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!

2017 Beauty Resolutions

2017 Beauty Resolutions

New year, new me, new you. The first week of January is always filled with intentions, goals, resolutions. I have a long list… to which I am adding some specific beauty and skin care goals. In the Alchimie Forever philosophy of “self care through skin care,” these resolutions are really about taking better care of myself. Which in turn will enable me to take better care of others.

What are your 2017 beauty goals?

  1. Drink more water. It is essential to well-being, to beautiful skin, and to a healthy weight. This is an annual goal, one that I never quite achieve. Maybe because it is not specific enough – so this year, I intend to drink at least one glass of water for every glass of champagne and wine I have.
  2. Continue to have perfectly groomed eyebrows. Meaning monthly appointments with Erwin Gomez at Karma (who I must admit now also makes sure my upper lip is perfectly groomed…).
  3. Have my moles checked annually. This should be mandatory – skin cancer is to be taken seriously, at all ages.
  4. On that note, wear a facial SPF every single day. I do most days… but most is not good enough. After all, it is to help myself with this goal that I created the Daily Defense SPF23 3-in-1 anti-aging moisturizer with SPF. I don’t have any excuse not to achieve this goal.
  5. Throw away my mascara (I love the one by Trish McEvoy) every 6 months even if I think I can get two more months of use out of it. (This should really apply to most makeup products).
  6. Get my hair cut more than once per year. This mostly to avoid the stern look on Frank Rizzieri’s face when he finally cuts my hair. He recommends a quarterly trim…
  7. Take better care of my nails. Which, to me, means using cuticle oil daily (fingers and toes). It takes less than 30 seconds and makes my hands and feet like I have a natural mani / pedi. So why is this so hard to do? (My favorites are CND Solar Oil and the Spa Ritual Cuti-Cocktail).
  8. Get a facial once per quarter. Ideally this would be once per month, but I know I won’t be able to keep that up – baby steps. A facial for deep cleansing, exfoliation, anti-aging treatment, and to make sure my skin is always glowing.
  9. Get a massage once per quarter. Because that helps my body, my head, and my water retention.
  10. Continue with my goal of exercising three times per week. Running, SoulCycle, and maybe adding back Barre3 classes in my routine will help me stay strong and fit.

Most importantly, I want to look at myself every morning in the mirror, smile at myself, and tell myself I look great. Every single day.

BeautyView: Jennifer Yen, Owner and Creator, Purlisse

I am a fan of niche beauty brands. And yes, I include niche skin care lines in that statement, which could be considered my competition. In fact, my very first BeautyView was with Sarah Kugelman of Skyn Iceland, with whom I share cocktails, laugh, and “war stories” whenever I travel to New York City. Jennifer Yen, founder of Purlisse, is another skin care entrepreneur with whom I share the joys and challenges of growing my brand, and vice versa. I met Jennifer a number of years ago during a QVC training, and we reconnected through our shows earlier this year on ShopNBC. Apparently, we are on parallel paths. And we, niche brand owners and creators, need to stick together, help each other, and celebrate each other…

AP: What city to do you live in? JY: Los Angeles, CA.

AP: What is your middle name? JY: Loo.

AP: What is your astrological sign? JY: Libra.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? JY: I grew up in a small town in Alabama and I love to cook.

AP: What is your most prized possession? JY: My photographs pre-digital days and my hand-written journals.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? JY: Margaret Thatcher.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. JY: Comfortable, androgynous, sophisticated.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? JY: Yes, Black Chanel J12.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? JY: Diamonds.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? JY: Healthy diet and sleep.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? JY: Creed Fleur de The Rose Bulgare during the Winter and Creed Virgin Island Water during the Summer.

AP: Botox or not? JY: No Botox, not yet!  I hope I won’t have to go there.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? JY: Natural.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? JY: I always eat more vegetables to fill me up and this usually prevents me from over-eating. If I have a heavy lunch, I have light dinner. If I know I will have a big dinner, I have s lighter lunch.

AP: What do you do for exercise? JY: I love to walk in nature, yoga, spinning and Physique57.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? JY: Coconut milk, kale and garlic.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? JY: Water with lemon.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? JY: I blend my social life with work.  And I really do take time to relax and not over schedule myself on weekends.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? JY: Around 75,000 miles.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? JY: 1. Always wear comfortable shoes. 2. Have water, face moisturizer and lip balm with you. 3. Check-in online before the flight.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. JY: Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 5, JayZ Empire State of Mind, Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme.

AP: What book are you reading right now? JY: Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz.

AP: Quote to live by. JY: “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want” by Lao Tzu.

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? JY: Nothing bugs me more than waking up to a kitchen filled with unwashed dishes.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? JY: I don’t understand people who can function on 4 hours of sleep.  I need 7-8 hours of sleep.  I wake up around 7am.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? JY: I love the creativity of the beauty industry and how it is infinite and it never ends because how can women ever have enough beauty products?

AP: Least favorite thing. JY: How beauty products are marketed and distributed in a framework and model that is over 100 years old.

AP: Who is your mentor? JY: I don’t have one specific mentor. I am grateful I have a network of great smart and accomplished people I can turn to for advice and mentorship.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. JY: Time waits for no man. Have no Fear. Make a decision, commit and go for it. Learn, fail, do and grow. You have to put in the time and feel the slow burn to become great at what you do. It takes time to become great at what you do.  Wise words from my former acting teacher, “no one becomes a CEO overnight,” and the same goes for the “great actors.”

What product to apply when?

One of the most frequent questions I get about skin care, is in which order to apply products. Indeed, if you are using a moisturizer, a serum, foundation, and a sunscreen in the morning – what goes on first? And what if you add a treatment product on top of that? Here are a few good rules of thumb to make the most out of your skin care routine, as recommended by my father, dermatologist Dr. Luigi Polla. Keep in mind that these recommendations are not product specific, but work even if you are using products from different brands.

  1. The foundation of any skin care routine is a clean canvas – only apply products to perfectly cleansed , dry (or damp) skin.
  2. Apply products from thin to thick. Serums first, followed by gels, followed by creams. If you start with the thicker product, the penetration of the thinner products will be impeded and diminished. In general, try to avoid mixing hydrophilic (water-based) products with oily products. The latter tend to prevent the penetration of the former.
  3. Sunscreen should be applied after all other treatment products have been applied. Meaning, after your serum, after your moisturizer, after your eye cream. If you are using a daily moisturizer with sunscreen, apply your serums and eye cream first, then your moisturizer with SPF.
  4. Makeup should be applied on top of your sunscreen. Remember, makeup is meant to cover your skin. Foundation and concealer should be applied after your sunscreen. If you are using a tinted moisturizer with SPF, apply this as you would a moisturizer with SPF (after serums, anti-aging treatments, and eye creams, before concealer and/or foundation).
  5. These general rules apply morning and evening, with the exception that moisturizers with SPF and makeup should not be applied before going to sleep.
  6. Some prescription products require specific direction. For example, retinoid creams are best used in the evening, applied 15-20 minutes after cleansing the skin, before anything else. This ensures the optimal penetration of the therapeutic actives. Creams and moisturizers should then be applied on top of the treatment product.

A couple more things to remember. In general, using products from different (non-prescription) brands will not affect the efficacy of each product. Also, the idea that your skin gets “used” to a product and that you need to change your routine every couple of months is not supported by much scientific evidence. However, your skin care routine should be adjusted according to the seasons, and when your skin type evolves (we tend to get dryer as we get older). And remember to always listen to the recommendations of your dermatologist or skin care professional!

Sun, sunscreens, sunburns…

The sun is (or at least should be!) shining, it’s that time of year. And May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. All in all, it is time to review sun, UV, sunburns and sunscreens. Here are some tips to help you separate fact from fiction when it comes to this burning topic (no pun intended…).

Myth: I don’t need to wear sunscreen on a cloudy day.

Truth: Up to 85% of UV can penetrate light cloud cover

Myth: I have a tan, so I won’t burn.

Truth: Having a tan is only the equivalent of about SPF 4, and does not mean you won’t burn.

Myth: I am young, I don’t need to worry about skin cancer.

Truth:  Melanoma (skin cancer) is the number one cancer seen in ages 25-29

Myth: I need more vitamin D so I shouldn’t wear sunscreen.

Truth: You only need about 10 minutes of sun exposure per day to get enough vitamin D for your wellbeing. (And remember, even with sunscreen on you will get sun exposure).

Myth: Getting just one sunburn won’t really harm my skin.

Truth: A single sunburn in childhood will increase the risk of melanoma. And it can take up to 5 years for the skin to fully recover from a single sunburn!

Myth: Tanning beds are sage.

Truth: UVs matter inside and out; indoor tanning may increase the chance of getting melanoma up to 75%

Myth: Sunscreen will block all UV

Truth: “Sunscreen is not enough” as said Dr. Karen Burke. Remember to layer your antioxidants under your sunscreen, so you have a second line of defense (try our Diode 1 + 2 serums for your face, and our Alexandrite gel for neck and bust for your body).

Other interesting facts about the sun and sunscreens…

UVA versus UVB:

  • UVA damage DNA and lead to skin cancer (damages not initially visible to the naked eye)
  • UVB lead to redness and ultimately wrinkles (the visible sunburn effects)

Chemical versus physical sunscreens:

  • Chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays. These are typically lighter sunscreens.
  • Physical sunscreens (really known as sunblocks) reflect UV rays. Ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are used in physical sunscreens. The usual “thick, white, sticky” feel of sunscreens comes mostly from physical sunscreens.

Water-resistant versus waterproof sunscreens:

  • Water-resistant sunscreens maintain their SPF levels after 40 minutes of water exposure
  • Waterproof sunscreens maintain their SPF levels after 80 minutes of water exposure

The sun’s reflective powers are great:

  • 17% on sand
  • 80% on snow

If you want to learn more about the sunscreens I like, watch this week’s segment on Let’s Talk Live. And remember, no sun is safe sun. And you earn the skin you’re in!