Main Dish

Georgetown Beauty Gets Under Your Skin

February 11, 2010

True beauty is beyond skin deep, but why not start there?

Alchimie Forever, the unique Georgetown skin care studio and product line, is coming to the rescue of time-limited and stressed-filled lives with alchemy-like remedies in a new space near Wisconsin & M.

Alchimie, the modern French version of the Persian word kimie, is both a philosophy and an ancient practice focused on the attempt to change base metals into gold -- metaphorically, the search for an "elixir of longevity" leading to ultimate wisdom.  

Fast forward to today's Georgetown. Under the leadership of co-founder Ada Polla, Alchimie Forever is not just eliminating the ravages of time and stress on the human body, but helping clients create lasting, lifelong beauty through a philosophy of health and balance. It all starts with Polla, Swiss daughter of a dermatologist and biomedical researcher -- a determined entrepreneur who has skin care in the genes.

Ada learned at the elbow of Geneva-based parents Luigi and Barbara Polla, who started using laser technology in the 1980s to advance non-cutting medical techniques for the skin. The idea was to improve the features of the face with subtelty, rather than making drastic changes. Ada, coming to Georgetown two decades later, wanted to find a way to extend serious, non-medical dermatologic practices to a broader audience. Thus, Alchimie Forever was born.

Barely starting her studies at Georgetown's graduate school of business after earning an Art History degree at Harvard, Ada developed the concept of a skin care studio in Georgetown as a base for marketing a line of carefully crafted serums, scrubs and creams that Alchimie Forever now creates. Father Luigi uses his clinical practice to identify patient needs, mother Barbara works at the cellular level to develop the formulas, and Ada creates the strategies to get the products to people.

The tiny family business is becoming a respectable multinational. The composed 32-year-old Ada and her team just signed a five-year lease at 1010 Wisconsin Ave., after several years in smaller spaces. Annual revenues are about $1 million. This from a humble start just a few years ago in a studio apartment in the Paper Mill. "The unit was so tiny we kept the credit card machine next to my bed," she says. "That caused a few jokes."

All kidding aside, the business is growing and bringing a unique line of products to Georgetown and beyond. Polla proudly points out that hers is the only beauty product business based in Washington. Polla says the region is in serious need. "There is a dearth of self-care here," she says. "People don't take time for themselves."

Alchimie Forever aims to change that. Polla recommends that clients take 15 minutes at the start and end of each day to cleanse and nurture the face. "In my life, it's the only time I take for myself, and it's very important," she says. The products rely on natural plant extracts such as blueberry, rosemary, tomato and grape, rather than retinoid or synthetic acids. Each extract  works separately to make skin firmer and smoother, reducing redness, roughness and spots. 

Ada tried to conceal her disapproval when I told her I had been using only soap, water and a washcloth on my face. What kind of soap was it? I had no idea. She patiently suggested a cleanser and moisturizer whose natural scent picks me up and makes my face come to life. Within a few days, there was visible, significant improvement. My skin looked better, I looked younger. Would you believe I'm 25? Well, maybe 26. Thanks to Ada, you might be fooled.

"We're making the world a better place," Polla says confidently. "People are happier if they take good care of themselves."

Looking at the complexions of Polla and her partner Rachel Johnson, it's clear they are onto something. And they are blessed with some powerful friends and fans. Dr. Tina Alster, Georgetown's dermatologist to the stars, met Ada's father Luigi at Harvard and became Alchimie Forever's first customer. "She bought six of everything," Ada says. "I keep the order framed on the wall."

Alchimie Forever's typical client lives in Georgetown, where facials as well as consultations are offered. Most clients are in their 30s and 40s. "We have one loyal customer who is 83. Isn't that great?" Polla asks sincerely. "And then I have friends who are moms who spread the products on their babies' bottoms."

Polla and her business, sparkling, determined and fearless, represent a spirit that might be called the Alchemy of Georgetown. Make that Alchimie...

Photos courtesy of Alchimie Forever, Marie Claire, and Elle.

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Concerts in the Park Starts on a High Note at George

February 6, 2010

CAG Summer Concerts in the Parks kicked off the 2010 season with a family party Jan. 31 at George, the hot spot tucked behind Café Milano. Georgetown moms, dads, grandparents and kids of all ages danced and mingled amid flashing lights, glow sticks, and food and libations provided by George. Call it a daytime disco or a rave for all ages, the afternoon party swung with Georgetown music lovers and the dynamic women behind Concerts in the Parks.

A true Georgetown dish, Concerts co-chair Elizabeth Miller started the series eight years ago. "Twenty of my friends came," she said. "I was a basket case."

"At the time, I thought Georgetown was a little 'old guard,'" she said. "I thought we needed an event to bring everyone together." Bring them together it does -- in droves. The concerts typically draw over 300 neighbors per performance. Miller and co-chair Renee Esfandiary Crupi drew a big crowd to George to raise money for the series. But they needyour help. Get your tickets on CAG's website ($160 for three generations (grandparents, parents, and children , $135 for two generations, $125 for a couple, and $65 for a single ticket), or send a check to CAG to support this worthy cultural cause. Tentative concert dates are:

Sunday, May 23 at 5:00
Sunday, June 20 at 5:00: Father’s Day celebration
Sunday, July 4 at 5:00: Independence Day parade returns (at 4:00)!

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Jessica Heywood, CAG President Jennifer Altemus, and CAG Exec. Dir. Betsy Cooley

Annie Lou Berman, son Teddy, and Concerts co-chair Renee Esfandiary Crupi

Michael Petricone, Laura Rawlings, Nico and Fiore support Concerts in the Parks

Reagan Smith and Sofia Podini

Outside the Concerts Kick-off at George


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Gray Enters Hardy School Battle

February 5, 2010

D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray (D) defended Georgetown parents today, opposing a Fenty administration effort to remove Hardy Middle School's cherished principal Patrick Pope. Gray entered the controversy with a letter to Mayor Adrian Fenty, saying “the school’s current leadership represents the best of the District of Columbia Public schools and should be continued in its current state.” 

Georgetown students and parents have been in an uproar since schools chancellor Michelle Rhee announced a "transfer" of Principal Pope. Pope has been considered a beloved and esteemed leader of the highly-regarded middle school.

When 120 Hardy Middle School seventh graders and teachers marched on the District Building this week to plead with Mayor Fenty not to "re-assign" Pope to another program, Gray decided to speak out publicly on their behalf.

Mayor Fenty was not available to see the students, but security guards allowed several students inside the building to deliver their letters to staff.  The rest of the students remained outside. 


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