Saturday, June 30, 2007

Givenchy Pop Gloss

A couple of months ago I was very happy to find a full range of Givenchy makeup at my favorite Sephora, the one on Union Square. I'm all about DIY and prefer to avoid the department stores sale assistants.

(Insert a petition to bring Chanel back to Sephora)

I'm fond of Givenchy and love their choice of spokesperson. Liv Tyler can sell me anything and everything. Except of some of those Givenchy scents.

I first looked at the eye shadows. The quartets are pretty but too light for me. The singles offer more drama and pigments and I'll have to give them more attention very soon. My favorites of the collection are the lip colors. There's a lot to choose from and the colors are fabulous.

Pop Gloss is a shiny, creamy product. No shimmer or glitter, just glossy color that goes on smoothly and has a lot of pigment, almost like a liquid lipstick. It isn't sticky and lasts for several (food-less) hours, keeping the lips comfortable and well-moisturized. After the shine fades there's still enough color left on the lips without flaking. I have one complaint about this gloss: I don't like its scent. It's some unidentified synthetic fruity concoction. Thankfully, it disappears quickly, so it's not a real issue. But a product as good as this deserves better.

My color of choice was Violine Vitamine, which lives to the promise of being a vibrant plum. It's flattering and brings out my natural color. The pale lipped/skinned amongst you would probably find it a bit too much (try Flashy Fuchsia or Exciting Coral, instead. I'll wear those colors in my next life), but the rest of us can wear it well into the fall.

Friday, June 29, 2007

My Love Affair With Bronzers

After giving up on finding a self-tanner for face that would delight both me and my skin, I've been rocking the bronzers. I was always a fan and have several good ones at hand: There's my trusted Paula Dorf that I use year-round and is excellent in bringing color to sallow winter skin and keep me from looking like this:

There's Dallas for a nice, tanned look that is just right for summer days. It's not shimmery and is always appropriate. I also have a compact of Besame Cosmetics Boudoir Rouge in Sun Kissed, which gives a warm glow. I wore it for nights out during the winter, since it's a bit deeper than the Paula, but that's just me. It works just as well for summer days.

All that has left me in need for summer nights mega-watts bronzing action. Something that goes well with tropical makeup and a tuberose perfume. I found it in Tarte's Mineral Powder Bronzer in a color unfortunately named "Hotel Heiress". That's as bronze as you can get, with a nice wearable shimmer.

It requires a light hand and a good brush, goes nicely all over the face, cleavage and shoulders and looks fabulous. It never fails to get me compliments from men and women: Not on the makeup but on my lovely tan. This bronzer definitely lives up to the promise of making one look like she's just came back from an island vacation.

A couple of months ago I had my sister try it. Her skin tone is several degrees lighter than mine (no trace of olive in her complexion. She's quite pale, actually), but this same bronzer looked great on her. She looked like she's just spent a month in the Caribbeans, and came back very tanned and very happy. It's worth trying even if you're Snow White.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Summer Reading

Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart is a charming little memoir of New York City in the mid 40s. You can almost see and feel the city as it was back then, the excitement and naivete of two Midwestern college girls experiencing the city for the first time. I have a thing for old movies, especially those that were filmed in Manhattan, and reading this book is almost like watching one.

From the front flap:

Do you remember the best summer of your life?

New York City, 1945.
Marjorie Jacobson and her best friend, Marty Garrett, arrive fresh from the Kappa house at the University of Iowa hoping to find summer positions as shopgirls. Turned away from the top department stores, they miraculously find jobs as pages at Tiffany & Co., becoming the first women to ever work on the sales floor—a diamond-filled day job replete with Tiffany blue shirtwaist dresses from Bonwit Teller's—and the envy of all their friends.

Hart takes us back to the magical time when she and Marty rubbed elbows with the rich and famous; pinched pennies to eat at the Automat; experienced nightlife at La Martinique; and danced away their weekends with dashing midshipmen. Between being dazzled by Judy Garland's honeymoon visit to Tiffany, celebrating VJ Day in Times Square, and mingling with Café society, she fell in love, learned
unforgettable lessons, made important decisions that would change her future, and created the remarkable memories she now shares with all of us.

It will make you want to try on one of the Tiffany blue nail polishes reviewed in Blogdorf Goodman last week. I don't think I can pull of this particular look, but the colors are gorgeous. I think they look best against pale skin.

For those who share my love of NYC memoirs and wish to read something a bit more literary, Here's one of my most favorite books of all time: Manhattan Memoir by Mary Cantwell.

Mary Cantwell was a fashion writer for several magazines. Her three-part memoir covers her New England childhood and her adult years as a working woman in Manhattan of the 50s and 60s. The book is beautifully written and pulls you into her world.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Heartbreaker- Parfumerie Generale Jardin de Kerylos

Heeley's Figuier was supposed to be my ultimate fig perfume. I absolutely love it, as proven by both my frequent use of the full bottle I bought and the fact that I no longer hold a grudge for the awfulness of his Spirit of the Tiger.

Enter Parfumerie Generale's Jardin de Kerylos.

Villa Kerylos on the French Riviera was built in the style of ancient Greece. Here's what the official site says about the garden:

From the garden around the villa there are fine views of the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat peninsula, dotted with magnificent mansions. The garden contains a pleasing mixture of typically Greek plants : olive trees and vines, pomegranate and carob trees, acanthus and myrtle, oleanders and irises, pine and cypress trees, palm trees and papyrus all help create a Grecian look and feel in the lovely Mediterranean sunshine.

You'd notice that they don't mention figs, neither sycamore, that are the official notes in JdK. Then again, I'm not really sure what a sycamore note should smell like.

To my nose, there are two elements in this scent, both are present throughout its wear: fig and a delicate, elegant white floral, that keeps it from going too dry and too green. It shares the beauty you can see in the villa's photos and makes you think about these far away places that unless you're one of the lucky few, you only get to briefly visit, then you spend your entire life missing them.

The drydown is supposed to be musky, but I suspect that it's the kind of musk to which I'm completely anosmic. What I smell is just a quiet, dark green fig tree with a whiff of those same flowers, coming from a distance.

This fragrance is heartbreakingly beautiful. Pierre Guillaume, this line's creator, is fast becoming one of my favorite artists.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Gravity is a serious business.

As much as I love beauty products, I'm quite aware of the fact that there's only so much a cream can do for you. That's why when it comes to keeping things firm, the only thing I trust is the elliptical machine. And the gene pool.

That's why I can't really say if Biotherm's Resculpt Lift body cream lives up to the anti-sagging promises. Everything is still firmly in place, and I plan to keep it that way for as long as I can. Of course, a little outside help can't hurt, and Body Resculpt is a very pleasant body cream.

It's not too rich or heavy, which makes it perfect for summer. It's still moisturizing enough, the watery-floral scent goes away within minutes, leaving the field for my perfume of choice and it feels nice. If by using it I'm also doing my collagen level a favor (I'm pretty sure that the Beauty Brains would have something to say), all the better.

Biotherm products are only available online, from the company's official site (shipping is free on orders over $50 if you become a member). There are several interesting lotions and potions there, and their men line is extraordinary. The Blond's review of those is in the works.

Bad Influence- Alexander McQueen Kingdom & Heeley Figuier

I'm experimenting. I was wearing my beloved Heeley Figuier, which is an ultimate summer scent in its clean and green freshness when I felt a need to seriously spice it up. And I mean it when I say seriously.

My hand reached for my bottle of Kingdom (Alexander McQueen's first fragrance). If you follow the discussions on perfume blogs and message boards you know that it has a very questionable reputation and that it's often talked about in terms of body odor, truck stops and a high school locker room (the boys one, I presume). I have no idea why.

Honestly. I get the cumin note, but to my nose and on my skin there's nothing offensive about it. Or dirty, for that matter. It's a floriental, somewhat off-center, but blending cumin with orange blossom isn't that revolutionary, is it? It's a strong and quite bold scent. I used to think that it's more suited for cold weather, until I discovered that it really blooms in warm weather, and it's perfect for those steamy NYC nights when you need something that distracts the senses from the city's distinct aroma.

Layering Kingdom with the clean and pristine Heeley might have mellowed the former a bit, but it adds an edge to the latter. It loses the innocence and makes you think at what's hiding behind that fig leaf. I like it. A lot.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Just my opinion

It's summer here, in the Northern Hemisphere. Even in South California (or in Paris, as Eva Longoria should have noticed). Wearing boots this time of the year doesn't result in a stylish look. Only in smelly feet.

(Pictures from CelebrityBabylon and That Other Blog)

Been There, Done That

I spent the 80s hoping to look like Madonna (and to have a boyfriend. A dream equally impossible for my junior high self). I remember my math teacher nearly getting a coronary when I showed up for pre-calculus wearing black lace fingerless gloves. Let this be my apology to him, 20-something years late. I also had rags tied in my hair at some point (before I chopped it all off), lots of plastic bangles and crazy eye shadows.

It looks like the people at MAC got their hands on my old eye shadow palette, the one that had 20 colors raging from sunflower yellow to fuchsia, and decided to unleash it on an unsuspecting crowd of young women who weren't around the first time someone thought that this look was a good idea. According to their site, those who refuse the appeal of this C Shock collection are style wimps and fashion wusses. I'd say we simply know better.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

OPI Innsbruck Bronze

I'm quite fickle when it comes to nail polish colors, which is quite obvious by looking at my ever growing collection. However, this one stands a chance to become a perennial favorite for summer. OPI's Innsbruck Bronze from their classic collection is a frosted rosy bronze. The finish is modern and not too pearly (though more so than the picture lets on), the color is bold enough that if you're in a hurry, one coat would do. It's an elegant neutral that's still very summery and would look good on just about anyone.

I'm finding myself using it more often than any of my other summer favorites. The excellent OPI brush doesn't hurt, either.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


In the aftermath of my little bubonic plague I was left with insanely dry lips. I'm not sure why. The weather was quite humid and my water consumption was even higher than normal. I managed to keep my skin from suffering, but my lips paid the price.

Like every beauty blogger worth her lotions and potions, I have a commercial-sized collection of lip balms. I tried them all: L'Occitane, Kiehl's, Smith's Rosebud salve, Burt's Bees, Philosophy and every other tube or tin that resides in my drawers, purses and cabinets. Nothing helped. My lips remained dry and cracked, especially around that tiny scar on my lower lip that felt like it was seconds away from bleeding. I love all the above mentioned balms and normally they are more than enough to keep me and my lips happy, but now only managed to act as a goopy layer.

Rummaging through another purse I came across a rarely used tube of Benefit's Smooch. I applied it without expecting much. It's a thin liquid that was never one of my top five of balms, mostly because it can leave a white residue if not blended carefully with a lip color. Also, as fond as I am of several Benefit products (there's a post coming about a couple of extra fabulous shadows and a lipstick), their lip glosses aren't up to par.

To my surprise, I felt an instant relief. That was the end of dry lips. A few more applications of Smooch during the day and I was back to normal. There are many lip products that contain Vitamin E and jojoba oil, so I'm not sure why this was the winner. It might have something to do with the thin consistency that sinks into the skin instead of coating it. Whatever it was, it worked. I'm adding that to my list of essentials for fighting a cold.

Friday, June 22, 2007

First Aid

When you're sick and feeling like the most disgusting red-nosed snot machine, the last thing you feel like doing is putting on full makeup. Unfortunately, this is when you're in a dire need of just that. Raw and blotchy skin, red eyes, dry lips. You get the picture, and you know that it isn't a pretty one.

There were several items that saved me over the last couple of weeks. The area around and under my nose never got crusty and flaky (yeah, lovely mental image) thanks to religious use of my beloved Secret de Vie and my old staple, Mario Badescu's seaweed night cream. I applied SdV about three times a day and the Mario several times in between.

I also learned why sometimes you need to use both an eye primer (my faithful Urban Decay Potion) and a product like Benefit's Lemon Aid. They teamed beautifully and helped not only keep my eye makeup in place, but also to not look scary.

Makeup might not fight germs, but it sure does help you look and feel better. Especially if you need to make an appearance somewhere (said germ need to be spread, after all). I was never this grateful for concealer and foundation. Or for having some really good makeup brushes.

Let's face it: One of the things that's easy to skimp on is makeup tools. Unlike a good foundation or eyeliner, it's not really visible. It's very easy to tell ourselves that we can use the applicators that came with the palette, our fingers or those flimsy brushes from the last GWP event at Estee Lauder counter in Macy's. And it works. Colors are put on, blended and our face is all made up.

But there's a difference, and it becomes extra-apparent when a flawless application is needed. Sure, your eye shadow would still be in place if you use those little sponge applicators. But it looks better and goes on more easily if you use the correct makeup tools.

I don't think that every brush in one's collection needs to be top-of-the-line. You can probably find several really good ones for a very reasonable price at your local drugstore. I have several regular and travel-size Sonia Kashuk brushes from Target. They're good for mixing colors, highlighting the brow bone or applying dark lipstick (I don't see the point of buying expensive lip brushes, because they don't clean up very well and I have to replace them quite often). But there are several items that to me are worth a little splurging. I'm not even talking about the super expensive brushes. My list of must-haves is all from Sephora, though you can always aim higher:

Point Concealer brush- You simply can't do this with your finger. Sometimes you need to work a teeny tiny amount into a specific point to get it really covered. This brush does it beautifully.

Bronzer brush- A soft, wide and short-bristled brush that distributes bronzer and translucent powder like nothing else. The end result is even and streak-free, because you only need 3-4 very light strokes to cover your face.

Slanted eyeshadow brush- I have become emotionally attached to this one. It makes applying a contour color to the crease and lid very easy and fool-proof. It's exactly the right width, so one sweep is enough. There's a world of difference between the look you get from those little sponges and what a good brush like this can do. The eyeshadow isn't painted on. Instead, it's a wash of color.

Dome smudge brush- I used to blend eyeshadows together with my finger. I no longer do that. This brush does a great job blending and smudging, it's easy and the results are always perfect. Unlike when my pinky was involved.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

You had me at "Bois"- Parfumerie Generale Bois de Copaiba

It's probably not the right season for a rich, woody fragrance, but I really don't care. I'm mildly obsessed with Parfumerie Generale's scents. They have a Lutenic quality to them, being as intriguing and full of little surprises as they are beautiful, sometimes heartbreakingly so.

Bois de Copaiba from their private collection is a celebration of rich woods, tinged with spice. It eases into one's presence with a sweet citrusy opening of crystallized orange pulp. There are many scents lately that start with candied orange, but this is different. It's rich, spicy and doesn't even remotely resemble a teen perfume.

My guess is that anyone who likes Donna Karan's Black Cashmere would enjoy this one. They are of the same family, though Copaiba is smoother, softer and not as dark. Both are sexy in a luxurious, elegant way. I wear Black Cashmere year round, though only at night these days. Bois de Copaiba is even wearable on summer days. At least, if you are me and your body chemistry is very sandalwood-friendly.

Natalia Vodianova- Vogue July 2002

The cover of Vogues July issue offers a nice surprise: Not another actress hawking her latest movie, but a real, honest-to-god model. The gorgeous Natalia Vodianova epitomizes the "Return of Megawatt Beauty", an old Hollywood-like glamor. All her makeup is by Lancome, and I especially love the dark, sexy lips.

I'll stick to bronzers, thank you

In an effort to bring life back to my poor face that has suffered one of those nasty summer colds that refuse to leave one's body, I decided to try a couple of things that shine and brighten. I'm sticking to my resolution of no more sun, so a real tan was out of the question. The next best thing was supposed to be a self tanner.

I've been keeping my legs on the golden side of things with Jergens, but for my face I chose to try two Clarins products. After all, they are highly regarded, and I'm pretty fond of their high quality, always nice smelling products.

I had samples of two self tanners. One is the Intense Bronze Self Tanning Tint for face and décolleté. The problem with this one was the tint: Its "rich, tropical color" was just wrong for my skin tone, and looked less like a tinted moisturizer and more like weird, yellowish goop. I ended up wiping it off before it had a chance to develop in either color or scent, so I can't comment on either. If your skin tone is somewhat similar to mine, this is probably not the right product for you.

The second sample was of their Self Tanning Instant Gel for face and body. The little tube wouldn't have been enough for even one leg, so I only tried it on my face. I have to raise my eyebrow at the claim for instant action. It took a couple of applications for the color to make an appearance on my face, and when it did I wasn't all that impressed. It wasn't bad (or orange), but it looked a tad too yellow, like a faded tan with a side of jaundice. Not exactly the healthy glow I was so desperately seeking.

Another not-so-good thing about this product is that it did some pore clogging. Nothing too awful and I can't be 100% sure that it was the Instant Gel, but I'm not repeating this little experiment.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

From Sweden With Love

I'm always in the market for unique, handmade jewelry, which is why Modish is a very dangerous web site. The artists and designers they feature are interesting and talented, and their creations re a very far-cry from what you'd find at your local craft fair.

My latest discovery is Sägen Butik from Sweden. The designer, Elin Sigrén, makes beautiful jewelry from pieces of vintage Swedish porcelain. Some of the patterns are modern, 70s style. Others are classic, like the stuff you might find in your grandma's china cabinet. All of them are pretty, one-of-a-kind and very wearable. I already bought a ring and a necklace in a green leaf pattern (different than the one in the picture, but it gives the idea), and I plan on buying more.

Elin ships internationally and accepts payment through PayPal. I received my items within a week. The shipping confirmation email was in Swedish, which left me a bit worried, because for all I could tell it could have been the lyrics to an Abba song. But all is well and I'm wearing my new jewelry as I'm typing this. Check out the moose necklace. It's adorable.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Eye of the Beholder

If writing about perfume is hard because it's so subjective, skincare reviews are even harder. First, because testing new products and incorporating them into my regular regimen takes thought and planning, but also because the skin is such a temperamental organ that the way some cream act on it varies greatly between people. Sort of like skin chemistry and scent, but with the added risk of getting an ugly rash.

A good example is my beloved Secret de Vie. I can't say enough good things about this cream. However, a person who is allergic to scented products might find himself/herself with an itchy face. Just as not everything that works on someone else- a blogger or a reader- guarantees that my face won't end up breaking out.

Which is why I'm happy to have the Blond as my co-tester (the cats' fuzzy faces are pretty useless for such things).

I don't have any serious or even semi-serious wrinkles other than two lines on my forehead that are a result of inheriting my father's facial expression (instead of getting his height, I ended up with his frowny forehead and flat feet). They seem to be a blinking sign that says "Coming Soon: Botox". Still, I'm definitely interested in products that provide some wrinkle-fighting goodness.

The Blond is a different story. His fair skin has suffered quite a bit sun damage in his youth and early twenties. He has frown lines and crows feet, and very visible laugh lines around his eyes.

I wasn't familiar with the iQ Derma line until the package landed at my door. The products promise cutting edge technology and some of the ingredients seem to be among those highly recommended in modern skincare (hyaluronic acid and marine collagen, for example). We tested two products: SkinTensive - Daily Facelift Treatment and RestorEyes - Firming Eye Therapy.

SkinTensive is a serum that promises a Botox-like effect. This is where testing skincare can get dicey. This one stings. Really bad. The blond's face felt the burning effect for hours after application. Mine also became blotchy and red, so obviously I'm too sensitive for this. I tried it twice, which is definitely not enough to judge or to get any long-term results. The Blond refused to ever try it again after that first application.

The good news is that the eye cream is awesome. It promises immediate results and it actually delivers. I tried it a few times and found it pleasant and effective on puffy eyes. The Blond has been using it daily and we both can see an improvement in his skin texture. The deeper lines are still there, but the under eye area appears to be more clear and the skin is smoother. Pretty impressive and definitely worth a try.