For our new series, Secrets of Doctors with Beautiful Skin, we spoke to dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto about having acne since she was 11 and exactly how she keeps her skin looking this good, at 37!
Within five minutes of chatting with Dr Anjali Mahto, it quickly became clear that she has a real passion for her work. Dr Mahto is a consultant dermatologist who now works privately. But her history of working within the NHS has had her treating all manner of skin problems. ‘There’s no skin problem that somebody could walk in with that I wouldn’t know what to do with because I’ve kind of done it all now,’ she laughed.
Dr Mahto was glowing on the day of our shoot but she admitted that keeping on top of her skin has been more difficult for her than most. ‘I first got acne when I was 11 – it was a bit of a nightmare,’ the doctor revealed. ‘It coincided with an awful lot. My father had died, my personal circumstances had changed. I ended up having to go to a new school and then I developed acne all in the space of three weeks. It was bad acne, deep red cystic bumps.’
The selfish motivation of becoming a dermatologist was because of my skin, I needed to know how to deal with it
But if it hadn’t been for a long and difficult history of acne, Dr Mahto may never have ended up as a dermatologist, ‘The selfish motivation of becoming a dermatologist was because of my skin, I needed to know how to deal with it.’ So it’s no wonder that Dr Mahto feels as though she can connect more to the patients that walk through her door with acne problems. ‘I get on with them regardless of what age they are because I remember what it was like being a teenager with acne, I remember what it was like being a 20-year-old with acne and I certainly know what it’s like being a 30-year-old with acne, going on to 40 [she’s 37] as well.’
Coping with acne and acne scarring
Dr Mahto struggled to find a treatment for her acne as a child and developed scarring as a result. A prescription drug called Roaccutane (a super high dose of Vitamin A with serious side effects whose genetic name is tretinoin) is used to treat people with severe acne but her mother (who was a GP) was reluctant to let her take it due to fears of serious side effects that have been associated with the drug, ‘it’s been linked to depression in the past but the most recent data that came out about a week and a half ago shows there is no link at all,’ she explained.
‘So I got older and I tried every topical treatment under the sun, loads of different antibiotics, they didn’t work, so I nagged my mother again and eventually she took me to the dermatologist again… three or four derms told me to go on Roaccutane and when I did, my skin cleared up.’
From the age of 16, Dr Mahto was acne-free but by the time she hit 23 it viciously returned. ‘Since then the acne just comes back sporadically and it doesn’t stay away for as long as it used to either. So I think one of the things we’re recognising now about acne is that for a lot of people it’s actually a chronic illness – there is no treatment.’
three or four derms told me to go on Roaccutane and when I did, my skin cleared up.
So how does Dr Mahto cope with her acne problems? Well, while it’s difficult to keep it away for good, the doctor has a skincare routine that helps her keep on top of it (watch the video or read below to find out the diet she uses too).
My day-to-day skincare routine
‘I always make sure I cleanse morning and evening, it doesn’t matter how late I get home, I will always take my makeup off at night,’ Dr Mahto dives straight into the biggest of all crimes we commit against our skin. To do this the skin doctor uses a foaming cleanser. ‘I like Jan Marini’s Bioglycolic oily skin cleanser Jan Marini Bioglycolic Oily Skin Cleansing Gel (available for £26.77 from Amazon here). I also like Avene’s Cleanance Cleansing Gel (available for £10.49 from Superdrug here), she reveals, ‘that will take off most of my makeup.’
Then Dr Mahto uses a micellar water and cotton pad, ‘I wipe that over my face, my neck and my chest, just to remove any excess because it’s not just makeup and sunscreen that you need to take off but also pollution, especially in London. You have all that rubbish sitting on your skin and there’s quite a lot of growing evidence that pollution can cause ageing and pigmentation.’
‘And then I always moisturise, people with oily skin often think they don’t need to moisturise, they do. Just because your skin is oily doesn’t mean its hydrated – oil and water are two separate issues.’ To moisturise, Dr Mahto always uses La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+ Anti-Blemish Cream (available for £15.50 from Boots here).
My favourite products to beat acne prone skin
For people with acne prone skin it can be tough to find the right products that will compliment your skin type and stop the acne from flaring up. When it comes to sunscreen, the skin doctor opts for one with a nice matte finish, that works well with oily skin, ‘Heliocare 360º Fluid Cream is probably one of the best ones I’ve found,’ she reveals (available for £26 from Amazon here).
When it comes to makeup, again Dr Mahto opts for products that are going to be good at helping keep her acne under control.
‘I always go for makeup products that are good for acne prone skin so that they don’t clog my pores… people that get acne shouldn’t be going for rich, thick creams. You should be going for lightweight gels and lotions because otherwise, you’re much more likely to block your pores and create spots.’
Dr Mahto uses Vichy Dermablend Fluid Corrective Foundation (available from Superdrug for £17.99) which she says is the perfect product for this.
And of course, a little extra TLC
‘I’ll use a clay mask or a charcoal mask once a week,’ adds the doctor. ‘Origins clear improvement mask is a good one.’ (available for £25 from Superdrug), ‘and then I’ll do a chemical peel once a month.’
Dr Mahto admits she’s quite lucky because unlike most people she can do a chemical peel on herself, ‘It’s quite handy because I can do things like micro needling and also peel my skin at home.’ Micro needling is when you cover your face in a numbing cream and then roll a contraption full of needles all over the skin on your face (eek!) The needles create pinpoint injury to the skin so you get bleeding where you’ve used it and over time it will generate a wound healing response in the skin – after about three months of doing this you’ll start to get collagen production in these areas, ‘its quite good for treating blemishes, staining from the skin and also mild acne scarring as well.’
But as the doctor ever turned to the syringe, ‘Oh yes, well I’ve had it twice,’ she laughed, ‘I’m not that wrinkly yet so I don’t bother getting it done every three months as you’re supposed to. It’s more preventative really – just when I can be bothered.’
What to eat for beautiful skin
While Dr Mahto doesn’t like to restrict herself too much she does make sure she eats well. ‘A lot of what I eat is fresh food, cooked from scratch. I’m not vegetarian, I’m not dairy-free, I’m not gluten-free. I eat anything and everything that I want to eat but I just make sure that the stuff I know isn’t good for me, I eat in moderation.’
Fish and vegetables are a staple and she also likes to enjoy her husband’s cooking, ‘he’s half greek so he likes making chicken and meat skewers – we eat a lot of that and also a lot of salads.’ But when she heads to a restaurant, it’s a different story. ‘If I’m going out then no restrictions, I’ll just eat whatever,’ she laughed (we are totally on board with this).
And the doctor’s guilty pleasure?
‘I have a really sweet tooth, I’m always the person that will want to pudding and the same with chocolate. But that’s okay as long as I’m not doing it every day. I’m not really into depriving myself – that’s what I exercise for.’ Dr Mahto’s tipple of choice is either the occasional cocktail or glass of wine (which she counterbalances with two personal trainer sessions plus one HIIT training, spin and yoga class a week – no wonder she looks so good).