I can proudly say I've religiously been wearing sunscreen since my college days. Early on, my Latina dermatologist debunked the notion that brown-skinned people are exempt from the harms of UV rays. I didn't want wrinkles, and I certainly didn't want skin cancer, so SPF has remained a crucial step in my skincare regimen. With that said, I'd be lying if I told you I hadn't forgotten to reapply it or didn't put enough on at times.
In March, I decided to take a careful and isolated trip with my friend to the Dominican Republic. It was wonderful, but I was unpleasantly surprised by a sunburn. After a week of basking in the Caribbean sun, I came back home with an uneven face tan. I even experienced slight peeling and flaking the days following my trip. I immediately panicked about whether too much fun in the sun would result in long-term skin damage.
My friend Stephanie Flor, founder of Around The World Beauty, sent me her new Around The World Beauty Aloe + Agave Gel Serum ($45) before my trip, but I forgot to pack it. When I returned home, she recommended using the serum to treat my sun damage. I had a trip to St. Croix lined up, and she reminded me to add it to my packing list.
In 2020, Flor was forced to pause all her Around The World Beauty travel tours due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When her business's travel endeavors came to a temporary halt, she had to pivot and find other ways to sustain the business. As a result, she decided to create Around The World Beauty products with ingredients sourced from the various destinations her travel company has hosted tours.
A trip to Peru inspired the Aloe + Agave Gel Serum. The locals introduced her to the healing powers of aloe vera and encouraged Flor to use it to protect her skin from the sun. She's been a major fan of the ingredient ever since. Aloe is an ingredient that has been used in Latin American beauty remedies for centuries. Agave is also a staple ingredient in various parts of Latin America—Mexico in particular.
"It's a true game-changer for pre-sun bathing and after-care," Flor says. "This formula contains aloe and agave stem cells that stimulate collagen production while maximizing hydration to reduce the appearance of dark spots caused by sun damage," Flor explains. "The antioxidant properties of bamboo extract also help fight free radicals."
The formula has a unique bee complex containing propolis, royal jelly, and honey, rich in enzymes and protein. "[These ingredients] help protect skin from sunburns, gives you a bronze glow by preventing peeling, and adds extra hydration," Flor adds. Agave, a natural surfactant, has anti-microbial properties that help heal wounds. When combined with aloe vera, the skincare cocktail locks in moisture and quickly improves skin's texture and evenness.
I applied the serum to my face after double cleansing and toning with Hanskin Pore Cleansing Oil [PHA] ($27) and Dr. Oracle A-Thera Cleanser ($23). I avoided exfoliating for a few days, allowing my peeling skin to flake off on its own gradually. Once it was safe to exfoliate, I used the Neogen Bio-Peel Gauze Peeling Lemon ($27) a few times a week to help polish and even out my skin. By the time I was vacation-bound, my skin had looked noticeably healthier. You'd never guess I had just recovered from sunburn.
When I went to St. Croix, the goal was to avoid getting sunburned again. I wore the Aloe + Agave Gel Serum under my moisturizer and SPF for the entire trip—including at the beach—and not once did I experience sunburn. My skin looked bronzed and glowier than ever.
I can't imagine being out in the sun without this serum moving forward. Not only has it become my new summer skin savior, but it also makes me feel closer to my Latin heritage. My mom always had an aloe vera plant in the house (she still does). Growing up, she would cut out the aloe gel and use it to condition our hair, soothe our wounds, or treat sunburn during the summers. It's one of my earliest memories of plant medicine and natural beauty remedies.
As an adult, I've continued to use aloe in my beauty routine. When my rosacea acts up during the winter months, I usually slather a considerable chunk on my face. This serum has kept my skin on point but, more importantly, made me feel connected to the sacred Latinx beauty remedies that have yet to fail me—a huge win in my book.