It’s a little unnerving sitting in front of Dr Nigma Talib. Not because she’s the naturopathic doctor to Sienna Miller and Penélope Cruz. And not because, with her clear eyes, glowing skin and mane of glossy hair, she looks like a celebrity herself. But because, like some kind of holistic Sherlock Holmes, Dr Talib can read your face and discover your crimes. Dairy face, sugar face, gluten face and the dreaded wine face. If something in your diet isn’t agreeing with you, all will be revealed on your skin, according to Dr Talib, who is able to trace what she sees there back to what you’ve eaten.
Dr Talib first revealed this party trick – although identifying someone as having a wine face probably wouldn’t win friends at any party – in her 2015 book, Younger Skin Starts in the Gut. This was before guts got really trendy. Since then, you can’t go anywhere without people talking about their digestion and comparing probiotics.
‘I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and it has been an uphill battle trying to get to GPs and talk to patients about why they should do this,’ she sighs. ‘Now, I don’t have to convince anyone – they have to convince me to let them on as a client. It’s shifted in a way I can’t believe.’
Today, we’re more on board with Dr Talib’s theories about ‘digest-ageing’.
‘Internal wellness shows up on your face,’ she says over an an apple, oat and almond-milk smoothie in her west London clinic. ‘Poor diet can be responsible for lines, wrinkles and a dull complexion or redness.’ Her theory is that, by avoiding certain foods, you can improve your overall digestive health, and look noticeably better.
I love wine. I won’t deprive myself, because life is too short – but you can get into a habit, and then you’re too tired to get out of it
So how strict do you have to be, to reverse the signs of ageing? ‘You have to do it for at least two months. I think once people do it, they feel better, and they’re sold.’
And then lines will disappear? ‘First thing you’ll notice is the de-puff. I was at an event yesterday and met people I hadn’t seen for five years, and what I notice is that people start to puff up in the face – that’s ageing. So that will go first. And the fine lines and wrinkles, absolutely.’
Dr Talib doesn’t want people to inject themselves with Botox, but rather to work from within, by being kind to their digestive system and not overloading it. So, how ‘good’ is she?
‘Eighty per cent of the time, I’m as good as it gets, but my last supper would be a lasagna, a pizza or Indian food,’ she says. ‘I love wine. I won’t deprive myself, because life is too short – but the problem can be that you get into a habit, and then you’re too tired to get out of it. I have to have good food in the kitchen, so that when I’m hungry, I reach for things that are healthy. I have no sugar, fizzy drinks, milk or cheese.’
Yeah, that kind of good. But she says just try this for eight weeks and you’ll see the benefits – certainly, in her mid-40s, she’s a walking advertisement for healthy living. And she purports that the benefits will show up in more areas than your skin.
‘If I have a patient who’s struggling in a relationship, or is depressed, as soon as they turn their health around, things start working out,’ she says. ‘Do you know how many clients I see who have an awful fiancé or job, and after six weeks of working with me, they say they ditched their job, found a new boyfriend… I’m not joking. Because it starts with your health. If you’re not healthy, you can’t think straight, your decision- making is not good. Get your health right and everything else comes together.’
Contact Dr Nigma Talib at healthydoc.com
How to read your skin
Puffy red cheeks, dark pigmentation patches or spots around the chin
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. While relatively few suffer from coeliac disease (an autoimmune condition in which gluten triggers the body to attack itself), sensitivity to it will increase the chances of inflammation within the body, including the face. It can also disrupt the immune system and reproductive hormones, resulting in spots or dark pigmentation on the chin.
TRY Cutting gluten out for three weeks, drinking more water and eating more fibre. The puffiness will soon disperse.
Swollen eyelids, bags and dark circles under eyes, small white spots and bumps on the chin
Lactose in milk is a common food intolerance or sensitivity. The symptoms above could suggest that you are struggling to digest milk and dairy products – including cheese and yogurt. Dairy sensitivities tend to occur around the chin, which is connected in face-mapping to the reproductive organs.
TRY Taking a break from dairy for three weeks and see the impact on your face – but be sure to take a calcium supplement.
Forehead lines/wrinkles, saggy skin; gaunt and/or a grey look to the face
Excess glucose molecules attach themselves to collagen, making these normally elastic fibres rigid. Skin will sag and thin, and lines and wrinkles appear particularly on the forehead and under the eyes. Too much sugar impacts the balance of bacteria in the gut, which can also trigger acne on the face, shoulders and chest.
TRY Cutting your sugar intake in half and gradually weaning yourself off. These symptoms will decrease rapidly.
Lines or redness between the eyes, droopy eyelids, feathery lines across cheeks (dehydration), red cheeks and nose, deep nasolabial lines
Alcohol dehydrates the skin, which worsens the look of fine lines and wrinkles. It is high in sugar, which damages the protein collagen that keeps skin elastic. If your liver is struggling to process alcohol, you might have deep lines or redness between the brows.
TRY Taking three weeks off alcohol and then enjoying the odd glass of wine one day a week to see a difference in your skin.