Hotfooting it across the country to run two leading skin clinics is no mean feat at the best of times. But Dr Ayah Siddiqi's work is particularly awe-inspiring when you consider she's currently fasting for Ramadan – the holy month that, this year, runs from 2nd April to 1st May – during which Muslims forgo food and water from dawn to dusk.
Recognising how self-care plays a huge part in Ramadan and Eid, Dr Ayah has created her own beauty box, the Harmony by Dr Ayah LED skincare collection , £289, which contains an edit of products to counteract fasting-based skin issues during Holy Month. And it seems great minds think alike, with the launch of Huda Beauty Beauty Delights Ramadan Calendar , £109 and L'Occitane Ramadan Mubarak Beauty Calendar, £99 . (you'll find details on all three further down).
Holding dual qualifications as an aesthetic practitioner and cosmetic dentist, Dr Ayah heads up her acclaimed Harmony by Ayah clinics in both Halifax and London's Harley Street. A self-confessed learning devotee, her degrees in biomedical sciences and dental surgery are accompanied by diplomas in everything from corneotherapy (the study of the skin barrier) to working with skin of colour.
While her work centres on results-driven treatments backed up by clinical evidence, Dr Ayah is also passionate about the meditative aspect of beauty, especially during this holy period.
"Abstaining from food is actually a small part of Ramadan. One of the big focuses is self-reflection; taking time out for yourself –connecting with God – but also resetting. The idea is that you're not spending so much time cooking and eating, but instead enjoying time with your family and having some self-compassion. Skincare is a great way to do that," she tells us.
We pinned down the busy doctor to find out how she cares for her own complexion during Ramadan.
What happens to your skin during Ramadan?
"One of the biggest effects of fasting is dehydrated skin due to lack of water consumption throughout the day. The tell-tale signs? Skin tends to feel tight, sore and irritated, with more redness. It can look dull and the under-eye area may be darker with more shadows. You may also be more oily as the skin overproduces sebum in a bid to hydrate itself.
But the biggest giveaway is an increase in lines and wrinkles; not deep lines but lots of visible fine lines that disappear as soon as you apply anything quenching.
I use lots of hydrating products during Ramadan. We wash our face five times a day, before each prayer (wudu or ablution), but there's no need to use a cleanser every time. I just use water then reapply my hyaluronic acid serum, moisturiser and SPF each time (except after the last prayer of the day when I carry out my nighttime skincare routine instead).
It's really important to apply these while your face is still a little damp. Using hyaluronic acid on dry skin can actually make your face drier since it acts like a magnet, drawing water from the deeper layers of the skin rather than the atmosphere.
Throughout the day, I also spritz on Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator , £35 – a toner mist – for an extra layer of nourishment. Some people think Muslims aren't permitted to use face mists or apply lip balms during Ramadan but that's not the case. It's just about not ingesting things."
"In-clinic skin boosters like Profhilo or Teosyal Redensity can also work well to combat lacklustre skin during this time. They're like injecting a big glass of water, delivering ingredients such as vitamin C, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and amino-acids directly into the skin, for a quick intensive hydrating and brightening effect. You may notice a little bit of redness for a couple of days following the treatment, but then your skin will be glowing. Many of my patients book in for these a few days before Eid al-Fitr (the celebration that takes place after the 30 days of Ramadan)."
Does Ramadan cause acne breakouts?
"Some people notice they get more breakouts during Ramadan. This can be because their skin is dehydrated and producing more oil, or because we often eat more calorie-dense, oil-laden foods when we get together with family and open our fast.
Make sure you're religious about reapplying your SPF as the sun can exacerbate acne. Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are great treatments for spots but these can be quite drying so it's important you keep up your hydrating products (above), too."
Dr Ayah's Ramadan morning skincare routine
"My skincare focus during Ramadan is nourishing, energising, repairing and strengthening the skin barrier rather than using any active targeted treatments. You can use retinols during this time, if you wish, but just limit them to a few times a week – you don't want to overload your skin as it can be more sensitive when it's dehydrated.
It can be confusing knowing when to carry out your morning and evening routines as your usual sleep schedule is different. When I initially wake up before sunrise to open my fast, I eat (Sahoor) and pray before going back to sleep.
When I actually get up for the day, I carry out my morning routine. I personally don't use a cleanser in the mornings as I find it strips my dry skin. I wash my face with water then spritz on my Josh Rosebrook Hydrating Accelerator. Next is my CurrentBody Skin Glow Serum , £15, which contains vitamin C, Obagi Hydrate Luxe Moisture Rich Cream , £60.58, then Ultra Violette Supreme Screen SPF50 , £34."
Dr Ayah's Ramadan evening skincare routine
"I do my evening skincare routine once I've opened my fast and before my last prayer. After eating, I do a proper face cleanse to get prepared for my evening prayers (Maghrib), which tend to be a bit more lengthy during Ramadan. Then I apply my nighttime skincare products, knowing they'll be left on for a good six or seven hours overnight.
I use Emma Hardie Amazing Face Moringa Cleansing Balm , £47, for my first cleanse then Sisley Lyslait Cleansing Milk , £90, for my second. I tone with I'm From Mugwort Essence , £37. Mugwort is a popular plant ingredient in Korea and there's lots of scientific evidence to show it helps your skin barrier."
"Then I use SkinCeuticals H.A Intensifer Serum , £90, Obagi Daily Hydro Drops , £74.76, Obagi Hydrate Luxe Moisture Rich Cream and Sarah Chapman Skinesis Overnight Facial , £98. It's a really rich nourishing oil."
A ten-minute self-care moment during Ramadan
"Self-compassion is a huge part of Ramadan and I'm definitely noticing my Muslim clients are becoming more interested in 'skincare as self-care' at this time.
I love taking ten or fifteen minutes out to use my CurrentBody Skin LED Light Therapy Mask , £279. I apply a CurrentBody Skin Hydrogel Face Mask , £5.50, underneath. Once removed, I use the residue from the sheet mask to give myself a face massage while I listen to Quranic recitation, which is quite melodious and meditative. It has a three-fold effect – I get the self-care aspect, my skin is better for it and there's the meditation element."
How to prep skin for Eid makeup
"At the end of Ramadan is Eid al-Fitr, which is a big joyous celebration. We get dressed up for this and often wear lots of glam make-up. But lots of my patients find their make-up just doesn't sit well on their skin as it's so so dehydrated from fasting. It can look a little uneven and doesn't last as long throughout the day."
"That's why I developed my Eid collaboration with beauty brand CurrentBody. Harmony by Dr Ayah LED skincare collection , £289. It's worth £338 and contains CurrentBody Skin LED Light Therapy Mask and the Power of Four which is the brand's Green Tea Serum, Daily Restoring Serum, Skin Glow Serum and Hyaluronic Acid Serum. The idea is that women can take ten minutes for themselves on Eid morning when they're often busy getting the food, house and family ready. They can have a little bit of self-care and get their skin hydrated and prepped for make-up."
"I've seen some other brands offering Ramadan boxes, too. There's Huda Beauty Beauty Delights Ramadan Calendar , £109, Huda Beauty House of Huda 1001 Nights Ramadan Gifting Calendar , £105, and L'Occitane Ramadan Mubarak Beauty Calendar , £99. Honestly, I think they're a great idea. They open up dialogue, get people asking questions and being inquisitive. They're a really significant step for inclusivity."