What Does Kantic Mean, and Why Do We Use That Word?

If you have been using our products for more than five or six years, you probably remember words such as Nd:YAG, Superpulse, Alexandrite, Q-switch, and one of the most complicated to spell and pronounce, Yttrium. These words are all related to the field of lasers. We loved the idea of highlighting my father’s pioneering role in the field of laser technology (remember, he was the first to introduce lasers for use in dermatology in Europe back in the mid-1980s) by having laser-related words on the packaging.

Feedback from the field suggested that while our idea might have been brilliant and made complete sense to us, our customers were confused. They could not pronounce many of the names. They asked if the Alexandrite product was named such because it was meant to be used after an Alexandrite laser treatment (that would have made sense… but was not the case). So, after many family dinners, internal debates, and a couple of arguments, we made the decision to remove these product names from our packaging and brand verbiage.

We made an exception for the word “Kantic” however. My father was attached to the laser names, and to the idea behind using them, and loved Kantic the most. So, we compromised, and three products still have this laser name – forming the Kantic collection of products:

So what does Kantic mean? Kantic is a “misspelling” of the French word Quantique (we liked the K and the C), which translates as quantum. It comes from quantum physics, which studies how atoms and particles behave, including in the field of lasers. It is true to our heritage and to the pioneering role my father played in the field of laser technology. You can find out more here.

Luckily, Kantic is one of the laser terms that is most easily pronounced (in both French and English).

Luckily, the three products that form the Kantic collection share benefits and appeal to a similar skin type:

  • Anti-aging and antioxidant
  • Nourishing and hydrating
  • Calming and soothing
  • Anti-redness and anti-irritation

And luckily, every year, my father and I get better at debating and compromising.

Our Business Didn’t Start as a Business… Our Origin Story

Alchimie Forever does not exist because one day my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla, sat at his desk and decided to start a skin care brand.

Alchimie Forever does not exist because a consultant ran focus groups, identified white space in the market, raised some money, and created a business.

Alchimie Forever exists because my father is a softie and can’t stand to see children suffer.

Alchimie Forever exists because 30+ years ago, my father couldn’t find the perfect product to help heal the skin of his young patients post procedure.

Let me tell you our “origin story.” (Thanks, Marc Ross, for teaching me this terminology.)

My father opened his dermatology practice in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1986, and was the first dermatologist to offer pulsed dye laser technology to treat children suffering from Port Wine Stains and hemangiomas. Parents brought their children from near and far to have Dad erase these debilitating birthmarks, an endeavor that required numerous treatments over a period of months, sometimes years.

I was already working with my father back then (at the front desk) and I remember hearing the children crying from the pain, as the laser treatment created heat and discomfort, redness and inflammation, and a burning sensation. And if there is something my father can’t stand, it is a child in pain (he switched his medical specialization from pediatrics to dermatology after realizing he could not handle seeing terminally ill children). He needed a product to help make them feel better – to help heal their skin.

Not finding the right product, he created his own “recipe.” He would send his patients’ parents to a neighborhood pharmacy with a compounding prescription, the pharmacist would whip up a magical product in little white jars right there and then, and the child would stop crying. The prescription was for what is known today as our Kantic Brightening moisture mask. This compounded product, meant to help heal the kids’ skin post procedure, smelled so good that the mothers ended up also using it, and asking for more at the follow-up appointment: “it makes my skin glow,” they would say. For their convenience, we ended up “pre-making” the product.

One product led to another, and to another, and finally to the brand that became Alchimie Forever.

Alchimie Forever exists because of what is still our hero product, our Kantic Brightening moisture mask.

Long before this mask had a name, it had a loyal following.

Long before we had a brand, we had skin care solutions.

Long before we had a business, we had a mission.

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!

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.

What it takes to be the Medical Director of Forever Laser Institut… Violette Parzin Gribinski tells all

Violette Parzin Girbinski, MD, is an amazing woman for many reasons. Not least of them, she has recently joined the team of Forever Laser Institut as Medical Director, the first to take this role and embrace this position since my father started our medical spa. It takes a woman of character, talent, excellence (medical and otherwise), and patience to lead, innovate, and enhance Forever Laser Institut. I could not be happier to have her join our team!

AP: What city were you born in? VPG: Teheran, Iran.

AP: What city to do you live in? VPG: Lausanne, Switzerland.

AP: What is your middle name? VPG: I don’t have one…

AP: What is your astrological sign? VPG: Cancer. Which means I am kind, intuitive, family-oriented, and do not like conflict…

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know?  VPG: I love to paint!

AP: What is your most prized possession?  VPG: My twins. They are my life.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? VPG: Angela Merkel. She is such a strong leader.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. VPG: Classic chic.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? VPG: Yes always! And always Jaegger Lecoultre.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? VPG: Both – why limit yourself?!

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? VPG: I sleep a lot.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? VPG: Private Collection by Estee Lauder.

AP: Botox or not? VPG: For sure! I use it, and I recommend it to my patients.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? VPG: Not.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? VPG: Never diet!

AP: What do you do for exercise? VPG: I swim. It combines cardio and muscle development and the water is peaceful and quiet.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? VPG: Milk, cheese and eggs.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? VPG: Martini Rosso on the rocks. Just sweet enough. Do not confuse this with “a martini.”

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? VPG: Organization.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? VPG: Not enough.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? VPG: Don’t eat on the plane, sleep, and smile to the customer service people at checkin and to the flight attendants on the plane.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. VPG: Anything by Avishai Cohen, an amazing Israeli Jazz bassist.

AP: What book are you reading right now? VPG: Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman… we all need to know more about this subject.

AP: Quote to live by. VPG: I live by quotes… too many to quote!

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? VPG: Snakes – and anyone who loves them!

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? VPG: I wake up at 6:30 am and have to sleep a minimum of 8 hours… it’s my beauty secret, remember?

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? VPG: It changes all the time and new technologies come out all the time.

AP: Least favorite thing. VPG: It changes all the time and new technologies come out all the time. Meaning I can never master it fully!

AP: Who is your mentor? VPG: My father.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. VPG: Persevere. Never give up. Never take no for an answer. You can do it!

 

Geneva travel guide: my favorite places to eat, drink, shop, and play

The beauty of my travelling lifestyle is that I make friends in one continent and find them again in another. Case in point, the fabulously chic and exquisite Erin Hazelton, whom I met in New York City when she was Erin Skrypek. She has since moved to St Pierre en Faucigny, France, about 30 minutes outside of Geneva. Today, we met at the Mirror Bar in Hotel Metropole for some rosé champagne and a catch-up. She inspired this blog, when she asked me for some recommendations of places to have fun, great food, and fabulous cocktails in Geneva. This made me think about my home-town, and all of the places I (and my sisters and my cousin!) love to spend time, shop, and people watch.

Best beauty address: Of course, there is only one… Forever Laser Institut, my father’s premier medical spa on the Place du Molard. Go there for a facial, for a massage, for the best injectables and medical spa treatments in Geneva and the surrounding areas. Of course, you can also go there to look at the art on the walls, my father’s favorite pieces from his personal collection.

Best art address: Analix Forever, also owned by my family. My mother will take the time to explain any show in detail, and show you an amazing collection of drawings and small pieces (which I love, as they fit in small (or what I like to think of as “normal-sized”) apartments.

Favorite hotel: Hotel Tiffany, on Rue de l’Arquebuse, directly across from Analix Forever. This boutique hotel with excellent service blends art nouveau and contemporary styles to perfection. Even if not staying there, this is my go-go place for a café on the terrace (weather permitting).

Favorite clothing boutiques: Of course, there is the Bon Génie , the best department store in Geneva. I go there mostly to shop for extravagant gifts for the children in my life (they are not mine, so extravagant gifts are ok), and to have a glass of champagne with my godmother at the BG Café. I also love to go to Apostrophe on Rue du Rhône for classic sweaters, slacks, and skirts.

Favorite Parisian-style café: if you want the feel of being in the heart of Paris, surrounded by intense and crazy intellectuals, the Remor is your place to go. In the morning for great croissants and espressos, while reading the paper. In the afternoon, go there for ice-cream  In the evening, go there for wine and conversation.

Favorite alternative, live music hangout: L’Usine. This is a recommendation courtesy of my 20-year old cousin, who loves the live music here, although he warns me that I might be too old and conservative for it… I seem to have recollections of going there during my high-school days, although I don’t get in to that conversation with him…

Three favorite places in one: As I ask my sisters for additional advice on this topic, the Grand Hotel Kempinski comes up a few times. Le Java is a fabulous night spot, pretty much representing the other extreme from L’Usine. I guess that would be the place for me, now that I am the age that I am and too old for L’Usine… Floor 2 also in the hotel is a great high-end, classy bar, where it sounds like I might want to take my husband, featuring great cocktails and an atmosphere that makes conversation easy. Then there is Le Grill, the restaurant in said hotel, where my sister Rachel says the thing to get is the “fillet de boeuf mademoiselle.” I am definitely going there!

Best Italian, possibly my all-time favorite place ever anywhere: Auberge Communale d’Onex. My family started going there in the mid-1980s, and I still go there today for the nostalgia and for the amazing food. Valentino, the chef and owner, is like family to me, as are his waiters, who all sport amazing mustaches. The ricotta is to die for, any pasta tastes as if it was from my grandfather’s kitchen, and the desert tray is the best there is. I will always remember that as we used to have an account there, meaning they would mail us our bill, it was to my sisters and me when we were younger “the place where we ate so well but never had to pay!”

Best lunch place: This is a tie, and a hard one. First, Le Relais de l’Entrecote, where they serve one salad, steak with an amazing sauce (all you get to pick is how you would like it cooked), and fries. It is always packed, lively, consistently delicious, and a must. Second, Le Baroque. This is in the same building as my father’s medical spa, and a great spot for business lunches (fabulous terrace, again weather permitting), or any lunch. I have to admit to also going there for apéro on weeknights after work, and only in part because their décor is exclusively purple…

Most artsy restaurant: Curiositas, a restaurant located at the intersection of three fabulous museums, i.e. Musée Patek Philippe, Musées d’Ethnographie, and Mamco (museum of contemporary art), where you not only enjoy great food, but also discover the cabinet of curiosities of owner Jean-François Schlemmer.

Best wine bars: there are two, depending on your style. Casual afterwork style would be the Soleil Rouge, where I know my team members have been a few times when I have called them around 1 pm Washington DC time… If you are looking for a slightly higher-end (aka more expensive) after-work glass of happiness, Rouge et Blanc on the “bord du lac” is phenomenal. If for some reason your “afterwork” is later than most people would expect, i.e. 9 pm or later, the Brasserie des Halles de L’Ile is the place to go (and apparently they do a fabulous Sunday brunch also, which I will have to try).

Best area in general according to my sister Roxane: Carouge. I don’t venture out there, or have not yet, but she recommended Brasserie de la Bourse on Place du Marché, for fabulous steak frites, and le DixVins, a tiny French-style bistro that serves amazing food.

Finally, if a meal just isn’t enough time and you want to make a weekend of it, the place to go is La Réserve, a fabulous hotel, restaurant, bar, and spa that makes for the ideal getaway from “normal life,” ideally with the love of your life.