How to Make Aloe Vera Gel

Making aloe vera gel at home is easy! (but also sticky and smelly, and you gotta be really careful how you store it once it’s made.)

I made my own aloe for the first time recently, and, boy, did I learn a lot. I’ve used the insides of my aloe’s leaves before for hair masks, face masks, and shaving gel, but that was always with other ingredients. This was the first time I set out to make good al’ aloe gel simply for the skin and scalp. We’re nearing the middle of summer here and my skin is getting parched and burnt (love that for me…), so aloe is my go to.

I had been a life guard for two years, and a swimmer for just about my whole life, so by no means have I ever been a stranger to sunburn. Over the years, I’ve tried just about every aloe gel you can find at the local drugstore and Ulta (and who are we kidding, Sephora is too expensive). I always find that the aloe from all of these places is sticky, stays sticky, and dries sticky. As someone who hates having lotion on cause I always thought that alone was too sticky, the drugstore aloe gel was just a no go. However, it was a no go that I had to go with because I had no other choice. I will say though, out of all the ones I’ve tried, I gotta give credit to Sun Bum for making an aloe gel and follow up lotion that actually soak in and don’t leave your skin feeling like a damp rubber band.

And while I do appreciate Sun Bum, it still contains ingredients I wasn’t too keen to keep around like polysorbate 20, triethanolamine, and phenoxyethanol. Seeing ingredients you can’t totally pronounce or that you don’t know what they are by their names is a concern, and a number of these ingredients can be drying to the skin (especially more sensitive skin). Plus I wanted to use aloe for more than just the burns on my shoulders. Particularly, I wanted to use it for my hair, and I couldn’t afford for my hair to end up drying out as a result of these ingredients. Out of fear, I have not tested this product on my hair, and have yet to find a review or post anywhere about using this product that way- if you try it let me know.

Enter aloe vera plant!

With all of this in mind, the aloe vera plant was the first plant I chose for my beginner garden. I didn’t go right for making my own aloe gel, but soon enough I was researching recipe after recipe to begin making my own.

Here’s what I did:

  • Start by cutting off a full grown aloe leaf at the base making sure to cut it as close to the plant as possible.
  • Take the leaf and set it upright in a cup to drain the sap.
    • Aloe leaves carry a yellow sap, also called aloe latex, inside them that does need to be drained out before you can move forward. Aloe latex smells like bad corn starch and can potentially be really bad for you when used on the skin or ingested.
  • Once the sap has been drained, you can begin cutting the leaf.
    • Start by cutting the sides off to remove the barbs on the edge of the leaf.
    • Then try and get the knife as close to the skin as you can and slice that off. This might be easier if you pre-cut the aloe leaf into smaller portions.
  • From there scoop out and scrape off all the pulp and sap you can from the leaf and put that in a blender.
  • Add one fourth part water to how ever much aloe you have. (1:4 ratio)
  • Blend until there are no large chunks of pulp left.
  • Stretch netting over your container and pour in the gel.
    • Panty hose or cheese cloth work
    • This strains out any remaining pulpy bits.
  • Voilà!

Here’s what I learned:

Yes, this method does work! You get a really great light aloe gel product that soaks into the skin easily and is safe for any part of your skin. HOWEVER, doing this alone will result in your aloe gel turning hot pink within three days or less.

I freaked out when I went to grab the jar from the closet and found what once was a nice clear liquid, hot pink. But, as I’ve learned, aloe gel naturally goes through an oxidization process once removed from the plant which can result in it turning the color of a fresh strawberry. Some people have even reported thinking that their aloe plants were bleeding due to the reddish innards.

Now, this doesn’t mean it became unusable, it just became less potent. It was on a fast track to becoming unusable and nasty though.

Here are the three best things you can do to make sure your aloe doesn’t turn this fast:

  • Use less of the leaf at a time.
    • Cut a chunk off the end of your aloe leaf and use that in your recipe. Then wrap up the remaining leaf and place it in the fridge to preserve it until you’re ready to make more.
  • Refrigerate the aloe gel once you’ve made it.
    • I left mine in the closet upstairs because I didn’t feel like running up and down the stairs every time I needed it, but that laziness came at a cost.
    • Better yet, freeze what you won’t be using immediately, and refrigerate what you want to have on hand.
  • Add citric acid to your recipe.
    • Now this one I wasn’t too willing to do, but it turns out to be the best way to preserve your homemade aloe gel and make it last.
    • All you need is citric acid powder, lemon juice, or an equivalent substitute. Just add a very small amount if you’re using the powder (like 1/8 of a teaspoon) or a few drops of lemon juice (like 1 teaspoon).

I hope you find this helpful, and that you don’t make the same mistakes I did. It’s never fun when you spend so much time trying to make something at home just to have it go sour.

Let me know: Has this recipe worked for you? What would you do differently? What’s your favorite way to preserve aloe vera gel?

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