It’s not entirely uncommon, when you go see a doctor, that you’ll be chastised for your life choices. Stop smoking! Drink water! Exercise! It’s rare, though, that the doc will call you names. Unless you’re seeing Nigma Talib, or Dr Nigma, as her patients call her.
“Gluten face” is what she calls me when we meet. Why yes, ma’am, I do enjoy the occasional cake or donut, but what’s that got to do with anti-ageing?
Talib – actually not a doctor, but a naturopath, who’s based in London and LA – is known for her ability to improve skin health, something she’s been doing for almost two decades, for clients ranging from Penelope Cruz to Kate Bosworth to, right now, lil ol’ dough-faced me. No blood has been drawn, no lifestyle questionnaire submitted detailing the intimate details of my existence. All she’s done is peer at me, and not even with a microscope. Talib can read faces, and based on various manifestations, then tell you what, if anything, in your diet is causing premature ageing.
There are four different easily discernible faces: the aforementioned gluten, sugar face, dairy face and wine face, each of which represent an overindulgence. To truly drink from the fountain of youth, Talib says, you need to quit (or curtail) all of those food groups.
It’s not rocket science – or even a new discovery – that what you eat will affect your skin, particularly to those of us in Asia who’ve likely done a TCM consultation. You are what you eat. “I’d been calling patients names for so long through consultations … then I also developed key phrases like ‘digest ageing’, [because] I just started noticing what people ate, and that it’s a different kind of ageing to fine lines and wrinkles, and much worse.”
It will be some consolation that it’s entirely possible to have all four faces, in combination or otherwise. “I’ve had all four faces at some point in my life, and most people do. Somebody with severe acne and sagging of the skin, or somebody in their forties with acne, rosacea, fine lines and wrinkles, could have all four faces.”
Each face will have specific associations – my gluten face, for example, comes with ruddy cheeks, puffiness and pigmentation around the chin. So there are certain things that I should do, such as eating more cruciferous vegetables, which help detoxify. And of course, leave them croissants alone.
Then there are general improvements that anyone and everyone can make. Talib’s approach to skincare is thus an inside-out one. There are dermatologists who will ply acne-ridden teens with Accutane products and suggest they steer clear of skincare filled with actives; Talib is more likely to send you o with supplements, serums and suggestions.
“Both are equally important in terms of anti-ageing. There’s no, ‘I’m only going to use serum,’ or, ‘I’m only going to take supplements,’ because in my experience, doing both together is synergy. If you’re just doing one you’re only going to get half the benefits. Why not do both to get results? Like it or not, we go outside, we’re going to be exposed to toxins on our face. [Your face] is the one thing that’s exposed every day.”
Besides excluding certain food groups, Talib has produced a number of high-quality supplements, from Beauty in a Bottle (which contains vitamins A, C and E for iron metabolism and collagen formation, as well as B vitamins, zinc, selenium and copper to repair elasticity) to Immortal Skin Collagen Powder (it’s got riboflavin, B6 for hormones, marine collagen that’s easily absorbed and probiotics to boost digestion).
These are universally helpful, and take the guesswork out of surfing iHerb and breaking down ingredients lists. Because the demand for her products was so high and her clinic doesn’t sell to non-patients, Talib had to start selling them via a retailer. And the sell-through on Net-a-Porter is evidence enough that the stuff works – though Hongkongers will have to order them overseas, as supplements can’t be sold on the local site due to regulatory issues.
Her external approach is also relatively simple. Her hydrating and plumping Serum No 1 (which those of us in Hong Kong can order) is filled with plant stem cells, hyaluronic acid and marine snail peptides, as well as the technology required to boost absorption. Sure, hyaluronic acid is in every damned skincare product in the market today, but which brands are actually packaging the molecules so they achieve greatest impact? She is. And she’s also got a cream, and this summer, she’ll be releasing a mask and a cleanser.
But don’t trust a pie face like myself. Head to the interwebs, and the celebrity testimonials flow like champagne at the Met Gala.
“I remember I was writing my book [Reverse the Signs of Ageing] and Penelope Cruz asked, can I read it? And I said yeah, you can read the manuscript before it comes out. She read it and she’s like, ‘Dr Nigma, thees ees amazing! I write a quote for you! Sienna [Miller] came years and years ago and she might have been one of my first [celebrity clients].” And it never hurts to
have a supermodel endorsement – Rosie Huntington Whiteley and husband Jason Statham are avid fans of her plan. So wait. The Transporter doesn’t drink wine?
“[Jason Statham] is one of the healthiest people I know, and he teaches me stuff about exercise all the time. He’s an incredibly healthy person and just the nicest guy, not a drinker, no. I hate them so much. I went to their house around Christmas, their child is so beautiful, they’re so beautiful, and then it’s just me going … hi.”