Tinos 2018 Reading List

When people ask me what I do for fun, my answer is “read.” I read fiction, I read non-fiction, I read for book club, and I read beyond book club. Most of all, I read during my summer R&R, in Tinos, Greece. I aim for a new book every two days.

Here is this year’s Tinos reading list – in the order I imagine reading the books…  I probably won’t make it through 11 books in 16 days, but I will try.

Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam. I found this book somehow on my IG feed, recommended by someone I follow. I started my vacation with this one and loved it. Great advice on how time really is elastic and how to be in control of your time, of what you spend your time on.

The Verdun Affair by Nick Dybek. I also came across this book on my IG feed. I started it but could not get into it – so I am leaving it be for now, maybe I will pick it up again at the end of my vacation. I have to admit I don’t like WWI (or WWII) books, or sad love stories… maybe this was not the best pick for myself.

Who is Rich by Matthew Klam. My friend Cathy recommended it as our next Book Club read – she always stretches my reading comfort zone, and I am looking forward to this novel, about a cartoonist, set in a lovely New England beach town.

Wishes Fulfilled by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. My friend Kassie  gifted me this a while back, and I have never made the time to read it. It is about manifesting and the laws of the Universe – I think. Again, a bit out of my reading comfort zone, but isn’t that what friends are for?

In the Name of Gucci by Patricia Gucci. My Dad gave me this one – apparently a great read if you are in family business.

Silent by David Mellon. Another novel, written by my husband’s step-brother. I am looking forward to discovering it.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. I figured I would be reading this around my two-week vacation mid-point, and perhaps by then the Tinos air will have worked its magic on my mind and everything I give a F*&^% about.

101 Ways to Open a Speech by Brad Phillips. Melissa May recommended this book when I took her public speaking seminar in December 2017. I have been meaning to read it since. I am hoping it is quick and insightful.

Principles by Ray Dalio. This is the big one for this trip. I am leaving it to the second week of vacation because I am expecting to need a rested brain and open mind to get everything out of this read that I should. Also, it’s pretty thick.

Kilometre Zero by Maud Ankaoua. A book in French made it on this year’s reading list… My friend Severine gave this to me just last week when we got together for champagne in Geneva. I will give it a try… Other than my mother’s books, I can’t remember the last time I read a book in French is.

Building a Stroybrand by Donald Miller. I have been reading this for months, a great recommendation by my friend and graphic designer Kelli. There is so much, and it makes me think so hard about my brand Alchimie Forever, it feels like work – it will be the perfect book to end my vacation on and begin reentering the work world.

Alchimie Forever Advanced Retinol Serum + Time Release Technology

You have probably heard that the Alchimie Forever family is expanding. Our newest product, the Advanced Retinol Serum with time release technology, is launching next month.

Last week, I wrote about why retinol is the gold standard ingredient for anti-aging. This week, I want to tell you a little bit more about our retinol – because not all retinol products are created equal!

Let me preface the below by saying that I have been testing prototypes of this formula on myself for about 16 months. We started with 1.5% retinol (in the blended form of pure retinol and retinol with time release technology). My face almost fell off… This final formulation is the perfect balance between efficacy and controlled side effects.

If you have never used a retinol, you will see some flaking. That is normal, that is how retinol works. Push through the first 2-3 weeks, and your skin will adapt, just as mine did.

What kind of retinol are we using?

Pure retinol and micro-sponge retinol (a unique and proprietary technology). Part of the retinol is loaded inside a sponge-like mechanism, something akin to a “reservoir”; over 24-28 hours after application, the natural sebum in our skin dissolves the “sponge,” thus releasing the locked retinol little by little. This timed and controlled release of the active enables its use at efficacious levels, with minimal irritation and fewer side effects that are typically associated with retinol.

Dryer skin types with less sebum will have a slower retinol release versus oilier skin types – which is desired as retinol irritation is typically greater the dryer the skin.

 How much retinol are we using?

0.75% total concentration. You would be surprised by how few brands state the % of retinol contained in their product. We love transparency, and you will see this figure on our packaging and in our marketing materials.

What other ingredients are we using?

To enhance the anti-aging benefits of the product and minimize irritation and side effects, we are using a cocktail of antioxidants with nourishing, calming, soothing, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Ingredient Skin Effect
Hyaluronic acid (Sodium hyaluronate) Hydration, skin plumping
Jojoba Oil Hydration
Vitamin E Hydration, antioxidant
Vitamin C (Ascorbyl glucoside) Antioxidant, brightening effect, non-photo-sensitizing form of Vitamin C
European Blueberry Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-redness
Green Tea Soothing, calming, anti-inflammatory
Red Clover (Isoflavones) Antioxidant, calming & soothing, stimulates the skin’s natural collagen production
Edelweiss Antioxidant, natural sun protection filaments
Apple stem cell extract Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory

Who is this product for?

Women in the mid 30s+ who wish to control and manage the signs of skin aging. This is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive, and all skin tones. Please keep in mind that the more sensitive you are, the less frequently you will want to use this product (start once a week – and maybe stay at one a week).

Who is this product not for?

Nursing and pregnant women. Anyone who is absolutely averse to any side effects (such as flaking) whatsoever, no matter how well a product works.

 How do we recommend you use it?

Apply a pea-sized amount in the evening to clean, dry skin, on face and neck, avoiding the eye area, two to three times per week. Follow with a moisturizer if desired. For those with sensitive skin, start off using once per week to allow skin to acclimate, and gradually work up to recommended frequency of use. Protect your results by wearing sunscreen daily. Flaking and redness may be possible. Avoid facial waxing for 72 hours pre and post application

Which other Alchimie Forever products are best used in conjunction?

Because retinol is prone to increased photo-sensitivity. Protect your results by using our Protective Day Cream SPF 23 every morning.

Buffer the product (to minimize any side effects) by using our Kantic+ Intensely Nourishing Cream every evening.

Use our Gentle Refining Scrub and Kantic Brightening Moisture Mask weekly to help with any flaking and redness.

To optimize the anti-pigmentation results, use our Advanced Retinol Serum with the Pigment Lightening Serum. Not layered, but rather at different times – use the Pigment Lightening Serum every morning, and on the evenings you are not using the Advanced Retinol Serum.

What other questions do you have about this product? Let me know – or start counting. It’s T minus 17 days!

Coming Soon… Advanced Retinol Serum with Time-Release Technology

Retinol is often referred to as the “gold standard” ingredient for anti-aging. In fact, I have been hearing this from my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla, for years, as he has been (gently) insisting on the need to add a retinol product to our Alchimie Forever assortment.

“But,” I say, “retinols are not ideal for sensitive skin types, our target customer.” “Even sensitive skin types need retinol, and can adapt to the right formulation,” he responds. “But,” I say again, “one of our brand promises is the lack of side effects.” “To most women, controlled side effects are worth the results retinol gives.” And on and on and on we go. For four years.

And Dad “won,” as he usually does – because he is usually right (there, I said it). Or perhaps it’s that I turned 40 last year and thought selfishly that I should probably start incorporating retinol in my skin care routine. And why not an Alchimie Forever one…

As we approach the launch of our Advanced Retinol Serum, here is a quick snapshot on retinol. Next week, I’ll tell you more specifically about our formulation.

What is retinol?

In the skin care world, vitamin A and its derivatives exist in various forms. The most widely used ones are pure retinol, retinyl esters (such as retinyl acetate, retinyl propionate, and retinyl palmitate), and retinaldehyde. Through various enzymatic reactions in the skin, all of these molecules are ultimately converted to all-trans-retinoic acid, aka the active form of vitamin A in the skin.

Retinoic acid was first discovered in 1969 by James Fulton and Albert Kligman in the late 1960s as a treatment for acne; its anti-aging benefits emerged as a surprising and positive side effect.

Retinol has the form of light yellow crystals – which is why many retinol products often have a yellowish tint to them.

Products containing actual retinoic acid require a medical prescription (you may have heard of brands such as Renova, Retin-A, Retino-A, ReTrieve, or Stieva-A). The most common strengths are 0.025%, 0.05% and 0.1%. In contrast, products containing pure retinol, retinol derivatives, or retinaldehyde are non-prescription, and tend to have higher concentrations (0.5% to 1.5%).

The pros

“At the microscopic level, retinol enhances cell division in the epidermis, replacing damaged and unorganized cells with new organized cells. It also reduces melanin production. In the dermis, new collagen and elastin fibers are formed,” says Dr. Polla. My non-medical translation: fine lines and wrinkles diminish, the skin becomes plumper, smoother, and softer, and the complexion more even. It really works.

The cons

Instability especially to oxygen and light. Look for products packaged in tubes that are opaque and impermeable to oxygen. Tubes are typically preferable to jars (given the smaller opening and thus diminished access to air and light).

Skin irritation. Typically, within two weeks of starting to use a retinol, you will experience flaking, redness, and a slight discomfort. Of course, this will depend on your skin type, if you have used retinol in the past or not, and specifically how you are using your retinol.

Retinol best practices

Retinol should be incorporated in your skin care routine in your mid-30s to early 40s.

Retinols should not be used while pregnant or nursing.

Time of day. Retinol products should be used in the evening. Dr. Polla explains: “It is important that the topical retinoid be applied at night-time for two reasons. First, patients who use topical retinoids during the daytime notice increased sensitivity to ultraviolet light. Second, trans-retinoic acid is unstable when exposed to sunlight. When exposed to light, the molecule degrades rapidly, not providing its full benefits.”

Sun sensitivity. Make sure to use an SPF20 or above daily. This is true regardless of if you are using a retinol product, but be particularly diligent if you are. (See ultraviolet light sensitivity comment above.)

Frequency of use. Do not use your retinol product daily – two or three times per week tends to be sufficient for most skin types. Start slow, then build up. Listen to your skin and to its reactions. Continuous inflammation and irritation is not the goal.

Apply your retinol to dry skin. Per Dr. Polla: “Instructing patients to apply their retinoid to dry skin can minimize side effects. Patients should be advised to wait a few minutes after washing the face to apply a topical retinoid. Wet skin enhances the penetration of the retinoid into the dermis, thus exacerbating irritation.”

Using complementary products. In addition to a morning cream with SPF, add an extra nourishing even cream to help soothe and moisturize your skin, and heal any flaking you may experience.

For some great additional information on retinoids, take a look at our partner Heyday’s retinol manifesto here.

And stay tuned – next week I’ll share more specifics about Alchimie Forever’s Advanced Retinol Serum with time release technology – which launches next month!

Tinos Countdown

In June, I count the days. The days until I am eating a Greek salad and drinking a glass of rosé at my favorite café at the Port of Rafina, in Athens, awaiting the ferry that will take me to my happy place, the island of Tinos. There, for two weeks, I will enjoy the sand, the sun, the sea, I will swim and read and eat and think and write and sleep.

In addition to counting the days, I relish the weeks leading up to that day and the anticipation by preparing for my trip in very specific ways. Here is my vacation preparation routine.

  1. I like to have 5-10 books to read during this two-week period – both fiction and non-fiction, both what one might consider “trash” and business books. On my list so far are The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Who is Rich, In the Name of Gucci, Off the Clock, The Verdun Affair, Principles, and more.
  2. Bathing suits. New year, new bikini. My collection is slowly but surely growing. I love Volcom, VIX, and Roxy.
  3. Even if I have any left from last summer, I purchase new sunscreen every year (it expires and all that). Of course, daily, the Alchimie Forever Daily Defense SPF23. And in addition to that, LaRoche Posay’s Anthelios Nourishing Oil SPF 50+ and Coola Sport Face SPF50 White Tea Organic Sunscreen Lotion.
  4. Beach body. I strive to eat healthy year-round, but in June I pay particular attention. More water, more vegetables, no carbs or sugars (I make an exception for champagne and wine), less cheese. And hopefully a three-day JRINK juice cleanse…
  5. Beauty appointments. The week before I leave, I make sure to get my eyebrows waxed (thank you Erwin and Karma!), have a pedicure (choosing a particularly exotic nail polish shade), and do a full body polish (this, at home, with Aveda Beautifying Radiance Polish).
  6. Every summer has its own playlist, songs to listen to on the road, at the beach, on the balcony. I have not yet started this summer’s playlist… any recommendations?
  7. Goal list. I head to Tinos with a list of goals, usually involving thinking projects, content creation, strategic planning. It’s amazing what happens to my brain when I let go of the daily tasks and activities and make room for the bigger picture.
  8. Don’t bring to Tinos list. I usually get a couple projects done in June that have been on my gameplan for months – because I refuse to “take them” with me to Tinos. Whether it be a project I have been procrastinating on or a random administrative task I have not yet figured out how to delegate and must take care of, it is getting done before I get on that ferry.

Is it June 29 yet?

It Takes 4 of Us to Make Me Feel Whole

When I turned 40 last October, I asked my sisters for a gift – that they all come to visit me in Louisiana for Memorial Day weekend. And Memorial Day weekend is upon us. I can’t quite describe the feeling of having them all here with me, and I know the weekend is just beginning, but last night’s dinner was perfection. I tried to say thank you… with the following words.

First, thank you to you, Edwin. This weekend would not have been possible without you. You know what I want and don’t want. You knew having my sisters in Louisiana was the best gift ever, and you made it happen. You even bought a new boat and renovated your Hammond kitchen to prepare for “their”’arrival. Thank you. Thank you for loving me so well.

Second, to Bernard. You are the one “plus one” here this weekend, and for this I am forever grateful. Thank you for coming to be moral support for Edwin during the Polla sisters weekend takeover. I am so grateful for you and for how you love Rachel.

Thank you, Stern for being with us, for representing the extended Neill family tonight. Thank you for making the special trip from California just to meet my sisters (J).

To Roxane. You were the first of my sisters to fall in love with Louisiana, a number of years ago. You fell in love with New Orleans. With the boat and the river and the alligators. With Debra’s house which you still think is the most beautiful house you have seen in the world. Thank you for understanding why I love it here. Thank you for coming back. Please tell Guillaume he is missed, but here in spirit.

To Rachel. You host me, us, in Geneva every single time we come. You never say no when I send you my travel dates. You make sure there is champagne and gruyere in the fridge. You always make me feel like I am home. Your hospitality is the kindest and most generous there is. This weekend is a small attempt to say thank you.

To Cyrille. You came back to the US of A. I must admit I stopped believing it would happen. Last time you came to this country it was for also for me. It was to help the Alchimie booth at ISPA 2005 at the Dallas Gaylord (our first ever booth). You hated it. Hated the AC (oops sorry), hated not being able to smoke anywhere, hated working the booth and speaking to people, you hated everything. That was the trade show Edwin and I met at. Thank you for coming for me then. Thank you for agreeing to come back for me now.

Thank you for coming here together so we can show The Polla Sisters to The Neill Brothers. They have no idea what is coming…

Je vous aime. Mes sœurs. Merci.

Never Ending Wisdom From Mom

In 2010 for Mother’s Day, I shared my mother’s life tips – which are still incredibly relevant today, and which I still prescribe to 100%.

Yesterday, on the Polla Sisters blog, I shared her beauty tips – which I utilize every day.

Yesterday, upon reading that latest post, she called to say how lovely it was, and also that she had a lot more tips now that she is reaching her late 60s. Tips about beauty as you age. So today, I share these – with gratitude that I have a mother that makes me look forward to aging, makes me look forward to everything that lies ahead, and never makes me feel like the best is behind me – in beauty or in life.

In Mom’s words:  (and here are more of Mom’s words)

“My daughter Ada just published on her blogs my beauty tips — and they were and are my beauty tips indeed, for everyday! When I turned sixty, I felt that I should add at least one each year.

60 : Think about your weight and check it everyday. A few kilos more make for a rounder face, fills in the fine lines: this is nice. A lot of kilos more make too round of a belly. Find the right balance.

61 : Beautiful hair is essential. I add one more Aveda product every six months to my collection of hair products, and now have almost as many hair products as I do skin and body care products.

62 : Lower the height of your heels just a little bit. Keep the highest just for home parties and sex of course. Otherwise, I prefer ankle boots and booties rather than low heeled shoes. 

63 : Cherish the scent of your skin. Use products that always make you smell delicious – whether lotions or perfume. I love blueberry, rose, … 

64 : Be smart with alcohol: champagne, but with ice (and even some sparkling water mixed in).

65 :  Double the frequency of medi-spa consultations. Never look “done” but take care of those brown spots as they appear. Mix a drop of the Alchimie Forever Kantic brightening moisture mask every day with your day cream and night cream.

66 : Dare to add some glittery powder on your arms whenever you do not wear long sleeves. And wear a lot of long sleeves.

67 : Tell young women how beautiful they are. They will look at you and see you how beautiful you are, and say the same back to you. Forever.

68 : Never say, nor even think, you are « old » . Just say your age as a number, not as a judgment: I am 68. 68 is what I am, I can feel it as I wish, and others will feel it as I make it feel.”

And as we get off the phone, she reminds me to smile. Smile at the sun, smile at the clouds, smile at life. That will make you “une beauté qui traverse le temps” – hard to translate as such poetic French words are, but something like “beautiful through the ages.”

Thank you, Mom!