If there’s one woman on Instagram® who knows wellness, it’s Mona Vand, PharmD. The pharmacist, consultant, ingredient connoisseur, and all-around clean living guru constantly shares her lifestyle and wellness practices via informational IGTVTM, in-depth blog posts, and YouTube® videos. And her tribe of over 250,000 Instagram devotees hang on to her every word — us included.
You might think that Dr. Vand looks familiar, even if you don’t follow her on social media. If you’ve tuned into reality television lately, however, you might have spotted her. Many people first learned about Dr. Vand via episodes Shahs of SunsetTM. (Her brother Nema is a cast member on the Bravo® show.) However, it makes total sense that the 33-year-old garnered an instant cult following of her own: Not only is Dr. Vand impressively gorgeous (just look at her plump, luminous skin and luscious locks, which she’s sharing the scoop on below!), she’s got the brains and know-how to back it up. She pursued a PharmD at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences® and, while she is no longer a practicing pharmacist, she used that degree as the foundation for her career as a wellness entrepreneur.
Her holistic approach to healthy living doesn’t reward fad diets or carb restriction: It celebrates nourishing yourself with things that will make you feel and look good. To further understand her plant-based approach to wellness, we chatted with the lifestyle entrepreneur about her stance on adaptogens, how she stays healthy when she travels (spoiler: she has the hotel clear out the mini fridge!), and how her unique Persian upbringing impacted her approach to beauty. Don’t be surprised if you join Dr. Vand’s fan club, too!
Spotlyte: Were you always into health and wellness growing up?
Dr. Mona Vand: Not necessarily into health, but because of my Persian culture, I grew up eating a lot of healthy food. My parents would bring me a fruit plate almost every single night while I did homework, and culturally, our food is full of fresh veggies and herbs. That’s not to say I didn’t love cookies, Cheetos®, and normal “kid” stuff, but I always had a taste for healthy food!
Spotlyte: When did you know you wanted to make health a career and go into medicine?
MV: To be honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do in high school (who does?), but felt that the science path was more suited to me. I had learned about the doctor of pharmacy program, and discussed with my family how being a pharmacist would be a great career for a woman/mom, since a lot of pharmacists work three or four 12-hour days a week. It’s so funny to think about now, because that’s so not my mindset anymore. I decided to apply to the program and at least have this degree as a base for my career.
Spotlyte: How did your degree as a pharmacist shape your practice?
MV: I was really unhappy working as a pharmacist and knew I needed to make a shift in my career, but also didn’t want to completely “waste” my six years of higher education (and student loans). I had such a passion for wellness, so it seemed fit to use the knowledge I gained in school and as a pharmacist for eight years, and put it towards the content I wanted to create and teach online.
Spotlyte: What were the challenges you faced starting your career? How did you overcome them?
MV: There were so many challenges. To name a few: people close to me not being supportive or seeing my vision, and also giving me advice that just didn’t make sense for me. Traditional business advice is quite different than the advice needed for building an online presence! I also didn’t make any money for over three years of building my brand, which made it very discouraging. What kept me going was the true joy I had for doing what I do. I knew that I would do it for free for the rest of my life, if needed, and that was my answer.
Spotlyte: What is the biggest mistake or misconception you see most of your patients make when it comes to health?
MV: Following diets that help them lose weight but aren’t healthy for their bodies. It’s not healthy and never sustainable, and they always see this in the end.
Spotlyte: You have a holistic approach — what are your top healthy living habits or tips?
MV: My biggest piece of advice is to really connect to healthy living. Understand why you’re doing it, and get to a place of self-love and self-respect that makes you want to treat your body the right way. If it’s just about how you look, you will feel deprived forever. When you can look at a fast food meal and think, “I would never pollute my body that way,” then you’ll be at a place where healthy living is a lifestyle. That will be your mindset forever.
Traditional business advice is quite different than the advice needed for building an online presence
Spotlyte: When it comes to nutrition, are there any guidelines you and your clients follow?
MV: I don’t have clients anymore, but I almost consider my Instagram community “clients,” because I talk to them and guide them on a daily basis. The basic guideline is this: eat clean, simple, whole foods; avoid processed food; and eat as many plants as possible. This is the foundation to any recipe or tip I share. My community is very like-minded and intelligent, so they’re on the same page!
Spotlyte: What is your take on diet fads, like paleo, keto, etc.?
MV: Not a fan for the most part, but understand that they often help people lose weight. I don’t like when a diet promotes unhealthy food for the sake of losing weight. My outlook on healthy is very holistic: a diet should be good for your mind and body. So, when I see a diet that tells people to eat more cheese and bacon than fresh fruit and veggies, I don’t agree.
Spotlyte: What does a day of your diet look like?
MV: When I wake up, I always have room-temperature water first (sometimes with lemon). Then I’ll have tea or coffee, either an organic green juice, smoothie, or berries, and then some oatmeal or warm quinoa with almond milk and cacao. I eat a warm salad for lunch with something dense added in, like lentils, chickpeas, or beans. As an afternoon snack, a vegan protein smoothie or some raw nuts. Dinner completely varies if I stay in or go out. If I go out and it’s not a vegan restaurant, it’s usually a lot of veggie side dishes. If I stay in, I love spaghetti squash, tempeh, and lentil pasta for dinner!
Spotlyte: What are your thoughts on adaptogens? If you like them, which ones do you recommend and why?
MV: I love adaptogens! They’re so incredible and so easy to add into your diet. They basically help your body react [better] to any kind of stressor. My current favorite is ashwagandha, because it’s great for balancing thyroid levels. I also love that such a little amount goes a long way.
As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.
Spotlyte: How do you stay healthy when traveling?
MV: I have so many good tips, but one of my favorites is to ask the hotel to clear the whole mini bar. This not only reduces temptation and saves money — mini bar prices are outrageous — but it leaves room for you to fill it up with your own healthy snacks! I literally pack LÄRABARs®, healthy vegan popcorn, dried fruit, raw mixed nuts, individual plain oatmeal packs, and vegan dark chocolate. They don’t take up much space in your suitcase and make all the difference in hotel rooms.
Spotlyte: Many people struggle with bloating. Are there any foods you suggest for beating bloat?
MV: Eat more soft, cooked foods — such as steamed veggies and greens versus a raw salad, and make grains a little more watery when you cook, almost like a broth. Also, intermittent fasting helps so much. The 16:8 method gives you 16 hours overnight to digest your food, and that really helps eliminate bloat!
Spotlyte: What are some of the best foods to incorporate into a healthy diet to improve skin, hair, and nails?
MV: Healthy fats like avocado, nuts, flax, and chia seeds are great for getting plump, soft skin, and also contribute to a hydrated scalp and hair. I also love organic berries — they’re amazing for giving your skin a beautiful glow.
Spotlyte: Speaking of beauty, you are ingredient obsessed! What are your top skincare ingredients and why?
MV: Hyaluronic acid is my all-time favorite ingredient. Your skin just soaks it right up, and it holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water, so it’s the ultimate hydrating ingredient. It’s really suitable for all skin types, and I use it numerous times a day. I also love vitamin C. It not only brightens complexions and helps fade sun damage, but it also helps you boost collagen production. More collagen equals more plump, youthful skin!
Spotlyte: What do you look for in a beauty product?
MV: I have really made the switch to clean beauty and non-toxic skincare, so right now that’s my biggest concern, but I also want the product to be active and work. Naturopathica®, Juice Beauty®, and Biossance® products do a great job at this. Some of the top things I avoid are parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and fragrance.
Spotlyte: Are there any beauty traditions that are popular in your family that you use today?
MV: I grew up in a family of women who don’t wear much makeup — which is so rare for Persian women! But it instinctively gave me more of a minimalistic taste when it comes to beauty. I’ll wear it if I’m going out at night or to an event, but day-to-day, I let my skin breathe. My grandmother’s skin is beyond gorgeous to this day, and when I ask her what her secret is, she says, “I hardly ever wore makeup!”
Another thing is threading. Whenever I see my aunts, they thread my whole face. It makes such a difference getting rid of all the little baby hairs. Your skin is so soft after, but definitely a little sore — we always rub sliced cucumbers over our face after to help soothe.
Spotlyte: What are your favorite skincare products right now?
MV: Juice Beauty CC Cream with SPF. This is a bold statement, but this might be my favorite product I’ve ever used — it’s amazing! It has full UVA/UVB protection (with 20 percent zinc oxide), yet somehow doesn’t leave any white residue on your skin. It’s tinted and just gives you the lightest, most beautiful coverage, and is non-toxic.
I’m also loving OSEA’s® hyaluronic acid. It’s the most amazing texture, and I like that it’s just hyaluronic acid and nothing else. As I mentioned, I love using hyaluronic acid more than once a day, so I don’t like when it’s mixed with another ingredient, because I may not want to use that ingredient more than once a day. This one is also non-toxic — it’s perfect!
Spotlyte: What are your favorite beauty products right now?
MV: Honest Beauty’s® Magic Beauty Balm StickTM is one of my favorites! It doubles as a lip balm, highlighter, and moisturizer for dry cuticles. I carry it on planes with me, and after I do my skincare routine (which I do on all overnight flights), I apply it to my lips and cheekbones. It softens your lips and gives you the most beautiful glow.
Spotlyte: Are there any facials or other treatments that you like to get?
MV: I love PRP microneedling as a preventative measure for maintaining collagen in your skin. I also swear by monthly facials!
As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.
Spotlyte: What is your stance on medical aesthetics?
MV: I think it’s a completely personal choice, and to each their own. My only advice would be to make sure you go to someone that you trust, and stick with one person only! A good doctor will have an overall vision and strategy for you, and sometimes they want to do things in a certain order.
Spotlyte: Who do you see for medical aesthetics?
MV: My doctor is Dr. Julius Few.
Spotlyte: When do you feel your most beautiful?
MV: Fresh, hydrated skin, no makeup, with my hair up out of my face. [Plus,] a little spray tan to give me a glow. Organic spray tan solutions are my go-to, they give just a little more life to your face and make you look better without makeup.
Spotlyte: Who inspires you and why?
MV: Amal Clooney. She is beyond elegant and graceful, and her life’s work is meant to help those in need. I love that she’s so intelligent and works so hard to make a difference in the world, and still looks good doing it — she’s so chic! She’s a true class act.
Spotlyte: When you have limited time for self-care, how do you treat yourself?
MV: When you’re in a hurry, the best tools are gua sha and jade rollers! They can fit in your purse, and you can do it anywhere — in a car, on a plane, in bed. Just make sure to always apply an oil to your skin first so the tools have a nice surface to glide on.
If you take blood thinners, talk to your doctor before using a gua sha or rolling tool.
Dr. Julius Few is a paid Allergan® consultant.
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