skin and reduce irritation induced by sunburn while minimizing redness. www.dermalogica.com
Éminence Organic Skin Care Face Aloe Mint Hydrating Cream Gel: Formulated with aloe vera juice and peppermint, this healing and calming gel helps reduce irritation and inflammation without clogging pores. www.eminenceorganics.com
FarmHouse Fresh Spotted Leaving Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum: Ideal for all skin types, this serum helps diminish age spots and pigmentation with aloe leaf juice, gotu kola, grapefruit flower extract, oat beta glucan, and vitamins A, B, and E. www.farmhousefreshgoods.com
GiGi Peach Paraffin Wax: Containing a blend of aloe vera and peach oil, this paraffin wax helps condition and moisturize dry, rough skin. www.gigispa.com
Ilike Organic Skin Care Stonecrop Toner: This gentle toning mist helps soothe, hydrate, and refresh skin while balancing natural pH levels with aloe vera, stonecrop extract, and vitamin C. www.szepelet.com
Innovative Skincare Coolmint Revitalizing Masque: Designed to reinvigorate and provide hydration, this treatment features aloe vera, green tea, and rosemary extracts for luminous skin. www.innovativeskincare.com
Jane Iredale—The Skin Care Makeup Just Kissed Lip Plumper: Combining aloe vera and ginger root, this tinted lip plumper helps stimulate blood circulation to make lips naturally fuller while increasing hydration and stimulating collagen synthesis. www.janeiredale.com
Jurlique Lavender Hand Cream: Formulated with aloe leaf extract, calendula, chamomile, and marshmallow, this protective hand cream helps moisturize and restore skin smoothness. www.jurlique.com
Luzern Laboratories Serum Absolut Radiance: Created as an alternative to hydroquinone, this aloe vera-based blend of Swiss organic extracts and vitamin C helps brighten skintone and even out discoloration. www.luzernlabs.com
Naturopathica Aloe Replenishing Gel Mask: This soothing gel mask helps calm skin and reduce redness with aloe vera while hyaluronic acid and prickly pear cactus hydrate. www.naturopathica.com
Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare Soothing Gel Herbal Mask Treatment: Featuring a blend of aloe vera and green tea, this herbal mask relieves inflamed and irritated skin. www.osmosisskincare.com
Pura Sunless by Heartland Tanning Pura Towelette: This skin cloth helps prepare the skin for a sunless solution for longer lasting color with a blend of aloe vera and witch hazel. www.purasunless.com
Repêchage Hydra Soleil Deep Relief Tea Gel: This lightweight cooling gel helps nourish and hydrate sun-exposed skin with aloe vera, cucumber, green tea extract, and seaweed. www.repechage.com
Sothys Paris Men Softening Shaving Foam: Featuring a blend of aloe vera and volcanic rock, this soothing foam helps repair and calm razor burn, leaving skin feeling smooth and less irritated. www.sothys-usa.com
Woody’s Quality Grooming for Men After Shave Tonic: This post-shave toner features a combination of aloe vera and vitamin E to moisturize and repair, calendula and chamomile to revitalize and refresh, and monoi oil to soothe. www.woodysgrooming.com—Jessica Morrobel