Personal Best: Q&A With Archie Panjabi

The British actress talks about beauty, food, and her laid-back exercise regimen.

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on September 14, 2012
5 min read

With her British upbringing, a degree in management, years of ballet training, and her Emmy-award-winning portrayal of the tough-as-nails investigator Kalinda on CBS' The Good Wife, one might assume Archie Panjabi's approach to health, fitness, and beauty walks a similarly ambitious line. On the contrary, this is a case where Panjabi, 40, plays against type. She opened up to us on a much-needed day off from filming the hit drama's fourth season (she's also appeared in films like Bend it Like Beckham and The Constant Gardener), and made no mention of punishing boot camps, gimmicky cleanses, or other quick fixes. She embraces a decidedly peaceful, balanced lifestyle, refreshingly un-Hollywood, totally sane, and obviously effective. Her secrets include regular indulgences, DIY beauty treatments, and plenty of ZZZs.

Coming from India, my parents have a huge connection with herbs and spices -- in both cooking and in skin care. So like my mom, I make a lot of my own skin care concoctions, like face packs -- thick masks. I mix turmeric with chickpea flour with yogurt and lemon. It's fantastic in warmer weather for freshening your face. Honestly, it's better than anything I've found in stores. My mom is in her 70s but she has barely any lines; in fact, all of my family looks at least 20 years younger. And, touch wood, my skin hasn't really changed that much since I was in my 20s!

I am very good about taking my makeup off after work. It can take a while, but I light a candle and just go to it patiently. It's sort of a ritual. I also use a muslin cloth instead of a washcloth to remove it -- I find it's gentler on my skin than a normal washcloth and the next day your skin will be so smooth. I also recently started using baby shampoo to take off eye makeup -- it's amazing.

I always have lip gloss, and I love this one from Le Metier de Beaute -- it never gets sticky and it doesn't dry out my lips. It took me a long time to find one like that, but when I get something I love, I stick with it. Also: Epicuren zinc oxide, for daily sun protection on my face and neck. Finally, I never leave home without Chanel mascara.

I always have a few spices like turmeric and whole peppercorns, as well as fresh ginger, garlic, and extra-virgin olive oil. With just those few things you can add flavor and kick to everything from Italian food to curries, or just perk up a basic like eggs. Fresh ground pepper on eggs can make all the difference.

Hot water. This is also something l learned from my family, from my culture. After meals I make a cup of hot water, drop in a slice of lemon and a squeeze of honey. I find it helps me digest my food and also sort of puts an end-cap to the meal -- so I don't continue snacking or searching for something sweet when I really don't need or want it.

I do snack, especially when I am working crazy hours, but I try to keep it to a minimum, because it can get out of hand. I tend to eat a lot of blueberries, raspberries, and almonds. When I was a child, my mom gave me a little pile of almonds with a drizzle of honey on top during snack time, and I still find it's the most satisfying thing; it really cures cravings. When nothing but chocolate will do, there's this ganache from Maison du Chocolat ... just a little nibble is enough, really! Oh, and I love these chocolate flakes I get from England, which remind me of my childhood there. I don't deny myself, but I do have this one belt [on the set] that is so tight, and I can tell when I'm up a few pounds. In fact, all of my clothes [on The Good Wife] are tight!

Well, maybe I'll cut out bread and pasta for a few days, steer clear of fried foods, and definitely make sure to drink that hot water! I actually was heavier in my 20s, and I tried every diet tactic you can imagine. The only thing that worked, and has let me stay this size, really is the very basic concept of moderation. I'm glad I learned that at a young age.

I do a lot of walking, although occasionally I will run, as well as regular meditation and some yoga. These things are great because I can do them wherever I am -- whether I'm traveling or on set. I don't have a trainer, but one of my friends is one and she taught me a bunch of strength-training moves so I can do it on my own. I guess you could say that I prefer peaceful exercise. It keeps me centered and calm. But I also have just learned to find ways and time to work out, no matter where I am. And walking is perfect for that.

A nap. Honestly, sometimes the best thing when you're really stressed is to just sleep it off. People can get obsessed with magical pills and potions, but sometimes there's nothing better than sleep. I find that I sort things out while I sleep!

All I'd want is to wake up after a good rest, and to start with my favorite tea (from Fortnum and Mason), a beautiful teapot, and my bone china. A nice breakfast at home, and then a long walk. I know it's awfully British-sounding of me, what with the tea and all!

Japan. I am a huge fan of Japanese food and bars but more than that, it's their whole culture of creating a calm atmosphere. They spend a lot of time and effort on it, and I love that.