Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal

Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal, or in its full name "Sarah McNamara Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal Eye & Face" has been sitting atop my testing tray for months now as I've been trying to figure it out. I finally have a verdict of sort, after using this concealer on every area of my face and various body parts as well.

Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal is obviously a heavy duty product, one that's meant for camouflaging serious blemishes and discolorations. It requires a teeny tiny drop to cover wide areas, and you have to work it into a thinner paste as it's very very stretchy. In that regard, application is similar to classics like Dermablend and Kevyn Aucoin SSE (that latter is my holiest of grails in this category. SX 10 is an almost perfect match for me). The first problem with Miracle skin Transformer is that it's drier, so unlike the vehement claims in the press release and on  retailers websites, applying it on the eye area is a big NO. Also, if you've treating your skin for blemishes or using various chemical exfoliators to get rid of unsightlies, the concealer will enhance every flake and line in that area.

The other issue is color. Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal comes in four shades (don't ask me why Ulta only stocks one)-- again compare to the broad selection of Kevyn Aucoin or Dermablend. I received the one in Medium, and you can see what a bad fit it is for me. I don't blame (much) the product. My skin tone is notoriously baffling and impossible, with the expected depth of a Mediterranean pigment but at its palest form and with both ashy green and reddish undertones, and nary a hint of yellow. It's a color-specialist's nightmare, but "medium" colors are usually closer to the ballpark than what you see above.

I've given up on using the concealer anywhere on my face for reasons of dryness and bad color match, but as a cat owner I usually have various marks and scratches on my body (Marigold is notorious for climbing us like a tree). what I'v found is that by working a tiny drop between your fingers until it's warm and completely pliable, and patting it on a scratch, a puncture hole or a scab, it gives me a good and long-lasting coverage. That has to amount for something.

Bottom Line: far from perfect.

Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal ($34) is available from Ulta and Dermstore. The product for this review was sent by PR.

Monday, March 02, 2015

House Of Cherry Bomb- Tuberose Tobacco Cognac

The book I'm going to read tonight in bed is 'Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball' by Deborah Davis. The year was 1966, and the only place to be on the night of November 28th was the Plaza Hotel in NYC. Everyone wanted an invitation but only select 540 got the chance to be there and rub shoulders and masks with the likes of Frank Sinatra and his young wife Mia Farrow, Lee Radziwill, Lauren Bacall, and Tallulah Bankead (above). which brings us to the question: What perfume would you wear to such an event had you been invited?

Tonight my answer is Tuberose Tobacco Cognac from the House of Cherry Bomb, the collaboration of two NYC perfumers Maria McElroy (Aroma M) and Alexis Karl (Scent by Alexis). It seems like a good fit: dark as a night, warm like a plush ballroom, rich and heady as the atmosphere of the most coveted event of the century. We can only guess that the air that night was thick and heavy with smoke, booze, and hundreds and hundreds perfumes from an era before sillage became a dirty word. The white ball gowns of the ladies were created by the likes of Dior, Givenchy, and Halston. The scents probably matched the fur coats and dazzling jewelry. And Tuberose Tobacco Cognac, with its swirls of heady aromas, boozy and floral, tough and soft, would have been right at home.

The first thing I get from this Cherry Bomb is tuberose. You must love this note and love it dearly to enjoy Tuberose Tobacco Cognac, but that's pretty obvious from the name. The soaring femininity of the narcotic flower is counterbalanced by the full-bodied honeyed cognac and the even more honeyed yet mellow tobacco. On my skin it doesn't smell particularly smoky, just very thick. It's like an old box that's still redolent of sweet tobacco than the actual material.

There are other floral threads woven into the perfume's body, all intoxicating in the height of their bloom. This goes well with the touch of animalic that leads into the dry-down: dirty musk, skin-like ambergris, the smell of the warm bodies dancing the night away at the Plaza.

Tuberose Tobacco Cognac ($75, 1 oz EDP) is one of the atelier perfumes offered by the House of Cherry Bomb. It can be purchased in person at the studio (10th floor at 68 Jay Street, Brooklyn ) or through the Etsy store (I highly recommend ordering the sample set or the discovery set). Link provided for your convenience only and I'm not compensated in any way, shape or form.The perfumers provided the sample for this review.

To read more about Truman Capote's party check out this blog post on Fashion's Most wanted.
Photograph of Tallulah Bankhead arriving at the ball by Henry Grossman.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Want: Yellow Freesia Purse by Eight Seasons

It's snowing again (what else is new?), but I'm telling myself that spring is just around the corner. And summer. Remember summer? This bag from Estonian designer Eight Seasons is the perfect cure for the winter doldrums and the "Feels like 14 degrees" that my weather app just announced.

Measurements are 10.3" (26cm) high, 12.7" (32cm) wide,  and4.4" (11cm) deep, so it won't fit the kitchen sink but still roomy enough for all the usual necessities. This color is quite bold, but I don't have a yellow purse. Yet. So why not?

$289 on Eight Season's Etsy store.

Link provided for your convenience. I'm not affiliated and not compensated in any way, shape, or form. But you already knew that, right?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NARS and Photographer Steven Klein to launch makeup line

Photographer Steven Klein

Today's big beauty news comes from Page Six. François Nars was seen and heard having lunch with photographer Steven Klein (link partially NSFW) and discussing the launch of a makeup collaboration, due around the holidays. I'm not sure what exactly will be Klein's role in the makeup itself, as it is said that independent art director Fabien Baron is going to be in charge of the overall look of the products. But we can expect an edgy campaign, and hopefully several covetable items.

This is not the first time François Nars finds inspiration in an artist's work. The Guy Bourdin collection from Holiday 2013 was definitely interesting, as was the Andy Warhol collection the year before. But in this case we're talking about a living photographer who is going to have an input. I'm curious to see where it goes.

EDIT: These story is now confirmed by NARS PR.

Winter Skin- Let's Talk About It

My friend and reader Liz left this comment on yesterday's post:
"My winter skin is absolutely parched and cracking. I desperately need an addition to my routine to add moisture back in. My trusted Shiseido isn't working well at present."
Sounds familiar?

 Winter skin is frustrating, uncomfortable, and generally not pretty. No matter if we spend a lot of time in the freezing and dry outdoors or in arid  overheated rooms, the result is the same. So how do you battle it?

I haven't changed my skincare routine much, but for the last few winters I've been relying more heavily on Dr. Jart+ Sleep Mask, but I use it twice a day without rinsing. In the morning it's the last step after moisturizer (or sometimes just before. I can't say I'm keeping the order very religiously), and it makes a visible difference. In general, I think that masks are the answer, and if you can find 5-10 minutes at night to do an Asian paper mask (either pre-made or a DIY), things can improve dramatically. But no-rinse masks like Dr. Jart or the various ones from Sisley are even easier and completely fuss-free.

Do you have more tips and advice on dealing with winter skin? Please share with us!

Snow Queen illustration by Artuš Scheiner for Andersen's Fairy Tales, 1934.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

DHC Resveratrol Essence

Last month I've mentioned that DHC Resveratrol lotion (a Japanese equivalent of a hydrating toner) has made its way into my skincare rotation. I told you that it's a decent competent, product, probably too expensive for what it does, but pleasant nonetheless. It took me a bit longer and a lot more testing to make up my mind on its companion, DHC Resveratrol Essence, but I think that I can finally share it with you.

In Japanese cosmetics an "essence" is the runny milky serum that you apply after your lotion/toner and before a moisturizer cream. The names are confusing, but once you get it and remember that the "lotion" is the watery stuff and the essence is a serum in a thin lotion form things become simpler. I was first introduced to this concept by Kanebo Sensai (no longer available in the US). DHC Resveratrol Essence is very similar to the Kanebo Essence, but cheaper and easy to obtain.

DHC Resveratrol Essence doesn't appear revolutionary, and the ingredient list (see below) is pretty straightforward. But the proof is in the winter-ravaged skin, and I can tell that it is nourishing, softening, and acts as a moisture magnet for whatever else I put on my skin afterwards. The softening effect is the big thing here, because this is the one thing I can't get enough during this season. Resveratrol is a polyphenol antioxidant found in the skin of red grapes, so it is a good-for-you anti-aging material. It's pretty far down the list, though, so I can't vouch for its effectiveness,  but I use so much other antioxidants that I doubt it matters much.

Hydrating lotions are also the heart and soul of Japanese sheet masks. I've used both this essence and the toner for this purpose (when not being lazy), as well as in combination: soaking the paper mask in the lotion and putting it over a face slathered with the essence (about twice as much as you'd use in a quick pre-makeup routine). I always want to take a nap like that, but in reality I either watch a YouTube makeup video or read a bit (still more relaxing than catching up on email).

Ingredients: water/aqua/eau, butylene glycol, squalane, pentylene glycol, glycerin, glycosyl trehalose, sodium methyl stearoyl taurate, behenyl alcohol, hydrogenated lecithin, hydrogenated starch hydrolysate, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, phenoxyethanol, sodium hydroxide, tocopheryl acetate, disodium EDTA, resveratrol, hydrolyzed soy protein, isodonis japonicus leaf/stalk extract, oryza sativa (rice) extract, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, hydrolyzed collagen, sodium hyaluronate

Bottom Line: when my skin is happy I am happy.

DHC Resveratrol Essence ($61) is available from DHCcare.com. The product for this review was sent by PR.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fragrant by Mandy Aftel- Book Review

*Disclosure: the author of the book is a dear personal friend*

It took me longer than usual to finish reading Fragrant by Mandy Aftel. The reason was that the book is a rich tapestry-as rich and intricate as its beautiful cover (which also translates to the inside design, from typeface to illustrations). I took it in small portions, little morsels of perfume stories, facts, quotes,  and recipes.  Fragrant feels like a box of the most luxurious artisan-made truffles (incidentally, Mandy Aftel is a chocolate connoisseur), which you have to appreciate one by one and not binge on the whole thing).

The narrative of Fragrant is an exploration of five aromatic materials: mint, cinnamon, frankincense, jasmine, and ambergris, through the way we perceive them, and the way they influence us and our emotions. The book can be accompanied by a companion kit ($25 on Aftelier.com) that includes cinnamon and mint essential oils, frankincense resin, as well as jasmine and ambergris tinctures. The latter will probably knock the socks off newcomers to perfume that never experienced this legendary ingredient.

Speaking of fragrance newbies: too many perfume books, even those that aspire to explain the fundamentals (categories, scent pyramid, etc.) stumble during the effort to pull those readers into the perfume world, perhaps because they lack the emotional aspect. Mandy Aftel's writing is as affecting as her perfume artistry, so she pulls you into her world and shows you its magic. Long-time followers of this blog know that when considering a perfume book I often ask myself how likely it is to grab my own sister: a fragrance lover who owns several bottles, never leaves the house without wearing scent, yet is completely baffled by my own perfume life and the passion that holds it together. I have a feeling that reading Mandy Aftel's book may give people like her a push in the right direction.

For me, there are two things that stand out the most in the book: Mandy's own vision, and commitment to honest perfumery, as well as the depth of research that holds the book together, as represented by the little-known facts and quotes. My absolute favorite is this one by Oscar Wilde from The Picture of Dorian Gray, which proves that dear Oscar was one of us:
"And so he would now study perfumes and the secrets of their manufacture, distilling heavily scented oils and burning odorous gums from the East. He saw that there was no mood of the mind that had not its counterpart in the sensuous life, and set himself to discover their true relations, wondering what there was in frankincense that made one mystical, and in ambergris that stirred one's passions, and in violets that woke the memory of dead romances, and in musk that troubled the brain, and in champak that stained the imagination; and seeking often to elaborate a real psychology of perfumes, and to estimate the several influences of sweet-smelling roots and scented, pollen-laden flowers; of aromatic balms and of dark and fragrant woods; of spikenard, that sickens; of hovenia, that makes men mad; and of aloes, that are said to be able to expel melancholy from the soul."
And a final word from the husband:

"Fragrant has a unique meditative quality. While broadly telling the stories of 5 fragrant heroes, the unusual mix of history with science, facts and folklore, personal opinions and actual perfume making recipes, has an interesting effect. Even without a common narrative or a mystery to be solved, it draws you in and fascinates, enlighten and challenges you to examine again the fragrant world around you. We take for granted today scents that were the pinnacle of luxury in the past. I found myself reflecting on the richness and abundance of spices and essences available today and appreciating them more.

I also enjoyed Mandy's mini essays about perfumery today and her insider take on the industry.
This is what I'd imagine spending a wonderful week in one of Mandy's workshops feels like. Hearing her opinions, stories, anacdotes and rants while learning about high end perfumery.  "

Fragrant by Mandy Aftel is available from Amazon (around $21 for the hardcover, $11.99 for the Kindle edition). I received the hardcover directly from the publisher and the companion kit from Mandy, but also purchased the ebook as these days I find it easier to read on my iPad.

Art: "And she proceeded to burn perfume and repeat spells until the sea foamed and was agitated"-- The Story of the Gulnare of the Sea  by Maxfield Parrish, Arabian Nights, 1909

Smasbox Be Legendary Long-Wear Lip Lacquer In Bordeaux

I'll start with the bottom line: Smasbox Be Legendary Long-Wear Lip Lacquer is the most impressive lip product I've come across in ages, putting it (for me) in the same category with Wllis Faas Hot Lips, but perhaps even better. There are several lip lacquers on the market these days, and I probably like most of them (Shiseido comes to mind), but Smashbox Be Legendary takes things a step further in terms of formula (rich and nourishing) and an unparalleled longevity: the stain remains fully in place throughout the day, lunch, cake, snack, dinner, several cups of tea, and a late-night bread pudding (don't ask). Then I have to use a(n eye) makeup cleanser to take off what remains.

It's that good.

I was sent the one in Bordeaux as an example of Smashbox doing the Marsala trend. It's a beautiful rich blood-red color, regardless of Pantone and other crazes. I tend to cringe at the "color of the year" thing. The best way to make me avoid something is by telling me that everyone is wearing/buying/doing it, but unlike the vile Radiant Orchid from last year, this is a shade I can fully embrace. It's dark, indeed, but not quite vampy and not overdone. There's something about this particular color that makes it wearable even in a casual/daytime setting. But it could be just me and my love of reds.

The texture is miraculously not sticky, the scent is so faint you need to practically stick the applicator up your nose to smell it, there's no taste, and the feeling it leaves behind is smooth and soft (including on a blistering winter day when the temperatures are in the low single digits).

There are twenty shades in Smasbox Be Legendary Long-Wear Lip Lacquer range, and while not all of them are this complex (or in my ballpark of colors I can and want to wear), my wish list has just gained about four or five new ones.

Bottom Line: see above.

Smasbox Be Legendary Long-Wear Lip Lacquer ($24) is available at Sephora and from smashbox.com. The product for this review was sent by PR.

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