Ada wears purple in 2007

Purple Does Something Strange to Me

“Purple does something strange to me” said the German-American poet Charles Bukowski. Purple does something strange to me too.

Purple, whose aura began because of its rarity in nature and the expense of creating the dye, is often associated with spirituality, mystery, and magic – which is exactly why it became our brand color.

Alchimie (pronounced al-shee-mee) is the French word for Alchemy. And alchemy, is the medieval science that pre-dated chemistry. Part of alchemy was chemistry, part was magic. My sister Cyrille and I chose our brand name specifically because skin care is part science, and part mystery. (We also loved the fact that the alchemists were the first to look at plants as having healthful benefits). And we chose our brand color because of its association with magic.

The more I learn about purple, the more it continues to fascinate me. Apparently, I am not alone, as Ultra-Violet (a shade of purple) was chosen as the 2018 color of the year by Pantone.

Why is purple so special?

So next time you come across something purple, notice its magic. As one of the characters in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple said, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

What Should Our Next Product Be?

The very day I announced that our newest product, our Advanced retinol serum with time-release technology was hitting the shelves, I was asked what our next new product would be. I felt like how I imagine a woman feels who has just given birth being and is asked when she is having another child…

Today, exactly two months post launch, I am ready to think about newness again. Here is what is on top of  my mind – I would love to hear your insights, requests, ideas, and input.

It if were entirely up to me, I would create a facial oil. Of all of the product categories that are represented by other brands in my skin care routine, oils are the most significant as I am always using two or three depending on the day. The Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum may be my favorite of all time (and certainly the most expensive product I have purchased in a long time!). I grew up using Clarins facial oils, which I still use today. I love the oils by Goldfadden MD, Indie Lee, Naturopathica (the carrot oil in particular). Can you tell I have a thing for oils?

Even better, a facial oil in capsules.

And, I love capsules. My Mom used oil capsules on her skin when I was little, and I remember seeing her open one delicately every evening – like it was a treasure of pure liquid gold for her face. She loved an obscure French brand that is no longer in business, and in trying to replicate that memory, I recently purchased the Advanced Ceramide Capsules by Elizabeth Arden. Maybe this purchase also has a little bit to do with my girl crush on Reese Witherspoon? I love opening up those little bubbles of deliciousness and love the feel on my skin, but don’t love the fragrance, or that they contain dimethicone. Could we create an even better product?

Another mask. After all, our Kantic Brightening moisture mask remains our hero product, top seller, and editor favorite, so it would be strategically sound to expand the “mask franchise.” Plus, we have had requests for a mask that is more focused on purifying and detoxifying. (I can tell you it won’t be a sheet mask however, I hate those). The pressure is on  – a second mask would have to be as perfect, as magical, as this first one…

A toner / mist / antioxidant spray. We don’t have a toner in our line because our cleansers are pH balanced to the skin. Having said that, there is something so refreshing about a mist, and it is one of the non Alchimie products I use. I love the Yonka Lotion PS mist that smells like lavender and often use it during travel…

At-home peel pads. Estheticians everywhere love our professional-only Brightening peel. I do too, and I must confess to sometimes using it on myself at home. So it is only natural to think about a “real” at-home version. Yet I have mixed feelings. Can we make better at-home peel pads than the Dr. Dennis Gross top-selling product? If we make them “safe” for consumer use, are they still effective? And if we make an at-home version, will consumers forego our professional peel treatment?  So many questions…

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…

 

Alchimie Forever Advanced Retinol Serum + Time Release Technology

You have probably heard that the Alchimie Forever family is expanding. Our newest product, the Advanced Retinol Serum with time release technology, is launching next month.

Last week, I wrote about why retinol is the gold standard ingredient for anti-aging. This week, I want to tell you a little bit more about our retinol – because not all retinol products are created equal!

Let me preface the below by saying that I have been testing prototypes of this formula on myself for about 16 months. We started with 1.5% retinol (in the blended form of pure retinol and retinol with time release technology). My face almost fell off… This final formulation is the perfect balance between efficacy and controlled side effects.

If you have never used a retinol, you will see some flaking. That is normal, that is how retinol works. Push through the first 2-3 weeks, and your skin will adapt, just as mine did.

What kind of retinol are we using?

Pure retinol and micro-sponge retinol (a unique and proprietary technology). Part of the retinol is loaded inside a sponge-like mechanism, something akin to a “reservoir”; over 24-28 hours after application, the natural sebum in our skin dissolves the “sponge,” thus releasing the locked retinol little by little. This timed and controlled release of the active enables its use at efficacious levels, with minimal irritation and fewer side effects that are typically associated with retinol.

Dryer skin types with less sebum will have a slower retinol release versus oilier skin types – which is desired as retinol irritation is typically greater the dryer the skin.

 How much retinol are we using?

0.75% total concentration. You would be surprised by how few brands state the % of retinol contained in their product. We love transparency, and you will see this figure on our packaging and in our marketing materials.

What other ingredients are we using?

To enhance the anti-aging benefits of the product and minimize irritation and side effects, we are using a cocktail of antioxidants with nourishing, calming, soothing, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Ingredient Skin Effect
Hyaluronic acid (Sodium hyaluronate) Hydration, skin plumping
Jojoba Oil Hydration
Vitamin E Hydration, antioxidant
Vitamin C (Ascorbyl glucoside) Antioxidant, brightening effect, non-photo-sensitizing form of Vitamin C
European Blueberry Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-redness
Green Tea Soothing, calming, anti-inflammatory
Red Clover (Isoflavones) Antioxidant, calming & soothing, stimulates the skin’s natural collagen production
Edelweiss Antioxidant, natural sun protection filaments
Apple stem cell extract Antioxidant, anti-inflammatory

Who is this product for?

Women in the mid 30s+ who wish to control and manage the signs of skin aging. This is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive, and all skin tones. Please keep in mind that the more sensitive you are, the less frequently you will want to use this product (start once a week – and maybe stay at one a week).

Who is this product not for?

Nursing and pregnant women. Anyone who is absolutely averse to any side effects (such as flaking) whatsoever, no matter how well a product works.

 How do we recommend you use it?

Apply a pea-sized amount in the evening to clean, dry skin, on face and neck, avoiding the eye area, two to three times per week. Follow with a moisturizer if desired. For those with sensitive skin, start off using once per week to allow skin to acclimate, and gradually work up to recommended frequency of use. Protect your results by wearing sunscreen daily. Flaking and redness may be possible. Avoid facial waxing for 72 hours pre and post application

Which other Alchimie Forever products are best used in conjunction?

Because retinol is prone to increased photo-sensitivity. Protect your results by using our Protective Day Cream SPF 23 every morning.

Buffer the product (to minimize any side effects) by using our Kantic+ Intensely Nourishing Cream every evening.

Use our Gentle Refining Scrub and Kantic Brightening Moisture Mask weekly to help with any flaking and redness.

To optimize the anti-pigmentation results, use our Advanced Retinol Serum with the Pigment Lightening Serum. Not layered, but rather at different times – use the Pigment Lightening Serum every morning, and on the evenings you are not using the Advanced Retinol Serum.

What other questions do you have about this product? Let me know – or start counting. It’s T minus 17 days!

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!

Winter Skin Strategies

I have had the privilege of spending the past few days at the Sundance Mountain Resort, in UT, for my favorite annual conference – Brigadoon. The days have involved skiing, incredibly stimulating conversations, new ideas, old friends, as well as snow and freezing temperatures. And my skin has been suffering!

If you are still in the midst of winter weather, here are some tips to keep your skin hydrated, comfortable, and glowing.

  1. Hydrate from the inside out. You can never drink too much water… it will help your skin and your body. (And here in Sundance, it also helps with altitude sickness!).
  2. Switch out your usual cleanser for a cream or oil-based cleanser. And use lukewarm water even when the temperatures are frigid.
  3. Layer moisturizers and oils. I recently bought the Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum and it has saved my skin. I apply it after my Pigment lightening serum, and under my Kantic+ intensely nourishing cream.
  4. Exfoliate. The most nourishing products won’t be able to penetrate and moisturize your skin if you have a layer of dead skin cells on top of your epidermis. But don’t overdo it – find a gentle scrub (like our Gentle refining scrub), and keep it to once a week.
  5. Give your skin the benefit of a hydrating treatment. I have been using our Kantic Brightening moisture mask twice weekly for the past couple of weeks, and it has saved my skin!
  6. Don’t forget your SPF. In particular in the mountains, and when enjoying winter sports, daily UV protection is a must. On top of my various creams and serums (see step #3), I layer our Daily defense SPF 23.

Enjoy the rest of the winter weather, even while dreaming of Spring!