Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Amouage Opus IX

The other day the Husband and I fumigated Union County, NJ with our sillage as we went antiquing wearing Dior Gris Montaigne (him) and Amouage Opus IX (me). Nothing could stand in our way. I think it was the first time since starting to wear Opus IX a couple of months ago that I fully got it and felt more joy than conflicting emotions at the way the perfume soared and wafted through aisles of art deco, mid-century modern and Victorian items, piles of dusty debris from the past ripe for the picking. It felt right at home at the cavernous warehouse.

Opus IX needs its space. Amouage creative director Christopher Chong cites opera singer Maria Callas in La Traviata as his inspiration. This is supposed to be a diva clad in red velvet, and leather, adorned with a red camellia; someone ready to take center stage. The story of La Traviata is based on Alexander Dumas novel 'La Dame Aux Camélias', which for me will forever be embodied by Greta Garbo and white camellias (yes, I know that Sara Bernhardt was there before, but my Camille is Garbo, forever and ever). This is a whole different story. Louder, more passionate, and in the end more tragic.

But Opus IX is not all indoles, jasmine, growling animals and civet. One of the risks of sharing a perfume wardrobe and samples with another person is discovering that your partner smells a lot better in something you're desperately trying to befriend. Smelling Opus IX on the husband is a completely different experience. Gone are the dramatic shenanigans and loud scenes that spill into the street and give gossip fodder for years to come. Instead, here are sparkling florals over an incredibly noble and expensive ambergris.

I admit that up until a couple of years ago I didn't pay much attention to the existence of red camellias. Then I saw a Chanel line of red clutches of wallets embossed with them, making me perfectly willing to sell my soul for all eternity for one. The Japanese charm of these glorious flowers is also expressed in the perfume. There's a burst of sunny florals (probably not really camellias as those are more or less scentless) that demand attention and admiration like the best of the divas. The rich and thick jasmine is unmistakable. I didn't even know they could still make such bold and indolic jasmine perfumes that drips and melts into a honeyed base without losing foot (or sillage). On the husband the peppery woods are more apparent and much better behave- he smells of good perfume while I'm just steeped in a big pot of debauchery. I get more of what the Black Narcissus found disturbing and troubling in his review last week, while Opus IX has the potential to also be a stunningly beautiful perfume, depending on skin chemistry (and perhaps one's imagination).

Notes: camelia, jasmine, black pepper, guaiac wood, leather, beeswax, vetiver, ambergris, and civet.

Amouage Opus IX ($355, 100ml eau de parfum) is available from Osswald NYC, Luckyscent, and the other usual suspects who stock Amouage. The product for this review was sent directly from Amouage.

Maria Callas by Henry Kroener, 1956
Camellia Blossoms by Irving R. Wiled, 1889
Camellia at Ueno Shimotera in the Eastern Capital by  Utagawa Hiroshige II (Shigenobu), 1866

Monday, July 27, 2015

Chanel Fall 2015 Alezane Joues Contraste Blush Collection Les Automales

It's been a long time since I fell in love with an entire Chanel collection. Les Automnales for fall 2015 hit the spot for me in such a way I actually had to make difficult decisions on what I can live without (mostly eyeliners. Let's face it: not Chanel's strongest suit). But I had to get the blush.

Alezane (#260) is a stunning terracotta color, on trend with the back to the 1990s warm browns and a perfect transition into fall shade that coordinates well with the eye quad that I'll show you later in the week. The swatch speaks for itself, but there's one issue that needs to be addressed: sparkle.

The texture of Alezane itself is silky and incredibly beautiful, on par with Chanel's greatest. Dipping your finger or brush (any brush. It workw with everything) into the beautiful dome is a pleasure, as is blending it onto the cheeks. However, the teeny tiny gold flecks you barely see in the pan or in the arm swatch show up much more on the face and they're actually a veil of micro gold glitter. There's so much of them that I'm not sure this Chanel Blush is workplace appropriate. Personally I don't care. I don't have an office job and don't need to rush into PTA meetings and such. But the visible particles, as finely milled as they appear, are enough to make me not wear a highlighter with this blush under any circumstances, and question the powers-that-be at Chanel about what exactly they were thinking.

Azelane is such a beautiful blush, warm and very Mediterranean in feel. But I know that the amount of gold sparkle would make many people pause before buying or wearing it, which is a shame. This color and texture would delight many otherwise.

Bottom Line: are you ready to shine?

Chanel Fall 2015 Alezane Joues Contraste Blush ($45, made in France) from Collection Les Automales is available online from chanel.com and is arriving at the counters as we speak.

Friday, July 24, 2015

PSA: A Huge Sale On Kiko Cosmetics ONLINE

Not only did Kiko Cosmetics launch a new online store for the US (kikocosmetics.com), but there's also a big BIG sale on the majority of the products (in the few Kiko brick & mortar stores as well). The prices are jaw-dropping low (eye shadows starting at $1.90), and since I was already mighty impressed with the items I bought a few months ago some shopping has occurred.

What will you buy?

Image: Vogue, May 1959 via myvintagevogue.com

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel- Brunette & Granite

My teenage self would have never believed it, but I needed to thicken my eyebrows. Neither would those who used to make fun of me.  But just like my eye sight and metabolism, my brows are not what they used to be. It's not that I'm paying the price of 1990s constant overplucking (I rarely did that), nor am I trying to get the Cara Delevinge look or even Instagram brows. I simply need a bit more volume, in the same vein that a good mascara plumps up the lashes. Hence the purchases of Anastasia Tinted Brow Gel.

I first got the one in Brunette, because I've been using Anastasia Brow Powder Duo in Brunette for years. I usually mix a bit of the darker side into the lighter one and that's a perfect color for me. Now, I think that in the recent reshuffling of the products Anastasia has changed things around, as my old Brunette (Dark Brown) looks more like the current Medium Brown. It's definitely (used to be) cooler toned. I also have the old Brow Wiz pencil in Brunette (now called Dark Brown), but I don't use it as often because pencils give a more defined look and I usually prefer it to be softer. Which leaves me wondering why on Earth is the Brunette Brow Gel significantly lighter and browner than its equivalents in other formulas, especially as it's described as a "medium taupe brown".

There's nothing wrong with it and I can and do wear Brunette on its own, but it's slightly more true brown than I prefer, and half a shade too light, making it a bit too obvious and Instagramy for me. It would have looked perfect on my sister, I think, as her hair color is a shade lighter but her undertones are in the same ballpark as mine (despite having a significantly lighter skin). But I loved the extra bushiness the gel gave my my eyebrows and the fact that its extremely tenacious (though I wouldn't risky in 100 degrees and high humidity. That's where a waterproof pencil topped with powder are for). Hence my purchase of a second Anastasia Brow Gel, this time in Granite.

Described as a "grayish taupe", Granite is a really really dark ashy brown. This time a full shade too dark. When my eyebrows were naturally thicker I could get away with almost anything, including wearing a touch of Bobbi Brown espresso eye shadow to fill the sparse area at the tail. That's no longer the case, so my latest solution is adding a smidge of Granite to Brunette and all is well, except my patience. I think I'm back to using a powder.

Other details worth noting: the brush is relatively large, so I doubt it would suit those with little to no brows as they need a more precise application. It works for me well, though, as the product finds enough hair to hold onto. The other things is that the brush picks up and deposits a lot more product than I need, so I have to wipe it on the edge of the tube. Otherwise I get very crunchy brows.

Bottom Line: fabulous formula, could use more color options and perhaps a smaller brush.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel ($22 each, made in USA) is available from Ulta and Sephora.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum

I told you last month that I had a major disappointment when using a vitamin C serum from Peter Thomas Roth that did absolutely nothing for me. My next step was trying to find a new product that will be at least as effective as previous C serums I've used but will not stink to high heaven. A friend recommended a NeoStrata serum, but it was one of the Canada-only products, and I needed an immediate solution. So I went with the surprisingly cheap option of Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum.

Why was I so keen on finding a vitamin C? It's an antioxidant that fights free radicals (a major skin destroyer) and boosts collagen production (basically, that's the meaning of that hateful term "anti-aging"). Recent studies also show that the best and most stable form of vitamin C in cosmetics, l-ascobic acid, can reduce skin water loss and increase moisture content in the skin, thus helping to keep it hydrated. And the last benefit is correcting sun damage: Vitamin C has skin-lightening properties that help reduce dark spots (not just sun spots, but also acne marks). It's science, not magic, and good results are contingent on consistent use of the serum as part of one's skincare regimen that needs to include retinoids, AHA, a good moisturizer, and most important: an effective sun block (applied zealously).

The difference was visible after only a couple of days. Smoother skin, shrunken pores, better moisture absorption, a certain brightness that disappeared during the PTR month. Basically, all the benefits you want to see from your vitamin C serum. I use a moisturizer over it (absorption time is seconds), and can forget all about it once I step out of the bathroom. There's no stickiness and no trail of hot dog smell (there's only the faintest smell of... something, but it doesn't linger).

It seems that in the last six months Timeless has tweaked the formula. Previously it contained fragrance while the one I have and the updated ingredient list are free of it (the photo of the bottle on their website is of the old label). They may have also changed the vitamin E from Alpha Tocopherol to something else, but they're not clear about that. In any case, I love it and highly recommend giving this serum a try.

Ingredients: water, ethoxysiglycol, L-ascorbic acid, propylene glycol,vitamin E, polysorbate 80, panthenol, ferulic acid, sodium hyaluronate, benzylalcohol, dehydroacetic acid.

Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum ($24.95, made in USA) is available from timelessha.com.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Aftelier- Bergamoss (Solid Perfume)

This one is for oakmoss lovers.

There's no way to mistake Bergamoss for anything other but a well-chiseled chypre. You can almost taste the green velvety magic of yore. Yet, this new perfume in solid form by Mandy Aftel of Aftelier does not smell "vintage" at all. Despite the structure, in spite of the very real ingredients (oakmoss, coumarin, and antique civet, among other things!), Bergamoss smells modern. Related to classic perfumes? Definitely. But it's a different interpretation, even more abstract.

Chypres have an inherent duality. They soar upwards, piercing the air like a bird of pray. But they also pull you into the depth of an enchanted forest where thick moss and damp earth make a dreamy carpet. Of course, this can be reined in and civilized to the nth degree with the help of leather whips, Dior handbags, or layers upon layers of peach chiffon. Bergamoss possesses all of these qualities. The opening is bracing and tart as the bergamot and its family of citrus rinds come alive on skin. At first one thinks this is going to be a crisp and curt perfume, maybe followed by galbanum. But, no. The bitterness is cut short by rounder and warmer notes, and Bergamoss becomes less green and fresh, more yellowish. The texture is soft and inviting, petals over velvet, though it's extremely hard for me to pinpoint the specifics without Mandy Aftel's own description of rose, peach, and tobacco. The warmth is obvious, though, as is the spiciness that goes along with it, and eases the fragrance towards the dry-down.

The solid form of Bergamoss feels perfect for the tactile sensation it creates. While the sillage of a solid perfume is more subdued, especially in the opening, as the waxy material warms up on skin you're engulfed in the beauty of its depth and complexity (it's incredibly long-lasting, though, even in tiny amounts). There's a shadow of sweetness that complements the musky animalic aroma that lurks just under the surface. The oakmoss is at its thickest, making me want to roll in it and never ever stop.

Notes: bergamot, sweet orange, peach, rose, tobacco, nutmeg, oakmoss, flouve absolute (a sweet French grass, according to Mandy Aftel), coumarin, antique civet.

Bergamoss by Aftelier is an all-natural solid perfume. It's in no way vegan, as the base material combines beeswax with jojoba oil, and the perfume itself uses antique but real civet. $240 on aftelier.com for 1/4 oz of perfume in a sterling silver compact. Samples are available for $6. The sample for this review was sent by the perfumer.

Art: Odilon Redon - Trees on a Yellow Background (one of the panels painted for the dining room of the Château de Domecy-sur-le-Vault). 1901

Lancôme - Partner In Crime Color Design Eye Shadow

I came, I swatched, I bought.

This was an impulse purchase. I was at my local Ulta (how many misdeed stories start like this?) where they have a full Lancôme counter when this Color Design single eye shadow, Partner In Crime,  twinkled at me. The color, a slightly grayed out antique gold kind of thing with a shimmering metallic finish looked unique enough to be swtached. I was thrilled to see that it's the new and improved Lancôme formula, that's smoother and more buttery than ever before.

The color of Partner In Crime is even more interesting when applied. It's not dramatic, but it definitely attracts attention to the luminous not-too-light/not-too-dark shade. It's also long-wearing as long as you're not an eye rubber, and even more important: the color stays true throughout the day (I do use a primer). Application is easy (you can pack it on or sheer it out), and thanks to the smooth and almost creamy formula there's no shimmery debris falling on the cheeks (I'm guessing this also depends on the brush).

Bottom Line: Yes.

Lancôme - Partner In Crime Color Design Eye Shadow ($20, made in Canada) is available at the counters, Sephora, select Ulta locations, and Lancome.com.

(Photos taken inside my perfume cabinets among various vintage and semi-vintage Lancome perfumes)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Acqua di Parma- Colonia Ambra

Nobody makes summer perfumes quite like Acqua di Parma. Between their many variations on the eau de cologne theme and their beachy Blu Mediterraneo series. Now they've created a darker yet still fit-for-summer fragrance as part of the Ingredient series (along with Colonia Leather and Colonia Oud). This is Colonia Ambra.

The Husband, who's been testing Colonia Ambra along with me, had two initial observations: 1) this isn't exactly an amber perfume, and 2) it's really really good. I agree with both. This isn't a vanillic/benzoin amber or a sweet resinous one. The "Ambra" here is ambergris (or, more likely, its approximation as a perfume note and not the actual animalic ingredient), which contributes to the nautical impression created here. But you know what I smell most? Leather.  Smooth, musky, luxuriously lightweight, elegant leather.

Even in the relatively light/fresh opening there's a slash of bitterness, A hint of dry grass growing by the beach, (fantasy) driftwood, and polished old wood. The leather is surrounded by a classic gentleman's cologne notes, crisp and herbal (in his NST review Kevin calls it "vintage/barbershop aftershave lotion"), but it's still a very effective leather that should appeal to both men and women who adore this smell and want an easy to wear, surprisingly summery fragrance.

As Kevin mentioned in the review I linked above, this Acqua di Parma perfume is free of the dreaded marine notes. It's beachy without being aquatic (or tropical or nostalgic in the Coppertone way). The saltiness is very subtle, as is just about everything in Ambra. It makes me think of an old world seaside hotel and a vacation that includes dressing up for a tasteful afternoon tea  by the window facing the water.

Ambra behaves in the heat, asserts itself just enough as not evaporate into nothingness, and stays put for about eight hours, maybe more. It gives a clean air even in the clammy soup that is our current weather, which I appreciate greatly. And as I mentioned above, it's also 100% Husband approved. I think he considers the bottle his own. He's wrong about that.

Notes: orange, bergamot, petitgrain, nagarmotha, cedar wood , rosewood, musk, patchouli, ambergris, sandalwood, vanilla.

Acqua di Parma Colonia Ambra Eau de Cologne Concentrée (100 ml, $220) is available from Sephora and select department stores. The product for this review was sent by PR.

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