Ada wears purple in 2007

Purple Does Something Strange to Me

“Purple does something strange to me” said the German-American poet Charles Bukowski. Purple does something strange to me too.

Purple, whose aura began because of its rarity in nature and the expense of creating the dye, is often associated with spirituality, mystery, and magic – which is exactly why it became our brand color.

Alchimie (pronounced al-shee-mee) is the French word for Alchemy. And alchemy, is the medieval science that pre-dated chemistry. Part of alchemy was chemistry, part was magic. My sister Cyrille and I chose our brand name specifically because skin care is part science, and part mystery. (We also loved the fact that the alchemists were the first to look at plants as having healthful benefits). And we chose our brand color because of its association with magic.

The more I learn about purple, the more it continues to fascinate me. Apparently, I am not alone, as Ultra-Violet (a shade of purple) was chosen as the 2018 color of the year by Pantone.

Why is purple so special?

So next time you come across something purple, notice its magic. As one of the characters in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple said, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

Today, I hope to resist the temptation of the King Cake…

I know sugar is bad for me. I know it is bad for my waistline, and most likely for other reasons also. I am sure you know that too. Yet sometimes, I need a reminder. In particular on days such as today, Mardi Gras, a day that will be filled with sweet, sugary foods such as King Cake. I thought it would be good to remind myself of how sugar not only expands waistlines, but also accelerates aging. Today, I hope to resist the temptation of the King Cake.

When sugar enters the body, it has many both short and long-term effects on the cells. One of the effects of sugar exposure involves a process called glycation, in which over time sugars become irreversibly cross-linked with proteins or lipids forming Advanced Glycation End Products, aptly called AGEs (they even sound bad even before you really understand what AGEs do!).

Glycation and their resulting AGEs:

  1. Change protein structure making it rigid and abnormal (think of broken down collagen, and those pesky wrinkles).
  2. Induce Free Radical production (more free radicals = older-looking skin more quickly).
  3. Interfere with a cell’s metabolic activity.
  4. Deactivate our natural antioxidant defenses (less antioxidants – older-looking skin more quickly).

Glycation changes a protein’s structure resulting in AGEs, tissue damage, and inflammation, and also induces the creation of free radicals which are associated with many diseases and aging. Collagen and Elastin, key proteins in skin tissue quality, strength, and flexibility are particularly vulnerable to glycation. Free radicals take a toll on the skin’s structure and elasticity. We can physically observe AGE accumulation in the form of aging signs such as wrinkles and change in skin elasticity and quality.

To add to this issue, excess sugars and UV exposure work hand in hand to create havoc for our skin. UV light induces the cross linking process between sugars and lipids or proteins. Glycation induces sun damage: glycated skin cells exposed to UV exhibit significantly more UV damage than normal. As UV light is the main source of premature aging, exposing skin suffering from the effects of glycation ages the skin at an even faster rate. Conclusion: eating ice cream on the beach is the worst possible plan…

So – what can (should…) I do?

  1. Avoid excess sugar; even better, avoid sugar in general…
  2. Glycation also occurs by cooking sugar and lipids or proteins together, so avoiding foods that are both high in fat and sugar (therefore high in preformed AGEs) is important.
  3. As glycation interferes with the body’s natural antioxidant defenses, antioxidant levels play a key role in counteracting damaging free radicals formed by glycation. Ensuring the intake of highly antioxidant foods and the application of antioxidant-rich topical products will ensure that antioxidant levels are replenished and subsequently prevent the negative effects of glycation on the skin.

A final note about glycation: quercetin, an antioxidant molecule naturally present in blueberries, and a key ingredient in Alchimie Forever products, has been found to be instrumental in preventing free radical creation by the glycation process and preventing structural changes in the properties of glycated components.

So today, if I am craving sweets, instead of eating King Cake, I will eat blueberries…


(Thank you to my fabulous Geneva intern Rachel for your help researching this blog post; references available upon request.)

On naturally-occurring parabens

At a recent industry conference, I gave a talk about one of my favorite topics, namely “controversial” ingredients. At that particular talk, I remembered why I love to speak at conferences, which is that I always learn something. During that presentation, I learned that there are such things as naturally-occurring parabens.  Indeed, these very controversial ingredients exist in nature, and specifically are found in blueberries, which is one of Alchimie Forever’s signature ingredients. Here is what I have since then learned on the topic:

–          Parabens do occur in nature

–          Naturally-occurring parabens have similar preservation properties as synthetic parabens; indeed, they are present in these plants to help them defend themselves against various micro-organisms

–          Not all plants have been tested for naturally-occurring parabens, so it is impossible to know if all plants contain these molecules or not

–          Most plants that have been tested for the presence of naturally-occurring parabens contain specifically methylpraraben and sometimes etyhlparaben (remember parabens are a family of various molecules)

–          Honeysuckle is one of the plants that is richest in naturally-occurring methylparaben

–          Other plants known to contain naturally-occurring parabens include: blueberries, carrots, olives, strawberries

–          In cosmetics, the labeling requirements for plants is to list the plant itself, the part of the plant that is used (leaf, flower, etc.), as well as the solvents and preservatives added to the plant extract; as such, naturally occurring parabens in plants would not be listed as parabens on the ingredient listing

–          The % of naturally occurring parabens in plants tends to be extremely low. For example, while in a cosmetic preparations parabens might make up to 0.3% of the formula, naturally-occurring methylparaben in blueberries is less than 0.003%

A final note about parabens: We at Alchimie Forever have decided to reformulate our products to remove parabens. Not for scientific reasons (we continue to believe that scientific data proves these are the safest and most efficacious preservatives), but for commercial reasons (in this case, perception has become reality, and the consumer has won). We will, of course, continue to use blueberries, and other powerful plant extracts. While they may extremely low concentrations of methylparaben to help defend themselves against various micro-organisms, they also contain quercetin, anthocyans, phenolic acids, and many more antioxidant molecules, which make them a powerful tool for both the repair and the prevention of free radical damage.