Dr Anjali Mahto

Sense and Sensitivity

20th April 2018

Lisa Botwright reviews a new beauty guide, written by skincare expert Dr Anjali Mahto, which promises to deliver fact over fiction…

It’s known as an echo chamber – a metaphorical description of how ideas and beliefs are amplified or reinforced by repetition inside social media. I love reading about beauty and skincare and I devour online posts by bloggers and influencers, but what I’m reading isn’t necessarily coming from scientific sources – it’s coming from models, makeup artists and beauty geeks who pass on anecdotal tricks and tips they’ve learned through experience. The echo chamber effect means that if one famous makeup artist tweets that she’s transformed her clients’ skin by smothering it in coconut oil, chances are this idea will be picked up straightaway by bloggers and beauty journalists. By the time we’ve read about this miracle approach several times, we’ll have accepted it as fact.

Enter The Skincare Bible by consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto, subtitled the No-Nonsense Guide to Great Skin. The media, according to Dr Mahto, is ‘an absolute minefield’ for anyone wanting ‘sound, unbiased skincare backed by science’. With her impeccable scientific and medical credentials, she offers clear, concise science-backed advice and information, on all kinds of skincare concerns from acne to rosacea to dark under-eye circles. ‘The monolith of misinformation about this beautiful complex organ needs to be shattered,’ she asserts. ‘Good skin can be achieved by all of us, not just the lucky few with good genes, big money or plenty of time on their hands.’

But if a book extolling scientific principles sounds like dry reading, rest-assured that it’s anything-but – Dr Mahto has a lovely light touch when it comes to writing and offers accessible advice with a sisterly air, as if she really wants the best for her readers.

Her compassion comes from personal experience. Despite being quite startlingly pretty, Dr Mahto confesses to being profoundly insecure and in ‘a world of pain’ as a teenager due to acne. As her spots continued into adulthood, they continued to evoke ‘shame, embarrassment and feelings of inadequacy’. Her first experience of visiting a dermatologist was ‘very much of a patriarchal figure who was able to deal with me medically, but had little interest in my skincare, lifestyle or how rotten I felt.’ Her motivation comes from bridging the gap between (medical) health and (cosmetic) beauty, since the two are often intertwined. She recognises that acne is just one of many skin conditions that causes ‘problems with self-esteem and body image, can lead to social withdrawal and difficulty in forming relationships and also cause avoidance behaviour, embarrassment and social isolation’. She reports that a survey by The British Skin Foundation, Britain’s largest skin charity, found that twenty percent of acne sufferers they questioned had considered suicide.

Whatever your skincare concern, there’s a wealth of authoritative, up to date advice to be found here. Mahto reveals the only topical agent that’s scientifically proven to reverse the appearance of ageing, discloses the secret of how to make a spot vanish, and how to identify the best active ingredients on the market and cut through the meaningless waffle of beauty product labelling fantastic advice for the budget-conscious. (‘Is it worth spending £200 on a serum simply because it’s ‘dermatologically tested’ or are the ingredients very similar to something that can be purchased for one tenth that price?’)

Her top tips? Most definitely sunscreen. Lots of it, and to be worn all-year round; firstly to reduce the risk of skin cancer (something that worryingly she sees a lot of in her clinic), and secondly, because the sun’s rays are responsible for 80 to 90 per cent of the features we associate with ageing. ‘Sunscreen is your best protection against premature skin ageing in a bottle,’ she tells us. ‘Nothing else even comes close.’ Also, that ‘beauty sleep is a real thing.’

And what about the myths that perpetuate on social media? ‘I’ve lost count of how many times on Instagram I see cosmetic doctors, bloggers or glossy magazines mistakenly reporting that a product or treatment opens pores or shrinks pores. Pores do not have muscles around their outside that can contract or relax to change their size.’

Her biggest concern is the lack of regulation in the UK beauty industry and the fact that anyone can call themselves a dermatologist or skin specialist without appropriate training: ‘the audacity…’ she says, adding ‘I would never claim that I was a heart doctor despite having done eight months as a junior doctor in cardiology. This… is about honesty and transparency.’ The fact that anyone can buy and inject fillers, for example, is something she finds ‘hugely frightening when one knows the potential for things to go wrong’.

This is an engaging must-read for anyone interested in taking care of the body’s biggest organ and for those seeking confidence in clearer skin…

‘The Skincare Bible:Your No-Nonsense Guide to Great Skin’ by Dr Anjali Mahto is available now in all good book shops, from £9.99

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