Two New Favorite Spots in Geneva

I love going home to Geneva, Switzerland, partly because I feel like the city is the same as when I left it in 1995. I love going to the same places over and over again, and have written about my favorites both in National Geographic and here.

Yet, as I leave after three days in my childhood home, to go back to my adult home of Washington DC (go Nats!), I was thrilled to discover two amazing new places that I look forward to visiting again and again.

La Comtesse Champagne & Cocktail Bar

My sisters and I had an apéro there last night, with Mom. A 6th generation family business run by the lovely Anaïs Leconte, this elegant yet cozy bar is an expansion of the core business, which is making champagne. Highlight: the champagne cocktail list is the longest I have ever seen. I will need to go back many times to try them all! 

Le Decanteur

Nestled in the Quartier des Eaux-Vives, this modern Italian restaurant and wine bar is my new favorite. Amazing pasta, amazing Italian wine list. Luca Ragnelli, the owner and master chef, has been cooking since the age of 13, studied at the Ecole Hoteliere of Geneva, spent time in Parma, and worked at the Noga Hilton (now Kempinski) before opening his restaurant. My favorite factoid? One of the restaurant’s signature dishes is inspired and named after is aunt Tina.

Reminders

This week, I am in Tinos, Greece. Not my first visit, but my first visit during the low season. The magic of this island is as strong as ever…

Fewer people make for stronger connections – those of us here really want to be here. The cooler temperatures make for new experiences – walking through the villages and heading to the Chora (town) more frequently. And the lessons of the island are as insightful as ever.

  • Feeding the island cats feels like the day’s most important project. AKA taking care of others, with no expectation in return, makes me happy.
  • Leaving the book I just devoured (The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda) in the unofficial “sidewalk book exchange” of Isternia village, and seeing it gone the next morning makes my whole day. AKA an act of random kindness for an unknown stranger, makes me happy.
  • Going to the bank (inside the building, not the ATM) feels like an enlightening, welcoming, kind, human connection. AKA taking the time to enjoy every human interaction, even in the form of an “errand,” makes me happy.
  • Slowing down and watching the sunset, grateful for nature and her rhythms, no matter the season, is good for the soul.
  • Finally, as the Greeks say, “eteron ekateron.” AKA “it is neither here nor there.” And/or “it is said of two things that can both apply simultaneously, different from one another, without affecting one another.”

Taking my own advice

On Saturday, I turn 42. And today, I received perhaps the best birthday gift ever: Sarah Akram herself told me I looked 30. “Good genes and good skin care,” I responded. When I then confessed that I didn’t remember when my last facial was, however, she did remind me that these facial treatments are a necessity to stay youthful-looking and that Botox does not replace the need for facials (Amen, sister. I preach this every day…).

Much like the cobbler’s daughter, while I work in the world of facials and skin care products, I do not take my own advice frequently enough. While the last time I had Botox was in June and the last time I used our Advanced retinol serum was this past Monday evening, I truly cannot recall when the last time I had a facial was.

With my birthday looming, I decided it was time to complement great home care with a really good facial. On the recommendation of a friend of mine who has particularly glowing skin (and I realize now somewhat naively) I called Sarah Akram Skincare to schedule a facial with the eponymous founder for mid-November. While I I thought this was lots of advance notice, I was gently told the next availability was January 30, 2020. “Not meant to be,” I thought, while putting my name on the wait list. Yesterday, the lovely Nyles called me back to let me know of a last-minute cancellation for this morning – so I rearranged my meetings, all the while thinking “totally meant to be, this is my early birthday gift to myself.”

Extravagant, yes. Worth every penny, absolutely. Akram is everything I love in a facial therapist: gorgeous with flawless skin, super knowledgeable about her craft, serious, friendly but not too talkative – and has magical hands. This treatment was 90 minutes of a beautifully balanced combination of technology (LED, microdermabrasion, cryo, something warm I forgot to ask about) and touch (the facial begins and ends with amazing massage). Akram uses products from Environ and Biologique Recherche, two brands I admire yet had never experienced firsthand (I did of course bring her some Alchimie to try).

I left with glowing, bright, plumped, rejuvenated skin (this photo is immediately post treatment, zero makeup) – ready to enjoy my last three days as a 41-year old and looking forward to 42 – and to my next facial at Sarah Akram Skincare, scheduled for February 2020.

Blueberries: Queens of the Berry World

Blueberries have the best of reputations: they are filled with antioxidants, colorful, round, and delicious. The Vaccinium myrtillus L. fruit, known in English as bilberry or European blueberry (very similar to the American blueberry), has powerful protective properties which have been known and utilized since the Middle Ages. Today, blueberries are even claimed to be “the most powerful antioxidants of all.”[1]

The European blueberry is Alchimie Forever’s signature ingredient – and not just because they are purple… Here are their three main benefits at the level of the skin.

1.Anti-redness benefits.

Blueberries play a role in the management of flushing symptoms: they tighten and protect fine capillaries thanks to anthocyanins,[2] and are thus ideal in skin care products targeting redness-prone skin. The vaso-protective effect of the European blueberry was first described in the 1960s, when the fruit’s capillary resistance and permeability were first analyzed. Since, studies have confirmed that blueberries increase capillary resistance and thus decrease redness.[3]

2. Antioxidant benefits.

Antioxidants aim to prevent, stop, or repair the damages that are caused in our skin by free radicals. Specifically, the flavonoids found in European blueberries (more specifically the anthocyanosidic extract) are powerful neutralizers of free radicals,[4] with the following benefits: they inhibit lipid peroxidation[5] (leathery coloration of aged skin) and prevent the degradation of collagen (fine lines, wrinkles, loss dehydration).[6]

3.Iron chelating activity.

Iron has often been featured in the health and consumer press in the context of anemia (i.e. iron deprivation). While many have discussed the various ways of ensuring appropriate iron intake, whether through diet (red meat and various fruits and vegetables), or through the daily use of supplements, few realize that excess iron is an accelerator of aging (skin and otherwise). Read more here (ADD LINK TO https://adamantaboutbeauty.com/2013/06/24/iron-in-skin-aging-less-is-more/ )

or watch this YouTube video (ADD LINK TO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsDr1d1pQhw ) if I have piqued your curiosity.

Indeed, excess iron is involved in various chemical reactions that lead to the production of the hydroxyl radical, one of the most harmful free radicals.[7] Once again, the European blueberry comes to the rescue and plays a key protective role. Both quercetin and myricetin (two types of flavonoids found in this fruit) have iron chelating properties, meaning that they minimize the formation of free radicals stimulated by excess free iron and UV light and prevent accelerated aging.8

So eat your blueberries, but put them on your face too!

[1] Wu X, Beecher GR, Holden JM, Haytowitz DB, Gebhart SE, Prior RL. Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States. J Agric Food Chem. 2004;52(12):4026-4037.

[2] Bagchi D, Sen CK, Bagchi M, Atalay M. Anti-angiogenic, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogenic properties of a novel anthocyanin-rich berry extract formula. Biochemistry (Mosc). 2004;69(1):75-80.

[3] Morazzoni P, Bombardelli E. Vaccinium myrtillus L. Fitotherapia. 1996;67(1):3-29.

[4] Lichtenthaler R, Marx F. total oxidant scavenging capacities of common European fruit and vegetable juices. J Agric Food Chem. 2005;53(1):103-110.

[5] Sakagami H, Asano K, Takahashi K, Terakubo S, Shoji Y, Nakashima H, Nakamura W. Anti-stress activity of mulberry juice in mice. In Vivo. 2006;20(4):499-504.

[6] Morazzoni P, Bombardelli E. Vaccinium myrtillus L. Fitotherapia. 1996;67(1):3-29.

[7] Polla AS, Polla LL, Polla BS. Iron as the malignant spirit in successful ageing. Ageing Res Rev. 2003;2(1):25-37.

8 Svobodová A, Psotová J, Walterová D. Natural phenolics in the prevention of UV-induced skin damage. Biomed Papers. 2003;147:137-145.

 

Traveling in beauty

I travel. A lot. I crisscross the country every which way for work and I love it. I often am on four to five flights each week and I often change time zones and climates two to three times each week. And I still get compliments on my skin. Here are my best beauty travel tips.

  • I pack so many beauty products that I always have to check my bag. So if you are adamantly opposed to that, just stop reading right now.
  • I think of skin care like I do about clothes – in terms of changing climates: it’s all about layering. T-shirts + jackets = serums + moisturizers. I add and layer as need be and am equally prepared for Puerto Rico and Seattle weather.
  • Airplane air is drying, so many of those products are aimed at maintaining moisture – oils and heavier moisturizers that I would not necessarily use daily during a week in the office. Our Gentle cream cleanser. Our Kantic+® Intensely nourishing cream. My current favorite facial oil. Lots of serums.
  • Also because airplane air is drying, I always have a travel size of our Kantic® Brightening moisture mask in my purse and I apply some on any flight longer than 2.5 hours. (This also prevents me smelling like airplane all the time, which is a most lovely benefit).
  • Because of my line of work, I get a lot of samples and gifts of beauty products. I use travel as a way to test them. This morning, as part of my multi-step facial routine, I tried a sample of the new Elizabeth Arden vitamin C capsules (received as a gift on the road in Puerto Rico last week). I also take full-size gifts on the road (hence checked suitcase) and leave them in the hotel bathroom if I don’t fall in love with them and imagine that a lovely hotel attendant will find them and fall in love.
  • I have an amazing walk-in shower at home, but no bathtub. So hotel rooms with bathtubs are like a treasure. I pack bath oils (I love any Clarins body oil in my bath), bath salts (Kneipp and Aveda, always lavender, are my favorites), and take baths.
  • These baths are the perfect excuse for a mini facial “at home,” aka Gentle refining scrub and Kantic® Brightening moisture mask. Proper exfoliation is always important, but I feel it is particularly key on the road to keep my skin bright and glowing.
  • Because I am on the road so much, I maintain the same body care routine on the road as I do at home. Firming gel for neck and bust. Optimizing body contour gel. Soothing body lotion. (Are you starting to see the need to check my suitcase…?).
  • Flights are terrible for swelling in the lower extremities. So a leg and foot massage with our Dry skin balm is a must every day I fly.
  • One thing I do not travel with is my hairdryer, and hotel room hair dryers are not always amazing. A DryBar appointment on the road helps me look my best for important meetings.
  • And finally, every morning, a tall glass of water with EmergenC (Super Orange), and a shot (to drink not to inject) of Vitamin B12.

May your travels be safe – and beautiful!

Seven things to love about Puerto Rico

Over the last ten days, I have been in eleven planes, six states, and five hotel rooms. To say I am homesick is an understatement – I cannot wait to be reunited with my home tomorrow.

Luckily for me, I am ending my trip in one of my favorite places, Puerto Rico. I am as travel weary as I am enchanted by this beautiful place.

If you have not been, here are some reasons to visit PR:

1. The people. Kind, welcoming, friendly, open.
2. The food. Caribbean, Cuban, and of course Puerto Rican. Have the traditional Mofongo, a local specialty of mashed plantains with herbs and pork.
3. The weather, sunny and summery with an occasional warm rain shower.
4. The beaches. There are so many to choose from, whether in Isla Verde close to the airport or on neighboring island Culebra (Flamenco Beach is a favorite).
5. The sunset in Rincon, on the West part of the island. Breathtaking.
6. The mountains. Lush and green and gorgeous.
7. Old San Juan, with its beautiful architecture, forts, and citadels.

I can’t wait to get home tomorrow, and I can’t wait to come back to PR!