Supporting Your Favorite Brands and Businesses During COVID-19

The last ten days have changed my reality as I knew it. Two of my family’s three businesses are closed because of Swiss government action (Forever Institut and Forever Boutique). In the US, many of the spas and boutiques that sell Alchimie Forever have made the choice to close for a number of weeks, and our sales have already decreased as a result. All of the favorite places I love to go to are closed (from exercise studios to boutiques to bars and restaurants).

I know that we are all in this together, and that we will come out of this together, stronger, wiser. But when? And will my world look like then what it looked like two weeks ago? 

As both a small business owner and a small business supporter, I am concerned about small businesses and independent brands everywhere. Here are some of the ways I am helping my favorite boutiques, bars, restaurants, spas, and salons. I am: 

  • Leaving five-star reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc. 
  • Following social accounts, and like, comment, share. 
  • Creating social media content that highlights your favorite brands and locations; post and tag. 
  • Purchasing products online from any of your brick and mortar faves that have a website presence. 
  • Purchasing gift cards from your favorite service providers. (Getting my holiday shopping done early!). 
  • Ordering takeout / delivery from my favorite restaurants who can no longer accept table service. (Side note: in many municipalities they can now also sell beer and wine for delivery or takeout)

This too shall pass. Until then, let’s work together to ensure that our favorite small businesses and independent brands are here when it does. 

Love Makes the World Go ‘Round    

It’s mid-February. The week of Galentine’s and Valentine’s days. The week that the price of red roses goes up. The week that reminds us to say I love you…

It’s mid-February. The week of Galentine’s and Valentine’s days. The week that the price of red roses goes up. The week that reminds us to say I love you. It’s also (almost) Random Act of Kindness Day (yes, this is a thing, and it is February 17th), a reminder to always be kinder than we feel.

I am not a huge fan this “Hallmark-created holiday,” but I am a huge fan of celebrating love, in all of its forms. Self-love. Friendship love. Family love. Sexual love. And every love in between.

This week is a good reminder to:

  • Call a loved one just because. Tell them you love them, say thank you.
  • Buy yourself some fresh flowers (once the prices are back to their post-Valentine’s day normal).
  • Visit a grandparent, if you are lucky enough to have a grandparent. Or write a letter to an elderly person through Love for the Elderly.
  • Surprise a co-worker with their favorite coffee or treat.
  • Forgive yourself for something.
  • Smile to strangers. Uber drivers. Cashiers. Baristas. People you cross walking the street.
  • Give someone the benefit of the doubt.
  • Reconnect with an old friend.
  • Smile at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you are beautiful.
  • Compliment a stranger.
  • Fall in love with life. All over again.

Our New Year’s Resolutions

When we were children and still spending New Year’s Eve with our parents, they implemented a tradition of discussing our current year successes and New Year’s intentions and…

When we were children and still spending New Year’s Eve with our parents, they implemented a tradition of discussing our current year successes and New Year’s intentions and resolutions over New Year’s Eve dinner. We did this for so many years, all four of us still live a version of this tradition ever 31st of December.

Here are each of our 2020 resolutions.

 Roxane: Be ok alone.

My husband just started a new job that requires him to be away during the week and home only on the weekends. This is a wonderful opportunity for him, but a challenge for me. I have never learned how to spend time alone nor do I like it. My 2020 challenge and resolution is to be ok when I am alone. I’ve come up with a number of tactics and strategies to set myself up for success:

  • Getting to know my neighbors and having dinner parties with them.
  • Becoming a regular at the local diner.
  • Having friends over and/or test new restaurants with them.
  • Going rock-climbing once a week with a colleague.
  • Engaging in local activities: Thursday evenings in Nax (the village I live in) I can do yoga classes or ski under the stars.
  • Working late or going to bed early (instead of binging on TV shows).
  • If I am eating at home by myself, I will try reading a book, listening to an audio book, watching a good movie, calling family and friends or Skyping with my husband and having a virtual dinner with him.
  • Creating evening routines: turning music on when I walk in the door, starting a fire, lighting candles, doing 30 minutes of yoga, taking a long shower and treating my body with many Alchimie Forever products.

I think there is a slight change I might actually start to enjoying spending time with myself, by myself.

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Rachel: Let go of my fear of taking risks.

In 2016, when I became CEO of Forever Institut, I took a big risk to launch our first expansion project, Forever Boutique. This risk has paid off as the Boutique is break-even and showing growth every month, yet more than ever I am afraid of failure, and plagued with too many doubts. Yet, to succeed as an entrepreneur (or as a seasoned business leader), you have to embrace risk. Calculated risk, yes, but risk nonetheless.
This year, I feel sufficiently serene to be able to take a leap forward and embrace a new risk. We will be looking out for our second Forever Boutique, and I trust that my change of mindset will be like a message to the Universe who will answer with the perfect location for our expansion.

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Cyrille: Continued affirmation of (my)self.

Last year I tried yoga nidra for the first time, and it was like a revelation. The practice starts by setting a powerful intention for yourself; creating in your mind of a precise sentence that helps support your heart’s wishes. This intention (or sankalpa, the Sanskrit word for resolve) should be positive, short, and stated in the present tense. Sankalpa is not about achieving goals or fixing something that is “wrong”. Instead, it’s about connecting with your emotions and beliefs. I learned that my sankalpa already resided within me, as a heartfelt longing. And I repeat it to myself everyday “I am a conquering queen, creator of my own life”. I think of it as a vow between the Universe an me.

While this may not be a traditional resolution (I have never embraced these as much as my sisters LOL!), I vow to continue to repeat my sankalpa daily, as I have found it to be a powerful tool, a gateway to positive change and personal transformation.

Cyrille

Me (Ada): Feel (be) healthier.

This may be the most non original and common New Year Resolution, yet it is not one that I have made in the past – so it is new and interesting to me. I am working to feel healthier, to be healthier, despite traveling 100,000 miles per year, sleeping five to six hours per night, mostly in hotel rooms. To start off strong, I am doing a 21-day cleanse that entails no alcohol, no sugar, no carbohydrates, limited fat and limited dairy. As I write this, I am on day 5, and feeling good. To me, this is as much about the physical cleanse, as it is about the emotional breaking of bad habits, such as relying on wine to de-stress, and on food to feel better.

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What are your New Year’s intentions?

Red Eye Flights

On Friday, I left DC and made my way to the amazing island that is Tinos, in the Cyclades. This is a 24-hour journey door to door… and it is worth every minute of the trip. I arrived on Tinos on Saturday 18:30 pm Greek time, on my birthday, dropped off my bags, showered, and headed to an amazing birthday dinner. I had no time for jet lag, no time for red eyes.

On Friday, I left DC and made my way to the amazing island that is Tinos, in the Cyclades. This is a 24-hour journey door to door… and it is worth every minute of the trip. I arrived on Tinos on Saturday 18:30 pm Greek time, on my birthday, dropped off my bags, showered, and headed to an amazing birthday dinner. I had no time for jet lag, no time for red eyes.

Here is how I prepared for the journey, and for my birthday dinner.

  1. The minute I get on the plane, I go (or try to) to sleep. A glass of champagne or wine before we take off, but nothing as soon as my seat can reline. No movie, no dinner. Every minute counts.
  2. My favorite overnight travel outfit is a black jersey dress that looks like a class black dress and is as comfortable at a nightgown.
  3. Soft socks. I never wear socks, except when working out or on an overnight flight. Cold toes are the number one thing that will keep me awake. My favorite pair is from Life Is Good, super soft, and fuchsia pink.
  4. An eye mask. This does two things: it tells flight attendants you are out for the night and they better not wake you; and it actually helps filter the light out and enhances sleep. A silk one is kindest on my skin.
  5. My favorite mask, by Alchimie Forever of course (Kantic Brightening moisture mask). I made the travel size for selfish reasons; it meets the FSA travel size requirements and both seals in moisture and protects me from the deadly “airplane air.”
  6. Eye drops. There is a reason these overnight flights are called red-eyes. I am fond of Similasan Dry Eye Relief, but whatever you favorite brand is will work.
  7. I avoid makeup other than mascara and lipstick. Skin makeup (concealer, foundation, powder), travels quite poorly, and ends up making skin feel dryer and more uncomfortable.
  8. A travel toothbrush and toothpaste. A must in the morning before getting off the plane. Nothing like a clean mouth to make one feel civilized. Add a bright lipstick, and your day is off to the perfect start.
  9. A bottle of water. Other than cold toes, being thirsty will keep me awake and uncomfortable. I like to flavor mine with Super Orange Emergen-C. It helps keep me healthy too…
  10. A smile. Delays, cancellations, just the fact of flying overnight can be taxing. A smile will make the entire experience more pleasurable. For yourself and for those around you.

And well, when I land in Athens, pick up my bags, and tell the cab driver to take me to the Port of Rafina, well, then life is good regardless of any of the above traveling tips!

Always Be Overdressed

One of my life philosophies is to always be overdressed. This may be rooted in the fact that I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where everyone is, by average US standards, overdressed.

One of my life philosophies is to always be overdressed. This may be rooted in the fact that I grew up in Geneva, Switzerland, where everyone is, by average US standards, overdressed. After 20+ years in the US, where yoga wear is considered stylish outside of the yoga studio, and sneakers are worn off the running path, I have had to create a daily motto for myself to maintain these Swiss standards in my appearance. 

Dressing (up) is not about pretention or vanity, but about how I present myself to the world, and hence, how I behave. Every occasion is made more special by a nice dress or powerful pant suit and the perfect pair of shoes. I reminded myself of this yesterday when I had a 3:30 am wakeup time to fly across the country for meetings. All I wanted to do was to wear comfortable (of course presentable) clothes, but I reminded myself that in particular because of my wake-up time, it behooved me to pay extra attention to my outfit.

Why? 

1. When I dress up, I want to live up to my outfit. If I look good, if I feel beautiful, I want to behave that way. I am less likely to be rude when I am wearing fancy shoes. I am more likely to smile and be polite when I am wearing a fancy dress. After all, when I dress up, I am putting my best self forward – and my behavior needs to be coherent with my appearance. 

2. When I dress up, when I look good, people compliment me on my outfit. That means two things. First, I am happy and I feel good about myself, so I am nicer. Second, I smile and say thank you after each compliment, and the more I smile the easier it is to keep smiling (no matter my wakeup time). 

3. When my husband and I both dress up for date night, I feel that we are doing something special for each other – we are putting effort into how we look, for each other. That makes me feel good, like he did something for me, which in turn makes me act nicer, and less likely to pick a fight. It also makes it harder to pick a fight because he looks so good!  

Somehow, how I dress really does make a difference in how I feel, and thus how I act. It is not about expensive clothes. It is not about vanity. I have come to think of it more as a uniform. When I put on something dressy, I am putting on my “best behavior uniform.” And it works every time… 

Summer

Today is the first official day of Summer, the longest and one of the most magical days of the year. Summer vacation is on my mind, as I leave tomorrow for two weeks of rest and relaxation…

Today is the first official day of Summer, the longest and one of the most magical days of the year. Summer vacation is on my mind, as I leave tomorrow for two weeks of rest and relaxation…

Here are our four favorite summer destinations.

Roxane:

The island of Reunion, where I spent my honeymoon. I love islands because they usually combine hiking and the ocean in one single venue. Born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland, I have always had water (Lac Leman) and mountains close to me, making both an essential component of my well-being. On vacation, I look for the same combination with the addition of sun, heat, sand, beaches, and waves. I love to be active and hike in the middle of nature and could never spend all day lying on the beach tanning (you know, my dad’s a dermatologist…). But when it gets too hot, there is nothing like ending the day by having fun in the ocean. The true luxury for me is not having to drive hours between the hikes and the ocean but having everything close by.

Rachel:

Sailing (pretty much anywhere). I wake up every morning grateful for my life and all the beautiful places I have had the privilege to visit. Yet the one place I dream of when I think of summer vacation is a sailing boat. Whether I’m alone with my fiancé, or with my daughter, or with friends… I am never as free as on a boat. Right there, admiring the sunset or the sunrise, I feel surrounded by my version of ultimate luxury: time, beauty, and space. 

  • Time takes on a different dimension, a different meaning, on a sailing boat: it flies at a very different pace – very slowly most of the time until suddenly something happens… 
  • I feel goosebumps whenever I recall the beauty of nature. Whether you snorkel or enjoy a solitary sunrise… the beauty of what surrounds you never leaves you indifferent. 
  • Space is the third magical ingredient, just as paradoxical as that of time: the boat is small but the sea immense and its grandeur never fails to surprise you. 

The moments I have spent on a boat are amongst the fondest and most serene I have. I cannot wait to go sailing again. 

Cyrille:

Italy. When I set foot on this land so dear to my heart, I instantly feel at home as much as on vacation. I could write a whole book about the reasons why… here are just a few:

  • Fruits and vegetables actually taste like they should.
  • There is at least one beautiful Piazza adorned with flowers and a fountain in the center each village
  • By just walking around, eyes wide open, you see the equivalent of ten art and history museum collections.
  • The language is heartwarming and melodious.
  • The concept of Aperitivo is so much more than having an after work drink…

I must say I have never had an unpleasant experience in Italy. And to be totally honest, there are 3 factors that definitely work in my favor: I am half Italian and I have learned the language; I have blond hair and blue eyes (through the eyes of Italian men, it makes you feel like an angel, a queen, a jewel…); I am a “Mamma” of an adorable boy (all Italians love kids, and all mammas are greatly respected).

Me:

The Cyclades. We started going to the Cyclades when I was little, thanks to my maternal grandparents who decided to live there for a couple of years (because my grandfather was a professor of Greek language and philosophy), and to me, this remains the most magical place on Earth. The sea is salty, cold, and clear (like Roxane, I need to be near water). The island is quiet and calm, and time takes on a different meaning (like Rachel, I need a change of pace). The food is authentic and mostly from the island, grown in the gardens behind tavernas (like Cyrille, I crave the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables).  

What is your favorite summer vacation destination?

Safe Sun

My two grandmothers, one from an Italian farming family, the other from a Swiss-German pastor family, did not agree on many things. But they did agree on one thing: too dark a suntan is borderline inelegant, and a sunburn is outright offensive.

My two grandmothers, one from an Italian farming family, the other from a Swiss-German pastor family, did not agree on many things. But they did agree on one thing: too dark a suntan is borderline inelegant, and a sunburn is outright offensive. Between them and my dermatologist father, with whom I have never been in so much trouble as when I sunburn my skin, I like to think I have perfected the idea of practicing “safe sun.” While this is something to think about daily, including in the dead of winter and on rainy days, it is particularly important during vacation season, which is upon us. If you are heading to the beach, the pool, on a boat, or anywhere else where you are planning on spending most of your summer days outdoors, keep this in mind:

  1. The safest way to be in the sun is not to be in the sun. In particular in between the hours of 11 and 3 pm, stay in the shade.
  2. Use sunscreen. Even if you are planning to be in the shade all day, sunscreen is essential. A body oil with SPF 2 does not count as sunscreen… UVA and UVBs are both harmful to the skin, so make sure your sunscreen says “broad-spectrum” (the SPF value only refers to protection from UVB). Keep in mind that SPF 30, which my father recommends for “beach vacation days” will protect you from 96% of UVB. A higher SPF will increase the protection by a few percentage points only: SPF 50 will increase it to 98%, and SPF 75 to 99%.
  3. Apply sunscreen liberally. Don’t think of it as applying your moisturizer or foundation – be generous, err on too much rather than not enough. The general rule of thumb is a shot-glass worth of product for an “average-sized” body.
  4. Re-apply after every time you get in the water. There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen; the FDA does recognize the term “water-resistant,” so look for that word when making your purchase, and reapply.
  5. Purchase new sunscreen annually, at the very least. While you may not need a new bathing suit before every summer vacation, be vigilant about the expiration dates on sunscreens. The formulations are delicate, and do break down – an expired sunscreen will not provide the protection claimed on the bottle.
  6. Remember the ears, back of the neck, and top of the feet (where I have gotten some of my worse sunburns). Apply your sunscreen before you put on your bathing suit, to avoid getting a tan right around where your bathing suit meets your skin.

There are lots of great sunscreens out there, I tend to find a new favorite one every summer. La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Nutritive Oil Comfort SPF 50+ and all Coola products are wonderful. Yet remember, no sunscreen is 100%. This means using an antioxidant product is key, both layered under your sunscreen and as a post-sun product, so that you instantly repair any free radical damage caused. Once again, there are many great antioxidant products on the market, my current favorite being the newest Alchimie Forever cream, Protective day cream SPF 23. As a first layer of protection, it is packed with antioxidants including blueberries, vitamins C and E, and edelweiss extract, and also has some chemical filters to help fight UVAs and UVBs.

Lastly, remember, you earn the skin you’re in! Protect it, and always practice “safe sun.”

How to blow dry your hair and other tips from Tatum Neill

I was born into a skin family, and married into a hair family. I was born into a family of all sisters, and married into a family of mostly brothers. I can’t think of better combinations. This is top of mind today as I am on my way to Chicago for America’s Beauty Show, and will see my brother Tatum on stage doing hair, and deejay (yes, another amazing combination) during his ElevateHair Show on Sunday evening (along with many other amazing artists, including Holly Pistas of Gordon Salons).

I am reminded of the below conversation I had with Tatum early on, picking his brain about the life of a hairstylist. Today, being behind the chair (at Paris Parker Salons) is only part of Tatum’s role. He launched ElevateHair shows and branded tools, teaches haircutting at Neill Corporation, and is the North America Artistic Director, Social Media, for Aveda. And yes, he’s my brother – and yes, he’s cut my hair and my sisters’ hair (Roxane said he might have given her the best short haircut of her life).

AP: What do you recommend clients do to ensure getting the best possible haircut when going to the salon?

TN: Do not use your previous stylist’s language; each hairdresser has their own way of talking about things, so don’t get tied up with the lingo. What I appreciate the most is when people bring a few pictures of what they are looking for. Pictures are worth a thousand words. The tricky part about images is that sometimes the hair has more to do with the styling than with the cut… so always be open to your hairdresser’s recommendations.

AP: As a hairdresser, what are your pet peeves?

TN: Turtle necks and lip gloss. When my clients come in wearing a turtle neck, it’s hard to cleanly get to the hairline, and impedes the cut. And if I need to trim your bangs and you are wearing sticky lip gloss, the hair ends up on your lips and it creates a mess. Of course, like any hairdresser, while I appreciate some direction from my clients, I don’t like it when clients want to direct me too much…

AP: Razor or no razor?

TN: The thing about a razor is that it needs to be new and sharp. Razors dull really quickly, and that is why razor cuts are sometimes bad. Also, it is essential to only use a razor when hair is wet or damp.

AP: Thoughts on at-home product use?

TN: Where do I start… typically, clients have three main concerns for at-home care: moisture, body, and shine. So you usually want a trifecta of products: for curly hair, you need to use a product to bring moisture to the hair, a product to control the curl, and a product to hold the curl; for straight hair, you want to use a product to bring moisture to the hair, a product to add body, and a product to add shine.

The challenge is that nourishing products (ranging from conditioners to masks to oils) will compromise body, so it’s all about balance. The hardest hair type to recommend product for is dry fine hair (think most colored blondes for example…). For that type of hair, a lighter moisturizing agent is essential as otherwise your hair will be nourished, but weighed down. Coarser hair can use thicker moisturizing products of course. It’s also key to show people how much product to actually use. I find that most of my clients will underuse product at home, only using about 1/3rd of the recommended amount.  Regardless of product, however, I always remind my clients that no matter what they put in their hair, hair is like skin; what you put in your body will affect your hair. I hate to say this, but when styling runway models, I can always tell from their hair which ones eat and which ones don’t…

AP: What is something few of your clients know?

TN: While it is generally known that pregnant women have thicker hair, and that once the baby arrives, hair thins out, people don’t usually extrapolate from that to the general fact that hormones affect your hair. Not just during pregnancy… during your cycle, during menopause, etc. And this is true not just for women of course. Men’s hair will be affected by their hormones also.

AP: Any tips about blow drying?

TN: I find that most people blow dry their hair the same way they did as when they were 12, i.e. head upside down, blow air all around, with the end goal being drying the hair. There is not a lot of consciousness about the direction of the hair. When you are upside down, most of the air and heat is focused at the nape of the neck, so you end up bottom heavy in terms of volume. Instead, you want most of the volume on the crown, so you should focus the air and heat there. And remember to always blow dry in the direction of the cuticle, to help seal it (which will give you shine); again, that is harder to do when your head is upside down. Remember also that if your roots are wet yet your ends are dry and smooth, the water will end up moving down the hair shaft from the roots to the ends, which will eliminate that nice dry smoothness. That means you need to make sure your roots are dry first, before drying the ends.

Also, next time you go see your stylist, ask him or her to show you how to hold your blow dryer; most people have never been coached on this, and are trying to figure it out by themselves, and you would be amazed what a difference a slight tilt of the wrist will make! Another typical mistake is not to blow dry your hair completely. The recommendation is to blow dry your hair until it is 100% dry, even if you have curly hair. Until the hair is totally dry, the hydrogen bonds that shape it are not set. Same thing if you are letting your hair air dry: your hair needs to be left alone for as long as possible, until it is 100% dry. If you play with it too much you can cause frizz (because touching it breaks the hydrogen bonds and that is what causes frizz).

My favorite blow dryers are made by Parlux – specifically the Alyon. No one makes a dryer like the Italians… I want a blow dryer that gets really hot and has strong wind velocity, so that heat is evaporating the water, while the wind makes the process faster.

AP: What about flatirons and curling irons?

TN: The most important thing to realize about flatirons is that a professional flatiron needs to go up to 450 degrees to be used during permanent or semi-permanent straightening treatments. At that heat, the hair will be chemically altered. What this means is that for at-home use, you need to make sure that your flatiron has good temperature control. Don’t ever use it about 400 degrees when doing your hair at home. I actually recommend a low to mid 300 temperature range. Hotter in this case is not better. 400+ degrees is for the hair professional only. The concept is the same for curling irons, but it is harder to find a curling iron with temperature control capability. So do the following test, carefully of course: set your tool on a piece of paper; it if scorches it, it’s too hot for your hair.

Click here to hear more from Tatum.

Mardi Gras

I married a man from Louisiana. A condition of our union was that we would never miss Mardi Gras weekend. And here I am, on Mardi Gras Friday, writing from New Orleans. I wish nothing more than for all of you to experience this amazing time in this amazing city. And trust me, there is much more to Mardi Gras than Bourbon Street.

I married a man from Louisiana. A condition of our union was that we would never miss Mardi Gras weekend. And here I am, on Mardi Gras Friday, writing from New Orleans. I wish nothing more than for all of you to experience this amazing time in this amazing city. And trust me, there is much more to Mardi Gras than Bourbon Street. Here is what you need to know:

  1. Mardi Gras is the culmination of Carnival season, which starts on January 6th.
  2. The actual Mardi Gras day depends on when Easter falls (which depends on the Moon). This means that Carnival season can be as short as a month or as long as two.
  3. The colors of Mardi Gras are purple, green, and gold.
  4. The foods of Mardi Gras season are delicious, and fast – given that no one has time for a sit-down meal: King Cake, finger sandwiches, fried chicken, and one pot Louisiana dishes such as red beans and rice, jambalaya, or gumbo.
  5. King Cake is the Louisiana version of Galette des Rois. In New Orleans, the two best sources of said King Cake are Gambinos and Dong Phuong (at a recent taste test at my friend Angie’s house, Dong Phuong won hands down). It is not possible to eat King Cake after Fat Tuesday.
  6. Krewes are Carnival organizations that exist solely for the purpose of putting on parades and balls during Carnival season.
  7. Costumes are de rigueur during this weekend. Most New Orleans residents have entire costume closets, and costumes don’t necessarily represent specific characters (one year I dressed up as the color purple).
  8. Mardi Gras day is followed by Ash Wednesday, which is the official start of Lent.
  9. The Mardi Gras rules of our household are the following:
    1. Me first.
    2. No plans.
    3. Always have something to drink in your hand.
    4. No breaking up.
    5. No fighting.
    6. Everyone is welcome.
    7. If one partakes in the revelry of Mardi Gras, one must give up something for Lent. (I am still trying to figure out what to give up on Wednesday).

Happy Mardi Gras weekend y’all!