Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Want: Ringly Wearable Technology

I'm the last person in the universe who cares about wearable technology. I had a boyfriend once who kept wearing the watch/calculator from his Bar-Mitzvah way into adulthood, and that has traumatized me for life. But Ringly is bordering on genius. My phone always seems to sink into the very bottom of my purse, and since I keep the ring sound quite low (and forget to dial up when leaving the house), I tend to miss calls and not see texts for hours. This ring connects to one's phone (both iOS and Android). You customize the app to tell it whose calls or texts you want to see, and it vibrates and lights up (there's) a tiny light thing on the side of the band). It can also reminds you of meetings, if you need it to do so. And it's actually pretty.

The one above called Dive Bar is a limited edition rhodium-plated setting and a tourmaline quartz ($195, like most of the line). I think it's my favorite and the one I want most, but I'm also partial to the one below, Into The Woods, is the fanciest (18 karat gold and a real emerald) and is priced at $260.

Yes, please.

My Current Skincare Routine

Apparently, the best thing I can do for my skin is avoid consuming anything made with coconut oil or coconut milk. That's very unfortunate considering my favorite dishes include coconut sticky rice and Massaman curry. It also means being extra careful with shower gels, hair products and even some makeup. It seems like this allergy is becoming worse with time, and I can't begin to tell you how frustrating it is. But the heavenly rice is less and less worth the red angry rash and breakouts. Dealing with that and helping my skin come back to life was an interesting process. I've pared down to the minimum and with some trial and painful error found what works for me (for now).

1. I remove my eye makeup first, using micellar water. The ones I have right now are the classic one from Bioderma and Lancome Eau Fraiche Douceur. I think I prefer Bioderma, but not sure it's a rational thing.
2. Once that is done I use Tatcha One Step Camelia Oil. This is the best face cleanser I've ever tried, and I feel extremely passionate about it. This oil is suitable for eyes as well, but I prefer getting rid of all eye makeup before doing my face, and avoiding smeared mascara and eyeliner.

1. A hydrating toner-lotion. You can see some really good ones in my previous post. These days I stick with KGD, Hada Labo and DHC (they have several interesting ones). I pat the toner on or use it as a mask (see this).
2. My staple Best Face Forward serum oil. I need less in the summer, unless I'm feeling extra dry. Once the weather cools down I'll probably be back to heavier use.

Chemical Exfoliating:
Avene Cleanace K Cream Gel. It's supposed to be geared for oily skin, but this particular combination of acids (6% Glycolic Acid, 2% Lactic Acid, and 1% Salicylic Acid ) is the miracle I needed not just for clearing up troubled area after indulging in the aforementioned sticky rice, but also for allover radiance. Go figure.

Massage Balm:
Hummingbird Ranch Propolis Skin Cream. I use a generous amount and spend at least 15 minutes massaging my face while reading or watching videos. I remove it with a wet warm washcloth and moisturize as needed. Once or twice a week is enough, and it's the best facial money can buy.

Elta MD SPF 46 and Bioderma SPF 50. A lot. And religiously.

What are you using these days?

Diana Vreeland Perfumes- First Impression

Many of you shared my uneasiness about the new perfume brand bearing the name of legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland. I still harbored a secret hope that Mrs. Vreeland's heirs did justice to her memory by creating a spectacular line. The bold colors chosen for the bottles seemed to hint in that direction, and the display at Bergdorf Goodman looked inviting. The bottles are even nicer when you see them in person. They're heavy, modern, and come with a magnetic cap that closes in a satisfying click. The boxes are just as great, so the overall design aesthetic is quite appealing. But we're here for the juice, and that's where it all fell apart.

Leaving Diana Vreeland's heritage aside, if you're launching a luxury perfume brand that takes a wall and a counter at Bergdorf Goodman you'd better have something interesting to offer, and preferably more than just colored glass. At $185 for 50ml (and $250 for 100ml) these perfumes should better make a statement of quality and creativity. Instead, what we got was the standard department store fare. You could have slapped any designer label on these floral-fruity-fake wood-vanilla combos and no one would blink.

These are my general impressions from my first encounter with Diana Vreeland Perfumes. It's not a comprehensive review, since I gave them limited time and limited skin space. Frankly, I doubt I'd go back for more. This is meant to give a general idea of the fragrances and not an in-depth analysis.

Extravagance Russe.  I expected the most from this one, considering the Russian theme and the oriental notes. It's hard to ruin an oriental perfume, and this isn't a bad one (not crazy sweet), just surprisingly flat and unremarkable amber. Think of the magnificent Parfum d'Empire Ambre Russe ($145/100ml), and understand my disappointment.
Notes: amber, resins, vanilla, musk

Simply Divine. I like this one in the same way I like most rich tuberose perfumes. There's nothing original about it, but it's competent and sexy in the way big white florals tend to be.
Notes: tuberose, fresh crushed leaves, nutmeg, orange blossom, jasmine, sandalwood, orris root, cashmere wood, tonka, musk

Absolutely Vital. A generic synthetic jasmine-rose thing over a generic synthetic sandalwood. We've smelled it a thousand times before.
Notes: sandalwood, rose, jasmine, myrrh, vanilla

Outrageously Vibrant. Basically- a fruitchouli. A big and bad one. I could have sworn I smell mango, as did the Husband. And I'm not talking about a Duchaufour mango. This one is the stuff that gives fruity-florals their bad name.
Notes: rose, cassis, patchouli

Perfectly Marvelous. It's a weird one, and I chalk it up mostly to skin chemistry, though it was just as amorphous on the blotter. It's a modern skin scent, completely gender-neutral and just as forgettable.
Notes: sandalwood, pimento pepper, jasmine.

Why don't you buy a Serge Lutens instead?

Photo: “Diana Vreeland: A Velvet Hand in an Iron Glove,” by Ingeborg Day for Ms., 1975.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy Labor Day!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tom Ford Nude Dip Eye Shadow Quad For Fall 2014

The hype and mayhem surrounding the release of Nude Dip, the new Tom Ford Eye Color Quad for Fall 2014, did little to endear the brand to me. There were teaser photos months ago that made just about everyone feverish with desire for this palette. I know that I can't help it: a super-luxurious collection in easy-to-wear everyday neutral. It's irresistible. When it's also a limited edition the madness is obvious (remember Bobbi Brown's original Chocolate palette from Fall 2006?) . And then it started to look like the palette was going to sell out during pre-sale and will never even make it online, at least in the US. So I pre-ordered it by phone, which I normally hate to do. And not that it was easy. The counter at Bergdorf dodged phone calls, so I turned to Saks flagship store, but it took playing phone tag and spending a total of 45 minutes on hold before I could place my order. At least they were willing to sell and send me the palette right away. My friend CharlestonGirl from Best Things In Beauty had to throw a hissy fit to receive hers from Neiman Marcus.

I admit that most of my crankiness dissipated when I had this Tom Ford quad in my hands. It really is lovely. I could tell that the texture is special just from looking at it, and the first careful swatching confirmed it.Soft, almost creamy, very rich pigment--- it's gorgeous. The colors are not groundbreaking in any way, but they're so beautiful that there's no question about the amount of usage I'd get from it (from now to eternity, considering the amount of product in each Tom Ford palette).

Outside, full sun

Indoors, artificial light

The finish of the colors in Nude Dip is this modern semi-metallic (except for the darkest brown which is more of a satin with less sheen). There are no shimmer particles in any of the pans, and the shine is elegant and flattering. Personally, I don't use more than two colors with this finish in one look, but I know I'm the minority here. I use each of these colors as the focal point, paired with a muted color (or what I consider muted. A matte navy might not be everyone's cup of tea).

Application of the Nude Dip colors calls for a flat dense brush and requires very little blending (except for the darkest brown. A small soft but firm pencil brush works wonders here for an effortless smoky contour). A MAC 239-type brush is ideal. A softer lay-down brush will give a more sheer finish. What you want to avoid is over-blending that dilutes the pigment and reduces the color to nothing but shimmer. So give the fluffy brushes a rest in this case.

My favorite color from this palette is not surprisingly the taupe one, that's perfect by itself for a one-brush-one-eye-shadow look. The rose gold is gorgeous, and works as a late-summer color (I've been enjoying rosier shades this summer, such as the ones from the stunning YSL palette). The other two are more standard, but again: there's a reason for that. Workhorse eye shadows end up worth their weight in gold, so no complaints here. While I don't believe in must-haves, especially for those of us with large makeup collections that already include a massive number of neutrals, a useful no-brainer palette makes sense, especially if you love this kind of finish.

Bottom Line: Almost makes those 45 minutes listening to muzak worth it.

Tom Ford Nude Dip Eye Shadow Quad For Fall 2014 ($79) can be purchased by phone from Tom Ford counters (and obviously in person, if your counter has it in stock and is actually willing to sell).

NARS Mandore Satin Lip Pencil

NARS Mandore Satin Lip Pencil was my one lip color pick from Night Caller, the Fall 2014 collection. This red berry color is limited edition (Bansar, the other new Satin Lip Pencil is permanent); since I love the Satin Pencil formula it was an easy decision. 

This color goes well with the various smoky neutral eye looks of the season, and as a twisted on my favorite classic, a black liner-bold lip combo. Longevity is excellent: the pencil creates a long-lasting stain that barely requires touch ups (it survives a Sunday brunch intact), and since it's a non-drying formula, my lips remain in good shape for hours. 

Bottom Line: I'll keep buying them as long as NARS makes these pencils.

NARS Mandore Satin Lip Pencil ($25) ia available at the counters and from narscosmetics.com.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Serge Lutens- Datura Noir (Revisited)

Let's make one thing clear: I still don't like wearing Datura Noir.

I loathed this 2001 Serge Lutens perfume when I first tried it, and didn't enjoy it any better as I kept testing it over the years. In fact, in 2007 I vowed to stay away from it forever.  But I gave all the samples I had to my mother, who smelled divine in this weird white floral. So I bought her a bottle and sniffed in amazement as her sillage took over my old hometown. I still wouldn't wear it. But I had to figure it out. I needed to know what was about Datura Noir that made me want to jump out of my skin (scrubbing never worked), considering that I love tuberose, coconut, and oriental perfumes. Why was this particular Serge Lutens perfume trying to eat me alive?

I've discovered that there's a tremendous difference between spraying and dabbing Datura Noir. It's nothing new. Several Serge Lutens fragrances behave differently when you give the more volatile top notes a larger skin surface to burst from vs. a more intimate focused application (good examples:  Miel de Bois and Fleurs de Oranger benefit from dabbing, Iris Silver Mist does well when decanted into a sprayer). A light touch of Datura Noir under one's clothes eliminated the Audrey II effect and makes it less of a crazy green tuberose. I could finally concentrate on the sweeter and  more gourmand elements.

It's a jungle out there. The mutant giant white trumpets are accompanied by just as large leafy greenery, but that's just the harbinger of a thick and fatty coconut note. The creaminess is nice, as it lets in a rich almondy note (there's both bitter almond and a sweeter, lighter heliotrope to complement it). The scent that surrounds the skin is white, velvety and opaque. I should enjoy it much better than I do, considering my taste in perfume, but I find any larger dose than a drop to be very suffocating. It reminds me the tactile feel of a 1970s acrylic/polyester tight turtle neck, the bane of my childhood.

In a minuscule amount I get the witches brew idea behind Datura Noir. It tempts you with its vanillic creamy promise and makes you powerless before you know it, completely enslaved to its will. On the right skin this is a magical perfume, as I've known for years. I'm just not the right person to wear it, and I'm perfectly fine with that.

Notes: myrrh, bitter almond, tonka bean, musk, osmanthus, heliotrope, mandarin, lemon blossom, tuberose, vanilla, coconut oil, apricot.

Serge Lutens- Datura Noir ($130, 50ml EDP) is available from Twisted Lily, Luckyscent, Aedes, Barneys, and Bergdorf Goodman.

Art: Krista Huot -Trumpets of Datura

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hakuhodo Itabake Brush- Small

Back in 2012 I abandoned my NARS Ita brushes* for the Hakuhodo Itabake and haven't looked back. The large Itabake brush I bought two years ago is great for foundation, but the smaller ones are more directional and are usually recommended for contouring. But Hakuhod Itabake brushes are more versatile than that. The white goat hair is suitable for use with cream, liquid, and powder products. The Small Itabake is tiny (overall length 78mm, hair length 23mm and width 25mm) and allows for precise application- foundation, highlighters, powder touch-ups, and, yes, contouring (temples and the side of the nose, for example).

Hakuhodo Small Itabake next to the old and discontinued NARS Ita 21

Hakuhodo Itabake- Small & Large (which needs to be washed ASAP. I use it regularly). FYI, Hakuhodo has two Itabakes that are even larger than the "Large" one. 

The goat hair is packed densely (thickness of 9.55 mm), and feels very soft--- much more so than the old NARS. The hair is long enough to have movement and curves nicely around the face. I'm not big on contouring. My face was just not meant to have sharp edges, even fake ones. I do it occasionally, but to be honest it's just too much fake-looking paint for my features. I am fond of highlighting, though, and the small Itabake is an excellent tool for that, as it applies and blends the product with two or three brush strokes.

Bottom Line: great to have.

Hakuhodo Itabake Brush- Small ($48) is available from hakuhodousa.com. They ship internationally.

It looks like NARS has also forsaken the Itas since they were not revived with the rest of the new brush line (the Yachiyo and Botan are included in their new Kabuki range).