Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bobbi Brown Hot Collection Art Stick: Hot Orange & Hot Berry

Even beauty bloggers get the blues...
...and when they do, they order the weirdest things.

Don't ask me what possessed me to go for Bobbi Brown's new Hot Collection (Spring/summer 2015), a selection of colors described on Bobbi's website in terrifying terms such as "bright electric". I tried in vain to explain it to my friend Josie who was here as I opened the package. She knows me better than to suspect a case of shopping under the influence, but she had a good laugh nonetheless. Because really: Hot Berry and Hot Orange?

Well, actually, yes.

Applied judiciously, these Bobbi Brown matte cream lip crayons are not that crazy, at least over lips that are naturally dark. In its pencil form and even swatched on skin Hot Berry is more of a shocking pink color, but on my lips there's a raspberry tone that's a lot more wearable than I feared. The Hot Orange is even better. Since my natural color is on the cool side it balances the orange bomb and makes it more of a tomato red. I also tried mixing and blending the two colors and applying with a brush (a good idea in any case), but the jury is still out there. As you can see in the swatches above, the colors are so bright they make my skin appear horribly washed out. A blush is an absolute must here, and probably also a strong brow.

Bright Electric colors aside, my real issue with Bobbi Brown's Art Sticks is the dry matte feeling they give me unless my lips are practically swimming in a balm, which renders the longevity rather moot. These are intensely pigmented matte lipsticks, and thus one should follow the classic rules of exfoliate, moisturize, and apply with care-- just as you would with any bright lipstick. A good companion to the Art Sticks are the other Hot Collection items: Bobbi's Sheer Lip Color lipsticks in corresponding colors (review next week). Of course, all these products can be used on their own, but the sheer lipsticks are helpful in the fight against dry lips (I'd still  avoid the crayons if your lips show any signs of being parched or flaky).

Bottom Line: Why not?

Bobbi Brown Hot Collection Art Stick ($26 each) are available at the counter and online. The pencils come with their own jumbo sharpeners.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chanel- Misia (Les Exclusifs)

Art: Baroness Vera Wassilko by Christian Schad, 1926

Last night's review was of an opulent iris perfume with an almost languorous nature, the kind you find sprawled on the most lavish silks and doesn't get up until noon. Sort of like Misia Sert  herself, the bohemian muse who was also a friend of Mademoiselle Chanel. But Misia the perfume is a different creature. Crisp, clipped, linear, and determined, like a 1920s bobbed haircut. Misia delivers exact doses of iris and violets that walk the line between soap and powder, nostalgia and modern minimalism, Chanel and Guerlain.

 Misia is also very pretty. Not wistfully or heartbreakingly so, but pure and simple in its perfect proportions. The balance is kept so accurately that despite the turn towards the vintage dressing table through the powdery makeup vibe, Misia is still not overly feminine. It has the same gender-free appeal as Prada Infusion d'Iris: clean, approachable, a good office-mate kind of a thing. But this is Chanel, and the iris is more irisy, its spine is straighter, and the overall impression is of good breeding and good money, which is yet another point in favor of Misia: you get all the Chanel magic, tradition, and pretty packaging in a large bottle that's still cheaper than Tom Ford. Who can resist that?

Chanel's Misia has something austere about it, which is why I didn't use any photo or artwork depicting the actual Misia Sert on all her sensual and bosomy presence. The perfume watches its waist and doesn't get all foody and plump the way a Guerlain fragrance would have done given similar notes. Also, it lacks a certain playfulness, but that's probably what makes Misia so easy to pull off on any given day. It's there, it smells good, it's reliable. I can see Misia becoming the same kind of a default perfume that the various versions of No.5 are for me and Sycomore is for the husband. Too lazy or tired to choose? Going to spend the day around  people with unknown attitudes towards perfume? Grab that Chanel and go.

Notes: violet, iris, orris root, Turkish rose, benzoin , tonka bean.

Chanel Misia ($160, 2.5oz EDT) is available at Chanel boutiques and

Smashbox Photo Angle Pure Pigment Gel Liner

My first reaction when I saw the new Smashbox Photo Angle Pure Pigment Gel Liner pen and removed its red plastic sealing cap was "well, that's new". There might be other eyeliners on the market with a similar design, but I have yet to encounter them. Thus begun my lengthy experiment with getting this Smashbox eyeliner to do what I want. Hence: a pretty steep learning curve. I hope you can see in the closeup shots that the plastic applicator releases the pigment (more cream than gel, in my opinion), and you need to try and not get too much of it out when applying. While the initial dispensing takes a few more clicks,  Smashbox was serious when saying that one click is enough later on, and I find that it's actually sufficient for both eyes. My first few attempts ended up with black marks everywhere, from my fingers to various surfaces and cats that happened to be in the way. Eventually I got the hang of it,  and could actually enjoy a truly unique eyeliner.

The nice people at Smashbox promise a 36-hour longevity, a fact that I have no intention to check. but I can tell you that the eyeliner remains in place for what feels like till kingdom comes. Do take into account that using a large amount (such as for a graphic 1960s mod cat eye) and rubbing your eyes might result in a holly mess, unless your primer is an overachiever. Normal application of a thin line does not create the panda effect, though. Removal requires an oil-based liquid, quite a bit of it, and some patience. Also make sure your hands are clean before moving on to the rest of your face, or you'll find yourself in a chimney sweep situation.

The road to a thin line requires some practice, but it's worth it, especially since the cream/gel material is also good for tightlining (upper lashline. I didn't dare go lower), and survives a spring shower and a whole day of errands, socializing, and whatnot. Jet Black is truly as black as they come, and the whole thing is bordering on a professional product, for better and for worse. Is it necessary? I'm not sure, especially since Smashbox is already responsible for one of the very best felt tip liquid liners on the market (formerly named Heartbreaher Liquid Liner, now Limitless Liquid Liner Pen). I still have one at any given moment because it's so amazing. But the Angle Pure Pigment is thicker and I assume can work for intricate editorial looks, not to mention that it's a very convenient way to carry around a cream/gel eyeliner without worrying about drying and brushes.

Bottom Line: As soon (if?) as I've mastered this one completely I'm getting the blue version.

Smashbox Photo Angle Pure Pigment Gel Liner ($24) is available from Nordstrom and

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777- Khôl de Bahreïn

The very charming Stéphane Humbert Lucas will have to forgive me for the artistic license I'm taking here. The main source of inspiration for his 777 line has been the mystery and opulence of the Arabian Peninsula. But my own cultural background being what it is, and the symphonic iris he uses in  Khôl de Bahreïn all sing to me of Renaissance Florence, its palaces, art, and eternal beauty.

 Khôl de Bahreïn is probably the sleeper in the Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 line. The heavy hitters: oud, roses, roses plus oud, and the heart-stopping experience of O Hira are sort of expected in this context. But the layers of buttery iris, silk and velvet lit by the kind of sunlight you don't see outside of Tuscany, a fatty smell and texture touched by peach and soft petals over an equally plush musky-balsamic base--- all of that is as addictive as it is unexpected among the other gems of this collection.

The iris-violet got to me from the very first sniff on the very first blotter. It's the kind of iris/orris that reminds you why this is one of the most precious raw materials in perfumery. Layered, complex, almost edible yet undeniably dangerous. I wanted to roll in its damask-like folds, and I still do (spraying myself like it's my job is the closest approximation). As Khôl de Bahreïn opens up and melts on the skin the lush feeling intensifies. It's borderline gourmand (the nougat note, I assume, but I'm thinking of chocolate-dipped almond florentines, with their lacy texture and buttery melt-in-your-mouth texture), and just a bit juicy before entering that treasure room in the palace where priceless oriental rugs, boxes of spice, resins and semi-precious stones from all around the world are heaped on the gilded floor.

In Khôl de Bahreïn Stéphane Humbert Lucas has given us an unapologetic sensual pleasure and a glimpse into a fantasy that has probably never existed. Thus allowing us to indulge in our own version of that coveted world. It feels kind of like the day before the lottery numbers are announced, but at least here we're left with something semi-tangible as our own beautiful sillage.

Notes: violet, nougat, gums, iris powder, sandalwood mixture of benzene, amber, musky balsamic notes.

Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777- Khôl de Bahreïn ($220, 50 ml EDP) is available from OsswaldNYC and Luckyscent.

Art: Raphael, Portrait of Young Woman with Unicorn, c.1506.

Shiseido Veiled Rouge Lipstick RD302 Rosalie & RD707 Mischief

I have a couple of fail-safe brands, lines that I know that no matter where I am in the world, as long as there's a Shiseido or a Laura Mercier counter within reach I will be alright (zombie apocalypse notwithstanding). Thus, a new formula of just about anything from Shiseido means shopping. This time it was the new Veiled Rouge lipstick, a rich and balmy sheer lipstick that still packs enough pigment to make a difference and leaves a stain and enough moisture on the lip even after the glossy finish has transferred to one's tea cup.

And this is my one gripe about the list of promises the nice people of Shiseido made in the press release. My comments are in italics.
"Shiseido Veiled Rouge is a long-wearing (longer than a gloss), hydrating lipstick (true and then some) with transfer-resistant (totally not true) color that stays put, (as a light and pretty stain) locking in color and adding luster all day long (whatever)."
Why make promises that this really good and pampering lipstick can't keep? It's a not a unique or revolutionary formula, but it's a product that will make people happy as long as they're not expecting a Tom Ford performance. This slim lipstick takes little space in a makeup bag, and the sheer formula ensures a quick and easy application from the tube and an easy matching to whatever else one is wearing. Veiled Rouge has no scent or taste, and the sheen is quite minimal (no actual particles).

Rosalie Rd302 is a warm coral-based pink that on  dark lips such as mine appears like a natural barely-there enhancement, almost like a tinted lip balm (it definitely feels like that). Mischief RD707 is a sheer berry red, for those who don't wish  to commit to a sultry look but want that punchy sexy look in a color that is almost universally flattering. Both are perfect daytime/officewear lipstick. low maintenance and easy to retouch on the go. Shiseido has every reason to be proud of it without over-promising that only ends up hurting the product.

Bottom Line: Yes, please.

Shiseido Veiled Rouge Lipstick RD302 Rosalie & RD707 Mischief ($25 each) are available at the counters and online.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Currently- March 2015

Plus One by Christopher Noxon. The story of a not-so-typical Hollywood family. An easy read for late at night when I'm waiting for sleep.

Dry The River- It Was Love That Laid Us Low

Binge watching Orphan Black. How good it is? enough to get the Husband and I stay up Saturday night until after 4am.

Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 - Khol de Bahreïn. An incredibly satisfying fatty ambery iris.

The new Shiseido lipsticks. Review is in the process.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
Black skinny jeans tucked into tall boots. The cold has forced me out of my dresses.

Guilty Pleasure
Gluten-free lemon wafers.

Greek. Or what passes for Greek around here.

Allergies. And it's not even pollen season.

An open window,  a conversation with a friend, seeing progress. And my perfume collection.

Spring. As soon as the snow disappeared I could see the emergence of green stalks in the perennial areas. Soon there will be daffodils.

Spring dresses. I miss my knees.

Random Thought
I was not wearing my glasses first thing in the morning yesterday, so I  wondered why everyone on Facebook was posting "May the odds be ever in your favor".

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

Art: Dmitri Danish- March in New York

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Shiseido Skin Glow Enhancing Primer SPF 15

Primers belong to the less sexy side of makeup items. No sumptuous colors, no swatches to fawn over. Just a worker bee that (hopefully) does its job. I'm a primer fanatic, though, because the right one for your skin makes a world of difference. I keep several on rotation, but for the most part I'm loyal to Laura Mercier's wide range of options (I always have the Radiance and the SPF one on hand). But the new Shiseido Skin Glow Enhancing Primer SPF 15 had me clicking the "order" button the second I saw it. Because glow. And Shiseido.

The obvious question is a comparison to Laura Mercier's Radiance primer. After a couple of weeks using them alternately I'd say that the Laura Mercier has a more obvious glow (depending, of course, on the coverage level of your foundation) while Shiseido is more subtle in the shine department, for better and for worse. The texture feels lighter and more sheer (that's a definite plus), and the performance is on par with other leading brands under every foundation I've tried, from powder to liquid, as well as under creamy compact stuff (though any possible glow is firmly squashed when using them).

The SPF 15 thing is useless as far as I'm concerned. It's a level of protection I don't consider helpful (I use SPF 46-50). Maybe under moonlight or something. Still, as a last line of defense I guess it doesn't hurt, and I haven't had any skin issues with this primer, so it's all good.

Ingredients:  Avobenzone 2.5%, Octinoxate 7.4%, Octocrylene 3.0%, Oxybenzone 1.0%; Inactive Ingredients: Water, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Cellulose, Dimethicone, Peg-8, Sd Alcohol 40-B, Caprylyl Methicone, Dipropylene Glycol, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Peg/Ppg-36/41 Dimethyl Ether, Xanthan Gum, Glycyl Glycine, Paeonia Albiflora Root Extract, Zingiber Aromaticus Extract, Ppg-17, Triethanolamine, Barium Sulfate, Carbomer, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Alcohol, Sodium Metaphosphate, Dipentaerythrityl Hexahydroxystearate, Bht, Alumina, Sodium Metabisulfite, Tocopherol, Benzoic Acid, Fragrance, Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides.

Bottom Line: It works.

Shiseido Skin Glow Enhancing Primer SPF 15 ($30) is available at the counters and online.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Vincent Longo Lip & Cheek Gel Stain

I don't know why cheek stains are not more popular. They don't require special application skills (maybe some speed, as they set quickly), and the effect they provide can be incredibly natural and not "done". The sheer finish is very youthful and looks like the much-desired "coming in from the cold" look. Vincent Longo Lip & Cheek Gel Stains are a perfect example of that.

I'll start by saying that I don't use these Vincent Longo stains on my lips. I was willing to try at first, but the initial swatching confirmed that they were too dry for me, so I've confined them to less sensitive areas. The directions for use that appear on Vincent Longo's website also confirm that they should be used on well-moisturized skin, so you know that it's not for the parched and flaky.

Starting with a couple of dabs with doe-foot applicator and blending upwards with my fingers give a sheer wash of blush. I experimented with using even less stain, then adding a smidgen more, which worked well for a natural makeup look. I also mixed a drop with a hydrating primer (Smashbox) and blended over foundation as well as on just-moisturized skin (the latter looked nice but didn't survive the entire day). My conclusion is that the traditional use as a blush is much preferred if you need some longevity. These gel stains are so light that they fade within hours otherwise.

The colors I've got are Sweet Apollonia  (a reddish plum) and My Sunshine (terracotta). I can pull off both of them, and the sheerness makes these shades very adaptable. As you can see, these are pretty colors with a natural finish: no sparkles or shine, so they let skin show through.

Bottom Line: everyone needs a sheer blush here and there.

Vincent Longo Lip & Cheek Gel Stain ($22.50 each) are available at Nordstrom . On the Vincent Longo website they're listed as $24. Don't ask me to explain. The products for this review were sent by PR.

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