Our Business Didn’t Start as a Business… Our Origin Story

Alchimie Forever does not exist because one day my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla, sat at his desk and decided to start a skin care brand.

Alchimie Forever does not exist because a consultant ran focus groups, identified white space in the market, raised some money, and created a business.

Alchimie Forever exists because my father is a softie and can’t stand to see children suffer.

Alchimie Forever exists because 30+ years ago, my father couldn’t find the perfect product to help heal the skin of his young patients post procedure.

Let me tell you our “origin story.” (Thanks, Marc Ross, for teaching me this terminology.)

My father opened his dermatology practice in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1986, and was the first dermatologist to offer pulsed dye laser technology to treat children suffering from Port Wine Stains and hemangiomas. Parents brought their children from near and far to have Dad erase these debilitating birthmarks, an endeavor that required numerous treatments over a period of months, sometimes years.

I was already working with my father back then (at the front desk) and I remember hearing the children crying from the pain, as the laser treatment created heat and discomfort, redness and inflammation, and a burning sensation. And if there is something my father can’t stand, it is a child in pain (he switched his medical specialization from pediatrics to dermatology after realizing he could not handle seeing terminally ill children). He needed a product to help make them feel better – to help heal their skin.

Not finding the right product, he created his own “recipe.” He would send his patients’ parents to a neighborhood pharmacy with a compounding prescription, the pharmacist would whip up a magical product in little white jars right there and then, and the child would stop crying. The prescription was for what is known today as our Kantic Brightening moisture mask. This compounded product, meant to help heal the kids’ skin post procedure, smelled so good that the mothers ended up also using it, and asking for more at the follow-up appointment: “it makes my skin glow,” they would say. For their convenience, we ended up “pre-making” the product.

One product led to another, and to another, and finally to the brand that became Alchimie Forever.

Alchimie Forever exists because of what is still our hero product, our Kantic Brightening moisture mask.

Long before this mask had a name, it had a loyal following.

Long before we had a brand, we had skin care solutions.

Long before we had a business, we had a mission.

What Should Our Next Product Be?

The very day I announced that our newest product, our Advanced retinol serum with time-release technology was hitting the shelves, I was asked what our next new product would be. I felt like how I imagine a woman feels who has just given birth being and is asked when she is having another child…

Today, exactly two months post launch, I am ready to think about newness again. Here is what is on top of  my mind – I would love to hear your insights, requests, ideas, and input.

It if were entirely up to me, I would create a facial oil. Of all of the product categories that are represented by other brands in my skin care routine, oils are the most significant as I am always using two or three depending on the day. The Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum may be my favorite of all time (and certainly the most expensive product I have purchased in a long time!). I grew up using Clarins facial oils, which I still use today. I love the oils by Goldfadden MD, Indie Lee, Naturopathica (the carrot oil in particular). Can you tell I have a thing for oils?

Even better, a facial oil in capsules.

And, I love capsules. My Mom used oil capsules on her skin when I was little, and I remember seeing her open one delicately every evening – like it was a treasure of pure liquid gold for her face. She loved an obscure French brand that is no longer in business, and in trying to replicate that memory, I recently purchased the Advanced Ceramide Capsules by Elizabeth Arden. Maybe this purchase also has a little bit to do with my girl crush on Reese Witherspoon? I love opening up those little bubbles of deliciousness and love the feel on my skin, but don’t love the fragrance, or that they contain dimethicone. Could we create an even better product?

Another mask. After all, our Kantic Brightening moisture mask remains our hero product, top seller, and editor favorite, so it would be strategically sound to expand the “mask franchise.” Plus, we have had requests for a mask that is more focused on purifying and detoxifying. (I can tell you it won’t be a sheet mask however, I hate those). The pressure is on  – a second mask would have to be as perfect, as magical, as this first one…

A toner / mist / antioxidant spray. We don’t have a toner in our line because our cleansers are pH balanced to the skin. Having said that, there is something so refreshing about a mist, and it is one of the non Alchimie products I use. I love the Yonka Lotion PS mist that smells like lavender and often use it during travel…

At-home peel pads. Estheticians everywhere love our professional-only Brightening peel. I do too, and I must confess to sometimes using it on myself at home. So it is only natural to think about a “real” at-home version. Yet I have mixed feelings. Can we make better at-home peel pads than the Dr. Dennis Gross top-selling product? If we make them “safe” for consumer use, are they still effective? And if we make an at-home version, will consumers forego our professional peel treatment?  So many questions…

Self-love. And self-care.

I have a confession to make: I don’t love Valentine’s Day. My heart can’t help but think of all of those who don’t have a Valentine, or can’t be with their Valentine. This year, I am shifting my thinking about Valentine’s day, in two ways.

First, I sent out a number of Valentine’s Day cards – to my single girlfriends.

Second, I am focusing on self love. After a challenging week, I am being extra kind, careful, and gentle with myself. I am implementing, re-implementing, self-love and self-care rituals.

Here is how.

I look at myself in the mirror and tell myself I am beautiful

My mother always told my sisters and me to look at ourselves in the mirror. To see ourselves. To observe, and embrace, the changes in our faces and bodies. While I still sometimes get carded for a glass of champagne, I don’t look like I am 21 anymore. I scrutinize myself in the mirror and embrace my 39-year-old face; the fine lines around my eyes remind me of how much I have laughed; my “freckles” (brown spots are two ugly words!) remind me of my time on Greek beaches. I look at myself and I tell myself I am beautiful. And stronger and wiser than when I was 21.

I take Nitika Chopra’s advice from Valentine’s Day 2014 and create a self-love ritual.

“Turn off the TV and unplug from social media for 15 minutes to get centered while self-pampering. My favorite way to do this is to moisturize my skin with intention. As I massage my feet I thank them for getting me to where I need to go; as I moisturize my hands I love them for all the transactions and introductions they’ve helped me with throughout my life.”

I perform an (not necessarily random) act of kindness.

Kindness is not merely altruistic, but something we all should practice for selfish reasons – because it makes us feel better. Being kind to others is like a gift to myself, it creates a mad rush of endorphins in my body and makes me feel good.

I schedule my self-care.  

The week of Valentine’s day, I always make sure I have one beauty or wellness appointment scheduled. A pedicure. My monthly eyebrow appointment. Even an annual medical checkup. Something that is good for me to do – for me. Something that I will thank myself for. When I look good, I feel good – and when I feel good, I do good. Sometimes I forget that I am my own priority… but not this week!

Vanity Fair's favorite masks

Why our Kantic brightening moisture mask is a Vanity Fair Favorite

Last week our best-selling Kantic brightening moisture mask was included in a roundup of best masks on VanityFair.com. Here is what the beauty experts at my favorite magazine said about our product:

Get the ultimate glow with this cult-classic product. Extremely creamy in texture, it contains natural botanicals and oats to soothe and brighten dull skin. Plus, your skin will feel extra-soft.

This product has received many accolades and is an editor favorite – it was written in In Style as the “best pre-party mask,” in Redbook, in Organic Spa, and it even made it in Travel & Leisure Magazine as one of the best things to come out of DC!

While you can read here all about the amazing ingredients, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to share a few lesser known secrets about this product:

  • Actress Necar Zadegan maintains her glowing complexion with this mask, applying it between taping episodes of Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce.
  • Before “sleep masks” and “nighttime masks” and “overnight masks” were a thing, I was getting calls from our fans telling me they loved applying this product in the evening and leaving it on overnight, waking up to flawless skin and the perfect glow.
  • My Mom’s favorite trick with this mask is to add a little to her Alchimie Forever moisturizer every morning. She thinks of the mask as a “booster” for her favorite cream.
  • As In Style figured out early on, it is the best “pre-party” mask because it evens out the skin, fills in fine lines, and gives the complexion a gorgeous glow – making makeup application easier and your makeup look better. Before a big event, apply a thin coat of the mask, almost like a primer, to your skin, then proceed with your makeup routine, and be amazed!
  • One of my favorite uses of this mask is on airplanes. I travel with samples of this product and apply it right when we takeoff. No “I just got off the airplane and my skin is blah and dehydrated” look for me when I land!
  • The color of this mask makes the above doable without seeming freakish: it is a soft shade of purplish (this is from the whole red grapes we use) which almost blends in to your skin, so you can wear it around the house when your other half is present, or like I do on airplanes…

If you have not yet tried it, add the Kantic Brightening Moisture Mask to your skin care routine today!

And if you already love and know it, you can start looking forward to it arriving this late fall in travel size…

 

Pigment problems? We now have a product for that

I am in love. With the new Alchimie Forever Pigment Lightening Serum. Any launch is always exciting to me, but our latest one is a particularly fabulous one. About a year ago I started seeing my first brown spots appear. Once in a while when in Geneva, I might have Maria (laser goddess) treat them with a laser at Forever Laser Institut. But what I really needed is a daily regimen to combat sun spots. Hence the need for our Pigment Lightening Serum. I love its texture, which is light and almost gel-like. I love that it layers beautifully under our Daily Defense SPF 23. I love the results it gives (sorry Maria, you might see me less often). And I love the ingredients it features.

-vitamin C is the ultimate ingredient for achieving brightening and antioxidant effects. This antioxidant vitamin is a critical determinant of skin’s resilience, which significantly is reduced through aging. Vitamin C is a potent agent in combatting wrinkles and reverse some of the signs of aging, as it affects the body’s production of collagen and elasticity, which is lost through collagen’s disintegration over time. The inclusion of vitamin C allows this serum to increase collagen production and work against the formation of wrinkles. It also treats age spots from sun damage by healing cells that are sunburnt and damaged.

-vitamin E is also an antioxidant nutrient that works synergistically with vitamin C. UV light from the sun depletes the skin’s vitamin E stores, but this is combatted when combined with vitamin C since it provides sun protection. Similar to vitamin C, vitamin E combats and provides protection against damage from free radicals.

-citrus is an ingredient that has anti-brown spot and complexion lightening properties, making it ideal in the treatment of pigmentation and uneven skin tone due to aging. It also reduces free radical production and helps to prevent signs of skin aging.

-hop strobile provides brightening effects by decreasing hyper-pigmentation and irregularities caused by sun, stress and aging.

-green tea (photoprotective properties, anti-brown spots effects) has a plethora of benefits when consumed internally but its effects can also be reaped when applied topically. Green tea contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a powerful molecule that prevents the disintegration of collagen and supplies photo-protective properties. Green tea also helps to repair existing UV damage.

-alpha-arbutin has a powerful brightening effect, and unlike other skin brighteners on the market, is not irritating.

-sodium hyaluronate and jojoba oil both work to deeply hydrate skin cells while simultaneously infusing the skin with anti-aging properties. Jojoba oil (which is non-comedogenic) additionally provides long-lasting moisture, tames redness and irritation, and soothes skin, while sodium hyaluronate has a plumping effect on the skin.

-blueberries are Alchimie’s signature ingredient, imparting the skin with vibrancy with their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Blueberries also have vaso-protective properties that help to reduce redness, making this ingredient ideal for rosacea-prone skin.

tone foundation

Why Alchimie Forever Doesn't Tint

I frequently get asked to create a BB cream and why we didn’t add a tint to our newest product, our Pigment Lightening Serum. I also get asked why I don’t wear any foundation or tinted moisturizer (fine print disclaimer: when my face is really blotchy, I will use the Laure Mercier Tinted Moisturizer in Nude).

The answer is two-fold.

First, I believe in taking care of one’s skin and complexion. Which means there should be no need for foundation or moisturizer. It is almost a dare I make with myself – let me see if I can have such good skin care rituals that I don’t need foundation.

Second, I avoid tinted anything because the color in foundation, BB creams, tinted moisturizers is created by metal oxides. Mostly iron oxides. Look at the ingredients in your tinted product and let me know what you find. Who cares, you might ask… Here is the scientific truth (do not keep reading if you don’t want some real scientific jargon; or grab a coffee first): excess iron is bad for our health, in many ways (it is involved in Alzheimer’s, glaucoma, and more), including on the skin.

Excess iron accelerates aging. Don’t stop taking iron supplements if you have a medically-diagnosed iron deficiency. But don’t increase your iron intake if you don’t need to. That means no supplements with iron in them. And no skin care products with iron or iron oxides in them, including tinted anything. How is excess iron bad? Excess iron is a catalyst for a chemical reaction called Fenton chemistry, which leads to the creation of one of the worst free radicals, the hydroxyl radical. We know this to be true: free radicals are bad and accelerate aging. Do you really want to use anything that will increase the level of free radicals on your skin? I didn’t think so. It kind of defeats the purpose of all of those anti-aging and antioxidant products you use… (As a side note – think about this: one of the theories about why women live longer than men is that we have a generally lower iron status because of menstruation and delivery… Just saying.).

So there you have it. The science behind why I prefer not to wear tinted face products.