April 26, 2022 12:30:09 pm
Aesthetic dermatologist, wellness expert and overall skin genie Dr Kiran Sethi is one of the most celebrated dermatologists in the country. Besides her celebrity clientele and countrywide recognition, Dr Sethi is, in many way, also a pioneer in steering the skincare conversation towards mindfulness, simplicity and intuition.
While she often divulges skincare, haircare, diet and holistic wellness tips on her official Instagram, her new book Skin Sense, published by Harper Collins ties every missing puzzle together harmoniously. In what can be described as an exhaustively detailed book with ample medical terminologies and science-backed findings to excite any skincare and health nerd, it does manage to make sense of the maze that finding skincare advice on the internet can be.
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At an age when people are digging deeper into 10-12 step skincare routines and hoarding every possible skincare active, you have repeatedly stressed a minimal, no-fuss routine with the absolute basics. Can you elaborate on that?
I have seen so many people give themselves rashes, sensitive skin, irritated skin, acne and more due to excessive usage of products. The perspective that you have to get all the actives onto your skin is wrong. The way you must approach your skin is goal-oriented, with the primary goal being healthy skin. To be healthy, it cannot be manipulated, scrubbed, rubbed, massaged, derma-rollered, face rollered, guasha’d, peeled, etc. beyond a certain rational limit. It needs to be simply cleansed gently, moisturised, and sunblock applied to maintain a healthy skin barrier because its primary goal is to protect you.
Next, if you have some concerns – then you can choose products to treat those concerns. But it cannot be that you absolutely must have niacinamide, or beta hydroxy acid or Vit C. It’s not the active you are looking for, it’s the result.
Then your routine can be amended to Cleanse — Treatment Product — Moisturiser — Sunblock.
I believe in simplicity because I find having an edited routine that is goal-oriented, with the primary goal of healthy skin, will ultimately give you better skin and the results you want. We do not have Korean or Japanese skin. We do not live in their weather conditions. We have more pollution, and our skin gets obstructed much easier. We are not designed to apply 10-12 products on our skin.
Can you break down three essential needs of people with a) dry, b) oily, and c) combination skin when it comes to summer skincare?
a) Dry skin – Gentle cleanser, a hydrating serum, a hydrating moisturiser, sunblock
b) Oily Skin – An oil reducing cleanser, a clarifying serum, and an oil reducing mask, blotting paper for excess oil
c) Combination Skin — Two different cleansers: one oil reducing, and one gentle non-foaming cleanser, one product for oil balancing, and one product for moisturising. Sunblock is always required.
Let’s talk about hair. What are those few things that you want people to stop doing to their hair to prevent damage?
A) Stop wet combing. It actually causes more hair breakage, and more hair fall.
b) Keratin hair straightening can often cause hair fall due to hair damage.
c) Stop playing with your hair. It can cause frizz and damage to the cuticle layer, resulting in hair breakage.
d ) Shampooing with hot water. It actually increases dandruff!
e) Sleeping with hair open – always sleep with your hair in a braid – it reduces breakage due to unintended knotting!
f) Stop shampooing daily. It dries out strands and results in breakage. Either cleanse with water on those excess oily days, and use a shampoo that reduces oiliness so that you don’t need to shampoo so often.
A substantial part of a chapter in the book is on PCOS wherein you breakdown the causes, impacts, and treatment. What is your one advice for people with PCOS with regards to how it shows up on their skin?
My number one advice is to watch your diet. Dairy and high glycemic foods are high on the list of worsening PCOS, and improving your lifestyle and diet can often reverse the signs of this frustrating syndrome.
I specifically loved the part where you elaborate when and how DIY skincare works and when it doesn’t. You also talk about why it may have worked for our grandmothers but doesn’t necessarily work for us. Can you elaborate on that?
See, decades ago, we didn’t have the expectation from our skin that we have now. Some freckles, some sagging, some lines, were all acceptable. Just feeling softer and brighter was enough. Now, we want to look fresh, poreless, bright, even toned, tight, lineless — you name it. No home remedy can match such expectations.
Further, back then, stress, phones, pollution, unhealthy food, unhealthy lifestyles — all were much less. The trauma we are all exposed to on a daily basis is exponentially higher. So our skin and body is under that much more stress. Thus we have higher expectations, in a tougher world. How can a multani mitti mask take care of that?
That also brings me to the natural and organic vs chemicals in skincare. Should there be a versus in the first place?
I don’t believe there should be a versus. I believe instead we should differentiate between safe and not safe balanced by effectivity. As in, minimal to moderate to high risk ingredients balanced by effectivity. For example, if I apply mushroom extract on my face, my risk is I may be allergic to it (rare), but my benefit is zero. So we do a risk/benefit analysis and say “let’s drop this”. Now, say I have a retinol, my benefit is reduction in fine lines, improvement in collagen and anti-ageing, but my risk is a bit of dryness, uncommon risk of allergy or irritation. Then I can decide knowing that the benefit is worth the uncommon risk, and that allergy or irritation is easily treatable.
Remember we are all chemicals. Water is a chemical. So you can’t differentiate between natural and chemical. Natural doesn’t mean safe. Snake venom is natural. Ant-venom is made in a lab. Botox is technically a natural toxin, yet people are terrified of it.
Is skincare something people should experiment with? Or should we be sticking to what we know works for us?
There is no harm to experimenting with skincare. If you don’t try, how can you improve? But do it smartly. Try one or two products at a time, and allow it to work. If you have an issue, discontinue it. That way, you reduce your risk of irritation, allergy, inflammation and acne, and also save on your pocket!
You have elaborately broken down the required diet for every major skincare need. Do you think people tend to focus more on topical application and less on what goes in their diet when it comes to skincare?
When I moved to India, I was really happy to see that people are genuinely concerned about their diet. So, I don’t think that people are negligent in this aspect of their awareness. But I do think people don’t know what is needed and what needs to be removed from their diet. I also think our busy hectic lifestyles don’t allow for mindful eating and choosing the right foods for ourselves and intuitively understanding what does and doesn’t work for us. So its more education on what food is good for your skin and what isn’t, and teaching about making time to nourish your body properly so that your skin will thank you years from now!
Can you tell us what your Glo Bonus recipe is?
Pre-teens, teenagers and adults tend to have a lack of antioxidants in their diet resulting in some skin dullness. They also tend to get tanned more easily because they don’t have enough antioxidants in their skin and body to counteract oxidative damage from external elements, resulting in melanin secretion and deposition, which is a sign of damage to the skin.
I have an awesome recipe in the form of what I call the ‘7-Juice’, which covers all the nutrients you need to really glow from the inside out. This is an all-in-one juice with the essentials to promote healthy skin and hair. Here’s what goes into it:
*A super seed mix of 1 tbsp chia, sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds
*Berry mix with blueberry, Indian gooseberry (amla), cranberry, and optional goji berry or acai powder
*Any in-season citrus
*1 unripened banana
Mix all seven ingredients in a blender with a liquid base of your choice. I recommend coconut water for light days and almond/ coconut/oat milk when you want something a bit creamer. Drink every morning before food for best results.
Lastly, what does your own skincare routine look like in the summers of Delhi?
For me, I tend towards a bit of acne, so my topical retinoid becomes my regular staple once a day. But, no matter what, I never forget to moisturise. And sunblock is a must! I am very intuitive with my skin. I adapt when I am oily, dehydrated, dry or acne prone, and it can even change within the same day or week.
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