Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lonestar Revisited

One of the first steps in becoming a perfumista is learning a simple rule: "Wear what you love and ignore the label", and it applies to both men and women. Still, just like I have yet to meet the man who'd want to wear Fracas, there are a couple of ultra masculine fragrances that tend to scare the ladies away. Yatagan by Caron is one of those, waving its sword and stinking up a perfect storm. Lonestar Memories from Tauer Perfumes is another, with its cowboy, prairie and campfire imagery.

The Blond has been wearing Lonestar for months now, to my great delight (his review is here). And here's my dirty little secret: I wear it, too. And on hot summer days, no less.

It's all about skin chemistry. On him, the smoky and leathery notes are dominant, with the Lapsang Suchon aroma that lingers throughout its wear and very masculine air. On me, the smoke is faint and vanishes within minutes, taking with it the old, distressed leather saddle. What's left is very surprising: A collection of dry and clean incense notes, from mildly floral to seductive but gentle woods, something resinous (must be the cistus) and an unexpected minty aroma.

The other unconventional aspect is the fact that all of the perfumes from Andy Tauer's line, save for the beautiful and airy Reverie, are considered to be cold weather fragrances. Leather, incense, smoke and dry woods aren't exactly what you'd expect to find in a summery scent. However, I find the clean and dry notes to be very wearable on a hot day. So much so, that I actually crave it. It's oddly satisfying and refreshing, though I'd probably not take my chances with it when it's not only hot but also humid and hazy. Even I have to draw the line somewhere.

Image: Lonestar Lust by Caleb Luke Lin

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Cure for the Mondayness

Technically, today is Tuesday. But since it's the first workday after a long holiday weekend, it definitely feels like Monday. Here's a little thing that brightens any summer day:
Lancome's Tropique collection has many winner items, but nothing is easier and happier than a lip gloss. Juicy Tubes gloss in Berry Luster is pretty, it smells good (Juicy Tubes have come a long way since the original ones, both in smell and in texture) and it shines. The texture isn't too sticky, and the color is universally flattering. It's called "berry" but it's not dark or too purplish. More dark mauve-pink, but it has more shine than pigment, so the result doesn't appear painted. I find myself reaching for this feel-good tube quite often.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The case against beige lipstick

When did Ellen Barkin stop being hot and turned into a washed-out schoolmarm? It looks like she had some work done, but what does it help if she looks mostly dead? this is a face that could use some pink.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Makeup Show NY 2007

Last week I attended the annual New York Makeup Show. It's a big event, mostly geared towards makeup professionals, but interesting to anyone who is even remotely in the business (or has a serious beauty product habit). Picture this: A huge space in Chelsea, full of more makeup counters than your favorite department store, makeup artists demonstrating their work, lovely models and more color than you have face (or body space) to test in one day.

The highlight for me was the Skin byAlison Raffaele display. This line is highly regarded by makeup pros, but not as famous as it should be. I've been a big fan of Alison's products for several years now. Once upon a time, Sephora used to carry this line in some of their stores (back in the days before they decided to dedicate a large part of their floor space to teenage-oriented brands. Insert rant here), and that was when I fell in love with the Soft Gloss. I have a tube of either Polished or Elegant in most of my purses, and can't get enough of both the vanilla scent and the colors (they're supposedly dark, but both are very natural on my lips. They are lighter than the tube leads you to think and would look great on those whose coloring is plum-friendly).

I was happy to try the Soft Shadows. These eye shadows are a wet/dry formula in beautiful colors. The tones are subtle, almost muted, which makes all of them very wearable and always appropriate. I loved Night Sky, Amethyst and Olive Shine. They present a very sophisticated take on blue, purple and green eye shadows.

Another product worth mentioning is the Inner Glow gel blush. I'm not a stick blush girl, but if I were, this would have been my choice. Unlike the over-hyped ones from Tarte, here we have colors that can be worn by women of different complexions. Graceful (sheer plum), Sultry (sheer bronze tan) and Sexy (sheer golden tan) are colors that make sense to me. No dead looking orchid or Malibu Barbie palette. The gel is water-based and free of mineral oil. If only I wasn't so anti-gel on my cheeks.

The last product of interest I got to try is not available yet. It's a powder-to-liquid vitamin C serum. It's pretty cool: You rub the powder onto your skin, where it liquidises and is immediately absorbed. I'm not sure how concentrate it is or what else is in there, but it was definitely fun to try.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A reader's request

I got an email from a reader who is desperate to find this shirt that Jada Pinkett Smith is wearing. While I'm pretty sure I've seen it somewhere before, all the fumbling through recent magazine issues hasn't helped any. If anyone knows who made this top and/or where it can be bought, please leave a comment or send me an email, and I'll make sure to forward it SarahNicole.

Laboratoire Remède Super C serum

I've been using Laboratoire Remède super c serum for over two months. I absolutely love it, but I'm not sure that I'm going to buy a new bottle once I run out. The reason is the packaging, not the product itself.

Let's start with the good: It works.

This serum lives up to the promise of brightening the complexion and improving skin texture. While my trio of freckles/sun spot is still there, they have visibly faded, together with a couple of other questionable areas. Those parts of my skin that needed to be brighter have become so, while the rest of my face has also improved (though it was in a very good shape to begin with).

The serum I used before, Vinoperfect Radiance Serum by Caudalie was nice and could also multitask as a very light moisturizer (great for an oily complexion and/or on a humid summer day). The Remede serum is much more active and requires extra moisturizing, especially for the dryer parts of my face. I actually felt a slight tightening when first started using it, so a good face cream is definitely a must over this product. It absorbs quickly and cooperates nicely with my beloved Secret de Vie, so I couldn't be happier.

The problem is that the bottle and its pump are very poorly made. The base of the pump started leaking after a few weeks of use. It squirts the serum from all around the plastic cap and from the moving part of the pump, resulting in product waste and in ugly brown stains on my pajamas and nighties. I'm not amused.

Of course, there's a chance that I bought a random bad volcano bottle, but it still makes me more inclined to try a different serum next and not to subject myself to another round of squirt-curse-wipe.

Christmas in May?

I rarely post about sales and discounts because while at any given moment someone is offering something for a little less or has a GWP deal, and this isn't a shopping blog. But, this sale at Bliss is just too good to pass. Some of the products are majorly discounted and all of them would make fabulous gifts. It looks like several of the items are holiday leftovers, and as such would be great for the next holiday season. I can't vouch for freshness, though. I go through several Foot Patrol tubes a year, so I never had a chance to test an older one.

Friday, May 11, 2007

"My, She Was Yar!"

Tomorrow, May 12th, would have been Katharine Hepburn's 100th birthday.

In honor of her and of the days Hollywood had real style, class and magic, I'm going to skip the gossip sites and watch The Philadelphia Story.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Tubereuse Couture by Parfumerie Generale

I think that I found my tuberose.

This is a serious matter. Regular readers of this blog were exposed to my lack of enthusiasm for white florals in generals (yes, they're florals! they're white! they're pretty! I prefer my pretty clouded in a little mystery, darkness and with a side of wood and leather. And, if possible, I want Andy Tauer to make it); and for tuberose in particular (other than notable few, they all smell like my mother, which is a good thing if you are my mother, not so much if you're me).

Tubereuse Couture by Parfumerie Generale is different. It doesn't smell even remotely related to the big diva, Fracas. The opening, with its strong ylang-ylang and green stalks is a wonderful of example of how perfumer Pierre Guillaume combines notes in an unexpected way, to make interesting, slightly twisted scents. I love the herbal-medicinal quality that mixes with the floral top notes. It has you guessing.

The green jasmine is a natural development. It keeps the scent fresh and alive, and the mix reminds me of some of my favorite fig scents, where the green leaf balances the fruit. The official notes don't say anything about either fig or coconut, but to my nose, the milky candied heart notes have a hint of that.

Neither the ylang-ylang nor the tuberose ever leave the scene. They are there, they do their dangerous dance throughout the perfume's development. The tuberose isn't heady as much as it's striking, and, yes, there's a difference. Heady is what kills your fellow elevator passengers. Striking is what makes you fall in love and want to marry your own wrist.

Tubereuse Couture is as sexy as it is elegant. The Luckyscent description calls it "very refined". I agree with this assessment. It's not for everyone, but which tuberose scent is?

Image: Basket of Light, Sumpango Guatemala by Flor Garduño, 1989

Lost and (almost) Found

I'm not going to try counting the number of nail polish bottles that I have in various drawers and boxes. I buy and wear many of the new colors of each season. I seem to collect Essies, OPIS and Lippmans, limited edition Chanel and the occasional Lauder or Lancome. I used to love the Anna Sui polish when it was sold in Sephora. I'm also prone to purchasing many of the drugstore brands, if a specific color catches my eye.

In such a collection, it is rare that any bottle is used till it's finished, and even less likely that I get to actually repurchase a color.

Except for two.

I 've gone through several bottles of As Time Goes By from the Lippman Collection before it was discontinued. It was simple labeled "true beige" but was more of a cafe au lait color. A perfect nude as far as I was concerned, and I was very disappointed when they stopped making it. A good alternative from this (excellent) line is Fashion, a new taupish color, pretty, sophisticated and neutral.

My other all-time favorite comes from the other end of the price scale. I have no idea how many bottles of Sally Hansen Maximum Growth in Pure Putty I've used in recent years. This is another nude, but on the pink-mauve side of things. I loved it equally on my hands as on my toes, and the quality and lasting power is impressive for a product that costs less than $4.

A while back it vanished from the stores around here. I searched Target and every drugstore and discount store in the area, and was ready to mourn another beloved color that was unjustly retired to the pink and glossy pastures. Suddenly last month I found it again, and it seems to be back in production. However, they changed it a little. Pure Putty is more pink and less mauve now. It's still quite neutral and appropriate, but just a tad sweeter. I can live with the change.

I see London, I see France

Reason 2,098 why I don't buy anything she's selling. The picture was taken yesterday at Barneys.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

'Tis the Season

...For self tanners.

Last week while shopping and trying on short skirts I had to face my pale, ashen-grey legs. It wasn't pretty and made it clear that I need to get a tube of something before I go out in public wearing said skirts. My choice in the last couple of years had been Jergens Natural Glow in medium. I only use it on my legs, but the results are good. It has two major qualities: It doesn't turn me orange and I can tolerate the smell. I use it every other day, to keep the developing color under control and exfoliate regularly. My dry skin requires a lot more moisturizing than this lotion gives, so my Korres and L'Occitanes haven't been retired, but now I'm moisturized and tan.

One of my New Year's resolutions was to be very serious about avoiding the sun. I tan very quickly, so this is quite a challenge (a review of Lancome's newest sunblock is coming soon). It also means that I might want to venture into new self tanning territories. I admit that I'm worried about the results. I can always cover my legs if something goes tragically wrong, but my face is a different matter. I'm looking at Elle Magazine's top picks (from the upcoming June issue) and I'm seriously tempted. I have a couple of sample tubes of Clarins' Instant Gel sitting there waiting. Now I just need to work up the courage.

You'll be the first to know...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Everything is Illuminated

I'm becoming very enamoured lately with all the nice, flawless effects that various powders can give to my skin. I used to be a one powder girl (Lancome Dual Finish in Matte Buff II), but once I dared venture into the world of loose powders (I love the silky, vanilla scented one from Besame Cosmetics) I became aware of all the cool things you can do with a soft brush and a pot of almost golden wonder.

Of special interest are the powders that make your skin glow without too much color or shimmer. That's the famous "candlelight effect", and there are several products on the market that promise you just that. I chose to try Soft Lights from Smashbox.

The color I picked, Lens, is a soft peach tone. It doesn't have any coral/orange look and won't turn you into Christina Aguilera, even if you try very hard. Soft Lights is supposed to also multitask as a blush, but most of the colors they offer (including Lens) are too pale to do much blushing on my skin.

The product is also described as "shimmery". However, this isn't the stuff you see on Paris Hilton's face (insert appropriate orange jumpsuit here), and will not make you think "fairy dust". It can be easily worn during the day, because the only effect you get is a flawless finish that seems to radiate or glow, but without going over-the-top.

One important word of warning: When first applied, even with the lightest hand and the softest brush, the powder seems to look too thick and even chalky. almost to the point that makes you think that you either applied it wrong or used your grandma's old product. I was horrified at first: did I just spend $28 on that? However, Soft Lights need about 20 minutes to settle and mingle with one's skin (I'm hearing that it's the case for many, but not all. Some get good results instantly). Once your natural oils (aren't you happy to be thinking about your facial oil glands?) get to work, the powder settles nicely and you get that soft, discreet glow that lasts for a whole day without fading and keeps your makeup in place.

I've been using this for several weeks now with good results and no breakouts. It might not be a necessary product in every makeup drawer, but it's fun and has its uses.

Actually, it does make you look fat

I went shopping the other day.

One of the coolest things about being 36 is that you know things. You know when someone is up to no good. You know how to make a fabulous meal in less than an hour (without looking and sounding as demented as Rachael Ray), and you know how to make the most of your figure, even if you're not even 5'3" and are the owner of the shortest torso known to men.

You also know when certain clothes are going to be a disaster once you get yourself in them.

I didn't want to give up on Anthropologie just yet, so despite my better judgement and the endless pages of inexplicable clothes in their many catalogs, I found myself keeping an open mind and carrying a metric ton of possible outfits into their fitting room. I tried, I really did, but all the things that I've known for ages, like: You don't want any extra fabric around your thighs, or: It's not a good idea to dress like a waist-less midget, it all proved itself right, as I was staring at my dwarfed self in the mirror and wondering how at size zero I still manage to look like I was carrying twins.

I took off the horrors, crossed the street and went into Esprit, where I purchased a cute and flattering black knit mini dress.

Now, Mandy Moore is a lovely girl. Her lack of fashion sense can probably be attributed to her very young age. She will learn, eventually.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Book Review- Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste and Style (Tim Gunn's Guide to Style) by Tim Gunn and Kate Moloney

Tim Gunn is all grace and vocabulary, two traits not too common in the world of fashion advice (consider the difference between his "Make it work!" and Stacy London's "Shut up!"). I adore him on Project Runway and was very excited when I got to meet him in a charity event a couple of months ago. He's just as charming in person, the "taste, quality and style" radiating from his perfect skin.

I couldn't take him home with me and make him my best friend and shopping buddy, and neither can any other woman. But someone in Abrams Image realized that they could bank on this female obsession and gave him a book deal. Thus, giving us all a chance to own a little style guide with Tim Gunn's photo on the cover and quotes by Kierkegaard and Jonathan Swift.

My first problem here is with the very question of the real author behind the book. The front cover gives credit to Kate Moloney, who was Tim Gunn's Assistant Chair at Parsons, and whom he calls his "spiritual partner". The blurbs inside the dust jacket, as well as the dedication and preface led me to suspect that it's not exactly a Tim Gunn original. Also, the way the book reads, despite the high-brow literary and cultural references and the several Gunnisms that are woven into it, feel somewhat hollow at places. The crisp suit is there, but the real man is missing.

I might have been more forgiving for the bait & switch trick, if the first three chapters were less boring and predictable. The first one is all about being yourself and dressing for your lifestyle. The second chapter reveals that you should wear items that (gasp!) fit your shape. Here you will learn that clothes that are too big and shapeless will make you appear even bigger. If you hear echos of Clinton and Stacy, you aren't far from the truth. The only saving grace of this chapter is that it uncovers the secret of clothes size in America (and as far as I know also in the UK): it has changed over time, and unless you've only been buying couture (which stayed the same), you need to adjust the size of your clothes accordingly, even if your waistline hasn't changed.

Chapter three is the worst: Editing one's closet. Here you'll be subjected to advice such as "don't keep items that don't fit" and get rid of clothes you never wear". If you are having a mental image of Trinny and Susannah rummaging through someone's closet and tossing out lilac colored capris circa 1989, you'd be totally right. You've heard it all before, but maybe Tim Gunn will succeed where the English ladies have apparently failed to make you finally get rid of that flannel shirt from your grunge days.

It gets better afterwards, despite having some of the usual suspects in the fashion icon chapter. I appreciated the statement regarding fashion risk takers like Sarah Jessica Parker and Chloe Sevigny: "We can admire, but we cannot endorse". The extensive discussion of good posture was great, as well as the chapter about must-haves and the importance of quality in perennial items. I could live without the obsession for ballet flats. There's a lot of other sound advice regarding accessories, such as to forget about the "It" bag and to invest in good quality scarves.

A nice surprise was the sub-chapter dealing with perfume. I'm glad to report that it is far from mainstream and doesn't include advice to wear something light and citrusy to the office. There's a real discussion of scent families, it explains what a chypre is and even endorses less conventional notes. The book doesn't go as far as to explain and recommend niche fragrances, but it's a step in the right direction.

To sum it up, the book is cute and would help you pass a nice rainy afternoon at the bookstore. But it's not the ultimate must-have that you'll find yourself cracking open year after year. Too bad, really. I expected much more than that.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Parfumerie Generale- Iris Taizo

My quest for spring scents is far from over. Sampling interesting florals seemed like a good way to go, therefore the one I picked from the sample stash was Iris Taizo by Parfumerie Generale. Of course, despite the image of the flower itself, the actual iris note is not really floral, as it's produced from the rhizomes of the plant, lending it a cold and earthy feel. My favorite iris fragrance is Tauer Perfumes' Orris. A scent that is dark and leathery, despite the combination of rose and iris, but is also sharp and fresh enough to feel more suited for warm weather than for mid-winter, when I first tried it. But, that's my skin. I know enough people who think of it as a black leather winter scent.

Back to the iris at hand. The opening felt cluttered. Spice? Florals? Very perfumy for the first couple of seconds, but once it settled on my skin, it was a surprising mix of dark woods and spices, somewhat reminiscent of Donna Karan's Black Cashmere, one of my all-time favorites. The iris and wood combination that followed had a similar feel to the pretty part of Zagorsk , just without the smoke. Incense isn't listed as a note, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they've used some.

The drydown is all slightly sweet, honeyed woods. It caresses the skin and stays on for several hours. The feel is soft and pretty, with maybe a hint of musk. It's not exactly a spring scent, but it's beautiful and I think that it can be worn year-round (unlike Black Cashmere and especially Zagorsk, that becomes poisonous around late May). There might be a full bottle in my future.