Aesthetic dermatologist, wellness expert and skin genius, Dr. Kiran Sethi is one of the most celebrated dermatologists in the country. Along with her celebrity clientele and nationwide recognition, Dr. Sethi is, in many ways, also a pioneer in shifting the skincare conversation toward mindfulness, simplicity and intuition.
Although she often divulges skin care, hair care, diet and holistic wellness tips on his official Instagram, his new book sense of skin, published by Harper Collins seamlessly connects each missing puzzle. In what can best be described as an exhaustively detailed book with plenty of medical terminology and scientifically grounded findings to excite any skincare and health care nerd, he manages to make sense of the maze that discovery care tips maybe on the internet.
In exclusive interaction with indianexpress.comDr. Sethi talks more about skincare, why our grandma DIY Skincare Recipes will no longer work for us and shares his Glo Bonus recipe from the book.
At an age where people are digging into 10-12 step skincare routines and hoarding every skincare active possible, you’ve repeatedly insisted on a minimal, fuss-free routine with the absolute basics. Could you clarify this?
I have seen so many people get breakouts, sensitive skin, irritated skin, acne and more due to excessive product use. The perspective that you have to get all the actives on your skin is wrong. The way you should approach your skin is goal oriented, with the primary goal being healthy skin. To be healthy, it cannot be manipulated, rubbed, rubbed, massaged, dermo-rolled, face-rolled, guasha’d, peeled, etc. beyond a certain rational limit. It simply needs to be gently cleansed, moisturized and applied with sunscreen to maintain a healthy skin barrier as its main purpose is to protect you.
Then, if you have concerns, you can choose products to address those concerns. But you may not absolutely have to have niacinamideor beta hydroxy acid or Vit C. It’s not the active ingredient you’re looking for, it’s the result.
Then your routine can be changed to cleanse – treatment product – moisturizer – sunscreen.
I believe in simplicity because I find that having an edited, goal-oriented routine with the primary goal of healthy skin will ultimately give you better skin and the results you want. We don’t have Korean or Japanese skin. We don’t live in their weather conditions. We have more pollution and our skin clogs much more easily. We are not designed to apply 10 to 12 products on our skin.
Can you break down three essential summer skin care needs of people with a) dry, b) oily, and c) combination skin?
a) Dry skin – Gentle cleanser, hydrating serum, moisturizer, sunscreen
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: an oil reducer and a gentle non-foaming cleanser, an oil balancing product and a moisturizing product. Sun screen is always required.
Let’s talk hair. What are a few things you want people to stop doing to their hair to prevent it from damaging it?
A) Stop wet combing. This actually causes more hair breakage, and more hair loss.
b) Keratin hair straightening can often cause hair loss due to hair damage.
c) Stop playing with your hair. This can cause frizz and damage the cuticle layer leading to hair breakage.
d) Shampoo with warm water. it actually increases dandruff!
e) Sleep with your hair open – always sleep with your hair in a braid – this reduces breakage from unintended knots!
f) Stop daily shampooing. It dries out the strands and breaks them. Either cleanse with water on oily days, and use a shampoo that reduces oiliness so you don’t need to shampoo so often.
A substantial portion of a chapter in the book is devoted to PCOS in which you break down the causes, impacts, and treatment. What is your one piece of advice for people with PCOS in terms of how it manifests on their skin?
My number one tip is to watch your diet. Dairy products and foods with a high glycemic index are high on the list of aggravating factors PCOSand improving your lifestyle and diet can often reverse the signs of this frustrating syndrome.
I especially liked the part where you explain when and how DIY skincare works and when it doesn’t. You also explain why it may have worked for our grandmothers, but not necessarily for us. Could you clarify this?
You see, decades ago we didn’t have the expectations of our skin that we have now. Some freckles, some sags, some lines, were all okay. Feeling softer and brighter was enough. Now we want to look fresh, pore-free, shiny, even toned, tight, line-free – you name it. No home remedy can meet such expectations.
Moreover, at the time, the stress, the telephones, the pollution, unhealthy foods, unhealthy lifestyles – all were much less. The trauma we are all exposed to daily is exponentially higher. Our skin and our body are therefore subjected to much more stress. Thus, we have higher expectations, in a more difficult world. How a multani mitti mask takes care of that?
This also brings me to natural and organic products versus chemicals in skin care. Should there be a versus in the first place?
I don’t think there should be a cons. Rather, I believe we should differentiate between safe and unsafe balanced by effectiveness. As in, minimal to moderate to high risk ingredients balanced by efficacy. For example, if I apply mushroom extract to my face, my risk is that I will be allergic to it (rare), but my benefit is zero. So we do a risk/benefit analysis and say “let it go”. Now let’s say I have a retinol, my benefit is fine line reduction, collagen enhancement and anti-agingbut my risk is a little drought, infrequent risk of allergy or irritation. Then I can decide knowing that the benefit is worth the rare risk and that the allergy or irritation is easily treatable.
Remember we are all chemicals. Water is a chemical. So you can’t tell the difference between natural and chemical. Natural does not mean safe. Snake venom is natural. Ant venom is made in the laboratory. Botox is technically a natural toxin, but people are terrified of it.
Is skincare something people should experience? Or should we stick with what we know works for us?
There’s no harm in 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 let it work. If you have a problem, stop it. This way you reduce your risk of irritation, allergy, inflammation and acne, and also save on your pocket!
You’ve painstakingly broken down the diet required for every major skin care need. Do you think people tend to focus more on topical application and less on what goes into their diet when it comes to skincare?
When I moved to India, I was really happy to see that people really cared about their diet. So I don’t think people are negligent in that aspect of their consciousness. But I think people don’t know what is needed and what needs to be removed from their diet. I also think that our hectic lifestyles do not allow eat mindfully and choosing the right foods for ourselves and intuitively understanding what works and doesn’t work for us. So it’s more education on what food is good for your skin and what isn’t, and learning how to take the time to nourish your body well so your skin will thank you years from now!
Can you tell us what your Glo Bonus recipe is?
Preteens, teens, and adults tend to lack antioxidants in their diet, resulting in dull skin. They also tend to tan more easily because they don’t have enough antioxidants in their skin and body to counter oxidative damage from external elements, leading to the secretion and deposition of melanin, a sign of skin damage.
I have an awesome recipe in the form of what I call ‘7 Juices’ which covers all the nutrients you need to really glow from within. It’s an all-in-one juice with the essentials to support healthy skin and hair. Here is what happens there:
* A super seed mix of 1 tablespoon of chia, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
*Berry mix with blueberry, Indian gooseberry (amla)cranberry and optional goji berry or acai powder
*Any seasonal citrus fruit
*1 unripe banana
Combine all seven ingredients in a blender with a liquid base of your choice. I recommend coconut water for lighter days and almond/coconut/oat milk when you want something a little creamier. Drink it every morning before eating for best results.
Finally, what does your own skincare routine look like during Delhi summers?
For me, I tend to have a bit of acne, so my topical retinoid becomes my regular once-a-day staple. But no matter what, I never forget to hydrate myself. And sunscreen is a must! I am very intuitive with my skin. I adapt when I’m oily, dehydrated, dry or acne-prone, and it can even change in the same day or week.
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