This week in the Cocoa Beach area, we were blessed with near perfect waves for around here. Lots of people got out to enjoy the waves and the warm water, but the low tide was around midday which meant cooking a bit in the sun. I am very careful these days to wear a long sleeved rashguard and put on sunscreen, but I have to admit, I stayed out just a bit too long (just one more wave…..) and I did get a little red on my face. I can go to the store and pick up some green dyed ooze aloe vera gel, but seeing that I’ve got a bazillon aloe vera plants growing like weeds in the backyard- like most Floridians- I wanted to make up some gel “au naturel” without shelling out cash for the organic stuff.
Aloe vera grows pretty easily in the deep Southeastern United States. It’s a succulent plant, which essentially means it holds extra stores of water and can go for longer dry spells, much like a cactus.
|Aloe Vera growing in a pot in my backyard|
Since Florida can be considered sub-tropical the more south you go, Aloe vera grows easily, but I give mine a bit more shade and protection from the sun, and grow it in a clay pot, which seems to help the plant thrive the best.
If you want to start your own plant, just get a small clay pot, some decent soil, and find a nice neighbor to give you a pup from their mother Aloe plant. Chances are, they’ll be more than happy to thin out the Aloe since it tends to overtake a pot pretty fast.
|A pup from an Aloe Vera plant|
Just take the pup, plant it deep enough to cover the roots and the base of the plant, pack the soil down around it, water it in, and watch it grow like a good Chia Pet.
For my gel, I took some of the most outer leaves from a mother plant. They are the largest, and contain the most gel.
|Outer leaves from the Aloe plant|
I brought them inside and washed them off, just like any other fruit or vegetable from the store. Next, I put them on a cutting board to get ready to filet the leaves.
|Leaves ready to be stripped for the gel inside|
You may notice the leaves already oozing gel. Lots of people use the Aloe straight from the leaf, putting it on the sunburn directly. While that works well, I’m going to make an emulsion that spreads and moisturizes a bit better.
Next, I’m going to take a sharp knife (be careful!) and gently remove the outer thin green skin so just the clear Aloe gel remains. The stuff in the store is usually dyed green, but natural Aloe is clear and transparent.
|The Aloe skinned (almost invisible!)|
Toss the skin and finely chop up the gel as small as you can. From this batch, I got around 2 ounces:
Next, to make the Aloe a bit easier to spread, I’m going to add in an equal part of pure glycerin, which you can find at most drugstores for around $5 or less.
|Adding glycerin to the Aloe|
The glycerin just makes the gel a little less viscous, adds some moisture, and clings the aloe to the skin better. Give the two a good mixing, trying to mash the aloe up into the mixture as much as possible.
After that, I just pour the mixture into an airtight container and pop it into the fridge. Since this stuff doesn’t have any preservatives, it should be used within several days.
It doesn’t look like a whole lot, but you don’t need much gel for it to help, just a thin layer over your skin is plenty- after that, you’re just wasting it.
Take THAT Banana Boat!