If you’ve ever checked the small print on a tub of moisturising cream or a bottle of cleanser, you may have been surprised by the number of ingredients listed. You probably hadn’t a hope of even pronouncing most of them, let alone knowing what they are or what they do.
Dr Ahmed Abdullah, a plastic and cosmetic surgeon who splits his time between Dubai and a practice in San Diego in the US, explains that in 20 years, he has seen the realms of skincare become increasingly complex. ‘I’ve found that skincare and products have been made very complicated, especially by companies who sell lots of different kinds of products. Going back to the basics of skincare is important, because a lot of people out there are confused.’
To banish some of the myths and help to explain the ins and outs of natural skincare, Dr Abdullah put together a book, Simple Skincare, Beautiful Skin. It took five years to complete, and was released at the end of September. He hopes the book will break through the confusing mixed messages sent out by product manufacturers, salons and beauty magazines.
As well as setting out the essential steps for looking after your skin, the book also focuses on aloe, a natural ingredient that he calls the ‘powerhouse’ in any skincare product – as long as it’s the base ingredient. ‘I’m a big fan of aloe because it’s one of the most potent anti-inflammatory agents out there, even compared with steroids and ibuprofen,’ he explains. ‘When you think about it, most skin aliments or issues are inflammation-based, from burns to eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis… If you’re going to include anything in a skincare product, using aloe as a base makes sense.’
Unfortunately, he notes that while many products advertise aloe as an ingredient, they often only contain a drop, with water instead used as the base. Even in some cases where a product contains a higher percentage of aloe, it will often be a low-grade, cheaper aloe plant that is used, which he explains ‘is basically just water’. You can easily check the aloe content in any product by reading the list of ingredients, but checking the quality of aloe will take a little more research. Dr Abdullah has also formulated a line of aloe-based skincare products called Lexli, which you should be able to rely on.
As far as your daily routine goes, Dr Abdullah recommends a simple four-step approach for both men and women, so put down the toners and stop fiddling about with serums. He recommends everyone should cleanse, exfoliate, moisturise and protect. Exfoliation is the most essential, as he explains it has the potential to optimise the skin’s natural cellular rejuvenation process.
Asked what specific steps people need to focus on when living in a climate such as Dubai’s, he explains that the four-step approach is universal, and disputes the idea of ‘skin types’. He does, however, concede (perhaps surprisingly) that in humid climates, moisturisation is even more important, as the skin doesn’t absorb water vapour from the air, but water does evaporate from the face, which has the potential to leave skin feeling dry. He is also adamant that even those with supposedly oily skin types should continue to moisturise.
The book itself is interesting, informative and even liberating for those of us whose bathroom cabinets groan under the weight of brightening creams, anti-ageing masks, wrinkle serums, day creams, night creams and beyond. It argues that a simple routine is the most effective, as its one you’re most likely to stick to – and consistency is key.
Consultations with Dr Ahmed Abdullah from Dhs550. His book Simple Skincare, Beautiful Skin: A Back-to-Basics Approach is available for Dhs55 from the clinic, as are Lexli products, from Dhs110 for body lotion. Aesthetics International, Al Wasl Road (04 346 9888).
Natural treatments around town
Bare Minimum Green Initiative at Talise Spa
This new treatment, featured on the spa’s ‘seasonal’ menu (it’s conducted outdoors, so is best suited to winter weather) uses the 100 percent natural, environmentally-friendly Sodashi range of products for a foot ritual and a full-body massage. As it’s done in the spa’s gardens, there is no electricity used, minimal towels and minimal water.
Dhs519. Talise Spa, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6818).
Fruit facials at The Organic Glow Beauty Lounge
This eco salon’s signature treatments feature fresh fruit ingredients and follow its ethos of safe, toxic-free treatments and ethical beauty. All the mixtures are made on site and claim to offer a wide variety of benefits.
From Dhs200. The Organic Glow Beauty Lounge, Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah 3 (04 380 4666).