Sabrina Elba and Mother, Maryam Egal, talk skincare and well-being

Who taught you how to take care of your skin? Most of us take in bits here and there from our friends, magazines and our favourite celebs.  For our founder, Sabrina Dhowre Elba, her mother, Maryam Egal, provided her with the foundation for all of her self-care rituals. We sat with the best friends and mother-daughter duo to chat about their close bond, skincare through the ages and the beauty rituals from their Somali roots – from ancestral ingredients to wellness traditions.

Q&A

Sabrina Dhowre Elba and her mother, Maryam Egal

How would you describe your relationship?

Sabrina: Well, first of all, I think I would say that I am her favourite.  

Sabrina says while laughing but also with an air of certainty. 

Sabrina: We are close; we just have a different relationship. I think it’s partially because when my siblings and I were younger, I was the only one that really wanted to speak Somali.

Maryam, who was born and raised in Somalia, immigrated to Canada in the late 80s, where Sabrina and her four siblings were born.  Sabrina continues to explain;

I feel that learning our [Somali] language allowed my mom and I to become a lot closer; it really brought us together. Do you agree with that, mom?

Maryam: We’ve always been close. Even when Sabrina was three, she always wanted her mom. The other kids would be off running around, but she would follow me, trying to help. When I was cooking, I would look down and there she was, holding the corner of my dress, looking up at me.

Sabrina: It’s special, you are my best friend and my mom.

Maryam: We are lucky to have both relationships.

Despite Maryam living in Vancouver, Canada, where Sabrina grew up, and Sabrina living in London, the best friends manage to talk on the phone every day. 

Sabrina: I have so much admiration and respect for her as a woman, for being a single mother, and raising all 5 of us kids. My mom is really strong.

Sabrina Elba and Maryam

What do you do to engage in self-care?

Maryam: I’ve always taken care of myself; I go to the gym four times a week, eat healthily, take care of my skin, and do whatever I have time for. I don’t have a choice but to take of myself, because I have to take care of everyone else [my children].

Self-care, as a way of maintenance, is the reality for many mothers, especially single mothers, Maryam explains. This doesn’t necessarily mean yoga classes and expensive treatments but fueling your body and mind with what it needs to run properly.

Sabrina: Mom has always been so diligent with her self-care. I’ve had moments where I was not as disciplined, let’s say, but I’ve always tried to be aware of what I eat and how I treat my body. My mom’s attitude is more about maintenance and prevention, and I’ve been known to wait until I’m “feeling it” and then fix it. But I have gotten way better.

The topic of self-care leads us to a very important offshoot; skincare. With S’ABLE Labs releasing its first products sometime this year, we thought we’d ask you some questions about your skin.

Starting with, what is your skin type?

Sabrina: Well, my mom has perfectly normal skin. She’s never even had a blemish.

Maryam: I have to admit that I have never had trouble with my skin, It’s not sensitive, and it doesn’t get dry or oily.

Sabrina: I, on the other hand, have had to deal with breakouts and the inevitable scarring that lasts forever; anyone with extra melanin can relate to that. I would say that I have combination skin; I have an oily T-Zone, but the rest is dry.

How has your skin changed over the years?

Sabrina: For me, it was getting acne in my ’30s. My dermatologist explained that acne tends to occur two times in women’s lives: in their teens and when they hit their 30s. I was like, great! I am getting acne for the first time now. I struggled to find something that worked for a long time before my doctor prescribed me retinol, which cleared it up for the most part.

Maryam: Well, obviously, I am older than Sabrina. As you age, you start to notice the odd wrinkle or spot. But I’ve learned that you can do certain things to keep your skin looking healthy.

Do you have any skincare go-to’s you can share?

To slow down skin ageing:

Maryam: I have to admit that there was a time when I didn’t use sunscreen. I noticed the effects of sun exposure and immediately began wearing an SPF every day. I am not picky about the brand; it always has to be oil-free. I never leave the house without it on.

Sabrina:  My go-to SPF is one by La Roche Posay. I have tried so many facial sunscreens, and this is the one I keep coming back to. It’s non-comedogenic, sits well under makeup and doesn’t leave a white cast on dark skin tones.

To slow down skin ageing:

Maryam: I have to admit that there was a time when I didn’t use sunscreen. I noticed the effects of sun exposure and immediately began wearing an SPF every day. I am not picky about the brand; it always has to be oil-free. I never leave the house without it on.

Sabrina:  My go-to SPF is La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Ultra-Light Face Sunscreen SPF 50. I have tried so many facial sunscreens, and this is the one I keep coming back to. It’s non-comedogenic, sits well under makeup and doesn’t leave a white cast on dark skin tones.

For dry skin therapy:

Sabrina:  Funny enough, my got to for my dry lips or dry patches on my face is Aquaphor. I know. I also find it great to keep my lashes and eyebrows moisturised at night. I sometimes use it as an eye creme but make sure not to get it too close to my eyes. 

For dark spots: 

Sabrina: Aside from wearing a layer of sun protection every day, I love using a serum that contains hyaluronic acid. I find that it helps with the hyperpigmentation that comes from inflammation.  At the moment, I am loving Barbara Sturm’s Darker Skin Tones Hyaluronic Serum; it’s excellent at replenishing your skin barrier too.

Maryam: For me, I do a turmeric mask every day!

Although turmeric may be one of the latest beauty imports to be gentrified, it has deep roots in many cultures, including Somali culture. Maryam explains that Somali women wear masks all day in their homes to combat inflammation and leave their skin with a golden glow.

Maryam: I have been using masks on my face since I was a 15-year-old girl in Somalia. We would use a combination of  Somali herbs, including turmeric, and leave it on for at least 20 minutes.

Sabrina: It creates this beautiful natural highlight. I love it.

What tips did you learn from your respective mothers about taking care of your skin?

Sabrina: From my mom, I  learned to be more thoughtful about what I put on my skin. When I was younger, she would say, “ Do you know what is in that make-up that you are putting all over your face?”.  Because of my mom, I have always looked at ingredients and kept myself informed on what they do.

Maryam: My mom would always tell me not to wash my face with soap, only water. Remember that I never wore makeup growing up; I only started wearing a little bit of powder and eyeliner when I was 25.

Sabrina: She was kind of ahead of her time, saying no to stripping cleansers. So many products are “soap-free” these days. 

Sabrina: My mom was the one that taught me to take care of myself. I think the only way to preserve your well being is by not making it a choice, but a daily priority.