Warm weather skin care tips

While the first official day of summer is still almost two months away, as I sit in my hotel room in Miami (taking a quick break from the amazing Tuff Love Aveda / Neill hair show taking place this week-end) and watch the people lying out by the pool, the topic of summer skin care comes to mind.

My mother always told me that the change of seasons was the perfect excuse to do a deep cleaning of my house, more specifically of my closets. My father, on the other hand, always told me the change of seasons was the perfect time to take another look at my skin care products and skin care routine and adapt it accordingly.

How do late spring and summer affect our skin? Of course, sunburns come to mind. Sweating, heat rashes, and clogged pores are also typical concerns of warm weather skin care. Sunshine and higher temperatures also mean dresses, shorts, sleeveless tops, open toed shoes and flip flops…. Here is how I deal with warm weather skin:

  1. I switch to a gel-based cleanser. My skin type is pretty normal, and as is typical, I am dryer during the winter months and oilier during the warmer months. To get rid of all traces of sweat and to avoid clogged pores, I love a “squeaky clean” feel, and our Purifying facial cleanser is perfect for that.
  2. I take cooler showers. Really, hot water, while delightful and relaxing, is not great for the skin, in any season. In warmer months, I find it easier to enjoy slightly cooler water, which is great to tighten pores, stimulate circulation (my Mom swears it is her daily cold showers that have given her her cellulite-free legs…), and give my hair some added shine.
  3. I make sure to exfoliate regularly with our Gentle refining scrub, both face and body. I find that regular (aka twice weekly) exfoliation helps to keep my blackheads under control, and actually ensure a longer, more even sun-kissed look. While I don’t use self-tanner, exfoliation is indeed crucial prior to applying tanning lotion, to ensure it goes on smoothly and avoid streaks.
  4. I switch to a lighter moisturizer. Whether I am in DC or in New Orleans, there is plenty of moisture in the air starting April. While humidity can be awful for hair, it truly is wonderful for skin. Skin will absorb some of the moisture in the air, and as such, most skin types can benefit from a lighter moisturizer during the warmer months. Our Protective Day Cream SPF 23 is particularly ideal and leaves a very matte finish on the skin.
  5. Sunscreen is a must. Indeed, while sunscreen is a must every day, it is a MUST when out by the beach, the pool, or the river. My father always recommended SPF 50+ on the face and body, and until we develop our own sunscreen, his favorite is LaRoche Posay’s Anthelios. He also taught me to avoid the sun between 11 am and 3 pm, and to be particularly careful when in the water, as sun gets reflected and is then twice a dangerous.
  6. Don’t forget your lips – they too are prone to sunburn. Whatever sunscreen you apply on the face, don’t avoid your lips or lip contours. And make sure you use a lip balm that contains an SPF.
  7. Don’t forget your eyes – sunglasses will help protect your eyes from the sun, and will help prevent squinting, which leads to wrinkles.
  8. Shorter dresses and arm-bearing tops mean that I am particularly conscious of my body. Our Firming gel for neck and bust and our Optimizing body contour gel take care of my upper and lower body respectively, preventing sagging and minimizing cellulite. Of course, a couple extra sessions of Barre3 will help more than any product…
  9. For many, summer means more frequent shaving. If you experience post-shaving irritation or ingrown hairs, remember to shave only after you have been in the shower for a few minutes (your hairs will be softer), to change your blade often, to exfoliate, and to shave with a cream-based product (shaving cream or hair conditioner work best).
  10. Don’t forget your feet – for me, open-toed shoes mean more frequent pedicures, but also dryer feet and the propensity to cracked heels. I use our Dry skin balm religiously every evening.
  11. Last but not least, hydrate from the inside out. With warmer weather comes more sweating, which means it is doubly important to drink those recommended 8 glasses of water per day. Emergen-C in my water helps it go down better…

Finally, my father always reminded me not only of what to do, but also of what not to do during the summer. Avoid photo-sensitizing products such as retinols (or use them less frequently), avoid laser treatments on tanned skin, and avoid stronger peels on tanned skin.

Happy bathing suit season!

National rosacea awareness month

Rosacea affects 14 million people in the US, men more severely than women, including famous figures such as Bill Clinton and W. C. Fields. However, to this day, 78% of Americans have no accurate knowledge of this condition and wouldn’t know how to recognize it.

April is National Rosacea Awareness Month, which is the perfect excuse and opportunity to review this skin condition, and share some tips about how to best manage the symptoms of rosacea (unfortunately, there is no cure for rosacea).

Causes of rosacea: The pathogenesis of rosacea is multi-factorial (translated in English: we don’t really fully understand what causes rosacea). Indeed, rosacea is precipitated by multiple causes including:

  • Genetic factors
  • Vascular factors
  • Immune-mediated factors
  • Emotional factors
  • Environmental factors
  • Infectious factors

There are various triggers that will aggravate this condition, including:

  • Environmental stimuli:
    • Exposure to temperature extremes
    • Moving to a warm or hot environment from a cold one
    • Heat from sunlight and severe sunburn
    • Cold wind
  • Emotional stimuli:
    • Stress
    • Anxiety
  • Physiological stimuli:
    • Some foods and drinks, including alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods
    • Strenuous exercise
  • Exogenous stimuli:
    • Microdermabrasion
    • Chemical peels
    • Products containing alcohol, witch hazel, menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus, clove oils, and other irritants

Diagnosis of rosacea: When diagnosing rosacea, it is important to look for the following:

  • Presence of one or more of the following primary features:
    • Flushing (transient erythema)
    • Long-lasting erythema
    • Papules and pustules  (red or yellow little bumps)
    • Telangiectasia (visible broken red blood vessels)
  • May include one or more of the following secondary features:
    • Burning or stinging
    • Plaque
    • Excessive dryness
    • Edema
    • Ocular manifestations (burning, redness)
    • Peripheral locations (rosacea on areas other than face)
    • Phymatous changes (e.g. rhinophyma) enlarged nose extremity

Rosace is typically classified in three stages:

Stage 1: Mild rosacea

  • Predominantly vascular symptoms
  • Characterized by recurring flushing on the face, neck and upper chest
  • May include facial edema and erythema
  • Telangiectasia may appear

Stage 2: Inflammatory rosacea

  • This stage is marked by the appearance of follicular-based papules and pustules
  • In addition to the symptoms of Stage 1 rosacea, there are also increasingly prominent facial pores

Stage 3: Severe rosacea

  • Characterized by a proliferation of sebaceous, connective, and vascular tissue
  • Typically results in the bulbous hypertrophy of the nose known as rhinophyma
  • This stage is most commonly found in men

Treatment options The first treatment option is truly behavioral, focusing on avoiding all of the triggers identified above. A typical treatment course for severe rosacea will however also include medications, such as:

  • Oral antibiotics (tetracycline, doxycycline, minocycline)
  • Topical antibiotics such as metronidazole (Metrogel)
  • Topical azelaic acid such as Finacea (15%) or Skinoren (20%) may help reduce inflammatory lesions, bumps and papules
  • If papules and pustules persist, isotretinoin can be prescribed

Finally, for the treatment of the erythema and redness specifically, the pulsed dye laser remains the gold standard.

From a product standpoint, it is essential to use products formulated for sensitive skin and to avoid harsh ingredients such as acids or vitamin C (and certainly no peels!). Furthermore, vaso-constrictors (ingredients that tighten our red blood cells and protect their capillary walls) are ideal for rosacea-prone skin (think blueberries for example). Finally, from a cosmetic standpoint, makeup bases that have some green in them will help to alleviate the look of redness.

For a webinar on how to treat rosacea-prone skin, please click here.

Sources: National Rosacea Society, The Treatment of Rosacea with Glycolic Acid, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, JAAD, April 2002, Vol 46, Number 4, JAAD, June 2004, Vol 50, Number 6

Beautiful in Seattle

I travel a lot for work. Mostly to the same places (NYC, LA, New Orleans, Charlotte), but once in a while I have the opportunity of discovering a new city, as I did this week-end. There are two ways I like to discover new cities: through their beauty boutiques and spas, and through their culinary offerings. This week-end, I did both in Seattle. To read about my culinary experiences, please click here. If you want to learn more about Seattle’s unique beauty destinations, keep on reading.

The goal of my trip was to visit two existing Alchimie Forever clients that I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting face to face – I have to admit I am old fashioned that way, and I love knowing my clients “for real” as opposed to just by email and Facebook. My first meeting was with the beautiful Suzy, who took a leap of faith and brought Alchimie Forever to beauty.com. That visit took me to the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, to the corporate headquarters of this beauty giant (which also encompasses drugstore.com, and another favorite Alchimie client, skinstore.com). While not a beauty destination per se (you can’t really go there and purchase products), I always love touring beauty companies’ corporate headquarters… the air always smells like products…

The second Alchimie Forever client I visited with is our first and only bricks-and-mortar client in the Pacific Northwest, men’s grooming boutique Ward & Co., located in Rainier Square. During my coffee meeting with the owner, Mark, I learned that while his core customer is the downtown business man, tourists are a significant client segment (almost 1 million tourists visit Seattle due to cruise ship stopovers starting in May). We talked about how tools (all types of razors and more) had become his most significant revenue category, and about how much more loyal the male beauty consumer is when compared to his fickle female counterpart. From Café Migliore, we walked over to the boutique, a chic, 400+ square foot haven of men’s grooming products and accessories. Michael runs the day-to-day operations (Mark’s day job is to be an architect) – and clearly knows what he is talking about. Savvy about skin care, about shaving methods and tips, and with a background in upscale men’s fashion, he is the go-to expert customers come to visit time and time again. Alchimie products are in good company: you will also find such unique men’s grooming products as Taun (a new line out of NYC) and Kyoku.

Right around the corner from Ward is a Calidora Skin Clinic. This Seattle-based medical spa chain (they have 7 locations in Washington state and California) has been on my radar for a while as one of the few that has somehow managed to grow and successfully roll out across multiple locations (some of you may remember Sona Laser Centers for example, with a similar yet unsuccessfully implemented business model). While Alchimie Forever products are not (yet!) in Calidora, the clinic I visited was beautiful, busy, and the front desk manager truly pleasant.

Also on my list of places to visit, in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, was Essenza. Since 1998, Essenza has been supplying the area with hard-to-find skin care, fragrances, and makeup, as well as unique jewelry, baby gifts, and bathrobes. There, I had the pleasure of meeting Becky, the owner and brain behind the store (she also owns a clothing store right around the corner). Obviously, she understands her customers’ wants and needs, having owned this indie boutique for 14+ years. She was intrigued by Alchimie, hopefully my next visit to Seattle will be to train her and her team on my line!

In planning this trip, and in doing research as to which hotel to stay at, I came across Hotel 1000 thanks to its Spaahh. I was introduced to Juanita, the spa manager, by email, and thanks to her discovered this fabulous hotel with fabulous service. And a fabulous Spaahh. A must for any jet-lagged, travel-weary business woman (aka yours truly).

Finally, randomly across the street from the hotel, I discovered Parfumerie Nasreen, a European-style jewel-like boutique with hard to find fragrances (they even had Jicky, my ever-harder to find perfume by Guerlain!). A testament to the boutique and its eponymous owner, Nasreen: it has been there for 26 years and business is going strong.

If you ever are in Seattle, do stop by these unique beauty destinations. Of course, there are more, which I didn’t get to this trip. I am saving Gene Juarez Salon & Spa (true Seattle institution), Frenchy’s (a Parisian inspired day spa and boutique), and Blackbird (in Ballard) for my next visit…

My favorite skin care tips

In honor of  National Wellness Week, which is coming to an end, I thought I would share some of my favorite skin care tips, so that you might add to and enhance your wellness resolutions as they are proposed by SpaFinder.

1. Listen to your skin. If your skin breaks out when you use a product, that product is not for you. If your skin feels uncomfortable, irritated, blotchy, raw when you use a product, that product is not for you. Think of your skin as a baby – it can’t express itself in words, so it finds other ways of telling you how it feels. Listen to it. Try our Kantic Calming Cream which helps to soothe and calm irritation and redness.

2. Always apply products from thin to thick. That means serums first, gels second, creams third, and sunscreens last. Watch this video to learn more about how to layer your skin care products.

3. Don’t mix your treatment product with your protection product. Do you use a shampoo and conditioner in one? I didn’t think so. Why do to your skin what you wouldn’t do to your hair?

4. If you are old enough to have a cocktail, you are old enough to be using an eye cream. No ifs or buts about it. The skin of the eye contour area is the thinnest (other than the skin of our lips), and will start showing age earliest. Check out our eye care products here.

5. Always apply your eye cream or gel with your ring finger (our weakest finger), and from the outside in. That will minimize the likeliness that you will tug at this delicate area, stressing it further instead of treating it with some TLC.

6. Our faces lie, our necks tell our age. Make sure you use your facial products on your neck and décolleté. Even better, invest in a product that is specifically designed for this delicate area such as our Firming gel for neck and bust.

7. Our hands also tell our age. Aging does not happen from forehead to chin, but on our entire bodies. Our hands in particular, which are as exposed to the elements as our faces, deserve the same anti-aging care. Try our Dry skin balm to help soften and nourish any dry skin.

8. Prevention is key. Don’t wait for the brown spots and wrinkles to show up before you start using quality anti-aging products. Our Pigment lightening serum is especially formulated to help reduce the appearance of brown spots and even out skin tone. It’s suitable for all skin types and skin tones.

9. Sunscreen is also key. SPF 15 during the winter months (SPF 50+ on the ski slopes), SPF 30 during the sunny months (SPF 50+ on the beach or by the pool). Check out our Protective day cream SPF 23 for your daily skin care regimen.

10. Don’t expect of your products the same results you will get from treatments in a spa or medical office. Products are a complement to treatments, not an alternative.

Just as National Wellness Week was to serve as a reminder that we need to take care of ourselves, that we need to commit to health and wellness, let us also commit to a healthy skin care regimen. Find the products that work for you, and use them morning and evening. Every day, as part of your self care ritual.

Ajune medical spa to close on December 28th

I love the train. Perhaps it is because growing up I took the Swiss train regularly. Always on time (not a myth, one second late and you miss it), always clean (also not a myth), it wound through the mountains slowly but surely and brought me to my Nona, to the ski slopes, to Bern. Amtrak doesn’t quite live up to the Swiss trains, but I still love the 3.5 hours of peace between DC and New York City. While my trips to NYC are always hectic, tiring, fun, and productive, this trip will also be sad. Tomorrow for the last time, I will visit Ajune medical spa, my favorite medical spa in the City and one of my very first Alchimie Forever clients. Indeed, on December 28th of this year, Ajune will be closing its doors (its website is already down, perhaps as a precursor to the closure).

Ajune has been at 1294 Third Avenue since it opened, 13 years ago. Owned by Dr. Maura Romita, a famed plastic surgeon, Ajune was one of the first spas to understand that spa goers wanted results, medical-style procedures, under medical supervision, but all in a softer, more spa-like setting.

Over the years (I started working with Ajune in 2004), I have had the pleasure of working with so many wonderful people, whether managers, therapists, aestheticians or receptionists. Margaret (now the spa director at Merge, also in NYC) was the one who brought Alchimie Forever into Ajune, and for that (and for the fact that she has since brought my line to Merge!), I will be forever grateful. Having worked at Avon prior to Ajune, she is a numbers-driven, no-nonsense operator, someone whom I have learned much from (and continue to today). I worked with Josephine for many years, whose smiles and kindness I still remember. Cara was my colleague Catherine’s favorite aesthetician at Ajune, a petite brunette, with a great extraction technique and constructive feedback and input on the Alchimie Forever product prototypes I would have her test. Most recently, I have had the pleasure of working with Amy, who was hired to work at the front desk a number of years ago and has since been promoted to spa director; today, Amy is in charge of this transition time.

To all of you, to Dr. Romita, to Dana, to the entire Ajune team, I say thank you. Thank you for taking on Alchimie before anyone did in NYC. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for your support and friendship over the years. Thank you for your business. Thank you. I will miss you. Catherine will miss you. New Yorkers will miss you.

Having spoken with Amy, she shares these bittersweet words: “Thank you to our loyal clients for their patronage; we hope that during our time open on third avenue, we provided you with incomparable service and an education about skincare that you will take with you throughout their daily life.”

Dr. Romita will be taking a select few technicians to continue working at his office at 853 5th Ave at the beginning of 2012. The services they will offer will be strictly clinical.

While the recession has not been kind to the spa industry, this is the first long-time Alchimie Forever spa partner that has closed. Ajune closing makes this economic turmoil feel a whole lot more personal, and brings home the fact that we are not out of the woods yet. We small businesses must continue to support each other, to help each other, to work together. And we consumers must continue to shop local, spa local, and to support our own communities.

BeautyView: Marti Morenings, Founder and Chairman, Universal Companies

I don’t get star-struck in the typical way. Seeing or meeting Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, or even Angelina Jolie won’t faze me. However, having a burger next to President Obama makes me grin from ear to ear (some of you might remember that picture). And meeting successful entrepreneurs gives me butterflies in my stomach. Of the successful entrepreneurs I have had the good fortune of getting to know, Marti Morenings, Founder and Chairman of Universal Companies, is one of my favorites. She started Universal Companies with her father, grew the company, sold it, and then bought it back from the purchasers to grow it even further. She lives wellness through and through; she is a woman entrepreneur; she is a single mom; as a serial entrepreneur, she is now involved in the alternative energy sector; and she wears Jicky by Guerlain (Guerlain’s first fragrance, and the only perfume I have ever worn)! What is there not to love?

AP: What city were you born in? MM: I was born in Belem’, Brazil.

AP: What city to do you live in? MM: I now live in Bristol, VA.

AP: What is your middle name?  MM: I don’t have one.

AP: What is your astrological sign? MM: Leo.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? MM: My favorite thing is the spa and wellness component, and the idea that we can have an impact on the beauty that comes from within.

AP: Least favorite thing? MM: My least favorite thing is when beauty becomes all about the external image and less about what’s inside.

AP: What is your most prized possession? MM: My health.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? MM: I have two very energetic Jack Russell Terriers – Spud and Mia.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? MM: Yes, a Cartier wristwatch.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? MM: Diamonds.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? MM: I would have loved to have met Steve Jobs and shared a meal with him. I’m reading his bio now, and I think it would have been fascinating to have known him – he was the consummate entrepreneur.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? MM: Make time for yourself – it is the best thing you can do for your children, your family and your career, not to mention your health. I am hooked on doing yoga every morning, and I try to do it at sunrise and outside on my back deck if the weather is good. It is an incredible way to start the day!

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? MM: 1. Pack light by picking one color scheme and including items that can be dressed up or down.  2. Drink lots of water. 3. Pack almonds or other protein foods to snack on.

AP: What is your favorite book? MM: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? MM: Scotch and soda.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? MM: Moisturizer and getting enough sleep.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? MM: Jicky by Gurlain.

AP: Botox or not? MM: Not.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? MM: Not.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. MM: Looking for Answers – Susan Tedeschi, Melt My Heart to Stone – Adele,  Songbird – Eva Cassidy.

AP: Quote to live by. MM: “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

AP: Who is your mentor? MM: My mom – she was the ultimate multi-tasker!

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. MM: Don’t listen when someone tells you that you can’t do it. Think in terms of partnerships with employees, vendors and colleagues, and look for ways to make them more successful. It always comes back to you tenfold.