An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules, minimizing the production of free radicals, and thus protecting cells. Antioxidants = anti-aging, antioxidants both prevent and correct signs of (skin) aging. They are at the core of my skin care brand, Alchimie Forever. We use both plant antioxidants (such as blueberries, rosemary, red clover), and synthetic antioxidants (such as vitamin E, vitamin C). We always combine antioxidants in our formulations, because they have synergies. Some prevent the formation of free radicals, some neutralize existing antioxidants, some protect and potentiate other antioxidants. Indeed, in the world of antioxidants, 1+1 = 3, 3+3 = 10, and so on. This is the power of synergy. This is the power of the whole being greater than the parts.
Over the past ten days, I have realized that sisters are like antioxidants. In the world of sisters, 1+1+1+1 is not equal to 4. Instead, 1+1+1+1 = 10. Or more. Or infinity. We, together, the four Polla sisters, are greater together than our individual parts. We are stronger together. We are smarter together. We are funnier together. We bring out the best in each other. We protect each other. Antioxidants work to prevent and correct signs of skin aging. When we are together, we prevent and correct signs of (our) life aging. I feel more youthful, more childlike than I have all year. (And my first Botox of 2020 is not until tomorrow).
Merci mes soeurs.
My sister Rachel is getting married next Saturday, July 25th, and I can’t imagine not being with her on that magical day. So here I am, on my third COVID-19 quarantine. Like much of the US may be feeling (closed bars, moving “back” to Phase 1), this quarantine feels like I have taken a step backward. I am not allowed to leave “my house” except for an emergency medical reason. No walks. No runs. No grocery store trips.
Quarantine feels different in different cities. In DC, it felt like being undercover in the center of a quiet city full of possibility. In Hammond, it felt like a country retreat. In Geneva, quarantine feels “real,” particularly after the lovely yet stern conversation I had on Monday with the Canton of Geneva representative. I had to confirm my physical address, and together we counted the days until end of quarantine (just to make sure our math was on the same page).
I am a planner, and I had a plan for this quarantine.
- Live in a neutral ground AirBNB with outdoor space (The Hamlet, which is family-run, is exceeding all of my expectations)
- Stay on US schedule (sleep in, work late)
- Have socially distant meetings on the terrace with my family and Swiss colleagues
- Spend morning hours (before the US wakes up) on creative thinking
- “Do Zoom” per usual
- Be open to what 24/7 with my husband would teach me (different from our previous quarantines, which involved space on different floors, versus sharing 700sq ft)
- Eat healthy
- Don’t drink too much
My plan is working, other than the creative thinking, which as has been the case throughout this pandemic, is harder than it has ever been.
I have also already learned a few things that I did not expect.
- I love being in Geneva “in my house.” I know this is not my house, and, I am not in a hotel and not at any other person’s home. This has never before happened in my life, and it is quite lovely.
- Birds help me stay sane. I feel like I am living in a tree house, with the wall to wall windows open (thank you Geneva July weather) and a constant chirping concerto, allegro at dawn, adagio at dusk.
- I think about leaving “the house” more than I would if I were not prohibited from doing it. (I guess like a child thinks about doing the things her parents have told her are forbidden).
- Smood is the most dangerous food delivery app I have come across. I can order McDonald’s (which I will not). I can order Lake Geneva perch and steak tartare from the neighborhood restaurant (which I have). There is an unlimited wine selection. And groceries from Migros are available.
This time in Geneva brings home what I love. Not seeing my family for seven months was painful (it felt like losing part of myself). Home is laughing with my sisters and hugging my Mom (who is immune to COVID-19).
July 1. New month. New quarter. 2nd half of 2020. 183rd day of the year, 183 days to go. Today, I choose to celebrate. celebrate. I have once and for all put to rest all of my grand 2020 plans (made pre-COVID-19), I have once and for all accepted that this current reality is indeed the new normal and will be for quite some time. Today, I choose to celebrate.
I celebrate the first half of the year.
- My family and I are alive and healthy.
- My Mom got COVID-19 and beat it.
- I have spent 107 days and nights in a row with my husband and we are more in love than ever.
- I am still in business.
- I work in an industry that will never go away and that makes people not only look better, but also feel better.
- I did not lay off or furlough anyone on my Alchimie team.
- I became a cat mom.
Today, I also choose to focus on all that I have to look forward to in the second half of 2020.
- My sister Rachel’s wedding (praying to the travel gods).
- Botox at Forever Institut (praying to the travel gods).
- A couple of weeks in Tinos, Greece (praying to the travel gods).
- Hamilton on Disney Plus.
- The elections.
- Quiet dinners at home with my husband and cat babies.
- Quiet dinners out in those places that are excelling at safety measures and social distancing (including Bourbon Steak and Peacock Café)
- Getting back out in the field.
- And, I am sure, many (hopefully good) surprises…
Here’s to the second half of 2020!
Self care is having a moment. Some even say that the COVID-19 virus is transforming the “lipstick effect” into the “self care effect.”
I was raised to believe in self care, and specifically in self care through skin care with my brand Alchimie Forever. But what exactly is self care? Over the past couple of weeks, I connected with Britta Cox, the founder of Aquis hair, about beauty, hair care, skin care, and most recently self care. We shared our respective ways to care for our selves, in general and more specifically during this time of confinement. Here are the highlights of our conversation.
Britta’s self care wisdom:
- “Being in nature, moving and breathing deeply clears my mind and rejuvenates me. It’s also when my best ideas come, it’s when my subconscious and thoughts can float freely.
- Sleeping with the windows and doors open and breathing fresh air makes a big difference in how my skin looks and how well I sleep. It makes all the difference to feeling well-rested and fresh in the morning.
- Dry brushing. It’s a Swedish thing. Use a dry brush on dry skin, brushing towards your heart to keep lymphatic fluids and blood flowing to enhance circulation, remove toxins and keep skin healthy. Sunday is my self care day when I’ll dry brush and exfoliate from head to toe before taking a nice soak in the tub, with a few drops of oil in the water to replenish moisture.
- Detoxing my scalp. The scalp also develops sebum build up. We have a wonderful Detoxifying Scalp and Hair Wash with charcoal. It cleanses deeply without stripping the hair of natural oils, and is pH balanced for the hair and scalp specifically.
- Spending time in the garden. I love spending time in the garden which is abundant with life, learnings and miracles of nature. I’ve been a certified organic gardener for 14 years, living on almost two acres, which brings such joy. You can just step outside, close your eyes, and experience life and nature everywhere. It makes you appreciate and tune into the small things in life and be in the moment.
- Beauty is all about what we put inside. I saw my first aesthetician at age 21, she got me hooked on fish oils. All of the omegas they have are one of the best things you can do for your skin, hair, and mental clarity. And I eat smoked salmon as another source.
- Drinking water and tea to stay hydrated. Warm tea at night helps with digestion. Chrysanthemum tea is amazing for skin and reducing inflammation & the warm tea water is cleansing.
- Music. A good playlist can help you find your Zen, and completely change your mood.”
I shared some of my current self-care rituals as well, which include:
- Stepping outside and breathing fresh air. I try to spend part of every day outdoors, for my mental and emotional well-being.
- Exercising 3-5 times a week. It has a positive effect on my skin. Exercise activates blood circulation, it’s good for my mental state, and for my physique. Normally I’m a morning exerciser but had a challenging day and decided to go for an evening run. I needed to shift my mental state and sometimes to do that I have to engage my body and shift my physical state.
- Masking it up. I sleep with the K18Peptide™ Masque overnight. It’s so good for my hair and amazing at mending split ends.
- Scrubbing my body. My alternative to dry brushing (although I may have to embrace this technique) is Aveda’s Beautifying Radiance Polish. When we’re young our dead skin cells naturally fall off. As we age, those natural processes get a little lazier and don’t function as well. The older you get the more important it is for you to help your body naturally shed dead skin cells. Be super gentle with the skin on your face and neck—it’s delicate, but the body benefits from a good scrub. Always scrub against gravity, so from the feet up your legs, from the hands up your arms, it’s good for lymphatic drainage.
- Smelling the roses (or magnolias in this case). My husband brings flowers into the house. We’re in Louisiana right now and he brought in a magnolia from our tree.
- Soaking it up. I’ve been taking baths almost every night which I don’t normally do. It feels so good for my head, and I love the feeling of weightlessness. Kneipp bath salts make the baths feel like a real treatment.
- Being mindful of what I eat and drink. What we eat and drink is reflected in our skin. I’m trying to eat extra healthfully, and be very diligent about going three days each week without alcohol. A trip to the fridge is the most tempting trip. My girlfriends and I joke about the COVID-19. I don’t want that.
- Taking care of others. The other aspect of self-care is care of others, your children, your spouse, your partner, care of people who can’t care for themselves.
Last but not least, we both agreed that gratitude is a powerful form of self care. To read more about our respective silver linings, click here.
How are you taking care of yourself during these times?
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a good excuse to brush up on sun protection knowledge. If you stop reading right here, just know that a moisturizer with SPF is a must every single day, from January 1st to December 31st. This will not only prevent skin cancer, but it will ensure that you age more gracefully.
Continue reading to refresh your SPF knowledge.
What is SPF? SPF = Sun Protection Factor. The number tells you how long the sun’s UVB rays would take to redden your skin if you apply the sunscreen exactly as directed compared with the amount of time without sunscreen. So, if you use an SPF 30 product properly, it would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you used no sunscreen.
“SPF Math”. SPF 15 blocks about 94% of UVB rays; SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays; and SPF 45 blocks about 98%
UV rays are bad. UV rays lead to melanoma and 90% of signs of skin aging. Wear a moisturizer with SPF every day. Avoid laying out in the sun between the hours of 11 am and 4 pm when the sun is strongest. You will get a tan from being in the shade… And please do not use tanning beds.
UV rays are bad in different ways. UVA and UVB rays are both harmful. UVA rays cause wrinkling and skin aging. UVB rays cause sunburn and skin cancer. This is why you need to use a broad-spectrum SPF (meaning one that protects from both UVA and UVB rays).
Wear SPF even when indoors. UVA rays penetrate through glass windows. Let me say it again: wear SPF every day, even when you plan on staying inside all day.
Chemical versus physical. Chemical sunscreens absorb UV rays. Physical sunblocks block UV rays. Both are better than not wearing sunscreen.
Vitamin D. Yes, we all need vitamin D. No, this is not a reason not to wear sunscreen every single day.
Please wear sunscreen (for example our Protective day cream SPF 23). Every. Single. Day. Thank you!
Business has slowed drastically. My inbox is full of COVID-19 update emails instead of “normal” emails, so even “office work” is different.
My meetings have been postponed and my trips cancelled for the foreseeable future. No trainings, store visits, events, or conferences for days.
I have been home for 9 days straight.
This is not my “normal life,” and I must rethink my days and my rituals, to ensure that I don’t think of every day as “day” (instead of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday etc), which I must admit I am guilty of.
I am not there yet, but I am trying. Here are some of the things I have implemented (some new, some similar to what I did “before”) to stay sane during these insane times.
- Waking up between 4:30 and 5 am on weekdays (my normal wakeup time).
- Making a weekly game plan on Mondays as I usually would, focusing on prioritizing projects I have not had a chance to work on over the past six months.
- Listening to Yo Yo Ma daily in the evening (on Instagram).
- Skyping weekly with my sisters during the weekends (instead of monthly).
- Defining Wednesday as vacuuming day. Given that we brought our cat to Georgetown, my husband just gifted me a new Dyson mini vacuum which is perfect for cat hair. Did I mention how satisfying vacuuming is?
- Being super strict about my eating and drinking. I am still not drinking three days per week (although last week I slipped and only made it two days) and am very aware of the “COVID-19” and eating with awareness to avoid gaining weight.
- Notwithstanding the above, ordering takeout from my favorite restaurants to support them as best as I can.
- Doing 100 sit ups every day.
- Taking advantage of the many (free) webinars that many publications and associations are offering to discuss the current crisis and how to do business during such times.
- Ensuring that at least two evenings per week involve no “TV.”
- Listening to a Master Class per day (so far, I only did this once this week though).
- Doing virtual cocktail hours and lunches and dinners with friends (oh friends how I miss thee…).
- Reading. I am still finishing The Only Plane in the Sky, the timing of which I can’t decide is scary or fortuitous, following which I plan on reading mostly fiction until “life goes back to normal.”
- Reminding myself of all of the things I have to be grateful for, including my husband, my health, my home.
What are you doing to stay sane? Please share! I need more ideas…