Dr. Zarqa Suharwardy Taimur is an internationally recognized consultant in aesthetic and anti-aging medicine who has trained in the USA, UK, Middle East and Pakistan. She is also a life coach, motivational speaker and social activist and has set up numerous free medical camps as well as English classes for the disadvantaged.
Suffering from dry, patchy skin? You’re not alone, for the onset of the winter season brings with it numerous hardships that the skin finds difficult to deal with. Combine that with the ongoing wedding festivities that mean little sleep and lots of unhealthy indulgence and we have a recipe for disaster. But glowing, even-toned skin is not an impossible dream even in this weather; all you have to do is follow Dr. Suharwardy’s tips for maintaining beautiful skin this winter.
Work for it!
When you’re bundled up in your quilt in front of a cosy fireplace, the last thing you want to do is exercise, but according to Dr. Suharwardy, the lack of physical activity in the winter is part of what makes the skin look sallow. She recommends exercising 4 to 5 days a week, as it not only increases blood flow and nourishes the skin, but increases oxygen supply which gives the skin a glow and takes away toxins. “It’s like cleansing the skin from the inside. Exercise makes each cell healthier and results in the release of endorphins, the “feel good hormones” which combat depression.
Get your zzz’s
While partying every night might be fun, don’t forget that you need to be kind to your body in order to stay fit and enjoy a fulfilling life. Restful continuous sleep for 6-8 hours a night between 10 pm to 8am is the most important factor in giving your skin a glow, bounce and translucency. Most people experience sallow skin and puffy eyes after a few nights of missed sleep. Chronic sleep loss can lead to bigger problems such as lacklustre skin, fine lines and dark circles under the eyes. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic.
Supermodel Mehreen Syed makes sure she gets her 8 hours of sleep every night, despite the demands of a busy career. “If I don’t get proper sleep, my body and hence my skin look tired,” she says.
Protection is essential
One is prone to dismiss sunblock as unnecessary in the winter, given how little sun we are getting these days but Dr. Suharwardy recommends using sunblock with an SPF of at least 30 every morning even if you are indoors or in the shade. Use it every 3 hours if you are in the sun. Older skin needs frequent hydration and moisture replacement. This is best done by using sunblocks, day creams or hydrating serums.
The latest French product is water spray with nutrients for the skin. This can be used on top of makeup to freshen it up every 2-3 hours and it’s best to keep this in the carry along bag or purse.
Hydrating sprays, such as Clinique’s moisturizing spray which is loaded with aloe and oil-free moisture, are perfect for keeping the skin fresh when on the go.
Tis the season for wonderful veggies
Now that it’s winter, add beetroot, broccoli, spinach, pomegranate, and fresh oranges to your lunch and daytime food. Remember that whole oranges are better than juice because they retain the fibre that is lost in juice. If you’re going to have juice, drink it freshly squeezed otherwise it loses most of the vitamin C as it oxidizes on exposure to the oxygen in the air. Foods rich in the essential fatty acids found in walnuts, flaxseed and olive oil can help skin cells stay hydrated. A healthy diet with three to five servings a week of fatty acids will suffice for the average person. Eat your last meal of the day 3-4 hours before you sleep because food eaten late does not get metabolized and is stored directly as fat.
Do your research
The products used on your face need not be expensive but should be from brands backed by research. Pakistan has seen a mushrooming of private pharmaceutical companies, but due to a lack of inspection and monitoring, the products are not standardized. So beware of locally made items unless they are from well-established, research-based companies manufacturing in our country. Two other aspects, says Dr. Suharwardy, are important to understand. Imported products sold locally may be close to expiry, old or may have been in dry ports in the heat for a long time. Always smell any creams you buy for a rancid smell, and inspect visually for discolouration and appearance. Another issue is that of imported brand names manufactured locally in home-grown or backstreet factories. These are called “greys” in commercial jargon and it seems even the best stores have stocks of “grey” items mixed with the genuine products.
Is home-grown always best?
Brides-to-be love to whip up home remedies for the skin to look their best on their wedding day but according to Dr. Suharwardy, the use of such home-based herbal remedies should be restricted to one a day. “Such recipes are to be used in the absence of other products and should have natural ingredients. They should not involve chemicals bought in tablet and liquid form. Too many herbal remedies give bad results because the user is not aware of the details of the ingredients and one remedy may counteract the effect of another,” she cautions.
Cleanse, cleanse and cleanse!
Make sure you clean your face every night before sleeping and follow a beauty regimen that suits your skin type. Don’t use soap if your skin is dry, and make sure your skin is not allergic to your skin products. The most important cleansing is at night when makeup and all the dirt and grime of the day must be removed so the skin can breathe while you sleep. Your skin type, whether it’s dry, oily, or a veritable combo platter, is largely determined by your genes. That natural moisture level then fluctuates depending on what your skin’s protective lipid barrier is exposed to. This lipid layer helps keep moisture in and germs and irritants out. (That’s why dry skin can become red and itchy.) Also, minimize your exposure to depleting elements – such as the dry heat from heaters and long, steamy showers – to prevent the loss of natural oils.