Beating Burnout

Burnout. This could be a four-letter word. While I have never spent time thinking about what this word really means, I think I have come close to burnout twice in the last 5 years. Is that good or bad? I am not sure.

What I am sure of is that for me, Dana Campbell’s (CEO of Optimize Corps) talk on burnout earlier this week at the Women in Wellness Leadership conference was the highlight of the day.

She defined the symptoms: to be burnt out, you need to have 2 of the following 3:

  • Exhaustion
  • Cynicism
  • Inefficacy

She reminded us that we contribute to our own burnout, with the following:

  • Incorrectly defining success (we should all have our own, genuine definition of what success means, beyond “keeping up with the Joneses”)
  • Celebrating busyness (I gave up the word “busy” for Lent one year, I think I should give it up altogether).
  • Striving for perfection
  • Allowing ourselves to be distracted from our goals and purpose
  • Multi-tasking

She made us rank ourselves from 1-5 (1 being great, 5 being abysmal) about how we feel on the following parameters:

  • Workload (how overworked are we really?)
  • Control (burnout feelings increase when we feel out of control)
  • Values (are our businesses’ values in line with our own?)
  • Fairness (how fair is our work or family environment)
  • Reward and recognition (are we being recognized for our efforts, at work and at home?)
  • Community (apparently the #1 thing people need at work is a best friend – how do we feel about our work community?)

(If you are all 4s or 5s, you are in or close to burnout).

So how do we beat burnout? By being resilient: by having the skill and capacity to be robust under conditions of enormous stress and change. She reminded us of a truth we probably all know – that avoiding stress or change is not a strategy. She also reminded us that resilience is like a muscle – it can be trained, it can become stronger.

How do you train for resilience?

  • You create white space. Give yourself time. Silence. Unscheduled moments. Alone time.
  • You objectively face reality. Objectively and calmly. Not with the anxiety blinders on.
  • You find meaning in suffering.
  • You fill your tanks. Whether that is through sleep, exercise, time alone.
  • You claim your truth. You identify what is most important to you, what you are great at, what you need.
  • You see possibilities where others don’t. Instead of focusing on the problem, open your mind to solutions.

Thank you, Dana, and thank you Julie Keller of American Spa for putting on this conference, and for finding such amazing speakers.


Winter Skin Strategies

I have had the privilege of spending the past few days at the Sundance Mountain Resort, in UT, for my favorite annual conference – Brigadoon. The days have involved skiing, incredibly stimulating conversations, new ideas, old friends, as well as snow and freezing temperatures. And my skin has been suffering!

If you are still in the midst of winter weather, here are some tips to keep your skin hydrated, comfortable, and glowing.

  1. Hydrate from the inside out. You can never drink too much water… it will help your skin and your body. (And here in Sundance, it also helps with altitude sickness!).
  2. Switch out your usual cleanser for a cream or oil-based cleanser. And use lukewarm water even when the temperatures are frigid.
  3. Layer moisturizers and oils. I recently bought the Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum and it has saved my skin. I apply it after my Pigment lightening serum, and under my Kantic+ intensely nourishing cream.
  4. Exfoliate. The most nourishing products won’t be able to penetrate and moisturize your skin if you have a layer of dead skin cells on top of your epidermis. But don’t overdo it – find a gentle scrub (like our Gentle refining scrub), and keep it to once a week.
  5. Give your skin the benefit of a hydrating treatment. I have been using our Kantic Brightening moisture mask twice weekly for the past couple of weeks, and it has saved my skin!
  6. Don’t forget your SPF. In particular in the mountains, and when enjoying winter sports, daily UV protection is a must. On top of my various creams and serums (see step #3), I layer our Daily defense SPF 23.

Enjoy the rest of the winter weather, even while dreaming of Spring!

Heyday Bliss

After working with Heyday for the last few years – since before co-founders Adam and Michael opened their first facial shop in New York’s NOMAD neighborhood (they now have 5 locations in Manhattan), I finally made the time to experience one of their facials (yes, this is my first facial of 2018… the cobbler’s daughter and all).

I experienced a 50-minute treatment by the fabulous Jenna who has magical hands. She gently approved of my appointment, saying that indeed it was time for my skin to have a “reset” and that extractions were “necessary” (I loved how she didn’t say “overdue.”).

If you have not yet been to Heyday, they are not a “traditional spa” but rather a “facial shop”. What you will not find at Heyday are no dimly lit rooms, robes, silence, spa music. Instead, the space is open, with movable “walls” made of fabric. The space is well-lit (“Doesn’t it help for me to really see your skin?”, Jenna asks with a smile), and sound travels – which is actually delightful. Looking at the space, I could tell there would be no silence. What I couldn’t experience until lying there was how lovely it is to hear unintelligible chatter from the front area or other “rooms” – it sounds casual, fun, happy (I heard laughter a few times). And the music is amazing – great current tunes (apparently Heyday has a Spotify channel).

Beyond the environment, the facial was one of the best I have experienced. I don’t trust my face to many other than my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla, or the therapists at Forever Institut – but I will absolutely come back to Jenna and will happily recommend Heyday to anyone asking.

She started by measuring my hydration levels (not surprisingly given my travel schedule, my skin needs more moisture). She then proceeded to cleanse, exfoliate, extract, massage, and hydrate, using a blend of products – Alchimie Forever, Naturopathica, Image, and Shaffali, an ayurvedic brand that is new to me. The blend of products was chosen specifically for my skin and created not only immediate results, but also an amazing sensorial experienced. My favorite part of the treatment was Jenna’s massage, which she did with a mixture of Alchimie Forever Kantic Brightening moisture mask and Naturopathica Carrot oil, pre-extractions. In effect, as she explained, the massage will soften the skin and make it more malleable, hence the extractions easier to perform. And they were indeed painless. She then used a micro-current machine to help serums penetrate deeper into the skin, and applied multiple masks (for different areas of my face, as my T-zone needed purifying and my cheeks needed moisturizing) before sending me on my way.

I left glowing, without a mark on my face – and photos to prove it. (If you haven’t ever experienced a facial because you think you will leave with blotchy skin, please think again).

I can’t wait for the next Heyday training, which will once again end with a treatment!

Immediately Post Treatment

Getting stuck in an elevator…

The highlight of my 2018 Mardi Gras weekend was not the parades, not the costumes, not the beads. Rather, it was getting stuck in the elevator at Palace Café after the annual “Friday before Mardi Gras” luncheon I am fortunate enough to be invited to.

We (our host, my BFF Angie, and a dozen others) had an amazing time in the Wine Room, eating, drinking, laughing, chatting. We were only on the third floor, but somehow taking the elevator seemed to be the right way to leave. So, a number of us did just that – with our lovely waiter. (The rest of us, the smart ones, walked down the two flights of stairs). The elevator begins to descend, and then suddenly stops.

At first, we all giggle. Then we try to pry the doors open (amid much debate as to if this was a good idea or not). Then a few of us just sit down and more or less calmly drink our drinks (feeling very grateful for open container laws). Finally, about 26 minutes later (which seemed like a few hours), we are rescued by firemen who look every bit like what I always thought firemen looked like.

We collectively decide to name our group The Krewe of Otis.

In all seriousness, these 26 minutes helped me remember a few key truths.

  1. In praise of patience. I am not patient. But getting frustrated and angry about a situation completely out of my control would not have made the firemen come to the rescue any faster.
  2. Kindness always. We each took turns calming each other down, calmly and gently, when one was about to lose it (I am not the only one quite uncomfortable in small spaces apparently).
  3. Trust the process. Someone will realize the elevator is stuck. Someone will try to help. If that fails, someone will call the proper authorities. They will then come fix this. Everything will be just fine.
  4. Laughter is the best medicine. At some point after realization and worry, we just started laughing again. After all, nothing diffuses tension and stress like a good giggle.
  5. Good friends make everything better. How glad am I that I got stuck there with good friends…

Happy Ash Wednesday!

At the start of our Lunch

2018 Goals 

I am in Los Angeles today (well, technically, Manhattan Beach) for an all-day meeting that was just cancelled this past Friday morning. After initial frustration, I decided instead that sometimes, cancelled plans are a gift from the Universe. It is January 22, 2018, and I am already feeling overwhelmed and behind. Actually, if I am really honest, so far this month (this year) I have felt organized on January 3rd and 4th

Somehow the year started so intensely that I am still figuring out my 2018 goals, 2018 budget, 2018 marketing plan. So today, the Universe gave me the gift of catch up. After a run by the ocean to clear my head, a Fast Eddy juice from Sunlife Organics, I am sitting outdoors in the sun thinking about my goals.

 My Alchimie Forever goals are focused on revenue growth, a new product launch (fabulous retinol serum in the making), and continued profitability. Also, I commit to redoing all of our Youtube videos which really need a lot of improvement (don’t watch them!). I will work to delegate more, which should be made easier by the arrival of our newest team member Emma, Sales & Marketing Project Manager.

 My personal goals involve both recurring resolutions and new commitments:

  • Drink more water (I think this has been on my list most years…).
  • Continue my one-day juice cleanser per month (and actually, today is January’s day… when in SoCal…).
  • Carry less paper around with me – if you know me, you know my Céline tote that goes anywhere I go, which weighs an average of about 22-25lbs. Apparently my back pain may be related to this…
  • Exercise three days per week – consistently. This week will be the first 2018 week where this actually happens.
  • Read more. Specifically, finish reading the stack of books on my bedroom floor that remain “pending” since I “Marie Kondoed” my book shelves over a year ago.
  • Clean out my closet. Apparently, the average woman wears only about 30% of her closet. This is probably my case, so I need to do something with at least 50% of the remaining 70%.
  • Be kinder. In particular to the TSA employees at the airport who sometimes get on my nerve. And maybe also to myself (reminding myself for example that finalizing 2018 goals on Jan 22 is not the worst possible thing in the world).

I like to have a word that defines each year for me – like a leitmotiv. I don’t have my word yet for 2018… I am hoping I will by the end of this day during which I will be catching up, but also letting my brain roam around freely in the California sunshine.

Happy 2018!

Learning from the field

I spend my life in the field, and the start to this year is no different. By the end of January, I will have visited 30+ stores that carry Alchimie. From every visit, from every interaction, I learn something new – what is working with my brand, what we can do better, and more.  

 I also spend most of my waking hours trying to figure out why certain locations sell a lot, and others less. I asked Marie Cook, who works in The Woodlands Beauty Evolution store in Houston, how she does it – not just with Alchimie, but with all of the brands she carries. She has been successfully selling beauty for 23+ years, and is filled with knowledge and advice. Read on…

 AP: How long have you been working with Walgreens? 

MC: I started with Walgreens on June 27, 1994, so a little over 23 years and six months.

AP: Please tell me how you started with Walgreens, and why? 

MC: Before Walgreens, I had worked in the retail industry for 6 years and I loved the retail business. When my husband made the decision to retire from the U.S. Navy, we left Japan, and I came ahead to Texas, while my husband completed his last six months aboard a ship. When I arrived in the Spring, I made several friends who worked for Walgreens, and I decided to apply. When they placed me in Beauty Care, I knew I had found my home.

AP: To you, what does Walgreens stand for? 

MC: For me, Walgreen’s represents stability. The company is devoted to studying their clientele, and providing the types of product that will sell in any given location.

AP: Have you always been in the same store? If so, why? 

MC: No, this is my second store. In 1998 a District Manager (DM) from Chicago was sent to work in Houston. He heard about my performance and he came to my store and ask me if I would work for him to run the beauty department in one of his new store that was going to open on May 4 of 1998. I was glad I accepted the offer, because I had achieved and accomplished and received recognition awards for my hard work under his watch until he retired. I know I made him proud. Besides these two stores, I was actually sent by my DM to many other stores to help out in beauty departments. When Walgreens started expanding, I was sent with the District Beauty Supervisor to help set up beauty departments in the new stores. I was also sent to some existing stores to help the beauty departments set up for Christmas and help others do the resets.

AP: In your own words, please describe your position to me?

MC: Sales and Customer Service: I promote best selling products to exceed my targets. I share success stories and learnings with other stores to enhance their performance, inform team members and leaders how to insure store success in beauty. I engage with customers in conversation about their beauty needs and exhibit a sincere concern for the customer. I am to offer tactful, informed, and personalized advice, tips, and product suggestions based on customer’s beauty needs and desires. I do demonstrations and makeovers. Most importantly perhaps I think about the long term, and offer extra customer care to build relationships and enhance customer loyalty to inspire the next purchase and repeat business.

AP: What is your favorite part of your job? 

MC: Making people feel beautiful about themselves inside and out.

AP: How do you consistently make your goal? What are your tips for success? 

MC: I consistently make my goal by planning ahead, monitoring and printing out my daily departments sales, and focusing on the goal to stay on top. I mix up the displays, do event tables, and keep the merchandising interesting for my customers. Also, I play with my outfits: I like to color coordinate my outfit to match with my theme. It attracts customers’ attention and it’s a great conversation starter.

AP: How do you self-motivate every day? 

MC: Loving what I do and my customers appreciating what I can offer is the key for my positive attitude.

AP: What are the keys to your positive attitude, regardless of traffic in the store? 

MC: Passion and drive are the keys for my self motivation everyday. I truly love what I do.

AP: What would be the one suggestion you have for Walgreens corporate? 

MC: My suggestions for Walgreens is to do more beauty training and keep us up to date with all the new beauty trends. For me, knowledge is power. Also better incentives would be helpful, including recognition for top sales, extra customer care winners. I would love to be invited to the headquarters in Chicago to receive an award before my 25th year. This is on top of my wish-list: to get flown somewhere again, all company expense to receive a recognition award and be on the Walgreens World Magazine one more time.

AP: What are the words of wisdom you have for your fellow beauty team members? 

MC: Do what you love and love what you do. Don’t be an expectation, be an inspiration. Own it, Love it, Live it. Care. Win Together. Inspire.


Ending the year in beauty with a Me-So-Light treatment

Earlier this month I made a list of the goals I wanted to achieve before the end of December.

In the next two days, I still need to finalize the Alchimie retinol serum, marketing plan and budget, but otherwise, I checked everything off this list. And in the self-care department, I did even better than I set out to do.

I did get a pedicure (purple toes to end 2017 and enter 2018 – given that Ultraviolet is the Pantone color of 2018). I also left for Switzerland with perfect eyebrows (thank you Erwin at Karma by Erwin Gomez). And I took time to do a treatment at Forever Boutique: Me-So-Light.

What is it?

This treatment is a blend between face mesotherapy and micro-needling (for more on micro-needling, read this post). Dr. Bani used a Dermapen (9 microneedles) to make minute perforations in my skin, which enables the “secret sauce” of product to optimally penetrate. The product applied is indeed a secret sauce – a powerful cocktail of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals to help rejuvenate and hydrate the skin, and give you an immediate glow.


Was it painful?

Not at all! I was a bit concerned, but this was much less bothersome than Botox injections.

What did I look like immediately after?

See the photo below! Just a bit flushed, which lasted for about an hour – nothing more.


How did my skin react in the following days?

I went into the Christmas holidays with a nice glow, looking much more refreshed than I felt!

Would I do it again?

Yes! I can’t wait to be back in Lausanne Q1 2018 for my second treatment.