Few people understand the old “beauty comes from within” adage better than Nadia Musavvir, ND. Musavvir is a naturopathic doctor, but she actually started her career focused on external beauty — as a professional makeup artist in her teen years. “I love makeup, but I realized once I started doing it on others that it wasn’t what I wanted to do,” she explains. After realizing her interest in skincare and complexion concerns, it was her childhood that seemingly inspired her next chapter.
Early on in life, she learned from her Pakistani and Mexican grandparents about the healing powers of botanicals and the importance of examining health issues holistically. After learning more about nutrition, she realized she wanted to pursue a more comprehensive path, and went on to receive a doctorate in naturopathic medicine. Now, the Chicago-based 32-year-old brings a unique, inside-out approach to clients struggling with their weight, inflammation, acne, and more.
“We’re aging every day, and our modern lifestyle can accelerate it, so I try to encourage people to have a more conscious perspective,” says Musavvir. “Eating well, exercising, and not having alcohol often slows down the process.” She walks the walk — and has the glowing, taut skin to prove it. Below, she shares her perfect meal plan, post-drinking fix, and perspective on injectables.
Spotlyte: How did you go from working as a makeup artist to achieving your naturopathic doctorate?
Dr. Nadia Musavvir: I was 16 or 17 when I met [celebrity makeup artist] Joanne McCarthy and took a course through her. I love makeup, but I realized once I started doing it on others that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. However, one of my first jobs was with Lancôme®, and the brand has a big focus on skincare. I always grew up with a lot of exposure to skincare, so it was very fascinating for me to see the different types of skin concerns that people had.
I've always been the type of person who thinks, “Well, why does this issue happen to one person and not another?” and that really developed more when I went to college. I went into kinesiology, which I loved because it’s all about how the body works, then I put more emphasis on nutrition and its influence on the body.
Spotlyte: How did growing up in a family with Pakistani and Mexican heritage influence your interest in holistic wellness?
NM: I don’t think I realized the influence that it had on me at the time, but growing up, there were a lot of home remedies, like turmeric with milk, chuchupate herb, osha root . . . I'll never forget the time my grandma told my mom to give me some oil of oregano. As with any essential oil, it is extremely potent, and you’re supposed to dilute it — but she gave me a whole spoonful of it straight, and it was the most disgusting thing.
Looking back, I probably had anxiety that was expressed in terms of digestive concerns — I always had nausea and abdominal cramping. When we would go to the doctor to get it checked out, all the tests would come back fine, but they’d be like, “You can try this or that medicine.” One time, it was heartburn medication when I knew I didn’t have heartburn. It seemed [to me] like they were just guessing, so I started to go and seek out alternative methods whenever I could.
Spotlyte: What are your feelings on Western medicine?
NM: I have respect for Western medicine and recognize its value. My husband is an MD who sees acutely ill patients benefit from the advances of modern medicine, so it has its time and place. When I’ve had any sort of dental surgery, I’ll take medication because you need to be very careful when the mouth is involved. And, of course, I’ll take antibiotics when necessary, but I think it's just a matter of not overdoing it.
Spotlyte: What does an average day of work look like for you?
NM: Every day varies. I do all my consults in the morning, and typically, the concerns I hear are around skin. I get a lot of messages about acne and some hair thinning concerns. I try to do everything in the morning, then I schedule a workout in the afternoon. The evenings I devote to reviewing labs, paperwork, and creating protocols for people.
Spotlyte: Why do you think you get so many messages about acne? What are you attributing all these breakouts to? Stress? Diet?
NM: I think it's a combination of both, along with our environment. We are exposed to way more chemicals and food additives than ever before, and our lifestyle is completely unnatural as far as how we were biologically designed. We eat a lot more than we were designed to, we work a lot more . . . all these things play a role, combined with genetics.
Spotlyte: Drinking obviously affects the liver. Do you recommend clients cut back on alcohol?
NM: Alcohol is tricky, especially in the summer. People say one drink per night, but I think it shouldn't even be that — reserve it for special occasions. Afterwards, make sure that you are taking B vitamins. Glutathione is also amazing — it’s your body's master antioxidant. One of my [other] favorite things to do is to apply castor oil topically every evening or two to three nights per week to calm inflammation.
Spotlyte: What does a perfect day of eating look like for you?
NM: In the mornings, I'll have some hot water and a liquid mineral that I mix in. Then, I make a smoothie with berries, coconut milk, nut butter, greens, and seeds before getting started with my day. I usually do eggs later in the day with steamed greens, hummus, spices, and olive oil. For dinner, I really like making a salmon salad, a stir fry with quinoa, or a big pot of beans with vegetables.
Spotlyte: Do you have any indulgences?
NM: Yes! I make almond flour banana bread with chocolate and eat the whole pan. But chocolate chip cookies are my downfall in life. I try to avoid gluten and dairy, but if it's a really, really good chocolate chip cookie, I have to try it.
Spotlyte: Let’s switch to beauty. Walk us through your day and night routine.
NM: In the morning, I use Indie Lee® Brightening Cleanser, which is really nice and light, then I follow that with the Koh Gen Do™ Oriental Plants Essence. I use Mae Love™ The Glow Maker™ day and night — it has vitamin C which is an ingredient I always look for — and finish with Ren™ Clean Screen™ Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen. In the evening, I double-cleanse with Acure® Brightening Micellar Water and Osea® Ocean Cleanser, then apply the essence, vitamin C serum, and a glycolic cream. Once per week, I do a glycolic peel and I also do gua sha most nights. It’s a great way to wind down, release muscle tension in the face (which can cause lines to form), and help promote lymphatic circulation.
[Editor’s note: If you take blood thinners, talk to your doctor before using a gua sha tool.]
Spotlyte: Are there any professional beauty treatments you love?
NM: I love craniosacral therapy, which is body/energy work in which you [gently] manipulate the bones of the skull and the spine to [promote] the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid. The idea is that whether it's physical or emotional, traumas can get in the way of this flow, and the fluid is what nourishes all the cells in the spinal cord, which is what nourishes our whole body, so it's really great if you find someone who is very experienced in that. I do microneedling every now and then, but I want to find people in Chicago for HydraFacial® and Thermage®. I’ve been here for a year and I’m still looking for my set people.
Spotlyte: As a naturopathic doctor, how do you feel about injectables? Do you get them?
NM: They aren’t something I regularly do, but I [tried injectable wrinkle reducers] before my wedding to address a concern. I used to be against it, but once I saw the results and nothing bad happened, it was like, what was I so scared of? The reality is that there are some things you’re not going to fix with a smoothie. If you're going in with a healthy attitude, I don't see a problem with it — it's just a matter of knowing what your goals are, being realistic about them, and making sure your reasoning for getting it is your reasoning, not anyone else’s.
[Editor’s note: Injectable wrinkle reducers are used to temporarily smooth the look of moderate to severe wrinkles in certain areas of the face such as the forehead, frown lines, and crow’s feet. They should not be used more frequently than every three months. Like any medical treatment, they have potential risks and side effects. Be sure to talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. Have more questions? Chat with our team of trained aesthetics specialists now.]
Spotlyte: How do you unwind at the end of the day and reduce your stress levels?
NM: The big thing for me is that after 9:30 p.m., I don’t check email. I usually have some sort of brain wave music on in the background at home, which helps calm the activity of the brain and the nervous system. I also turn off wifi at night and don’t sleep with my phone in the room, which I highly recommend, because you just sleep much more deeply. That’s when your body is regenerating and the nervous system is detoxifying, so why interfere with that when you don’t need to?
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