Thursday, August 31, 2006

At Last

After a month-long search for the perfect denim pencil skirt that took me where no woman wants to go, I finally found it at J. Crew.

The picture from their website doesn't do it justice, probably because of the awful, preppy-on-crack styling. I'm wearing it with a soft, sexy top (silk for now, a deep v-neck cashmere later), very high heels (red or brown Manolo mary-janes) and interesting jewelry. Wool ballet flats are not for this short non-blonde.

Honey- Serge Lutens Miel de Bois

I could write a full review of Serge Lutens' Miel de Bois, the latest fragrance to join my collection. However, Sweet Diva has already said it here. This is another much-maligned perfume that doesn't seem to work on many people, but I find it to be nothing but loveliness.

The first in-bottle whiff was honey. When it touched my skin there was a lot of sweet woody goodness, and the dry-down is back to deep, spiced honey. It holds well on my skin and feels very sexy and satisfying.

The only problem? Together with my bottle and a bunch of other samples, there was one of Douce Amere, and now I'm smitten. Again.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Playing With Color

The wonderful Besame Cosmetics have something new to offer: First, their lip glazes would be available to ship on August 25th. Second, in the mean time they are letting us play with their products online. Their Look Creator allows you to choose a model (five different skin tones) and either see what they're offering as daytime or evening looks (I wasn't too thrilled with most of these looks), or create your own custom look. Play with shadows, rouge and lip colors and make the model beautiful. It's a lot of fun and also inspiring. Once you're done, I highly recommend purchasing samples. Everything I tried was beyond fabulous (and, thank you to Maria, who sent me the perfect colors for a non-blonde).

Monday, August 14, 2006

Sephora's Fall Looks

While waiting for my September magazines to arrive, I've been browsing the fall offerings of the various stores and sites. Sweet Diva has already went over the looks from Neiman Marcus, so my contribution will be an overview of Sephora's Four decades-Four looks.
'60s Mod Girl
I love looking at this picture and I love 60s fashion. It's romantically glamorous to me, probably because I wasn't even born then. There are two major principles to this look: The exagarated lashes and the very pale mouth. The first isn't very practical. You can't go like that to work, and it would look weird for many evening outings. My very dark eyes are large enough that adding so much milage to the lashes would look comical, not pretty. As for very pale mouth, I'm not sure I can pull it off. I can do a clear gloss over my naturally not very pale lips or I can do nude as in very close to my natural color, but anything lighter than that looks weird on my olive skin.
'70 Earth Angel
Bronzed skin and Stila's Silver Maple shadow trio is actually something I can pull off. I've had my eye on Stila's shadows for a while. In the picture, the lighting makes the colors seem more brown than silver/slate, which makes the blonde, fair colored model look like she was doing what Sweet Diva called the "mud-munching zombie" thing. In both cases, I think this look is much more flattering on the non-blonde crowd. Very dark brown and charcoal grey look too harsh on very fair skin.
'80s Rock Diva
I almost love this look. Once again, what we have here is silver and very dark metallic grey shadows, just with a stronger mouth. The colors are lovely on the model. I think I might be able to pull off something similar, though being of a very different coloring I'd probably tone it down a bit- less shimmer and smokiness to go with the lips, and a little more neutral lipcolor when going all glam on the eyes. But this is something I'd really like to try.
'90s Grunge Gamine
The "I'm not wearing any makeup look". Are you kidding me?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Love of Serge- Gris Clair

Guess who's getting a bottle of Serge Lutens?
That would be my husband.
I've mentioned before how Gris Clair didn't work for me. I liked the smell well enough, but it didn't develop on my skin, remained cold and distant, and quickly disappeared. I still had the sample, so I made my poor, unsuspecting husband try it on last night.
It was heavenly. All of a sudden I knew what this perfume was supposed to smell like. I cold feel and see wintery sky with a purple haze, cool afternoons and unending beauty. On Aedes website it says something about the mountain hills of Morocco, but for me it was a European city.
Apparently, my blond husband has the perfect chemistry for Gris Clair, and the scent has stayed on his skin the entire night.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Fragrance Notes

A few short notes about perfumes I tried and/or retried recently:

  • L'Artisan Parfumeur-La Chasse Aux Papillons extreme
    This whole extreme and absolu thing is bothering me. It seems that first, the companies are releasing mild, wimpy versions with no staying power of their scents. The fragrance might be nice enough, customers are buying, and then buying again once the extreme version is out. In many of the cases I tried, the extreme version still doesn't have the best staying power. This is one of them. Floral, nice, but quickly disappears. I wore it for two days (had to reapply several times) trying to remember what it reminded me of. I knew it was something from my long lost youth, probably even something my sister used to wear. After two days it finally came to me: An old Max Factor fragrance called La Jardin. I haven't smelled it in 20 years, so I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure it's very similar.
  • Kenzo Summer
    I was taken aback at the first whiff, because the top notes smelled to me like a cheap, powdery handcream. After a minute or two it settled into a pleasant, powdery floral. It's not my thing, but I can see how it would smell very nice on others. It also faded quickly. I need more warmth, spice and lasting power.
  • Apparition by Emanuel Ungaro
    Apparently, there's a lack of fruity floral fragrances. This is why every designer and cosmetic company feel the need to come up with a fragrance or two or three that smell like berry jelly. Seriously, this was nothing but raspberry on my skin and stayed for hours and hours. Until I could take it no longer and washed it off. The only surprise here is the level of unoriginality.
  • Roberto Cavalli (the original one by the designer)
    I tried it before and wasn't impressed. Its top and heart notes still reminds me too much of another fragrance that I can't recall. This time I didn't wash it after an hour and let it do its thing. The fruity note is still too strong for me and too disticnt in the sillage. I like the part that's close to the skin- definitely more wood and amber, and quite pleasant- very similar to V Absolu. It has an incredible staying power- I'm at 10 hours and still counting. If only it didn't have this disturbing fruit note...
  • Idole by Lubin
    I love this one, probably because it smells very much like Donna Karan's Black Cashmere. It has the same boozy opening of rum, and the dry down is a similar combination of spice and wood. Black Cashmere seems to have a better staying power on my skin.

A Nice Surprise

I was searching online for Anna Sui nail color and discovered something I didn't know was possible: Helena Rubenstein products. I haven't used this brand in many many years, and as far as I know it's no longer sold in North America. But StrawberryNet has at least part of the line (even though they spelled the name wrong) and they offer free shipping.
I'm not sure if Rubenstein's Spectacular Liner is the same one I used and loved 18 years ago, but it does look like a pen and not a brush, so it might be it.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Not That Anyone Has Asked, But...

The bloggers that were featured in August's Allure were asked for their list of ten favorite products. Apparently, some of those lists were slightly altered (read this post by the Beauty Addict), but they did get to name their absolute favorites. So I've been trying to compile mine. It's not as easy it seems. I'm sort of cheating, as in certain places I picked a whole product range. But, it's my list so I make the rules...

1. Leave-in conditioners. There are several on the market and I alternate between a few. It doesn't really matter which one I use, as long as my hair gets its moisture fix. My favorites are Aveda Elixir and Neutrogena Triple Moisture Silk Touch.

2. Body washes and creams from L'Occitane. I love everything that they make, in every fragrance and line. The shea butter products are wonderful in winter, mimosa is a dreamy summer scent and I also adore the Honey Harvest line. Their web site is horrible, though. You need to know exactly what you're looking for, otherwise you'll miss most of the products. So I highly recommend a trip to their nearest store.

3. Bliss Sole Train set. Everything one needs for feet (except for polish). The Diamancel Buffer is amazing (they also sell it on, and their lotions and potions are wonderful. I only wish it all smelled like Rosy Toes. What's better than having your feet smell like roses?

4. Mario Badescu's seaweed night cream. I've talked about it before and can't say enough good things about this product. They sell the entire line in Nordstrom, and I also recommend taking their consultation online, because in a few weeks you will receive an envelope full of samples of products recommended for you. That's how I became a fan of their products.

5. Lancome eye liners. If I had to choose only one eye makeup product, it would have been eye liner, and if I had to narrow it to one brand it would be Lancome. The pencils and liquid in a pen are all beautiful, durable and easy to use.

6. Chanel Vitalumier foundation. I haven't succumbed to the mineral trend. I like the silky feeling of a liquid foundation and the fool-proof application. Vitalumier is semi-sheer. You get more coverage if you use more product. It blends well with my skin and has a lovely, natural finish. My color of choice is beige, and it's the best match for my skin out of the many products I've ever tried.

7. Dallas by Benefit. It's a blush and a bronzer. It gives my skin the perfect natural-looking glow and I have no idea what I used before discovering it. Well, I do know, but now I can't picture myself without it.

8. Besame Cosmetics Enchanting Lipstick in Chocolate Kiss. I've already declared it as my holy grail lip color. The more I use this reddish brown lipstick, the more I love it. It's very pigmented, the texture is perfect and the color is neutral enough to be wearable for either day or night, but still bold enough to be noticed and make a difference in my look.

9. O.P.I Start to Finish base & top coat. I've tried so many nail products. From the ubiquitous drugstore products to the top notch Lippman Collection. This is the best I've found. It's a 2-in-1 product that gives outstanding results. It makes applying polish a breeze and the manicure lasts for well over a week.

10. Perfume. My mother has taught me that you should never leave the house without putting on some perfume. I also wear it at home. It makes everything prettier and finishes off the look. I don't think that it really matters what anyone is using, as long as it's something they love and feel good wearing. I'm always looking for new ones, not as a holy grail thing, just building my fragrance wardrobe.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A Note About Email

I made a typo when entering the email link here on the front page of my blog. Thanks to the lovely Renee from Blog for Beauty for spotting it. The address link on my profile page was correct, so I got the emails sent through that and replied to all of them. But if you emailed me and didn't get a reply it's because the address was incorrect. My aplogies.
The correct address is: [email protected]

Friday, August 04, 2006

A Few of My Favorite Things (that are not whiskers on kittens)

I was going through my perfume collection, trying to figure out if there was some common denominator or if there was a way to tell what kind of fragrance I would like and what I wouldn't. I can't say that I've found a definite answer, but I decided to list my current rotation- the perfumes that get the most wear, the bottles that I eye carefully to check if the juice level isn't getting too low, the ones I reach for quickly, without thinking too much. I don't think there's a common thread, except that most of them have big bones, large presence- whatever you want to call it.

Kingdom by Alexander McQueenThis is an odd one. I think I bought it because in a way, it reminded me (don't laugh) of Colors by Benetton, that I wore as a teen for special dates with my boyfriend. Those are some bittersweet memories and so is this fragrance. I usually wear it at night because of a certain dirty element, and only recently discovered that it's actually better in hot weather than it is in winter. Heat brings out a very sensual aspect.

Grand Amour (Annick Goutal)- Though different than Cartier's So Pretty, in my mind they are grouped together. Classic elegance, very French. It works for me both for day and for night, and I sometimes wish I could be the person who wears it as her one and only signature scent.

Quel Amour! (Annick Goutal)- A surprising choice for me, as the fruity element is quite prominent. But those are lovely red fruit (yet I dislike Goutal's Petite Cherie), the official notes says something about currants, but to me it's pomegranate beautifully blended with rose and peony. It's an intoxicating sunny fragrance with an incredible staying power on my skin.

Eau d'Hadrien (Annick Goutal)- Lemon and Cypress, fun and uncomplicated. Wonderful to wear first thing in the morning before doing stuff around the house. It has no staying power unless layered with something else. My little discovery is how good it is combined with Serge Luten's Un Bois Vanille.

Nuit du Hadrien (Annick Goutal)- Hadrien's grown-up, wickedly sexy sister. My choice for a fall morning.

Tiffany (the original one, by Tiffany, of course)- I was introduced to it about 14 years ago by my friend E, who has since moved on to other fragrances. I bought it for myself in the summer of 1993 just before I met my husband, and have been wearing it ever since. I know that many think of it as dated, but for me it's anything but. It was perfect when I was 22 and it suits me just as well today. It's become so much a part of me that I can't even analyze the notes or anything else about it. It's one of my signature scents and I wear it easily both days and nights.

Panthere (Cartier)- Another signature scent that seems to have been made especially for me. Like Tiffany, it's a floral-oriental, perhaps more white/tuberose/lily. I prefer it as an evening fragrance and has been wearing it since late 1995 or early 1996. It's the perfume I wore for my wedding and all through my honeymoon, which is probably why my husband adores it.

Lea St. Barth Extreme- My journey with Lea is documented here and here. It's sweet, girly, edible-- everything I'm supposed to dislike. I can't get enough.

Loukhoum (Keiko Mecheri)- Again, what is happening to my nose?

Monyette ParisEveryone is more beautiful when wearing this. One of my staples this summer, just as I've predicted.

Serge Lutens- Un bois Vanille and Cedre. Neither one is your typical summer perfume. So what?

Sage Machado perfume oils: OnyxMoonstoneA new addiction. Onyx has taught me a lesson about coconut and Moonstone is a goth gardenia.

The Heart is Deceitful Above All things (Yosh)-  Wood, fig, damp earth and vanilla make this one indescribable. I bought a bottle before finishing up the sample because I couldn't bear to part with it. However, the lack of irony in the name, and the backstory referencing a completely fake person and their work feels... deceitful. And also stupid.

Neroli by L'Occitane- This is a much maligned fragrance (just read the reviews on and see what I mean). People either love it or hate it with a white hot passion. I used to be obsessed with it and still wear it often and never fail to get compliments.

Jil Sander No. 4- Another womanly floral-oriental with a blazing sillage and a strong staying power. I love the elegance and sophistication. And it calls to be worn with black tailored clothes.

So Pretty (Cartier)- I'm quite sure that this one is on its way to be discontinued, which is a shame. It's one of those classics, a beautiful floral with an almost animalic base. Impeccably elegant, very French, and, yes-- it's oh so pretty.

Le Baiser du Dragon (Cartier)-  A patchouli bomb, among other things. I don't like the thin EDT, but the parfum and EDP are fabulous. If you're willing to face the dragon.

Black Cashmere (Donna Karan)- A fairly recent discovery, which ended as a full bottle, the body cream, and a backup, just in case. That's what I call love.

Goldmund by Dorissima - It's soft and ambery, sweet enough but not super calorific. I guess it's another one of those lush vanillic florals, but somewhat more dry than the other ones on my list. In the rate I'm going through samples I probably need to get a bottle.

Invigorate My Foot

In the nearly two years since I've discovered Mario Badescu's products, I've given very little thought to skin care products. I use several of the moisturizers, according to my skin's needs and alternate between cleansing products with the change of weather and activity. The one thing that MB's line hasn't been able to provide me is the perfect scrub. I tried, but wasn't smitten with any of their offerings.

Before my love affair with Mario Badescu I was a Clinique devotee for years, but even then I never liked their scrubs and found them too harsh and not effective. So I've been using Lancôme's Exfolliance Confort on and off for many years now. It's a good scrub, not too drying, unless my skin is having an über-sensitive day, and it usually gets the work done and leaves a soft skin behind.

A few weeks ago I felt like changing something and getting a deeper scrubbing. I was at my local Target and picked two Neutogena products: Deep Clean Invigorating Foaming Scrub and Deep Clean Gentle Scrub. I tried both over the following days, and the results were such that I needed to apply my trusted MB seaweed cream a few times a day to rectify the situation.
Both scrubs were very abrasive and drying. There was no gentle exfoliating. More like full-force flaying, that left me with a dry and flaky skin. I didn't see much difference between the two, except that the Invigorating scrub also feels tingly, has a stronger grapefruit smell and it's blue. After a few days of the horror, both tubes were exiled to the land of forgotten beauty products, the Siberia in my utility closet. I returned to my tried-and-true Lancôme, at least for now.

The other day, while giving myself a pedicure I decided that I could use a scrubbing cream or gel. I love Bliss foot froducts, but they don't have a specific foot exfoliator. So I looked around and found the almost forgotten Neutrogena tubes. I used the blue one and it was good. The tingling was nice and the results were great- soft and smooth feet. I did feel the need for good misturizing right after using it, which makes sense. I already new that this product was drying.

Bottom line: I'd never use Neutrogena scrubs on my face again, but I now have two tubes of a pretty decent foot scrub.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

In the Shadows

The coming fall is a great season for eye shadow. Everyone is talking about shadows and from the look of it, it seems that everyone is also buying them. The chocolate Bobbi Brown palette has been talked about everywhere, but there are other beautiful options out there. The question is: Do I really need more eye shadows?

I might need a good highlighter under my brow, but as I've mentioned, they are hard to find. Especially non-shimmery ones. I like this trio from Stila. the one in the picture is Forest Clove, but there are two other trios, all look lovely, but the light ones are all shimmery, and until I actually try them on I can't tell if they even show on my skin.

Cargo's Ten Thousand Islands is gorgeous, and has everal optional looks- warm and cold. I love this blue, but I vowed to turn it down a notch for the upcoming season, and I do worry that I'm reaching a certain age that vibrant colors might no longer be apropriate. But it is so beautiful...
I love the slate and silver. These colors do look good on me and might be the thing for an evening look. The ecru and chocolate might be redundant, considering the Bobbi palette.

Looking at this limited edition Smashbox Quad I'm questioning my resolve about bold color. I love the teal, though I'm not sure how well it works with the other colors when it's actually on one's face. Probably as a liner. Can it be considered a fall color/look? Probably not, especially with the yellow gold. This one is something I know that can work on my skin, but I'm uncertain about the whole look for the season. It's more summery, and I already have Chanel's Gold Rush quad.

Looking at all this, I think that I should be looking for a duo compact, definitely not a palette. Hopefully, something interesting would pop out in a month, just in time for the season. Right now, it looks like slim picking.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Chocolate Brown (Mostly About Bobbi Brown's Chocolate Palette For Fall 2006)

Is there a beauty blog that didn't mention Bobbi Brown's chocolate palette lately? I almost missed my chance of getting one, because I was taking my time deciding that I really need some new brown eyeshadows, while these slick things were selling out like hot chocolate cakes.

There's something weird about a new line for fall that is becoming sold out by mid-July, and I wonder what was the beauty blogs' contribution to the Bobbi Rush (or for the Azuree oil craze, for that matter). Are we the ones creating the hype? Bobbi Brown's chocolate cherry nail polish is no longer to be found. It disappeared even faster than the palette. But I've already seen some great alternatives elsewhere. One of the magazines had Christy Turlingtom wearing something similar by Maybelline. I might check it eventually, but right now I'm actually on a light color kick. It's still summer, after all.

But back to the brown shadow issue. We all have them in the depths of our makeup drawers. I have a cognac color from Elizabeth Arden, an earthy brown from Clinique, a Chanel bronze and probably another one or two (dozens). None of them were part of a full palette, as brown seems to have gone out of favor in the last few seasons. I preferred shimmery golds and satiny khakis. So, all of a sudden brown looked fresh and new, enough to get me curious about a Max Factor thingy that was sent to me by their PR. The colors were ok, but blending and remaining in place were not in that set's mission statement. It ended up a mess.

While this experiment's results were decidedly underwhelming, it did make me decide that I need to invest in a good brown palette. Thanks to Annie from Blogdorf Goodman I learned that still had them (though my local store was out of the Bobbis, as were all the other department stores in Paramus) and I managed to score one. Once it arrived, I was really happy that I did.

Again, the lightest color, bone, is completely useless to me. This is the only color from the palette that can be purchased separately. So, if you are somewhat olive-skinned, you don't need to bother with this one. It's invisible and will only serve as a powdery base for blending the rest of the colors. If you're after a lid highlight, the lightest shimmery shadow is just that. It's very light and has more shimmer than pigment (not in an over-the-top way), but it doesn't need to be more than that, especially for daytime. The darker colors are all very pretty, can be blended and layered to your heart's desire, and the darkest one is just perfect as a daytime liner.

I'm not crazy about the double-ended brush that comes with the shadows. It's too thin for my liking, though it makes a good cat toy.

Besame Cosmetics

After 20 years of wearing makeup and trying on anything under the sun, I'm a bit hard to impress. My makeup drawers are full of everything from Chanel and Dior to several well-chosen drugstore products. Every once in a while I discover something new and good, or find a color that is great for me. But finding a new line and feeling completely enamored doesn't happen every day.

It's a very wonderful thing when it does.

Besame Cosmetics. Write this name down. I tested three wonderful products, and in this process found something that comes close to the perfect lipstick. That's not an everyday occurrence. I'll get to it in a second.

But first I have to say a few words about the packaging. The red-embossed gold is beautiful. It has an Old World feel to it, very elegant, out of another era. It makes you feel instantly glamorous, which is just what a beauty product ought to be.

The translucent powder is silky and comfortable. I rarely use powder and would normally avoid loose powder due to extreme klutziness, but the puff that comes with this powder has proven to be foolproof, and the powder did wonders in keeping my face and makeup intact in the crazy weather we've been having here lately.

The second product I tried was the Boudoir Rouge. What a delicious name! This blush/bronzer comes in a beautiful compact, equipped with a puff. I haven't used any blush or bronzer since discovering Benefit's Dallas a few months ago, but this rouge in Sun Kissed is just as wonderful. The web site describes it as a peach shade, but it's not very peachy on my. More of a healthy bronzed pink, pretty much what a nice tan would look on my skin. It's easy to apply and has a great lasting power. I'm not retiring my Dallas, but will just have to face a tough choice every morning.

I saved the best for last. I'm talking about the lipstick in Chocolate Kiss. It has a smooth, creamy texture and a matte finish.Very pigmented, comfortable and pleasant on the lips and very long lasting without any of the dryness that usually accompanies matte, long-wearing lip color. This is a perfect lipstick. And this color, Chocolate Kiss, is exactly right for me. They describe it as a milk chocolate brown, but it is reddish and warm enough and not too dark. I wear it during the day and add a clear gloss for night. According to the web site, they'll soon have a line of lip glazes. I can't wait for that.

The only drawback I see is the limited availability. Besame Cosmetics is sold at Henri Bendel in NYC and in four other locations nationwide. I'm lucky to have a store nearby in Bergen County, but for anyone living in a Besame-less location, I'd recommend trying the sampling offer. You can buy them for $1.50 each, so it's easy to try and figure out what colors would work.

The products reviewed here were sent free of charge by the company.

Return of the Supermodels

It's wonderful to see my favorite model, Linda Evangelista, on the cover of Vogue again. Inside the magazine, Alber Elbaz of Lanvin is talking about how the supermodels made fashion both fun and exciting. I wholeheartedly agree. Vogue's September 1991 issue (pictured here) was exactly that, and its cover is maybe the most memorable I've seen. I hope to see more of Linda and the others.

That said, the Kate Moss overdose (pun not completely unintentional) is annoying me. Her charm escapes me, and seeing her in several ads in each magazine for some of the biggest houses is way, way too much.

NYC Proof

I have quite a few ideas, products and fragrances to write about, and also some commentary on the August magazines. But before I get to any of it, here's a burning issue: Weather. It's been really hot in the Tri-State area lately, and on some days the humidity is also pretty bad, especially in the city. I've been in Manhattan almost every day lately, which meant going for a minimal but very weather-resistant makeup.

I've been using the new waterproof version of Max Factor's Lash Perfection mascara. The regular LP (the one in the picture, the waterproof's pacaging has silver trim, not gold) earned many raves during the May Mascara Hunt. Many said that the best one is the deep blue. I have yet to test that color, but the rich black that I've been using is great. The color isn't too glossy and the mascara's performance is very good. It adds both volume and length without looking fake, no clumping and hardly any dotting (only happened when I was in a hurry and wasn't careful enough).
The mascara holds all day even in the most horrendous weather. No melting, flaking and smudging, which is perfect for our HHH weather (hot, humid and hazy).