Formulations + Facts + Father’s Day

There it was.

Staring at me like a bad pimple on my face before a hot date.

A text message from a dear, longtime friend, who is smart, well-educated, and a loyal Alchimie Forever fan from the start, asking me about the nitty gritty of cosmetic ingredients and formulations.

I couldn’t blame her for her questions – our customers are peppered daily with falsehoods, misinformation, over-marketed wellness hype, and urban myths about cosmetic ingredients and formulations.

Sunscreen in your blood. Hand-made products. Home-made SPF. Not enough regulation. Natural. Clean. Organic. US FDA versus European regulatory standards… the list goes on and on and on. 

Our industry is overwhelmed by perspectives, opinions, truths, facts, half-facts, non-facts, and confusing verbiage. 

Her questions – which admittedly, sounded a bit like accusations to me – inspired me to pull back the curtain and post a deep-dive blog.

So, here it goes: My professional thoughts as an executive and as a consumer on the subject of cosmetic ingredients, formulations, and being environmentally mindful…

As many of you know, Alchimie Forever is the brainchild of a world-class dermatologist based in Switzerland who also happens to be my father. He is a Western-trained medical doctor with 40+ years of experience. He believes that both (some) lab-made synthetics and (some) botanicals are safe and effective for use in skin care. This harmony between the best synthetics and the best botanicals is at the core of our formulation strategy.

From the start, Alchimie Forever has been about safety and efficacy over source.

We position our brand as clean and clinical, which I understand are over-used words and may mean different things to different people. Same with “natural,” “organic,” “active,” “cosmeceutical,” “biodynamic,” “non-toxic,” and most words brands are using to market their positioning for consumers. 

Still, Alchimie Forever is transparent, authentic, and accountable to science. 

In an attempt to clarify how we develop our products, and how our formulations have evolved over the years, here are some facts:

We strive to make our products as efficacious and as pure as possible – recognizing that the body of knowledge in our industry evolves and changes. 

We manufacture most of our products in the US, with a couple products still being made in Switzerland, because of the complexity of those formulae.

We sell in European countries, and as such abide by the European and Swiss FDA-equivalents, and REACH regulation (meaning we do not use the 1,000+ ingredients prohibited by European cosmetics regulatory bodies).

We are vegan.

We are cruelty-free, certified by PETA and Leaping Bunny. (As a side note, animal testing in cosmetics is prohibited by European regulatory bodies – on both ingredients and finished products).

We are paraben-free. Our formulations contained parabens initially, so we decided to reformulate our products without these molecules. It took us over five years to remove parabens from all of our formulas. We replaced parabens with Benzyl Alcohol, Benzoic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Chlorephenesin, or Phenoxyethanol, which are effective preservatives that are overall not as controversial.

We strongly believe that an effective preservative system is key to safe cosmetics formulations.

We are sulfate-free (as of December 2019 our Purifying gel cleanser still features a fabulous foaming texture, but without sulfates).

We are gluten-free.

We are soy-free.

We are free of any genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

We are dye-free.

We are nut-free.

Some other ingredients we do not use include iron oxides, aluminum, kojic acid, triclosan, hydroquinone, mineral oil, propylene glycol, formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasers, anything in nano-particles.

Four of our products are rated by Think Dirty, with a score of “Clean” (0-3), with more to come.

We are working with EWG to update our ingredient listings on their website. Much of the Alchimie Forever information listed is outdated (for example, some of our formulations are still listed as containing parabens, which is no longer the case).

We are working to remove Polyethylene Glycols (PEGs) from our formulations. These ingredients are used as emulsifiers and have started to be controversial in cosmetics as they may contain harmful impurities such as 1,4-Dioxane, a carcinogen. Our PEGs are certified as pure and free of such impurities, yet we are committed to replacing them with cleaner alternatives. 

Our Protective day cream SPF 23 uses a blend of chemical screens. We do not use (and have never used) oxybenzone or octinoxate, which are the chemicals seen as being harmful to reefs. Our Protective day cream SPF 23 is approved in Hawaii and Florida and considered reef-safe. We also hear consumers’ request for a mineral / physical block, and are researching the most current science to fill that need with an elegant, non-greasy, formula adequate for all skin tones.

We use lab-made fragrances, in average concentrations below 0.2%. All of our fragrances are certified phtalate-free. We also list any of the 26 fragrance allergens potentially contained in our fragrance formulations (per European regulatory standards).

We, however, do not believe essential oils are an adequate alternative to lab-made fragrances as they are often irritating to the skin.

We work on our carbon footprint and on our packaging.

We, however, do not believe there is a silver bullet in terms of packaging.

Our formulations are concentrated so a little bit goes a long way – meaning you don’t have to repurchase products every few weeks, but rather every couple of months. This helps cut down packaging waste.

We use outer boxes for many of our products, because boxes protect our more delicate formulations from light and heat.

We love glass, yet glass is heavier than plastic, hence requires more energy to ship; it is also a challenge to travel with.

All of our boxes are recyclable, as are all of our inner jars and tubes (except for the pumps of our body product bottles – and we are working on that).

At the end of the day, if none of this has convinced you that our products are, if nothing else, safe for you to use, please know that all four of Dr. Polla’s daughters use Alchimie Forever daily – and have for 10+ years. 

Do you really think our Dad would let us use products that are unhealthy or unsafe in any way? 

I don’t think so. 

Also, Dad, happy Father’s Day. Thanks for your integrity in product formulation. Thanks for your accountability to science and facts. Thanks for your level-headed approach to trends and fads. Thanks for your commitment to wellness and beauty, which keeps me feeling and looking my best.  

The Power of Words

I love to read, and I love to talk about books. I look forward to weekends (including music festival weekends!) so I can dive in a book and spend two days reading. If you want to speak my love language, send me a book recommendation you think I will enjoy or ask me about a recent book I read. At home, I have bookshelves full of books I loved, and piles of books I am looking forward to reading.

Yesterday, I added a new book on my list of books to read, thanks to the recommendation of Debra Neill Baker of Neill Corporation.

She opened our day-long strategy meeting by reminding us of the power of words, and by sharing three sentences we should all incorporate in our conversations more frequently to build connection and love:

  • “Tell me more”: this helps us listen better. I like to “end” a conversation with “what else?” – yet this verbiage is so much more powerful.
  • “I was wrong”: because “I am sorry” is over-used and not powerful enough. This will be a hard one for me to incorporate in my language…  
  • “I don’t know”: because it is ok not to know. As a colleague added, another nice way of saying that is “I haven’t learned that yet.”  

These phrases came from a book Debra read recently, which I immediately ordered: Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan. This book is about “12 essential phrases that turn the wheel of life.” (I think “No” is on that list and that is certainly a word I need help with!)

Today, I commit to using these three more frequently. And this weekend, I am going to read this book!  

Keep Calm…

Our Alchimie Forever marketing calendar says that April is the month of Calm. As in calm skin, and calm spirit.

Calm skin. April is National Rosacea Awareness month. Those who suffer from rosacea know this is the antithesis of calm. Red, angry, irritated, uncomfortable, are words that describe rosacea skin; calm is not. Helping to calm your skin looks like this:

  • Avoid triggers. These will vary somewhat individually: heat, alcohol, spice, and more.
  • Protect your skin. From the sun (always), but also from the cold and the wind.
  • Treat your skin gently. Avoid harsh products, cleansers and otherwise. Look for anti-inflammatory ingredients. Remember that less is more.
  • When all else fails, apply makeup to cover up the red. I so rarely recommend makeup other than for color… but sometimes it really is necessary.
  • Your dermatologist is your friend. Listen to his / her recommendations, follow his / her prescriptions, trust the expert.

Calm spirit. Is there a calm spirit month? This is the time of year when my spirit is the antithesis of calm. Tired, overwhelmed, irritated, uncomfortable, are words that describe an agitated spirit; calm is not. Helping to calm my spirit looks like this:

  • Avoid triggers. I know what mine are, I trust you know yours.
  • Protect my energy. Be more quiet. Spend more time in nature (as I write from the gardens of Salamander Resort & Spa).
  • Treat myself gently. Sleep more, drink less, exercise more. Cancel appointments (responsibly).
  • When all else fails, smile until I make it. A Saturday with absolutely zero commitments is 3 days away. Tinos is 64 days away…
  • My therapist is my friend. For me, that means my massage therapist… thank you Brian!

Calm – of skin and spirit!

 

One Product, Every Single Morning

Growing up, some might say my parents were quite “lenient.” My sisters and I never had curfews. We were never forbidden from going to parties or having parties at home. We were allowed to have a sip of champagne for special occasions before the legal age.

However, there were some rules that we had to follow to the letter. Good grades in school (just because). No smoking (because it ages you). No tattoos (because they don’t always look good when you’re older). No desserts (because sugar ages you). And no sun, no tanning, no sunburns (because the sun is your enemy – at best it ages you, at worst it kills you).

From an early age, we were taught to wear hats, sunglasses, and a moisturizer with SPF. Every single day. To this day, I cannot walk out of my house without a product with SPF, regardless of weather, season, temperature.

Here’s why:

  • The sun ages your skin – this is called photo-aging, or UV-induced skin aging. Think dark spots, fine lines, broken capillaries, laxity of the skin.
  • Chronic sun exposure increases your risk of skin cancer (even without sunburns). Indeed, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation: “Both intermittent, intense exposure (the kind you get on vacation on a sunny isle, often leading to sunburn) and chronic lifetime exposure add to skin cancer risk. Studies have shown that chronic sun exposure is most associated with the development of squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common skin cancer, while both chronic and intense, intermittent exposure are believed to play a role in basal cell carcinoma, the most common skin cancer.”
  • Darker skin types, while not as prone to skin cancer as lighter skin types, should also wear SPF protection daily to prevent dyspigmentation.
  • UVA and UVB are both nefarious to the skin. SPF is a measure of UVB protection only – it does not address UVA. Make sure any product with SPF you use is “broad spectrum”, the official indication that the product will protect your skin from both wavelengths.
  • What SPF number should you look for? My father always said SPF 20+ is perfect for “normal life.” Per the Skin Cancer Foundation states: “In vitro tests have shown that SPF 15 sunscreens filter out 93 percent of UVB rays, while SPF 30 protects against 97 percent and SPF 50 98 percent.”
  • Chemical screen or physical block? You choose – what matters is that you use a product with SPF 20 or above every single day.
  • My pick? You guessed it: Alchimie Forever Protective day cream SPF 23. In addition to containing SPF protection, this lightweight moisturizer is packed with antioxidants including blueberry and edelweiss extracts, and vitamin C. No ashiness, no oily residue, no shine. Just antioxidant and SPF protection.

Every single day.

 

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:

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.