Self care and silver linings

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 neckit’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? 

 

Practice Safe Sun

May is Melanoma 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. Every. Single. Day. Thank you!

What to keep, what to release

I have been listening to podcasts. Lots of podcasts. They are yet another of my COVID-19 coping strategies. This week, I listened to Episode 198 of the Business of Fashion podcast – a conversation between BOF founder Imran Amed and activist Sinead Burke

What struck a chord with me is the framework that Burke uses when making decisions about what projects to take on, and what projects to pass on. When Burke considers a new task, she asks herself the following four questions:

  1. Is this part of my list of goals and objectives that I have always wanted to achieve? 
  2. Does this pay the rent? 
  3. Does this give back? 
  4. Does this bring other people with me? 

“Everything that I do has to answer yes to more than one of these questions” says Burke. These questions are her compass and help guide her decisions. 

I have found these times conducive to questioning everything, including scrutinizing the various projects and commitments I have said yes to in the past. Did I say yes for good reason? Did I say yes because saying yes is easier than saying no? When asked to take one something, I (try to) systematically ask myself if this said project is worth doing. 99% of the time, the answer is yes. That one question is hardly a framework…  

What is the right framework for me to use to make decisions about what and whom I give my time to? What is my compass? I need to work on this. In the meantime, I might just use Burke’s framework. I am sure she wouldn’t mind… 

 

COVID-19 Coping Strategy: Baby Animals

Over the last two weeks, my family of 3 (myself, Edwin, and Chloe the cat) has grown significantly. By 6, actually. Since driving from cosmopolitan Washington, DC to lovely Hammond, Louisiana for a change of scenery during quarantine (a luxury in itself!), I have adopted four chicks and two kittens – and I must admit this has been my best quarantine coping strategy yet. 

These baby animals have reminded me to: 

Find magic in every day. One day the chicks don’t have feathers, the next they do. One day the kittens don’t know how to lap milk from a plate, the next they do. Every day brings a new development, a small miracle. 

Put my phone down and focus. Petting the kittens while scrolling through my Instagram feed leads to paws swatting my (apparently very offensive) screen. No multitasking allowed!  

Prioritize the needs of someone else ahead of mine. I like to think I often put my husband’s needs ahead of mine – but he really isn’t needy, so that doesn’t count. Defenseless baby animals however depend on others to feed them, shelter them, play with them, cuddle them, clean up after them. It feels so good to be needed. It feels so good to feel useful. 

Connect with Earth. There is something incredibly peaceful and soothing that comes from connecting with life, with Earth. Always, but in particular in these times during which live human connection is limited. 

 

On Willpower and Habits

I like to think I have pretty strong willpower and self-control (I am defining both as “the ability to resist short-term temptations in order to meet long-term goals”, per the American Psychological Association). Yet I must admit that the past six weeks have challenged both. 

Case in point: I had decided after my January 21-day cleanse that I would not drink three days per week and “forever” give up carbs (in particular carbs with gluten). Instead, I have not been drinking two (not three) days per week, and two weekends ago, I “fell in a jar of carbs” and could not help but eat bread (albeit, home-made by my husband) all weekend long. 

So I have been thinking a lot about what is “wrong” with my willpower and self-control. 

Fact 1: My non-drinking days have been Mondays and Tuesdays.  

Fact 2: My carb black hole happened over a weekend. 

Conclusion 1: I have a limited supply of willpower. My willpower bucket is full on Monday, and little by little this “store” of willpower decreases as the week goes on. 

Fact 3: I have also come to realize that the current world situation is impacting my willpower and self-control. Indeed, my willpower “store” is being depleted more quickly than “during normal life” And I have been wondering why… 

Conclusion 2: Managing a brand during a global pandemic means that I have been doing extra (hard) thinking and having to make a million extra (hard) decisions. Apparently, hard thinking and decision-making depletes willpower. 

I know that willpower is like a muscle and can be developed. I also know that willpower is a renewable resource. But I have not been able to “get more” willpower. So instead, I have developed strategies to “help” my willpower and self-control. 

Strategy 1: Sleeping more. 

I pride myself on not needing much sleep and usually sleep five to six hours per night, but these days, I am utterly exhausted by 9 pm. I still wake up by 5 am, but I am needing seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Instead of fighting it, I have given in and have been sleeping more. 

Strategy 2: Transforming decisions into habits.  

Making a decision takes willpower. Living a habit does not (or takes less). So I have made a habit that Thursday is my third non-drinking day every week. Now I wake up on Thursdays and know this is a no-drinking day. I don’t have to make a decision about it. It just is. Which means it’s ok if by Thursdays my willpower is depleted. 

Strategy 3: Organizing my days accordingly.  

I have been leaving all “menial” tasks for Fridays. Things that need to get done but do not require a lot of creativity or thought. Things like paperwork and Quickbooks reconciliations. 

What do you do to help your willpower and self-control?

What we are doing right now, right here, to help

Two weeks ago, my youngest sister Roxane, a Medical Doctor at the hospital in Sion, Switzerland, asked a very pointed question on our Polla sisters Skype: “What can our beauty businesses do to help during this time of crisis?” I did not have an answer, but I did hear her question. A few days later, I saw on LinkedIn that Mathilde Thomas of Caudalie donated products to numerous hospitals in France. And I thought, well, we also have products that help with chapped hands and irritated faces… 

So I began my week with a donation of products to Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, the hospital that is affiliated with the business school I went to and that is less than one mile from my office. Similarly, in Switzerland, we donated products to my sister Roxane’s hospital (in Sion), the one affiliated most closely with my heart since she works there every day. 

In speaking of this with my sisters and my team, I was amazed to hear about their own initiatives to help and contribute to their communities. Here is what they are doing: 

Angie (NYC): “I gave a donation to New York’s Food Bank last month. This month, I am donating to José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen. I like that some restaurants are feeding healthcare workers and that also helps support the restaurant during these times.”

Emma (Arlington, VA): “I am buying books (used and new) from eBay US sellers instead of Amazon. It makes me feel better that I deal directly with real people and contribute something to them instead from big companies such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The sellers that I’ve dealt with so far shipped everything from their house which is listed on the shipping label of the packages that I received.”

Jenna (Reston, VA): “I baked assortments of cookies and sent them to friends and clients to cheer them up. Also, I live across the street from a trauma hospital so every night at 7 pm people in my building and surrounding buildings go outside on their balconies to cheer for the hospital workers at shift change. A small gesture, but it makes everyone (including myself) feel good.”  

Kelli (Charleston, WV): “I have compiled lists of local restaurants offering delivery or carry out and local businesses doing online sales or online classes that I share regularly on social media.”  

Mandi (Washington DC: “I have been ordering food from all of my favorite local restaurants and taking classes from my favorite yoga instructors (some donation-based and some free) and posting pictures to my social media to help build their client base.”  

Rachel (Geneva, Switzerland): “I have been buying groceries for a few older women who are high risk and should not leave their homes, both among my neighborhood and among my Forever Institut teammates.” 

Roxane (Sion, Switzerland): “I have been extra ‘gifty’ to my friends who have had birthdays in the last few weeks, since they can’t celebrate as they usually would. I have been having cupcakes delivered to them (from a brand called Melazic, a business owned by two sisters) as well as personalized cookies with positive messages from the brand Bobiskuit, also a woman-owned brand.” 

There is no right or wrong way to help or contribute. There is no act of kindness too small or too insignificant to matter. And it makes me so proud to be a part of a family, a team that instinctively takes care of their communities, of their world, of our world.