Healthy beauty swaps, from face massages and natural exfoliants to fragrance-free products

From water-based make-up removers to aluminium-free deodorants, here are a few ways to adopt cleaner, greener skincare products

A face massage with ice globes can help revive the skin. Photo: SensAsia Spa
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A study published in January by researchers from the University of Southern California San Diego and University of Pittsburgh suggests that exposure to UV light from nail dryers — frequently employed to dry gel nail paint — can cause cell damage and DNA mutations. A potential solution is to apply a hand cream with SPF or wear finger-less gloves ahead of a gel manicure.

Likewise, there are a number of hidden, potentially harmful ingredients on beauty shelves. We ask skincare and salon professionals from the UAE what healthy swaps they’d like to see people make in their cosmetic and grooming routines.

Supplement your supplements

Avoid: Stress eating and drinking

Introduce: A stressbusting face massage

Salina Handa, founder of SensAsia Spa, says: “Even those who take supplements to help boost the immune system may then engage in unhealthy habits with food and alcohol to relieve or battle stress. A better alternative is a massage, as it helps to decrease cortisol levels, so improving the body's immune system and response to injury. An increase in endorphins, serotonin and dopamine is another benefit gained through massage.”

Beauty-wise, Handa adds, a face massage can help to reduce puffiness, and brighten, contour and lift the skin. “Massages also promote lymphatic drainage, which is all you need for youthful dewy skin,” she says.

Handa is a fan of cold treatments, noting: “Rather than an array of expensive creams with various chemicals ingredients, a better alternative would be an ice-globe facial massage. An iced massage aids lymphatic drainage and relaxes the tension muscle in the face. This reduces the appearance of early fine lines and wrinkles. Facial ice globes also help the skin produce collagen and elastin, and the chill factor reduces inflammation on days you have had less sleep.”

Removing make-up

Avoid: Coconut oil and make-up wipes

Introduce: Cleansers

Ella Doskocilova, founder of Elluna Organic Beauty, says coconut oil and cosmetic wipes are both no-nos when it comes to removing make-up. “Coconut oil is highly comedogenic, which means it clogs the pores and sits on the surface of the skin, as the molecules found in the oil are too big to be absorbed, while make-up wipes can irritate the skin profusely and damage it in the long run.”

Rather, Doskocilova is a fan of chemical-free make-up removers, and to this, she recommends always using a cleanser as a follow-up. “Women often only use make-up removers, but do not double-cleanse after. This is a mistake because the skin is not fully clean and can result in an excess build-up of oil. Impurities stay on the face and cannot be removed simply with water, especially if the make-up remover is oil-based.”

Scrub off the chemicals

Avoid: Microbeads

Introduce: Natural exfoliants

Hani Al Jundi, founder of Mr Regimen, says more men are switching out their grooming routines by turning to cleaner, more natural and organic products. “Traditional men's grooming products often contain harmful chemicals and ingredients that can have negative effects on our health. These include parabens, phthalates and synthetic fragrances, which have been linked to various health issues, hormonal imbalances, skin irritation and worse. It's essential for men to be aware of these chemicals and to make informed choices when it comes to their personal grooming products.”

Al Jundi cites exfoliating scrubs as a case in point. “Microplastics, often found in exfoliating scrubs, can easily enter the body through the skin and cause serious health problems. Choose a scrub with natural exfoliants such as sea salt or sugar instead.

“Ingredients such as vitamin C, green tea and resveratrol are all great antioxidants that can help protect your skin from environmental damage, so look out for these when picking up products,” he adds.

Sniff out clean products

Avoid: Synthetic perfumes

Introduce: Fragrance-free products

Anisha Oberoi, breast cancer survivor and founder of the clean beauty platform Secret Skin, is a pioneer of chemical-free skincare.

“We are, over a period of time, harming ourselves by putting things on our body that get absorbed by the bloodstream and show up much later as downstream impact, either with your hormones or fertility or, in my case, cancer,” she says. “Clean, natural and organic are buzzwords, but customers must also understand what they mean.”

Oberoi shares four swaps to make with immediate effect: avoid products that have perfume, especially for the face, she says. “Perfume will dry out your skin, so opt for products that have no fragrance or scents derived from natural ingredients.

Her second tip is to look for deodorants that don’t have aluminium. Not only are natural alternatives more eco-friendly, they will also stick around on your shelf for much longer. Speaking of environmental awareness, Oberoi recommends opting for “hydrosols over aerosols, which have CFCs that deplete the ozone layer”.

Finally, she says: “Choose shampoos that don’t have sulfates. They not only strip the scalp of natural oils, but also endanger marine life that encounter the water table that the product flows into.”

Updated: February 16, 2023, 4:56 AM