Alchimie Forever… The Story Behind Our Name

It is Marketing 101 that when choosing a brand name, something short, easy to pronounce and spell, and memorable in various cultures and countries is the way to go.

My sister Cyrille and I chose Alchimie Forever as our brand name, many years ago in a delightful tea shop in the Old Town of Geneva. If I had a penny for every time our brand name was misspelled or mispronounced… What were we thinking?

Watch me tell the story here or keep reading.

As we started brainstorming, we identified four guiding principles:

  • We wanted a name that started with A (first letter of the alphabet, A like Ada, who knows…)
  • We wanted a link to Forever Institut, the medical spa our skin care brand was born in
  • We wanted a word in French (elegant, Swiss, international), and a word in English (universal, American, approachable)

We started listing French words starting with A… and suddenly my sister lit up and said “Alchimie!” And then we switched from drinking tea to celebrating with champagne!

It made sense for so many reasons. Alchimie (pronounced al-shee-mee) is the French word for alchemy. And alchemy is very much at the heart of our skin care philosophy.

  • Alchemy is the medieval science that became chemistry. And how can you formulate skin care products without chemistry, without labs, without clinical studies? There can be no skin care without science.
  • Alchemy is also part magic. The Alchemists were involved in such mystical pursuits as transforming lead into gold and finding the stone of eternal youth (both endeavors somehow related to beauty and youth). And skin care is indeed part magic…
  • The Alchemists were also among the first to identify plants as having healthful benefits. And potent botanicals are at the core of our formulations.

So yes, our brand name is hard to pronounce, and hard to spell – and now you know why: science, magic, and powerful botanicals!  

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.”

It Takes 4 of Us to Make Me Feel Whole

When I turned 40 last October, I asked my sisters for a gift – that they all come to visit me in Louisiana for Memorial Day weekend. And Memorial Day weekend is upon us. I can’t quite describe the feeling of having them all here with me, and I know the weekend is just beginning, but last night’s dinner was perfection. I tried to say thank you… with the following words.

First, thank you to you, Edwin. This weekend would not have been possible without you. You know what I want and don’t want. You knew having my sisters in Louisiana was the best gift ever, and you made it happen. You even bought a new boat and renovated your Hammond kitchen to prepare for “their”’arrival. Thank you. Thank you for loving me so well.

Second, to Bernard. You are the one “plus one” here this weekend, and for this I am forever grateful. Thank you for coming to be moral support for Edwin during the Polla sisters weekend takeover. I am so grateful for you and for how you love Rachel.

Thank you, Stern for being with us, for representing the extended Neill family tonight. Thank you for making the special trip from California just to meet my sisters (J).

To Roxane. You were the first of my sisters to fall in love with Louisiana, a number of years ago. You fell in love with New Orleans. With the boat and the river and the alligators. With Debra’s house which you still think is the most beautiful house you have seen in the world. Thank you for understanding why I love it here. Thank you for coming back. Please tell Guillaume he is missed, but here in spirit.

To Rachel. You host me, us, in Geneva every single time we come. You never say no when I send you my travel dates. You make sure there is champagne and gruyere in the fridge. You always make me feel like I am home. Your hospitality is the kindest and most generous there is. This weekend is a small attempt to say thank you.

To Cyrille. You came back to the US of A. I must admit I stopped believing it would happen. Last time you came to this country it was for also for me. It was to help the Alchimie booth at ISPA 2005 at the Dallas Gaylord (our first ever booth). You hated it. Hated the AC (oops sorry), hated not being able to smoke anywhere, hated working the booth and speaking to people, you hated everything. That was the trade show Edwin and I met at. Thank you for coming for me then. Thank you for agreeing to come back for me now.

Thank you for coming here together so we can show The Polla Sisters to The Neill Brothers. They have no idea what is coming…

Je vous aime. Mes sœurs. Merci.

BeautyView: Cyrille Polla, PR Director, Forever Laser Institut


The next three BeautyViews I am going to publish are of my three favorite women – my three sisters. While this is requiring me to slightly bend the rule about BeautyViews (two of them are no longer directly involved in the beauty industry), after all, I made that rule up so I can bend it, right? I decided to go about it in chronological order, so as to avoid any questions about preferences, so below are the answers crafted by my sister Cyrille, who is 2.5 years younger than me. She is the PR Director of Forever Laser Institut, and a significant part of her work involves writing (including writing my father’s blog). And when I read her answers, I am reminded that she really was born to write… song lyrics or otherwise. She is artsy, funny, genuine, and a rebel. And while I have known Cyrille since the day she was born, I still learned so much about her through this interview. Maybe it’s because I am more emotionally tied to her than to other interviewees, or maybe it’s because she actually answered a question with a swear word (which I did not edit…), or maybe it’s because her answers are so filled with dreams… reading them gave me goosebumps. I hope you will get goosebumps too. 

AP: What city were you born in? CP: I was born in a perfect place inhabited by my amazing crazy intelligent parents and my crazy caring loving big sister.

AP: What city to do you live in? CP: I live on an imaginary boat with my Sailor and our son.

AP: What is your middle name? CP: Zoe.

AP: What is your astrological sign? CP: Milky way.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? CP: I write song lyrics and dream of being a star and going on tour with the two men of my life.

AP: What is your most prized possession? CP: Everything I inherited from my two Grandmothers.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? CP: My mom, but only if we share a bottle of wine and some of our secrets.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. CP: Free. Unique. Unpredictable.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? CP: Once a month I wear a vintage Tissot.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? CP: One diamond on my finger, a few pearls in my treasure chest.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? CP: A great set of genes (works even better that a cute pair of jeans).

AP: What fragrance do you wear? CP: I never wear perfume. The only fragrances I’m permeable to are those of coffee, petit-LU (My baby boy’s butter-cookies) and love.

AP: Botox or not? CP: Absolutely, but only because I happen to be the daughter of the best injector in the world.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? CP: I always wanted to be a curly red-head. I once tried black and pink. Never again.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? CP: I’m the worst person to ask that question to.

AP: What do you do for exercise? CP: I carry my son around.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? CP: Pickles, organic plain yogurt, sparkling water.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? CP: Champagne or Martini Bianco on the rocks.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? CP: I always put life first.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? CP: I fly mostly in my dreams.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? CP: 1. Travel seldom but travel well. 2. Have a couple of crease-resistant dresses that you can just throw in the suitcase under your 3 pairs of shoes. 3. Leave space in your bag for the shopping you’ll bring back home.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. CP: I have no ipod. At the moment I am listening to Khatia Buniatishvili playing Liszt piano pieces. My Man and I went to her concert last Sunday.

AP: What book are you reading right now? CP: I read “Il était un petit navire” to my son.

AP: Quote to live by. CP: Love, Love, Love.

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? CP: Administrative paper work shit.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? CP: This is a sore subject at the moment. I wake up at 6am and get an average 6 hours sleep. I would like to order 3 extras, please!

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? CP: It’s my family business.

AP: Least favorite thing. CP: You always have to look pampered. Sometimes I prefer the “flea market-careless-scruffy-wild” look!

AP: Who is your mentor? CP: No one.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. CP: Choose your co-workers with care. The people around you make or break your day.