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 blueberries (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 blueberries are 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 or watch this YouTube video 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! Here are the Alchimie Forever products that feature this magical ingredient.

[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.

 

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!

Fall Forever

I know, I know, it is still summer for 10 more days. Yet in my heart, autumn has arrived. I love fall for so many reasons… the changing foliage, my birthday, sweaters, boots, pumpkins, richer moisturizers.

I also love fall because with it comes the feeling of a New Year – like the start of a New School Year, with all of the possibilities and opportunities (and new office supplies) that come with that feeling.

Here are my fall rituals.

1.Spring cleaning. I am purging old papers (and you know my love of paper), making room for new, embracing the feeling of lightness.

2. Goal setting. The arrival of fall is a reminder that there are only 110 days left in the calendar year. That’s 110 opportunities to check things off my list and accomplish what I set out to do January 1st.

3.(Mental) Space clearing. During fall, trees let go of their leaves, releasing the old, to make room for new buds. Following their example, I work to let go of something I no longer need, be it a feeling, an obligation, a regret.

4. Seed planting (not literally). Fall is a time of incubation… seeds of ideas planted now will bloom next spring. I make myself take time for creative thinking and brainstorming.

How do you celebrate the arrival of fall?

Family business…. Business family

Today, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the inspiring Maimah Karmo in the context of providing insights to business owners in the greater Washington, DC area.

Maimah is the President & CEO Of the Tigerlily Foundation, the publisher of Bliss Magazine, the voice behind the Pure Bliss podcast, a mother, a breast cancer survivor, and much more.

She asked me to speak about one of my favorite topics, family business.

When I tell people I work in family business, I get a wide array of reactions and questions…

“Oh, wow, how do you do it?”

“Well, that must be really hard!”

“I could never work with my family.”

“I wish I had a family business!”

I love the opportunity to work with my family. It’s not always perfect, but I would not trade it for anything. Here are some of the insights I shared on my interview today.

What I love about working with my family:
– There are no politics (or less).
– We do not question our motivation: we all, in the end, want the family business to grow and prosper (even if we may disagree with the how).
– Work feels more personal (some may say this is a con, but I love this aspect so much!).
– I now know my family (Mom, Dad, sisters, uncle…) in a work capacity, at a different level than “just” a sister.
– Working with my family has made me feel closer to them.

The challenges about working with my family include:
– There is no family time that doesn’t involve some work conversation; it becomes a lifestyle more than anything else.
– Family dynamics tend to seep into work dynamics (for example, my oldest child behavior is sometimes very visible in my work interactions…)
I hear stories from other people working in family business, who share with me that working together destroyed the family; I suppose this is a con, but I do believe that with respect, love, and some best practices, this is a very avoidable con.

Our family business best practices include:
– We work on the idea until we all agree: if we disagree it’s because the idea we are debating is not yet right enough or good enough.

– The above notwithstanding, we also agree to disagree (then the project or idea we disagree on does not get executed).
– Respect always – even more so because we are family members.
– We each have our areas we work on / in, so we aren’t all involved in the same thing, and we each have “ownership” of something.
– We actively work on our family business dynamics and frameworks, as this in itself is an important success factor. For example, all members of the family involved in day to day operations attended a 4-day family business seminar at INSEAD, one of the best family business experiences I have ever had.
– We have family meetings every other year to update those family members who are not working in the business, so they feel informed, involved, and cared for. This also enables us to benefit from their “outside the business” ideas and perspectives, which is quite invaluable.

– Finally, my sisters and I have a monthly Skype meeting to talk life, work, family business, and everything in between. That communication helps us be better sisters, and better business partners. In the end, whether it’s business, family, or family business, it really is all about communication.

Our Newest Product is Almost Here…

New product development may be the most fun part of my job. It is scientific, creative, challenging, satisfying. There is research, there are prototypes. There are misses and bad skin reactions. And then one day, everything comes together and a new member of the Alchimie Forever family is born.  

Our newest product will be on shelves mid-July, and I can’t wait. Ask and you shall receive! It is a calming, soothing, hydrating, anti-aging body lotion, its name will be (very literally) Soothing body lotion – because it soothes the skin, and soothes the soul. This all-over body cream will complement our existing body product assortment, comprised primarily of targeted problem solvers (Firming gel for neck and bust, Optimizing body contour gel, Dry skin balm).

Much of the new product development process involves looking at products from other brands that fall in the same category. I have been testing body lotions for months… and here are some of my favorites.

Goe (for Garden of Eden) Oil by Jao. This semi-solid oil transforms into liquid oil as you massage it into your skin. It is composed of 28 fruit and flower oils and butters, and the medicinal aroma reduces my blood pressure. The directions say to use sparingly, that less is more – but I can’t help myself and slather it generously over my entire body.

Body Salve (Geranium Cedarwood aroma) by Spa Rituals. I adore Shel Pink, the woman behind this brand, and I love the texture of this product, which is not quite a cream, not quite a balm.

Stress-fix Body Lotion by Aveda. The best part of this lotion is its lavender aroma, formulated to reduce feelings of stress. (Side note, I also love the Stress-fix Soaking Salts in a hot bath before bed.)

Stress Relief Moisturizing Lotion by Aveeno. Can you see the theme here? A competitive product test has to include at least one drugstore product, and I must admit I like this lotion, although I know I shouldn’t because the ingredients aren’t great (did anyone say petrolatum?). Once again, the lavender aroma is a big part of it. I also love the pump packaging.

Herbalderm Sensitive Body Lotion by Rausch. Of course, I had to test a brand from Switzerland. This product is based on Swiss plant extracts and leaves my skin hydrated no matter the climate or dryness.

What’s your favorite body lotion? And are you as excited as I am for the arrival of our Soothing body lotion? July is almost here…