Remote Inspiration

This week (quarantine week 3) has been particularly challenging because the current reality has lost its novelty and is starting to sink in. I finally realized on Monday that life is going to be this way for another 4-6 weeks (hopefully not much longer, please). 

I wrote last week about my new sanity rituals, which while I am (mostly) following, are not helping (much). I do not feel inspired. I do not feel productive. I do not feel creative. When this happens during “normal life,” I go out in the field and visit Alchimie Forever customers. Nothing re-engages me in my brand, in my work, than being out in the field, listening to our brand ambassadors, learning from them, feeling their enthusiasm rub off on me. 

In “current life,” however, that is not possible. So instead, I turned to customers, business leaders, brand owners, for some remote inspiration. Here are four things that have helped me re-engage. 

 A remote training session with Heyday. This was almost as great as being in the field, visiting with the Heyday therapists IRL. Their questions, their feedback, their enthusiasm was contagious even “just” on the screen. And this gave me an opportunity to wear lipstick (first time in two weeks…), which felt wonderful. 

The COVID-19 speech by Marriott International President & CEO Arne Sorenson. I am a Marriott girl through and through, and will forever be after this speech, possibly the best crisis communication I have heard. Honest, realistic, hopeful, compassionate, emotional. 

The wise and honest words of Jennifer Yen, Founder & CEO of Purlisse, as quoted in Glossy today (article written by Emma Sandler). 

“As a brand founder who experienced the 2008 financial crisis and recession, the experience taught [me] lessons which [I have] applied for the past 12 years, including the importance of keeping a lean team, focusing on profitability versus growth, and reinvesting profit into hiring and product development. … Scrappy is the new sexy. It’s hard to see when the party’s over when times are still good, but I’ve been preparing for another moment like 2008 because it was so traumatizing.” 

The community efforts by Mathilde Thomas, Founder of Caudalie. Her brand sent hundreds of products to hospitals throughout France to help with chapped, irritated skin. In her LinkedIn post about this, she encouraged everyone: FAITES CE QUE VOUS POUVEZ POUR AIDER (Do what you can to help). Her example inspired me to reach out to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital to offer to donate some Dry skin balm, some Kantic Brightening moisture mask, and some Kantic+ Intensely nourishing cream. Because that is what I can do right now, right here, to help. 

How do you stay inspired and engaged in your work, in your brand, during these strange times? 

 

Spring Rituals

Today is my first day of Spring. Finally, the sky is blue, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the flowers are blooming. After our Polar Vortex Winter, it feels like life is finally beginning anew.

I wrote earlier this year about the rhythm of the seasons, and once again I was reminded this morning, walking to and from SoulCycle, of how this natural cycle impacts my focus, and my activities.

Here are some of the ways I have begun to celebrate Spring, and how I will continue to.

  • I opened the windows in my house and let in fresh air. Simple, and glorious.
  • I cut 4 inches off my hair and I have never felt lighter. Thank you, Jason Snyder!
  • I cleaned out my closet, thanks to the inspiration of my dear friend Jennifer Mapp Bressan, who is constantly reminding the world that we need less clothing than we think we do.
  • I took a good look at my to-do list and got rid of two items that had been sitting on there since January; one task I (finally) completed, and one task I decided I was never going to complete and just deleted.
  • I switched my evening cream to the lighter Kantic Calming cream from what I use during the winter, our Kantic+ Intensely nourishing cream.
  • I had coffee in my yard, listening to the sounds of Spring, watching the sun rise over Georgetown, watching the world wake up.  
  • I incorporated abs in my exercise regimen, per the inspiration of my friend Anne who does 200 of them five times per week. This should be a year-round ritual (because summer bodies are made in the winter!), but for now, it will start as a Spring / Summer ritual.
  • I went to yoga. I don’t do yoga, but when my friend Kelly DiNardo, owner of Past Tense in DC, invited me. I figured at the very least it would help me get rid of the winter cobwebs in my body.
  • I finalized a new partnership for Alchimie Forever, which will yield its fruit a little bit later this season.
  • I still need to get my first Spring pedicure… I am hoping to make time this weekend to go to Mia Bella, my favorite nail place in New Orleans. 

How do you celebrate the first few days (weeks) of Spring?

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.

Moisturizing Tips

Most of us use a moisturizer – but do we use the right one, in the right way? I speak to women every day about their moisturizer choices and habits, here are some of my favorite tips.

  1. Yes, well all should use a moisturizer daily. Choose it based on your skin type – refer to my father’s advice above, I could not put it in better words (to his delight!).
  2. Take seasonality into account when choosing the right moisturizer. This means that you may have to different ones, a light one for the humid summer and a more hydrating one for the dry winter. Also remember climate, in particular if you have recently moved or travel a lot. As I write this, sitting at my hotel desk in Las Vegas, I feel the dryness in my skin all the more than I did two days ago in Washington DC…
  3. The moisturizer that was right for you in your 20s is probably no longer right for you in your 40s. The number of women I speak to who have not changed their cream in 20+ years is staggering. Our skin is a living, breathing organism that evolves and changes with time. As you adapt your wardrobe from your 20s to your 40s, so should you adapt your skin care products.
  4. The perfect morning cream offers hydration, anti-aging benefits, and broad spectrum SPF protection. Look for an SPF of 20 or above for daily use, to protect your skin from 90+% of UV, such as our Protective Day Cream SPF 23.
  5. Do not use a moisturizer with SPF in the evening.
  6. Apply your moisturizer from the clavicle or collarbone to forehead, always moving against gravity. Always remember your face does not end at your chin, but rather mid-chest.
  7. Don’t forget to exfoliate once to three times per week to help slough off dead skin cells – and help your moisturizer really absorb.
  8. If you are looking for the perfect Alchimie Forever facial moisturizer to incorporate in your routine, here are your three choices:

Sensitive skin: what is it and what can we do about it?

Sensitive skin: myth or reality?

In Europe, the United States and Japan more than half the population reports suffering from sensitive skin. That fact alone warrants a better understanding of this condition, how to diagnose it, evaluate it, and treat it. Alchimie Forever’s heritage makes this topic particularly near and dear to my heart, as our origin was in post-procedure skin care, meaning the treatment of sensitized skin.

Men or women? 

We women are more sensitive than men overall, that is common knowledge… and as a result, we typically report sensitive skin more often than men do. While this was previously thought to be due to the fact that our epidermis is slightly thinner than that of men, and due to specific hormonal differences,  recent objective testing has found that sensitive skin is just as prevalent for men as it is for women.

What is sensitive skin? 

We can define sensitive skin as a hyper reactive response of the skin to an external source that results in inflammation. The source of irritation can be environmental conditions, cleaning products, personal care products, clothing, or anything that comes in contact with the skin. The symptoms concerned are often one or a combination of the following sensations: itching, burning, erythema (redness), tingling, flaking (scaling), tightness, and dryness.

Causes of Sensitive Skin

So why is sensitive skin… so sensitive?  An exaggerated response to an external source may be caused by a compromise in the skin barrier’s protective function: specifically, a thinner stratum corneum and reduced corneocyte area. A thinner barrier makes it easier for water soluble chemicals to quickly traverse the stratum corneum and cause irritation, making the skin more sensitive than normal to environmental factors.

Neural transmission and structural changes to receptors in the epidermis can also contribute to sensitive skin. A study shows that all sensitive skin, when compared to non-sensitive skin, was found to have more nerve growth factors in the stratum corneum.2 This could explain hypersensitivity even when the skin’s barrier appears intact: sensory neurons are activated and we see an inflammatory response.

Evaluating Sensitive Skin

At times, sensitive skin symptoms are easily detectable, such as in the case of redness or scaling, but sometimes symptoms like burning, tingling and a sensation of tightness can be difficult to evaluate and quantify. Because of the presence of symptoms that are difficult to evaluate, sensitive skin is often a self-diagnosed condition, which does not make it any less serious (indeed, studies show that self-perceived symptoms of hyper-reactivity reliably precede the appearance of clinical signs). Apart from self perception, clinical assessment of redness, dryness, discoloration, transepidermal water loss (TEWL), and hydration, as well as engineering methods of Doppler flowmetry can be used to evaluate skin sensitivity. However, when there are no observable clinical signs, it can be a challenge to quantify and evaluate sensitive skin. This is one of the key reasons why this subject is not yet fully understood.

Sensitive Skin vs. Sensitized Skin

Many people who report having sensitive skin may in fact have sensitized skin. The difference is in genetics. People with sensitive skin have a genetically thinner or compromised stratum corneum barrier, which makes them more sensitive to factors that normal skin is protected from.

Sensitized skin is rather a result of external influences damaging the skin’s protective barrier, or of chronic exposure to damaging conditions wearing down the skin’s natural protection. A sensitized condition is a temporary state of sensitivity that can be reversed by ceasing exposure to the irritant and creating an ideal environment in terms of moisture and temperature so that the skin can restore its protective barrier.

A genetically sensitive condition is permanent and irreversible; exposure to provoking factors should be limited in order to avoid irritation. Extra steps should also be taken to protect sensitive skin.

Sensitive Skin vs. Irritated Skin

Sensitive skin is a condition, irritated skin is the result. Sensitive and sensitized skin can result in irritation. Irritated skin can be caused by any physical or chemical factor damaging the skin.

Sensitive Skin and Age

Children tend to have generally more sensitive skin than adults; their protective skin barrier is thinner and becomes thicker as they age. However, adults are chronically subject to conditions that can lead to sensitization with age.

Factors provoking irritation of Sensitive Skin

There are a variety of factors that have been found to provoke sensitive skin irritation. These factors affect people differently and irritation can result from a chronic or acute exposure.

  • Household or Self Care Products or Treatments: alcohol, soaps, dyes, abrasive and harsh products, aggressive cosmetic treatments and more.
  • Environmental: cold, heat, frequent and significant changes between temperatures, pollution, dryness in the air, indoor heating or air conditioning.
  • Lifestyle: Emotions, stress.

Managing Sensitive Skin

There is no standard treatment for sensitive skin, it is a genetic condition and irritation is due to so many different factors. But there are some ways to protect and avoid irritation.

  • Avoiding exposure to provoking factors.
  • Using anti-irritant products that have a cooling, soothing, anti-inflammatory, or healing effect helps repair the skin barrier to its unique optimal state (my favorite is the Kantic+ intensely nourishing cream).
  • Protecting your sensitive skin year-round with UVA and UVB sunscreen. I love our Protective day cream SPF 23 and its lightweight texture.

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