Kia Abdullah is the author of Truth Be Told (HQ, HarperCollins), available now in hardback, e-book, and audio.
My mother is one of those annoying women who’s always had good skin: smooth, clear, even toned, and neither dry nor greasy. Sadly, I take after my father. In my teens I struggled with breakouts and an excessively oily T-zone, while my 20s saw the onset of dreaded dark circles, the bête noire of South Asian skin. Mine were greyish brown (more dishwater than ditchwater) and made me look tired and listless. If I happened to have a restless night or an unusually early morning, my circles would instantly deepen, ageing me a decade.
My mother blamed my vegetarianism and spent years trying to convince me to eat meat again. I refused, but I also knew that she had a point: I didn’t look healthy or rested. I tried myriad remedies: got plenty of sleep, started taking vitamins, swapped to a moisturiser with added sunscreen, and tried an array of eye creams. Nothing worked for me and I resigned myself to a life of concealing.
Then, one fateful day in my late 20s, my sister received a sample of Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair serum. Her house was full of skin-care products, and she was reluctant to add another, so passed it on to me. Within two weeks of trying the serum, I noticed a dramatic difference. My dark circles began to fade and my skin looked smooth and sun-kissed.
When the sample ran out, I winced at the price of a 50 ml bottle (then £70, now £82). I knew that my mother — who grew up in a village in rural Bangladesh without electricity or running water — would fiercely disapprove. But, it was the closest thing I’d seen to a miracle, so I took a deep breath and bought it. Over the next few months, my dark circles all but disappeared. In fact, I’m not going to be falsely modest: Some days I woke up with skin that looked professionally lit.
I started using the serum religiously. Luckily, a little bit goes a long way. I use the pipette to apply five tiny drops to my problem areas: my under eyes, my laughter lines, and the faint fine line on my forehead. The serum dries quickly and goes on beneath my moisturiser both night and day. The patented formula promises all sorts of magical things: cell regeneration, collagen production, and up to 72 hours of hydration. Most importantly, it gives me the confidence to go makeup-free whenever the mood should strike.
I’ve been using the serum for 12 years now and stopped only once briefly, in 2014 when I quit my job in publishing to go fully freelance and needed to trim some financial fat. Within weeks, my skin regressed and my dark circles returned with a vengeance. That period convinced me beyond any doubt that some things just aren’t worth negotiating. I’m almost 40 now and people say I could pass for 25. Some of that is down to Mum’s good genes. The rest is Estée Lauder.
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