Her most prized possession is an Ironman medal. Meet Hilary Phelps, the woman behind the medal.

Hilary Phelps

Hilary Phelps, Founder and Creative Director, GJ Media and HilaryPhelps.com

I like my girlfriends smart, successful, and beautiful inside and out, and I am lucky to be surrounded by many that fit this description. Hilary Phelps, Founder and Creative Director, GJ Media and HilaryPhelps.com is a perfect example. I am forever indebted to Andrea Kremer for having introduced the two of us. Andrea knew Hilary and I would get along because we share owning our own businesses, a love of football (although we root for competing teams…), and a no nonsense outlook to life. And, go figure, neither of us love crowds!

AP: What city were you born in? HP: Baltimore, MD.

AP: What city to do you live in? HP: Arlington, VA.

AP: What is your middle name? HP: Kristin.

AP: What is your astrological sign? HP: Pisces.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? HP: I don’t like crowds.  I spend a lot of time in them, be it a reception, a party, a networking or sporting event, but I don’t particularly like them. I prefer small groups and one-on-one interaction.

AP: What is your most prized possession? HP: The medal I was handed as I crossed the finish line at the 2010 Lake Placid Ironman 140.6.  When I registered for the race I had never ran a marathon, didn’t own a bike and hadn’t swam a lap since I hung up my goggles post-college — and the race was 8 months away. It proved to me that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to achieving.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? HP: My boyfriend of 5.5 years — I treasure the time we spend together, one-on-one.  Or Albert Einstein. I’ve always been fascinated by his achievements, oddness and intelligence.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. HP: Tailored, minimal, classic.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? HP: Yes, Shinola, The Runwell 36mm.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? HP: Diamonds in my ears and pearls around my neck.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? HP: Drink water and wear sunscreen.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? HP: Coco Chanel or Burberry.

AP: Botox or not? HP: I haven’t had it to date, but I’m not against it and would consider getting in the future.

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

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? HP: Eat as close to the source as possible and don’t eat anything that has ingredients you can’t pronounce.

AP: What do you do for exercise? HP: Unless I’m training for a race (triathlon or running), I like to mix it up: Zengo (indoor cycling), Yoga, Pilates reformer and mat, Dancing, trampoline…

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? HP: Eggs, kombucha, almond milk.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? HP: Sparkling water with lime — I don’t drink alcohol.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? HP: I love what I do, so for me, it’s just life.  I do try to unplug during the weekend and detach from my phone. I read a great piece in WSJ on Ivanka Trump about how she unplugs for an entire day during the weekend and spends it with family.  I admire that. Family, friends and loved ones are the most important things in the world.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? HP: Maybe 10,000; I do a lot of my travel to New York and I take the train.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? HP: Drink water, pack a snack and pack anything you will need for an overnight stay in your carry-on.  I’ve had bad luck recently on a few trips where I checked my bags and learned the hard way to keep a few necessities in my carry-on.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. HP: Taylor Swift “Shake it Off” Jay Z “Run this Town” and Darude “Sandstorm.”

AP: What book are you reading right now? HP: The New Healthy Rules by Frank Lipman and The Art of Conversation by Catherine Blyth.

AP: Quote to live by. HP: ”Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Change starts and ends with ourselves — this quote is a good reminder of that.

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? HP: When people take up two parking spots. I lived in DC for years and am in the city a few times a week, so it drives me crazy when I’m looking for a parallel parking spot and someone pulls right in the middle of two, so no one (other than a tiny smartcar) can fit in front or behind. Very frustrating!

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? HP: I go to bed between 10-10:30pm and wake up around 6am. I need a solid 8 hours of sleep to function, it’s just the way I’m wired. If I get less, it throws me off and affects mood. I love my sleep!

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? HP: The way putting on lipstick can literally lift your mood

AP: Least favorite thing. HP: Information overload. Not knowing how to decipher what ingredient does and whether or not I really need it to help nourish my skin.

AP: Who is your mentor? HP: I have a few across a variety of networks/career paths.  I’m grateful for women who have helped me and I truly hope that I can pass that along to the younger generation.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. HP: Never give up. Don’t quit before the miracle happens. Right when you’re ready to give-up is when something really great happens. Trust me. Stick with it.

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You think you know Kelly Collis, Co-Host, Tommy Morning Show 94.7 Fresh FM & Publisher, CityShopGirl… but do you know what her pet peeve is?

Kelly Collis

Kelly Collis, Co-Host Tommy Morning Show 94.7 Fresh FM and Publisher, CityShopGirl

It is past 10 pm in the nation’s capital, so Kelly Collis, Co-Host, Tommy Morning Show 94.7 Fresh FM and Publisher, CityShopGirl, is probably asleep. She has to be, given that she wakes up before 4 am for work every day. If you listen to her show, you know a lot about Kelly – she is very open and personal on air. You know she is from DC through and through. You know about her contentious divorce, her engagement, and her upcoming wedding. You know about her two amazing kids. You know she is funny and can be intense. And you know she is amazing at what she does (sometimes I think her show should be called The Kelly Show… sorry Tommy!). She is also an amazing friend and has given by far the best answer to the question about her “favorite thing about the beauty industry” (keep reading).

AP: What city were you born in? KC: Washington, DC.

AP: What city to do you live in? KC: Washington, DC.

AP: What is your middle name? KC: Margaret (but I am thinking of adding my fiance’s last name to my middle name because I am NOT changing my last name!).

AP: What is your astrological sign? KC: Capricorn.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? KC: I have a BA in Economics and had aspirations to have a political career.

AP: What is your most prized possession? KC: I don’t really own my 2 kids but they are my greatest creation. Prized possession is my quilted leather Chanel purse.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? KC: Jackie Kennedy.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. KC: Black Denim High Heels.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? KC: Cartier Panther Platinum.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? KC: Diamonds.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? KC: I can’t do just one! A flat iron and pedicures year round.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? KC: Tom Ford, Jasmin Rouge.

AP: Botox or not? KC: Botox.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? KC: When gray hair appeared, absolutely color.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? KC: Moderation.

AP: What do you do for exercise? KC: Yoga. I just discovered Solidcore which will kick your butt, and when I don’t have time for a class I love Barre 3′s online classes.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? KC: Club soda, champagne, and milk (for the kids).

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? KC: Red wine.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? KC: There is no such thing as balance and I am ok with that…sometimes I am really good at life and bad at work and vice versa.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? KC: I have no idea.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? KC: Always have a charger pack or 2, lip balm, moisturizer and hand sanitizer in your carry on.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. KC: Beast of Burden from 50 Shades soundtrak, I Bet My Life by Imagine Dragons, FourFiveSeconds by Rihanna, Kayne and Paul McCartney.

AP: What book are you reading right now? KC: If I Stay by Gayle Forman.

AP: Quote to live by. KC: ”A happy woman is one who has no cares at all; a cheerful woman is one who has cares but doesn’t let them get her down.”

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? KC: When people say ” I am so busy.” We are all busy it doesn’t matter what you do or what is your situation.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? KC: I wake at 3:30 am, I am live on the air ay 5 am. I am good with 4-5 hours at night and try to nap at least 20 minutes in the afternoon (if I plan it right I can get 90 minutes).

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? KC: Ada Polla. (Editor’s note: WAA!!! Most amazing answer ever!)

AP: Least favorite thing. KC: Over-priced lipsticks

AP: Who is your mentor? KC: I worked for Congressman Tom Davis in my mid-20s and he was great mentor about life and career. He was always extremely patient, very loyal to his team and a role model of how to be a great mentor and manager. I still keep in touch with him to this day.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. KC: Work hard in your youth so you can have career options when you are older.

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Super Bowl 49

Pure joy

Pure joy

Last night was one of happiest night of my life. I got to see my beloved Patriots win Super Bowl 49, live, with the love of my life standing and cheering right there beside me.

There are so many amazing things about last night, many I know will continue to be debated about or disagreed with by fans who love the Seahawks as much as I love the Patriots. And to them, I send my love and the promise that tomorrow will be easier than today. I have felt their pain twice in the last seven years, and it sucks.

What I want to never forget about last night are the lessons I was reminded of throughout the game. In effect, lessons I already know and that are some of the reasons I love American football so much. Lessons that the Patriots embody day in and day out. Lessons that are applicable as much on the field, as off the field.

Pure gratitude

Pure gratitude

It’s all in (y)our head.

One might expect that throwing two interceptions in the biggest game of the year might mess with your composure, your strategy, your ability to execute. That a 10 point deficit at the beginning of the fourth quarter might mean losing faith and giving up. Not the Patriots. Mental toughness means you don’t let an interception, or two, rattle you. You just keep improving, keep fixing things and adjusting plays until you win.

Do your job.

While this seems obvious, it’s not as easy as it sounds. When everyone does their job, the job gets done. This resonates with me from my college rowing years. The only way for the boat to go anywhere is for every single person to show up, and do their job. Unless everyone shows up, no matter how talented the people on the boat who do show up, the boat does not go anywhere. When everyone shows up but the stroke tries to do the coxswain’s job, the boat does not go anywhere. Show up. Do your job, not anyone else’s job – yours.

It’s not over until it’s over.

The catch by Kearse and the interception by Butler should forever remind fans that a game can change in just a few seconds, and that the game is a sixty minute game.

Perfect practice makes perfect.

Many will say that the interception by Butler is an amazingly lucky catch. And of course luck should not be underestimated. But luck smiles to those who are prepared for it. That play was practiced by the Patriots over and over again. Butler also recognized the Seahawks’ formation and knew a throw was coming. He positioned himself accordingly. That has nothing to do with luck. That has to do with perfect practice.

Hard work, discipline, and commitment always win.

No explanation necessary.

Humility is attractive.

While Brady once told Kraft that he was going to be the best decision the team ever made, he is graciously humble. When the team does a bad job, it is because of his “shitty throws.” When the team does a good job, it is because the team does a good job.

A piece of my heart stayed in Boston.

Boston was my first home away from home, the first American city I fell in love with. And while I consider DC (and New Orleans) my American home(s), part of my heart still (and always will) belongs to Boston, to New England. We walk to work uphill in the snow, both ways. We are tough. We love adversity (weather and otherwise). We work hard. We don’t pretend to be who we are not. We have Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon.

The Universe knows.

Most of all, I wonder in awe about how it is that I ended up at the University of Phoenix stadium last night. The short answer is that I have an amazing husband who understands my crazy passion for the Patriots. The long answer is, well, longer. A few years ago, I wrote about all of the reasons I am thankful for football. A friend in Boston read it and forwarded it to his friend, Andrea Kremer. She opened that email and read it. And then emailed me. And we have developed a friendship around our football connection. It was thanks to this friendship that Super Bowl tickets materialized. I have had on my bucket list since January 2005 to see the Patriots win a Superbowl with Brady as quarterback and Belichick as coach, live. Ask the Universe, and the Universe will know and answer. And thank you Edwin for helping the Universe along.


Celebrating with a new friend

Sharing the love with a perfect stranger

Sharing the love with a perfect stranger

“You come to work, to work” and other wisdom from Sarah Gibson Tuttle, Founder, Olive & June

Sarah Gibson Tuttle

Sarah Gibson Tuttle, Founder, Olive & June

There is nothing I love more than the story of a woman succeeding in corporate America (in this case on Wall Street) and then having the courage to leave to pursue her passion. In particular if that means following dreams of entrepreneurship. And even more when those dreams lead to the beauty industry. This is the story of Sarah Gibson Tuttle. After a career at JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, she moved from NYC to LA, and opened Olive & June, the “drybar” of nails, named after her grandmother and great-grandmother. Today, with her first location is cash flow positive, she is looking to open a second one. And more after that. And she is pregnant. Not surprising, when you know her quote to live by is “Anything is possible”!

Olive & June

Olive & June

AP: What city were you born in? SGT: Stamford, CT .

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

AP: What is your middle name? SGT: Gibson. My mother’s maiden and my favorite part of my name.

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

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? SGT: Candy is my favorite food group.

AP: What is your most prized possession? SGT: My wedding ring.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? SGT: My husband. We never see enough of each other!

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. SGT: What feels good.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? SGT: Yes, a vintage gold Rolex.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? SGT: Diamonds.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? SGT: Sunscreen.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? SGT: I like to change it up but right now my favorite scent to wear is Tata Harper’s Revitalizing Body Oil.

AP: Botox or not? SGT: Not yet, but not ruling it out.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? SGT: Whatever makes you happy! For me, that’s covering my greys.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? SGT: Finding something sweet that satisfies my sweet tooth, but is still healthy. It’s so hard!

AP: What do you do for exercise? SGT: Tracy Anderson and yoga.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? SGT: Greek yogurt, pineapple and bottles of champagne to bring to parties for the hostess!

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? SGT: I am pregnant, so right now it’s this amazing Apple Ginger Coconut juice from Beverly Hills Juice Club in LA.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? SGT: Prioritizing what is important. Sounds simple, but it’s a hard thing to actually do.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? SGT: Tons of soft cozy layers, yummy snacks and TSA precheck.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. SGT: Taylor Swift’s entire 1984 album. Ed Sheeran. J Lo’s Jenny From The Block (it just doesn’t get old!).

AP: What book are you reading right now? SGT: Bringing Up Bebe

AP: Quote to live by? SGT: Anything is possible.

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? SGT: Arrogance.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? SGT: 7am, 5hrs of sleep on average.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? SGT: The way beauty products make women feel.

AP: Least favorite thing. SGT: When companies lie to us about the ingredients.

AP: Who is your mentor? SGT: I am lucky to call a few people mentors, but one of my former bosses was especially motivating. He worked harder than anyone else, never missed a day, refused to complain, just got it done every day. I remember he said, “You come to work, to work.” That was one of the most impactful things anyone has ever told me because it’s simple and true.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. SGT: Work as hard as you can, never shy away from a challenge and keep learning. Read any sort of book, magazine, online article or take a class – stay fresh and engaged!

Olive & June

Olive & June

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Serious Business 2015: On being naked

Get naked!

Get naked!

As always at the close of Serious Business, I feel inspired, excited, and exhausted. The theme was transparency, openness, authenticity, and this year’s conference was the best one yet (although I do find myself saying that every year). A number of one-liners from the general session speakers keep running through my head…

From Brené  Brown:

- “Tell me what you love(d) about this.” Use this question when someone says “I wish we still did X.” It opens up the dialogue and allows you to understand what is really the question at hand (and is a more productive response than the defensive reaction that might come automatically).

– Don’t use the “invisible army” when making a point. What is the “invisible army” you might ask? Is is the “Everyones” and the “Alls” – “everyone loves it” or “we all think.” State your opinion as your own opinion, Brené says, before adding “The invisible army is chicken shit.”

- “What is worth doing even if you fail?” is an even more powerful way to look at failure and risk than the well-known phrase “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

From Marcus Buckingham:

- Who is on your personal board of directors? Have one, and let them know.

- ”What are your priorities this week, and how can I help?” As this question of each of your team members each week, instead of status updates or “one on ones.” Instead, every week, ask each of your team members

- Remember that a year is 52 sprints. We are on sprint #3 already for 2015… 

- Don’t give feedback. Coach. As my brother-in-law Tatum says: “feedback is a problem without a solution.”

- A person will grow most in the areas she is already strong in. Don’t focus on “fixing” your weaknesses; instead, focus on growing in those areas you are already strong in.

See you next year Serious Business!

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What it takes to be the Medical Director of Forever Laser Institut… Violette Parzin Gribinski tells all

Violette Parzin Gribinski, Medical Director, Forever Laser Institut

Violette Parzin Gribinski, Medical Director, Forever Laser Institut

Violette Parzin Girbinski, MD, is an amazing woman for many reasons. Not least of them, she has recently joined the team of Forever Laser Institut as Medical Director, the first to take this role and embrace this position since my father started our medical spa. It takes a woman of character, talent, excellence (medical and otherwise), and patience to lead, innovate, and enhance Forever Laser Institut. I could not be happier to have her join our team!

AP: What city were you born in? VPG: Teheran, Iran.

AP: What city to do you live in? VPG: Lausanne, Switzerland.

AP: What is your middle name? VPG: I don’t have one…

AP: What is your astrological sign? VPG: Cancer. Which means I am kind, intuitive, family-oriented, and do not like conflict…

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know?  VPG: I love to paint!

AP: What is your most prized possession?  VPG: My twins. They are my life.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? VPG: Angela Merkel. She is such a strong leader.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. VPG: Classic chic.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? VPG: Yes always! And always Jaegger Lecoultre.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? VPG: Both – why limit yourself?!

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? VPG: I sleep a lot.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? VPG: Private Collection by Estee Lauder.

AP: Botox or not? VPG: For sure! I use it, and I recommend it to my patients.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? VPG: Not.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? VPG: Never diet!

AP: What do you do for exercise? VPG: I swim. It combines cardio and muscle development and the water is peaceful and quiet.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? VPG: Milk, cheese and eggs.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? VPG: Martini Rosso on the rocks. Just sweet enough. Do not confuse this with “a martini.”

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? VPG: Organization.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? VPG: Not enough.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? VPG: Don’t eat on the plane, sleep, and smile to the customer service people at checkin and to the flight attendants on the plane.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. VPG: Anything by Avishai Cohen, an amazing Israeli Jazz bassist.

AP: What book are you reading right now? VPG: Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman… we all need to know more about this subject.

AP: Quote to live by. VPG: I live by quotes… too many to quote!

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? VPG: Snakes – and anyone who loves them!

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? VPG: I wake up at 6:30 am and have to sleep a minimum of 8 hours… it’s my beauty secret, remember?

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? VPG: It changes all the time and new technologies come out all the time.

AP: Least favorite thing. VPG: It changes all the time and new technologies come out all the time. Meaning I can never master it fully!

AP: Who is your mentor? VPG: My father.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. VPG: Persevere. Never give up. Never take no for an answer. You can do it!

Violette of Forever Laser Institute with Anne of Alchimie Forever

Violette of Forever Laser Institute with Anne of Alchimie Forever


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2015 New Year’s resolutions – happy life recommendations

We are three days into 2015, and I finally have my New Year’s resolutions in order. This year, it has taken me a couple extra days to finalize these… First, I don’t like the word resolution – so I am thinking of these as happy life recommendations. Second, I have been torn between making one only (as I did last year, to be kinder), or having a list, which is my typical MO. In the end, this is what I came up with, and who inspired me.

  • I will collect moments over things. Inspired by someone who posted this on Facebook… I can’t re-find whom. Thank you to whoever you are.

Collect moments, not things


  • I will, as I promised myself last year, be kinder still. Kindness is everything. Inspired by Well and Good NYC (via Blond Coffee).

Kindness is everything.

  • I will sleep more (meaning 7 hours per night will be my minimum). Inspired jointly by Ivanka Trump (a source of inspiration committed to personal wellness, despite her very long to-do list) and Arianna Huffington (a source of inspiration and sleep evangelist).

Sleep enhances wellness.

  • I will remember that how far I have come is not as important as how far I can go. And I will keep moving forward. Inspired by Grant Cardone.

I can go much furhter

  • I will remember that looking good means feeling good means doing good. Inspired by my Mother.

On the importance of looking good.

  • I will remember to approach all situations from a place of love and to “be careful of envy, lust, hatred and negative feelings that devour our interior peace and transform us into destroyed and destructive people.” Inspired by Pope Francis.


  • I will remember to be still, to be tranquil. Inspired by my Nana and put into words by Morgan Freeman.

On the importance of stillness and tranquility.

May 2015 bring us all what we wish for.

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Toothpaste to heal a pimple? Dr. Polla says only in an emergency…

Toothpaste to dry out pimples?

Toothpaste to dry out pimples?

I love beauty myths, aka urban beauty legends, mostly because I have access to the source of all beauty truths, my father, renowned Swiss dermatologist Dr. Luigi L. Polla. I had once (upon the request of a BFF) asked him about the truth behind using Preparation H in the undereye area. This time, another friend asked me about using toothpaste to heal a pimple.

The theory behind the idea is that toothpaste contains a number of ingredients that dry out pimples, including baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, alcohol, triclosan, menthol, and sometimes essential oils.

However, just like Preparation H is, to put it bluntly, not exactly meant for the undereye area, toothpaste is not exactly meant to be used on the face.

So – what is one to do?

My dad agrees that using toothpaste on the face on a regular basis is not a good idea as this would be irritating. Tricolsan and alcohol, for example, are two ingredients that tend to cause dryness, irritation, and can be allergens.

However, toothpaste does contain ingredients that will help minimize angry pimples, including anti-bacterial ingredients and metals such as zinc or copper. As such, in very limited instances, Dr. Polla says it is ok to use toothpaste to help dry out a pimple. Don’t do it daily, don’t use toothpaste on healthy skin (i.e. spot treat only), and do it only in an emergency (for example you wake up on a desert island with a huge throbbing pimple but without any appropriate facial products and have a date with the island man that evening).

I can’t help but ask about eye drops as well. After all, they are meant to tighten blood vessels to minimize the look of red eyes. Would that minimize the redness of a pimple? “Don’t push your luck” says my father.

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Wisdom from my grandmother

Nana at age 18

Nana at age 18

My Mom once told me that when you cry, you are crying for yourself, never for someone else. I have been reminded of this over the last week as I have shed many tears over the loss of my Mom’s Mom, my Nana, my beloved grandmother. She lived a long, beautiful, abundant life filled with family (many generations of family), art, laughter, music, and joy. She died at home, surrounded by people she loved, in peace. Yet I cry, selfishly, because I will not get to be with her again. I know that wherever she is now, she is happily singing and painting, two things she did throughout her life. And looking down on me (and the rest of her family) and making sure that I don’t forget the many things she taught me throughout our 37 years together.

She taught me to value aesthetics. In her world, everything had to be beautiful or life wasn’t quite right. Surroundings, homes, flowers, and yes, even people. Leaving things improperly put away was never beautiful. Leaving the house without the right shade of lipstick was not either.

She taught me to use my best dishes and silver every day, because that made for a more beautiful day, a more beautiful table. She never believed in saving beautiful things for special occasions, and indeed I now only have one set of dishes, my “good” dishes, dishes which used to be hers.

She taught me manners and propriety. As a teenager, I would spend Monday nights at her home during the school year and we would eat a delicious meal (her specialty was quail stuffed with grapes with Spatzli as a side). And over the years, she taught me how to sit (good posture, elbows close to the body, hands on the table), which fork to eat what with, even how to hold my glass. Bad manners were not beautiful, and she always told me, “you never know who you will be having dinner with, maybe even a queen one day, so always use your best manners.”

She taught me to be a better wife. Throughout the years, she had much to say about my partners, about how I should behave, and how I should not. She only finally fully approved of my choice when I introduced her to my husband, whom she nick-named Wilfried. Ever since meeting him, she reminded me to be gentle and kind for he has a sensitive soul, and to “stop playing cat and mouse games.” And every time she said that, her eyes (one brown, one blue) twinkled with mischief as if she knew exactly everything I didn’t tell her.

She taught me to appreciate the seemingly small things in life. The songs of the birds chirping on her balcony. The sound of the church bells we could hear from her bedroom. The smell of wisteria, which grew in her garden. And a moment of silence shared on her couch, simply enjoying being together, with my head on her bosom and her hand on my cheek. She taught me tranquility.

A tranquil moment with Nana

A tranquil moment with Nana



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Questions about facial oils? Here are some answers

Some of my favorite oils

Some of my favorite oils

Facial oils are on my mind, for a few reasons. The weather is turning colder and dryer, which has me turn to my favorite oils (if you want to know which ones I love, keep reading). Estee Lauder Companies recently acquired Rodin Olio Lusso, a niche brand founded by stylist Linda Rodin in 2007 and known for its flagship oil. And I saw my friend Michael Scholes of The Laboratory of Flowers earlier this week, a Virginia-based company specializing in making beautiful aromatherapy oils.

I also realized that while most of my skin care routine is Alchimie Forever exclusive,  the one area where I stray away from home is indeed oils. Maybe I should remember this next time I delve into our product development pipeline…

With that in mind, at the very least I decided I should educate myself about oils and their benefits for the skin. As usual, I turned to my dad, Dr. Luigi L. Polla, for some wisdom.

What is a facial oil?

Typically, the first ingredient (the base) of a moisturizer or cream is water. Oils differ in that there is no water in the formulation. Rather, the product is oil-based. Facial oils will typically be formulated with either a single oil (think for example of Josie Maran 100% pure argan oil), or a combination of various oils (for example, Rodin’s Olio Lusso mentioned above).

Why are the benefits of this type of product?

The first benefit of any oil is to nourish the skin, replenishing lipids and moisture. However, facial oils will have a number of additional benefits depending on the type of oil used, ranging from antioxidant to anti-inflammatory to sebum regulating. Here are some of the most commonly used oils and their specific benefits:

-       Jojoba oil: Jojoba oil is the go-to oil for oilier skin types. It will nourish the skin but will also help to regulate sebum. Jojoba oil also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, which will help to alleviate breakouts.

-       Rose oil: This oil is another oil to consider for combination or acne-prone skin types. Indeed, it is known for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory benefits, and has astringent properties.

-       Argan oil: Pressed from the nut of the Argan tree, which only grows in Morocco, this oil is packed with vitamin E and fatty acids that give it healing, conditioning and repairing properties.

-       Sweet almond oil: This oil is rich in vitamins A, B, and E, and known for its calming properties. Look for this ingredient to help soothe skin irritation and inflammation and.

-       Grapeseed oil: Grapeseeds are packed with antioxidants including resveratrol, making this oil an anti-aging powerhouse.

-       Rosehip seed oil: This oil (rose canina) is derived from the small fruits that sit behind the rose flower, and contains high levels of vitamins C and A, two ingredients known to help fight and minimize fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.

-       Avocado oil: Avocado oil is high in sterolin, an extract that has been shown to facilitate the reduction in the appearance of age spots.

-       Coconut oil: This is one of the most hydrating oils, making it particularly suited to dry skin. Rich in fatty acids, this oil will make dull skin glow.

Will facial oils cause breakouts or pimples?

Lipids dissolve lipids. This means, perhaps counter-intuitively, that oils are actually able to help regulate sebum production, thus mattifying oilier skin types. Well-formulated facial oils will not clog pores, cause whiteheads or blackheads. On the contrary, the oil will bind to excess sebum in the skin and help draw it out.

What about combination and oily skin types?

Not all facial oils are created equal. Indeed, some are lighter (even promoting themselves as “shine-free”) while some will be thicker and heavier. For a younger or  oilier skin type, these lighter versions will be best. My father does suggest avoiding recommending a facial oil to anyone suffering from severe or cystic acne, including adult acne.

And what of cleansing oils?

For someone who is not yet ready to jump on the facial oil bandwagon, a cleansing oil is the prefect way to start. Oils (lipids) break up and dissolve makeup and dirt very efficiently, and as you use them with water, are less likely to leave the skin feeling shiny or oily.

Here are some of my favorite oils.

-       Shu Uemura’s cleansing oil was my first introduction to facial oils. Introduced on the market in 1967, this product made history and continues to be a cult favorite. Packed with jojoba and avocado oil, this cleanser will dissolve makeup and impurities and leave the skin protected and hydrated.

-       Not a facial oil per se (you can use it on face, body, and hair), Nuxe’s Huile Prodigieuse is another favorite. One is sold every 6 seconds, and there is a reason for that. This oil hydrates and creates a silky dewiness to face, hair, and body, all with an intoxicating fragrance. Recommend the Or (gold) version for a little more sparkle. Thick and rich, this product is a blend of soybean, olive, and safflower oils. It is perfect used as a cleanser, and underneath your moisturizer for additional conditioning and moisture.

-       Beautifying Composition by Aveda is another one of these multi-use oils.

-       Josie Maran 100% pure argan oil, in its original and light versions. The light version has a semi-matte finish that will be particularly suited to combination and oily skin types, and that I personally love during the warmer months.

-       Any facial oil by Darphin. First found in the best French spas, then on the shelves of Parisian pharmacies, Darphin could be credited with inventing the facial oil category. The 8 Flower Nectar is my personal favorite, but any oil from their Aromatic Care collection is beautiful and therapeutic.

-       Clarins Santal Face Treatment Oil for dryer, more sensitive skin types; this is like a shield that protects my skin from the wind and cold, I love it during skiing.

-       Aromatherapy Associates Revive Evening Bath and Shower Oil. This is my go-to for a nourishing, relaxing, calming bath. It leaves my mind soothed and my skin soft.

Finally, a few last tips on beauty oils to share with your customers (adapted from Sephora’s Dare to Oil guide on beauty oils):

  1. Facial oils are best applied with a pressing motion rather than a rubbing motion (like a serum).
  2. Always apply products from thin to thick – meaning start with your serum, move on to your oil, then your moisturizer, and finish with your sunblock.
  3. Mix a drop of oil with your moisturizer or foundation for extra hydration.
  4. Use oil on dry nail polish for extra shine; use oil daily on cuticles for a polished, natural nail look.
  5. Use oil on dry hair to tame flyaways.
  6. Use oils morning and evening.
  7. Throughout the summer, use oils on your body to protect your skin from the drying effects of chlorine, salt, and wind (always with a sunscreen of course!).