Insider's Guide to Spas
Ada Polla at home in Geneva. Photography by Marin Raguz

Insiders

Swiss Beauty Ada Polla

Mary Bemis


A little over 10 years ago, Ada Polla, co-creator of Alchimie Forever, launched her family’s Swiss-based skin care line in the States. This Swiss beauty has a real passion for healthy skin habits, effective products, and the science behind skin care. As she says, “Skin care is part of self care. It is all about looking good to feel better, to then do our best in every aspect of life. Looking good means feeling good means doing good.”

Where in Switzerland are you from? Tell us a little bit about your heritage.

I was born and raised in Geneva, Switzerland. My Swiss heritage comes mostly from my mother’s family—my father grew up in Italy. My mother’s parents are from the area of Zofingen (in the German-speaking part of Switzerland), and were professors and preachers. They came to Geneva early on, and my mother was born and raised there. Geneva remains the one city that gives me that special ‘I am home’ feeling when I arrive at Cointrin Airport.

What is your earliest outdoor memory of Switzerland?

I remember walking with my Nana, my Mom’s mom, in Chene-Bourg, along the Seymaz river. It was right around the corner from her house, where I would stay once per week during the school week. We would walk, talk, and I can still remember the crunching sound that my shoes made on the gravel. We would look at the water, discuss if it was flowing fast, running deep, and bluer rather than greener. Amazing memories.

How would you describe the classic Swiss woman?

Smart, diplomatic, cosmopolitan, thin, elegantly dressed. At least if my sisters are any indication . . .

What special memories do you have of your mother and grandmothers when it comes to specific beauty regimes and rituals?

My grandmother took me to get my first facial when I turned 15. She said it was part of becoming a woman. The goal was to learn good skin-care habits, the same way that I was taught good dental care and good eating habits.

From my mother, I learned to take baths—immersion in water helps the body to heal itself. I also learned that taking care of one’s skin—whether face or body—is key to taking care of one’s self as a whole. Self care through skin care. I learned that the healthiest way to end a bath or a shower is with a dose of freezing cold water. In particular on the legs . . . it helps circulation and prevents cellulite!

Taking care of one’s skin is key to taking care of one’s self as a whole. Self care through skin care.

How do you define beauty?

Beauty is feeling good about yourself. Skin care is part of self care. It is all about looking good to feel better, to then do our best in every aspect of life. Looking good means feeling good means doing good—so says my mother, Barbara Polla.

What can we, American women, learn from our Swiss sisters?

Yoga wear is for yoga studios. Sneakers are for the gym or running in the city. When in doubt have a salad for lunch. There is no such thing as salad dressing, there is only oil and vinegar. Sundays are meant to be quiet days spent with family. Nothing beats a small, delicious piece of dark chocolate to end a meal.

Do you use any indigenous ingredients in your skincare line?

We do use Edelweiss extract in our Daily Defense SPF 23 cream. These are amazing Swiss flowers that grow in the nether regions of the mountains, above the tree line, and having incredible antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

What’s your favorite spa in Switzerland? Best treatment?

Well I am biased, as my father opened Switzerland’s first fully integrated medical spa, Forever Laser Institut. The best treatment (other than a cocktail of personalized treatments administered by my father, Dr. Luigi L. Polla), is the Brightening Peel Facial by Alchimie Forever. I get it every time I go home. For a hotel spa experience, The Dolder Grand in Zurich is one of my favorites.

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is an award-winning spa journalist, honored with Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and the distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She sits on the board of Wellness Warrior, is a Global Wellness Day Advisor and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.

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