Work-life balance?

I don’t often repost data or information without commentary on my blog, but I came across Tim Ferriss’ blog earlier today and just had to. I can’t think of the right adjectives to describe the data… amazing, amazingly scary, disturbing, funny… so many words come to mind. As I begin to think about my New Year’s resolutions, perhaps I can add to the long list:

  • Do not check email in the middle of the night (or in bed in general)
  • Take time off, and encourage my team to use up their vacation days

Thank you Tim for the reminder!

Grateful… for football

It is Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving Thursday, and as if yesterday wasn’t enough, I can’t wait to have some leftovers for lunch and watch more football this afternoon (college in this case, Alabama vs. Auburn). Yesterday was one of my most fun Thanksgivings ever. Instead of listing the really important things I am grateful for this year (family, friends, a fiancé, health…), I thought I should focus on what really occupied my day yesterday, namely football.


As a matter of principle, I like to do what my clients ask me to do. Usually, this is even a pleasure. A month or so ago, I had an unusual request from one of my long-time favorite clients, Hela at the Collection. Monica, the spa manager, asked me to come in and discover the newest treatment on their menu, acupuncture. This was I think her way of thanking me for some fun training and gratis product. Thank you with needles…??? I initially declined, but then reminded myself that I do have a rule about doing what my clients ask of me. So I relented, and booked a treatment for the 5th of November, which back then seemed like a very far away date.

Yesterday was the 5th of November. At 10:30 am, I arrived at Hela at the Collection, always amazed by the beauty of the space. I came so close to backing out of the treatment, but the lady at the front desk told me how she had already done 5 such treatments, and that acupuncture had changed her life. “You don’t even feel the needles,” she said. Yeah, right. Anyway, cancelling at the last minute would have been rude so I dutifully filled out the required forms, and waited.

In comes Sung – my acupuncturist. He leads me to the treatment room, and asks me a few questions: do I have pain anywhere? No. Am I ill? No. How is my stress level? I run my own business – enough said. Have I ever had acupuncture before? No. Am I afraid of needles? Yes. He is reassuringly calm, and tells me he is a third-generation acupuncturist, and that as I am in no specific pain, we are going to work on balance and boosting my immune system. OK.

I lie on the treatment bed, fully clothed (no shoes), and he covers me with a sheet. Before pulling out the needles, he feels my belly. Stomach, intestines, whatever else is in that general area. Apparently, from that, he can tell that I don’t drink enough water and eat too quickly. Hmm. He is going to adapt the acupuncture treatment to help me flush out toxins and relieve stress in my stomach.

This is when I close my eyes. I can’t look at needles without feeling faint (yes, I also get Botox with my eyes closed), even though he insists on showing me how small they are. And the treatment begins. To distract me, Sung tells me he is from Korea, but has been living in California until very recently. He spends part of his time at Hela at the Collection, part of his time working with an acupuncture professor doing research at NIH. All of this sounds very serious. He pauses. “Are you feeling any pain?” “No, you can begin.” Actually, during our brief discussion, he had inserted needles in my feet, lower legs, head, ears, and arms and hands. I didn’t feel a thing. I still couldn’t bring myself to look at the needles.

He said I should stay there about 25 minutes. I might start to feel relaxed, calm. He would be just outside if I needed him. Within about a minute of him leaving the treatment room, I fall asleep. Deep sleep. My phone rang (I noticed later) and I didn’t even hear it (which never happens, usually even just a vibrate ring will wake me up). Apparently, between the relaxing needles (!!), the infra-red light he placed over my naked feet to help with blood circulation, and my general state of sleep deprivation, this was exactly the treatment I needed.

It was painless. It felt relaxing. I had a power-nap mid-morning, and an extra spring in my step for the rest of the day. Thank you Sung. Thank you Monica. May I please come back?


Holiday traditions

To me, today is the official first day of the holiday season. Does it always start on the 5th of November? No. I realized yesterday, however, that the holiday season always starts with “Face Fair.” For the 5th consecutive year, I have visited one of my first, and one of my very favorite clients, Alex Alexa, sometime during November, for their annual holiday open house, two hours of anti-aging and skin care extravaganza at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Hurricane, WV (pronounced hurr-i-ken, I learned year 2 of Face Fair). I was reminded last night of the power of traditions.

I have written before about my love of rituals and traditions: they ground me. Rituals are familiar, comfortable, claming. Traditions help me make sense of the general chaos that is my life. I have chosen the life of a nomad: I spend more time on the road than in my own home, and I love it. The one drawback of such a lifestyle is that it makes weekly traditions difficult. No weekly Sunday night family dinners for me (except when I am home in Geneva). No weekly poker games. No weekly girls’ night out. My traditions tend to be annual rather than weekly. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to enjoy Face Fair not only because I was supporting one of my first clients, but also because this tradition has become a true pleasure, something I now look forward to every year, and the official beginning of my holiday season.

With Face Fair comes seeing Dr. Blair, his wife Dr. Kurucz, and one or more of their three beautiful children. They run Alex Alexa, a family business, just like Alchimie Forever. With Face Fair comes seeing some of their wonderful clients, some whom I now recognize and remember the name of. Last night, I loved seeing Claire M., and I missed seeing Barbara C. With Face Fair comes catching up with my girlfriend Kelly, whom I sometimes wish I were, and whom I love more the more I get to know her. With Face Fair comes the first holiday dinner of the season, a 10 to 12 person dinner in the back room of BlackHawk Grille in Barboursville, a restaurant opened by a friend of Dr. Blair’s, and I believe the one non-chain restaurant for a number of miles. And with Face Fair, comes spending time with Donna, Dr. Blair’s fabulous, loyal, and gorgeous aesthetician. At some point during the last 5 years I stopped staying at the Hurricane Hampton Inn and started staying with Donna in her beautiful home in Salt Rock. (Early on, I would get BlackHawk and Salt Rock confused and think she lived in Black Salt). At some point during the last 5 years of coming down for Face Fair, I stopped thinking of Donna as a “client” and started thinking of her as a BFF. We stopped just talking shop, and starting talking about husbands, boyfriends, dreams, kids, illnesses, stress, all the things best girlfriends speak about over coffee or wine, depending on the time of day.

This morning, at Donna’s kitchen table, having coffee with her and her delightful husband Glenn, I painted my nails red – the true sign I am in holiday spirit. I am so grateful to Dr. Blair and his team for their trust, their long-time support, their friendship, and for this wonderful annual tradition that is Face Fair and all is has come to mean in my life.


Stem cells: an overview

I spent this past Sunday at the Les Nouvelles Esthetiques tradeshow in Philadelphia. I walked the floor, met some great spa industry people, got to speak French with my girlfriend Christele de la Haye, the LNE marketing director, and, most fun of all, got to speak at the General Session. Thank you LNE for inviting me! For those of you who couldn’t be there, I thought I would give you a summary of my presentation, which was on “Stem Cells: An Overview.”

What are stem cells?  Stem cells are undifferentiated cells characterized by self-renewal (they can multiply to produce new stem cells) and by differentiation: upon exposure to tissue-specific biochemical signals, they turn into tissue-specific specialized cells. They play a key role in tissue development and regeneration.

There are two major categories of stem cells: embryonic and adult.

Embryonic stem cells have the extraordinary potential to form all tissues of the body. They can be found in the early embryos (human embryos between 0 and 3-5 days) and are also present in the umbilical cord blood collected at birth.

Adult stem cells have been found in most tissues and organs of fetuses, children, and adults, including the skin. They contribute to tissue quality and ensure tissue renewal. Adult stem cells are somewhat less powerful than embryonic stem cells, as they are already “pre-determined”, i.e., engaged in a certain direction for differentiation. Their potential is thus more limited: for example, adult stem cells cannot reproduce a whole organism.

In adults, stem cells are not randomly distributed, but are concentrated in tiny regions called “niches”. In the skin, “niches” are found in hair follicles which maintain skin stem cells in a non-differentiated state. The epidermis stem cells are essentially located in the erector muscle of hairs. Skin stem cells may migrate either towards the surface of the skin to replenish the epidermis or towards the basis of the hair follicle to give rise to its constituents. Skin stem cells also continuously renew the skin.

There is one third type of stem cell – plant stem cells, which have increasingly been of interest to the beauty industry. Like human skin, plants contain stem cells that are located at their apical and root meristem. The meristems are composed of stem cells capable of generating an entire organism. Plant stem cells are found in those regions of the plant where growth takes place. There are nearly inexhaustible reservoirs of undifferentiated cells capable of self-sustaining and of providing precursors for differentiated cells.

It is therefore possible, from only small fragments of a plant’s meristem, to create multiple copies of the same plant, as well as to produce plant stem cell extract. Why should we care about plant stem cells? Well, plant stem cell extracts have already an anti-wrinkle effect on human skin (in vitro and in vivo).

Plant stem cell extracts likely contain natural growth factors that will be of interest in future cosmetic developments, an interest that is being confirmed by preliminary clinical results from various sources, and by cosmetic companies integrating these ingredients into their products.

You can read more in the September issue of Les Nouvelles Esthetiques.