If spa treatments were romantic comedies, aloe vera would be the girl next door. She’s a natural beauty, wholesome and content to let some of the flashier flowers and fruits take top billing as the new “it” ingredients. Although unassuming, aloe vera, also called aloe barbadensis or simply aloe, has qualities that do wonders for the skin. The plant is often called “the beautician” because of its beauty benefits, “the family doctor” and “the century plant” because it promotes long life and good health, and even the “plant of life.”
“When people think of aloe, they think pure, organic, soothing, calming, healthy, and beautiful,” says Lisamarie Jaconi, esthetics educator for Naturopathica. “It’s important that ingredients used in spa treatments and products evoke feelings of harmony and balance, one of the many reasons why clients visit spas. Aloe contains a message of healing.”
The succulent plant, grown in subtropical and tropical locations, has been used for thousands of years to heal a variety of conditions, especially burns, wounds, and skin irritations. Aloe was one of the most frequently prescribed medicines throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries and remains one of the most commonly used herbs in the U.S. today, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It’s available commercially in ointments, creams, and lotions, and aloe gel is included in everything from high-end cosmetics to drugstore brand after-sun lotions.
Although it has been widely cultivated for its healing and medicinal properties, the process by which aloe vera is harvested is extremely important, says Jaconi. The gel of the aloe plant, when exposed to oxygen for four hours or longer, oxidizes, rendering it worthless. After harvesting, it must be stabilized through a cold-temperature process to retain its nutrients.
Aloe is made up of 99 percent water, however, aloe gel also contains glycoproteins and polysaccharides. Glycoproteins speed the healing process by minimizing pain and inflammation, while polysaccharides stimulate skin growth and repair. Vitamins C and E in aloe gel improve the strength of the skin tissues and pack a powerful, hydrating punch to dehydrated or aging skin. Aloe is also effective on oily and acne-prone skin. It’s antimicrobial, destroying the bacteria that cause acne, while its anti-inflammatory properties reduce redness and help skin heal quickly.
Naturopathica sources its aloe from an aloe barbadensis farm in Texas, says Jaconi, and most Naturopathica treatments incorporate aloe. The company’s Naturopathica Holistic Health Spa (East Hampton, NY) uses aloe as the base in its glycolic peels, like those used in the Phytoactive Facial ($160, 60 minutes). “Aloe vera helps protect the cell membrane from damage while also acting as a penetration enhancer to allow the AHA to penetrate deeply into the skin,” says Jaconi, adding that the key to the plant’s greatness is its versatility. “Aloe vera can and will address all skin conditions.”
The plant is, in a word, revitalizing, which makes it the perfect ingredient in the Jurlique Revitalizing Facial ($115, 60 minutes), offered at Coral Spa at Trilogy (La Quinta, CA). “Aloe leaf juice works in conjunction with the papaya and pineapple enzymes in the Resurfacing Enzyme Peel,” says Lisa Polley, director of education and business development at Jurlique. “The enzymes dissolve keratin protein while the aloe juice helps soothe and soften the skin, preparing it for extractions.” Jurlique incorporates aloe vera extract in more than 20 of its products. “Aloe is cooling, hydrating, and provides a comforting slip to the skin when used alone or in serums, creams, and moisturizing gels,” says Polley.
Because of its active compounds, aloe vera is commonly used to treat minor burns. Spas can promote after-sun treatments with aloe in the summer or year-round in tropical locations. “Aruba is a sunny island all year, so it is inevitable for guests to get a bit of a sunburn from time to time and look for a way to soothe and moisturize,” says Karin Cofino, spa director of Hyatt Regency Aruba’s newly renovated ZoiA Spa. While ZoiA incorporates locally grown aloe into the majority of its treatments, two of its most popular are the Aruban Sun Rescue ($130, 60 minutes), which is a healing, hydrating aloe body wrap or facial, and the Aloe Recovery Wrap ($145, 60 minutes; $215, 90 minutes). “Aloe vera is an additional cooling agent that not only helps soothe the skin but also works as a moisturizer,” says Cofino.
The Beaufort Day Spa (SC) pairs aloe with dilo nut oil in its Pure Fiji Dilo Skin Rescue Wrap ($85, 45 minutes), a body wrap specially suited for guests with sunburns, skin irritations, or dull, dry skin. “We use dilo oil with our aloe as it intensifies healing,” says Suzie Sommer, vice president of marketing at Pure Fiji. “It also offers a glide and leaves skin soft and smooth.”
Aloe’s cooling nature also makes it the perfect addition to a waxing treatment. Plus, its refreshing scent isn’t overly sweet or floral, which makes it well suited for men’s skincare treatments. Highlight aloe’s anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties, and market it as a featured ingredient in a men’s massage.
While negative effects or allergic reactions to aloe vera are rare, aloe is a member of the same family of plants containing onions, garlic, and lilies. People who are allergic to these, or cacti and other plants in the cacti family, could potentially be allergic to aloe vera. Most spa guests, however, will welcome aloe’s healing gel. Whether looking for a soothing treatment after the hot summer sun, the windy winter slopes, or anything in between, let the “family doctor” work its magic on your clients.
Help clients revitalize their skin with these aloe-based products.
Amber Products Calming Gel: This gel is infused with aloe, arnica, chamomile, lemongrass, rosehips, and sage to soothe irritated skin while effectively acting as an anti-inflammatory. www.amberproducts.com
Aveda Stress-Fix Body Lotion: Providing all day moisture, this lotion contains a blend of aloe, shea butter, and sunflower oil. www.aveda.com
Bioelements Calmitude Delicate Skin Eye Gel: Enriched with aloe, green tea, licorice root, soybean and rice peptides, white tea, and moisture-binding hyaluronic acid, this gel smoothes the sensitive eye area and increases firmness while reducing puffiness and dark circles. www.bioelements.com
Christina Cosmeceuticals Unstress Absolute Relaxer: This formula helps to smooth skin’s texture and minimize the appearance of wrinkles with a combination of algae, aloe vera, hyaluronic acid, and wheat germ oil. www.christina-usa.com
COOLA Sport Piña Colada Sunscreen Spray: Combining algae, aloe, cucumber, omegas 3 and 6, red raspberry seed oil, and strawberry extracts, this sunscreen offers broad-spectrum SPF 35 protection while nourishing and repairing the skin. www.coolasuncare.com
Éminence Organic Skin Care Aloe Mint Hydrating Cream Gel: This face gel is made with aloe and mint to calm and soothe sun-exposed skin while reducing skin irritation and inflammation. www.eminenceorganics.com
Feedmyskin Aloe Pushup: Designed for storage in the freezer, this cleanser and deodorizer is rich in aloe vera and coffee to promote circulation and refresh the skin. www.feedmyskin.com
Germaine de Capuccini Essence of the Mediterranean Body Wrap: This wrap deeply nourishes and regenerates the skin. It contains aloe vera, aromatic mint water, and natural oils from cypress, grapeseeds, lemons, and olives. North and Central: www.acispa.com; West and South: www.germainesouth.com
GlyMed Plus Serious Action Sal-X Purifying Cleanser: Made with a specialized blend of aloe vera, green tea, salicylic acid, and other rejuvenating ingredients, this cleanser treats acne-prone and aging skin. www.glymedplus.com
G.M. Collin Oxygen Puractive+ Mask: Combining aloe and white clay, this mask detoxifies and soothes the skin while controlling bacteria and balancing excess sebum. www.gmcollin.com
Guinot Paris Red Logic Face Cream: This cream is made with aloe vera, arnica extract, and calendula to reduce and soothe redness of the skin caused by rosacea, broken capillaries, and waxing. www.guinotusa.com
Ilike Organic Skin Care Wrinkle Smoothing Serum: This serum features a mix of aloe, calendula, wild pansy, and woodbine leaf to deeply penetrate the skin to smooth out wrinkles and increase elasticity. www.szepelet.com
Mama Mio Clean Slate High Protein Aloe-rich Cleanser: Formulated with aloe vera leaf juice and omegas 3, 6, and 9, this cleansing gel removes makeup and impurities without over-drying or unbalancing skin. www.mamamio.com
Naturopathica Aloe Replenishment Gel: Ideal for calming rosacea, eczema, sunburn, and other skin conditions, this aloe vera gel repairs, rejuvenates, and nourishes the skin. www.naturopathica.com
Organic Male OM4 Soothing Herbal Shaving Emulsion: Made with aloe, cactus, comfrey, lavender, peppermint, and other natural ingredients, this protective and soothing lotion calms razor burn and heals skin irritation. www.om4men.com
Osmosis Pür Medical Skincare Catalyst Plus+: This aloe-based gel promotes wound healing, lightens hyperpigmentation, reduces visible capillaries, and stimulates collagen and elastin production. www.osmosisskincare.com
Pevonia Balancing Combination Skin Cream: Perfect for combination skin, this balancing cream is made with aloe, arnica, cucumber, and tocopherol to control oily skin and refine visible pores, especially in the t-zone. www.pevoniapro.com
Prima Fleur Aloe & Cucumber Face Balm: This moisturizer is blended with aloe leaf juice, cucumber, kendi oil, and other natural ingredients to soften, smooth, heal, and hydrate the skin. www.primafleur.com
Refineé Age-Reversing Skin Care Daily Defense Cream SPF 30: This soothing cream utilizes aloe vera and vitamin E to nourish and moisturize the skin while providing powerful full-spectrum UVA/UVB protection.
Rhonda Allison Arnica Therapy: Ideal for use post-procedure, this therapeutic creamy balm is made with aloe, arnica, and Montana flower to cool and soothe skin, reduce inflammation, speed healing, and decrease pain. www.rhondaallison.com
Sesha Skin Therapy Active Hydra Lotion: This lotion combines alpha-lipoic acid, aloe vera, and green tea extract to optimize moisture retention and restore skin’s healthy glow. www.seshaskin.com
Shira Esthetics Boto-Derm Rx Soothing & Toning Mist: Made with aloe vera leaf juice, azulene, and chamomile extract, this toning mist soothes the skin, reduces redness, and helps to maintain optimal pH balance. www.shiraesthetics.com
Sothys Paris Softening Cleanser: This cleanser gently washes away impurities while the key ingredient, aloe vera extract, hydrates, protects, and regenerates the skin. www.sothys-usa.com
TARA Sun Therapy Recovery Gel: Formulated with aloe vera, lavender, and tea tree essential oil, this gel calms and heals sunburned, irritated, and dry skin. www.taraspa.com
Wilma Schumann Soothing Serum: Ideal for dry, irritated, or sensitive skin, this serum contains butcher’s broom, calendula, centella asiatica, flavonoids, and saponines to hydrate and soothe skin. www.wilmaschumann.com