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.

Lingerie…

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…

Grooming for our fathers

When people ask me why Alchimie Forever offers products for men only, I often answer “because my mother [the force behind our new product development] loves men and wanted to make them feel special.” In honor of Father’s day, and all the men in our lives, I thought it might be timely to write about men’s grooming, and our Alchimie Forever men’s products.

Despite what one might think, men spend  a lot of time in the bathroom. As my Mom says, “they just close the door before they start looking at themselves in the mirror.” I can confirm both that my husband spends a lot of time grooming and that he always closes the door. While I don’t exactly know what happens behind closed doors, I know how good he looks when he gets out. Here are my favorite tips and products for men.

  1. Soft feet. There is nothing less sexy to me than bad feet. Whether they are in bed next to me feeling rough against my skin or belong to a stranger in flip-flops I pass on the street. On that note, I think there is one less sexy thing – feet in Crocs. But that is a topic for another discussion…
  2. Manicured hands. Assuming the man’s feet are in closed shoes, my eyes immediately go to the hands. Do they look powerful? Do they look strong yet soft? How would it feel to hold his hand? Are the nails too long? Are the nails bitten? What tales do any calluses tell? Of course, my Alchimie Forever 532nm antioxidant relief for the hands and feet is the best product to ensure both soft feet and soft hands.
  3. No shaving bumps or post-shaving irritation. A red, angry neck and ingrown hairs do not make for a good first impression. The Grooming Lounge’s Beard Master shave oil can help. As can choosing a better razor, and never shaving against the grain. Finish with the Alchimie Forever Antioxidant skin repair gel and your skin will thank you.
  4. Hair. Whether you have a little or a lot, embrace what you have and run with it. I love a shaved head. Michael Jordan and Bruce Willis made that sexy and manly many years ago. If you are blessed with a head of hair a la Pierce Brosnan, make sure the back of your neck always looks clean. I love salt and pepper hair… which my husband has. So refined and elegant. Much better than a bad color job. And I love the way his Aveda Men Pur-Formance shampoo and hair conditioner smell.
  5. Also, hairs (notice the “s”). Whether you have a lot or a little was decided by Mother Nature. What you do with it is entirely up to you. Invest in trimmers. For ear hair. For nose hair. For chest hair. Invest in waxing services (don’t ask your wife to trim the hair on your back; value a bit of mystery in a relationship).

Happy Father’s day to all the most handsome Dads out there!

Sun, sunscreens, sunburns…

The sun is (or at least should be!) shining, it’s that time of year. And May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. All in all, it is time to review sun, UV, sunburns and sunscreens. Here are some tips to help you separate fact from fiction when it comes to this burning topic (no pun intended…).

Myth: I don’t need to wear sunscreen on a cloudy day.

Truth: Up to 85% of UV can penetrate light cloud cover

Myth: I have a tan, so I won’t burn.

Truth: Having a tan is only the equivalent of about SPF 4, and does not mean you won’t burn.

Myth: I am young, I don’t need to worry about skin cancer.

Truth:  Melanoma (skin cancer) is the number one cancer seen in ages 25-29

Myth: I need more vitamin D so I shouldn’t wear sunscreen.

Truth: You only need about 10 minutes of sun exposure per day to get enough vitamin D for your wellbeing. (And remember, even with sunscreen on you will get sun exposure).

Myth: Getting just one sunburn won’t really harm my skin.

Truth: A single sunburn in childhood will increase the risk of melanoma. And it can take up to 5 years for the skin to fully recover from a single sunburn!

Myth: Tanning beds are sage.

Truth: UVs matter inside and out; indoor tanning may increase the chance of getting melanoma up to 75%

Myth: Sunscreen will block all UV

Truth: “Sunscreen is not enough” as said Dr. Karen Burke. Remember to layer your antioxidants under your sunscreen, so you have a second line of defense (try our Diode 1 + 2 serums for your face, and our Alexandrite gel for neck and bust for your body).

Other interesting facts about the sun and sunscreens…

UVA versus UVB:

  • UVA damage DNA and lead to skin cancer (damages not initially visible to the naked eye)
  • UVB lead to redness and ultimately wrinkles (the visible sunburn effects)

Chemical versus physical sunscreens:

  • Chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays. These are typically lighter sunscreens.
  • Physical sunscreens (really known as sunblocks) reflect UV rays. Ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are used in physical sunscreens. The usual “thick, white, sticky” feel of sunscreens comes mostly from physical sunscreens.

Water-resistant versus waterproof sunscreens:

  • Water-resistant sunscreens maintain their SPF levels after 40 minutes of water exposure
  • Waterproof sunscreens maintain their SPF levels after 80 minutes of water exposure

The sun’s reflective powers are great:

  • 17% on sand
  • 80% on snow

If you want to learn more about the sunscreens I like, watch this week’s segment on Let’s Talk Live. And remember, no sun is safe sun. And you earn the skin you’re in!

Self care advice from my Mom

In the US, there’s an inherent fascination with European women. How can they be so thin despite eating so much cheese? How can they be so healthy despite drinking wine, often at lunch? How do they achieve their quintessential elegant look? How come they seem to age more gracefully?

While I don’t pretend to have answers to the first two questions, I do believe that the European woman’s approach to skin care has much to do with the answers to the third and fourth questions. While speaking about European women is obviously a gross generalization, here are some tips on skin care habits that my Swiss mother engrained in me from my early teens:

  1. Skin care is a part of self care, part of health care. Facials are not luxuries, and a good moisturizer is not a frivolous expense. Indeed, I was taught that going to the spa should be considered as necessary as going to the dentist on a regular basis.
  2. Prevention is more important than correction. Don’t wait until you start seeing wrinkles, brown spots, and sagging skin to incorporate anti-aging products into your routine. If you are old enough to drink (and remember, in Geneva, this is 16), you are old enough for an eye cream.
  3. Spend time in your bathroom; it is your sanctuary. Growing up, I watched my mom take long baths, apply lotions and potions, and  spend a lot of time in her bathroom. That was her special time each morning–her way to get physically and mentally prepared for the day, and in the evening, it helped her remove the effects of the day.
  4. For every year you grow older, spend an extra 30 seconds in your bathroom. When you are 20 years old, you can jump out of bed, tie your hair in a ponytail, and leave the house in 5 minutes looking fresh and beautiful. As we age, getting to that look takes more time and more effort. Don’t fight against it, embrace it, and spend more time in your bathroom.
  5. Look at yourself in the mirror. Really look–don’t just glance. This will enable you to see every wrinkle starting to form, to see the appearance of very light brown spots and watch them turn darker with the passage of time. The process of looking, observing, and assessing will give you a feeling of control over the changes happening on your face and body and will ensure that you don’t just wake up one morning and think, “I have just aged 20 years overnight.”
  6. Taking care of your body is as important as taking care of your face. Treat your neck and décolleté with specific products. Nourish the skin of your body. Take particular care of your hands and feet. Not just once a week, but every day, twice a day.
  7. Makeup is meant for highlighting and color, not to treat skin. If your skin looks good, you don’t need to cover it with foundation. Show your skin. Use makeup to brighten and color.
  8. The worse you feel, the brighter your lipstick should be. Red is the color of power, wearing it will not only have people commenting on how great you look, but will make you feel powerful and in control, hence better. Find the shade of red that suits you, and use it.
  9. Keep your nails real, short, and oval. Did Princess Grace of Monaco have long fake nails? I don’t think so. Short is elegant. Nude is the best neutral, but bright red works on short nails too.
  10. Smile. You will look better, feel happier, and everyone around you will too.