Saturday, November 18, 2017

Guerlain- Mon Guerlain (Perfume Review)

Usually when I take a perfume for a test run I also compose the review in my head as I'm going about my day. Once in awhile just as I'm building the argument why a fragrance is an utter disappointment I keep getting compliments from random people I encounter, leaving me with the reminder that the general public and fragonerds don't necessarily look for the same thing in perfume. Most people want to smell nice, not necessarily to stand out, and to get a level of familiar comfort from their little scent bubble. What do perfume people want? Especially, what do we want from a highly-anticipated release by one of the pillars of the industry? It's too easy to say "greatness". What does that even mean? We expect to not be bored, to get something new that doesn't reference the most commercial trends on the market, we hope for something that continues the venerable tradition without taking its name in vain. Apparently we want way too much.

Mon Guerlain was launched this year as the brand's big commercial release (for women) of the decade.  Signaling the importance Guerlain has assigned to this perfume was hiring the A-lister of all A-listers, Angelina Jolie, as the face and spokesperson of the perfume and declaring her its "icon". There were a gorgeous commercial and a photoshoot in what used to be the Jolie-Pitt French home, Chateau Miraval. There was also a press junket that included various quotes about what Guerlain means to her (the ever present bottle of Shalimar on her mother's dressing table, though Angelina herself is rumored to favor wearing masculine perfumes). All of that comes to show how seriously Mon Guerlain was taken.

Kind of. Sort of. Or at least when it came to marketing.

In reality, Mon Guerlain was a rebranding and rebottling of a limited edition fragrance from 2015, Mon Exclusif (source: Monsieur Guerlain). Despite its limited release Mon Exclusif was such a success the suits up there in LVMH knew they could make bank. And why wouldn't they? A pink juice in a modern version of the classic quadrilobe bottle, a decidedly vanillic gourmand that is still infinitely better than the pink juice of the decade, La Vie Est Belle (Lancome). And I'll take Angelina Jolie over Julia Roberts any day of the year. Add to that the endless talk about Guerlain's heritage and how they used Jicky's DNA to ground Mon Guerlain.

Jicky? What did I just say about taking the name in vain?

As someone who has a few bottles of Jicky in various concentrations from several vintages I can tell you emphatically: this ain't no Jicky. Mon Guerlain offers notes of citrus, lavender, vanilla, and coumarin, among others (coumarin is not what it used to be, but what is, really?). It's all stuff you could find in Jicky, but wearing Mn Guerlain on a hot sunny day while driving, I felt my car was filling up with the scent of functional lavender. A countertop cleaner or a fabric softener. It was deeply bothersome. Cooler days or bedtime wearings produced more of a comforting cuddle that reminded me of starched linens.  One of my friends called Mon Guerlain "a Jicky ice cream", while another found it revolting and unwearable. The Husband isn't certain he'd have pegged it as a Guerlain had I not told him.  I wouldn't go that far. Mon Guerlain deserves its shelf space next to La Petite Robe Noire and all its flankers, because that's what Guerlain is today.

We can clutch our vintage Mitsouko and Shalimar bottles all we want, but Guerlain isn't in the business of making iconic perfumes. They're here to create products that would fly off Sephora's shelves. Jacques and Aimé Guerlain were also in the business of selling perfume just as much as in making it. I don't know if back in 1889 they imagined a small group of perfume enthusiasts sitting down and weeping into their rare vintage Jicky bottles remembering (or imagining) the old days and complaining about the fake sandalwood and laundered patchouli in the 2017 Mon Guerlain. Maybe they'd be happy that the name Guerlain is still out there, perhaps they'd raise an eyebrow.

The blunt truth is that Guerlain has changed. Everything changes. We have our old bottles to remind us of old world grace (one of my treasures is a 100 year old Guerlain Heliotrope Blanc. I wear it sometimes), as well as glimpses into that world in art form. The image I chose to open this post is a series of photographs captured by Lee Miller in 1930 in front of the Champs Elysees store. We get views of the store's iconic sign, windows, and various reflections of the surroundings, all telling us little stories about the place. The most celebrated part of the series is Untitled/Exploding Hand in which we see an elegant hand (that sleeve!) clasping the Guerlain door handle amidst what looks like an electric flash but was actually the scrapings in the glass caused by decades of diamond rings on the hands of those entering and leaving the store (The Art of Lee Miller by Mark Haworth-Booth, 2007).

Guerlain- Mon Guerlain  1oz Eau de Parfum, $66.00, is available from Sephora, Ulta, and most department stores worldwide.

Images copyright of the Lee Miller Archive.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Currently- October 2017, Halloween

Man Ray, Lee Miller- Partners in Surrealism, published by Merrell, 2011. Obviously, more images than words, but the few essays there are fascinating (including one by Miller's son, Antony Penrose. Now I need to read his 1988 biography of his mother).

There's some good new stuff out there, such as the recent releases from Charlotte Gainsbourg, Beck, and Courtney Barnett. But for some reason I'm mesmerised by a new cover of an old 80s favorite, Moonlight Shadow. I think they first covered it in 2015 on their All Our Yesterdays album, but there's a new version. It might be even more haunting than the 1983 Mike Oldfield/Maggie Reilly original.

The new season of Finding Your Roots on PBS. The Larry David/Bernie Sanders episode was spectacular, as was Christopher Walken. I sit mesmerized every week by the way Professor Gates walks his guest through their ancestry and long-lost family history.

Don't laugh: I've become enchanted by last year's MAC Shadescents collection. I wasn't paying much attention when I first smelled them, but now over a year later I've been taking my time with them and having fun. They're slightly humoristic like a Halloween costume that's on the verge of vulgar but doesn't quite go there. However, if I never smell candy Yum-Yum ever again it would still be too soon.

I've been tinkering with my storage setup, rotating a few older items to the front, as well as testing new things. NARS Man Ray holiday collection is stunning, as it should be, and the same goes for Pat McGrath's Subliminal palette. I haven't decided yet what to get during the Sephora Rouge sale, but one of her lipsticks might be in the cards. On the cheap thrill side, Makeup Revolution's sub-brand Freedom has a series of 12 pan eye shadow palettes called 12-Pro. At $5.39 each (on you can't go wrong. There's an uncanny resemble to NARS Dual Intensity eye shadows and I've used them both dry and with a damp brush, and got a perverse satisfaction from pairing them with a Serge Lutens lipstick.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
Mixed metal vintage necklaces. The more the better.

Tea and a chocolate babka cake.

Bob is having various health issues that the vet can't quite diagnose. He's now sporting a modern and version of the classic cone of shame to keep him from scratching his ear. It's kind of an Elizabethan collar or a satellite dish, only bright blue and squishy enough to let him eat, drink, and sleep more comfortably.

Three of the kittens have found wonderful new homes and are happily settled. The rest of us, including Celeste, are one big happy family. The little ones we've kept are named Bingley, Jane, and Sally.

My birthday, I guess.

An antique bookcase for my playroom. Right now I have a short Billy there, crammed with art, fashion, and makeup books. It doesn't do them justice, not to mention how flimsy it appears.

Not So Random Thought
I don't believe any Hollywood or media figure who say they didn't know. There've been thinly veiled blind items about all of them for years. If Gaia from New Jerse knew so did Matt Damon.

How are you? What's on your list of loves and banes? Any wishes and recommendations?

Image: Vogue 1893 Halloween cover.

Friday, October 27, 2017

NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment

There are many NARS posts in our immediate future because I've been sitting on a growing pile of products taking my sweet time testing some.  I also had to reassemble and rearrange my photography setup ever since the guest bedroom which was where I used to do the work has become a kitten nursery. I can't say what took me so long and why I haven't thought of the brilliant idea of doing my blogging and photographing in my play room, which is where my makeup lives. Go figure. Now everything is in one place and there are fewer lip products moving around the house (not counting anything the cats have stolen and hid in their stash of milk caps, lonesome socks, pens, and tiny vials of perfume samples). In any case, this is not an all NARS all the time blog and I promise to talk about other things as well. But let's begin with the stuff that's been sitting here for the last four months or so,  NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment.

My opinion over the last twenty years has always been that NARS haven't gotten their lip game perfectly. Their colors were among the most beautiful on the market but they were flawed. Gipsy was my perfect lipstick and I've repurchased it at least three times. However, the formula made my lips crack and the lipsticks always went rancid before I completely used them up (those were the days that using up a product wasn't accompanied by a fireworks show and an announcement on social media).  was obviously a glutton for punishment, and Gipsy was so gorgeous. Eventually I stopped the self-punishment and moved on.  My favorite lip gloss was also NARS. Gothika, if I remember correctly. The formula was excellent for the time and the color, again, was brilliant. It was the way the familiar slightly chemical smell of NARS product that started going stale and rancid mid-tube that used to drive me crazy. But what was the alternative? Lancome's Juicy Tubes?

My point is that NARS has been trying and trying hard to improve. There were a number of limited edition formulas that didn't make it into the permanent line, innovative chubby sticks in more divine colors (and horrid smell that doesn't stop me from using up and repurchasing Rikugien and Cruella), and sometimes a sensational formula like their Audacious lipsticks. It's the liquid stuff where they most often stumble. Last year's release (permanent) was the Velvet Lip Glide, while now we have the Powematte Lip Pigment which took me forever to decide if I love them or hate them.

The Powermattes were obviously formulated to be more matte and pretty much along the lines of the modern liquid lipsticks. I'm not sure it works quite this way. Once again you need an unbelievable small amount of product for a sane and sustainable application. The redesigned wand is narrow and more precise, so in theory you can outline your lips perfectly. However, due to the goopiness by the time your cupid's bow is all ready to go the rest of your mouth has gone vampire after a snack. The lipstick takes a few seconds to dry (and much longer if you've been over-applying, as you can see in some of my swatches), and in the meantime it slides around feeling oddly oily on the lips. I haven't tried Lancome's Matte Shakers (the Juicy Shakers made me almost give up on the brand), but my friend Josie says the feeling is eerily similar.

So here's what I have to say after wearing several of these NARS Powermatte Lip Pigments for a few months (more than half of them are in the process of being rehomed): Start with a lip liner, matching or clear. It's non-negotiable as you can see in the watches that these colors bleed. Take me seriously about the tiny amount to use and apply it with a brush. Carefully. Don't touch anything until you're sure the color is dry enough (it will still transfer). Since the ones I've kept are mostly the red ones, any wrong move has resulted in a crime scene situation. It's a power pigment, alright. Dark colors will stain. Your lips, hands, pets. It requires a serious oil (I use camelia) to fully remove. Cats would prefer oil from a tuna can.

Now to the colors themselves. I've grouped them according to what made sense during the second and a half before Georgie (that's a cat, if you're new around here) tried to take off with the disposable applicators, clean and dripping with color, I used for swatching (see: rehoming). I'm sure you get the picture.

The Really Dark Ones

Paint It Black- A blackened purple or an inky brown purple.
Rock With You- Slightly charred beetroot. Wears beautifully.
Wild Night- I think Nick Rhodes had this in the 80s. A very dark red-based purple.

The Reds

Light My Fire- A predictably orange red.
Starwoman- Cherry red
Don't Stop- A very classic movie star red.
Just Push Play- Kind of a (fresh) blood red, very close to Starwoman.
Under My Thumb- A berry red.

Nudes and Browns

American Woman- This is the only one from this group I can wear. It's a warm dusty rose that leans beige.
Walk This Way- A slightly brighter and peachier version of the above.
Slow Ride- There's a stage in making caramel for toffee that looks like this.
Done It Again- This one actually belongs with the darkest group. Pure chocolate.
Get It On- J.Lo beige.
Just What I Needed- A darker and more red toffee, or a pink-based brick.

Pinks & Roses

Get Up Stand Up- A Betty Draper kind of retro coral-pink.
Low Rider- Another reto, this one from the 80s.  I had a shirt this color.
Give it Up- Pink Fuschia.
Warm Leatherette- Raspberry.
Save the Queen- A muted mauve (or is mauve always muted? In any case, please please please save the Queen).
London Calling- A corpsy purple, and I mean it in the best possible way.

Bottom Line: NARS wins at colors, and I was particularly happy to see such a wide range that's more inclusive than most. If you see the color of your dreams the hassle of application is worth it. Otherwise, buy an Audacious lipstick.

NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment ($26 each) are available at the usual suspects: department stores, Sephora, and online. The entire set of colors was sent to me by the company's PR.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Currently- September 2017

September got lost in a fluff of cat hair, odd weather, and a world that sometimes feels like it was written by Shirley Jackson. Today actually feels like fall, and the green bubble that surrounds our house and neighborhood has an air of anticipation. Three of the kittens are spoken-for, Celeste seems to be settling-in nicely, and there's a young cat from her previous litter (after Gloria & co but before the Famous Six) who makes appearances in our yard and we must trap and spay before it's too late. Whoever released Celeste into the wild has earned a special place in hell.

I'm about to embark on a YA novel. The sequel to the 1000th Floor. Because my brain is all that these days.

There's a lot of good new stuff, from the ear-pleasing Jack Johnson album to the emotionally satisfying Goths by the Mountain Goats, but I just listened to the PJ Harvey and Thom York collaboration, This Mess We're In. It's still as stirring as ever.

Big Little Lies was binge-worthy, and I just watched the documentary about Princess Diana's death and funeral on Netflix, but the next great things are the new seasons of Transparent and One Mississippi.

It's really fall, so I'm wearing Fumerie Turque. It's a Pavlovian thing for me.

Things that require glitter glue. I want to shine, but there will be no fallout in this face.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
Kitten-proof attire isn't exactly glamorous. Black leggings or jeans and sheer flowy silk tops when I'm trying to look sane.

Buttered and toasted poppy seed bagels.

Have Children Lost Touch With Nature? I know little of nature and even less of children, but it's interesting.

Is there a word for fear of home renovations? Our master bath is in a dire need. You'll hear me complain more about it, I'm sure.

Mr. Bingley

My best friend is about to walk in the door any minute now.

An Indian summer.

Random Thought
The poop emoji is extremely useful when describing cleaning litter boxes used by kittens.

How are you? What's on your list of loves and banes? Any wishes and recommendations?

Art: September 1970, The New Yorker

Thursday, September 14, 2017

It's All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye Shadow

Misadventures in depotting.

I've never been a depotter. I'm a purist who loves original packaging and can tell in a glance what's in every compact (and sometimes label them for ease of access). As one of those weirdos who still buys and uses single eye shadows, alone or to supplement a palette, I remember what I have and which drawer hosts them. It's all good. That's why I can't explain what gotten into me one afternoon a couple of months ago as it occurred to me that my cherished collection of Rouge Bunny Rouge  singles and custom trios has been under-utilized for a while for o good reason. I figured it was because it's very hard to tell which is which. The sticker with the name of the shadow is so tiny it's impossible to read, The trios are impossible to label if they stand on their side, so somehow these best-in-class beauties are often overlooked. The obvious solution: depot. Right.

Except that I'm not exactly a depotting pro. I refuse to use heat when separating the pan from its compact for fear of burning down the house or filling said house with the odor of burning plastic. And I'm stubborn.

I own that sharp depotting tool by Z-Palette which I've been using  relocate random MAC, Anastasia, and other magnetized singles from one palette to another. I know the theory: you stick the pointy end of the tool between pan and plastic, wiggle gently, slide it ever so slightly to the side, and feel the pan detach from the glue that holds it and pop into freedom. Except that in reality the spatula thingy jumps a bit, stabs you in the palm of your hand and pokes the precious soft eye shadow, chipping chunks from its surface or breaking it into crumbles that end up on one's Chinese rug.

Five survived out of ten full size Rouge Bunny Rouge single eye shadows.

Luckily that was the very week RBR had a brilliant 50% off sale. I hopped online, ordered the refill size of the fallen (for those available) and replacement singles when not. They'll stay in the original packaging. I'll deal.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Currently- August 2017

Previously on Cats of Our Lives (mostly for those not following Jersey Cats  or my Instagram): When this happened last year the husband and I failed miserably at trapping the young mother who gave us Georgie, Lilian, and Gloria. During this time she had at least one if not two more litters who made brief appearances at the yards of our neighbors as well as here. Then on June this year I've watched her do the dirty right outside our bedroom window with the cat who fathered Gloria et al. . That was it. We were on a mission. Said mission was sort of put on the backburner for several weeks as our oldest cat, Peter, was on a rapid decline. He passed away a couple of weeks ago on Friday at age 16 and a half, which considering the myriad of health issues that bothered him since a very young age, was a small miracle in itself. He was a loving creature and I've loved him fiercely for his sweetness, weirdness, and funny little habits.

That same weekend, on Sunday, the Blond set the HAVAHART trap on our deck, hoping not to meet any of our opossums or other wildlife up close. Not even half an hour later he heard that telling click of the trap, and braced himself to apologize deeply to Arlo the groundhog.Only it wasn't Arlo. It was the very pregnant momma cat whom we've named Celeste as far back as last year. A quick tip to our vet (a trusted clinic that's open on Sundays=priceless) affirmed Celeste's condition, her good nature, and excellent health and we were on our way home, where we've transformed the guest bedroom (sorry, guests!)  into a maternity ward as well as a "from stray to domestic" school zone. We thought we had between a week to ten days to settle Celeste into a routine, but contraction started the next evening, and we watched it all happen on a closed-circuit camera we installed in the room (for Celeste, not for our guests, I promise). The next few days were a blur and i was not fully clear exactly how many kittens were in that sweet little pile hanging on Celeste's belly. The answer turned out to be seven.

Unfortunately, within a couple of days we realized something was wrong. Celeste was acting like a trooper, but she was visibly in pain. We rushed her to the vet who diagnosed an acute uterine infection (part of the placenta was still inside). She had to undergo an  emergency hysterectomy (plus the rest of the plumbing for good measures) to save her life. By the time she came back home practically as good as new the next afternoon we've lost the runt of the litter despite our best efforts (feedings every two hours day and night), but I couldn't even dwell on that. Here was a cat after a major surgery that needed to produce enough milk for six kittens. With our help, of course, but still. I can keep talking about all things kitten and lactation until we all grow whiskers, but I'll just tell you that at this point the babies have more than doubled their birth weight and today the first one has broken the 7oz point. Cue a happy milky dance.

We're adopting Celeste as we've always meant to do, and hope to quickly find the gorgeous kittens the loving homes they deserve. Considering how incredible their older siblings (same mother AND father) turned out to be, who wouldn't want one (or three)?   I have to say that with all that's been going on in our country and beyond over the last couple of weeks I'm not mad that my personal world right now revolves around feline bodily functions.

Book/Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure
Taking my attention span into account all I manage to read are Game of Thrones recaps. Almost each and every one of them. Most of them might not provide any new insight, and some are downright silly (seriously? the healthiest romantic relationship is between Cersei and Jaime? And what's with all the Jorah hate? I adore the guy). Still, my favorites are the ones on NPR blog (Monkey See), the Washington Post, and both recaps (Unsullied and Sullied) on Watchers On The Wall. Apparently I can also talk about Thrones until we all grow reddish whiskers like Tormund's.

I can see you all roll your eyes. But one last thing: Were I the only one almost screaming at the screen when Sam completely ignored Gilly's huge discovery regarding Prince Rhaegar's marriage annulment? Yes, dragons, ice zombies, and ice zombie-dragons, I know. But I totally watch it for the family drama.
Also: How satisfying was the series finale of Orphan Black? I'm glad Rachel wasn't reinducted into #cloneclub. The only thing that could have made it better was a return of Daario Naharis from whatever frozen Tundra he was last seen roaming (or Meereen. Nobody deserves to get stuck forever in Meereen).

As much as I dislike the name of the band Cigarettes After Sex I really do enjoy their Apocalypse. Actually the entire album is excellent.

I told a friend that today I smell like a lactating cat dipped in Parfumerie Generale's Cuir Venenum. The latter blooms nicely in summer heat. But my biggest current infatuation is Bruno Fazzolari's Secret Feu. It's iris. It's Bruno. And it stays on my skin all day.

All the blue, teal, and turquoise eyeliners.  I might not go anywhere tropical in the near or far future, but my waterline WILL be Caribean blue. If you're unsure about it, try L'Oreal Infallible Silkissime Eyeliner pencil in True Teal.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
Other than my glam kitten-nursing outfits my dearest items are light scarves that hide any skin that might pick out from my dresses and see sunlight. I cover up like my life depends on it, which in a way I guess it does.

Meh. I'm over food. Unless it's butter (say it in Paul Hollywood's accent).

Let's not talk about it. Actually, you know what? Some things MUST be talked about, even though it's a beauty blog.  I try to keep my political views to myself for the most part, even when it gives me a serious case of TMJ.  But not today. Not this week. Not ever. Nazis are not nice people. Here. I said it.

Talking with my 9 year old niece about books.

Our 21st wedding anniversary.

Random Thought
I've spent embarrassingly long time pondering which one of the nerd trio on Buffy was the closest depiction of Joss Whedon. I used to think it was Jonathan, but apparently this entire time it was Andrew with a side of Warren.

Good homes for all kittens.
Also, a floral dress that goes from sumer to fall and won't make me look like Caroline Ingalls.

How've you been? What's on your list of loves and banes? Any wishes and recommendations?

Art: Insho Domoto, Cats, 1922.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Surviving August- Products For The Dog Days of Summer (and some nagging about SPF)

In all truth, this post should feature nothing but a single photo of the mammoth-sized air conditioning unit that sits behind the house. I owe it my sanity and should decorate it with flower garlands and assorted precious offering (preferably such that don't attract Arlo the groundhog). still, this is a blog about personal grooming, and as such we need to talk products. I'll skip the obvious: deodorants and blotting papers, a good rapport with one's pedicurist, and a large hat collection. Instead,let's look at the little things.

1. A good body powder to be used after the shower and before getting dressed. I'm all for luxurious Chanel after bath powders and even have a couple of pristine Givenchy III and Jovan Sculpture (a fogotten chypre) that I use before bed, but for daily use in generous quantities (and then some) I go with a classic, Roberts Borotalco, which you can find in various sizes and cheap prices on Amazon. It keeps my skin comfortable, non-sweaty, and fresh smelling from head to toe.

2. La Roche-Posay Serozinc spray. Not pictured here because I was distracted by something shiny while arranging the shoot, but this high-zinc water spray is calming my face and neck after scrubbing them to remove sweat and sunblock,  to recover from a heat rash or an allergy reactio, or just when my face is telling me that we both hate August. American stockist of La Roche-Posay don't have this miracle in a blue atomizer, but it's hard to find online from store like Notino.

3. Here's another essential  forgot to put in the photo. My old Clarisonic brush works extra hard during the summer (nothing like the gunk of a full day makeup, sunscreen, and good old sweat). I also has a Clarisonic Mia that was sent to me by PR a couple of years ago and has traveled the world with me. Since my skin is of certain age and more sensitive than ever, I use the brush with the dirt-cheap yet extremely gentle Cerave hydrating cleanser (it doesn't remove a speck of makeup by itself, but as the Clarisonic's sidekick it's excellent).

4. It's no secret that when I'm not out among people I keep my hair (all or partial) away from my face, up in a bun, half-and-half Middleton-style, or just twisted into one big mess at the nape of my neck (most likely). Even more than I like to hold my hair in pretty things I need said fripperies to be of an industrial strength. None of this is relevant if you have wispy silky strands that can be braided into glorious Daenerys Targaryen hairdos, but I need the big guns which I find at France Luxe. Some of these clips and barrettes are full glam and cost as much, others are a good balance of style and quality. I bu several new ones a couple of times a year because a girl with big hair needs a) variety, and b) some air flow on the back of her neck.

5) Dry Shampoo. Actually, all the shampoo in the world. But I've had days when my recently washed scalp was already crying for mercy by the time I was getting ready to go out for dinner in the city (also known as the polluted sauna). Bridging the gap is a good dry shampoo, and while I've recently tested that much-hyped foam one from Ouai, I was not impressed and promptly went back to my old favorite, aptly named New York Streets. I used to buy it by the dozen on Amazon, now it looks like a Walmart exclusive, which doesn't thrill me, but I'll pay the devil if I have to. Or switch to Colab.

6) The problem with waterproof mascaras is how cumbersome it is to fully remove them by the end of the day. Soaking, oiling, carefully babying, and you still end up with a faint trace under the lashes come morning. Tubing mascaras have been around for over twenty years, and I've recently gone back to the classic, Blinc. It forms a coat around the lashes (hence increasing volume), stay in place without disintegrating even under the worst conditions, and come evening you can take them all off with no rubbing or tugging, just use a washcloth well-soaked in very warm (not too hot) water.

7) Pure Aloe Vera gel. Yes, I also have Benadryl in cream and gel stashed in handbags ad around the house, but aloe is kinder and more versatile (burns, rashes, scrapes, bites, annoying people). I've been buying the one from Lily of the Desert for as long as I can remember. Some drugstores offer non-pure ones that are enriched with lidocaine or various antiseptics.

8) Waterproof eyeliners in easy to use gel formulas are everywhere. I'm an equal opportunity liner and my favorite come from many brands. Lancome Liqui-Drama (Sephora Exclusive) and YSL are outstanding for the range of gorgeous colors, but the Essence waterproof gel pencil ($1.49 on essencemakeup website) is among my (many many) staples.

9. Forgetting that one's lips require an SPF is the easiest thing in the world. You do your makeup, you prep, prime, line. and color, then you start your day and not always remember to do the whole thing right away between lunch and the car trip back. Any other scenarios apply. I love (love love) Coola Lip SPF. Tinted, plain, mineral, whatever. They all come in an SPF 30 and are very literally life savers.

10. Which brings us to the other life savers, and I mean that without a shred of sarcasm. The anti-aging benefits are nice and all, but a zealous and fanatical use of sunscreens does save lives. I'm cheating a bit here, since it's not an August or a dog days of summer product, but a 365 day a year thing, no exceptions. It's frustrating to see every corner pharmacy in France offering a variety of top-notch cosmetically elegant sunscreens at reasonable prices while our drugstores dole out those heavy white goops that promptly break me out and are impossible to use under makeup (and not that all of the eye-watering expensive stuff at department store counters is all that fantastic, either). Lucky for us this is 2017, consumer needs are heard (at least in some markets), and this internet thingy is making life easier.

I generally favor chemical sunscreen because they're the lightest and my skin is happy with them even if they contain alcohol. I buy tubes upon tubes of Japanese ones (Hada Labo and Biore) either online or at the local Japanese market, and use them like water (at around $13 a pop it's never an issue). Both my mother and husband have now converted. I also adore many French SPFs (see "cosmetically elegant"), though I purchase the European formulas and ot the USA versions, and do it through (try sticking to your shopping list and not buying half of France). It's worth the wait time. They sell many brilliant sun protection products from bigger and smaller brands. My two favorites (texture and performance) are Uriage Bariesun SPF50 Cream (fragrance free) because it's gentle enough even on allergy days, and Bioderma Photoderm SPF50+ Laser Cream because it's the lightest and most pampering, yet effective enough for people undergoing laser treatments, so it's a no-brainer for a heavy retinoid and acid user like me (about $30 at the retailer mentioned above).

When it comes to purely physical sunscreens I've never had much luck until I've discovered Hydropeptide Solar Defense. The previous incarnation was only 30 SPF which I didn't consider enough for a midday outing but was adequate for a pre-sunset drive. It's now replaced with a beautiful SPF 50  ($48 on dermstore) that has a certain opalescent finish which I love under my foundation. It's the one SPF I'm willing to use instead of a primer, as it does a phenomenal job on both counts.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Five Little Makeup Tips That Make A Difference

It's always about the little things. I'm not going to tell you how important it is to avoid demarcation lines when applying foundation or blush, nor am I going to talk about blending your eye shadow (my personal rule about blending is that once everything is done and finished I take a clean brush and give my crease one more blending. It's kind of like the "look in the mirror and take one thing off just before leaving the house"). You already  know all of that and a lot more. The tips I'm sharing today are very little things that are easy to overlook though they make such a difference for me that I thought it's worth considering.

1. A good lighted magnifying mirror. They're terrifying and I doubt anyone enjoys staring at moon surface that is one's face monstrously enlarged. But this view is essential for at least two things: precision in applying eyeliner (especially since my eyesight is not what it used to be and I don't wear contacts), and getting a real idea of how my foundation, primer, and concealer interact with each other. The mirror shows streaks, flakes, questionable areas, and what really happens in my pores. It's the only way to truly judge a foundation as far as I'm concerned, as well as the true effectiveness of skincare. I use the Simplehuman 8" sensor mirror x5, and will probably add a small x10 at some point.

2. When it comes to eyelid primers less is more. I'm an enthusiastic advocate for primers. I use them on my face, lids, lips, and occasionally lashes. I never skip priming and will not consider doing a full face of makeup without this step. I've realized, though, how easy it is to apply too much, and I see the results occasionally on people's faces. I have yet to encounter an eye primer that requires more than the tiniest, almost pin-sized amount to create the desired invisible, smooth, perfect canvas. Annoyingly, whether you use a product in a squeeze tub or one that comes with a doe-foot applicator, the intuitive thing is to use the entire amount that comes out. That's at least twice what's needed, resulting in visible streaks, bleeding towards the lashes, pooling in the outer corners, and an even eye shadow application. The worst offender I know is Smashbox Photo Finish Lid Primer. The formula is fantastic and it comes in five shades, so it can camouflage hyperpigmentation on the lid. It fulfils every promise, but only if you scrape the applicator again and again and again, and then use a brush to pick a miniscule amount off it.

3. No matter how beautifully my mascara applies and how good it is, my lashes benefit from a quick go-through with a good lash comb. It's such a tiny thing that's easy to skip when in a hurry, but combing is the only way to completely separate the lashes, remove clamps, and create sophisticated  and elegant lashes. I know that retro heavy clumpy lashes were back for half a minute, but I prefer to avoid the 80s Aziza mascara look.

4. I like to start my makeup routine with exfoliating my lips. It doesn't matter what one uses: a homemade sugar-and-oil paste (messy and not my favorite, but it works), a balm/lanolin and a washcloth, or a commercial lip scrub (I like MAC and Milani, but will us whatever I've picked up while shopping for other things). Doing it removes flakes and also slightly prepares and plumps the lips for lipsticks. Treating the lips early one in the process gives them time to absorb some product, which helps prevent drying.

5. Good brows have both color and texture. When in a hurry it's tempting to go with the easiest, most fool-proof product one favors (for me that's Glossier Boy Brow in Brown with it's tiny brush and perfect-for-me color, but many prefer a clear gel or are so used to a specific pencil they can do it in their sleep). The thing is that achieving the perfect yet natural brows requires creating a three dimensioned realistic brow, not just filling in the gaps. This requires using two products of different textures that create a tiny bi of volume. It doesn't matter if it's pencil plus powder, powder plus gel, a pomade plus pencil or power--- whatever works. It's  that tiny bit of fullness that makes the brows look real and not painted-on.

Do you have small, almost trivial makeup tricks that make a world of difference?

The amusing image at the top is part of a beauty feature that appeared in the June 1972 issue of Vogue UK.

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