BeautyView: Christina Han, Associate Beauty Editor, W Magazine

In building a consumer brand, in particular a beauty brand, press is absolutely key. Indeed, I think our time is about the power of press. Not the power of money. Not the power of fame, but the power of writers, journalists, bloggers, editors. Given this context, it has been a true pleasure getting to know Christina Han, associate beauty editor for W Magazine. From a first deskside meeting, we have had the opportunity to meet a couple more times. I am in awe of her: she is smart, gorgeous, stylish, powerful, and somehow manages to stay super thin despite her Chipotle addiction…

AP: What city were you born in? CH: Baltimore, MD.

AP: What city do you live in? CH: New York, NY.

AP: What is your middle name? CH: Eun-Kyung, which is my Korean name. Directly translated it means, silver mirror. Perhaps foreshadowing my career in the beauty industry…or extreme vanity.

AP: What is your astrological sign? CH: Capricorn.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? CH: The effect beauty has on people. Whether it’s advice on a new product or a salon recommendation, beauty makes people happy.

AP: Least favorite thing? CH: From spilt nail polish and glitter shadows to exploding bottles of shampoo, my dry clean-only clothes have seen it all.

AP: What is your most prized possession? CH: All of the vintage (and even some newer) bags I have slyly borrowed from my mom’s closet, but have yet to return.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? CH: I eat Chipotle on a weekly basis.

AP: Do you wear a watch? CH: Yes, always. AP: If yes, what model? CH: Cartier Roadster.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? CH: Diamonds.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? CH: Ryan Reynolds.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? CH: SoulCycle and a good bottle of wine. However, not at the same time.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? CH: 1 Cashmere socks to slip into on the plane. 2 SK-II Treatment Masks to rehydrate skin post-flight. 3 Never accessing the free WiFi on the plane to check email.

AP: What is your favorite book? CH: Life of Pi by Yann Martel

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? CH: Ketel and soda with a lemon wedge, only. Absolutely no limes allowed.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? CH: Joanna Vargas, my facialist. She keeps my complexion glowing with her treatments and products. I live for her Daily Serum and never skip a day.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? CH: I have two favorites, Versace Versense and a more recent discovery, Tom Ford’s Jasmine Rouge.

AP: Botox or not? CH: Whichever makes you happy.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? CH: Natural.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. CH: It’s broken!

AP: Quote to live by. CH: “Be sharp.” – my mom

AP: Who is your mentor? CH: The amazing Sarah Brown.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. CH: Never turn down an assignment. Show up early and leave late. Learn how to replace toner in a copy machine.

10 beauty must-haves every woman needs at all times…

I was catching up on my reading last night and read the October issue of Allure cover to cover. They call themselves “The Beauty Expert,” I think of them as “The Beauty Bible.” One of my top 10 “BHAGs” (big hairy audacious goals, to borrow a term from Jim Collins” is to have Alchimie Forever featured in Allure.

One of my favorite features is their “Fashion Expert: 10 Things Every Woman Should Have.” This month’s column is by Michael Kors. His #4 is white roses, he calls them “the LBD of flowers.” I couldn’t agree more… Reading this feature reminded me that my girlfriend Severine asked me last week when I was in Geneva what beauty items I always had with me (aka in my purse). So here is a modified version of the “10 Things Every Woman Should Have.” My personal version, 10 beauty must-haves every woman needs at all times.”

1. Chapstick. Not having chapstick when my lips are chapped is like not having a bathroom when… well.. you get the point.

2. Lipstick. At least two shades, one that can take you through the day, and one for that unexpected date before which you don’t have time to stop by the house.

3. A tiny mirror. My mom knows how to apply lipstick without one. I don’t, and have stopped trying.

4. A small brush. I have a black small Mason Pearson that I love dearly. (I have had it for years, but wash it regularly with baby shampoo).

5. Small tweezers. Mine are purple (of course), by Tweezerman (of course).

6. Small samples of sunscreen. Who knows when you will find yourself for a long lunch on a sunny terrace. I cherish samples of LaRoche Posay Anthelios 50+.

7. A nail file. Never file your nails in public… but nail emergencies (to be dealt with in private) do arise.

8. Alchimie Forever samples. I carry Kantic calming evening cream samples everywhere. No matter what is going on with my skin, Kantic fixes it.

9. A travel toothbrush and toothpaste set. Enough said.

10. Herban Essentials Lavender Towelettes. For any of life’s small messes.

Antioxidants for anti-aging

At Alchimie Forever, we believe phyto-antioxidants are the most powerful way to prevent and repair signs of skin aging. Indeed, antioxidants are not new to beauty and skin care industries and have been on everyone’s lips over the last few years, touted to be the latest “miracle in a jar.” But what exactly are antioxidants? What do they do? How do they work? And which ones should you use?

To understand antioxidants we must understand oxidants

Oxygen, essential to life, is metabolized in the body by successive reductions, leading to superoxide anion (O2.), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), and hydroxyl radical (.OH) generation. These different molecules are named reactive oxygen species (ROS), or oxidants; some are free radicals (defined by the presence of an unpaired electron), whereas others are non radical (such as H2O2, singlet oxygen 1O2).

Oxidants, when present in significant quantities, lead to oxidative stress which in turns damages cellular structures.

Exposure of the skin to UV is the main cause of oxidative stress: UV exposure induces the production of high quantities of oxidants, which damage DNA, lipids, membranes, intracellular and extracellular proteins, and sugars. Oxidants have both immediate and long lasting deleterious effects to the skin, including the appearance of actinic keratoses,  a  citrin coloration of the skin (lipid peroxidation), a loss of collagen and elastin (protein alterations), and finally skin cancer (DNA alterations).

Antioxidants: a way to fight oxidants

Antioxidants, as their name indicates, are the opposite of oxidants. What oxidants break, antioxidants can repair.

Endogenous antioxidants

The first key distinction in the family of antioxidants is whether they are endogenous (those produced by the human body) of exogenous (those not produced by the human body). Indeed, human cells are equipped with a series of endogenous antioxidants to deal with the damages caused by oxidants. Such endogenous antioxidants include the following enzymes: superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and thioredoxine reductase. As we age, these endogenous antioxidants are gradually depleted over time; this consumption is accelerated by an increased production of oxidants. Hence the importance of exogenous antioxidants.

Exogenous antioxidants

          Synthetic antioxidants: the case of Idebenone

Idebenone is one of the better known synthetic antioxidants. It is an organic compound of the quinone family and promoted commercially as a synthetic analog of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Idebenone’s antioxidant role involves both the scavenging of oxidants as well as a preventative role in lipid peroxidation. It seems idebenone’s antioxidant properties function by virtue of the electron-donating properties of the hydroquinone form.

Idebenone is present in skin care products from brands such as Prevage (owned by Allergan) and True (which licenses idebenone from Allergan).


The alternative to synthetic antioxidants are natural antioxidants, namely those derived from plants. Plants, like human beings, suffer from UV-generated oxidative stress – they live in the sun after all! Plants are, however, unable to protect themselves by moving into the shade or by using sunscreen. Consequently, plants have developed effective antioxidant strategies to protect themselves against the oxidizing stress induced by their environment, in particular UV exposure.

Phytoantioxidants fall into four main groups, namely enzymes, terpens, polyphenols, and vitamins. Some of the best known, and most studied phytoantioxidants are carotenoids (a terpen), and flavonoids and anthocyanins (polyphenols).

Green tea

Green tea contains four major flavonoids: epicatechin, epicatechin-gallate, epigallocatechin, epigallocatechin-3-gallate. These molecules have the ability to scavenge oxidants including O2.-, .OH, H2O2 and 1O2. It has been shown that epigallocatechin applied topically with exposure to UVB inhibits the production of H2O2 in the dermis and epidermis. Numerous skin care brands use green tea, including Elizabeth Arden and Replenix.


Rosemary contains various antioxidants, in particular phenolic diterpens: carnosol and carnosic acid represent over 90% of the antioxidant properties of rosemary extract. These lipophilic molecules scavenge lipid free radicals, thereby enabling the reduction of lipid peroxidation and inhibiting oxidative damages to skin surface lipids. Carnosic acid also has photoprotective potential. Alchimie Forever and Clarins are two brands that use rosemary in their skin care products.

Grape seeds

Grape seeds are major sources of resveratrol and quercetin. The stilben resveratrol inhibits lipid peroxidation induced by UVB and significantly decreases UVB-induced skin thickness and oedema. The iron chelator flavonoid quercetin maintains and protects the activities of glutathione peroxidase, catalase, and superoxide dismutase after exposure to UV radiation. Caudalie is an example of a skin care brand using grape seeds (and grapes) as its signature ingredient.


Tomato is rich in lycopene, a widely studied powerful antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic carotenoid with strong reducing ability and the most effective carotenoid in the scavenging of the oxidant 1O2. Lycopene also scavenges lipid radicals, reduces lipid peroxidation and prevents erythema caused by UV radiation on the skin. Kiehl’s and Alchimie Forever both use tomato extract in their products.

Antioxidants represent a key therapeutic approach to preventing skin aging. More specifically, research indicates that the combination of multiple antioxidants at low concentrations represents the most effective approach. Indeed, different antioxidants (whether synthetic or natural) have difference mechanisms of action and target different parts of the cell, thus offering synergies when combined. In the world of antioxidants, 1 + 1 is not 2 but rather 5. As such, the more antioxidant products you use, the better off your skin will be!

Beauty by the numbers: Skin

I spend a lot of time applying creams, masks, serums, eye contour products, and many other lotions and potions. I also spend a lot of time merely about skin. I think about how it is the one accessory that I am stuck with forever. About how it reveals my age. About how it reacts to various situations and emotions (do your cheeks redden when you are embarrassed?). About how it reflects my lifestyle and diet. I collect what I call “funny factoids” about skin, the largest organ of our body… This morning, I ran into an old (May 2006!) Allure Magazine “Beauty by the Numbers” column, and was reminded of some of my favorite funny factoids about the largest organ in the human body.

  • 200 A.D.: Year in which the Roman physician Galen combined wax, olive oil, rose petals, and water to create the first cold cream.
  • $1,000: Amount paid to Gloria Laura Mercedes Morgan0Vandebilt in 1924 for her endorsements of Pond’s Cold Cream.
  • 21: Total square footage of skin on the average human body.
  • 7: Total weight in pounds of skin on the average human body.
  • 40,000: Number of dead skin cells the body sheds every minute.
  • 650: Average number of sweat glands in one square inch of skin.
  • 20,000: Number of pores on the face.
  • 53: Percentage of American women over the age of 33 who have acne.
  • 16: Percentage of American who have at least one tattoo.
  • 60: Percentage of American women who say they would give up chocolate or their morning coffee for better skin.

To celebrate Swiss National Day, an interview with Christine Sager

August 1 is Swiss National Day. As I am in Las Vegas for Cosmoprof (and there really is nothing Swiss about Las Vegas), I thought it would be nice to speak to someone who understands Switzerland and the special significance of August first. Below, my conversation with Chrisine Sager, the wife of Manuel Sager, Ambassador of Switzerland to the United States.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Hudson, Ohio and Syracuse, New York

How long have you been in DC?

Since November 2010… already 9 months.

What is your favorite place in DC?

I haven’t had much time to sight see, but I am always deeply stirred when I go to the monuments around the Reflecting Pool.

What is your favorite place in Switzerland?

I can never name a ‘favorite’ place…there are just too many wonderful spots. I do love Bern, it has everything from a beautiful medieval city center to lovely parks and easy access to recreation.

What is your number one beauty necessity?

I guess that would have to be a great moisturizer, without it one’s skin cannot look its best. I like Alchimie Forever’s Kantic+ intensely nourishing cream.

What is your greatest self-indulgence?

Deep tissue massages for my back and neck.

What do you do to stay physically fit?

I work out three times a week at the gym.

What is the quality you most admire in a man?

A true respect for women.

What is the quality you most admire in a woman?

Selfless care and concern for others.

How will you celebrate Swiss National Day?

First, with the Swiss Club here in DC, of course. Then we depart for Switzerland on the 31st of July, arriving on the 1st of August in Switzerland. There we will celebrate with family. My husband’s nephew has become something of a pyrotechnic and puts together great fireworks shows.

Do you have a favorite Swiss tradition?

I love the very rare occasion when, hiking in the mountains, you suddenly hear a distant beautiful sound echoing through the valleys from a hilltop…someone has carried his/her alp horn all the way up there to enjoy nature’s auditorium for which this instrument was made. I struggle enough getting myself up there, let alone an alp horn.

Do you wear a watch? If yes, which one?

Yes….Omega Consellation.

Which topic could you talk about for days on end, if anyone would listen?

While we were living in London, our work took us to Central Asia…specifically to Turkmenistan and Kirghistan….and I developed a close relationship to some artists there. The lack of hope that so many expressed, led me to found an organization to represent about 25 artists from these countries, by putting on exhibitions and promoting awareness for that region. I would love to do something to help them here in the US as well, but have not yet found the right contacts.

If you could have dinner with 1 person, who would it be?

My husband.

What is your favorite treasured possession?

My glasses (couldn’t do without them) and my Bible.


If you know anything about me, you now that I have many girlfriends. I love them all, they all bring so many varied and invaluable positive influences in my life. I have written about or previously mentioned my best fashion-inspiration girlfriends, Kassie Rempel of Simply Soles, Jen Donohue of Treat, and Betsy Fisher of, well.. Betsy Fisher.

Tonight, I want to tell you about two others. They are fashion-inspirations, but the type of fashion that, well, you don’t see. Two of my BFFs know my exact bust size. Not for any other reason (you may be thinking…) than the fact that they are lingerie boutique owners. Two of my very best BFFs have fitted me for a bra. Two friends that many of us would not speak about , let alone write about because, well, because they own lingerie boutiques, and we all love to leave their stores with plain, white, no-logo bags and pretend it is our lunch that we are taking back to the office.

I had cocktails at Central with one of them tonight, she who is the inspiration for this blog. She is French. Yes, that means a lot in the lingerie world. French as in “French women don’t get fat.” As in “French women love the way their breasts look naked.” As in “French women have more… fun.” She is Valerie Lucas, she owns Coup De Foudre, 1001 Penn Ave NW. Pronounced Coop-duh-Foodruh (I think that is the phonetic spelling). I am not afraid to admit that many of my under-things come from her store. I love her brands, all European, my favorite currently being the Marie Jo bra, a little number that comes in three colors with each one bra really being three bras in one (the straps are like magic). I won’t go so far as telling you which colors I own, but let’s just say it’s more than one. And by the way, not that you would wonder about this, but the picture below is not of me. Valerie reminds me of the key tenets of life, including “wear clean underwear every day just in case you get hit by a truck” (as said my grandmother), and “wear sexy underwear just for yourself, because you know it and it will make you feel good all day” (as says my mother).

My other lingerie BFF is Abby Fisher, of Sisters 3 in Clarendon. To her, I owe my American under-things preferences. While I am a European at heart, the American concept of comfort and loungewear has rubbed off on me (after all, I have been here for 16+ years). Blue Knit Pajamas are to die for. They feel great on the skin, and look great on the floor.

What do your under-things look like? Feel like? Do they make you look fabulous and feel special when you put them on? After all, that is what they are meant to do…