Dr. Polla (aka Dad’s) top skin care tips

Earlier this Summer, I had the chance to share my Dad’s (aka Dr. Luigi L. Polla, Switzerland’s leading dermatologist) favorite tips about how to age gracefully with consumers and influencers across the country. For those of you whom I did not have the chance to preach in person, I would like to preach in writing… thank you for humoring me.

Here are my Dad’s top dos and don’ts to age more gracefully:

  1. No smoking. Ever. It increases the presence of free radicals in your skin, accelerates aging, gives your skin a leather look, and creates terrible upper lip wrinkles.
  2. No straws. Just don’t do it. These are bad for the environment and bad for your upper lip wrinkles.
  3. Sleep on your back. And yes, you can teach yourself to do it. Even if you sleep half the night on your back, your face and décolleté wrinkles will thank you. (My Dad can always tell how a woman sleeps by looking at her facial wrinkles… deeper on the side you sleep on).
  4. SPF daily. From January 1st to December 31st. When it rains, When it snows. Every. Single. Day. No excuses, no exceptions.
  5. If you’re old enough to drink, you’re old enough for a good anti-aging eye cream. Prevention is key, and the skin around the eyes is so thin it needs more help and earlier help than the rest of our face.
  6. Your face ends on your décolleté. Treat your neck and bust as you do your face, with effective anti-aging products and SPF every day. Nothing is worse than your face saying “I am 37” and your décolleté saying “I am 44.”

What tips would you add to these? I can’t wait to hear!

Alchimie Forever… The Story Behind Our Name

It is Marketing 101 that when choosing a brand name, something short, easy to pronounce and spell, and memorable in various cultures and countries is the way to go.

My sister Cyrille and I chose Alchimie Forever as our brand name, many years ago in a delightful tea shop in the Old Town of Geneva. If I had a penny for every time our brand name was misspelled or mispronounced… What were we thinking?

Watch me tell the story here or keep reading.

As we started brainstorming, we identified four guiding principles:

  • We wanted a name that started with A (first letter of the alphabet, A like Ada, who knows…)
  • We wanted a link to Forever Institut, the medical spa our skin care brand was born in
  • We wanted a word in French (elegant, Swiss, international), and a word in English (universal, American, approachable)

We started listing French words starting with A… and suddenly my sister lit up and said “Alchimie!” And then we switched from drinking tea to celebrating with champagne!

It made sense for so many reasons. Alchimie (pronounced al-shee-mee) is the French word for alchemy. And alchemy is very much at the heart of our skin care philosophy.

  • Alchemy is the medieval science that became chemistry. And how can you formulate skin care products without chemistry, without labs, without clinical studies? There can be no skin care without science.
  • Alchemy is also part magic. The Alchemists were involved in such mystical pursuits as transforming lead into gold and finding the stone of eternal youth (both endeavors somehow related to beauty and youth). And skin care is indeed part magic…
  • The Alchemists were also among the first to identify plants as having healthful benefits. And potent botanicals are at the core of our formulations.

So yes, our brand name is hard to pronounce, and hard to spell – and now you know why: science, magic, and powerful botanicals!  

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.”

Our Business Didn’t Start as a Business… Our Origin Story

Alchimie Forever does not exist because one day my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla, sat at his desk and decided to start a skin care brand.

Alchimie Forever does not exist because a consultant ran focus groups, identified white space in the market, raised some money, and created a business.

Alchimie Forever exists because my father is a softie and can’t stand to see children suffer.

Alchimie Forever exists because 30+ years ago, my father couldn’t find the perfect product to help heal the skin of his young patients post procedure.

Let me tell you our “origin story.” (Thanks, Marc Ross, for teaching me this terminology.)

My father opened his dermatology practice in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1986, and was the first dermatologist to offer pulsed dye laser technology to treat children suffering from Port Wine Stains and hemangiomas. Parents brought their children from near and far to have Dad erase these debilitating birthmarks, an endeavor that required numerous treatments over a period of months, sometimes years.

I was already working with my father back then (at the front desk) and I remember hearing the children crying from the pain, as the laser treatment created heat and discomfort, redness and inflammation, and a burning sensation. And if there is something my father can’t stand, it is a child in pain (he switched his medical specialization from pediatrics to dermatology after realizing he could not handle seeing terminally ill children). He needed a product to help make them feel better – to help heal their skin.

Not finding the right product, he created his own “recipe.” He would send his patients’ parents to a neighborhood pharmacy with a compounding prescription, the pharmacist would whip up a magical product in little white jars right there and then, and the child would stop crying. The prescription was for what is known today as our Kantic Brightening moisture mask. This compounded product, meant to help heal the kids’ skin post procedure, smelled so good that the mothers ended up also using it, and asking for more at the follow-up appointment: “it makes my skin glow,” they would say. For their convenience, we ended up “pre-making” the product.

One product led to another, and to another, and finally to the brand that became Alchimie Forever.

Alchimie Forever exists because of what is still our hero product, our Kantic Brightening moisture mask.

Long before this mask had a name, it had a loyal following.

Long before we had a brand, we had skin care solutions.

Long before we had a business, we had a mission.

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…