Let me break it down for you. Every pay-day, I set off on a beauty shopping trip to find my next skincare obsession. Having learned that not all that glitters is gold, I tend to stick to one simple rule: you don’t need to splurge on a beauty product in order for it to work. I’ve always maintained this mentality, and it was no different when I came across a green leaf-shaped bottle of Korean Aloe Gel. For $10? Sold.

The second I saw it, memories came flooding in: that of my burn-prone six-year-old self trying to touch every boiling pot, and that of my grandmother cutting a piece of aloe vera from her garden to bring my burnt finger back to life. Turns out my grandmother knew what my skin needed years before I was even interested in beauty. I mean… Aren’t all grandmothers the source of so much feminine wisdom?

If you’re not already familiar with Korean beauty, Holika Holika, is one of its global breakout stars. In the evening, instead of using this cooling, hypoallergenic gel as a wash-off mask, I decided to leave it for the entire night. At that time, I’d just returned from the Christmas break and my super-irritated, post-flight skin was suffering for it. I had nothing to lose. After cleansing, I simply put a thick layer of the gel all over my face. Immediately, I was taken aback by how quickly my skin absorbed it – no sticky residue here! I applied the excess to my neck and went to sleep, hoping that my impending pimples would, as if by magic, disappear.

Spoiler alert: my prayers were heard, and answered! The next morning, I woke up to soft, supple skin. It felt intensely hydrated and moisturised – I can liken the result to that skin glow usually achievable only after an expensive spa session or facial. May I remind you: $10. Overjoyed at my new beauty discovery, I turned to Google to get to the bottom of Holika Holika’s apparent skincare sorcery: aloe vera. You’ve most likely seen an aloe vera plant many times before. It’s a type of succulent shrub whose gooey, gelatinous substance has been used to heal wounds and burns – notably in Indian Ayurveda – for hundreds of years.

Holika Holika’s aloe juice comes from Jeju, a volcanic island on the Korean Strait known for its high-quality aloe vera.  Free from preservatives and extracted during the fermentation process to retain nutrients, this multi-purpose gel works wonders as a face wash for sensitive skin, a mask, and, according to a number of beauty forums I stumbled upon, a body lotion.

Since those times as a child in my grandma’s garden, aloe has saved me a million times over – after boozy parties, after long flights, after binging on chocolate. I could go on all day. It’s comforting to know that my trusty skin saviour is always within arm’s length – at an affordable price, no less – patiently waiting to save me from my uncontrollable chocolate cravings and ensuing breakouts. Winter, spring, summer or fall, trust me when I say you should keep a tube of this on hand for peace of mind and great face. Holika Holika’s 99% Aloe Gel has got your back.

Words and image, Marta Knás.