The celebrities' favourite Shiffa products have just been launched in Bahrain
Time Out Bahrain staff
Creative directors are rarely the best representatives of that which they sell. Famous hairdressers, for example, tend to look like they’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. While fashion designers dress as though they shop for clothes at the local tip. Which is why it comes as something of a surprise to meet Dr Lamees Hamdan, the Emirati founder of Shiffa skincare products, who looks as though she has just emerged from a life-long milk bath. ‘I’m blessed with OK skin, I’m not blessed with perfect skin, I have large pores and what have you,’ she says modestly. I dread to think of her opinion of me: eyes black from smoking, pores clogged with chocolate, a boil emerging on the tip of my nose.
And yet logic says she shouldn’t look this good: she has a two-month-old baby, is at the helm of one of Dubai’s most successful cosmetics companies and has just weathered a diplomatic storm after appearing on the Oprah Winfrey Show claiming Emirati nationals get free electricity. ‘It was a mistake that I inadvertently added it to water and healthcare, but it is subsidised to, what, 90 per cent? It was live TV.’ Shiffa, the Arabic verb ‘to heal’, is one of Dubai’s fastest growing cosmetics companies, and it is not all that hard to see why. Using natural ingredients, packaged so they wouldn’t look out of place in Harrods, and rapidly becoming the spa product of choice in the region, the company is so successful it is perhaps forgivable that she apparently doesn’t notice the electricity bill being debited from her account each month.
Dr Hamdan, a general practitioner, founded the company in 2004 after becoming pregnant and wanting to avoid stretch marks. Unable to find a chemical-free product on the market, she decided to formulate an oil-based one of her own. ‘I used it myself and didn’t get any stretch marks. I gave it to my sister and my friends and they also recorded the same effects. And they said, “Why don’t you market it?”’ And so she did. And in practically no time at all, one product morphed into a whole range of skincare delicacies that suddenly found themselves being used in some of the poshest bathrooms on the planet.
However, the move from conventional medicine to skincare inspired by nature was not a simple one. ‘As a doctor you are always told that chemicals are much better. I am a slow convert. My medical training did not involve anything [natural] at all. As a doctor you don’t encourage anyone to take anything natural. A lot of times the medical community is pushed by the pharmaceutical companies, which basically pay for a lot of things. But I think [I took to it] because of my background, because I am from the Middle East: during the winter we eat zatar, oregano, and we drink ginger when we think we are coming down with a cold. I also think it is to do with having children – you want alternatives to a chemical lifestyle. There are chemicals everywhere. I decided that our skincare doesn’t have to be full of pollutants, chemicals and harmful ingredients. Sometimes you can’t avoid them but in skincare you can. Slowly but surely I felt that these natural products gave even better results.’
And she wasn’t the only one noticing the effects. Six Senses Resorts and Spas, who are notoriously picky when it comes to the products used in their spas, snapped up Shiffa, as did many of the top hotel spas in the world. She is frustratingly tight-lipped about her celebrity followers, but confesses that Paris Hilton is a regular in one of the spas in which Shiffa products are used. So are there any celebrities she thinks should be using her products? ‘All of them, because they are under such thick make-up all day. I see them up close and their skin is not as good as you might think it is.’
So, I slap on some cream and I’ll have skin as good as yours, right? ‘Well, we are very much into educating people that you have to drink enough [water], have to eat well, and have to exercise. But I do think that using the right products make your skin perform at its best potential, at 100 per cent. But nothing is going to make you look 20 years younger. If people tell you that, it’s just not true.’ Next issue: cosmetic surgery. Shiffa products are sold exclusively at Sephora in Seef Mall. The store also boasts an express spa with a range of wellness and beauty treatments all 20 minutes in length and using Shiffa products. For more information, call Sephora Seef Mall on 17 581 915 or visit www.shiffa.com.