Taking my own advice

On Saturday, I turn 42. And today, I received perhaps the best birthday gift ever: Sarah Akram herself told me I looked 30. “Good genes and good skin care,” I responded. When I then confessed that I didn’t remember when my last facial was, however, she did remind me that these facial treatments are a necessity to stay youthful-looking and that Botox does not replace the need for facials (Amen, sister. I preach this every day…).

Much like the cobbler’s daughter, while I work in the world of facials and skin care products, I do not take my own advice frequently enough. While the last time I had Botox was in June and the last time I used our Advanced retinol serum was this past Monday evening, I truly cannot recall when the last time I had a facial was.

With my birthday looming, I decided it was time to complement great home care with a really good facial. On the recommendation of a friend of mine who has particularly glowing skin (and I realize now somewhat naively) I called Sarah Akram Skincare to schedule a facial with the eponymous founder for mid-November. While I I thought this was lots of advance notice, I was gently told the next availability was January 30, 2020. “Not meant to be,” I thought, while putting my name on the wait list. Yesterday, the lovely Nyles called me back to let me know of a last-minute cancellation for this morning – so I rearranged my meetings, all the while thinking “totally meant to be, this is my early birthday gift to myself.”

Extravagant, yes. Worth every penny, absolutely. Akram is everything I love in a facial therapist: gorgeous with flawless skin, super knowledgeable about her craft, serious, friendly but not too talkative – and has magical hands. This treatment was 90 minutes of a beautifully balanced combination of technology (LED, microdermabrasion, cryo, something warm I forgot to ask about) and touch (the facial begins and ends with amazing massage). Akram uses products from Environ and Biologique Recherche, two brands I admire yet had never experienced firsthand (I did of course bring her some Alchimie to try).

I left with glowing, bright, plumped, rejuvenated skin (this photo is immediately post treatment, zero makeup) – ready to enjoy my last three days as a 41-year old and looking forward to 42 – and to my next facial at Sarah Akram Skincare, scheduled for February 2020.

Blueberries: Queens of the Berry World

Blueberries have the best of reputations: they are filled with antioxidants, colorful, round, and delicious. The Vaccinium myrtillus L. fruit, known in English as bilberry or European blueberry (very similar to the American blueberry), has powerful protective properties which have been known and utilized since the Middle Ages. Today, blueberries are even claimed to be “the most powerful antioxidants of all.”[1]

The European blueberry is Alchimie Forever’s signature ingredient – and not just because they are purple… Here are their three main benefits at the level of the skin.

1.Anti-redness benefits.

Blueberries play a role in the management of flushing symptoms: they tighten and protect fine capillaries thanks to anthocyanins,[2] and are thus ideal in skin care products targeting redness-prone skin. The vaso-protective effect of the European blueberry was first described in the 1960s, when the fruit’s capillary resistance and permeability were first analyzed. Since, studies have confirmed that blueberries increase capillary resistance and thus decrease redness.[3]

2. Antioxidant benefits.

Antioxidants aim to prevent, stop, or repair the damages that are caused in our skin by free radicals. Specifically, the flavonoids found in European blueberries (more specifically the anthocyanosidic extract) are powerful neutralizers of free radicals,[4] with the following benefits: they inhibit lipid peroxidation[5] (leathery coloration of aged skin) and prevent the degradation of collagen (fine lines, wrinkles, loss dehydration).[6]

3.Iron chelating activity.

Iron has often been featured in the health and consumer press in the context of anemia (i.e. iron deprivation). While many have discussed the various ways of ensuring appropriate iron intake, whether through diet (red meat and various fruits and vegetables), or through the daily use of supplements, few realize that excess iron is an accelerator of aging (skin and otherwise). Read more here (ADD LINK TO https://adamantaboutbeauty.com/2013/06/24/iron-in-skin-aging-less-is-more/ )

or watch this YouTube video (ADD LINK TO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsDr1d1pQhw ) if I have piqued your curiosity.

Indeed, excess iron is involved in various chemical reactions that lead to the production of the hydroxyl radical, one of the most harmful free radicals.[7] Once again, the European blueberry comes to the rescue and plays a key protective role. Both quercetin and myricetin (two types of flavonoids found in this fruit) have iron chelating properties, meaning that they minimize the formation of free radicals stimulated by excess free iron and UV light and prevent accelerated aging.8

So eat your blueberries, but put them on your face too!

[1] Wu X, Beecher GR, Holden JM, Haytowitz DB, Gebhart SE, Prior RL. Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States. J Agric Food Chem. 2004;52(12):4026-4037.

[2] Bagchi D, Sen CK, Bagchi M, Atalay M. Anti-angiogenic, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogenic properties of a novel anthocyanin-rich berry extract formula. Biochemistry (Mosc). 2004;69(1):75-80.

[3] Morazzoni P, Bombardelli E. Vaccinium myrtillus L. Fitotherapia. 1996;67(1):3-29.

[4] Lichtenthaler R, Marx F. total oxidant scavenging capacities of common European fruit and vegetable juices. J Agric Food Chem. 2005;53(1):103-110.

[5] Sakagami H, Asano K, Takahashi K, Terakubo S, Shoji Y, Nakashima H, Nakamura W. Anti-stress activity of mulberry juice in mice. In Vivo. 2006;20(4):499-504.

[6] Morazzoni P, Bombardelli E. Vaccinium myrtillus L. Fitotherapia. 1996;67(1):3-29.

[7] Polla AS, Polla LL, Polla BS. Iron as the malignant spirit in successful ageing. Ageing Res Rev. 2003;2(1):25-37.

8 Svobodová A, Psotová J, Walterová D. Natural phenolics in the prevention of UV-induced skin damage. Biomed Papers. 2003;147:137-145.

 

Dr. Polla (aka Dad’s) top skin care tips

Earlier this Summer, I had the chance to share my Dad’s (aka Dr. Luigi L. Polla, Switzerland’s leading dermatologist) favorite tips about how to age gracefully with consumers and influencers across the country. For those of you whom I did not have the chance to preach in person, I would like to preach in writing… thank you for humoring me.

Here are my Dad’s top dos and don’ts to age more gracefully:

  1. No smoking. Ever. It increases the presence of free radicals in your skin, accelerates aging, gives your skin a leather look, and creates terrible upper lip wrinkles.
  2. No straws. Just don’t do it. These are bad for the environment and bad for your upper lip wrinkles.
  3. Sleep on your back. And yes, you can teach yourself to do it. Even if you sleep half the night on your back, your face and décolleté wrinkles will thank you. (My Dad can always tell how a woman sleeps by looking at her facial wrinkles… deeper on the side you sleep on).
  4. SPF daily. From January 1st to December 31st. When it rains, When it snows. Every. Single. Day. No excuses, no exceptions.
  5. If you’re old enough to drink, you’re old enough for a good anti-aging eye cream. Prevention is key, and the skin around the eyes is so thin it needs more help and earlier help than the rest of our face.
  6. Your face ends on your décolleté. Treat your neck and bust as you do your face, with effective anti-aging products and SPF every day. Nothing is worse than your face saying “I am 37” and your décolleté saying “I am 44.”

What tips would you add to these? I can’t wait to hear!

Swiss Beauty Secrets

We all have heard of the famous French beauty secrets, including that “French women don’t get fat.” But have you heard of Swiss beauty secrets? Here are some of my favorites… 

  • A small square of dark chocolate every evening is filled with antioxidants and helps you satisfy your sweet tooth and stay slim (also, deserts are verboten). 
  • Facial appointments are like dentist appointments: mandatory at least twice per year once you become a teenager. 
  • Treat your body as much as you treat your face. Body care is as essential as face care. 
  • Makeup is for color only, to use on eyes and lips. Your skin should always show through – that’s the whole point of taking great care of your skin. 
  • Daily baths are a must, they allow your body to be weightless and take pressure off your joints. 

What are your favorite beauty secrets? 

 

Self-care + skincare + looking at yourself in the mirror

To me, skin care has always been more than skin deep. 

At the heart of our origin story is self-care 

“Self-care through skin care.”™

Also at the heart of our origin story is the idea that how you look impacts how you feel, which in turn impacts how you act. 

“Looking good, means feeling good, means doing good.” 

You can learn more about our tag lines by watching this video

In a time that seems defined by over-work, over-connectedness, stress, and mental health concerns, taking care of one’s self is an absolute must. Self-care, of course, takes many forms (exercise, meditation, religion, food, and more), and means something different to everyone. 

In my world, self-care relates to beauty, skin, and looking at myself in the mirror with kindness and gratitude. 

In my world, self-care means applying creams, lotions, potions. Self-care means spending time in my bathroom focusing on myself, and only on myself (my bathroom is a phone-free zone, the only one in my home). Per my mother’s advice, I spend a lot of time looking at myself in the mirror. I inspect all of the infinitely minute changes that take place every day. Changes in my skin, my face, my body. I look at them, I acknowledge them, I welcome them. I smile at myself. I tell myself I am beautiful. Not in a vain way, rather, in a kind way.  

In a time when we all need to be reminded about the importance of self-care, I am grateful for the many brands (beauty and otherwise) that focus on this message. The most recent example (which inspired this blog post) is Birchbox – and their new You-Time campaign 

Next time you look at yourself in the mirror, ask yourself “Who do you see?” Answer with positivity and kindness. 

 

One Product, Every Single Morning

Growing up, some might say my parents were quite “lenient.” My sisters and I never had curfews. We were never forbidden from going to parties or having parties at home. We were allowed to have a sip of champagne for special occasions before the legal age.

However, there were some rules that we had to follow to the letter. Good grades in school (just because). No smoking (because it ages you). No tattoos (because they don’t always look good when you’re older). No desserts (because sugar ages you). And no sun, no tanning, no sunburns (because the sun is your enemy – at best it ages you, at worst it kills you).

From an early age, we were taught to wear hats, sunglasses, and a moisturizer with SPF. Every single day. To this day, I cannot walk out of my house without a product with SPF, regardless of weather, season, temperature.

Here’s why:

  • The sun ages your skin – this is called photo-aging, or UV-induced skin aging. Think dark spots, fine lines, broken capillaries, laxity of the skin.
  • Chronic sun exposure increases your risk of skin cancer (even without sunburns). Indeed, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation: “Both intermittent, intense exposure (the kind you get on vacation on a sunny isle, often leading to sunburn) and chronic lifetime exposure add to skin cancer risk. Studies have shown that chronic sun exposure is most associated with the development of squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common skin cancer, while both chronic and intense, intermittent exposure are believed to play a role in basal cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancer.”
  • Darker skin types, while not as prone to skin cancer as lighter skin types, should also wear SPF protection daily to prevent dyspigmentation.
  • UVA and UVB are both nefarious to the skin. SPF is a measure of UVB protection only – it does not address UVA. Make sure any product with SPF you use is “broad spectrum”, the official indication that the product will protect your skin from both wavelengths.
  • What SPF number should you look for? My father always said SPF 20+ is perfect for “normal life.” Per the Skin Cancer Foundation states: “In vitro tests have shown that SPF 15 sunscreens filter out 93 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 30 protects against 97 percent and SPF 50 98 percent.”
  • Chemical screen or physical block? You choose – what matters is that you use a product with SPF 20 or above every single day.
  • My pick? You guessed it: Alchimie Forever Protective day cream SPF 23. In addition to containing SPF protection, this lightweight moisturizer is packed with antioxidants including blueberry and edelweiss extracts, and vitamin C. No ashiness, no oily residue, no shine. Just antioxidant and SPF protection.

Every single day.