Lamees Hamdan is a force to be reckoned with. The youthful, beautiful Dubai-born doctor founded her own line of skin care products – Shiffa – in 2002 after being disappointed with what she felt was a disappointing lack of truly healing skin care products on offer at the time. She scoured the world sourcing organic ingredients and consulting with local healers in far-flung communities to develop the Shiffa range of oils, creams and cleansers – products that are both simple and luxuriant.
Hg2 was lucky enough to catch up with the belle of Dubai (one look at the photos of Dr. Hamdan below and we were convinced of her products’ beautifying power) about her company, the future of Shiffa and some of her favourite spas around the world.
Dr. Hamdan, you founded Shiffa after studying medicine in Ireland. Tell us about what inspired you to create skin care products and about your first product, the pregnancy oil.
I have always been interested in anti-aging, even before studying medicine. After graduating, and with my first pregnancy, I started searching for an effective product that would help prevent stretch marks during pregnancy, and I was disappointed with what was out there. The ingredients were ineffective, and no one was addressing the many issues associated with the skin stretching, so I made my own oil and 4 kids later I don’t have a single stretch mark. My Pregnancy Skin Care Oil (£50/200ml) was so successful that I decided to launch a full skincare product line that addresses the many issues of aging, all in a single jar. There is no need for many products to combat aging, just a few really effective ones, that actually WORK!
Shiffa’s range uses organic natural ingredients. How do you source these ingredients and where do you find them?
Now with the explosion of organic skincare it is very easy to find organic materials, but when I started it was more difficult, especially for Shiffa where I only use premium grade oils and extracts. What ingredient I decide to use depends on the functionality I want. Some ingredients are better at increasing collagen production, others at healing scar tissue, and others at brightening the complexion etc and the list goes on. I usually choose the ingredients that have scientific studies behind them; I don’t go for the latest fad ingredients out there. Whenever I travel, I always visit natural healers/doctors and learn from them.
You obviously have travelled a lot during the process of creating Shiffa’s range. Which places have most inspired these products?
I must say that I use many Ayurvedic ingredients in my products, so I would say India, especially Southern India. Another great ingredient I use a lot is Tamanu, which I came across during my travels in the South Pacific. And my Sweetness Body Polish and Lotion (£30-45/200ml) were inspired by Tahiti, where the women oil themselves with monoi and put the Tiaré flowers behind their ears. Every time I use my Sweetness range, I am transported to Tahiti, a little paradise in the middle of the ocean.
You are originally from Dubai – how has your upbringing influenced Shiffa and your approach to skincare?
Being in Dubai means that travelling the globe is easy, especially with Emirates Airlines’ great connectivity. Dubai is also a cosmopolitan city, so we are influenced by Indian, Persian and Levant traditions. Dubai is also about being the best, so of course my skincare had to strive to be the best. Women in my area love to take care of themselves. Oiling the hair was a tradition growing up, and that is why you see grandmothers with a healthy, full head of hair. I have made my own version of hair oils that feed, nourish and prevent hair loss, but my blend smells wonderful (the hair oil blends used in my days were quite strong smelling) with blends of wild mints, nettle, sweet birch bark and others. Another inspiration is from Egypt, which is my indulgent Rose Milk Bath…a goats bath milk rich in rose, sandalwood, jasmine and purifying clays, which we will be launching towards the end of the year in the UK.
In which stores and cities can we find Shiffa products?
Dubai Duty Free, most Sephora stores in the Middle East, Urban Retreat at Harrods, Selfridges London (from September 2012) and luxury spas worldwide such as The Peninsula Spa in Beverly hills and Trump Spa in New York. Or online at www.zuneta.com and www.shiffa.com.
When you’re at home in Dubai, what are some of your favourite places to eat or go? Any other favourite cities?
Dubai has many good places to eat, from casual to fine dining. My favourites are Shabestan at Radisson on the Creek for great Iranian koubideh and bread, Handi at The Taj Deira, Kebab Ostadi (very causal, great yogurt marinated kebabs), The Ivy at Emirates Towers and Al Nafoorah for Lebanese.
As a skin care specialist, we imagine you know something about spas. Are there any spas in Dubai or other cities that should be on our radar?
Zaabeel Saray has a great spa that has opened recently. Talise at Madinat Jumeirah is still a favourite of mine (and their 24 Carat Hammam treatment) with the lovely indoor/outdoor feel and luxury of space. There are many luxury spas worldwide, but I think the future is luxury thermal water spas. The Japanese have a few (Gora Kadan being one of them) where there is a 5-star service, great rooms, luxurious treatments, excellent food, and of course, the thermal baths, or even better, your own personal thermal bath carved into the volcanic rock in your private garden – what an experience!
What does the future hold for Shiffa? Any chance we’ll see you opening your own stores?
Bespoke hotel amenities. It is time 5-star hotels offered proper shampoos and conditioners! As a frequent traveller, this is what I would like to introduce.