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.

Stress (Heat Shock) Proteins: The Positive Side of Stress?

April has, since 1992, been deemed to be Stress Awareness Month. During this month for the last 21 years, health professionals join forces to increase the public’s awareness of stress, discussing causes and treatments of what is something called “our modern stress epidemic.”

As April comes to an end, and in honor of such awareness, I wanted to write about skin stress – in particular as this topic has been a key area of research that my mother, Dr. Barbara Polla, has focused on throughout her medical career.

Let’s first look at stress in general – while it tends to be viewed quite negatively, stress has also very positive sides. Indeed, while excessive stress can be harmful to the psyche and the body, occasional, manageable stress can be positive by encouraging the optimization of the body’s biological response, putting us into survival mode and contributing to our resilience.

This positive response to stress is due to the existence of stress proteins also known as heat shock proteins, whose production is induced when the body is exposed to stress (here, think of stress not as a looming deadline approaching, but rather heat or infection). These proteins should really be called “anti-stress proteins” as their role is to act against the effects of stress. Stress proteins are powerful protectors, as they have the ability to prevent damage to the organism from stresses such as overheating or oxidation induced by exposure to free radicals.

The first observation of these stress/heat shock proteins came from Ferruccio Ritossa in 1962. The Italian scientist serendipitously observed that when drosophila fly chromosomes were exposed to elevated temperatures, they exhibited specific genetic activation. It was Alfred Tissières who discovered ten years later in my hometown of Geneva, Switzerland that upon stress exposure the cell stops its normal activities and produces stress proteins that enable the cell to be protected and survive.

An interesting question is to wonder if it is possible to induce these protective stress proteins when the cell itself is not stressed, in effect activating the positive protective mechanisms in the absence of stress. While pharmacological research on this topic is ongoing, several plant extracts have been identified to have such properties, among which, curcumin. Turmeric (extracted from Curcuma longa) is found in curry spice mixtures and used in many Indian and Middle Eastern dishes. Most interestingly, curcumin is indeed a non-stressful inducer of stress proteins – i.e., it increases the levels of stress protection by yet unknown mechanisms that do not depend on the presence of actual cellular stress. Curcumin also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and anti-carcinogenic properties. Regular oral intake or application of curcumin-containing products has been found to contribute to stress protein accumulation and to prevent some negative effects associated with chronic stress.

Specifically at the level of the skin, curcumin, when applied topically, has been found to speed skin healing by decreasing inflammation and increasing collagen production and overall skin cell renewal.It will come as no surprise then that we use curcumin in our product formulations, specifically in our best-selling Antioxidant Skin Repair Gel for men, helping men look youthful, and stress-free!

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