Skin care would seem a trivial consideration, no less a lifeline, for a woman working in Kabul, Afghanistan. But for journalist, novelist, women’s advocate, communications director and mother of three, Masha Hamilton, her daily skin care routine was an unlikely saving grace during a terribly stressful time.
“Putting on lotion literally felt like putting pieces of me back inside,” the inspirational 57-year-old said of her time spent in the war-torn country.
Masha Hamilton began her career as a journalist working stateside, but spent many years on the front lines covering international conflicts. As an Associated Press reporter and news editor, she was in the Middle East for five years covering the first Palestinian uprising, in Russia for another five during the fall of the Soviet Union, and spent a year as a reporter in Kenya. Hamilton went to Afghanistan for the first time in 2004.
Her realization that Afghani women lacked a voice of their own, their personal tales shrouded under burqas and silenced by men, led Hamilton to found the Afghan Women’s Writers Workshop in 2009. This human rights organization mentors Afghani women to document their struggles and stories. It was based on Hamilton's humanitarian work that the US Embassy recruited her to be their Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy in Kabul in 2012.
Skin Care Salvation
But back to that invaluable skin care routine. Hamilton reached out to Truth In Aging upon returning home from Afghanistan in October 2013, looking to be a reader reviewer:
"I have just returned from 16 months working in Afghanistan as Director of Communications at the US Embassy, in charge of a team of about 100 people. My team was hit by a suicide bomber on April 6 in Zabul Province; I flew down with the FBI investigatory group and one member of my team died while I was in the air. In all, five were killed in that attack. This is just to say my skin has suffered the stress of life in Kabul, as well as its bad air quality and the ravages of food meant for 20-year-old fighting men. I have taken Truth In Aging products with me to Kabul, but never had time to keep up here. I feel like I need to re-examine my skin care regime to start looking and feeling healthy again. Thanks for considering, and best, Masha”
Read Masha Hamilton's recent Osmotics Blue Copper 5 Firming Elasticity review
Needless to say, this peaked our curiosity about Hamilton, who — did I mention? — runs a well-regarded bed & breakfast out of her Brooklyn, New York home (which her now 22-year-old son managed in her absence), where I called her for this interview.
Hamilton, who also has an 18-year-old son and 25-year-old daughter, grew up worshipping the sun in Arizona. It wasn’t until she was in her 40s that she began to take a long-range view of her skin care, and her body’s care, too (she is, on top of all of her other achievements, a shiatsu master).
“Stress is hard on your skin,” she said, referring to her work in strife-ridden countries. “Though I’ve been born with an upbeat attitude, 16 months in Afghanistan made me a changed person.” She rattled off a list of everyday stressors: working seven days a week, 16 hours a day, managing a large team and being barraged by emails all day and through the night (not to mention the physical dangers she and her team faced daily).
“I don’t want to sound like an advertisement [for skin care products], but I felt like I didn’t have time for myself in a big way. I did, though, use the products I had brought with me. I wanted to emerge from this time intact. I thought, if before I go to sleep I can take a few minutes to smooth something on my face, around the corner of my eyes, it’s a self-nurturing thing at a time when I didn’t have a lot of time for self-nurturing. It felt important in a spiritual way to take a moment to do something for me.”
Masha Hamilton’s Favorite Skin Care Products
The arid climate in Afghanistan was seriously drying for Hamilton’s already-parched skin. She wears little makeup and had no time for extended treatments like facial masks, but looks for antioxidant-rich products and excellent moisturizers. These brands and skin care products are some of her favorites:
Suntegrity Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen and Primer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($45 in the shop) - Obviously, if you’re standing around in the hot Afghani sun, you need heavy-duty sun protection. Hamilton’s go-to sunscreen is as hard-working as she is, a Five Best Mineral Sunscreen rich in antioxidants and astaxanthin that provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection and is a winning, dry-skin moisturizer to boot.
Ultra Clear Facial Cleansing System - This dry and wet brushing system is the perfect antidote for years of skin stress, gently sloughing and rejuvenating Hamilton's skin.
Royal Nectar Moisturizing Face Lift With Bee Venom ($55) - Hamilton loves how this honey-scented, antioxidant-packed anti-ager moisturizes her dry skin.
Medik8 CE-Tetra ($115 in the shop) - This serum, meant to combat sun damage, is a relatively new discovery for Hamilton: "I like the way it goes on and soaks into my skin. It feels like I’m watering my skin. I like that very very much."
More about Masha Hamilton
Hamilton is currently Communications Director for the non-profit Concern Worldwide, an organization serving neglected communities in South Sudan and the Philippines. Before our interview ended, she wanted to be sure she had fully conveyed how meaningful her skin care routine was, not only to her, but also for her team and loved ones.
“Point I want to make is when you take care of yourself it’s not just for you," she stated emphatically. "It affects everyone you care for, too.”
In addition to her journalistic and humanitarian work, Masha Hamilton is the author of five published novels. More about her extraordinary life and career can be found at mashahamilton.com.
Have your own story about how a skin care routine improved your life? Let us know in the Comments section.