My Mom, Superwoman

I always knew my Mom was Superwoman – Superwoman of the mind. When I get stuck with my thinking, she has answers. When I get stuck with my writing, she has solutions. When I get stuck with my emotions, she has advice.

I never knew until this week that she is, simply, Superwoman. Not “just” Superwoman of the mind. She had COVID-19, and she beat it. Alone. Without doctors (except for herself, she is an MD after all). Without hospitals. Without “bothering” anyone about her condition.

When I realized that the novel corona virus became a threat, I worried for many of my family and friends – but most of all for my Mom. She splits her time between Paris and Geneva and travels a lot. She is in the high risk COVID-19 group, due to her age and her delicate lungs and asthma. She is a free spirit and I doubted her willingness to abide by the confinement rules. I worried that she would contract this virus (and I was right) and that it would beat her (and oh was I wrong) and that I would not get back to Switzerland in time.

Over the last two and a half months, she experienced many symptoms of this virus, one after the other. Terrible cough. Exhaustion. “COVID toes.” She followed the confinement and mask-wearing rules to the letter. She told my three sisters and me that she was doing this for us, so that we did not have to worry about her getting sick on top of all of our other COVID-19-related worries.

On Monday this week, she received the results of her anti-body test. Very, very, very positive. Of course, Barbara Polla has never failed an exam or test in her life… why should I be so surprised that she would pass this one with an A+?!

Thank you Mom for being Superwoman. In all ways, and always.

Our Kantic® Brightening Moisture Mask: Better than Ever!

One of the things that I love about the skin care industry is the constantly evolving body of knowledge and the ingredient innovation that keep things exciting, and keep me forever working on our product formulations.

When we created our first Alchimie Forever products, back in the late 1980s, we used parabens (we also loved big hair and worked out to Jane Fonda). We no longer use parabens anymore of course, and the process of removing them from our formulations was not easy (imagine making your grandmother’s tomato sauce with cherry tomatoes instead of heirloom tomatoes and wanting it to taste exactly the same). That was Alchimie 2.0.

The improvements continue, as we move from Alchimie 2.0 to Alchimie 3.0.

Recently, we updated our Purifying gel cleanser formulation, removing sulfates, and replacing them with more natural, gentler alternatives – while preserving the beautiful foaming texture of this product.

We also just improved our hero SKU, the Kantic® Brightening moisture mask. For all of you out there who have used and loved this product for decades, and who do not like change (I am in this group), here is more information on exactly what we changed (starting with Lot Numbers 10151J21 and 11041K21).

We removed the following ingredients, in our continued effort to make our formulations as clean (yet still effective) as possible:

  • Phenoxyethanol (preservative, slightly controversial)
  • Dimethicone (silicone derivative, texture ingredient, can clogg pores)
  • Trimethylsiloxysilicate (silicone derivative, texture ingredient, can clogg pores)
  • PPG-15 Stearyl Ether (ethoxylated ingredient, slightly controversial)
  • PPG-20 Methyl Glucose Ether (ethoxylated ingredient, slightly controversial)

We replaced these ingredients with the following cleaner alternatives:

  • Coco-Caprylate/Caprate (non-controversial alternative to silicone)
  • Dimer Dilinoleyl Dimer Dilinoleate (non-controversial texture ingredient)
  • Caprylyl Glycol (non-controversial texture ingredient)

Rest assured: while we have made the formula “cleaner,” we have not changed any of the active ingredients that give the mask all of its wonderful properties and benefits. You will still get the same glow, hydration, calming and anti-redness effect, as you have for years.

And remember, as our products do not contain artificial dyes, the color may vary slightly with each production batch. Similarly, the viscosity (how thick the product is) is a range, as it cannot be replicated 100% batch to batch without a purely synthetic formulation. This means that sometimes the mask will be a little thicker, and sometimes it will be a little more watery.

But the Kantic® Brightening moisture mask, in all of its iterations, remains our best-selling, first ever product, and hero of our brand. And your favorite!

 

15 Beauty Rules

I was invited by Progressions Salon and Spa last week to participate in a Wellness and Stress Management event. In thinking about the theme, I was reminded of the core of our brand’s DNA, and of the reason why my parents decided to create a product brand so many years ago: because looking good, means feeling good, means doing good. Indeed, looking good is a way to relieve stress, and increase wellness.

The question, of course, is what can we do to look good, to look better? Here are 15 rules, strategies, rather, that I learned from my parents – and that I follow religiously.   

  1. Prevention is everything. Don’t wait to see wrinkles or have bad skin to use great products, get regular facials, and go to your dermatologist at least once per year. Think of your skin care the way you think of your dental care – you don’t wait to have rotting teeth to brush your teeth daily; you don’t wait to have cavities to go visit a dentist twice annually for your checkup. The same behavior applies to skin.
  2. No smoking. Ever.
  3. No sun. Ever. If you must sun, remember: no “unprotected sun.” And no tanning beds either.
  4. Never go to bed without washing your face. I recently learned from a very credible source (a German R&D specialist) that every day you sleep with your makeup on you age your skin 7 days…
  5. Exfoliate once per week. Every week. This not only helps your skin look its best, it also will help all of your skin care products work better. Using expensive serums and masks on skin that is never exfoliated is like taking a shower with your rain coat on. It’s a shower… but it’s not exactly have its full desired effect…
  6. Use a product with broad-spectrum SPF protection every morning. January 1 through December 31. Yes, that includes the winter months.
  7. Use an antioxidant product every day, ideally twice a day. This will help your skin age as gracefully as possible.
  8. If you’re old enough to drink, you’re old enough for a good eye cream. The skin around the eyes is the first to show signs of aging, so prevention is even more important.
  9. Sleep on your back. You can train yourself to do this. Even if it’s not all night, every night, it will truly make a difference. My dermatologist father can always tell on which side a woman (or man!) sleeps because the wrinkles are deeper on that side of the face.
  10. Use products on your neck and décolleté. Your face does not end at your jawline, but rather just above your chest.
  11. The hands are a woman’s second face. Treat them like you treat your face, with anti-aging products and sun protection.
  12. Use more skin care and less makeup as you grow older. Makeup ages you. Except mascara and lipstick.
  13. Make an extra effort to look good on the days you feel bad, sick, tired, sad, upset, or are in a bad mood. Nothing brightens those hard days as regular compliments throughout the day about your lovely outfit, great hair, or fabulous necklace. It works every time!
  14. Look at yourself in the mirror. Really look. That way you will never wake up thinking “how did this line just appear, it was not there yesterday….” Wrinkles take time to form. If you see them forming, you’ll be less shocked or upset when you realize they are fully formed.
  15. Every year you grow older, spend 1 more minute in your bathroom.

Iron in skin aging: less is more…

Last week was one of my favorite weeks in June, the week of HBA in New York City. As I have done for the past three years, I moderated a session on the theme of “The Changing Face of Beauty Distribution” (read about the highlights in the upcoming September issue of GCI Magazine). This year, my colleague Catherine presented for the first time – doing an amazing job on a social media panel (in case you pre-program your Tweets, she says “don’t do it – just don’t”). Also, this year, my Mom, Dr. Barbara Polla presented again.

Her presentation was about one of my favorite scientific topics, one that she has specialized in and published dozens of scientific papers about: iron chelation. At the core of our Alchimie Forever formulation technology, iron chelation is based on the premise that excess iron accelerates aging, in particular skin aging.

Riddle me this: why do women live longer than men? One of the leading theories is that we (women) on average have a lower quantity of iron in our bodies. Why? Because we lose iron regularly during our menstrual cycle and during delivery.

Indeed, while iron is essential for aerobic life, oxygen transport, energy production, and red blood cell function (if you suffer from anemia, please follow your doctor’s recommendations), iron is also involved in the oxidation processes, increasing the production of the hydroxyl radical (remember, oxygen radicals are involved in all signs of skin aging). Indeed, iron plays a major role in oxidative stress via Fenton chemistry, where iron(II) is stoichiometrically oxidized by H2O2  to iron(III), producing the highly damaging oxygen radical .OH (Gutteridge and Halliwell, 2000).

Translation: excess iron acts as a catalyst in the production of damaging free radicals, which are responsible for the creation of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of skin aging.

The most extreme clinical case that illustrates the damaging role of excess iron is a condition known as haemochromatosis. This disease involves a disorder in the gastrointestinal absorption of iron, which leads to iron accumulation in internal organs and in the skin. The skin, specifically, then presents highly accelerated signs of skin aging.

Studies have been conducted to show that treating the skin with synthetic iron chelators (molecules that neutralize iron, thus making it unavailable to act as a catalyst) will delay the onset of redness and wrinkles after UV exposure for up to 11 weeks (study on hairless mice, Bissett et al., 1994).

Translation: skin exposed to UV first treated with iron chelators does not get as sunburnt or as wrinkled as skin not treated with iron chelators.

So what does this mean for you? Two things.

  1. Look for skin care products that contain natural iron chelators, such as quercetin (present in blueberry, grape seed, and green tea extracts).
  2. Unless your doctor recommends you take iron, favor supplements (e.g. multi-vitamins) that do not contain iron. My favorite? Emergen-C Super Orange.
  3. Last but not least, donate blood – it can save others, and can be good for you too!

In the case of iron and skin aging, less is truly more. To learn more about the role of iron in skin aging, please watch this video.

Self care advice from my Mom

In the US, there’s an inherent fascination with European women. How can they be so thin despite eating so much cheese? How can they be so healthy despite drinking wine, often at lunch? How do they achieve their quintessential elegant look? How come they seem to age more gracefully?

While I don’t pretend to have answers to the first two questions, I do believe that the European woman’s approach to skin care has much to do with the answers to the third and fourth questions. While speaking about European women is obviously a gross generalization, here are some tips on skin care habits that my Swiss mother engrained in me from my early teens:

  1. Skin care is a part of self care, part of health care. Facials are not luxuries, and a good moisturizer is not a frivolous expense. Indeed, I was taught that going to the spa should be considered as necessary as going to the dentist on a regular basis.
  2. Prevention is more important than correction. Don’t wait until you start seeing wrinkles, brown spots, and sagging skin to incorporate anti-aging products into your routine. If you are old enough to drink (and remember, in Geneva, this is 16), you are old enough for an eye cream.
  3. Spend time in your bathroom; it is your sanctuary. Growing up, I watched my mom take long baths, apply lotions and potions, and  spend a lot of time in her bathroom. That was her special time each morning–her way to get physically and mentally prepared for the day, and in the evening, it helped her remove the effects of the day.
  4. For every year you grow older, spend an extra 30 seconds in your bathroom. When you are 20 years old, you can jump out of bed, tie your hair in a ponytail, and leave the house in 5 minutes looking fresh and beautiful. As we age, getting to that look takes more time and more effort. Don’t fight against it, embrace it, and spend more time in your bathroom.
  5. Look at yourself in the mirror. Really look–don’t just glance. This will enable you to see every wrinkle starting to form, to see the appearance of very light brown spots and watch them turn darker with the passage of time. The process of looking, observing, and assessing will give you a feeling of control over the changes happening on your face and body and will ensure that you don’t just wake up one morning and think, “I have just aged 20 years overnight.”
  6. Taking care of your body is as important as taking care of your face. Treat your neck and décolleté with specific products. Nourish the skin of your body. Take particular care of your hands and feet. Not just once a week, but every day, twice a day.
  7. Makeup is meant for highlighting and color, not to treat skin. If your skin looks good, you don’t need to cover it with foundation. Show your skin. Use makeup to brighten and color.
  8. The worse you feel, the brighter your lipstick should be. Red is the color of power, wearing it will not only have people commenting on how great you look, but will make you feel powerful and in control, hence better. Find the shade of red that suits you, and use it.
  9. Keep your nails real, short, and oval. Did Princess Grace of Monaco have long fake nails? I don’t think so. Short is elegant. Nude is the best neutral, but bright red works on short nails too.
  10. Smile. You will look better, feel happier, and everyone around you will too.