Friday, August 31, 2007

Long Weekend (and then some)

Labor Day Weekend is upon us, followed by The Blond's and mine wedding anniversary (11 years!) on Tuesday. I'll be back Wednesday. In the mean time, if you're looking for something to read, check out the Perfume Blog Aggregator and the Beauty Blogging Network.

Stay beautiful!

Yes, the photo is of us on our (very informal) wedding day.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A little fashion exercise: Find the Fug

The other day I was going through the latest bunch of email newsletters and promotionals. Some are deleted with no second thought, others get a second of my time and select few have me act like a good little consumer by clicking them and giving them my undivided attention and consideration.

That was how I found myself browsing the modern and contemporary collections on There are quite a few items I really liked, a couple are going to end up in my closet, but the most interesting thing is the way the little photos of these coats and dresses highlight the biggest fashion problem we have at the moment: Some cuts and shapes are bad for you. Unless, of course, you really want everyone to believe that your waist is bigger than your boobs. If that's the case, I see Stacy and Clinton in your future.

I'd go out on a limb and say the models are most likely tall and skinny. You wouldn't know it from looking at some of the pictures. Also, notice the model who wears these three dresses. It's the same woman, and despite the sack she's wearing on the left, she actually has a beautiful figure:
All I can say is: Don't try this at home. Please.

Images are screen shots taken from

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Little Bottle of Horrors - Serge Lutens Datura Noir

This isn't a real review of Serge Lutens Datura Noir, because in order to write one I'd have to wear it again for several days, testing it indoors and out, during the day and when going out at night. Believe me, there's no chance I'll be doing that any time soon. Or ever.

I sniffed, sprayed and tried it on a few times over the last couple of years, mostly getting that "It doesn't really work for me" feeling, washed it off and moved on. A few weeks ago I gave it another try, put on a hefty spritz on my wrist and waited. It was bad.

I can't really speak of notes. It started as white flowers and ended with white flowers, only 1000 times bigger, like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors, threatening to swallow me whole. I'm not a big fan of these florals to begin with, but this was worse than any other scent I've tried. Instead of turning creamy, buttery, fading into the woods or any of the other tricks tuberose is known to play, here the florals just got bigger, louder, banshee-er. It screamed. Or maybe it was my poor skin begging for mercy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Ask the Non-Blonde: How to do a "naked face"?

Angie is asking: "My skin tone is on the olive side and seems to be similar to yours. I'd love to try a natural look, the kind that appears almost naked, only it isn't, but I'm lost when it comes to the products. All the suggestions I see are for these peachy colors that do nothing for me."

My reply: I know what you mean. Peach-face isn't exactly our best look. Thankfully, there are enough other options for us.

The key to this "natural" look is to do exactly what works for your face, just keep to colors and textures that don't look over-done. It starts with a clear, even skin. My favorite lately is Shiseido Smoothing Veil. It solves the problem of finding the exact match for your skin tone, while still doing the job. Of course, if you need more coverage than this, stick to your regular foundation.

I do touch ups with concealer, mostly the sides of the nose and anywhere else that needs it. My choice is Lorac CoverUp in C2. Use a brush for best results (you end up using less product and looking more natural).

Eyes: I skip the liquid liner and use an eye shadow instead. Bobbi Brown Espresso shadow (the darkest one in the Stonewashed Nudes palette, also sold separately) is great as a liner, because it's very very dark without being a harsh black. I dip a brush in a tiny drop of Paula Dorf's Transformer, swipe a little eye shadow and apply it as close as I can to the lash line, trying to get it in between my lashes. Top only, of course, and without going the Amy Winehouse way.

Eye shadows: One or two colors (this look doesn't call for an elaborate color-by-numbers job) at the most, applied and blended according to your eye shape. Lorac Moonstone under the brow and Cocoa in the crease and on the lid are one option. I also love the two lightest colors from Dior Beige Massai palette, and if you have Bobbi Brown's last year chocolate palette, this would be a good time to use it (I suspect the Stonewashed Nudes are just as good, and would work for most skin tones).

Finish your eyes with a non-extreme black mascara. My favorite is still Clinique High Impact. It makes the lashes stand out without looking fake.

An all-over natural sun kissed color for face is Dallas, Benefit's little miracle. Use it lightly on those spots you want to look a bit tanned, and you're done. If you need powder (highly recommended. It gives a clean, finished look, as long as you're not overdoing it), use whatever pressed one you already have. Save the shimmer for evening.

The last touch is a lip gloss. Go with a color as close to your natural lip as possible, which if you're like me, means not beige, or with a clear gloss with only a hint of color. For the latter look, I adore Besame Cosmetics lip glaze in red berry. It gives that famous "bitten" look (and it feels and smells great). A more opaque option is Alison Rafaelle in Polished or Benefit Silky Finish in Dessert First.

That's it. You're all set.

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's not you, it's me: L'Artisan Mure et Musc, Grès Cabaret

Before I've learned about anosmia, I thought either my skin was making certain perfumes evaporate upon contact, or the fragrance makers were playing the Emperor's New Clothes trick on me. Only, it wasn't the emperor who was naked. It's my nose, which has a completely blind spot when it comes to certain musks. Not all of them, mind you. I get a musky drydown in many popular scents (Valentino V Absolu, several of the Bonds and others), and have no problem smelling and enjoying Serge Lutens Clair de Musc, a beautiful, coy gem of a fragrance that I never expected to enjoy as much as I do.

L'Artisan Parfumeur Mure et Musc, both the regular and the extreme versions, are the best examples for my anosmia. The EdT starts sharp, soapy and mildly unpleasant. Even the blackberry isn't recognizable to my nose. I can't say I'm sorry to see it all gone without a trace within 10 minutes. The berries are much more prominent in the EdP (the extreme fragrance). It's sweet but still soapy. I couldn't confirm it, but my nose insists there's a touch of white flowers, possibly lilies somewhere behind the fruit, but that's about it. It's much longer lasting than the original, especially when sprayed, with an almost sickening sweetness. My bottom line is: Berries, lily of the valley and a non-existent base do not bode well for me and my nose.

Another scent which gives me a hard time is Parfums Grès Cabaret. I can't say for sure if it's my skin swallowing and destroying most of the notes or a nose thing again (the base is supposedly musky), but as far as I'm concerned, the lovely bottle holds nothing but a pale rose soap. Pleasant, harmless, very clean but far from exciting or interesting. I really wanted to love this perfume. It was supposed to be very sexy, as the corset bottle hints. The semantic field of cabaret associations and images are dark, moody, dangerous, glitzy and sexual. I know several people who swear by this fragrance, but once it meets me, other than a pale chyper-like kick at the top, it folds the notes head-to-tail, and leaves me with nothing but a floral and demure disappointment. If what I'm smelling is true, this scent can be worn by a young girl as well as by her schoolmarmish great aunt. Then again, it might just be my nose.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Nothing to do with beauty, fragrance or fashion, and only marginally so with celebrities. I just wanted to put it in public that I will never, ever watch a Jamie Foxx movie, nor will I endorse any project of which he'd be part.

The reason is here.

Cargo Mozambique Eye Shadow Palette

Here's something to tide us over while waiting for Bobbi Brown's Metallics: Cargo has several new eye palettes. What I like about them is the combinations of pretty neutrals with one or two high octane colors which, if used just right, can take your look into the realms of "wow!".

My method, which I use for all va-va-voom colors, is to use the boldest color just as an eye liner, adding a hint of brightness to an otherwise tame look. I draw a medium width line with a thin, stiff-bristled angled brush and blend it into the neutral color I use on the crease.

Out of this bunch, my favorite is Mozambique. Cargo are always making beautiful teal shadows. The tropical one here would blend beautifully with the more delicate quartz and sand.

Bobbi Goes Metallic!

The title reminds me of the promos for Ninotchka: "Garbo Laughs!" Sounds equally surprising, isn't it?

The queen of natural looking (well, except of that horrible violet face palette) makeup is taking a bold step with four limited edition eye shadow palette, described as "velvety shimmering". Judging by the above photo (from an email sneak peek), there's a good chance they'd be lovely and very wearable.

*August 28th Update: This collection is now available from Nordstrom and Bobbi's web site. I'm leaning towards the plum one.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Ask the Non-Blonde

Among the emails I got lately (personal replies have been sent, as always), there were several questions that might be of interest to others, for more reasons than one. Here goes:
  • Q: I can't find most perfumes you write about. Where do you get samples now that eBay is not allowing them?
    A: When it comes to niche perfume, most online stores sell samples. Both Aedes and Luckyscent let you order them online. Both stores are quite generous with free samples when you buy a full bottle. Also, if you can get to a L'Artisan store, you'll never leave empty handed (they have a limited selection of samples online). And, last, The Perfume Court has the most amazing selection of perfume: new, rare and vintage. You can buy samples, decants and in some cases also full bottles.

  • Q: I read your comment on Faking Good Breeding 's blog regarding beauty/fashion blog recommending expensive creams and shoes, and I don't buy it. Are you too snobby to write about stuff people can buy from WalMart?
    A: As I said in my comment to Meg, this is a personal blog. I write about what I know and I have a specific point of view. There's no Wal-Mart in my county, so I wouldn't know what's sold there.

  • Q: Can every woman wear red lipstick?
    A: There's probably a right shade of red for everyone. At least for special occasions. Despite what Mary-Kate Olsen might think, not everyone can pull it off when wearing grungy clothes and going on a Starbucks run.

  • Q: Why do you bother writing about people like Mary-Kate Olsen?
    A: Sadly, MK is a high-profile celeb whose style is being photographed and emulated by women around the world (including some who have no business even considering it). She wears and inspires fashion, I say what I think of her.

  • Q: What's your favorite perfume?
    A: While I love many fragrances and would always like to have a large and varied collection, if I'm pressed against the wall and can only have one scent, it would be L'Air du Desert Marocain from Tauer Perfumes. It's deeply satisfying for me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The tube of Korres Yoghurt Cooling Gel has been taking up space in my big box o'lotions for a while now. It's supposedly an after-sun product, but I've been extremely good about avoiding exposure and haven't even gotten my nose red, not to mention any other body part. Come to think of it, I'm quite proud of myself. The down side (other than the gallons of self-tanners I've been using) is that I didn't get a chance to try this gel for soothing UV-irritated skin.

However, irritation comes in all shapes and forms, and I managed to find a great use for this Korres. My post-workout skin has started to get a bit itchy and more sensitive than usual, and it doesn't completely go away after showering. I dug out the tube and started using it daily (body only) with impressive results. The itchiness is gone right away, my skin feels calm, moisturized and softer that it's been in a long time. The gel goes on a bit sticky but absorbs fast while my skin stays supple for hours. I'm impressed and intend to also give it a try on my winter skin.

This gel is unscented. It has a faint but distinct smell, which isn't unpleasant. It might be the yogurt or any of the extracts or seed oils used in it, because the product smells "natural" and maybe a bit musky. As long as it's on my legs and arms, it doesn't interfere with my perfume, but I'd be careful about mixing the two.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Watered Down - Jil Sander Pure

Once upon a time there was a Jil Sander fragrance named Pure. It was created in 1979 (not a great year for perfumery, if you look at this list), and boasted an impressive list of notes:

Top: Aldehyde, Galbanum, Coriander, Bergamot, Leaves

Heart: Rose, Jasmin, Carnation, Ylang-Ylang, Gardenia, Muguet, Tuberose

Base: Oakmoss, Styrax, Leather, Benzoin, Vetiver, Cedar

This was, of course, too good to be true (I'm guessing, since I've never actually sniffed it), and this perfume was discontinued and forgotten, until 2003 when a new fragrance was launched under this very same name.

I found two descriptions of this scent. FragranceNet simply calls it "a crisp, watery scent", while according to Neiman Marcus, it's "A blow of freshness: pure air molecule, cyclamen flower, fresh petal jasmine, lush sap."

I happened upon a bottle of the shower gel and gave it a try. The good news is that it doesn't make me itch like crazy. Seriously, I'm allergic to many a soap, so not wishing for someone to come and flay me is a very good thing. The bad news is that those descriptions of air and water are quite accurate. Pure smells like nothing. It makes me think of those HR memos to employees about not wearing perfume to work so they wouldn't offend their sensitive coworkers. This is the most politically correct fragrance. It makes me want to marinate myself in Miel de Bois.

Monday, August 20, 2007

D is for Discontinued (and for online Discounters)

Slowly but surly, with a scary determination, classic and mainstream perfume houses are discontinuing older fragrances. Some are gone forever, others are reformulated beyond recognition. The reasons are many, but they all come to the bottom line of sales and revenues. The executed bottles are many of your old favorites. It seems that every day another one is gone to the eternal oakmoss fields.

If you've been getting a strange feeling that the new bottle of your signature scent doesn't smell the way it was supposed to, you're most likely right. You can either adjust, switch or go vintage. Just beware of fakes and con artists on eBay.

If you wear the older Fendis, this is the time to stock up on the classic Fendi. Asja is already very hard to find as is the wonderful Theorema. Gucci L'Arte is gone, most Oscar de la Renta scents are disappearing quickly, Roberto Cavalli was just discontinued, but there are still many bottles around. Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant and L'Tiger are mostly gone, but a few online stores still have a few bottles. The gorgeous incense fragrance from Barbara Bui is becoming hard to find, but still possible.

The classic Cartier scents Must, Must II and the original So Pretty are becoming the center of bid wars on eBay. Nothing has yet reached the legendary hysteria of Donna Karan Chaos (google it for a good laugh at the prices it gets), but we can take guesses at the next underground hit.

While I admit I no longer buy mainstream mass market fragrances created after 1999 (with the exception of Barbara Bui, though I'm not sure it really qualifies as such, Cartier Le Baiser du Dragon and Alexander McQueen Kingdom, another goner), I'm sad to see this trend. I've been stocking up on my 80s and 90s favorites and must admit I'm worried for some of my other favorites, like Black Cashmere and Jil Sander #4.

D is for Discontinued (the nail polish edition)

My toes have mostly been painted in light neutral colors since early spring. I alternated between several Lippmans and my tried and true Sally Hansen in Pure Putty. These colors were clean, fun and left the stage free for the real stars, my shoes.

The shoes I was wearing on Saturday night, purple Celine sandals, looked like they could deal with a darker color. I found a bottle I picked about a couple of months ago in my local Target. It was another Sally Hansen Advanced Hard as Nails in Stony Creme. I remember it was the only bottle of this left, which should have clued me in, but I liked the elegant taupe/mauve color and it came home with me.

On my toes it looked even better than in the bottle. There's a hint of cocoa powdered rose and it's pretty both in daylight and for evening. The next day, happy with my feet, I looked online both for research purpose and to stock up on a couple of more bottles, just in case. I was too late. Stony Creme is already a goner.

There are bottles floating around eBay, but seriously, I don't even buy more Tulip Noir over there. There's an endless stream of lovely new polishes from every brand. We can all find something else to work for us, but this color was cute enough to earn a post and a moment of silence among nail color lovers.

(Photo from, who no longer have it in stock)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Or des Indes

The note list of a perfume is not always an indication of what the juice within really smells like. It's more of a suggestion, a hint of what's inside and what it might be if no one has messed things up in the process. In the case of Or des Indes by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier, no one has messed up, and the fragrance lives up to its notes. I only wish it lived longer.

As far as I'm concerned, you can rarely go wrong with bergamot, oppoponax (that's a resinous gum from the bark of an African tree), sandalwood, amber, vanilla, geranium and lavender, even if I can't really tell the top notes apart and would have never guessed that the bergamot was in there. My nose detects a lovely, soft and thoroughly blended floralish opening which gives way to a sweet woody heart. The base started as an unoriginal if pleasant amber-vanilla mix, until something shifted towards a darker, woody place. That's probably the oppoponax, which has officially joined my list of good things. It's spicier than sandalwood, with a faint hint of cinnamon.

Or des Indes is a joy to wear. Not too powdery, the sweetness is refined and controlled. It has the coziness of a comfort scent while still being elegant enough to be worn with a little black dress and red lipstick. More feminine than its distant cousin, Bois de Copaiba (Parfumerie Generale), but sadly, not as strong. Or des Indes is an EdT, after all, so there's only so much you can expect in terms of lasting presence. Yet, I suspect that when sprayed (as opposed to dabbing on from a sample) it has a better sillage and more staying power.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Lancome Body Delisse

The good fight for soft skin never ends. Especially when it becomes apparent that one of your ancestor was an alligator. Body butters are too heavy for this weather, and I prefer to save the big guns, L'Occitane shea butter creams, for molting season (what most people know as winter). My current rotation includes Lancome Body Delisse, a quick absorbing, heavy duty lotion. It's effective for about 8 hours without any stickiness and keeps the scales at bay. I only have one problem with it: Scent. It smells of a very synthetic peach, with a side of aquatic notes. Both are at the bottom of the list of things I like to smell in beauty products. It's not overpowering, but I wish it smelled better. Of course, for peach lovers, Body Delisse might be pure joy. I'm just happy to have soft skin.

Something to Wear

Among all the booties and shboots filling the stores and providing us all with fond memories of Desperately Seeking Susan, here's a pair from Cole Haan that has been calling my name and fits perfectly with my sense of style. I live in skirts, dresses and jeans. Rarely (if ever) wear pants, so my perfect boots are tall, slim, high-heeled and full of character.

Last fall I embarked on a search for the perfect denim skirt. I found it at J. Crew. That skirt was a great purchase. I wear it year-round, dress it up and down, with boots or sandals, colors or neutrals, and it always looks good. This season they have a new skirt, in a beautiful grey-ish wash, which promptly joined my wardrobe.

A word of advice if you're a size zero: Call the store in advance, because most locations are already out of it. They'd gladly order it for you, but you can do that yourself. While I was at it, I stocked up on opaque tights (20% off when buying three pairs or more).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tan and Tanner

Jergens Natural glow has been very good to my legs for the last couple of years. I've been using the one in Medium quite religiously every other day and have maintained the natural not too deep tan look. Lately I decided that I want something just a bit bolder, kind of a high summer glow. I could have just gone up in color and got the darkest of the three Jergens, but this time I decided to try something new.

My weekly Target run for cat litter has become much more interesting since they started carrying Boots no 7 products. I picked Quick Dry Tinted Lotion in medium/dark, and haven't looked back since. The tint part is the only unimpressive thing about this lotions. If your natural color is anywhere near mine, you won't see much of it, so don't count on an instant glow. Instead, wait 2-3 hours for the real color to develop. The first day I used it, I wanted to get as deep a tan as I could, so I reapplied after about five hours. The results were as close to perfect as I could hope for. Since then, I've been renewing my tan every 2-3 days, and the color stays fresh. It's true brown: no jaundice and no oompa loompa in sight.

Other good things about this lotion are the ease of application: it seems to be fool-proof; Also: the scent is (dare I say it?) pleasant. And a word of warning: The lotion is very tenacious. Wash your hands and carefully scrub them with a brush, otherwise you'll end up with George Hamilton on your palms.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lancôme Poême- Sunny Side Up (and some closure)

This isn't an earth-shattering revelation, but memories manipulate the way we perceive fragrance. I used to wear Poême, the 1995 release from Lancôme, ten and eleven years ago, when I first started teaching. I didn't think my favorites, Tiffany and Panthere de Cartier, were fifth grade friendly, and my other staples, Eternity, Lauren and White Linen had more to do in my mind with my business school days (yes, I made a few career changes over the years). With that in mind, I looked for a good perfume for a young math teacher, and my choice fell on Poême, which felt very appropriate and put-together.

Those years were hard. I hated the school, loathed the principal and wasn't a fan of the system and the way it treated both students and teachers. Seriously, not memories I enjoy revisiting, and Poême was part of that. I haven't worn it in more than eight years and gave away my last bottle of the EdP. However, prompted by a recent discussion on the Perfume of Life forums, I dug out a bottle of the parfum extrait and tried it on several occasions.

Apparently, time can erase a wound or two. Poême is no longer a reminder of angst. It might be my nose or maybe a much-changed frame of mind (physical distance also helps). Poême is a happy scent with a very sunny disposition. It's definitely not a schoolmarm scent (come to think of that, what is?). The opening is supposed to be all fruit (Black Currant, Peach, Mandarin, Bergamot), but I don't get much of that in the parfum version, and don't recall the EdP to be fruity either. It's sweet, but not syrupy and I never felt I was wearing the juices from the bottom of a fruit cup.

The heart is all sunny flowers. Orange Blossom, freesia, jasmine and tuberose could have easily gone the heady route, like many other white florals. But Poême is very balanced and somehow toned down. The freesia seems to hold its own among the other, more diva-like notes, and the result is more feminine and gentle than the femme fatale you'd expect. The vanilla-amber base keeps the flowery heart grounded, making it warm and inviting (though it's not a very subtle or elegant base.It feels too heavy-handed at times). The yellow box is supposed to bring up the image of yellow flowers, and it does. There's something very golden and vibrant, open and simple, yet restrained. The exuberance is well-mannered, which is probably what attracted me to this scent all those years ago.

I think I've made my peace with Poême. I can appreciate its charm, but it's definitely not me. I don't own many floral perfumes, and the ones I do, all have something extra: an olfactory tangent, a woody base, oakmoss or vetiver. I'm no longer the young teacher who wore Poême , and I'm perfectly fine with that.

Monday, August 13, 2007


August is all about survival. Heat, humidity and crappy TV are trying to do us in. Saving face gets a new meaning during a season which makes some of our makeup staples cry. I don't know about you, but putting on a silicone-based face primer doesn't feel that great to me right now. Neither does foundation. Still, in order to look perfectly put together, one needs a little help in the even-things-out department.

This is when Shiseido Smoothing Veil saves the day. It's an intriguing concept: A white primer/foundation in the tub, colorless on the face and somehow gets your skin to look smooth and even. It doesn't cover up serious imperfections; You still need your concealer for that job. But, everything else gets that healthy skin finish. It's a good primer which holds whatever makeup I apply on top very nicely (and helps it last). The SPF 16 is a great bonus, as it saves me piling on another layer of product.

I can't say much about the fine line diminishing claim. I don't have much to diminish there, and generally, I'm quite skeptical about such things. But, since overall skin appearance is smoother, fine lines may be less visible.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Bring it Back

My favorite method for room scenting is to use lamp rings. It's the most practical way to go when one has an unusual number of cats running around, knocking things off and getting into everything. Candles are way too dangerous and reed diffusers are most likely to be chewed on and spilled.

Very few companies make the right kind of oils for these rings. I use oils from two companies. One is Crabtree & Evelyn: Lavender, Rosewater, Summer Hill and whatever new one they come up with. Currently I'm enjoying the fresh, crisp scent of Sarawak. It's a floral ginger blend that I hope stays in their collection for a while. I still miss the freesia scent they had for years and discontinued just before repackaging and reformulating the whole Freesia line.

My other favorite is The Thymes. They used to have a much bigger selections of environmental oils, both from collections that are no longer with us (a moment of silence for Lemongrass & Limeleaf) and as part of the current lines, only the oil was discontinued (just like the wonderfully addictive laundry detergent in Goldleaf. My unmentionables haven't smelled the same since).

I've always loved the Fig Leaf & Cassis collection. It's not exactly L'artisan Premier Figuier, but it's still good and quite complex for such a fresh scent. Despite the cassis, it's not very fruity. More like a full bodied green fig, a little dark, no coconut in sight, can feel chilly at times. I don't recommend the weak cologne, but the other body products are worthy of a separate review. There used to be an environmental oil in this scent. I'm still hoarding the last bottles I bought, and will be very sad once they are all used up. If there's one product I wish could be brought back from the eternal pastures of lost fragrance is this one.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

One bubble dress makes you larger, one dress makes you small

Two bubble dresses. One belongs to the ridiculous "let's look pregnant!" trend, which would be great if you actually are with child. But those of us who aren't, would look slimmer in something that has a waist. Odd concept, I know. The first dress is from Doo Ri, the second one is a Dsquared2, and shows that not all bubble dresses are created equal.

I'm not a big fan of the trend and hoped it would go away by now, but if they are still around, I'd much rather wear the feminine, sexy Dsquared2 dress. There's something about its cut and proportions that appeal to me.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Coveting Now

The total opposite of the mysterious Lorac palette is the Ready-to-Wear/ Pret-a-Porter Dual Look Palette from Tarte. It's another limited edition (did I just hear a groan in the audience?) combination of eye, cheek and lip colors, based around two looks (but, of course, could be mixed and matched). The difference here is not only in the detailed description of the colors and textures, but also in the option to zoom in and see every piece and color of the set up close.

(A note to the webmasters of Barney's, Bergdorf and all the other top-of-the-line stores: Do you really think I'm going to drop $75 for a Serge Lutens lipstick without being able to see each and every color in the highest resolution possible?)

I'm not sure that the two lightest lip colors are right for me, but I have a serious case of coveting nonetheless.

Another product that has been calling my name is bareMinerals 100% Natural Lipstick.  I might not buy the "natural" hype without some questioning, but I'm a huge fan of calming and moisturizing lip color, and this one sounds like a winner. The Ripe Fig color looks especially right, but there are also several mauves and plums which would work for me (the Duchess of Windsor might have been channeling Paris Hilton when she quipped about how one can never be too rich or too thin, but she got it all wrong. One can never have enough plum lip color, and I'm the walking proof of that).

Buying a cat in the (makeup) bag

Here's something that really annoyed me: Last night I got a Sephora Insider newsletter about a new exclusive Lorac palette. I love Lorac, and her Snake Charmer palette is one of my all-time favorites, so I clicked on the link, eager to learn more. When you click now you'll see it's already sold out, but the info is the same they had last night: Almost none.

There's a photo, but you can't enlarge it or see a close-up. The description simply says:

five eyeshadows, two bestselling blushes, lip polish, and a dual-ended
brush—this little box of beauty is your front row seat to shimmer-kissed, smoky
eyes, rosy glowing cheeks, and glossy red lips.

That's all. No details about the exact colors, no names of the shadows, gloss and blushes and no description. I have no problem buying makeup online and I do it just as often as I shop at Sephora or at my favorite counters, but I don't buy blindly. I want to know exactly what I'm paying for. Apparently, there are enough Sephora Insiders who don't feel this way. I hope they're happy with their purchase.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

More Berry Lips

My favorite part of the fall makeup collections are the many options and variations of lip color. There are several nude and beige looks for those of us who go for a bold eye, but my thing is a more natural eye makeup with a plum or berry lip.

Just as I planned, I got the Enhancing Lip Gloss in Vixen (from the limited edition Decadence collection), and it was love from the moment I tested at the store. Don't let the color swatch to scare you. It is a deep berry, but very sheer and unless your coloring is very delicate and ultra-pale (including hair, eyebrows and skin), it won't give you a punch-mouth look. I got one for my sister whose complexion is several tones lighter than mine.

The color is just one of the things I love about this gloss. It's shiny, very moisturizing and comfortable, not sticky at all and makes my lips feel soft. While not a real plumping product, the moisturizing action is enough to keep the lips from drying up and wilting. This makes the enhancement promise a true one.

It's not as long lasting as the new Chanel glossimer I reviewed recently, but I'm willing to forgive that. Reapplying is a breeze and the brush is just flexible enough to coat the lips smoothly without yielding too much and causing smears when used in a haste.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ines de la Fressange- Ines de la Fressange (1999)

Once upon a time when Karl Lagerfeld looked a little less scary and made more inspired clothes, he had a muse. Her name was Inès De La Fressange (actually, her full name was Inès Marie Laetitia Eglantine Isabelle de Seignard de la Fressange. Try saying that three times. Fast. And now with a French accent). She was an heiress, the daughter of a marquis, and a supermodel who was the embodiment of Chanel style during the 80s.

She was also chosen to be Marianne, the female icon of the French republic whose face appears on stamps and town hall buildings across the nation (think Queen Elizabeth, only with more sex appeal and no cranky Philip at her side). This unique career move was, supposedly, the cause of her falling out with Mr. Lagerfeld, according to whom Marianne represented ''everything that is boring, bourgeois and provincial,'' and that he was not going to dress a historic monument.

Inès quit modeling during the 90s and became a successful fashion and accessories designer. Issuing her own fragrance was a logical move (after all we have scents by Cindy Crawford, Naomi Capmbell, and soon Kate Moss). She partnered with French cosmetics company Payot and launched Inès de la Fressange in 1999. This is the perfume in the squat bottle and the official notes are:
  • top: bergamot, aldehydes, peach, rosewood
  • heart: ylang-ylang, lily, carnation, rose
  • base: sandalwood, tonka bean, civet, benzoin
Apparently, the fragrance didn't live up to the expectations, and in 2004 Inès has commissioned another scent to bear her name. This time, the creator was Alberto Morillas, the nose behind many mainstream scents, from Calvin Klein to Carolina Herrera, some more questionable than others.The notes of the new fragrance were decidedly fruity-floral, but the dry-down might have offered a little edge:
  • top: mandarin, blackcurrant, bergamot, neroli
  • heart: lily, white rose, orris, peony
  • base: patchouli, white musk, benzoin, vetiver

The new bottle had a beautiful gold leaf pattern which also appeared in Inès' other designs, from home accessories to jewelry. It made a brief appearance here in the US, but was gone within a year. It vanished so completely, that while you can still find bottles of the 1999 scent for a good price (though some of the online stores are already out of stock and the price have gone up since I got my bottle), the 2004 version is nowhere to be found, and I've been haunting eBay and every online store known to mankind religiously.

That leaves us with my little 1999 bottle. This is what my nose declares as very French. It doesn't strike me as very aldehydic as much as floral in a classy and classic way. It's subtle and despite my big nemesis peach (and its second-in-command, lily of the valley), I don't smell anything cloying or heady. The sillage is minimal and inoffensive, the more interesting flowers, ylang and carnation, are enveloping the skin. It's not a bouquet, but more of a delicate flower tucked behind the ear.

Sometime before the drydown, the notes meld into a beautiful moment, the kind of nose-firmly-stuck-to-wrist experience. It might be the carnation, a note I've learned to adore, or the whole subtle composition. The drydown continues along the same lines. If there's civet in there, the animal is tame. The benzoin sweetness is minimal, the sandalwood and tonka bean streamlined but warm. It's elegant, close to the skin and very serene.

However, I can't help wishing it was bigger and bolder. I don't have a French bone in my body and I'm not sure I can really work this kind of subtle chic. I want something more along the lines of Inès the 80s supermodel: striking features and a personality strong enough to tell Karl Lagerfeld where to stick it.

February 2008 edit: I found a bottle of the 2004 juice. My review is here.

They tried to make me renew my subscription, I said no no no

Between Lindsay Lohan appearing on the cover of the September issue of Elle magazine and talking about her successful rehab and how she'd never drive drunk, and this news story about Amy Winehouse making the cover of Vogue at the personal request of Anna Wintour, I'm getting more and more cranky.

I'm not taking beauty and style tips from a 21 year old who tops every list of celebs most likely to die before they turn 30. Or from someone who seems to belong to the Kirsten Dunst school of personal grooming.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Squeaky Clean

How many of you are addicted to face cleansers? To that feeling of tightened, squeaky clean skin that tells you there's no more grime and makeup? Eventually I learned that this practice actually over-dries the skin, interferes with its natural balance and is not good whatsoever.

I've settled on a simple routine of makeup remover towelettes and damp, warm washcloths. I don't over dry my face and in return it never freaks out on me. A pretty good deal. However, with the hot and humid weather we've been going through, I could use a little more cleansing action, just without the parched feeling.

I wasn't expecting much from the sample of Bobbi Brown's Lathering Tube Soap, but I'm happily guinea-pigging my skin in the name of this blog. Normally you'd expect a soap that lathers so much to be on the drying side, but, surprisingly, it isn't. It removes makeup, sweat and whatever lands on your face during a NYC day, leaves the face feeling very clean but the tight feeling at the side of the nose that I was expecting never showed up. Of course, one still needs to moisturize well, but I do it year round.

There's also a rich cream version for dry skin, but I haven't tried that one. Personally, I only need a good soap for this time of the year, and when I do, I want it to be more soapy than creamy.

Friday, August 03, 2007


Is it wrong to constantly wear makeup from the fall collections in August (I actually started in July)? I can't help it. There are several great colors to play with. My early assessment regarding Smashbox' Decadence collection was right. The Indulgence eye shadow trio is fabulous. It has three neutral colors: a light beige sheen (light but still potent enough to make a difference on my skin), a shimmer taupe (probably the most versatile and useful color one can have) and a deep graphite shimmer (very pigmented and very high voltage).

The shadows are high quality, pretty, easy to apply and long lasting (even without primer). The two lighter colors go from day to night while the darkest one is evening-only, as far as I'm concerned. It's gorgeous, perfect for lining the lid and has a lot of oomph.

Since we're already on the subject of Smashbox, take a look at their Beauty Blowout sale. Scroll all the way down the page . The last two items, the Winter Whites red lipstick and the Wrap! On Set palette are both 50% off, beautiful and quite versatile. They are leftovers from previous collections, but very suitable for the coming season. Looks like a great bargain.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Creative Scentualization- Perfect Bliss

The opening notes of Perfect Bliss from Creative Scentualization sent warning signs through my nose to every part of me: Fruit Alert! A combination of very juicy blood orange, mango (!) and papaya (!!!) is usually enough to send me to the sink, scrubbing my skin off while muttering: "I do not do fruit. I do not do fruit" until I feel clean again. However, I didn't reach for my lavender soap any of the times I tested Perfect Bliss. Somehow, despite the obvious fruitiness, it was sparkly and surprisingly light. Moreover, the top notes were quickly gone, replaced with very pleasant flowers.

The floral phase began as a non-aggressive tuberose, probably mellowed by rose, followed closely with an extended period which was all about gardenia. I'm not always a huge fan of white flowers, but I can appreciate them when done right, and in this case I have nothing bad to say, except of a general complaint about the gardenia's tenacity. It never went away, insisting on taking center stage even when it was clearly the base notes' turn to shine. It only allowed the patchouli and vanilla to emerge from time to time and wave to the expectant audience.

I tried to live with Perfect Bliss (EdP) for several days before even considering a review, trying to figure out why despite obviously liking this scent, I wasn't actually enjoying it, if this makes any sense. It smells good, has an amazing lasting power and blooms beautifully in the heat and humidity. Why, then, didn't I feel a need to add it to my "must buy" list?

While Perfect Bliss is a very good perfume, obviously made of high quality ingredients (no syrupy, artificial fruits), doesn't offend my nose nor my skin, and makes me smell "good" for many hours, it's just not me. Eventually I realized what bothered me: It was like wearing someone else's clothes, almost like a costume.

Sarah Horowitz-Thran, the talented perfumer behind this house is an expert in creating one-of-a-kind custom blends. One day I'd love to have one made for me. I wonder what notes she'd put in it. I have a feeling gardenia won't be in that mix. Once I had all the points for this review and understood what I was smelling and feeling, I headed to the bathroom and rinsed it off. Instead, I put on Orris (Tauer Perfumes). It smelled like coming home.

Gardenia print from

Rumors of Fall

I'm not sure what was it exactly about these shoes that made me fall in love with them. Might be the colors or the use of two different textures. Now they are mine, and I can almost smell fall (until I open the window, that is).

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Benefit Silky Finish Lipstick (Dessert First)

The question I'm being asked most often is: "What's the best makeup brand?". My answer is always the same: It's not about brands. Most lines and companies, even the less celebrated ones, have at least one great product. Just as there are real duds in otherwise wonderful lines. Examples are everywhere: I'm a huge fan of Chanel, but I find their eyeliners inferior to many drugstore brands. Smashbox can do no wrong, except when it comes to the dreadful O-Glo gel blush. Benefit Cosmetics, who make some of my favorite products (Dallas bronzer/blush, creaseless cream shadows, Smooch lip balm), also offer less than stellar lip glosses and the inferior BADgal mascara I reviewed the other day. Which brings us back to my point: Don't buy blindly into a brand, fabulous as it may be. It's better to pick and choose the right products for you and remain open-minded.

As far as I'm concerned, Benefit have redeemed themselves completely with their Silky Finish lipstick. This formula is amazingly soft and smooth. It glides over the lips, covering them with a creamy-yet-almost-sheer color. It looks lipsticky enough, while still feeling like a gloss. The lipstick is kind to my sensitive lips, comfortable and very easy to apply.

My color of choice is Dessert First, a creamy pinkish plum (the photo above is quite true to life). The color is a shade more vibrant than my natural lip, so it's a "my lips, only better" look. It goes nicely with most makeup looks I tend to favor, and would be just as great for fall. It's pigmented enough to hold its own for several hours.

The texture and ease of wear remind me of Clinique's Almost Lipstick, but it's superior in pigment and staying power.