Saturday, July 04, 2015

4th Of July


Happy Independence Day! Stay cool and enjoy the weekend.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Japanese Cosmetics According to Allure- A Quick Roundup


A couple of months ago Allure had a slideshow of Japanese cosmetics the magazine claimed "Will change your routine forever". I liked a previous list of Korean products, and I'm a huge fan of Asian beauty in general, so I did some further investigating. And shopping. I didn't buy all thirteen items, and I added a couple of others for good measure, since I was ordering through Amazon and their "you might also like" feature is scarily effective. Here are my impressions of the stuff I tried:

Kanebo Suisa Beauty Clear Powder. Individually-packed doses of cleansing powder. You pour it into your palm, add a bit of powder and wash your face with it. The result is kind of soapy and incredibly effective without drying my face too much, so it's great for thorough removal of sunscreen, cleansing oil, and skin debris. I've also used it with my Clarisonic brush with good results. Perfect for travel.

LuLuLun Balance Moisture Masks. I've been using sheet masks for years, both store-bought and ones I've made myself, and I have to say that these LuLuLun ones are among the least effective I've come across. The hydrating serum is weak and does nothing for my skin; I can't even say that it's particularly moisturizing. To add an annoyance, the masks are not individually packed, just float together in the main packaging so you need to makes sure you reseal it properly. To make a better use  of them I added various other serums under the masks, which worked well enough. Try Instead: Hada Labo masks.

Ichikami Kracie Hair Treatment Water. Rice water for the scalp. It's an interesting idea, and I've found that this product works as a really good scalp serum. It's calming while softening my hair. The downside is that at least for my hair the next morning I can tell that my hair has lost its shine and needs to be washed. Also, the dispensing mechanism breaks easily, so I need to pour directly from the bottle. Still, it's an interesting concept and worth trying.

Since I was already at it, I also bought other Ichikami Kracie hair products: Rice Bran Hair Care Set - Shampoo & Conditioner, and the hair mask. The shampoo and conditioner are okay, but not impressive. I can't say that they perform any better than any gentle drugstore equivalent items. I'm also not crazy about the very synthetic floral smell, though the husband liked it in my hair. The hair mask (Ichikami Premium Hair Mask), on the other hand, is wonderful. It provides extra nourishment and leaves the hair feeling healthy and soft.

Tatcha Camellia Nourishing Lip Balm. Like any other Tatcha product I've tried so far, this is a great balm, even if I'm not a fan of the jar packaging (it's a balmy gel, so I don't know why it doesn't come in a tube, either a squeeze one or with an applicator like a lip gloss. I'm also not sure the gold is really necessary, but it's a nice touch that makes this otherwise basic product feel more luxurious. 

And one bonus item from the list, which I've used in the past but didn't buy this time: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil. I think many of you are already familiar with this classic product.I'm a fan of both DHC and of oils, but this one is not necessarily my favorite. It's basically an olive oil, so I don't see the point of packaging with a heavy markup. Personally I find olive oil to be too heavy for my needs, so I passed. Try instead: Tatcha Cleansing Oil or Aroma M Camellia Oil.


Photo: Shinichi Suzuki- Japanese Woman in Traditional Dress Posing with Cat and Instrument, 1870s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Currently- June 2015



Book
Judy Blume- In the Unlikely Event. Makes me want to go and reread all of Judy Blume's books from my childhood and adolescence.I need to check what's available as a Kindle book.

Music
Jacco Gardner- Brightly


TV
John Oliver- Last Week Tonight. Also, Inside Amy Schumer. Outrageous and hilarious.

Perfume
Lots and lots and lots of vintage Chanel No.19.

Makeup
Coral glosses and lipsticks.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
Sandals.

Guilty Pleasure
Not really guilty, but the the fact it's probably irreplaceable makes using my Givenchy III body oil a poignant pleasure.

Food
California-style cottage cheese from Friendship Dairies. Don't laugh. It's the best cottage cheese I've ever had, and I could live on it. I kind of do, actually.

Bane
iPad charging cords. They stop functioning, and I can't even blame the cats in all cases.

Joy
Last week's SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality.

Anticipation
A weekend away with friends.

Wishlist
More perfume storage. We actually tried to change the layout of our bedroom to see if we can fit in another cabinet. We could, but the layout didn't work for us. so back to the first square.

Random Thought
Why did it take WholeFoods a month to restock their dried strawberries?


How are you doing? What are your loves, joys, banes, recommendations, and random thoughts? Please share.

Top image:  Vogue.com

Five Recent Product Disappointments


It's been a long time since I've done an underachievers list of shame. I guess I've been extra lucky or incredibly choosy with the makeup and cosmetics I've chosen to test. Almost everything has been good and found its use in my rotation or my skincare routine. Except for these five:

1. Nature Republic Avocado Sheet Mask. I'm a mask addict and try to use them at least five times a week. I even have the Mask Maven subscription through BeautequeMonthly.com. As a matter of fact, this avocado mask came in my subscription box, which was otherwise brilliant. Except for this pore-clogging nightmare. It took quite a bit BHA and propolis balm to get the gunk out of my pores afterwords.

2. Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream. I don't know why I had such high expectations and so much confidence in this tinted moisturizer, considering I deeply dislike most of the base products from this brand. The "Hydrating Gel Cream" got to me, most likely, and I just had to have it. Fail. I still owe you a foundation roundup from the last few months, but I can already tell you that this one will be at the bottom due to its drying effect and strange heavy finish.

3. Peter Thomas Roth Camu Camu Power C x 30™ Vitamin C Brightening Serum. After using up several bottles of excellent but stinky Vitamin C serums (Paula's Choice and Flavo-C forte), I was desperate for something effective that will not make me smell like skunk for the first eight hours of my day. This one looked like a good idea (it contains fragrance, which doesn't bother me). However, after several weeks I could tell it was doing absolutely nothing for skin brightening. Experience has taught me how to see the difference in my skin, and all the Camu Camu (Myrciaria Dubia fruit extract) in the world could not have faked it. I moved on.

4. DermOrganic Intensive Hair Repair Masque. I needed hair mask and was already at Ulta, so I picked this up on a whim. I've been so spoiled by L'Occitane that at first I wasn't sure what was going on with my hair, but the lack of extra nourishment or shine started to show. I have no idea why, since the ingredient list looks very promising. It should have worked, but it didn't. At least the smell was good and the mask is free of coconut derivatives so I didn't break out along the hairline.

5. YSL Eye Shadows. I reviewed them extensively here and here. so I won't repeat it again. But I was deeply disappointed with the latest YSL releases. Both the liquid and the powder eye shadows looked incredible in their tube and pan, but performance was shockingly sub-par, especially since there are so many excellent alternatives on the market.  

Did you have any similar encounters recently? Do these products perform better for you?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Fresh, The Tropical, And The Supposedly Inappropriate- Top Perfume Picks for Summer


Recently I've realized that for someone who doesn't believe in seasonal perfumes, I actually have certain ideas about what would smell best on a particular day; some of these scent of the day decisions do depend on the weather, even if I'm prone to wearing my vintage Eau d'Hadrien to cheer myself up mid-winter, or pick an amber that soars to high heaven on the hottest day of the year. When it comes to summer perfumes, my choices often come from three main categories:
Light/Fresh
Tropical
Big, Bigger, Biggest (sillage)

Dennis Wojtkiewicz, 2013


  • Light & Fresh

This is the most obvious for most people. It's hot and perhaps muggy outside, of course you want something that will make you feel cooler, even for five minutes. These are the citrusy colognes, the fresh leafy greens, and the sunny herbals. Here are the ones I'm wearing this season:

1. Parfumerie Generale- Papyrus de Ciane. An imaginary trip down the Nile in the 19th century. Green, soapy, and refreshing.
2. Acqua di Parma has an entire range of summer perfumes, the Blu Mediterraneo one. My favorite among them  is still Fico di Amalfi, a citrus and fig scent. But even the fresh and breezy Ginepro de Sardenga has a wonderful peppery hook that keeps things interesting.
3. Nothing in the world beats the classic Guerlain eau de colognes, and Eau de Cologne du Coq is my catnip.

Leo Lloyd Sexton, Still Life of Magnolia and Mango, 1973


  • A Tropical Vacation with a Twist
The tropics with their heady flowers and juicy fruits are summer staples. Tuberose and gardenia are especially intoxicating in the heat, and the promise of sexy nights on the beach, little white dresses and salty tan skin is irresistible (said she who lives under a thick layer of SPF50, a large hat, a silk scarf to protect the neck, and in general avoids the sun):

4. Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777- Soleil de Jeddah . Sensual, juicy, and fleshy fruit, with an incredibly complex dry-dow.
5. Not every day can be a wild  Fracas day, so sometimes it's the very modern and elegant Rubj by Vero Profumo. The extrait is my favorite, but the eau de parfum is laced with a delicious passion fruit.
6. Aftelier- Cuir de Gardenia. An all-natural perfume that takes luxury and sultriness to unimaginable heights. An animalic floral with a leathery twist.

Danish Finest,  a beauty editorial inspired by Danish furniture designed by Arne Jacobsen, 2012

  • Things That Go Bump Bloom In The Heat

This is probably the most controversial category. If most people choose perfumes that are almost guaranteed to feel fresh and not offend anyone in the already suffocating soup that passes as air on a NYC August day, sometimes the only way to beat the heat is to join it. Five years ago I listed a somewhat crazy selection of not so summery perfumes for summer, and I still stand behind it. To the list above I will also add:

7. Serge Lutens- Vetiver Oriental. Vetiver, a dry and grassy green(ish) note is actually actually very appropriate for summer, but Uncle Serge has turned it on its head making it sweeter and more buttery by adding orris and chocolate.
8. You've got to have a big amber on a list like this, and Andy Tauer's L'Air du Desert Marocain is just one option. But since it's my favorite I'm putting it here.
9. Tom Ford- Black Orchid. This one is kind of related to the lush tropical perfumes in the previous category, thanks to a gardenia note and various fruits (pineapple?). But Black Orchid has always been more than the sums of its part, and thanks to the nuclear burst and the sillage in its wake I'm putting it here. One spritz only. Two in winter.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Garden at Arles, 1888


And one last perfume:
During all the years of blogging about perfume I've tried to avoid repeating this cliche, but Annick Goutal's Eau d'Hadrien was one of the ultimate summer fragrances. Deceivingly light in its  citrusy opening, morphing into a summer in Arles as painted by Van Gogh. In the  many years since I got my first bottle of Eau d'Hadrien the fragrance has been reformulated more than once and has lost every last shred of what made it so beautiful. I've missed my chance to include it in my lists and I never even wrote a proper review. But if you or someone you know has an old bottle of the real thing give it a spritz and remember its glory days.

For more summer picks please visit my friends at Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, and Perfume Posse.



Top image via myvintagevogue.com

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Email Issues and an Apology


Seriously, it might as well be snail mail.

Remember when Gmail became oh so efficient and started separating your incoming mail into categories, one of them named "promotions"? Well, most of us are on quite a few mailing lists that include more than just us, yet Gmail gives the stinkeye to those emails. What's even worse is that some of the personal emails we get come from friends and family using their work accounts. Again, not Google's favorite thing (though flagging those seem to have been random). And if you're a blogger who is both on many a mailing list AND have professional contacts sending everything from press releases to personal pitches, emails and birthday cards: forget about. Your Promotions folder will overflow before nine am every morning.

Which brings us to my own worst practice: at some point over the last year I started categorically emptying that folder with barely a glance at its actual content. Yes, once I found an email from my sister there just before I was going to hit "Delete All", and a couple of other relevant emails did survive the almost daily carnage, but too many days to count I've just purged a hundred emails at the time while paying more attention to saving my cereal bowl from Philip and Peter who have a thing for Special K.



So this is a formal apology, a request for mercy, and a promise that if I've neglected to reply to a personal and/or important email, it's most than likely the result of Gmail being an overachiever and me be an underachiever. A dangerous combination, for sure. So, please don't take it personally, please resend anything you think might be of importance, and please accept my humblest apologies. I promise to do better starting now.

Mea Culpa.

NARS Dual-Intensity Blush In Panic





I certainly took my time with this one, haven't I?

I got Panic around the time NARS first launched their new line of Dual-Intensity blushes (there are six of them), and promptly put it aside in (excuse the pun) panic, only allowing myself to stare at it with disbelief once a day. Seriously, look at the colors and the sheen of its finish. Was this thing going on my face? I needed some time to even take the photos and swatch this blush, but that first finger-dipping led to actually playing with Panic and learning what I can do with it and what it can do for me.

NARS Dual-Intensity blush is the sibling of their Dual-Intensity eye shadow (see my swatches here, here, and here). I love the eye shadows and use them often as the focal point of an evening makeup look. They're among the most beautiful eye shadows I have, and once you figure out various ways to use each of them, they're also quite versatile. The question is if the same thing applies to a blush of similar finish and pigment intensity.

The formula of these NARS products was created to be used either dry or damp with equal effectiveness. It's not only true, but a damp brush (or a mini sponge-- try the eye shadow with the pea-size new Beauty blender) do not harm the the product that's still in the pan. It doen't change texture and never develops an icky crust. That's a brilliant feature right there. But unlike with those eye shadows where you sometimes want a foiled finish with a mega sheen, a blush might be a different story.

The swatches you see above are dry. The ones on my fingers are the result of lightly touching the surface of the blush, not even swiping it. And when I did the arm swatch I got the pearly color-fest you see in the last photo. Obviously, you need to blend this stuff as though your life depends on it, and use a small fluffy brush (a small duo-fiber is also an option). Neither the bright fuchsia nor the coral are exactly natural, but they are very very beautiful, and used judiciously they can impart some radiance and life to an otherwise sallow skin. But there's no way that I'm leaving the house sporting a metallic coral cheek, so the damp option, at least for Panic is irrelevant for me.

A friend of mine who truly understands makeup, texture and finish has told me that in her opinion the best technique for a "damp" use is actually to go all out and do a "wet" application. Meaning, mixing the blush with enough water to create a cream-to-liquid product, and then you can truly paint and blend it into a sheer color with an inner glow. I haven't tried it with Panic yet, but if NARS ever add a rich yet more muted color option to this range (it's truly missing a duo between Fervor and Adoration) I promise I'll do that. Another tip from my friend is that the real winners in this line are the highlighter colors. The more I think of it, the more Jubilation appears as a gorgeous versatile way to add dry or liquid sheen where you want it.

Bottom Line: extremely pretty, but not for the casual user.

NARS Dual-Intensity Blush In Panic ($45) is available at the counters, Sephora, NARS boutiques, and narscosmetics.com.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Laura Geller Sandy Lagoon Crème Glaze Baked Eyeshadow Intensifying Eye Palette






This was not quite an impulse purchase but almost. My general stand about Laura Geller makeup is that the face stuff is good-to-great, but the eye products I've tested over the years have all left something to be desired. But I was at Ulta and colors of the Sandy Lagoon Crème Glaze Baked Eyeshadow Intensifying Eye Palette called to be swatched. so I did, and liked what I saw, but I usually stick to my spreadsheets of planned purchases and review, so I passed. The following week I was at Ulta again, and somehow found myself at the Laura Geller display. You already know what happened.

Can you blame me? A beautiful medium blue, a rather unique wet sand color, and a taupe(ish) complex shade, all with a lovely sheen but no individual glitter particles. I could see many ways to wear these shadows and combine them with workhorse matte or satin colors from other palettes. Who could ask for anything more?




Well, I could.

Sadly, it's the gorgeous blue eye shadow that has been giving me the most trouble. If you look at the finger swatch, you can see that the blue is rather sheer and not as smooth as its siblings. In the swatches above, the sand and taupe feature one coat while I had to do two of the blue just to show its full impact. The texture is also slightly less creamy than the neutrals, which I think you can see. so the blue needs to be packed on the eyelid, which creates a massive amount of fallout. Obviously, once you get the desired results cleanup and doing your base are not an issue, but it annoys me to have my cheeks covered in sky blue color. I'm weird that way.

My first several wearings of Laura Geller's Sandy Lagoon palette were of the divide and conquer type. A damp touch of blue along the lashline, a twinkling sandy eyelid over a matte beige, taupe with everything... But the other night I decided to be brave and find a way to create an evening look with all three shadows, focusing on a bright yet smoky blue eye. My starting point was watching this tutorial by Siobhán McDonnell (formerly known as LetzMakeup). as I've said all those years ago, while Siobhán's style couldn't be more different than my own, her creativity and excellent technique are the reasons I keep watching. I had no intention leaving the house sporting that exact bright blue look, but I knew I could adjust it for the palette and my personal aesthetics.

Here's what I did (do watch the video I linked above first), and remember that I have deeply sunken eyes with a massive lid space, both mobile and under the brow bone.

1. Start with a blank face. The process gets kind of messy, so no use of doing your base until all the blue is gone from your chin.
2. Creating a smooth canvas for the eye: a good primer (I used Laura Mercier), then swipe the entire lid and brow bone with a matte nude eye shadow (I used Le Metier de Beaute, but anything from Bobbi Brown Bone to Free Spirit from the Tartelette palette will work).
2. Using a small flat eye shadow brush ( MAC 239 type, though I used the discontinued Sue Devitt Lash Line Definer) pat the blue eye shadow over the outer 2/3 parts of the mobile lid. Build the pigment to your heart's desire.
3. Using the taupe color and a crease brush fill in the crease and take the color as far and/or as high as your eye shape demands. I mostly used it to elongate the shape and blend the edges. I didn't add the touch of matte black that Siobhán had in the outer corner because it would have been too much, but I did put some extra blue for good measures.
4. Highlight the inner corner with the sand color. A tiny detail brush is best (I used my pinky finger and it ended up too much).
5. Finishing touches: a waterproof blue pencil on the waterline, blue gel eyeliner (Laura Mercier Cobalt) to tightline and along the lashes. Lots of black mascara.
6. CLEANUP.
7. Everything else (go with Siobhán's suggestion for a very nude blush and lipstick).

It was a fun look for a night out. Not something to do every day or even every week, but it was pretty and I enjoyed going slightly out of my comfort zone.

As for the palette itself, it's not a must have and not the best quality around, but if you're in love with at least two of the colors you could do worse.

Laura Geller Sandy Lagoon Crème Glaze Baked Eyeshadow Intensifying Eye Palette ($29) is available from Macy's and Ulta.

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