That was the word my mother used to describe my skin the last time I saw her (last December, for a too-brief window of time just before Christmas. I miss you, mom!) I would never describe myself in such glowing terms, but she was right – I had nary a blemish, and my breakouts were mercifully brief and easily controlled. Then I decided to stop taking my regular birth control pill. There were myriad reasons; weight gain, general apathy, chronic forgetting… but much to my husband’s chagrin I abandoned all things Ortho. Within six months I was a total pizza face. I’m sure a doctor could try to convince me that the pill had nothing to do with my ridiculous breakouts, but I know the truth. My hormones were totally out-of-whack again. When Aunt Flo came a-visiting, she came with a renewed vengance, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since I was fifteen. Ugh.
And the kind of breakouts I was getting were closer to cystic acne – swollen mountains with no white head in sight. I’d try to pop them and they would hurt and leak clear fluid. Nice. At 27, these weren’t the kind of skin issues I expected to be wrangling. All of the topical formulas I tried weren’t helping. Then my Mom reminded me of the natural miracle that worked when I was a teenager – Aloe.
Caribbean people have been eating the stuff (and rubbing it on their skin) for years. Everyone knows about the external benefits of the aloe plant – it’s a popular cure for sunburns and other skin inflammations. But I think Western audiences are starting to catch on to what other cultures have known for a while – the pith of the plant has undeniable medical properties if ingested. (However, unlike the Japanese, I think the idea of aloe flavored food is Gross with a capital G). I was always told that eating aloe “purifies the blood,” or “cleans you out.” It is true that the plant is known as a purgative, and an immunity booster, but the wild claims that it can prevent cancer and blood disorders are as yet unsubstantiated. Plain and simple, I occasionally eat aloe because it has made a noticeable difference to my skin.
You don’t need to go to a health-food store to buy expensive aloe vera juice, either. Here’s how you do it. If you have an aloe plant (and you should, few plants are easier to grow or more useful around the house), make sure it’s the kind with solid green colored leaves and not with white specks. I have no idea why the dark green is the go-to aloe plant, all I know is what I’ve learned from generations of vain Trinidadian women. =)
Cut the leaf off near the base, and slice away the green exterior. Swallow a chunk of pith – you don’t need anything larger than an inch. I know, I know. Sounds gross, right? Actually yes – the pith of an aloe leaf is slimy and gross and bitter. That’s why the calypsonian Sugar Aloes gave himself the name – because he had a sweet voice and bitterly honest lyrics. When I was younger, my mom would cut it and feed it to me in a spoonful of condensed milk to mask the flavor.
Eating aloes plain is the equivalent of eating solidified mucus. For God’s sake, don’t chew it. Swallow it down with a big glass of juice or something.
Then rub the slimy side of the leaf all over your face. It dries to the same texture as an egg white, or peel-off mask. I wash it off after wearing it for about 20 minutes. After using aloe over the weekend, I was able to carefully pop my problem pimple, and I re-applied aloe to reduce scarring.
Wikipedia advises contacting your doctor before ingesting aloe – apparently high doses can cause vomiting. But like I said – don’t eat aloe every day, don’t eat alot of it at a time. All you need is a small sliver. For example, I’m currently taking a small spoonful of aloe every day for three days. Then I’ll take a break for a week. In terms of external use, some people use it every day, and I know for a fact that it’s helped to clear up my skin in the past. Hopefully it will do the same now that I’m dealing with adult acne. I’ll keep you posted!