Monday, October 05, 2015

Estee Lauder Shape+Sculpt Eye Kit (New Dimension Collection)

It looked like a good idea at the time.

I've been incredibly happy with so many Estee Lauder products lately that I was quite excited about the release of the New Dimension Collection. It appeared as kind of a hi-tech very smart concept of shaping and contouring the face using a mix of skincare (I'll have more to say about that in a few days) and subtle makeup. I especially loved the idea of a dedicated eye contouring kit that looked like the perfect Le No Makeup product, something both effective and extremely refined. How can you go wrong with that?

(Famous last words)

Estee Lauder Shape+Sculpt Eye Kit is a small and sleek palette that includes an eye primer (the one on the left), a highlighter, and a crease contour color. The issues start with the eye base, which is more waxy than creamy and needs to be worked a bit before it gets smooth enough. Applying it with a finger helps, or warming it up a bit on the back of your hand to make it thinner and more pliable. Brushes are a recipe for a patchy application. Then there's the "highlighter", a shimmery peach champagne eye shadow that's wearable but a bit too dark as a true highlighetr and is not the most refined formula Lauder has produced lately. I'm just as unimpressed with the matte brown contour color. Lack of pigmentation isn't the worst thing for contour products, especially if you're heavy-handed, as it's easier to add and build intensity than it is to take away if you've over applied. What bugs me here is how hard the color is to blend. Less prestigious brands than Estee Lauder have figured out their matte formulas ages ago, so there's no excuse for releasing a product that refuses to blend evenly.

I managed to make it work more or less, softening the base and using more of it than I'd normally do with a primer, using the fluffiest brush for a very light touch of the highlighter (and adding a lighter color from other palettes), and building up the contour with a  stiff brush then blending until the cows come home. But the question is: why bother? We all have good eye primers, beautiful brighteners, and enough neutral brow matte eye shadows that we can use for this purpose with less effort. It would have been great if all that came in a sleek set the way Lauder tried to do here (a custom MAC palette can achieve better results, actually), but this one just doesn't impress.

Bottom Line: I try stuff so you don't have to.

Estee Lauder Shape+Sculpt Eye Kit ($40, made in Canada) is available at the counters and online.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Blue Rhythm de Chanel- Swing Eye Shadow & Dream Blue Eyeliner

I'm always excited when Chanel releases a blue color collection. Part of is for nostalgic reasons, but also because I can count on Chanel to make it classy and wearable. In the case of the latest collection Blue Rhythm de Chanel I passed on the eye shadow quad (Tissé Jazz) because I already have enough blue palettes (including Chanel Lagons), and chose the single Ombre Essentielle in Swing and the liquid eyeliner Ligne Graphique de Chanel in Dream Blue (the latter is a limited edition item).

I hoped that Swing would be a good companion to my beloved Chanel Bois Bleu. I adore that one, from color to finish, so a deeper, bluer shade would have been welcome. What I wasn't expecting is the amount of shimmer particles in Swing nor the dark, almost navy, base color. As you can see, the swatch looks quite different than the color in the pan. Swing is actually almost blackened blue that appears lighter because of the huge amount of silvery blue glitter it contains. It's not bad, and with a careful application I can get a pretty look (the key, as usual is a good creamy base and patting the eye shadow on without blending it into an uneven cloud of pigment and glitter). But at this point in the game I expect Chanel to do much better than an eye shadow that looks like an Urban Decay reject.

The liquid eyeliner, Ligne Graphique de Chanel in Dream Blue, is a different story. It's a gorgeous and smooth medium/dark true blue with a very subtle sheen. The applicator is very thin and so easy to control that I actually attempted writing for the swatch above. Of course, my handwriting isn't what it used to be even with a (non-makeup) pen or pencil (typing your life away would do that). But it's still shows that you can get a very graphic line that goes from thin to thick or use it any way you want. The applicator is very reliable and doesn't pick up half the tube in one go, and the inkwell is well-designed so the product doesn't pool around the opening creating messes. Longevity is great (only starts fading after about eight hours), and since it dries quickly there are no accidentals smears by the time you're ready to apply mascara.

Bottom Line: skip the eye shadow, get the liner while it's still around.

Chanel Ombre Essentielle in Swing ($29.50, made in France) and Ligne Graphique de Chanel in Dream Blue ($34, limited edition) are part of Blue Rhythm de Chanel Collection, Available at select department stores and from

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lancôme 80th Anniversary L'Absolou Rouge Lipstick Rouge Desir 1951

1952 Lancome advertising

Like most Lancôme special collections the 80 year anniversary lipsticks have a slightly different box

To celebrate their 80th anniversary, Lancôme launched three new shades in their L'Absolou Rouge range. The colors are based on nostalgic shades, but all look modern and wearable. And the formula is, of course, their very best. I chose Rouge Desir 1951 because Impatient 1949 was far too light and powdery  pink for me, and for some reason I decided that the redder Rose Tango 1958 would become more fuchsia on my lips (a decision I may need to revisit).  So 1951 it was, and at first I was taken aback slightly by its brightness. But the color is gorgeous, and depending on your skin tone and more important. lip pigmentation, this is incredibly wearable.

I don't post lip swatches for two reasons. First, as much as I like all of you, I don't want us to get so physically close (seriously, lip closeups freak me out a bit). But the more important reason is that my lips are naturally much darker than most and skew lip product colors so much that it would make the swatches ineffective and irrelevant for most. Usually people who share my skin tone have lighter lips with much less purple in them. Thus, my more neutral arm is better for showing the true color of any lipstick and you can mentally adjust for your own lips.

The bold pink element in Lancome's Rouge Desir 1951 is considerably toned down when I wear it. The red-based pink takes on a plummy undertone, while still giving my face a much-needed brightness. It's a cheerful color, more timeless and classic than a typical fall color, and I find it very flattering and kind of French in the best possible way (you know the look: mascara, maybe a hint of natural eye shadow in the crease, lipstick and nothing else. Or at least faking that "nothing else"). It's a color that makes me happy in one of my favorite lipstick formulas.

Like all Lancôme lipsticks, L'absolou Rouge is classically perfumed. It's smooth with little slip but a lot of moisture that makes it feel luxurious and healthy on the lips. The finish is satin, no sheen but not matte either.  Longevity is among the best I've came across. The lipstick holds on for dear life, leaving a stain that you need to actively remove with an oil-based or a dual-phase cleanser. Every time I swatched Rouge Desir on my arm I was left with its remnants even after multiple showers and using an oil cleanser. It might be a bit much, actually, but I think lips are a bit more willing to let go of the lipstick. Eventually.

Bottom Line: Beautiful.

Lancôme 80th Anniversary L'Absolou Rouge Lipstick Rouge Desir 1951 ($30.50, made in France) is a limited edition color and exclusive to ( in our case).

Roberto Cavalli- Oro

I was playing a little game with myself, trying to check my love/hate ratio of perfumes created by Maurice Roucel. Results were inconclusive, since you can't really pit Iris Silver Mist and Musc Ravageur against DKNY Be Delicious and its flankers. But in the process I took notes of Roucel perfumes that I've yet to try, hoping to find something interesting. And I did, in one of the least expected places: Oro from Roberto Cavalli.

Roberto Cavalli's aesthetics is fully embodied in the name, the bottle, and the advertisement imagery. I haven't quite acquired this taste, and snakes are not my dream pet (that would be a sea lion, thank you very much). But I remembered having a sample stashed somewhere and by some miracle actually managed to find it. By the end of that day I found myself using a discounter's coupon to buy Oro for the princely sum of just under $12. Before starting to type this review I did the same thing to buy a backup bottle, just to be safe. I had to.

Oro has nothing to do with a snake print chiffon dress by Roberto Cavalli. Instead, it's a complex spicy amber (Michael Edwards classifies it as a woody oriental in a classical form. I'm not going to argue), with a touch of a 1990s floriental (though it was released in 2004), a hint of the yummies, and a certain weirdness that I suspect is all Roucel. The opening is almost a gourmand. I think of it as a very very peppery honey, sweet yet biting. Maybe that's the snake in the dunes under the blazing sun. Or perhaps it's the sudden appearance of something I can only describe as a turmeric-laced iris (there's no turmeric listed among the official notes. It's probably just my mind being susceptible to all that yellow). I definitely smell a touch of heady florals that lift the scent up and give it a burst of lightness before heavier notes take over.  The piercing element continues to provide a counterbalance to the sap, wood, and thick amber that make the majority of Oro and caress the skin in a very suggestive way.

I have no doubt Oro was meant to be a very sexy perfume, and it is. But maybe not in the overt J-Lo in a Cavalli dress way. Classic ambers are often rich and velvety, warm and inviting. Oro is all that, and it manages to remain interesting and just quirky enough to keep the interest of this blogger who smelled a thousand ambers (and bought an alarming number of them).

Oro by Roberto Cavalli is no longer on the designer's official perfume page, which means its production has been discontinued. However, it's easy to find online from various sources for something between a peanut and a song.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Estee Lauder Sculpting Shadow Brush

It was the shape that caught my eye. I have quite a few eye contour brushes that are cut on an angle, but the precise curve of this Estee Lauder Sculpting Shadow Brush looked very interesting. Sculpting is a buzzword at the moment (I'm working on a review of the new Estee Lauder eye sculpting kit), and it's obvious that this brush was designed with that in mind: it's meant to go into the crease and create definition, as well as apply the base color on the lid. According to the people at Lauder, the thin edge can also be used for lining and detail work, but in my opinion it's harder to do since the brush head is rather big (compared to a detail brush).

Comparison to Hakuhodo S122 and G515, both softer and fuller than the Lauder, better for an overall light wash or blending, less accurate for placement.

Lauder offers a tighter shape and softer hair than Burberry #11 and the old By Terry one.

The box doesn't say what kind of hair was used for the brush. I thought it was natural goat, but Saks web site claims it's synthetic. Isn't it time that companies are required to give us this information? In any case, the hair used for Estee Lauder Sculpting Shadow Brush is wonderfully bouncy, packed to maximum effectiveness, and feels nice on the lid. It's not as heavenly soft as my Hakuhodo squirrel brushes (S122 and G515), but it's nicer to the touch than any other eye contour brushes in my collection, which should tell you  a thing or two.

Does the unique curve make a real difference? Not for me. My mobile lid is larger than the brush head, so it's not a "one swipe and you're done" tool. But it doesn't matter. Between the hair quality, density, and the basic good shape, this is a really good eye brush that allows for blending the lid color, the crease, and a transition shade with ease and accuracy. It picks an impressive amount of product (depending on the eye shadow itself, of course), and is effective for both placement and blending, making it a useful brush.

Bottom Line: very nice to have, even if you have other eye sculpting brushes.

Estee Lauder Sculpting Shadow Brush ($32, made in China) is available from most department stores. For some reason I can't find it on Lauder's website, but it's just about everywhere else.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Kevyn Aucoin- Helena Pure Powder Glow Blush

This is my favorite blush until further notice ("further notice" might come tomorrow or next week, but still). The Kevyn Aucoin brand has been revamping, reformulating, and refining the products. I was fond of Kevyn Aucoin products before, but after my first forays into the renewed line with this Pure Powder Glow blush in Helena I'm fully sold.

The new products come in a gold box, so it's easy to tell them apart from the old stock in the burgundy boxes that matched the compacts and tubes (beware of discounters). The blush came in a little velveteen pouch, which I think they started doing a couple of years ago (my oldest Kevyn Aucoin products didn't). Unnecessary, of course, but it tells you that the brand is aiming higher. The compact has a mirror but no silly little brush.

The texture of the Pure Powder Glow is fine and silky to the extreme. It gave me a wow moment he first time I touched it. It's as finely-milled as they come, yet doesn't create a cloud of debris around the compact when you dip your brush. The feel is almost creamy, and application is a luxurious pleasure. Helena is a medium pink with some warmth yet leans plum. It has an inner brightness (no shimmer or shine, just the promised glow) that enlivens the face even on the most sallow of days, and pulls a look together no matter what else I've been using.

I can pull off a relatively wide variety of blush colors (no orange, salmon, or deep peaches, and nothing even close to lilac or lavender), but I suspect that this is one of the most flattering colors I own right now. The exquisite formula (lasts from morning to night) is also a big incentive to wear it. Pigment intensity is among the highest around. I've been using duo-fiber brushes to keep the color manageable, otherwise I'd have to spend some serious blending time. A touch of the fluffy brush to the surface is all that it takes.  The swatch photo shows a completely unblended one swipe of Helena. In reality I wear about one third of this amount. It's really that good.

Bottom Line: can you blame me for coveting the ones in Neolita and Natura?

Kevyn Aucoin- Helena Pure Powder Glow Blush ($37, made in USA) is available from select department stores,, and Beautylish.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Shocking de Schiaparelli (Vintage Perfume)

Is Shocking de Schiaparelli still as shocking today as it was when the perfume launched in 1936-37? What is a shocking perfume, anyway? My guess is that anything heavy on civet still makes people take a step back and make that face (Joey Tribbiani's "Who Farted?!" is a good approximation), and Shocking is certainly a civet bomb. Then there's the honey note that not everyone tolerates, and the general heaviness of spice, opulent flowers, and the kind of musk you rarely smell anywhere nowadays. Does it shock me? Not any more than looking at the marvelous surrealistic designs of Elsa Schiaparelli does. I find them exquisite and fabulous; the same goes for the perfume.

Elsa Schiaparelli and her famous shoe hat

My bottle is from the latter years of the original formula (late 1950s to  circa 1960), and the raunchiness is there in full force. Less oriental-spicy than vintage Tabu to which it's often compared (see these reviews by Victoria of Bois de Jasmin and Angela on Now Smell This*), and more sparkling in the top notes (though that might just be pure luck, as the juice in this old Shocking bottle hasn't deteriorated too much). What's obvious is that Shocking was meant to be noticed. It's big-boned, floral to the extreme, and is dripping with honey, civet and oakmoss. All the good stuff.

It's the honey that makes the difference between Shocking and many other civet bombs of yore. It smells less of fur and layers of opulent clothes and more of warm naked skin. I guess that's the "shocking" elements. Yes, there are furs there and a leather bag, but the sweet honey, decaying roses, and heavy musk take the wearer into the boudoir more than to a 1930s nightclub.

To me, Shocking de Schiaparelli is one of the dirtiest and thickest classic chypres I know. It lays it on heavily, exaggerating every facet to a surprising extreme. It's distracting, disturbing, and exquisite in a way you'd expect from the fashion designer who gave us the lobster dress. The perfume "smells like vintage" in the best kind of way. The roses are red, realistic, and shed their petals all over the skin just as the musk seeps into it. It sounds a bit creepy, and I think that's the whole point. You get each individual part (where did they find this kind of ylang-ylang? and where can I get more?) and it all comes together and surrounds you in a virtual reality that makes you feel like you've just stepped into a George Cukor movie set where old Hollywood stars are about to surround you in tailored suits, sharp shoulder pads and sculpted hats.

You can read more and learn of the different style bottles between older and newer versions of Shocking in this blog post.

*In her delightful fashion thriller, Slain in Schiaparelli, Angela M. Sanders (that's Angela of NST) uses one of the designer's creepier gowns as a part of the plot, and it all fits together perfectly. The book is darker than its two fluffier predecessors and I liked it quite a bit.$3.99 for the Kindle versions on Amazon, for a good rainy night.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stila Got Inked Cushion Eye Liner- Smoky Quartz Ink

It looks a bit like caviar, but it's just the spongy cushion reflecting the light from the shimmer.

After testing and loving that bright Stila Cusion Blush I told you I was going to get its cousin, Stila Got Inked Cushion Eye Liner, another Korean-made product. My original intention was to buy Blue Sapphire, but even I couldn't justify another blue eyeliner. So I picked Smoky Quartz, a complex shimmery blackened bronze color that reminded me of old eyeliner I had and enjoyed in the past, such as Lancome Artliner Gold Passion and Rouge Bunny Rouge Tiger Eye. I had a vacancy in my collection so I used them up years ago, and Stila's Smoky Quartz fit the bill.

You can see that the color is beautiful. The shimmer is bright but very fine, and doesn't flake off or fall into my eyes. It brightens the eye area, especially when using an all-matte eye shadow look. It adds just the right amount of shine and light, and the result is polished and flattering. Performance is excellent. The eyeliner sets within seconds and stays put without losing its luster or precision from morning to night. I've applied Stila Cushion Ink with several eyeliner brushes, and my personal preference is using very thin yet semi-firm brushes. If it's too floppy the brush will not get coated evenly with product. My leaning towards the thinner ones is because of the shiny finish, but if you want more impact you can definitely go for a wider brush. I have done it for an evening look and it was pretty.

A look at the ingredients:

Bottom Line: Maybe I do need the blue one after all.

Stila Got Inked Cushion Eye Liner- Smoky Quartz Ink ($28, made in Korea) is available from Nordstrom, Sephora, Ulta, and

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