Category Archives: Alchimie Forever

The politics of fashion…

This past Tuesday evening, I realized something important to me. I realized that I am not the only one to whom people raise eyebrows and ask “but why would you base your business in DC.” I get asked that because I am in beauty. I realized many, many others get asked that because they are in fashion. And I realized that we are all in this together.

The fabulous Elaine and I on the red carpet.

The fabulous Elaine and I on the red carpet.

On Tuesday evening this week, The Politics of Fashion. premiered at Mazza Galerie. The baby, the brainchild of my amazing friend Elaine Mensah. Well – truthfully, she had “real” baby Sage in fewer months than it took her to conceive and birth this movie.

This movie was both a political statement and an industry overview. Elaine captured the thinking of designers, retailers, marketing and PR experts, stylists, fashion and beauty entrepreneurs, and more, who all get the question about “But, why in DC.” And we all answered, in our own way.

While some of the specifics of our answers may have differed, we all agreed on the following:

  1. DC is amazing and should not wish to be what it cannot be (i.e. New York).
  2. We should all stop giving DC a bad fashion rap (us insiders and you outsiders). And DC should stop being so defensive about its fashion status. We look great, and wear outfits that do not include dark suits or flat shoes.
  3. We are all in this together. The success of one indie brand or boutique is the success of all indie brands or boutiques.
  4. DC is special – for many reasons, including for the fact that we do not have a presence in Congress similar to that of the other states’. And yes, that does influence our industry (and many others).
  5. We can do anything we set our mind to. Elaine is the perfect example. “I want to make a movie about the fashion industry,” she said one day not that long ago. In various iterations, haven’t we all said something like that some time? And how many of us actually do what we say we want to do? Not many. Thank you Elaine for reminding us we can do anything we set our mind to. If we work hard.

And to DC, to my fashion and beauty industry friends, who said no to New York and many other cities, who chose DC,  I say, I love you. And I love our city.

(Next screening is on 6/17 at E Street Cinema and tickets can be purchased here.)

My mentor Tina Alser, MD, and at the movie premiere.

My mentor and amazing beauty entrepreneur Tina Alster, MD, and at the movie premiere.

Our beauty products just got more beautiful…

Listening to someone tell me they don’t like my product packaging is a bit like what I imagine it is to listen to someone tell you your baby is ugly. After all, my products are a bit like my babies, and I like to think they are perfect. Not surprisingly, I am biased and sometimes look at Alchimie-related things in an overly emotional way…

I have heard over the years both great and less than great things about our boxes. While I prefer to believe the great things (our boxes are artsy, colorful, unique, medical yet trendy), the less than great things stay with me longer (too artsy, overly colorful, too young, too busy, not high-end looking enough). After hearing this one too many times in January of this year, I decided to quit being emotional and let my analytical side take over.

One January morning I cancelled my calls and meetings and decided to spend the day in beauty stores, looking at packaging from leading beauty brands. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to leave Georgetown to conduct my research: Sephora, L’Occitane, Kiehl’s, Bluemercury, TJ Maxx (surprising what one finds there), and CVS are all close by. Here is what this day taught me.

  1. Most high-end beauty brands feature boxes that are one or two colors. Multi-colored boxes are rare.

    Single color boxes

    Single color boxes

  2. If featuring two colors, one color is typically white, the other is an accent color, usually visible in the logo or a colored stripe. The three brands below are perfect examples.

    White boxes with an accent of color

    White boxes with an accent of color

  3. Varying shades of green seem to dominate the single color box theme. To the three brands illustrated below, you can add Skinceuticals, LaMer, Darphin, and many more.

    50 shades of green...

    50 shades of green…

  4. The all-white look is super elegant. Think Natura Bisse, Eve Lom, Rodin.
  5. Less is more – in terms of decorative elements, number of colors, and flourishes.
  6. Men’s brands (not surprisingly) feature mostly blues, greys, blacks. Think Clarins Men, Zirh, The Art of Shaving, Jack Black, Nickel, Nivea Men, Grooming Lounge. Anthony Logistics is a rare exception.

I have loved every iteration of our packaging (doesn’t a parent love every stage of a child’s development?).  Yet next week, we unveil what I think is our best packaging yet. Yes, we just made our beauty products more beautiful…

–       We removed the green and orange colors so only two remain – white, and purple (Alchimie Forever color par excellence, my favorite color, the color of magic and of royalty, and as it so happens, a shade of Pantone’s color of the year).

–       We embraced the less is more philosophy and removed the tree motif from the front of the box.

–       We put my dad’s name front and center – after all, everyone should know just by looking at our boxes that he is the creator of our products.

–       We put the benefits on the front of the box (yes, this is Marketing 101, yes I have an MBA… and yes it took me this long to do this).

Here is what this transformation looks like. Cleaner, more elegant, more serious (some might say more clinical), more mature, more high-end. Less colorful, less trendy, perhaps less different…



The final result

And after…

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Hero (product) worship: beauty’s most modern classics

Building a cult beauty brand is what my life is about. I think about it, read about it, dream about it, live it. One of the tenets of a cult beauty brand is that it is supported by a hero product. Musing about this topic last night, I made a list of which products I would consider to be true hero products in beauty. Three things surprised me: first, the range of launch dates represented by this list (over a century); second, how many of these hero products are identified by words such as “pioneer,” “classic,” and “the original;” and third, how many from this list I actually own, use, and adore. Which of these modern classics do you have in your bathroom, vanity, toiletry case, or purse?

Nivea Creme: Launched in 1911, this soothing, rich moisturizer in the iconic blue tin remains a top seller for the brand, despite the controversial endorsement deal with Rhianna which was short-lived, as the star was deemed “too sexy” for a brand whose core values are family, trust, and reliability.

Chanel N. 5: Launched in 1921, immortalized by Marilyn Monroe, this fragrance remains one of the most feminine. What do you wear to bed?

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream: Formulated in 1930, this multi-purpose balm remains a favorite today. I use it on lips, cuticles, and more.

Olay Active Hydrating Beauty Fluid: Introduced in 1951, more than 190 million bottles have been sold, a few of them to my grandmother. I remember seeing this in my granmother’s bathroom growing up; the scent still reminds me of her.

Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil: I read somewhere one of these is sold every seconds… I must try this product, which was launched in 1967.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse: Launched in 1991, the brand’s first product and one of the first multi-purpose beauty dry oils on the market, one of these is sold every 6 seconds in the world. I use this on my skin, in my hair, on my face, and love Gold version for a little extra glitter.

Creme de La Mer Moisturizing Cream: I wasn’t able to find the exact launch date of this amazing cream, but I am guessing sometime in the 2000s… Based on Max Huber’s “Miracle Broth,” this product was a first in the ultra-premium segment of our industry. I can’t help but feel extra special when I use this…

Creme de La Mer Moisturizing Cream: I wasn’t able to find the exact launch date of this amazing cream, but I am guessing sometime in the 2000s… Based on Max Huber’s “Miracle Broth,” this product was a first in the ultra-premium segment of our industry. I can’t help but feel extra special when I use this… And love the fact that local DC celebrity dermatologist (and friend and mentor) Dr. Tina Alster also loves the brand (her go-to product is the La Mer Concentrate)!

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic serum: Launched in 2005, this serums has won Allure Magazine’s prized Best of Beauty Award three times, and is a key part of the brand’s success.

Finally, Kiehl’s Creme de Corps: Beyond a single product, this is really a hero product family. From the classic formulation, the brand has launched a number of limited edition bottles in partnership with various artists, and collections featuring different fragrances (the original is unscented). I kind of want to start collecting these…

I can’t help but wonder which more recent launches will be added to this list… time will tell…


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Preparation H for the eye contour? Dr. Polla doesn’t recommend it!

Being in the skin care industry, I love to hear about people’s skin care routines, beauty tips and tricks, and product use and mis-use. One of the strange things that I have heard on more than one occasion has to do with the use of Preparation H in the eye contour area to alleviate puffiness. I heard this one too many times this past week, and had to research this. Does Preparation-H really help the eye contour area? Here is what I found out.

Preparation H for the eye contour? Dr. Polla says no.

Preparation H for the eye contour? Dr. Polla says no.

Of the Preparation H family of products, I have really ever heard of two being used for “anti-aging” and “beautifying” purposes in the eye contour area: Preparation H Cooling Gel, and Preparation H Ointment. Here are the ingredients:


ACTIVE INGREDIENTS Phenylephrine HCl 0.25% Witch hazel 50.0%.

INACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Aloe barbadensis leaf juice, edetate disodium, hydroxyethyl cellulose, methylparaben, polysorbate 80, propylene glycol, propylparaben, purified water, sodium citrate, sulisobenzone, vitamin E acetate.


ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Mineral oil 14% Petrolatum 74.9% Phenylephrine HCl 0.25%.

INACTIVE INGREDIENTS: Benzoic acid, butylated hydroxyanisole, corn oil, glycerin, lanolin, lanolin alcohols, methylparaben, mineral oil, paraffin, propylparaben, purified water, thymus vulgaris (thyme) flower/leaf oil, tocopherols excipient, white wax.

Dr. Luigi Polla, dermatologist and father extraordinaire

Dr. Luigi Polla, dermatologist and father extraordinaire

Dr. Polla’s comments?

When in doubt about anything skin related, I turn to my dad. What does he think of this? I asked him first about the Phenylephrine HCl ingredient. “It is an adrenergic derivative known for its decongestant and vaso-constricting properties.” Translation into lay speak, this means this ingredient may indeed reduce swelling or puffiness. However, my father cautions: “This is a temporary effect, and when it subsides you often see the opposite, i.e. vaso-dilation of the capillaries, which increases the look of redness” (think darker under-eye circles in the eye area).

The cooling gel contains witch-hazel, which is known to also have decongesting properties. This ingredient is actually often used in facial skin care formulations, so no concerns there.

The ointment contains ingredients that, well, make it an ointment: mineral oil, glycerin, paraffin, wax. “These ingredients are meant to sit on top of the skin,” my father explains, “rather than penetrate. They are thick, oily ingredients that can clog pores.” Imagine putting Vaseline on your face. Possibly beneficial if you suffer from serious dry patches, but not recommended on a daily basis.

Other than not being ideally formulated for the eye contour area, I finally ask, would using this product in this way potentially be nefarious? “There are a couple ingredients that may over time irritate the eyes,” replies my father, “including sulisobenzone in the cooling gel, and various alcohol-derived ingredients in the ointment.”

Conclusion: using Preparation H products in the eye contour area won’t kill you – but it is not “Dr. Polla-recommended.”

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Building a cult brand…

Today, I had the privilege of speaking on “The Business of Beauty” at the first Fashion 360 conference organized in DC. On a panel with other DC beauty experts, I was asked to discuss “building a niche beauty brand.”

Building a brand, creating a connection with consumers, establishing a unique selling proposition in what is an overcrowded marketplace is indeed the most challenging part of my job.  To be truthful, if I had the answer to “how to successfully build a niche beauty brand,” I probably would be spending time on my own private island instead of working on a Sunday. I am still learning.

As I continue to learn, I am lucky enough to surround myself with advisors and mentors. One such mentor successfully developed another Swiss beauty brand, La Prairie. And to him, I owe perhaps the most insightful discussion of how to build a nice brand, beauty or fashion. Today, as I prepared for the “Business of Beauty” panel, I turned back to my notes from that meeting.

In my pre-Evernote world of paper notebooks, I knew exactly where to look. That meeting happened early February 2010, and since I date my notebooks, it was no problem to identify the right one. Why do I remember the specific date, you might ask. Well, on Sunday, February 7, 2010, the Saints were playing in the Superbowl. And I could have gone, with my husband no less, a die-hard Saints fan. Instead, I boarded a plane to Geneva in order to attend a Board of Advisors meeting that had been scheduled for months for Monday, February 8. That meeting, I decided, was more important than the most important football game of the year.

During that meeting, I learned about building a cult brand. And while this was over three years ago, the lessons from that day continue to influence the marketing choices and strategies that I define for Alchimie Forever. The lessons of that day centered on the premise that the Catholic Church is one of the most successful brand builders. My advisor was very specific in his comparison, listing what a cult brand (whether fashion or beauty) needs to have, and what we can learn from the Catholic Church (I was raised and baptized Catholic, and mean no disrespect to this or any religion by drawing this comparison).

  1. A cult brand needs a cathedral, a physical place that believers can come visit. Aka a flagship store or showroom.
  2. Ideally, this cathedral is located in a sacred area, which in retail speak means Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, Madison Avenue in Manhattan, or Avenue Montaigne in Paris.
  3. Just like the Catholic Church has altars, physical manifestations of the sacred, brands need merchandised physical displays.
  4. Every brand needs its own “bible,” a brochure perhaps, a way to tell its story and weave its tale.
  5. The Pope is essential to the personal connection believers have to the Catholic Church. Just like the person behind a fashion or beauty brand (entrepreneur, brand founder, brand owner) is key to personalizing the brand’s story.
  6. Every brand needs Apostles. The founder cannot spread the gospel by his or herself, brand ambassadors are essential to creating buzz and reaching more consumers.
  7. Every brand needs a Holy Grail, namely, a hero product. Think of the Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (one of my favorite products of all time), or the Kiehl’s Crème de Corps.
  8. People crave rituals. With rituals come mystery, myth, and magic. In the skin care world, rituals represent the method of applying the product. Think of the Eve Lom cleanser and muslin cloth.
  9. The idea of Pilgrimages can be translated into a distribution strategy. The places consumers go to see or purchase a product are special, unique, and rare. Think exclusivity of place and quantity.
  10. And finally, we have religious holidays. Brand translation meaning products or collections created for a specific and special event.

Now, to take this theory and make it reality…

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BeautyView: Kara Manos, Beauty Blogger

Kara Manos, Beauty Blogger

Kara Manos, Beauty Blogger

Beauty bloggers based in DC are about as common as skin care companies based in DC. That may be why I always gravitated towards Kara, feeling like we are part of a special club (even if we are the only two members in our club). She has impressive press credentials, is beautiful on the inside and out, and is the brain behind Politics of Pretty. And she has some Greek in her… I am obsessed!

AP: What city were you born in? KM: Rockville, MD.

AP: What city to do you live in? KM: Chevy Chase, MD.

AP: What is your middle name? KM: Vasiliki (it’s Greek for Victoria).

AP: What is your astrological sign? KM: Cancer.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? KM: There is a full-size cardboard cutout of me at my alma mater’s campus library. I was chosen for a campaign and they put my face on water bottles, brochures and a cardboard cutout.

AP: What is your most prized possession? KM: My beauty products, of course.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? KM: Lauren Conrad… so I could pick her brain about her favorite beauty products and have her teach me how to do a cat eye.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. KM: Bohemian chic.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? KM: Yes! I can’t live without my gold Fossil watch.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? KM: Diamonds!

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? KM: Buy your favorite products in bulk. That way you won’t have to worry about transferring products from home to purse to work, etc. Plus you never know when they will be discontinued.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? KM: I’m a seasonal scent type of girl so lately I’ve been getting the last spritzes out of Bobbi Brown “Beach” and transitioning in to Estee Lauder Modern Muse. Jo Malone and Chanel are year-round favorites too.

AP: Botox or not? KM: Not. I’m 25 so hopefully I won’t have to take the Botox route… not sure I can handle the needles either.

AP: Hair color: natural or not? KM: Somewhere in between. A natural look is always preferred but lately I’ve been having fun with highlights and color.

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? KM: What’s a diet? haha kidding… but really, if you know of any good tips, I’m all ears!

AP: What do you do for exercise? KM: I recently started doing yoga and I love it. I definitely took the flexibility I had in high school for granted though, that’s for sure.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? KM: Feta cheese (typical Greek, I know), craisins and almond milk.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? KM: I have a thing for sweet drinks so my go-to is amaretto sour.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? KM: I am still working on that… get back to me in like, 10 years.

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? KM: Sadly, I haven’t traveled much lately and funny enough, I love airports. I’m hoping I get to go somewhere soon because I’m dying to check out those beauty boxes in the airports selling everything you can carry on the plane.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? KM: 1. Pack a carry-on with all your essentials in case the airline loses your luggage. 2. Opt for travel size versions of your favorite beauty products to save suitcase space. 3. It’s better to have too much than too little so don’t listen to your significant other if they say to “pack light.”

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. KM: Katy Perry “Roar,” Lana Del Rey “Summertime Sadness,” and Imagine Dragons “Radioactive.”

AP: What book are you reading right now? KM: The Paris Wife by Paula McLain.

AP: Quote to live by. KM: “I like my money right where I can see it… hanging in my closet.” by Carrie Bradshaw.

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? KM:  Twisting earring backs. I try to refrain from wearing studs now because of that.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? KM: During the week, 7 a.m. (and I usually hit my snooze button once or twice). On the weekends 9 or 10 a.m. I try to get 8 hours of sleep. Every girl needs her beauty rest!

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? KM: With my blog, I’m able to test new products before they hit stores so I feel very VIP. I also love learning a wealth of beauty knowledge from beauty gurus, makeup artists and entrepreneurs.

AP: Least favorite thing. KM: Chipped nail polish.

AP: Who is your mentor? KM:  Kate Bennett. She’s my former boss but I still keep in touch with her frequently and she’s always had sound career advice. Minus her obsession with fanny packs, she has a great sense of style too.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. KM:  It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

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BeautyView: Dr. Susan T. Elliott, MD, owner, Foxhall Dermatology

Dr. Susan Elliott

Dr. Susan T. Elliott, MD, owner, Foxhall Dermatology

I love it when what begins as a work relationship evolves into a budding friendship. This is what is in the process of happening with Dr. Susan T. Elliott, of Foxhall Dermatology, a long-time and favorite Alchimie Forever client. At dinner in McLean last night, I learned new things about her… All of the below, the fact that she is a third generation Washingtonian, and that she is perhaps the most well traveled person I know.

AP: What city were you born in? SE: Washington, DC. I am a native!

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

AP: What is your middle name? SE: Tillman.

AP: What is your astrological sign? SE: Sagittarius.

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? SE: If I told you then they would know…

AP: What is your most prized possession? SE: I have no possessions more prized than my relationships.

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

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. SE: Comfortable and businesslike.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? SE: Yes, and a Rolex.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? SE: Pearls are for day, diamonds for the night.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? SE: Sleep.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? SE: Allure.

AP: Botox or not? SE: Botox! For me and for my patients.

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

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? SE: I am a gym rat.

AP: What do you do for exercise? SE: See above: I am a gym rat.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? SE: Blueberries, almond milk, peanut butter.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? SE: Chardonnay.

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? SE: I am not sure that I have achieved balance…

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? SE: Less than 20K, which is fine with me!

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? SE: 1. Carry a small handbag. 2. Minimize your luggage. 3. Be prepared to hand-launder (the price of tip #2).

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. SE: It is new… right now, anything by Fun and Midnight Night Oil Diesel and Dust. I need to add to it.

AP: What book are you reading right now? SE: My most recent read is The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America.

AP: Quote to live by. SE: There are two: “If you don’t know where you are going, chances are that you won’t get there.” And “The destination is the journey.”

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? SE: Note that they are somewhat self-canceling: bad Manners at any age.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? SE: I typically wake up at 6:30 a.m. and try to get eight hours of sleep.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? SE: Our mission as an industry is fabulous: we make people feel good about themselves.

AP: Least favorite thing. SE: Allergens. Unnecessary.

AP: Who is your mentor? SE: Dr. Frances Storrs, Professor Emeritus of Dermatology at the University of Oregon.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. SE: This has all been done before.  And, listen more than you talk.

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Iron in skin aging: less is more…

Last week was one of my favorite weeks in June, the week of HBA in New York City. As I have done for the past three years, I moderated a session on the theme of “The Changing Face of Beauty Distribution” (read about the highlights in the upcoming September issue of GCI Magazine). This year, my colleague Catherine presented for the first time – doing an amazing job on a social media panel (in case you pre-program your Tweets, she says “don’t do it – just don’t”). Also, this year, my Mom, Dr. Barbara Polla presented again.

Her presentation was about one of my favorite scientific topics, one that she has specialized in and published dozens of scientific papers about: iron chelation. At the core of our Alchimie Forever formulation technology, iron chelation is based on the premise that excess iron accelerates aging, in particular skin aging.

Riddle me this: why do women live longer than men? One of the leading theories is that we (women) on average have a lower quantity of iron in our bodies. Why? Because we lose iron regularly during our menstrual cycle and during delivery.

Indeed, while iron is essential for aerobic life, oxygen transport, energy production, and red blood cell function (if you suffer from anemia, please follow your doctor’s recommendations), iron is also involved in the oxidation processes, increasing the production of the hydroxyl radical (remember, oxygen radicals are involved in all signs of skin aging). Indeed, iron plays a major role in oxidative stress via Fenton chemistry, where iron(II) is stoichiometrically oxidized by H2O2  to iron(III), producing the highly damaging oxygen radical .OH (Gutteridge and Halliwell, 2000).

Translation: excess iron acts as a catalyst in the production of damaging free radicals, which are responsible for the creation of fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of skin aging.

The most extreme clinical case that illustrates the damaging role of excess iron is a condition known as haemochromatosis. This disease involves a disorder in the gastrointestinal absorption of iron, which leads to iron accumulation in internal organs and in the skin. The skin, specifically, then presents highly accelerated signs of skin aging.

Studies have been conducted to show that treating the skin with synthetic iron chelators (molecules that neutralize iron, thus making it unavailable to act as a catalyst) will delay the onset of redness and wrinkles after UV exposure for up to 11 weeks (study on hairless mice, Bissett et al., 1994).

Translation: skin exposed to UV first treated with iron chelators does not get as sunburnt or as wrinkled as skin not treated with iron chelators.

So what does this mean for you? Two things.

  1. Look for skin care products that contain natural iron chelators, such as quercetin (present in blueberry, grape seed, and green tea extracts).
  2. Unless your doctor recommends you take iron, favor supplements (e.g. multi-vitamins) that do not contain iron. My favorite? Emergen-C Super Orange.
  3. Last but not least, donate blood – it can save others, and can be good for you too!

In the case of iron and skin aging, less is truly more.

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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.)

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A few hours in the life of…

Thursday February 28, La Guardia airport, 7:50 am (EST)

So, how did I end up here, at La Guardia airport, heading to Minneapolis for three ShopNBC appearances in the next 48 hours? I remember the exact date of my first meeting with ShopNBC because it was the Monday after Superpbowl Sunday last year, after my beloved Patriots lost to the Giants. Almost exactly 13 months later, here I am, about to see if all of this effort was worthwhile. It is time!

I thought it would be fun to journal the next 40+ hours and share with you some behind the scenes action. My day today started at 5 am, after a very fitful night’s sleep… my head is not completely there, I parked in the wrong parking lot here at La Guardia and then had to walk for 15 minutes to the right terminal. Rookie mistake for a seasoned traveler… at least I got my exercise in. The US Airways Club is under renovation, so instead of having coffee and a yogurt, I find myself at The Victory Grill, having an egg-white frittata and coffee. Not that I can really eat…. Butterflies in my stomach. But this might be my one opportunity for real food, so I am trying to force myself. I am thinking a mimosa might calm my nerves… but I am resisting. While eating, I re-watched the 6 practice videos I did with fabulous intern Maggie, just to remind myself of my physical tics (tilting my head way to the right), and that while it might feel goofy to speak with a huge smile on my face, it actually makes me look nice and friendly and approachable – all good things!

Hilton Garden Inn, Eden Prairie, 2:19 pm (Minneapolis time, from now on)

I just checked in to the Hilton Garden Inn in Eden Prairie; I chose this hotel for Hilton Honors points and because it is less than 5 minutes away from the ShopNBC headquarters. Between this morning and now, I have been on two planes, one US Airways club (in Philly), on email and on one conference call (business doesn’t stop while I travel). In the air, I practiced (in writing) my TV buzz words,  slept, then practiced some more. Lunch of champions somewhere in the air between Philly and Minneapolis: a glass of chardonnay and half a pack of Pretzel minis. My stomach is just too tight to eat… at least I am doing well with my calorie counting today.

Things i can't travel without

Things I can’t travel without

And I have everything I can’t travel without: pretzels, water, Emergen-C, Alchimie Forever Kantic+ intensely nourishing cream, Tiger Balm, my favorite Aveda candle (Shampure), my Ipod, eye drops, a power bar, Clarins Beauty Balm Flash, and  Aveda’s Stress Fix concentrate.

Quick change of outfit, then off to ShopNBC for a 2 hour rehearsal. T – 10 ½ hours. This is going to be a really long day.

Hilton Garden Inn, 4:48 pm

So I just got back to the hotel room after almost two hours with ShopNBC rehearsing. Wendi was my rehearsal host; I will get to be live with her tomorrow afternoon. She is absolutely gorgeous, had killer cobalt blue heels on, and gave me great pointers. And now… what to do… I have 5 hours ahead of me… I am going to try to eat something, and then maybe nap? Perhaps a glass of wine will help…

Hilton Garden Inn, 9:15 pm

So while it took me a while to decide to lie down (I retyped all my notes from the plane and worked until 6:30 pm), the idea that I would not be able to sleep was ludicrous. Apparently my body is really tired and this 2.5 hour nap was much needed – even if I just dreamed of ShopNBC. I realize now how much I am missing my husband’s portable speakers; I really want to have a dance party in my hotel room to give my nerves a break and get my energy up. My computer speakers will have to do. On my playlist, Rain Over Me by Pitbull (featuring Marc Anthony), The Time (Dirty Bit) by Black Eyed Peas, and lots of FUN. Shower, shampoo, outfit #1, at-home mani (my hands are shaking, which makes this harder than usual), and off to the studios I go for Round 1.

Friday March 1st, Hilton Garden Inn, 2:21 am

The studio a few minutes before I go on, Round 1

The studio a few minutes before I go on, Round 1

OK, I’m back. Round 1 done. It felt good, I actually had fun, but sales are not what they need to be – yet. The green room computer is not my friend – yet. The pink room, however, is my friend. That’s where I got my hair and makeup done, and where I chatted with the models and other on-air guests. Adora, my makeup artist (chosen from a list of artists recommended by ShopNBC exclusively because her name is so awesome), was amazing. And she got engaged about an hour before she came to do my hair and makeup – I was the first person she told!

Me after Adora worked her magic for Friday 1 am show

Me after Adora worked her magic for Friday 1 am show

Everyone is so amazingly nice, they all live up to “Minnesota nice!” Great atmosphere, great camaraderie. I have to say Kimberly, my first host, was amazing. I thought we had great chemistry, like two girlfriends… Really, though, it’s all about how much I sell. I have to focus more on what the product does for you. Oh the pressure…

I really should try to sleep, but I have so much adrenaline going through my body, there is no way that is going to happen. What to do? Work? Watch TV? Both? It’s time for the Tiger Balm and for the Aveda Stress Fix concentrate. Let’s see if that helps.

Hilton Garden Inn, 6:54 am

Well, that was a short night – I couldn’t fall asleep, and then dreamed about ShopNBC again non-stop… what can I do better? How can I be effective in sales on TV? Am feeling tired, slightly discouraged, and alone. Luckily, my husband knows this without me needing to tell him – so when I turn on my email (first thing I do upon waking up, of course), I have an email from him with this link, to get me motivated about sales. And then I remember that I also have this to watch to remind myself of how badly I want this. OK, now I feel better. Tonight, we will sell out. In two shows. This is IT!

In the meantime, I have two meetings scheduled.  Yes, of course, I couldn’t “just” come for ShopNBC. My other potentially game-changing client, Lifetime Fitness, happens to also be based in Minneapolis. Is that lucky or what? I can’t tell. In any case, I have a breakfast meeting with the new head of skincare and a lunch meeting with the VP of Spas. I could be sleeping, but no, instead, I will be working. I can’t sleep anyway.

Hilton Garden Inn, 1:33 pm

So, my two Lifetime meetings were great, and I managed to keep my mind off of ShopNBC for an hour or so. And to eat miso soup and a California roll. My stomach is really not feeling great…

My number one way to combat stress is to work – so here I am watching the shows from last night and to identify what I can do better. I rehearse everything in this room out loud a few more times. I am wearing my favorite bright pink top for my 4 pm appearance. I keep telling myself I can do this. I want it. I am ready. All I can do is the best I can do. But what if my best is not good enough? That is the source of my stress… what if it just isn’t good enough…

It’s time for my favorite video again. Bring it. I want this so bad. I want it as bad as I want to breathe. Heading back to the studio!

Hilton Garden Inn, 5:02 pm

Round 2 down, one show left to go. I felt a lot less nervous this time. I didn’t feel I did well enough, but my kind husband says I am being too hard on myself. Love love love my host Wendi! I thought we had great chemistry – and her purple dress matched my pink top!

Me after

Me after Adora worked her magic for Friday 4 pm show

Right before the show I finally met the Karen and Jena from the buying team, with whom I have been working for over 6 months (exclusively by email and phone). They were so kind and encouraging, that made me feel better. I want to make right by them for taking a chance on my brand. I want to impress them. I want to sell. I want to do right by my family and make a success of our business. Yikes, I want, I want, I want. I want this so so bad! I wonder, does it ever get any easier?

I feel like I am living on adrenaline. I have three hours before I need to head back, I need to try to eat something, and maybe watch one of my favorite action movies, to quiet my mind… Movie of choice: Shooter with Mark Wahlberg. I can’t bear the idea of food, but a glass of wine helps my nerves.

I am only about half focusing on the movie; I am trying to figure out what I can do better. I thought I had prepared so well for this: I watched hour upon hour of ShopNBC beauty shows; I took pages and pages of notes; I spent a day with one of the most revered TV sales trainers (Bob Circosta). I rehearsed. I even practiced on video. Why is this not working?

Then, in the middle of the movie, my computer makes its Facebook alert noise and this pops up on my Facebook wall from Kimberly, my 1 am show host:

Ada- was so impressed with you this morning and hope the rest of the day went fantastic!! Looking forward to working with you again and wish you some much needed rest now! xx

It is the little things that count. Also, this is an emotional roller coaster, one minute up, one minute down. This minute, it’s up, all thanks to the kind words of Kimberly, whom I will forever remember as my very first ShowNBC host.

Hilton Garden Inn, 7:59 pm

The movie was great. My eyes are bloodshot: calling Adora for support! Just changed into TV outfit #3. Re-watched online my 4 pm show, which I thought was better than my 1 am show. I spoke more, I “WSGATed” more (i.e. spoke of the benefits, and the benefits of the benefits: “what’s so good about that?” thank you Bob!), I focused more on the products and what they can do for you, I had great chemistry with fabulous Wendi, and I did look a bit older (Adora was asked by the producer to do a dark smokey eye to make me look older!! Ha ha must mean my Alchimie products really work!). Oh well, I feel good about this third one. I love Heather, I have watched her a lot in preparation for this, and this is Friday night beauty!

Hilton Garden Inn, 11:29 pm

Kelley, me, my host Heather

Beauty expert Kelley West, me, host Heather Hall

OMG. I am shaking! I did it! Apparently, third time’s the charm. My host Heather was just absolutely awesome. She came up with the idea of “smart skincare.” Skincare that does multiple things at once. “You wrap it all in one product – smart!” She thought about addressing value, she is brilliant. Thank you Heather. I don’t even know what to do with myself right now. I am having a celebratory glass of wine and some pretzels, my glamorous late dinner. We didn’t sell out, but I did good! And I feel the love and support – from my husband (he had a viewing party in New Orleans for tonight’s show!), from my team (thank you for making this possible), from the team at ShopNBC (“keep doing what you’re doing, you’re a natural”), from my existing clients and partners, and from all of my friends who watched, texted me encouraging words, and made a purchase! I am reminded that preparation works; practice works; working hard works; wanting something so very badly works. All those truths being confirmed, I can now go to sleep happy. After I spend an hour taking off my makeup. In 4.5 hours, it will be time to head to the airport again. Eden Prairie, I hope to see you again soon!

The end. Saturday March 2, 12:44 am. Tired, and happy.

The end. Saturday March 2, 12:44 am. Tired and happy.

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