Our Business Didn’t Start as a Business… Our Origin Story

Alchimie Forever does not exist because one day my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla, sat at his desk and decided to start a skin care brand.

Alchimie Forever does not exist because a consultant ran focus groups, identified white space in the market, raised some money, and created a business.

Alchimie Forever exists because my father is a softie and can’t stand to see children suffer.

Alchimie Forever exists because 30+ years ago, my father couldn’t find the perfect product to help heal the skin of his young patients post procedure.

Let me tell you our “origin story.” (Thanks, Marc Ross, for teaching me this terminology.)

My father opened his dermatology practice in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1986, and was the first dermatologist to offer pulsed dye laser technology to treat children suffering from Port Wine Stains and hemangiomas. Parents brought their children from near and far to have Dad erase these debilitating birthmarks, an endeavor that required numerous treatments over a period of months, sometimes years.

I was already working with my father back then (at the front desk) and I remember hearing the children crying from the pain, as the laser treatment created heat and discomfort, redness and inflammation, and a burning sensation. And if there is something my father can’t stand, it is a child in pain (he switched his medical specialization from pediatrics to dermatology after realizing he could not handle seeing terminally ill children). He needed a product to help make them feel better – to help heal their skin.

Not finding the right product, he created his own “recipe.” He would send his patients’ parents to a neighborhood pharmacy with a compounding prescription, the pharmacist would whip up a magical product in little white jars right there and then, and the child would stop crying. The prescription was for what is known today as our Kantic Brightening moisture mask. This compounded product, meant to help heal the kids’ skin post procedure, smelled so good that the mothers ended up also using it, and asking for more at the follow-up appointment: “it makes my skin glow,” they would say. For their convenience, we ended up “pre-making” the product.

One product led to another, and to another, and finally to the brand that became Alchimie Forever.

Alchimie Forever exists because of what is still our hero product, our Kantic Brightening moisture mask.

Long before this mask had a name, it had a loyal following.

Long before we had a brand, we had skin care solutions.

Long before we had a business, we had a mission.

What Should Our Next Product Be?

The very day I announced that our newest product, our Advanced retinol serum with time-release technology was hitting the shelves, I was asked what our next new product would be. I felt like how I imagine a woman feels who has just given birth being and is asked when she is having another child…

Today, exactly two months post launch, I am ready to think about newness again. Here is what is on top of  my mind – I would love to hear your insights, requests, ideas, and input.

It if were entirely up to me, I would create a facial oil. Of all of the product categories that are represented by other brands in my skin care routine, oils are the most significant as I am always using two or three depending on the day. The Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum may be my favorite of all time (and certainly the most expensive product I have purchased in a long time!). I grew up using Clarins facial oils, which I still use today. I love the oils by Goldfadden MD, Indie Lee, Naturopathica (the carrot oil in particular). Can you tell I have a thing for oils?

Even better, a facial oil in capsules.

And, I love capsules. My Mom used oil capsules on her skin when I was little, and I remember seeing her open one delicately every evening – like it was a treasure of pure liquid gold for her face. She loved an obscure French brand that is no longer in business, and in trying to replicate that memory, I recently purchased the Advanced Ceramide Capsules by Elizabeth Arden. Maybe this purchase also has a little bit to do with my girl crush on Reese Witherspoon? I love opening up those little bubbles of deliciousness and love the feel on my skin, but don’t love the fragrance, or that they contain dimethicone. Could we create an even better product?

Another mask. After all, our Kantic Brightening moisture mask remains our hero product, top seller, and editor favorite, so it would be strategically sound to expand the “mask franchise.” Plus, we have had requests for a mask that is more focused on purifying and detoxifying. (I can tell you it won’t be a sheet mask however, I hate those). The pressure is on  – a second mask would have to be as perfect, as magical, as this first one…

A toner / mist / antioxidant spray. We don’t have a toner in our line because our cleansers are pH balanced to the skin. Having said that, there is something so refreshing about a mist, and it is one of the non Alchimie products I use. I love the Yonka Lotion PS mist that smells like lavender and often use it during travel…

At-home peel pads. Estheticians everywhere love our professional-only Brightening peel. I do too, and I must confess to sometimes using it on myself at home. So it is only natural to think about a “real” at-home version. Yet I have mixed feelings. Can we make better at-home peel pads than the Dr. Dennis Gross top-selling product? If we make them “safe” for consumer use, are they still effective? And if we make an at-home version, will consumers forego our professional peel treatment?  So many questions…

The Email Newsletters That Make Me Smarter

I spend time daily unsubscribing from email newsletters. I also spend time daily (or weekly) relishing email newsletters. Here are the ones that keep me thinking, questioning, learning.

WWD

This is the classis source of news for anyone in beauty or fashion. I enjoy the fashion aspect, but my favorite articles are not surprisingly the beauty pieces by Jenny Fine, Ellen Thomas, and Allison Collins. Also, the print issue of Beauty Inc. is a treasure. And yes, I pay for this content.

Business of Fashion

Imran Amed is a genius. He is on my list of five people I would like to have dinner with. I love everything about the Business of Fashion – the daily emails, the podcasts, the print issues (more treasures), and BOF Professional. And yes, I also pay for that content. The articles by Sarah Brown are just by themselves worth the price.

Retail Dive

I love this daily email because it keeps me updated with overall retail trends – not just beauty. It helps me learn from outside my industry – and influences the stores I visit during my travels to get a feel for the current reality of retail.

Beyond the articles, I love the ‘What We’re Reading” section of every email.

Racked

I love the blend of business and beauty, and Racked does it best. This article on Amazon beauty is an example of why I stay subscribed to their newsletters.

BeautyMatter

Kelly Kovack is my friend, so I am biased. But she does have one of the most beautiful brains in the beauty industry. So, when she started BeautyMatter a couple of years ago, I subscribed from Day 1 and have not missed a day. I love her quarterly beauty M&A recaps, her white papers, and the daily beauty news. Smart, short, on point.

Harvard Management Tip of the Day

I look forward to this email every single day. This is the daily email I forward the most. To my sisters, to my team, to my friends. The tips range from management advice (for example how to delegate), the importance of vacation time, and my all-time favorite, the need to put a “meeting-free day” on your calendar every week. That is top on my goal list!

Marc Ross

Brigadoon is Marc Ross’ brain-child. The best annual conference I have ever attended. He keeps me thinking beyond my “comfort and industry bubble” in between these conferences with his daily emails (Marc Ross Daily), but what I get the most out of are the Brigadoon Weekly emails. The Ross Rant is particularly delicious. Also, his reading lists are inspiring.

Shane Parrish

Weekly brain food. Literally, that is what he calls his Friday emails. I came across him because of a podcast I listened to from The Knowledge Project – an interview with Naval Ravikant. This is possibly my favorite podcast of all times, I have actually already listened to it twice. Shane’s weekly emails include articles, a note on the book he is currently reading, and a quote he is thinking about.

Scott Galloway

I must admit, I only like about one third of his No Mercy / No Malice emails, but I can’t bring myself to unsubscribe because when I like them, I love them. If you don’t know him, he is a Professor of Marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, and founder of the digital intelligence firm L2 (I also get their emails, but those feel more like homework). Try it.

Thomas Oppong, curator of Postanly

I can’t recall how I found Thomas – but I look forward to his Friday emails every week. I don’t always find the inspiration I crave, but when I do, it is quite amazing. This is one of my favorite articles shared.

I stopped watching the news a long time ago. My husband fills me in on the things I must know, I listen to NPR while driving, and I get The Skimm every day. A girlfriend of mine told me it makes her feel dumb when she reads it – like they are not taking their readers seriously. I have been thinking about this a lot, but I have not unsubscribed yet (also I love their Instagram account).

What I just subscribed to: The Cut. I just couldn’t resist, after the whole “Gwyneth Paltrow doesn’t know about The Cut” saga. Also, I love Jane Larkworthy’s articles.

What I am thinking of subscribing to: Glossy. There is now a paid version, which I have committed to signing up for by the end of this month. I love their podcasts, and Jill Manoff, Editor-in-Chief of Glossy who is both smart and sassy.

What I am still trying to figure out: Beauty Independent. I get these emails daily. I enjoy them. I am still trying to understand the background, what the connection to IBE means, the agenda.

What I recently unsubscribed myself from: Tim Ferriss (I just can’t), Total Retail (Retail Dive is so much better).

What are your must-read email newsletters? What am I missing?

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!

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?