Friday, December 29, 2006

My Favorite Things for 2006

2006 has been full of beauty discoveries. Of course, I also started my blogging journey this year, which made the experience more interesting. My experiments with color and scent have an audience now, witnessing both Holy Grail discoveries, as well as what happens when I don't wash my hair for four days (in the name of science) or when I try on a fragrance that turns my stomach just before having one mojito too many.

Without further ado, here's my list of Favorite Things for 2006 (in no particular order):

1. Secret de Vie by Lancome

The magic orb holds a cream that is officially targeting an audience older than me (you'll find it on their site under solutions for wrinkles and dermo-creases). I'll go out on a limb here and say that it probably doesn't erase wrinkles. However, it's an amazing active cream that really restores and nourishes the skin. It promises instant, visible results and in the case of my 30-something skin it is delivering just that. I've been using it since early fall, from the first sign that my skin gave about being unhappy with the change of weather. That first sign was also the last, because SdV has done wonders. No redness, flakiness or any other kind of irritation. It feels great, smells wonderfully, doesn't clog pores and actually seems to be helping with healing if the occasional breakout appears. It costs a pretty penny and is well worth it.
My original post about SdV is here.

2. Besame Cosmetics makeup in general and lip glaze in particular

Pretty is as pretty does, and in the case of this small and relatively unknown California-based company, it's not just the gorgeous, retro-glam packaging of the products. Inside the gold and red vials, tubes and compacts there is some serious beauty and exceptional quality. The latest product that was launched is the lip glaze, which for me takes the cake. The combination of pretty colors, delicious smell, impressive staying power and, most important, pampering and soothing my sensitive lips, is the best one I came across so far. It can only improve if it came in more colors.
My reviews of Besame products are here.

3. Shea Butter and Dead Sea Salt Scrub from Maryam's Soap Nook

The fact that a body scrub is even on my list of favorites should be telling. After all, this is "just" the stuff that you rub on your body to remove dead skin flakes and wash it away. Some scrubs are better than others, some smell really nice, but how much notice do you really take of them? This product makes a big difference in the way my skin looks and feels. It does the work and then some. The salt is packed into a rich cream of shea butter and several oils. The result is that my skin is not only smoother but also softer and never dry. It's a homespun product in a humble packaging that is far superior to the expensive stuff that's sold in fancy stores and spas.

4. Gris Clair by Serge Lutens

It took me a while (and a change in weather) to fall in love with this scent, and I still like it much better on my husband than on myself, so I'm listing it as my favorite men fragrance for 2006. What's in it? Mostly lavender with a touch of iris, smoke sweetened with maybe a hint of vanilla. It's understated and sophisticated in its quiet way, and the somewhat earthy drydown is breathtakingly beautiful. Or, is it handsome? The only problem is the staying power, or lack of it. It's lovely, but gone too soon.

5. Urban Decay eye shadow primer potion

It's my most recent discovery and it makes a lot of difference in the way my eye makeup behaves. I'm not entirely sure that it was only launched in 2006, but since primers of all kinds have become a mainstream essential this year, I'll regard it as such. An extra 30 seconds of applying makeup resulting in eye shadows that not only last and last (and last), but also look brighter and better.
Here's my original review.

6. Lorac Snake Charmer palette

This seems to be the year of palettes, especially the limited edition ones. People were doing crazy things to score Bobbi Brown's Chocolate palette (so much hype over brown eye shadow, albeit pretty), Chanel charged an arm, a leg and your firstborn for their Coromandels compact that looks like a work of art, but isn't the most practical thing ever. The Snake Charmer palette is the one I reach for most often. The blush gives a healthy glow (though it requires a very light hand, as it's quite bright and very pigmented) that I love when wearing warm colors. The four eye shadows also pack a lot of color and quite a bit of non-glittery shimmer. The colors are neutral but they give a beautiful evening look. They never flaked or creased on me, even before I started using a primer underneath them, and their texture is excellent and easy to apply.
Here's what I wrote about this palette months ago.

7. Niche Perfumes

Yes, I know that I discovered the world beyong  Calvin and Ralph long ago, and some of the greatest have been around since the late 1970s, but this was the year I binged. Hard. I can't pick just one scent or even one perfume house. I wish I knew about Serge Lutens' exclusive non-export line before I was in Paris and could have picked a bell jar or two (or three). In the mean time, I've fallen in love with so many  L' Artisan, Andy Tauer, Regina Harris, Mazzolari, Sage Machado, Keiko Mecheri and many others. But most notable this year was the nearly religious experience I had at the JAR boutique of Bergdorf. You don't look at fragrance the same way after you smell and try on these unique scents.

8. Tom Ford Black Orchid

Back to the world of mainstream (albeit luxury) perfumes. I know that some bloggers were disappointed with this one, as they expected something very edgy. I didn't have many expectations, as I've always been a bit suspicious of Ford, who is more than a little misogynistic. It took me a few tries to really learn to appreciate this scent, to make it mine and to enjoy it as much as I do now. It's not a Serge Lutens, but it's almost Lutenic (did I just coin a phrase?) in the experience and complexity. I love its elegance and Old World charm. It might not be the mystery lady in a black cape, vanishing into the night. But it is a black dress (not necessarily a little one) and silk stockings scent. How many of those are created these days?
More can be found here.

9. Dallas blush/bronzer by Benefit

This was the color that made my summer. A plummish bronze or a brownish plum was the best and easiest fake tan I came across. It takes a much lighter hand in the winter, but it still works beautifully.
Here's my first rave about it.

10. Skin MD Natural Shielding Lotion

Another recent discovery that has become an important part of my routine. It can be used in several ways, but to me it works best as a super moisturizing but completely non-greasy hand cream. It's the one I keep on my desk and use while typing, without leaving any sticky residue in my wake.
Here's my original post.

Worth mentioning are my perennial favorites. Most of those I've been using for years and still reach for them on a nearly daily basis. Here they are.

Please visit my fellow bloggers who are also taking part in this end of the year tradition and listing their own favorites:

  • Afrobella

  • All About The Pretty

  • Aromascope

  • Beauty Addict

  • Beauty Blogging Junkie

  • Beauty by Nadine

  • Beautiful Makeup Search & Beauty Blog

  • Beauty Hatchery

  • Beauty Jones

  • Blogdorf Goodman

  • Bois de Jasmin

  • BonBons in the Bath

  • Brain Trapped in Girl's Body

  • Capital Hill Barbie

  • C'est Chic

  • Coquette

  • Crazy Jay Blue

  • eBeautyDaily

  • Girl's Handbook

  • Hautemommastuff

  • Koneko's *Mostly* Beauty Diary!

  • Legerdenez

  • Makeup Bag

  • Monkeyposh

  • My Muse

  • No one knows why the wolf laughs

  • Now Smell This

  • Perfume Smellin' Things

  • Peppermint Patty's Perfume Posse

  • Platinum Blonde Life

  • Product Girl

  • Scentzilla!

  • She'll Be Feverish After So Much Thinking

  • Slap of the Day

  • The Customer Is Always Right

  • The Daily Obsession

  • The Great She Elephant

  • The Life of a Ladybug

  • Urbane Girl

  • Victoria's Own

  • A special thank you to Annie from Blogdorf Goodman who organized this project.
    Happy New Year!

    Wednesday, December 27, 2006

    Stuff I will not be getting

    The spring look limited editions are already here, and it looks like I'm not the target audience of any of them. So many pretty colors, so few that actually suit me. It's not a big issue right now, but soon enough I'll be getting the itch to update my look, to get something new and very fabulous. It's not going to be easy to find.

    Here's what we have so far:

    Annie from Blogdorf Goodman has reviewed the new MAC collection (and she has great pictures of it). It looks lovely and totally not for me. Pale, icy, pearly... Not adjectives that describe colors that should go on my face.

    NARS Spring 2007 collection offers lots of sheer pinks and frosted shadows (am I the only one who is getting Cyndi Lauper flashbacks from frosted mint green?). Their Corinthe sheer lipstick actually doesn't look half bad. It's a sheer almond and I might have to check that one out. Everything else is for a much lighter complexion.

    Smashbox Tokidoki spring 2007 collection (a limited edition, of course) is unbelievably cute, Japanese-inspired and very very pink. One of the shadow quads, Modella, with it's deep purple and peweter colors might have some potential for me, if the lighter shades are pigmented enough to even show on my skin. But other than that, another no go (it doesn't even look good on the model Smashbox are using to show this collection. And she's a blue eyed blonde!).

    The good news is that I just saved $50 by not buying the new limited edition Bobbi Brown violet face palette. The bad news is that Bobbi Brown is all about violet this season. Violet is a lovely color. It just doesn't belong on my face, as I don't do the Three Days Decaying Corpse look. The worst news is that some women are actually going to be sporting the orchid and violet shimmers on their faces. It won't be pretty.

    Coming Soon

    My list of favorite products for 2006 (both new and new to me) will be up on Friday. Stay tuned.

    Saturday, December 23, 2006

    Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion

    Or: 1000 Beauty Bloggers Can't Be Wrong

    From the "How did I live without this until now?" department comes Urban Decay's Eyeshadow Primer Potion. I'm not a big primer user as it is, unless I'm going for the full face extravaganza, always trying to keep the goop amount on my face to a minimum (well, the beauty-obsessed equivalent of a minimum). Also, I always maintained that using great quality eye products (cream, shadows) makes eye primer an unnecessary item.

    I was wrong. I mean, you don't have to use an eye primer, but the results that this little potion gives you are just too good to discard. The hype in the beauty blogs that surrounds this product is well justified. It makes eye makeup hold and last from early morning well into the night. Also, I think it makes eye shadows look better and brighter. It's something about the way the primed skin becomes a more accepting canvas to the brush you're using (speaking of which, there's an interesting discussion on going back to the old sponge applicators on Jack and Hill's beauty blog).

    The only secret here is to figure out the right amount to use. I've found that the applicator (it's one of those sponge wands, like the ones that come with most lip glosses) tends to load a bit too much potion on the lids, so I've taken to even things out with my finger, after the initial application. Then, you need to give it a few seconds to set before brushing on the eye shadows. It adds about a minute to the time it takes to get ready, but the long lasting (and great looking) results are worth it.

    Sonia Rykiel - Le Parfum

    One day in the winter of 1993/94 I bought the much anticipated new fragrance by French designer Sonia Rykiel, Le Parfum. I didn't know all that much about perfume as it was the early days of my fragrance wardrobe. I wasn't able yet to define what exactly was it that I loved about certain scents. I only started collecting in the previous couple of years (prior to that I was still doing the signature scent thing, changing them about once a year). But I was already aware that, when possible, I should go for the EdP, that staying power was important to me and that I didn't want to smell like a fruit cup.

    I remember Le Parfum as quite different than anything else I owned and used back then (Paloma Picasso, Safari, Lauren, White Linen, Red Door, Valentino, Eternity and Tiffany). It was bolder, it made a statement and felt way too elegant for my daily college life. I loved it and was entranced by the scent, but it wasn't easy to wear for my 23 year old self (Not sure why. After all, I was 19 when I started wearing Paloma Picasso).

    I don't know what happened to my original bottle. Can't remember if I finished it and never repurchased or maybe it was lost and forgotten, possibly while moving. It's the only fragrance in my above list that I wasn't able to recall anything about the way it smelled, except for its perceived elegance. I couldn't remember anything else about it. Therefore, it was time to find it again.

    First step was going to the official Sonia Rykiel website. The site is quite horrible in its inefficiency and lack of information, but I was happy to discover that the fragrance is still available and to find the notes:
    Top notes: Hinoki wood, mimosa, passion fruit
    Heart Notes: Osmanthus, rose, iris
    Base notes: Tonka beans, ambered precious woods (what exactly is that?), vanilla

    Then it was time to hunt a sample, to see if I still like it. That was quite easy and I purchased a mini EdP on eBay. But while searching for a reliable source to purchase it I discovered that out of Rykiel's fragrances (that I find to be on the boring, Stella-y side), this one isn't sold in any brick and mortar store that I could find (Sephora and all the department stores under the sun). Most of the online discounters only sell the EdT, and some of them seem to be quite disturbing: having a very different list of notes than the official site (strawberry???) or offering a bottle of 3.4 oz EdP, something that isn't supposed to exist, again, according to the SR website. Eventually I managed to find a retailer or two and to also locate it in a couple of eBay stores. But, what's the big mystery? This fragrance is obviously still in production. Other products from the same house are widely available. Why is this one so hard to find?

    The answer might be in the scent. I received my little bottle and applied happily. It has the cheekbones of a  chypre though not an oakmoss/patchouli scent. Something about the kick you get from the structure, I guess. It's lovely and very feminine, elaborate and rich. Everywhere you go, you'll hear how big scents have fallen out of grace, that the only way to sell well is to go fruity-floral (and with a scantily clad bleached blonde celeb, if possible). Apparently, it's a matter of demand, and elegant woody, cashmere like scents are not where big money is.

    I like it. I really, really like it. I'm amused by how wearable I find it now. It's so pretty, cozy and has a natural elegance. I guess that one needs to grow up a little to truly appreciate this scent. I no longer find it so incredibly unique, though. I already own several more interesting/difficult/complex fragrances. Still, it's full bottle worthy and can easily enter my winter daytime rotation.When I find a full bottle, that is.

    Thursday, December 21, 2006

    All Fragrances, Great and Small

    Despite the lack of fragrance posts lately, I've been sampling and testing quite a bit, and adding several new ones to my ever-growing wish list.

    L'Artisan Perfumeur- Premier Figuier Extreme: I love it, and it's no big surprise, as fig (or fig leaf) is one of my favorite notes. I've always been a fan of the Fig Leaf and Cassis line from The Thymes, but their cologne is exactly that- a very weak and flat juice and not an EdP. They really disappointed me when they discontinued their environmental oil, which I used in my lamp rings almost daily. But here, at last, is the real thing: deep, warm, rich but keeps its green freshness. It's both comforting and sexy, has a dark edge to it but very wearable. The gorgeous limited edition bottle in the picture can be found at Aedes. The regular bottle is available from Luckyscents, and I also spotted it at my local C.O. Bigelow in Paramus.

    L'artisan Perfumeur-Dzonkha: This could be described as Premier Figuier's complete opposite. But I still love it. There's nothing comforting about its serious presence. It's a calm, confident, stony-faced scent, aware of its beauty and accomplishments. For me, it doesn't evoke a Bhutanese fortress (not really surprising, as I've never been there or seen one), but it makes me think of Midtown Manhattan on a cloudy grey day. Steel, skyscrapers and the concrete pavements. Either way, it's complex, cold and very unisex. Like many scents of this kind, I liked it better on my husband than on myself. However, he has found it a bit too bitter to wear comfortably.
    A far better review of Dzonkha by Greeneyes can be found here.

    Yosh- Winter Rose: This isn't a masterpiece. The reason I feel it needs to be stated is the fact that an 8 ml bottle of this perfume oil is sold for $200, which puts it right there with the most expensive of the JAR line (about $800 for 30 ml for Bolt of Lightning). However, this isn't a JAR creation. It's not as complex, interesting and well-blended and it doesn't give you the otherworldly impression that Mr. Rosenthal's work does. Don't get me wrong: It's a really nice one. It's rosy and spicy, and on my skin the cardamon was very dominant (I think I also detected a hint of saffron, though it's not a listed note). I like cardamon in chai, in rice, and apparently, I also like wearing it. But I don't adore it that much. It's a limited edition, only 250 bottles are available at Luckyscent.

    Il Profumo- Encens Epice: I really loved this one. Not all incense fragrances work this well for me, but this one has a lot to offer when it comes to spice and wood. Coriander seeds, cypress and a drydown of blond tobacco are making it smell rich and honeyed, cozy but with enough character to keep things interesting. It's a great cold weather scent, in my opinion, and can probably be worn by both men and women, though I used every drop of my sample without testing it on my husband. I tested the EdP, but when I get a full bottle I'll probably go with the oil.

    Tocca Perfume- Florence, Stella and Touch: Tocca's famous candles had many people eagerly waiting for the personal fragrance version. I don't use candles (a result of allergies and a house full of cats), so I wasn't familiar with the scents, only with their reputation. I was especially curious about Stella and its orange flowery goodness. I sniffed the bottle a couple of months ago and nearly bought it based on that. I'm very glad that I didn't. On the skin it becomes a very sweet orange confection. March from Perfume Posse described it as an upscale nouvelle cuisine orange creamsicle, and I agree. It's dessert-like until the drydown that is all musk and reminds me a lot of Valentino V Absolu. Nice enough, but doesn't rock my world.

    Neither did Touch, with its fruity-floral boring composition that turned into a heady white floral and not in a good way. But the worst was Florence. March blames it on the cabbage rose note, but what made it into a horrible scrubber as far as I'm concerned, was the bathroom-worthy jasmine. It was horrible and hard to wash off. Florence has clung to my skin like nothing else in my memory and required lots of hot water, soap and hand cream until it was finally gone. I kept sniffing my wrist in panic that a trace of it might still be there.
    If you must, both Sephora and Bergdorf sell them, as well as Luckyscents (link above).

    Robert Piguet- Fracas: This fragrance doesn't really belong on the list, as it's a classic one from 1948. Also, I've sniffed it a couple of times in the past, so it wasn't really new to me. However, last week I decided to test it, so it is worth talking about.
    The reason I avoided it for so long was my original impression that it smelled just like Chloe, my mom's favorite fragrance of all time. Through all the years of living in the same house as countless Chloe bottles, I've never once actually tried it on my skin. It was my mother's signature scent and so identified with her that I couldn't (and still can't) even think of giving it a try. However, two things have happened in recent years. My mother started to venture out of this tuberose comfort zone and Chloe had been demoted and degraded into a drugstore EdT (the original EdP in the milky glass bottle has been discontinued).

    This is why my wrist has found itself sprayed with Fracas. And, I was right, It does smell just like the old Chloe, only with more depth and richness. It's a similar white floral combination (the infamous tuberose, orange, lily of the valley, jasmine, gardenia and a musky finish. It's pretty, but I can't be objective or adequately describe it. Also, I can't wear it. It smells like my mother.

    Anat Fritz-Anat Fritz: This is a new one, created by a knitwear designer who is based in Berlin. As far as I know, here in the U.S. the fragrance is a Luckyscent exclusive. It's a typical cold-weather scent that starts with a distinct lavender note that doesn't completely go away even as the scent wears on. It is joined by vetiver and wood-- mostly cedar and more cedar-- to create a very clean and dry experience. It can be easily worn by men as to my nose it lacks any of the traditional feminine notes and it isn't seductive or flirty in any way. But it is very pleasant, interesting and caused me to bring my wrist to my nose many times during the EdP long wear. But, its true beauty is revealed when it's lightly sprayed on sweaters and coats. I think I need a bottle just to keep in my closet and make my clothes smell divine. The fact that I also like wearing it is simply a bonus.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    The One with the Gloss

    Before I start talking about all the glosses I've tried lately, the winner of last week's giveaway (two gorgeous but blonde-friendly glosses from Besame Cosmetics) is Allie. I'll need your mailing address.

    I'll start with the ones that didn't impress me. I'm very fond of many Benefit products, but their VIP six pack (three double-ended wands) was a disappointment. First, the colors are not exactly in my range. They are all very pale and will not flatter someone who isn't quite fair. So, right from the start it was clear that this limited edition set and I weren't meant to be. On top of that, the texture was as sticky as Juicy Tubes, but with less pigment and less staying power. Definitely a no-go for me.

    I had a much better luck at the Chanel counter. I tried two lip products. One was their Rouge Double Intensite, which has a liquid lipstick on one end and a sheer gloss on the other. It's a long-wearing formula, which really delivers. The color stays on for hours and requires some serious scrubbing action to remove. The problem was that the only color that I liked, Sandstone was out of stock (though I see that Saks online still has it).
    What I ended up buying was a(nother) glossimer, this time in the very festive color, Force. The color swatch online looks quite purple, but in reality it's a burgundy shimmer, with a more red than plum undertones. It packs lots of color and looks fabulous as an evening gloss. When mixed with a Summer Plum glossimer it is toned down considerably and looks lovely during the day. The texture is, as always, very pleasant. All the glitter doesn't make it gritty, and it has a reasonable staying power for a gloss.

    I saved the best for last. Just as I thought, Besame Cosmetics do make lovely lip glazes in colors that I can wear. The two that I got to try are Red Berry and Chocolate. The texture is perfect. Not too sticky, it covers the lips with a beautiful shine that feels very comfortable. Furthermore, it actually nourishes the lips. The glaze contains vitamins A, C, E, and anti-oxidant green tea extract, anti-aging marine collagen to maintain lip shape and fullness, aloe vera, macadamia nut extract and sweet almond oil that protect and heal the lips. And it works. After wearing these glazes all day long (I reapply every few hours or as needed), my lips feel the way I'd expect them to be following a day of using only the richest balms. I can't think of any other gloss in my impressive collection that feels this good. I love my Chanels, Alison Raffaele, Dior Kiss, Urban Decay and others. But Besame's product is simply better. I wish they came in many more colors.

    Speaking of which: The Red Berry looks quite frightening in the tube. It's a very bright red, almost watermelon like. I wouldn't have tried it in a regular lipstick, but in a sheer glaze it's perfect. It adds just enough lively color and lots of shine. My lips are naturally dark, so the pigment in the glaze doesn't overpower them. It just gives a pretty pick-me-up color that is very much appreciated in the winter.I can't promise that it would be as wearable for someone who is significantly more pale than me. But for someone of my coloring, this is a great daytime gloss (and it can be layered with a red lipstick for a bold look).

    The Chocolate glaze isn't as dark as what you see in the color swatch on the website. It's actually a pearly milk chocolate color, with maybe a touch of mauve in it. It's pretty, though on my lips it's a bit pale by itself. However, layered on top of Besame's dark chocolate lipstick the result is warm and rich, and it gives the matte lipstick a healthy boost.

    The glazes have a luxurious vanilla scent. I highly recommend their sample offer. For $1.50 each you can try any color and product that seems interesting. Since the easiest way to buy the products is online (unless you can get to Henry Bendel in NYC or one of the few other stores that sell them), this is an excellent way to get acquainted with this line.

    Three Fashion Notes

    1. The Emperor's New Clothes, or: What Fashion Blogs Are For:
    I can't believe I'm not only one around who sports eyes. Case in point is pages 74-75 of InStyle's January issue. Here we have five gorgeous actresses wearing one-shoulder gowns. Out of the five, only Penelope Cruz's well constructed Azzaro dress is flattering and showing her lovely figure. Rose McGowan's Blumarine dress could have been better had only it was made out of a different fabric. The yellow satin stretches awkwardly on her chest and isn't doing her any favors. But, at least, the color and the cut are very nice.

    The other three are nothing short of horrible: Drew Barrymore in a black shapeless DVF that could have been worn by a 7 months pregnant woman. Kristin Davis in an icy blue Alberta Ferreti that makes her balloon from the waist down. And, the worst of all, Beyonce in an Armani Prive atrocity that makes her look like a cartoon version of herself, all booty and not much else.

    What annoys me, is that these dresses were chosen by the fashion editor as good examples. We all know that the magazines can't really call the designers out , because, hello? advertising? But they can, at least, be a bit more discriminating with their choices of best looks.

    2. This is Why it's so hard to find a decent dress lately:I just read this post by the Bag Snob. She's talking about a specific dress, but this comment is exactly what's wrong with so many of the items you'd find in stores everywhere:
    "...Those of you lucky enough to be heading to warm weather this holiday need to grab one of these easy to pack dresses. It is flattering on everyone, the high waist is also perfect to wear as a maternity dress."
    I'm sorry, but no. A dress that might as well be maternity-wear is definitely not flattering on everyone, especially not on those among us who are not pregnant and don't want to be mistaken for being so. Can we please have well-structured clothes back? I have a figure to show.

    3. Why this back to the 80s thing wasn't such a good idea after all:
    It was bound to happen. Once women started buying into this oversized sweaters with cropped leggings look it was only a matter of time before the worst of the 80s would come back: stirrup pants (or tights or whatever you wish to call them). They're here, complete with the saggy knee after the second time you wear them and the whole unkempt air they give.
    Trinny, Susannah, Stacy and Clinton have devoted years of tough love to convince women (who are mostly my age and older) to give up this very look of a frumpy sweater over a way too tight pair of elastic pant. They've nearly succeeded in banishing it from our malls and streets and now it's back. Things are going to get very ugly.

    Photo by Roxana Lowitt

    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    Skin MD Natural Shielding Lotion

    Apparently, I'm not the only one who has declared war on ugly winter skin. There are many new and newer products on the market right now, all competing for our attention. The lotion I received recently is quite different than the body butters and creams I've been using religiously. Skin MD Natural is described as a "Shielding Lotion". The way it works is by bonding with the outer layer of the skin to keep irritants out and moisture in.

    There are several ingredients used in many common products that are supposed to work as a barrier that lock moisture in, like mineral oil and petroleum gel. We all know the greasy and sticky effects of using a cream like that. Then there are the nicer products that use butters: shea or cocoa. They nourish the skin and leave it feeling "buttered", which is quite nice.

    Skin MD Natural has a surprising texture- it's light and looks like a thin lotion. As such, it doesn't leave any residue on the skin. I didn't expect much with a product of this texture, but was nicely surprised. It absorbs the very second it's applied, as expected, but the softening effect is there when you touch your skin, and any dry feeling is gone.

    It is labeled for use on hands, body and face. I'm way too careful about anything that goes on my face and intended to keep it for hand and body. The bottle has been residing on my desk for a couple of weeks now, and has become my favorite hand cream. But a few nights ago, after too many hours of central heating, I decided to try, and definitely liked the way it felt. It's different, for sure. I don't think it can or should replace an established skin care regimen that is proven to be working, but it can be an additional first-aid kind of thing. It keeps my skin hydrated when going out on a cold day, and it relieves and moisturizes when the heating is slowly baking it.

    The list of ingredients is pretty impressive and includes a high content of aloe vera, among other herbal extracts. Their website also offers thorough explanation of how exactly this lotion works, as well as testimonials and success stories. I can't tell you if this is indeed the miracle product that it claims to be, since I've already managed to whip my skin into a very good shape. But, it's a good one, very effective, easy and pleasant to use. You need a very small amount for each use, so the 4 oz. bottle lasts for a long time, it doesn't contain fragrance, yet smells pleasant with a somewhat nutty aroma. As far as I'm concerned, it has earned its place on my desk, and I don't want to be without it.

    Skin MD Natural Shielding Lotion ($25 on Amazon) was sent to me for review. As of December 2015, nine years after the original post, I always have a bottle around.

    Monday, December 11, 2006

    From Italy with Love- Homocrin Shampoo

    After my little dirty (but nice smelling) experiment, and the vigorous washing that followed, my hair has definitely earned a treat. Italian made Homocrin shampoo for dry and brittle hair was just the thing to provide it.

    This shampoo is a very gentle product that has an impressive ingredient list that includes sunflowerseedamphoacetate, Lactobacillus Ferment, Lactococcus Ferment, Aloe Vera gel, Wheat Protein, Panthenol, Chicorium Intybus, Acacia, Niacin and Lactic Acid among others. The amino acids are supposed to nourish and hydrate the hair.

    It is made without irritants such as Lauryl Sulphates, Ethoxylates and Paraben and is formulated to be delicate and preserve the hair and scalp's natural balance. as someone with a sensitive scalp, I can verify this promise.

    I was surprised by the shampoo's consistency. It's thinner than the products I'm used to, but still very effective. It did a great job cleaning my hair without stripping it. It felt pleasant on my scalp and worked nicely with my regular conditioner.

    I liked the vanilla scent, although it is of the very foody kind. It doesn't linger and lets the conditioner and whatever styling products you use to take center stage, so I didn't end up smelling like a cookie.

    Saturday, December 09, 2006

    Adena Halpern: Target Underwear and A Vera Wang Gown - A Book Review

    I just finished reading this cute little memoir. I don't own any Target underwear (or a Vera Wang gown, for that matter), but it was easy to relate to Adena Halpern stories of family, boyfriends, co-workers and the fashion choices surrounding them.

    She talks about clothes and the memories attached to them, their significance in our lives, the changes that we make and how our closets reflect them.

    There's a short chapter about perfume, but since Ms. Halpern fragrance of choice is Cashmere Mist, I can't say that I'm impressed with that one. But it amused me to no end to discover that both our mothers wear Chloe.

    Thursday, December 07, 2006

    What I'm Wearing

    In a season that seems committed to making us re-live the worst fashion moments of the 80s, It is very refreshing to have somewhere to buy real clothes. The kind that will not be relegated to the back of the closet before shamefully donated to the nearest Goodwill, and that will not make looking at pictures from this year with a "What the hell was I thinking?" cringe.

    I've always like Adrienne Vittadini, but this fall/winter it's been my salvation. About 50% of my new clothes were purchased there. They have a big sale at the moment, so it's a good time to check them up, both online and in store. For the online shoppers, they mostly run true to size, but the XS is just a bit roomy (I just bought their black wrap dress, and I don't have to use the zipper to get it on and and off, but since the fabric is fluid and drapes nicely, it doesn't really matter).

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Things you do for your beauty blog

    I received a sample of a new and interesting product: A hair fragrance made by Pure & Petal, a Canadian company. As curious as I was about it, I couldn't use it right away. The reason? My very thick hair retains smell for a very long time, and since I use a leave-in-conditioner and quite a bit of anti-frizz goop, my hair seems to always smell of TreSemme or some version of that.

    Which meant that I had to be brave and not wash it for a few days, until it finally smelled like hair and I could test the fragrance. It ended up being four days before my poor hair could be trusted as a test subject. I can't say that I was all that happy to carry around nearly 3' of unwashed hair (yes, it really is that long). I wore it up in a bun, but still.

    The fragrance I tried was Linden Blossom. It combines floral and grapefruit notes, but the dominant part is linden, which I love, with just a bit of fruit. There's something watery in this scent, which I'm not too keen of, but I could only smell it on my skin. What I sprayed on my hair remain pleasantly floral.

    All of P&P's fragrances are alcohol-free and do not irritate the skin or scalp (unlike not washing one's hair that made me itch like crazy, and required drastic action, like using my husband's Head & Shoulders to feel clean again). The scent stays on the hair for several hours and is very pleasant. It didn't seem to affect the look of my hair the way regular products do, so it can't replace your regular shine products. But, it's a very nice pick-me-up addition, especially if you skipped shampoo and need some extra help.