Reminders

This week, I am in Tinos, Greece. Not my first visit, but my first visit during the low season. The magic of this island is as strong as ever…

Fewer people make for stronger connections – those of us here really want to be here. The cooler temperatures make for new experiences – walking through the villages and heading to the Chora (town) more frequently. And the lessons of the island are as insightful as ever.

  • Feeding the island cats feels like the day’s most important project. AKA taking care of others, with no expectation in return, makes me happy.
  • Leaving the book I just devoured (The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda) in the unofficial “sidewalk book exchange” of Isternia village, and seeing it gone the next morning makes my whole day. AKA an act of random kindness for an unknown stranger, makes me happy.
  • Going to the bank (inside the building, not the ATM) feels like an enlightening, welcoming, kind, human connection. AKA taking the time to enjoy every human interaction, even in the form of an “errand,” makes me happy.
  • Slowing down and watching the sunset, grateful for nature and her rhythms, no matter the season, is good for the soul.
  • Finally, as the Greeks say, “eteron ekateron.” AKA “it is neither here nor there.” And/or “it is said of two things that can both apply simultaneously, different from one another, without affecting one another.”

Taking my own advice

On Saturday, I turn 42. And today, I received perhaps the best birthday gift ever: Sarah Akram herself told me I looked 30. “Good genes and good skin care,” I responded. When I then confessed that I didn’t remember when my last facial was, however, she did remind me that these facial treatments are a necessity to stay youthful-looking and that Botox does not replace the need for facials (Amen, sister. I preach this every day…).

Much like the cobbler’s daughter, while I work in the world of facials and skin care products, I do not take my own advice frequently enough. While the last time I had Botox was in June and the last time I used our Advanced retinol serum was this past Monday evening, I truly cannot recall when the last time I had a facial was.

With my birthday looming, I decided it was time to complement great home care with a really good facial. On the recommendation of a friend of mine who has particularly glowing skin (and I realize now somewhat naively) I called Sarah Akram Skincare to schedule a facial with the eponymous founder for mid-November. While I I thought this was lots of advance notice, I was gently told the next availability was January 30, 2020. “Not meant to be,” I thought, while putting my name on the wait list. Yesterday, the lovely Nyles called me back to let me know of a last-minute cancellation for this morning – so I rearranged my meetings, all the while thinking “totally meant to be, this is my early birthday gift to myself.”

Extravagant, yes. Worth every penny, absolutely. Akram is everything I love in a facial therapist: gorgeous with flawless skin, super knowledgeable about her craft, serious, friendly but not too talkative – and has magical hands. This treatment was 90 minutes of a beautifully balanced combination of technology (LED, microdermabrasion, cryo, something warm I forgot to ask about) and touch (the facial begins and ends with amazing massage). Akram uses products from Environ and Biologique Recherche, two brands I admire yet had never experienced firsthand (I did of course bring her some Alchimie to try).

I left with glowing, bright, plumped, rejuvenated skin (this photo is immediately post treatment, zero makeup) – ready to enjoy my last three days as a 41-year old and looking forward to 42 – and to my next facial at Sarah Akram Skincare, scheduled for February 2020.

Blueberries: Queens of the Berry World

Blueberries have the best of reputations: they are filled with antioxidants, colorful, round, and delicious. The Vaccinium myrtillus L. fruit, known in English as bilberry or European blueberry (very similar to the American blueberry), has powerful protective properties which have been known and utilized since the Middle Ages. Today, blueberries are even claimed to be “the most powerful antioxidants of all.”[1]

The European blueberry is Alchimie Forever’s signature ingredient – and not just because they are purple… Here are their three main benefits at the level of the skin.

1.Anti-redness benefits.

Blueberries play a role in the management of flushing symptoms: they tighten and protect fine capillaries thanks to anthocyanins,[2] and are thus ideal in skin care products targeting redness-prone skin. The vaso-protective effect of the European blueberry was first described in the 1960s, when the fruit’s capillary resistance and permeability were first analyzed. Since, studies have confirmed that blueberries increase capillary resistance and thus decrease redness.[3]

2. Antioxidant benefits.

Antioxidants aim to prevent, stop, or repair the damages that are caused in our skin by free radicals. Specifically, the flavonoids found in European blueberries (more specifically the anthocyanosidic extract) are powerful neutralizers of free radicals,[4] with the following benefits: they inhibit lipid peroxidation[5] (leathery coloration of aged skin) and prevent the degradation of collagen (fine lines, wrinkles, loss dehydration).[6]

3.Iron chelating activity.

Iron has often been featured in the health and consumer press in the context of anemia (i.e. iron deprivation). While many have discussed the various ways of ensuring appropriate iron intake, whether through diet (red meat and various fruits and vegetables), or through the daily use of supplements, few realize that excess iron is an accelerator of aging (skin and otherwise). Read more here (ADD LINK TO https://adamantaboutbeauty.com/2013/06/24/iron-in-skin-aging-less-is-more/ )

or watch this YouTube video (ADD LINK TO https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsDr1d1pQhw ) if I have piqued your curiosity.

Indeed, excess iron is involved in various chemical reactions that lead to the production of the hydroxyl radical, one of the most harmful free radicals.[7] Once again, the European blueberry comes to the rescue and plays a key protective role. Both quercetin and myricetin (two types of flavonoids found in this fruit) have iron chelating properties, meaning that they minimize the formation of free radicals stimulated by excess free iron and UV light and prevent accelerated aging.8

So eat your blueberries, but put them on your face too!

[1] Wu X, Beecher GR, Holden JM, Haytowitz DB, Gebhart SE, Prior RL. Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States. J Agric Food Chem. 2004;52(12):4026-4037.

[2] Bagchi D, Sen CK, Bagchi M, Atalay M. Anti-angiogenic, antioxidant, and anti-carcinogenic properties of a novel anthocyanin-rich berry extract formula. Biochemistry (Mosc). 2004;69(1):75-80.

[3] Morazzoni P, Bombardelli E. Vaccinium myrtillus L. Fitotherapia. 1996;67(1):3-29.

[4] Lichtenthaler R, Marx F. total oxidant scavenging capacities of common European fruit and vegetable juices. J Agric Food Chem. 2005;53(1):103-110.

[5] Sakagami H, Asano K, Takahashi K, Terakubo S, Shoji Y, Nakashima H, Nakamura W. Anti-stress activity of mulberry juice in mice. In Vivo. 2006;20(4):499-504.

[6] Morazzoni P, Bombardelli E. Vaccinium myrtillus L. Fitotherapia. 1996;67(1):3-29.

[7] Polla AS, Polla LL, Polla BS. Iron as the malignant spirit in successful ageing. Ageing Res Rev. 2003;2(1):25-37.

8 Svobodová A, Psotová J, Walterová D. Natural phenolics in the prevention of UV-induced skin damage. Biomed Papers. 2003;147:137-145.

 

Fall Forever

I know, I know, it is still summer for 10 more days. Yet in my heart, autumn has arrived. I love fall for so many reasons… the changing foliage, my birthday, sweaters, boots, pumpkins, richer moisturizers.

I also love fall because with it comes the feeling of a New Year – like the start of a New School Year, with all of the possibilities and opportunities (and new office supplies) that come with that feeling.

Here are my fall rituals.

1.Spring cleaning. I am purging old papers (and you know my love of paper), making room for new, embracing the feeling of lightness.

2. Goal setting. The arrival of fall is a reminder that there are only 110 days left in the calendar year. That’s 110 opportunities to check things off my list and accomplish what I set out to do January 1st.

3.(Mental) Space clearing. During fall, trees let go of their leaves, releasing the old, to make room for new buds. Following their example, I work to let go of something I no longer need, be it a feeling, an obligation, a regret.

4. Seed planting (not literally). Fall is a time of incubation… seeds of ideas planted now will bloom next spring. I make myself take time for creative thinking and brainstorming.

How do you celebrate the arrival of fall?

Music for Every Moment

I love silence. But sometimes I need music. 

Waking up 

Still Beyond by Leon Bridges. Beautiful, calm, inspiring, happy, in love. 

Driving 

212 by Azealia Banks. Obviously, I do not drive with children in my car. 

Working out 

Italian rap does it every time (right now, Fedez and Baby K).

Inspired at work 

Blood & Tears by Joseph. All about hardship and persistence, it always gets me motivated. 

When I need to get pumped for a meeting

Anything by Sia

Getting ready for date night 

Little Bird by Annie Lennox. Channeling Demi Moore and her blowdryer…

Mellowing out 

Shelter by The XX, Let it Happen by Tame Impala. 

 

Stop Adding Sugar to Your Diet to Look Younger Longer

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day so a post on sweets (aka sugar) seems timely (it was that or a red roses rant).

Summary: Sugar is a (skin) aging accelerator. Stop adding sugar to your diet to look younger longer.

Sugar is hidden in almost everything we eat – including fruits and vegetables, yogurt (except plain), processed meats, salad dressings, sauces (yes, the best tomato sauce has added sugar), bread, pasta, crackers, wine, and more. Knowing this, we are all getting our “recommended sugar dosage” by eating and drinking “normal” substances – so no need to add juice, soda, sports or energy drinks, cereal, desert, cookies, muffins, smoothies, or other sugar-forward foods in our diet.

I am not speaking about the correlation between sugar and tooth decay, excess weight, diabetes, heart disease (and those connections are real). I am speaking pure skin here – excess sugar makes you look older sooner. Here is a summary of the pesky process called Glycation.

  • Excess sugar molecules attach themselves to proteins including collagen
  • Said collagen loses its strength and flexibility
  • Skin thus looks slacker, more wrinkled, less plump

Ironically, the culprits in this process are called AGEs – advanced glycation end products (compounds that result from a combination of sugars and proteins). And yes, they age you. For a more in-depth understanding of the impact of glycation on aging, read this article.

Here are easy tips to incorporate in your daily lifestyle today:

  • Stop drinking sugar – fruit juice, sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks  
  • Forego pre-made or store-bought salad dressing, at home and at the restaurant; instead, have oil and vinegar on the side
  • If you must have desert, do it the European way and eat fruit and nuts (and cheese!)
  • Put down that piece of chocolate – unless it is dark chocolate (packed with antioxidants), small, and the only one you will enjoy this month.

Conclusion: Sugar is a (skin) aging accelerator. Stop adding sugar to your diet to look younger longer.