Mid-Year Reflections…

I am a planner, a list maker, a goal tracker. I start new years with a list of goals, some new, some left over from the previous year. And usually, sometime in the middle of the year – typically during my vacation in Greece, or around Labor Day weekend – I re look at my goals and set myself up for success for the fall.

This year, my mid-year reflection happened this past Saturday, August 18. I was in Magnano in Riviera (Italy), where my father is from, a place I have not visited in over 20 years. I was there with my husband, my three sisters and their partners and children, and with my father – per his request, to celebrate his 70th year of life, and have our annual Polla Family Council meeting. Such a family gathering, and such a birthday, were conducive to reflection.

So, I reflected.

The first few months of 2018 were challenging, for reasons I still had a hard time processing. I acknowledged this to myself and thanked myself for getting past it. I thought about a note I made for myself at the end 2017 about strengthening my tolerance for tension. I certainly can check that off my list.

I thought about what I am most proud of professionally, namely continuing to grow Alchimie (look for some new distribution this fall), launching our newest product (Advanced retinol serum), continuing to lead Neill Fulfillment.

I reflected on my relationships and the people closest to me. Am I contributing to their happiness, to their growth, to their personal and professional development? These goals are important for the rest of 2018 (and beyond).

I reaffirmed my commitment to my self-care and reminded myself how part of the reason I started feeling better late Spring was more running, more water, more sleep, more reading. I re-commit to ending the year healthy and strong, physically and emotionally.

I thought about some very specific goals I have yet to achieve: redoing our YouTube videos; working on my book idea; reaching 10,000 Instagram followers for Alchimie; reading the books remaining on my “Marie Kondo-ed book pile.”

Finally, I think about what I am looking forward to for the rest of the year. These next few days in Italy, maybe becoming a home owner, lots of productive work travel, my god-daughter Jade’s week-long visit, the holiday season.

So much to be grateful for, so much to do, so much to look forward to…

 

Coming Soon… Advanced Retinol Serum with Time-Release Technology

Retinol is often referred to as the “gold standard” ingredient for anti-aging. In fact, I have been hearing this from my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla, for years, as he has been (gently) insisting on the need to add a retinol product to our Alchimie Forever assortment.

“But,” I say, “retinols are not ideal for sensitive skin types, our target customer.” “Even sensitive skin types need retinol, and can adapt to the right formulation,” he responds. “But,” I say again, “one of our brand promises is the lack of side effects.” “To most women, controlled side effects are worth the results retinol gives.” And on and on and on we go. For four years.

And Dad “won,” as he usually does – because he is usually right (there, I said it). Or perhaps it’s that I turned 40 last year and thought selfishly that I should probably start incorporating retinol in my skin care routine. And why not an Alchimie Forever one…

As we approach the launch of our Advanced Retinol Serum, here is a quick snapshot on retinol. Next week, I’ll tell you more specifically about our formulation.

What is retinol?

In the skin care world, vitamin A and its derivatives exist in various forms. The most widely used ones are pure retinol, retinyl esters (such as retinyl acetate, retinyl propionate, and retinyl palmitate), and retinaldehyde. Through various enzymatic reactions in the skin, all of these molecules are ultimately converted to all-trans-retinoic acid, aka the active form of vitamin A in the skin.

Retinoic acid was first discovered in 1969 by James Fulton and Albert Kligman in the late 1960s as a treatment for acne; its anti-aging benefits emerged as a surprising and positive side effect.

Retinol has the form of light yellow crystals – which is why many retinol products often have a yellowish tint to them.

Products containing actual retinoic acid require a medical prescription (you may have heard of brands such as Renova, Retin-A, Retino-A, ReTrieve, or Stieva-A). The most common strengths are 0.025%, 0.05% and 0.1%. In contrast, products containing pure retinol, retinol derivatives, or retinaldehyde are non-prescription, and tend to have higher concentrations (0.5% to 1.5%).

The pros

“At the microscopic level, retinol enhances cell division in the epidermis, replacing damaged and unorganized cells with new organized cells. It also reduces melanin production. In the dermis, new collagen and elastin fibers are formed,” says Dr. Polla. My non-medical translation: fine lines and wrinkles diminish, the skin becomes plumper, smoother, and softer, and the complexion more even. It really works.

The cons

Instability especially to oxygen and light. Look for products packaged in tubes that are opaque and impermeable to oxygen. Tubes are typically preferable to jars (given the smaller opening and thus diminished access to air and light).

Skin irritation. Typically, within two weeks of starting to use a retinol, you will experience flaking, redness, and a slight discomfort. Of course, this will depend on your skin type, if you have used retinol in the past or not, and specifically how you are using your retinol.

Retinol best practices

Retinol should be incorporated in your skin care routine in your mid-30s to early 40s.

Retinols should not be used while pregnant or nursing.

Time of day. Retinol products should be used in the evening. Dr. Polla explains: “It is important that the topical retinoid be applied at night-time for two reasons. First, patients who use topical retinoids during the daytime notice increased sensitivity to ultraviolet light. Second, trans-retinoic acid is unstable when exposed to sunlight. When exposed to light, the molecule degrades rapidly, not providing its full benefits.”

Sun sensitivity. Make sure to use an SPF20 or above daily. This is true regardless of if you are using a retinol product, but be particularly diligent if you are. (See ultraviolet light sensitivity comment above.)

Frequency of use. Do not use your retinol product daily – two or three times per week tends to be sufficient for most skin types. Start slow, then build up. Listen to your skin and to its reactions. Continuous inflammation and irritation is not the goal.

Apply your retinol to dry skin. Per Dr. Polla: “Instructing patients to apply their retinoid to dry skin can minimize side effects. Patients should be advised to wait a few minutes after washing the face to apply a topical retinoid. Wet skin enhances the penetration of the retinoid into the dermis, thus exacerbating irritation.”

Using complementary products. In addition to a morning cream with SPF, add an extra nourishing even cream to help soothe and moisturize your skin, and heal any flaking you may experience.

For some great additional information on retinoids, take a look at our partner Heyday’s retinol manifesto here.

And stay tuned – next week I’ll share more specifics about Alchimie Forever’s Advanced Retinol Serum with time release technology – which launches next month!

Ada Polla and Dr. Polla

Thank you Dad! And Happy Father's Day

I have written about my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla, for Father’s Day over the last few years, mostly about what he has taught me and his skin care wisdom. This year, I want to honor my father for a Happy Father’s Day by saying thank you.

  • Thank you for raising me like a boy (your words, not mine).
  • Thank you for telling me I could achieve anything I decided to.
  • Thank you for teaching me how to ski and showing me the beauty of the sunrise over the Cervin at 7 am.
  • Thank you for trusting me to work the front desk at your dermatology office when I was 10 years old – and letting me work there throughout high school.
  • Thank you for taking me on the Concorde.
  • Thank you for teaching me the appreciation and understanding of contemporary art.
  • Thank you for bringing me to Sharm El Sheik for my high school graduation trip.
  • Thank you for letting me cross the ocean to go to college.
  • Thank you for never making me feel obligated to work in the family business.
  • Thank you for always supporting my work in the family business.
  • Thank you for always believing in me and my goals, sometimes despite what common sense would suggest.
  • Thank you for teaching me by example the meaning of focus, determination, and hard work.
  • Thank you for showing me that it is worth taking the longer road, if that road is the more beautiful way.
  • Thank you for pushing me to be my best self, always.
  • Thank you for always being my number 1 fan and supporter.

Thank you, Dad. I love you, Dad. I don’t say these words often enough…

Toothpaste to heal a pimple? Dr. Polla says only in an emergency…

I love beauty myths, aka urban beauty legends, mostly because I have access to the source of all beauty truths, my father, renowned Swiss dermatologist Dr. Luigi L. Polla. I had once (upon the request of a BFF) asked him about the truth behind using Preparation H in the undereye area. This time, another friend asked me about using toothpaste to heal a pimple.

The theory behind the idea is that toothpaste contains a number of ingredients that dry out pimples, including baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, triclosan, menthol, and sometimes essential oils.

However, just like Preparation H is, to put it bluntly, not exactly meant for the undereye area, toothpaste is not exactly meant to be used on the face.

So – what is one to do?

My dad agrees that using toothpaste on the face on a regular basis is not a good idea as this would be irritating. Tricolsan and alcohol, for example, are two ingredients that tend to cause dryness, irritation, and can be allergens.

However, toothpaste does contain ingredients that will help minimize angry pimples, including anti-bacterial ingredients and metals such as zinc or copper. As such, in very limited instances, Dr. Polla says it is ok to use toothpaste to help dry out a pimple. Don’t do it daily, don’t use toothpaste on healthy skin (i.e. spot treat only), and do it only in an emergency (for example you wake up on a desert island with a huge throbbing pimple but without any appropriate facial products and have a date with the island man that evening).

I can’t help but ask about eye drops as well. After all, they are meant to tighten blood vessels to minimize the look of red eyes. Would that minimize the redness of a pimple? “Don’t push your luck” says my father.

Questions about retinoids? Here are some answers.

I am always asked questions about retinoids, retinols, vitamin A derivatives, and their role in skin care. After all, they are generally accepted to be a gold standard ingredient in anti-aging skin care. As much interest as there is around this ingredient category, there is even more confusion (and misconceptions, and misinformation which unfortunately skin care companies often contribute to).

I asked my Dad, Dr. Luigi Polla, to clarify a few things.

Forms

Vitamin A and its derivatives exist in various forms when used in cosmetic formulations. The most widely used forms include retinol, retinyl esters (such as retinyl acetate, retinyl propionate, and retinyl palmitate), and retinaldehyde. Through various enzymatic reactions in the skin, all of these forms are ultimately converted to all-trans-retinoic acid (also known as tretinoin), which is the active form of vitamin A in the skin.

Retinol and its esters are insoluble in water but soluble in organic oils and solvents. Retinol is in the form of light yellow crystals. Esters such as acetate or palmitate of vitamin A are yellow oils. Hence retinol-based formulations will often have a yellowish tint to them.

Products containing retinoic acid require a medical prescription (think of brands such brand names Aberela, Airol, A-Ret, Atralin, Avita, Retacnyl, Refissa, Renova, Retin-A, Retino-A, ReTrieve, or Stieva-A). The most common strengths are 0.025%, 0.05% and 0.1%.).

In contrast, products containing retinol, proretinol, retinaldehyde do not (meaning these are the forms typically found in over the counter cosmetic creams and serums). The brands offering products containing such ingredients are too numerous to list – indeed, most skin care brands will have this ingredient in their product portfolio.

Benefits

Retinoic acid is effective in decreasing acne blemishes – indeed this was its first intended use in dermatology (discovered in 1969 by James Fulton and Albert Kligman).

Retinoic acid ensures an effective turnover of cells within the follicle, with more effective disposal of dead cells. It thereby prevents the formation of “plugs” that block the opening of the follicle, thus preventing the formation of blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples.

Retinoic acid has also been found effective in the treatment of photoaging and aging skin.

One of its key anti-aging benefits is an increase in the skin’s thickness. While you may not think of “thick skin” as something to strive towards, thicker skin (brought about by increased collagen) is directly correlated to a decrease in fine lines and wrinkles.

Indeed, retinoic acid both inhibits production of collagenase and stimulates the production of glycosaminoglycans in the skin. Retinoic acid also stimulates growth of keratinocytes and fibroblasts and stimulated extracellular matrix production by fibroblasts. The conclusion: a reduction in fine lines and wrinkles

Challenges

There are definite challenges when working with retinoic acid. These include:

Instability especially to oxygen and light.

Look for products packaged in tubes that are opaque and impermeable to oxygen. Tubes are typically preferable to jars (given the smaller opening and thus diminished access to air and light).

Skin irritation

Retinoic acid (and other forms of this ingredient) induces skin irritation, which negatively affects skin barrier properties. Within two weeks of starting to use a retinoid product, the skin may become irritated, meaning red and feeling like there is a constant slight stinging. While high doses of retinoids will increase the beneficial results of the treatment, the associated irritation tends to define the upper concentration limit that a consumer can tolerate. While the skin may have some capacity to tolerate increasing doses of retinoids as it becomes more used to this ingredient, irritation is not completely eliminated even with long-term use.

Of the forms allowed in non-prescription products, retinol is becoming increasingly present in cosmetic formulations. One reason for this is that retinol has been shown to be less irritating topically than retinoic acid.

Dr. Polla’s recommendations

“I recommend retinoids to many of my patients, typically to those who are 40 years old and over. Younger skin types tend to be even more sensitive to potential side effects, so I tend to avoid retinoids until that age. Also, retinoids can be recommended for all skin types, but typically is best tolerated by oilier, thicker skin types. Remember never to recommend products containing any type of retinoid to nursing or pregnant women.”

“Instructing patients to apply their retinoid to dry skin can minimize retinoid dermatitis. Patients should be advised to wait 15 minutes after washing the face to apply a topical retinoid. Wet skin enhances the penetration of the retinoid into the dermis, thus exacerbating irritation.”

“A gradual increase in application frequency can also help to minimize irritation. The patient should apply the retinoid starting every other night or every third evening for the first one to two weeks of treatment. The patient can then gradually increase the frequency to nightly use as tolerated. Tolerance is often achieved in three to four weeks.”

“It is important that the topical retinoid applied at night-time for two reasons. First, patients who use topical retinoids during the daytime notice increased sensitivity to ultraviolet light. Second, trans-retinoic acid is unstable when exposed to sunlight. When exposed to light, 50% of trans-retinoic acid is degraded in two hours.”

“It is essential be particularly careful with sun protection when using a topical retinoid product. Avoiding the sun and an SPF of 20 or more is key, given the skin’s heightened photo-sensitivity.”

“Retinoids can lead to dryness and flaking. A nourishing moisturizers applied during the daytime is to avoid excessive dryness is key. However, keep in mind that retinoic acid should not be applied at the same time as moisturizers, since this combination may cause adverse effects.”