Dr. Lamees Hamdan may be 44 years old, but, as she says, “I feel 18!” This youthful energy is the key to how she balances her busy life: She’s a doctor, founder of luxe skincare line Shiffa®, and mom to four kids — all between the ages of 10 and 19. She also has a podcast and runs an Instagram® account with 25,000 followers. Sometimes, it can seem as if she’s getting more done in a day than most of us can in a year.
Dr. Hamdan reveals that her secret to success is simple — it’s taking care of herself. She doesn’t just mean that figuratively: she founded Shiffa when she was pregnant and realized she couldn’t find clean, efficient skincare products, so she decided to create them, including gemstone-infused oils and gentle peels. Here, she shares her journey from mixing ingredients in her kitchen in Dubai to developing a global skincare brand, plus beauty and health tips that she’s learned along the way.
Spotlyte: Can you tell me a little bit about your career leading up to the founding of your company?
Dr. Hamdan: By profession, I’m a medical doctor. I started my specialization in dermatology. A year shy of specializing, I left my medical career and started learning about holistic healing. I have studied herbs from all over the world, Ayurveda, traditional chinese medicine, aromatherapy, and more. Recently, I have re-entered the medical field in integrative medicine.
Spotlyte: What inspired you to create Shiffa?
LH: While I was pregnant [in 2000], I was really aware of what I was putting into my body, eating, cleaning my house with, and [the] beauty products I was using. I have a tendency for stretch marks, and I didn’t want to have them when I was pregnant, so I went to the store to find a product. I looked at the ingredients and it was a little bit of sweet almond oil, lavender oil — nothing that would be very effective — so I decided to create my own.
I made myself my own pregnancy oil and I just kept giving it to friends and family who were also trying to avoid getting stretch marks. That was the catalyst for me creating Shiffa — that oil was the first thing I ever created.
Spotlyte: How did your background in dermatology influence the products you've created for your brand?
LH: I always look at the skin from a scientific approach, and I am up-to-date on the latest developments in dermatology and plastic surgery. I also look at studies on new and old ingredients.
Spotlyte: How has your role at Shiffa shifted since the conception of the brand?
LH: When I started, I was everything: sales, marketing, manager, formulator, and I would pack my own products. Now, I am lucky to have a superb team, and I am concentrating more on formulation and information.
I am a huge believer in making information — not misinformation — available. I have started my own podcast [DL.MD On AirTM;] where I discuss all the things that I do for health, including fasting, uncluttering [my] mind, diets, and what to eat. I also cover a lot of what I do to stay healthy on my Instagram account, @shiffabeauty. Good skin is part of the whole picture of good health.
Spotlyte: What have you been most proud of as your brand has grown?
LH: It’s been quite a journey, but I have loved every minute! I have a real interest and passion for getting good skin — skin that is so healthy it glows. People sometimes miss the point, and look at erasing wrinkles and putting on foundation, when honestly, skin looks its youngest when it glows.
Spotlyte: How do you use the products yourself?
LH: In the morning, I cleanse once with Aromatic Facial Cleanser and my Organic Muslin Face Cloths, and then I use Floral Facial Toner to help with my pores. I use Rejuvenating Eye Remedy under my eyes and White Tea Moisturizer on my face and neck. I follow that with a sunscreen.
Spotlyte: What other skincare and beauty products are a part of your regular routine?
LH: I use Elta MD® Oil Free SPF 45 on my face and neck. For makeup, I use RMS Beauty® Lip2CheekTM; on my cheeks and NARS® Dolce Vita lipstick. I make sure I have excellent skincare, so I never need to use foundation.
Spotlyte: What is your anti-aging philosophy?
LH: Honestly, eating properly is at the top of things to do to stay young! It is as important as using sunscreen. I love making things easy: just eat a rainbow and try to have at least 30 percent of your food be raw. Avoid processed foods, and don’t forget to include healthy, cold-pressed oils such as coconut, avocado, argan, and olive.
Spotlyte: What is your stance on medical aesthetics?
LH: I don’t like to judge, but I will say, looking “normal” should be your goal.
Spotlyte: Do you get any medical aesthetic treatments?
LH: I do like PRP treatments: [they] utilize factors in your own blood plasma to help rejuvenate your skin. LED light treatments can be helpful, and you can buy effective LED machines to use at home.
I am not against injectables — just make sure that if it is something you want, do it with a great doctor. Cheaper isn’t better. It is the skill of the doctor you are paying for, and that can be the difference between you feeling happy or devastated by the results.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face, including the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more now by chatting with a trained aesthetics specialist.]
Spotlyte: What skin and beauty trends are you seeing in the Middle East?
LH: In the Middle East, a strong brow and a strong mouth are now in fashion. When it comes to skincare, the typical Middle Easterner will take the time to take care of her skin — we definitely take time out for peels, massages, Moroccan hammams, body scrubs, hair masks, oils, and more. I always post a DIY mask using herbs and plants on @shiffabeauty because it is something we have grown up doing.
Spotlyte: What other beauty rituals or traditions have been passed down through your family that you still use today?
LH: A turmeric, yogurt, and lemon face mask. My mom used to put olive oil and egg in her hair and that turmeric mask on her skin twice a month. Also, my mother-in-law uses jasmine essential oil with sweet almond oil as a body moisturizer.
Spotlyte: You’re a busy mom and an entrepreneur. When you have limited time for self-care, how do you treat yourself?
LH: Once a week, I do Iyengar Yoga®, which has really helped me with shoulder pain. Once a week, I do personal training with Alicia Storm, my physical therapist, who makes me long, lean, and strong. I also meditate at least once a day — I do Transcendental Meditation. But my real treat is a massage and, if I can pair it with a sauna, I am happy! I like doing a good sauna once or twice a week; don’t underestimate the cleansing benefits of a good sweat for your skin.
Spotlyte: You're passionate about using natural ingredients. Why is that something that's important to you?
LH: [Many] natural ingredients are better assimilated by the body. The reason [some] people don’t think natural products are effective is because they haven’t used the right ingredients, or they haven’t used them in the required concentrations. Natural, organic products [can be] more expensive than synthetic ones.
Spotlyte: If you had to pick a favorite anti-aging ingredient, what would it be and why?
LH: Vitamin A derivatives (retinols or retinoids) are [some] of the most important anti-aging ingredients to emerge in the last few decades, and [some] of the most widely researched. They encourage healthy skin cell production and help unclog pores, speed cell turnover, even out discoloration, smooth skin, and the list goes on. This results in reducing fine lines and wrinkles, evening out discoloration, and brightening skin tone, reducing acne, and making pores appear smaller. Everyone should be using some sort of Vitamin A derivative every night.
[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by those who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]
Spotlyte: If you could give our readers one piece of skincare advice, what would it be?
LH: Great skin equals healthy skin, and healthy skin is a by-product of a healthy body.
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