Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Chanel Precision Hand Cream

Discovering what a huge difference the right products made for my face in terms of clarity, texture and radiance has prompted me to do something for my hands. We all know how hands are the first to show signs of aging, given how exposed they are to the elements and how easy it is to conveniently forget to slather them in sunblock. I haven't got any sun spots or freckles on the back of my hands, though they are a bit tanned. I have always been good about using hand creams and protective gloves, but my skin is dry and could certainly use some help.

I picked Chanel's nourishing and rejuvenating hand cream , from their Body Excellence line, on a whim, the same day I got the wonderful Tulip Noir nail color, determined to make my hands worthy of the gorgeous polish. I've been using it ever since, and the results are good enough to get me hooked on this product.

There are other great hand creams on the market. I love the ones from L'Occitane and Crabtree & Evelyn. Bliss hand cream is also great, despite its synthetic lemon scent. They are all good in terms of moisturizing and softening. However, Chanel's cream combines moisturizing with the effect of a shielding lotion: It envelopes the skin with a thin, barely-there barrier. It's not sticky and doesn't leave any stains on the keyboard, but my hands feel incredibly soft and smooth.

I have other shielding lotions, including SkinMD, which is the one I'd recommend for those who don't have aging concerns just yet. Chanel's cream is superior because it also improves skin clarity. I can't say how well it fights age spots, but after almost 4 weeks of religious use, there's a visible improvement in texture and color, a lot more than I've hoped for. I haven't had a dry cuticle in weeks. According to the little brochure that came in the box, age spots are reduced within two months, so I'm hoping for even smoother hands in a month.

The cream is very lightly scented (it is a Chanel, after all). It's floral as you'd expect, but the fragrance doesn't linger and doesn't get in the way of my perfume habit.

Monday, July 30, 2007

L'Artisan Piment Brulant

Today was another muggy day, requiring the kind of scent that cuts through the humidity and makes one feel alive and fresh. Or, at least, less icky.

My choice was Piment Brûlant from L'Artisan Parfumeur. It's an unusual scent with its sharp bite of hot red peppers at the top. Not a mainstream note, for sure, as it can be quite scary. After all, who wants to smell like salsa? The peppery notes are very foody, the red pepper is all there, skin and seeds, fresh, sharp and unmistakeable. I was almost put off by it the first time I tried it on. But, just when I thought it was too much something that goes into a ratatouille and too little a scent that goes on my neck, the capsicum began withdrawing and was replaced with something airy and floral.

The official notes promise chocolate, but it's not dark or rich. Just a note that smooths and rounds the fruity notes. The red pepper doesn't go away. Sometimes it's touched with chocolate, sometimes it's more floral. When I like it, it's a fun, fresh scent with an unexpected edge. But sometimes the pepper fruitiness is too much and I wonder if that's a real perfume or something I'd rather roast and make into a topping for bruschetta.

The new issue of Sniffapalooza magazine is out. There are several interesting items, but my favorite one is Ida Meister's review of Cartier's Le Baiser Du Dragon. I love this fragrance and lovely Ida's recomendation to try the extract version is something I'm definitely taking to heart.

A bad gal, an old story (and not-so-good mascara)

About twenty years ago my high school friend, N, had a makeup staple: blue mascara. That was the one item she wore every day to school and when going out. It was the eighties, most (if not all) drugstore mascaras were quite bad, so pretty much all of us sported clumpy eyelashes. But N's were cobalt blue.

It was our senior year when N started dating G, an old friend she knew for more than two years and whom we saw daily in class. One Friday night he was sitting in her bedroom as she was getting ready to go out. He watched her putting on her makeup and commented: "What do you need that goop for? I like your blue lashes the way they are". Confused, N turned to him: "What do you mean, my blue lashes? I use this stuff to make them blue!". The guy honestly thought that N's lashes were naturally blue. We laughed at this story for many years.

I remembered N, G and the blue mascara last week as I picked up a tube of Benefit's BADgal blue mascara. The violet blue promised to make my eyes look brighter, and I was curious to see how I looked with blue lashes.

How disappointing!
First, there's not enough pigment to actually show up on my lashes. The only way I could tell there was any color there was to only use it on half of the lashes. When looking very closely and comparing side by side, I could tell that my natural lash color is dark brown that appears warmer next to the painted ones that had a hint of bluish black. I'm glad not to have that eighties sapphire blue color, but in order to do any serious brightening you'd need more color.

The mascara itself is far from impressive. Being well-endowed in the lash department, my requirements are minimal: define and volumize just a little, add a tiny bit of length and hold a curl. I don't need any lash miracle and usually stay away from overachieving mascaras, since I don't favor the exaggerated lash look. However, BADgal Blue does even less than the basics. There's a slight lengthening effect, but no defining and volumizing to speak of. It doesn't curl (the brush is so big that it can't do any curling and it's hard to just coat the tips) and will only hold a curl if you use your curler after applying the mascara and letting it dry (at least it's quick to dry, since the formula is very thick).

I've never tried the black BADgal, so I can't compare the two. My guess is you're better off with whatever blue or navy mascara from good lines. There's a Diorshow in royal blue that looks promising, another Dior, Ultimeyes, also comes in a vibrant blue, Lancome's old workhorse, Definicils has a navy one, to name just a few.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royale

Stop me if you think you've smelled this one before...

Somehow, I managed to live nearly 37 years and not come across a single bottle of any Houbigant perfume*. It's quite an accomplishment, considering we're talking about one of the oldest houses, responsible for some classics, like the original Quelques Fleurs and a few others (see Sweet Diva's recent review). I'm guessing the newish (2004) fruity-floral addition to this line, Quelques Fleurs Royale is probably not the best introduction I could have hoped  for.

It's been a while since I came across a scent with such three distinctive and separate stages. The fruity opening  of Quelques Fleurs Royale wasn't promising. Bergamot and grapefruit as top notes. Where have we smelled it before? (Answer: Everywhere). Then there's some kind of a berry-but-not- berry thing; I don't even know what is this fruity note but it doesn't sit well with me. The heart notes are as floral as they get. Jasmine, rose and tuberose; classic but this interpretation is loud and screechy. What I got was mostly jasmine, aggressive enough to swallow most of the other notes. Quelques Fleurs Royale is too dainty for me. Nice, but I don't do white gloves and Junior League. My biggest complaint, though, was not so much the lacy handkerchief as much as the total lack of originality. I've smelled this one before, and so did you. Houbigant should have tried harder.

Some of the jasmine stays behind (my skin has always been a jasmine amplifier), but the dry-down is mostly amber-sweet wood, and surprisingly, quite lovely. I really liked it after the first few hours, enough to spend several days trying to make nice, but it's just not worth it to sit through the uncomfortable too-floral stage.

Houbigant Quelques Fleurs Royale ($150, 1.7 oz EDP) is available from Neiman Marcus.

*It completely escaped my mind that Chantilly used to be a Houbigant perfume before Dana bought the license.

Lorac- Cocoa Eye Shadow

The feline-induced misfortune that sent my Lorac Moonstone eyeshadow aflying, ashuttering and asprinkled all over the bathroom has resulted in a few nice beauty discoveries. While I haven't replaced Moonstone, I did get another Lorac single shadow, Cocoa. It ended up being too dark for using as a highlighter, but the taupish color is very pretty and works surprisingly well in the crease and for contouring.

It's understated and neutral, the sheen is subtle, and like every Lorac Shadow I've come across so far, nicely pigmented, so brushing on a thin coat is all I need. The shadow stays in place without fading or flaking, and since I use an eye primer, it doesn't fade until I remove it. Cocoa has become one of my favorite daytime neutrals this summer, and I can see it being used just as much in the fall with a bold lip.

I haven't tried it wet, though it's a wet/dry formula. Someone with a pale skin can easily use it as a liner and create a very elegant smoky eye without the "morning after" effect. Just remember that the color is quite a bit darker than it looks both in the picture and in Sephora's store lighting.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The business of not stinking

I received the new Ban deodorant/antiperspirant Invisible Solid just as I was realizing that my regular one was irritating my skin while not being as effective as I'd like. I already lined a few others, but since Ban was sent to me for review, I decided to start with it, which proved to be a very good thing.

Ban Invisible Solid claims to have a new patented technology that eliminates odors and sweat before they become a problem. I can't vouch for it, since the active ingredient is the widely used aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrex. However, I checked and compared it to seven other deodorants for men and women that I have at home (yes, I take not stinking very seriously) and it's among the very few that have a 19% concentration of the active ingredient (compare to Lady Speedstick that offers 15.4%-16.3%, varies between specific products).

This higher level of active ingredient really delivers on the promise of at least 24 hours of freshness. I'm not a heavy sweater, but the last few days have been on the muggy side and called for serious anti perspiration action.

The inactive ingredient list is quite different than other similar products I checked. It has all the usual suspects of names out of chem lab, but also a bunch of other, more natural additions, like bark extract, oleic acid, sandalwood extract and barley extract. I'm not sure which one, if any, are part of the patented new formula, but it definitely makes Ban stand out in the crowd.

The other promise, the one about being invisible, is not completely fulfilled, though I have yet to meet even one deodorant that truly lives up to this claim. It won't stain all of your clothes, but is far from invisible when you slide into a black lycra cami.

The fragrance I tried, Satin Breeze, is supposed to have citrus top notes and a base of woody notes. The wood is unmistakable and quite pleasant. It's a nice, light scent that doesn't offend or clashes with other products, which is all I ask from a perfumed deodorant (other then "my armpits aren't orchards and have no business smelling like fruit").

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Candy- Indult Manakara

While not every perfume I've tested lately has sent me reaching for my credit card, I liked just about each and every one of them. The good scent spell was only broken by Manakara, a cult favorite from Indult, which became quite a scrubber on my skin.

There are only two notes listed: lychee and rose, but since the most prominent impression it gives me is of cotton candy, I'm guessing there's some vanilla in there as well. The cloying sweetness smothers and suffocates the rose, pounding it into nothing every time it tries to emerge from beneath the layers of just-melted sugar.

For the life of me, I can't imagine a grown woman who would want to smell like this thing. Actually, the way it reacts with my skin, I wouldn't even want a little girl to smell. It's beyond Barbie and vanilla gel pens. I hope those who adore this scent and are willing to pay for the outrageously priced syrup experience something completely different when they apply it. One thing for sure: They get their money's worth in staying power. It takes a lot of soap, water, time and patience to get rid of Manakara.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Glamor in a Bottle

Chanel has done it again. Remember the waiting list to get on the waiting list for the Black Satin nail polish (now widely available online and at every Chanel counter)?

Tulip Noir, one of the limited edition colors for fall 2007, is already sold out, at least online. This time, as far as I'm concerned, it's for a very good reason. I bought the bottle a couple of weeks ago as an afterthought when I got the Chanel new lip colors for fall. The bottle of metallic burgundy polish looked tempting after all the summer nudes and neutrals I've been wearing for weeks. As much as I love the Glossimer and the sheer lipstick, Tulip Noir is the big winner here.

The picture above doesn't do it justice. The color is rich and very pretty. It gets noticed and I got several compliments on it, from both men and women. How often do men notice your nail polish? And, I have to say, as much as some of those blue and navy polishes that are supposed to be all the rage look pretty in theory and in their bottles, in reality and on one's hands blue polish is not sexy. Red is.

One coat is opaque enough and looks great when you're in a hurry. Two coats bring out the depth. The polish surprised me in its lasting power. Just renew your top coat every other day and it stays on for a week with no chipping. My only complaint is and has always been about the brush in all Chanel polishes. I'm spoiled by OPI's wide brush which has a great handle and is very easy to use. Chanel brushes are tiny, thin and annoying. I have larger than average hands, but that's no excuse, especially for a nail polish in this price range.

As I said above, I can no longer find it online (outside of eBay, that is), but it's worth checking your local Chanel counter to see if they might still have a bottle.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Crabtree & Evelyn In-Shower Moisturizer

Here's an interesting concept for those of us who are genetically linked to alligators: Showering with a moisturizer. There are several moisturizing gels and body washes on the market, but Crabtree & Evelyn are trying a new angle with their In-Shower Moisturizer. Basically, it's a moisturizing cream that is supposed to be suitable for showering.

It's a good idea, I'm just not sold out on the actual product.  Crabtree & Evelyn In-Shower Moisturizer doesn't spread as well as a shower product usually does and it's a bit too slippery under water. I didn't expect it to lather, but I wanted it to feel like it was getting me cleaned, considering the shower scenario.

As far as moisturizing goes, patting it on a wet/damp skin seems to be quite effective, but it's more of a moisture-sealing product than a nourishing one, and my skin requires a little more than that. However, if your skin is less demanding than mine, this might be a very good product (as long as the texture doesn't skeeves you out).

My other issue was scent. I tried the mango butter and cranberry and wasn't impressed with it. It didn't smell like either cranberry or mango, just something synthetic, medicinal and not too pleasant. Not very different than the Lemon & Sage line from Bliss. It's a very non  Crabtree & Evelyn scent, as they are usually on the lady-like floral side.

I'm not giving up on the Naturals line just yet. I'm curious about the body butters. They have a potential to be great if they managed to get the scent right, and the same goes for the  Crabtree & Evelyn shower mousse.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Cat in the Shadows

With all the talk about the new fall collections and limited edition products, it's easy to forget that the regular lines have some great colors worth considering when searching for a new look, or having to replace some old staples because the kitten got into your makeup stash and shattered one of your favorite eye shadows beyond salvation.

That's a true story. Miss Lizzy (pictured above) decided that my pan of Lorac Moonstone was the best cat toy ever, breaking both the plastic and the pressed shadow powder inside (sending a considerable amount of product flying all over the bathroom). I went to Sephora to get a new one, but they were out of stock that day, which sent me looking for a replacement.

What I found and loved was the Creaseless Cream shadow/Liner from Benefit. I got two: RSVP ( a light, shimmery champagne color with pinkish undertones) and Skinny Jeans (a metallic charcoal, quite dark). I've been wearing them so much that I know I'll have to get a few in other colors.

This is the first cream shadow I've tried that doesn't crease on my lids. It stays put and lasts for the entire day or night. I use a primer, of course, which helps the cream glides evenly and stays in place. The shadows are easy to blend and play nice both with each other and with other colors.

RSVP is a great highlighter, it has just the right amount of pigment to show up on my skin, and the shimmer isn't too much. It's delicate enough for wearing during the day. Skinny Jeans is also great as a liner. I apply it with a synthetic flat brush. while the texture is too thick for a very thin line (at least in my unprofessional hand), it's still easy enough to draw and can work great for a smoky eye look.

Another benefit of a cream shadow: It's kitten proof.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Montale Chypre Vanille

I thought I was going to remain Montale-less after my skin rejected and made some of them (and me) cry. I had big expectations, but the Aouds turned sour and Blue Amber just sat there mocking my skin. Then I went digging in my sample stash and found Chypre Vanille, which made everything better.

I shouldn't be surprised. I'm one of the freaks who wear vanilla notes really well. My skin plays up the dark part of it and not the sweet. The combination of a chypre with a woody vanilla is one that promises and delivers.

I loved the opening. It has the chypre-y kick of a real diva, only a bit more tame. This diva is wearing black velvet opera gloves that cover her red talons. Soon enough it softens and draws the nose (literally. I had it stuck to my wrist, inhaling deeply) into the folds of amber and sandalwood laced with a beautiful non-foody vanilla.

(As a point for comparison, Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens, which isn't really a gourmand since it's quite heavy on the bois part, also has that very candied benzoin that keeps it on the almost edible side. Chypre Vanille has nothing of the sort)

Oakmoss isn't listed among the official notes, but I could swear that I detect it early on. as it develops, I don't get any of the florals, except maybe a hint of rose which is quickly gone. What I'm left with is a skin scent that settles on me naturally, like it's always been there. It happens to me with many vanillas. They just make themselves at home while I'm looking at them fondly.

This one is probably a full bottle worthy. My only hesitation is the mediocre lasting power. It's not fleeting, just folding itself into my skin, if that makes sense.

Chypre Vanille, like all the Montales are also available from Aedes in the bigger 3.4 oz bottle.

More for Fall

Two more collections for fall are now available (at least online. For some reason, Sephora stores tend to be a little behind on these launches and I haven't checked my local department stores yet). Smashbox and Nars are offering fall looks that don't feel very fall-like, and frankly, while many of the colors are pretty, there's nothing too exciting in either collection.

Maybe it's just me, but I don't get the vision behind Nars' Modern Odyssey. It's supposedly "smolders with a moody palette of warm metallics for a look of mythic sophistication and strength.". Seriously? And how exactly does it manifest itself in the look of this model? She could just as well be cast as a victim in some b-movie. That wide-eyed, scared for her life (because her lashes has life of their own and they are about to eat her brain) is neither mythical, nor strong. And lifeless lips aren't that hot, either.

Once you look at the actual collection you find more color. The eye shadow trios are cute enough, but all over the place, and don't have anything that we haven't seen before (unlike last spring's Habanera). There's blue, there's gold, there's rose... take your pick. I like Kalahari, a combination of gold and frosted cocoa, but unless they've reinvented these colors, I don't think it's a must-have.

In the lip department, you don't actually need to look dead like their model. There's a sheer lipstick in candy apple red (Flamenco) and the Chantaco lip gloss is a very pretty reddish berry (they label it as rhubarb) that would flatter most and coordinate with most other fall colors.

The makeup on the Smashbox model, showing their Decadence collection is also heavy on the eyes on nude on the lips. It's less annoying, probably because she doesn't look as terrified as Nars Girl, which is a really good start. Out of the two eye shadow trios, I prefer the one called Indulgence, with the slate and graphite. It's an interesting alternative to the Bobbi Brown Stonewashed nudes, as long as it's lightly applied. The model seems to be wearing the other trio, Opulence, which is focused on warmer browns. Nothing we haven't seen (or don't own) before.

The gel eye liner is metallic black. I'm curious to see how different it is from last year's Lancome Starshower (it was a limited edition and is no longer available).

While the model is probably wearing the Socialite lipstick (didn't we have enough already with the "socialite" label? It's not that hot nowadays) in a sandwash pink (in other words: beiged within an inch of its life), there's a beautiful deep berry gloss under the original name "vixen".

Speaking of Smashbox: Nordstrom are offering an exclusive Smashbox set. It looks like one of the best deals in their big sale (starts tomorrow, you can already order online). It has some of their biggest bestsellers, and the eye shadow palette looks like the best collection of neutrals one could ask for. As with all Smashbox sets, the value is extraordinary (you pay $68 for a $192.50 worth of products).

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hot Summer Nights- Annick Goutal Le Nuits D'Hadrien

I once referred to Annick Goutal's Les Nuits D'Hadrien as Hadrien's sexy older sister. This is technically inaccurate, because while Eau D'Hadrien is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Les Nuits is a 2003 release.

Still, Eau d'Hadrien is the ultimate inoffensive summer scent, worn by men and women on those days when no other fragrance is tolerated. While it's sometimes mentioned as the freshest, greenest and most beloved of all citrus scent, Les Nuits has more edge with its ambery base and spicy heart.

The note that makes the original Hadrien so dear to my heart is cypress, with its dark green, woody and dusty base. It's what separates this scent from Jo Malone type scents and keeps me interested. The cypress is gone from Les Nuits, and replaced with a richer blend of somewhat sweeter notes: Tangerine and mandarin orange in the opening soften the familiar blast of Sicilian lemon. I never detect the promised ylang-ylang, and the spicy heart sometimes hides the cumin when I smell it on my skin (though it's always there when sniffing the bottle). What I get more than anything is a powdery amber and sandalwood drydown that still have the citrusy punch, but is edgier than the original.

They promise white musk, but I guess they're using my blind-spot molecule, so I can only attempt a guess that this should be even sexier to the right nose. All I can say is that I get occasional cravings for Les Nuits d'Hadrien, and right now I'm seriously coveting the body cream. It might help the scent last longer.


Bobbi Brown- Espresso Eye Shadow

Previously on The Non-Blonde:
I decided to pass on the Stonewashed Nudes eye palette from Bobbi Brown and get just the darkest color in the set, Espresso, to use with other nude colors that I already have.

And now-The Results :
Other than a couple of black eye shadows that I own (by Dior and Clinique), Espresso is the darkest color I've come across in a while. It's truly the shade of a very black coffee, while still technically brown. It's several tones darker than Bobbi's Chocolate, the darkest one in last year's palette, and very pigmented. It needs to be applied lightly, with a good fluffy brush, otherwise you find yourself having to clean up excess powder. I got the hang of it eventually and found it easy enough to use.

A reader has commented on my original post that she had problem blending this shadow. I'm guessing that it depends on the amount you use and on the brush. That's what made the difference for me. It's such a dark color that you have to blend carefully, but once you do, the effect is great. I tried it with several nudes and neutrals: the light colors from the chocolate palette, a delicate beige from Dior's Beige Massai and a few others from Lancome, Benefit and Chanel. It's nice and versatile, and the look created is sophisticated and classy (as long as you don't overdo it. Very little goes a very long way).

Espresso is also great as a liner, used wet or dry, with or without a sealing liquid (I use Paula Dorf's Transformer). I use a flat synthetic brush for lining, and managed to draw a nice just-thick-enough line, for an almost-cat-eye (that doesn't go the Amy Winehouse way).

All in all, this is a good choice to create several of the looks for the coming fall.

Miuccia Prada wants us dead

Slow, agonizing death by shoes.

I saw this pair on Shoewawa (the best name ever for a shoe blog, if you're asking me), and had to bring them here. I can dance all night in well-made stilettos, but this is too much. Just look at the slope and imagine the pain.

I see these shoes in Posh Beckham's future. She deserves them.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Bold and the Beautiful- Parfumerie Generale Corps et Ames & Querelle

This is probably the worst post title ever. I just can't think of anything more fitting. We'll just have to let go of over made-up actresses with frosted hair and storyline in which they discover they have married the son of their mother's first husband who disappeared under questionable circumstances.

Back to drama in a bottle.

Who's afraid of big bad chypres? Not me, considering that I wore Paloma Picasso at 19, Eau du Soir at 20 and the original Sonia Rykiel at 22. I have no idea how I pulled it off back then or why I stopped. The answer to the latter part is probably the decline and almost disappearance of these type of scents. It's not that I spent my late 20s or early 30s wearing fruity-florals, but like the majority, I turned to more elevator-friendly perfumes.

Corps et Ames by Parfumerie Generale smells like something from a world long gone. Dramatic, I know. It's meant to be. It's a dark and mysterious scent, very Greta Garbo. Not overly feminine and definitely not girly. It's a black dress and vintage compact scent, but a man could wear this immortelle and sandalwood blend just as easily, as long as he's not afraid of big scents.

There's supposed to be some leather in there, but I'm not getting any. The drydown is a lot softer than I'd expect. It leaves the drama behind and becomes mellow and very pleasant. I'm not sure I need this in my permanent wardrobe, but it's a nice fantasy of a scent: "What to wear if I'm playing Mata Hari?"

In comparison, Querelle is a lot more subtle. It doesn't lack in drama with notes like myrrh, vetiver and incense (those are the three that are most dominant on my skin, but there's a lot more in there), but the citrus which stays there beyond the top notes, is keeping the perfume in check. To my nose, it's one of the most beautiful incense scents I know, and causes that uncontrollable wrist-to-nose action, until late in the drydown, when all of a sudden I find myself wearing an almost ordinary citrus-woods fragrance. Not bad and not really boring, because it's very nice, but compared to all the loveliness that preceded, it's no longer as exciting.

(photo of Greta Garbo from SKJ Studio)

Monday, July 16, 2007


She no longer wears vials of blood around her neck and her image has dramatically changed from the wild days of Billy Bob. Still, I remember raising an eyebrow in late 2005 when St. John revealed her as the new face of the brand.

Most of the ads (and even the clothes) weren't so bad or too much in contrast with everything we know of Angelina Jolie. I like the ones above, because they don't take away or try to change who she is. But this last one (below) is a bit too Laura Bush to swallow.

(photos courtesy of TombRaiderChronicles)

Manly Business

The Blond learns fast. Once he realized, some years ago, that skin care is less a female mystery ritual involving goats and chanting, and more "things we do to make our skin feel good and maybe not look ugly", he started helping himself to whatever I was using at the time. However, he always looked at the bottles and jars suspiciously, asking "Is this really good for men?". Some were, some weren't.

He was quite happy when we received a couple of products from Biotherm's men line. I also gave him the Healthy Difference moisturizer lotion from the regular line, since he was in need of a good lightweight hydrating product. He works in the city, and needs extra protection against pollution and free radicals (and whatever else that lives in NYC subways).

Here's what he had to say:

I'm not only blond, but also quite pink all over. I burn easily and avoid direct sun as much as possible. When I do go out on sunny days I've learnt to use sunscreen. The Age Fitness SPF 15 has a nice texture and is not too oily. The fragrance is supposed to be olive leaf but is neutral enough for me. It is a light cream for everyday use and is not sufficient for a day at the beach, but for my urban adventures it works fine.
(editor and wife says: It also doesn't clog pores, a problem he occasionally had with other products.)

The other product from the men's line I’ve used is the Facial Exfoliator. It does the work and is not too hard on my sensitive skin nor leaves the skin to dry afterwards.
(editor and wife says: It's gentle enough that he doesn't require a stronger moisturizer than normal, while his skin gets clean.)

The Healthy Difference moisture lotion is also light and effective. It had become my moisturizer of choice pretty quickly. The one thing it's missing, is more soothing effect for a sensitive skin.
(editor and wife says: We'll need to get him the Aqua Sensitive anti-redness formula. Still, he hasn't complained about feeling dryness since starting this regimen.)

I only wish that more companies would offer an aftershave lotion that will focus on skin conditioning and protection rather than the scent value. My main need in the morning after a shave is a good cream that will fill all 3 functions: Soothe, Moisturize and Protect against the sun. I need 3 different creams now.

I think we are both glad I have my own set of products now.
(editor and wife says: Indeed)

So says the husband. All in all, I can see an improvement in his skin's texture. I can't say how much of it is the actual products and how much was simply the result of sticking to a good skin care regimen, which Biotherm products are making it quite easy to do so. The packaging is inviting and pleasing without looking fussy, which is especially important when trying to get a man into a skin care routine.

Biotherm products are now sold exclusively online. You can get free shipping on your order by using offer code biothermevent01 (you'll need to register to the e-club, which is free).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

An immarture giggle on a Sunday morning

I was just pursuing Neiman's online beauty department to see what's new when I came across an interesting almost-new brand (launched just five months ago, in February), 29 Cosmetics. They have a nice concept: All their makeup is made with anti-oxidant grape seed extract to protects the skin from environmental pollutants and free radicals.

I liked what I saw, from the elegant, wearable colors to the sleek packaging. Then, I came across the mascaras and couldn't help but giggle at the name of one of the colors:

The Blond had no idea what I was talking about, seeing as his brain isn't embarrassingly clogged with the most useless details of pop culture from the last two decades, so I had to give him a hint:

It feels terribly wrong to have those photos in a post about a classy makeup collection. It's just the unfortunate name.

Still, I'm intrigued by many of their products, especially the eye quads and the lip treatments, so a stop at their counter is necessary. This line is sold exclusively at Neiman Marcus and through the company's web site, which is quite lovely, although the information architecture is a bit flawed and they have music played on their homepage (one of my biggest web pet peeves, which is why I'm linking you directly to the collection page). Their online color swatches are infinitely better than what you see on Neiman's site, which is a real disgrace and stuck in 1998.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Chanel's Aqualumier in Catalina

More lip loveliness for fall: Chanel's Aqualumier in Catalina.

Like all Aqualumier lipsticks, it gives a sheer, weightless coverage that feels almost balmy without the stickiness. My sensitive lips have always loved this formula, and this is no exception. The vitamins and SPF 15 don't hurt, either, but I'm here to talk about the pretty color.

Like just about every Chanel lip color I've ever fallen in love with, Catalina is a limited edition (when I have a favorite that isn't designed for a short life span, they just discontinue it. It's a miracle that Giggle and Summer Plum glossimers are still available). The color is officially described as "deep plum", but since it's sheer it doesn't make my lips purple, and it's more of a reddish, shimmery plum. It would probably be more dramatic on pale face/lips, but on me it's very wearable and doesn't look overdone. It's very appropriate for daytime.

Layering Catalina with Hibiscus glossimer (see yesterday's review) makes for a fabulous, sexy evening look. They give each other more depth than the colors offer separately and are just meant for each other. Also, just as I thought, these two are perfect with the neutral Bobbi Brown eye makeup for fall. I wore them with Espresso, the darkest shadow in the collection (review to come) and loved it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Chanel Fall 2007

When I first saw Hibiscus, the new Glossimer from Chanel Fall 2007 collection, I thought it was almost identical to Force, which I already have. They look practically the same in the tube, and I was a bit disappointed, since I wanted something plummier.

However, once you apply Hibiscus, the color is actually quite different. It is, indeed, more purple/pink. It's not as dark and looks more sheer on the lips. Force is redder, darker and is much more diva. It's an evening color, and even then I often blend it with a lighter color.

Hibiscus is more wearable and would look just as fabulous on a fall day as it's lovely at night. I even tested them side by side on my lips (that was an amusing "things I do for my blog" moment) just to see the difference, and I like Hibiscus much better. Since it has less pigment, applying and coating the lips evenly is easier.

Hibiscus is shimmery, but unlike earlier glossimers it isn't gritty at all. On the contrary: The formula is smooth, comfortable and long-lasting (for a gloss) without being sticky. You can find it at your local Nordstrom and Saks and, of course, online.

Tomorrow: A review of Chanel's Sheer Fantasy lipstick.

Men Don't Dream About Coconut- Sage Machado Onyx

This morning I read a Fragrance Bouquet post about coconut perfumes. A casual comment Divina made about her boyfriend being a serious coconut-hater has made me realize that this is very likely a universal male issue. Friends, Friends' husbands, old boyfriends (and anyone who isn't my father) don't like the taste or the smell of coconut, while women are usually big fans (I've heard many a woman saying that she had to alter a recipe for a significant other who wouldn't touch anything with coconut).

I love coconut in food (Whole Foods have these sinful chocolate macaroons), but not so much in fragrance. I even passed on the Estee Lauder Tom Ford Azuree oil (The Blond has seriously wrinkled his nose at it). The whole suntan lotion or Hawaiian Tropic appeal is lost on me. It smells cheap and definitely doesn't feel sexy, try as I might to get the Carmen Miranda vibe going (sans banana hat, that is).

I do make one exception, and that's for Onyx by Sage. Technically, it's a coconut scent, but it's also very dark and almost mysterious. I don't think I ever detected oakmoss (next I'll get the oil. Maybe it's there more than in the EdT), but that blend of vanilla and tobacco is like wearing a sexy white dress on a summer night in a tropical island, with an adventure that's just about to begin.

My Fendi Problem Continues

I thought I was over and done with wedges, but this pair is calling to me. Must be the color.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Takin' it EZ

Tomorrow I'm going to post my first review of items from Chanel's fall line, but tonight I have something far for fitting for hot summer nights (but good enough to use for glamorous evenings all year round).

Normally I'm not a fan for loose eye shadow because of the klutz factor. I always end up putting more effort into wiping off stray powder than actually putting it in place. However, with Sue Devitt's roll-on E-Z eye shadow you don't need more than basic brush skills for blending these cute shimmery colors. While there are a couple of darker shades that are probably better applied to the lid and crease, I prefer those that can be used as a highlighter for the brow bone and as a wash of shimmer over another color.

I tested Kouri, a color described as "bubbly champagne". It's very light and the pigment itself didn't show much on my skin. What it did was coat it with a very delicate and pretty shimmer. The roll-on head glides easily, so applying it is a snap. The powder is very fine and blends well with other shadows. I used it over a primer (Urban Decay), as well as over Benefit's Lemon Aid. Both kept nicely in place without flaking, fading or migrating for the entire night.

Just ignore what it says on Sephora's site and don't shake the bottle. I shook it the first time I used my shadow and ended up with a shimmery cheekbone.

Farewell, Jane Magazine

August will see the last issue of Jane Magazine (and its website). I imagine that things are getting tough for print media when we no longer need to wait for the monthly fashion and beauty fix they offer us, because we all get it daily from reading the blogs. Not to mention, designers who know what's good for them allow streaming their shows online in real time.

I can't see myself giving up my subscriptions any time soon, and some magazines seem to be adjusting to this new reality better than others. I hope this is the last closing we have to witness.

Do you still read the monthly glossies? do you see yourself stopping reading them? What do they need to do to keep you as a reader? How many beauty and fashion blogs do you visit regularly?

A Socialite's Life has this related little story about the going-ons when a magazine is about to lock its doors (and its fashion closet).

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Beauty and the Heat

The temperatures here are touching the triple digit zone, and it isn't pretty. Even the best intentions and beauty routines melt when confronted with a scorching and muggy reality and we need all the help we can get. Here are a few of things that help me survive days like these:

  • A little color that goes a long way: I use a dab of concealer only where (and if) needed, line my eyes with a thick pencil in a rich color that does double duty as a shadow (my favorite has always been Sue Devitt Eye Intensifier in Gold Reef, but all the other colors are just as lovely. Look at the khaki one, Bangalore), black waterproof mascara (I only use them for a few days this time of the year, and the drugstores are full of good ones. I usually buy Max Factor), and finish up the look with a dark colored lip gloss (I love Chanel Glossimer in Force). Only three or four products, but it looks well put-together.
  • It's the only time of the year I'm going places with my hair pulled back into a tight bun. Jonathan's Silky Dirt is keeping it shiny and in place. I'll need to write a full review soon (and probably try other products from this line).
  • My flat feet can be the bane of my existence, if I let them. They get swollen in the heat which makes wearing shoes a painful ordeal. I keep my regular shoes or sandals in my beg and put them on before getting anywhere, but until that moment, I live in J. Crew's wedge flip-flops. They're much more comfortable for me than regular flat flip-flops, because they provide support and insulation from the ground, two things that the flat-footed among us know to appreciate.
  • Perfume. I like to wear something that takes me away to kinder places. Reverie au Jardin from Tauer Perfume is my choice of escape. It takes me to cool, green gardens. This fragrance comes from Switzerland, which helps with the Alpine fantasy.

Told You So

Remember O-Glo? That "smart" gel blush that Smashbox was trying to convince us is so wonderful and flattering to everyone because it adjusts to our skin?
I wasn't impressed and neither was Kristen, the Beauty Addict. Now we have The BeautyBrains backing us up on the science behind this product. It's not us, it's them, and it has nothing to do with applying it right.

I Think I may Have a Problem

I was actually looking for something blue or green when I spotted this bag. It has my name written all over it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

L'Artisan Parfumeur- Dzing!

L'Artisan Parfumeur-  Dzing! or: Where are my clowns?
I'm not sure if it's my nose or body chemistry that are among the funkiest you could imagine, but this I know: They work in mysterious way.

Consider my holiest of grails: I wear all of the Tauers easily, year round. Including the smoke and leather manly scent, Lonestar Memories (and its precious little brother, Orris). Or the Lutens: concept fragrances or not, I wear them and they make sense on my skin, including that public enemy, Miel de Bois. Or Cartier's Le Baiser du Dragon, a fragrance that I remember reading in one of the blogs (apologies for not remembering which one) that it was suited for a Joan Crawford type of woman (That one made me feel great).

Also, just look at the list of perfumes I can't wear because my skin makes them ugly. I'm not even talking about popular but controversial ones like Angel or Prada. Both Light Blue (D&G) and Cashmere Mist turn sour on me. I don't mind, really. But not being able to find a Montale that doesn't smell rancid on me, or having Bois de Armenie reject me after the first 30 minutes was insulting.

I think I've made my point.

Here's another example: Reviews of L'Artisan's Dzing! are downright scary. They all talk about an animalic note, a serious fecal funk, wet fur and dirty beasts. Lions and tigers and bears galore. Read all the other blogs for explanations and elaborations on the circus theme that inspired this scent (for real!). In this case, the funk is lost on me, and I don't know if I should be thankful or sorry.

I have no idea what they all are smelling. I have a house full of cats. I deal with feline waste management on a daily basis and sniff fur all the time. That's not the juice in my bottle. On my skin, it starts with rich brown leather. It reminds me the smell of an outdoor market that I visited in Florence many years ago. Then come roasted candied peanuts, the kind they sell on the streets of Manhattan. There's something a little burnt but addictive in the smell. And vanilla. All the time, the leather is still there, peeping under the sweetness that my skin plays up and makes stronger and stronger.

On The Blond, it's much more masculine. The vanilla is almost hidden behind an assertive leather. There's something nutty there, as well, but not so much street candy, somehow fresher. I'm not sure which one of us smells better wearing Dzing!, but we're both fascinated with this scent. So much so, that I did something I hardly ever do: Bought the big, 3.4 oz bottle.

Notes: Notes: leather, ginger, tonka bean, musk, white woods, caramel, saffron, toffee, candy apple and cotton candy.

(photos in order of appearance: Joan Crawford, my cat, Peter, and a 3.4 oz bottle of Dzing!)

What's in Your Hair?

Talk about high maintenance.

This story from British paper Daily Mail puts our Fekkai, Ojon and Carol's Daughter habit in perspective. Apparently, Catherine Zeta-Jones' conditioner of choice is caviar. The real thing. Imported for her from Iran on a weekly basis.

What do you think she smells like?

(photo from DailyCeleb.Com)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Arcona Cranberry Toner

Things have been changing in the face cleansing scene the last couple of years. It used to be simple: Everyone had a cleanser and a toner and we used to feel like we haven't done it right if there wasn't a tingling, squeaky clean feel once we were finished.

Ask most skin care experts today and they'd say that you need to be much more gentle on your face, because over-cleaning and drying actually causes the skin to get active and produce more oil and get generally unhappy and imbalanced. They would also tell you to drop the toner, because it's the most drying product of them all (especially those that still contain alcohol). Modern cleansers aren't supposed to leave behind any residue that needs to be removed and your face shouldn't require any toning.

Old habits die hard. For those who still crave the clean feel of a toner on their skin, there's a three-in-one product that promises to do it all: remove makeup, tone the skin and hydrate it. Cranberry toner by Arcona is all-natural, its ingredient list reads like a Harry Potter herbology class: Hamamelis Virginiana Extract (Witch Hazel), Rice milk, Sodium Lactate, Vaccinium Macrocarpon Fruit Extract (Cranberry), Camellia Sinensis Extract (White Tea), Vitis Vinifera Seed Extract (Grape), D-Alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Citric Acid, Essential Oils.

I did some research to find out what's Sodium Lactate and found out that it's produced by the natural fermentation of the sugars from corn or beets. These sugars are fermented with lactic acid starter culture, similar to those used for cheese or yogurt production.

One word of caution regarding the ingredients: This toner is basically an enriched witch hazel solution. Witch hazel is an astringent and an anti-oxidant. It's also a known skin irritant and some people are very sensitive to it, so take notice.

Those who don't have a problem with witch hazel will find this toner quite pleasing. It cleanses well (though I prefer to use it as a follow-up to makeup remover wipes) and feels nice on the skin. It usually doesn't give the dry, tightening feeling of regular toners, though you can't skip moisturizing. I'm not wild for the fruity smell and color (the cotton pads turn pale purple after using it, which I find disturbing), but since it's made of cranberry extract I guess it's only natural.

Arcona Cranberry Toner ($32) is available from Nordstrom and Beauty.com.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


I keep my hair at around 2.5'-3'.
That's between 75-100 cm, for the non-American world.

Yes, it's long. No, it's not hard to maintain. I keep it clean and well-moisturized, and use products to keep it soft, shiny, and avoid frizz on top and around my face. Recently I've been using Fekkai's Glossing Sheer Shine Mist (try saying it quickly several times in a row). This mist is used on dry hair, unlike most of the other hair products in my arsenal.

It's definitely glossing the hair nicely and helps with frizz control tasks. I like the shiny results, even though it does somewhat weigh my hair down, not to the point of visible grease, but it opens up the curls and waves, so my guess is it's great for those who blow dry to straighten. Another benefit of this mist is help with detangling.

The one drawback is for those of us with sensitive scalps. If I'm not careful, even the tiniest amount makes my head itch.

Friday, July 06, 2007

On Color- Part 2

Part 1 discussed Bobbi Brown's Stonewashed Nudes look for fall 2007 and focused on the eye shadow palette. Now, let's move to lip color.

Last fall we saw the start of the berry lip trend. However, the other makeup craze of smoking up and raccooning our eyes was even hotter, most lips remained nude. The new looks of more neutral colors for eyes calls for amping up the lips, and as someone whose natural lip color is quite strong and would never pull of a beige lip, I couldn't be happier. The new lip colors in Bobbi's fall collection are nice. Especially the three variations on the cocoa team. However, these lipsticks are semi matte and full coverage, while my preference is for a lighter formula.

Next, I looked at Chanel's fall collection. I'm smitten. Completely, totally in love with it. It's balanced, beautiful and has an interesting and mysterious air to it, without ever being over-the-top or clownish. Not that it should surprise any of us. Chanel can do bold colors like blue or green eye shadows and keep the look classy and refined.

There are several options for lip color, including a compact of three glosses that look too pretty to even use. The shades in the Orchidee trio are quite interesting and are meant to be blended and worn together. The plum one looks very dark, but with a neutral eye and blended with the lightest shade in the compact it should look stunning.

There are more traditional offerings in the new fall collection, some additions to the regular line and a few limited editions. I have a serious weakness for Chanel's LEs, so I made my choice from those: I got the sheer lipstick in Catalina (a deep plum) and a Glossimer in Hibiscus (shimmery plum). Look for the full review next week (there will also be a review of a limited edition Chanel nail color).

The eye shadows offered in this collection are equally lovely. The theme here is an autumn garden, which is featured in a variety of green shadow. The stunning four color compact in the Le Quarte Ombre de Chanel series (a wet-dry formula) is a limited edition called Garden Party (the other limited edition, Sequoia, is more neutral). There's also a duo in cactus green and soft pink and even a single named Jungle which is a dark forest green, all are very pretty and they make this color a must-have for fall. The many green variations promise that there's a green for everyone.

Another similar green option was offered a few months ago by Bourjois, which is owned by Chanel. I reviewed their cute eye shadow duo, Petite Guide de Style in Miss Spirit, a dark green/light peach combination that would look equally pretty in the fall as it did last spring.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

People of the Labyrinths- Luctor et Emergo

Fragrances, like most people, are temperamental. The way they smell on us and to us changes with the weather, with the time of day, with the amount of moisture in our skin and also with our mood.

Luctor et Emergo (the first scent from Dutch house People of the Labyrinths who also brought us A*Maze) is the most temperamental scent I've come across. It's almost as extreme as the reaction it gets from those who try it. Opinions among bloggers and others vary greatly, from "divine" to "play-doh". One thing that most agree on: Unlike A*Maze, this is a very original and unusual scent. There's nothing else quite like it.

I adore this scent. It plays tricks on me. Sometimes it's very gourmand. It can smell as an incredibly rich marzipan, filled with a cherry that has been marinated in a rich liqueur, and then settle into a deep woody vanilla. Other times the foody notes go away and leave behind cherry wood and incense. Sometimes it's the incense itself that smells like cherry.

The balance between sweet and spice varies when I wear it. Sometimes it's very feminine, almost girly. Other times it's very dry and serene, making it male-friendly. I get neither grass and hey, nor white flowers, so this is never light on my skin. It's rich and addictive and never fails to make feel pretty.

Photo via People of the Labyrinths Facebook page.