Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How doth the little crocodile improve his shining tail? Curing Winter Skin

How doth the little crocodile /Lewis Carroll

How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
With gently smiling jaws!

With colder weather (and indoor heating) comes the dreaded crocodile skin, and while we're definitely going to try and improve it, my suggestions are going to be a bit more practical than pouring the waters of the Nile on our scales.

It starts in the shower. The shower caddy and the shelves in my bathroom may resemble a small museum for fine bathing products, but when the weather gets rough nothing beats L'Occitane Almond Shower Oil. The concept of cleansing with oil isn't that new (it's mostly found in face products), though it may seem odd to the uninitiated. I promise you that it works. The amazing part is that unlike any other soap or gel under the sun that all cause my skin to tighten up and cry for immediate relief, this oil is the most gentle product I know (Including baby products. I've tried many).

Don't get me wrong: I still need to thoroughly moisturize to get my legs to a fabulous state, but at least the march from the shower to the bedroom doesn't end with a skin that resembles this Chanel bag:

The oil's subtle fragrance can be described as a cross between baby oil and almond oil, but it's very mild and fades before I even finish rinsing my hair, so it never clashes with any other scented product, and thankfully doesn't have that sharp almondy smell you often find elsewhere. It's so delicate that I don't hesitate to use the entire range under Louve (the latest Serge Lutens perfume, the softest almond note imaginable). The L'Occitanes have no impact or lasting scent at all.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fendi Theorema- The Lost Perfume Series

This is the time of year when my cats begin to be obsessive about those patches of sun coming through the windows. For strictly indoors creatures, they have very good instincts to know that sun and warmth are becoming scarce and need to be cherished and fully enjoyed. Fendi Theorema is like those sunny patches, and considering that it's another discontinued fragrance, it's about to become as rare.

Theorema is warm and spicy, with a borderline gourmand feel. The official notes are:
Top- tangerine, orange, eglantine rose
Heart- jasmine petals, red pepper, cinnamon, osmanthus
Base- cream, sandalwood, musk, amber, ground spice

Carnation isn't listed, but I'm pretty sure I get some of its sparkly quality, that keeps the spiced, creamy orange from becoming too much and go the creamsicle way, like many other orange scents. It's still on the "yummy" side of things, but grown-up enough to enjoy without feeling foolish. Surprisngly, the sillage is not great and I need to spray quite a bit to be able to bask in a comforting bubble. Sometimes it feels like there's not enough amber in the base, which might be the reason Theorema layers so well with other scents. March from Perfume Posse likes to layer it with Chaos (Donna Karan's rare and very discontinued gem), but if you manage to score a bottle of that juice (it goes for an arm and a leg on eBay), you're more likely to wear it alone and ponder your luck. I'm playing with amber or incense combinations, but haven't found the perfect one just yet. I'll report back when I do.

I have no idea why it was discontinued, considering it has such a cult of followers. There's a rumour Theorema is still being produced for the Italian market, so maybe one of my Italian readers can confirm. In any case, I've stocked up on a lifetime supply of this sunshine in a bottle in EdP and parfum, and it can still be found from some e-tailers.

As a final treat, here's a commercial for Theorema. I think it capture the loveliness quite nicely:

Monday, October 29, 2007

Pore Talk

I was doing some research about Natura Bissé skin care products before using some samples (a good practice for everyone, especially those of us with sensitive skin), when I happened upon the product description for their Oxygen Cream. Here's the screen shot from Neiman Marcus' website. I just enlarged it and underlined the eyebrow raising part:

Everything I know all the info I managed to dig up are saying the same thing: Blemishes occur when your pores get clogged up with gunk, trapping bacteria inside, which leads to inflammation. If a cream causes blemishes it's because it clogs pores. As simple as that.

I'm not buying it.

Has any of you tried this cream or another product that claims that blemishes are a sign it's working?

What Would Carrie Bradshaw Eat? Eat, Drink, and Be Gorgeous- A Book Review

Reading a book that wasn't truly written for you can feel like eavesdropping on someone else's life. It's awkward at times, but you can still learn a thing or two.

Case in point: Eat, Drink and Be Gorgeous, a nutritionist's guide to living well while living it up by Esther Blum, who is a dietitian at the N.V. Perricone Lifestyle Center in NYC. The book is geared towards a certain demographic: Young single women, who live, date and work in urban areas, drink a lot and are trying to get themselves together and feel better, but are not entirely sure how to do it. However, I, at (nearly) 37, equipped with a husband, a rice cooker, a good skin care routine, an elliptical trainer, and eating a vegetarian diet, am not the audience Ms. Blum had in mind.

I wasn't too enthusiastic at first about the girl-talk writing style or the gushing promises to make it all better for the reader. I remember being in my early twenties, confused and tired. There were times even Jane Austen couldn't make it all better for me, so I doubt any other book can do it. However, even at the very beginning there was something that caught my attention and made me listen more closely. The author stresses the need to take the shame out of eating as a first step to developing healthy habits. She wants us to enjoy what we eat, have the best chocolate we can afford, treat ourselves nicely, be in the moment and not feel guilty about it.

By giving ourselves permission to eat and not feeling constantly deprived and desperate, we avoid that old cycle of starving for two days only to get utterly depressed and eat a pack of Oreos and a bag of chips for both lunch and dinner the next day. Lather, rinse, repeat.

I might not be there (and admittedly, never really have been), but I do know the guilt over indulging and I know far too many women who are struggling with this very issue, trying to follow the latest diet regimen until they give up and need to deal with the failure. The healthy, realistic approach of moderation as a key is essential to get the message across. As the book unfolds, the author tells it like it is: She explains exactly what's wrong with unhealthy food and wild lifestyle, but she manages not to be preachy and doomsday-like in her narrative, which I'm guessing would do wonders to convince her young readers to actually make the change. Esther Blum uses honey, almost literally, to trap the flies.

Like Tom Ford, Blum knows that sex sells. That's probably why the sex chapter, Gorgeous in Bed, is the longest one in the book. But it's not what it looks. Under the cover of "Let's talk about sex", she actually teaches about food. You'll hear what's good for healthy sex life (healthy food, surprise! and exercise!) and what isn't. You'll learn that processed items, hydrogenated oils and refined sugars are going to ruin your libido, keep you feel sluggish and bloated, and make your hoo-ha stink. That alone is a good enough reason to get friendly with brown rice and steamed spinach.

It's an interesting approach, if nothing else. I can vouch for one aspect: If start thinking about certain foods and beverages as poison, you significantly lower the frequency and intensity of uncontrollable cravings. That's how I quit drinking soda of any kind about eight years ago and why I have no interest in commercial candy bars (Belgian chocolate is a completely different thing, though). I guess if the target audience is most obsessed with dating, showing them how junk food is sabotaging its sex life is a very smart move.

One thing I've definitely learned from the book is about certain dietary supplements. I already down a handful a day, but this routine can and should be tweaked according to specific needs and I'm going to look deeper into it, with the recommendations in mind. I also remember that Ms. Blum's employer, Dr. Perricone is pushing a full range of expensive products of this very nature. Not a big issue, since she doesn't hawk the products, and I intend to continue buying mine from Whole Foods.

My only real peeve with the book is that it completely ignores the vegetarian route. Yes, protein is good for you, but it doesn't have to be animal-derived. Blum mentions every meat option (including buffalo, ostrich and venison), but she forgets the fact that some of us combine whole grains and legumes for a healthy whole protein that is easy to digest and gives a lot of other health benefits. Just as eating small amounts of of organic tofu (preferably fresh) is actually good for you (unlike over-processed soy and wheat protein from unknown sources).

what I'd really hope to see in the future, other than a vegetarian chapter, is also a version of this book geared towards men. Young women aren't the only ones who need to ditch the dollar menu and get acquainted with broccoli. I wonder how the sex chapter would look in that one.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Serge Lutens- Rousse

The truth is that I have been wearing Rousse ever since I got my bottle, throughout the summer. It did well in the heat and didn't bloom too crazily. I hope. But I couldn't wait to try the spicy cinnamon heat in its natural habitat of gray days, cold nights, crunchy leaves and fall colors.

You know how it is: The weather cools down, trench coats and cashmere are pulled out of their storage and you start thinking about baking cookies and wearing spicy perfumes. Rousse sort of combines them all, except that his cinnamon and spice aren't really the stuff gingerbread is made of, but more of a spiced wine and mulled cider.

The opening notes are full of cinnamon, soon to be joined by rich fruit. The mandarin note is sweet, but not cloying and it doesn't make the scent into the juice on the bottom of a fruit cup. It's familiar and comforting, but it blends well into the spices and woods and keeps them from becoming too dark. Rousse's heart is playful and uplifting: Clove? Carnation? Something sparkly is going on there, making me think of red vitrage windows catching the light.

The base is beautiful and well-blended. The various notes come together perfectly into a sweet, woody-ambery base. On my skin the cinnamon and mouthwatering spice never go away. On my husband it was much more dry. He found the amber to be a bit too much for him, but I beg to differ. He should probably give it another try in the cooler weather. If he can pry the bottle from my hand, that is.

First image is the official ad for Rousse. Beautiful but doesn't match my idea of this scent.
The second picture is of an artwork made of real cinnamon, by Bulgarian artist Vasco Tsenev.

Rousse and the other Serge Lutens scents of his export line are available from Aedes, Barneys and all the other usual suspects, now also including Luckyscent, which is great news for those of you on the West Coast.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

From the diary of a cranky shopper

Let's talk about customer service.

Everyone I know has a story or two and I've heard some amusing theories about special training in customer-terrorizing. Considering my experience lately, I'm starting to think it might be true.

I know a thing or two about perfume. If I'm telling you that I'm not looking for big white florals today, please (please!) don't try to grab my wrist and spray it with Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia. And don't argue with me about the effect of gardenia, ok? I can smell it from the bottle just fine and there's no way in hell that stuff is getting on my skin. Do.Not.Want.
Strike number 1 for Saks 5th Avenue (my local one, not the flagship store in NYC).

Another Saks moment, from today: I was trying on handbags, in a futile attempt to find the perfect black purse. Despite my request to browse by myself, the bag lady insisted on striking up a conversation. I can deal with that, as long as I'm not being crowded (and I was). My personal space is kind of important, you know? If I can smell your coffee breathe then you're too close.  Also: Do not contradict a customer.  If I tell you a purse is too small for my needs, then I'm right. Seriously: If I'm going to have to choose between carrying my wallet and my cell phone, then it is wrong for me. Why argue?

But the one that takes the cake is what happened to me a couple of weeks ago at the fashion floor of Barneys in Manhattan. Picture this: Here I am, wearing a little black dress and high heels, carrying an unmistakable red Valentino purse and a small Barneys shopping bag from the beauty department (I indulged in some Uncle Serge). As I was stepping away from the escalator, two sales assistants were eyeing me. Apparently, not with approval, because as I was approaching the racks, one of them stopped me and said: "It took you way too long to get here!". I was about to say "excuse me?" when she and her friend started snickering :"Oh, I thought you were our seamstress".

Granted, I don't look very Upper East Side, and my very long hair has something slightly bohemian about it, but I'd think that my appearance still said "potential customer". And the thing is, the smirking made it obvious that it was meant as an insult. I started half-heartedly browsing the Lanvin display, kicking myself for not responding with a snappy comeback. I found a sweater I liked, but decided I'm not giving them my business. Why should I?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Because we really need more lip gloss

Here's a challenge: How many tubes of lip gloss do you have, including the ones in your makeup drawer, cabinet, in the emergency stash in your office, in your car and in each and every purse, handbag and evening clutch? If you're me, you can't really tell. There's always another one hidden somewhere. You rarely get to actually finish a tube before purchasing another one and you're always (always!) in the market for something new.

Carol's Daughter Candy Paint glosses don't look like something new: The tubes are identical to Lancome's Juicy Tubes, and the concept of high-shine gloss with plenty of shimmer isn't a revelation, either. The exciting part about the product is the promise of being easy on the lips and providing extra nourishment through ingredients like shea butter and grape seed oil.

The glosses, although just a bit gritty from the shimmer particles, do deliver when it comes to comfort. They coat the lips lightly without being sticky or heavy, and feel very pleasant. I'm happy not having to report any incident of hair or food sticking to my lips.

I'm not too fond of the sugary candy smell, but it fades almost instantly, so I don't really mind. The shine and shimmer are very intense, to the point they'd appeal to a younger crowd. I'd still wear them happily for a night out and in the summer, just not for an elegant fall look. Another issue is the lasting power, which is quite poor. They fade within 90 minutes or a cup of tea, whichever comes first. However, they leave the lips feeling soft and healthy, so reapplying feels like you're doing yourself a nice favor.

The colors I tried are the ones you see in the picture above: Bossy (bright bronze shimmer) is less pigmented than it looks. Basically, it's an almost clear gloss with lots of gold particles. It looks great over other colors, but I'm keeping it in my evening bag. It's just too much for an autumn day. The second one, Grown and Sexy, is a light rose with gold shimmer. Somehow, the natural rose color tones down the golden flakes and make it much more wearable. It's pretty by itself and doesn't need a layer of color underneath. This one goes right into my day bag.

The glosses are available directly from the company's website or from Sephora (who have all the colors in stock, including the ones missing from Carol's Daughter current inventory, though as you can see, it's not really that exclusive). Speaking of Sephora, now until Sunday you can get free shipping on orders $25 and up, using the code FREESHIP25.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Behind the Red Door

Something must be going on in Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa, other than the renovation of the first floor of their 5th Avenue salon. I've received two different and unrelated press releases about news from behind the red door.

First, my current nail polish obsession, Zoya , has won some major recognition in becoming the exclusive nail polish brand of the Red Door Spa (in all 31 locations, as well as 20 Chicago-based Mario Tricoci Hair Salons & Day Spas). It's quite impressive, considering that Arden have their own line of nail lacquer.

The other news is their Ultimate Arden Facial, an 80 minute treatment that sounds heavenly:
"After cleansing, toning and exfoliation, this multi-faceted beauty indulgence lavishes you with a warm stone upper body massage, a hand-softening treatment and a soothing cool stone facial massage. Following a refreshing eye contour treatment, our unique face and décolleté firming mask is applied. A relaxing scalp massage and lip or brow wax are our divine touches. Flawless makeup application crowns this totally transcending spa experience."

Well, heavenly except for that waxing part. Somehow, that doesn't sound as relaxing as the rest of the treatment.
Since this service is new and is just being launched, the price is also quite attractive, at $175. I'm seriously tempted to give myself a birthday treat. Just without the part where someone rips hair off of my face.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dior- Miss Dior Parfum (Vintage)

How do you approach an iconic fragrance?

There's the history: Year of creation (1947), cultural connotations (the first years after WWII) and fashion reference (Christian Dior's New Look). But it all vanishes the moment you apply the perfume to your skin. First there's a whirlwind of unspecified memories. After all, this scent has been around since the year my mother was born, so while I can't tell for sure where and on whom I've smelled it first (not on my mom, whose as an anti-chypre as IFRA), it's green, elegant opening feels like an old family heirloom. It's also sharp, uncompromising and not entirely friendly in this day and age of sweet, fruity top notes. While I deeply dislike the cloying pink strawberryness of the modern version, Miss Dior Cherie, I do get why so many people would rather go with that and be scared of the "sit straight and listen up" attitude of the green  and classic Miss Dior.

The scent changes as the notes develop. The jasmine-rose heart feels familiar as other classic, lady-like fragrances. It softens, warms up and gets easier to wear, if you're a fan of leather-oakmoss-patchouli drydowns, which I am, most of the time. The patch sweetens the deal significantly and makes the leather chyper base easier to wear than another classic from that era, Bandit. It feels like there's silk and lace under the leather, expensive ones.

The longer I wear it, the easier it becomes. It's plush and polished, has a velvety, feminine presence, pearls and high-heeled pumps. Some find it sexy, others might feel suffocated by girdles and gloves. It's worth trying and befriending, for the pretty and for the feeling of wearing a true classic. Who doesn't want to look like the lady in Dior above?

My bottle is a vintage from about 15 years ago, before oakmoss got its bad rap. There are rumors of reformulations, but the notes listed for the version currently sold still have oakmoss in them. While the EdT is widely available, the parfum is a Saks exclusive.

Original Miss Dior ads from 1949 and 1950:
Dior fashion photograph:
Fashion Photography- A Historical Perspective.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Nars Holiday 2007- (Beaten Up) Siren Song

Looking at the model's makeup, you'd think Siren Song, Nars Holiday 2007 collection was all about the dead and undead. However, if you check the actual colors, you can't avoid thinking that some creative director has put a lot of effort in taking all the holiday spirit out of the vibrant makeup, leaving us with the most miserable looking face.

It's not the model's fault, of course. She has this Uma Thurman thing going, but instead of using the ethereal quality, whoever did her face went in the opposite direction, and not for the first time. They also did this to her for their fall makeup.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Deborah Kerr 1921-2007

"An artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance.'' The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Like It, Like It Not

  • I liked the Italian Cypress-Pear soap from Caldrea's Holiday Collection, but the Cognac-Vanilla-Limon is not my cup of tea. Cloyingly sweet and with a piña colada note, this feels anything but festive. How exactly do you scrub off a soap that turns into a scrubber?
  • The new L'Occitane website is a huge improvment after the horrible and impossible to navigate former version. Now you can actually find the product you're looking for. Imagine that!
  • Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses are wonderful. I love the drape, the fabric and the vintage prints. In theory, you're supposed to be able to find them at Neiman's. In real life, you'll have better luck shopping online. My local store had absolutely none in my size or in any of the prints I liked, while the website offered several.
  • Why can't I find the perfect black handbag this season? I've given up on something that can hold my laptop. I just want something stylish, big enough for a sweater and the normal essentials and in proprtion to my petite frame. I might as well ask for the moon.
  • I think I'm over those limited edition palettes that combine a few beautiful colors with a couple that would never work for me. Case in point: The new one from Chanel (available from Nordstrom). Both of them are gorgerous, but each has several colors I can't wear. Call me when you have a mix'n'match option. In the meantime, I just saved myself $85!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Temptation- CB I Hate Perfume Revelation (and Musk)

You'll never convince me that the fruit of temptation was an apple. I like apples well enough, but for me, sensuality, danger and passion are symbolized in fig. I might be on to something, because Michelangelo seems to agree with me, as the serpent in his Temptation and Fall has taken up residence in a fig tree, from which he's conducting his evil business, resulting in Adam and Eve's fall from grace and condemning us, their offspring, to a life full with many unpleasant a scent, far from the heavenly fig tree.

Brooklyn might not be the first place in which you'd think to seek that magical tree. However, in his Williamsburg studio (93 Wythe Avenue), Christopher Brosius, the artist behind CB I hate Perfume, has managed to recreate it, from the roots up. Revelation is very different from other fig fragrances you may know. It's honeyed instead of fruity; there's not even a faint hint of coconut, a note which is often paired with fig, to bring out the lush green of this note. The sweetness is hidden under a dry, woody, twiggy surface.

On my skin, the development of the perfume absolute is not exactly linear as much as cyclic. The scent goes round and round, exposing its more leafy facets only to cover them up again with wood sap. The result is rich, sensual and makes me want to plant my nose firmly in my wrist so I wouldn't miss a thing.

My own version of the original sin is layering Revelation with Brosius most infamous creation, CB Musk. This is the scariest juice I've come across. Animalic doesn't begin to describe it. I have yet to dare leave the house wearing it alone, but safely tucked under Revelation, it's a magic potion. The result is every bit as sensual and sexual as you can imagine: Adam and Eve's last night of passion in paradise.

Perfume images: CB I Hate Perfume, to be found in Brooklyn, Bergdorf and other locations.
Painting: Michelangelo. To be found on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the vatican, where you might be able to catch a glimpse after fighting dozens of other cranky tourists.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner

Considering I used to be mortally afraid of liquid eyeliner, my newest love and devotion to Bobbi Brown's Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner is somewhat surprising. Until you actually try it, that is. The gel has a wonderful, consistent texture that is hard to mess up even for a klutz like me. It's very easy to control and keep it close to the lash line, making it as thin or as thick as you desire. I use the recommended Bobbi Brown brush, but have also successfully experimented with other ones(you do need to wash it very often, preferably after every use, or the brush would cake up and stiffen).

The staying power is as good as promised, with or without using a primer. I've had no problems with bleeding, fading or racooning and the colors stay true and vibrant even after spending several hours outside in hot and humid conditions (remember those? It was just last week).

The colors I've been using, Black Plum Ink (hardly as purple as you'd think. It looks more like a rich and creamy chocolate pudding, both in the pan and on skin, with just a hint of warmth) and Mahogany Ink (the swatch is quite accurate in this case) are both pretty and wearable. They define the eye very nicely without looking harsh or overdone. That's why when playing with a mod-like, cat eye look I prefer to use them and not the traditional black. It's much more sophisticated and much less Amy Winehouse.

In which I get nitpicky

Staying on topic of the November 2007 Vanity Fair issue.

At first, I considered saying something snarky about the nude photoshoot of Victoria's Secret models as a promotion for the annual VS show. But, why bother? I'm not the target audience, so have them cover the soft-core porn with Patrick Demarchelier's reputation and let's move on. I'm much more annoyed about inaccuracies in an otherwise well-researched article. Not really beauty-related, but worth a mention.

Lisa Robinson's story about the late French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg is interesting to anyone who has even a little interest in French culture and music, past and present (his daughter, Charlotte Gainsbourg, is a talented singer and fashion icon in her own right). I'm not the biggest Francophile ever, but even I know that making a broad statement like "France's most beloved and important songwriter" might be pushing it just a little, since I doubt Ms Robinson has polled the crowds to see how Gainsbourg measured against Charles Aznavour, Jacques Brel, or George Brassens. Not to mention that while Yves Montand, who died the same year as Gainsbourg, didn't write his own songs, he was every bit as iconic, famous and adored.

Much more annoying is a little historical oops: "...who escaped czarist Russia in 1919." Russia in 1919 was a very unhappy place, deeply torn by a civil war, but it was no longer czarist. Nicholas II was forced to abdicate in 1917 and was executed in 1918.
Not a huge issue, but some respect to readers with good memory for historical facts has never killed anyone.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


This slide show from today's NY Times not only brings new meaning to the phrase fashion victim, but also proves to us that even runway models aren't perfect. Someone here is in a dire need of a good pedicure.

And no, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. These YSL shoes (designed by Stefano Pilati, shown in Paris fashion week) don't have a sole. Only the metal rod you see in the picture, which keeps both part of the sandal together .

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fly Me to the Moon- Givenchy Pi

Four or five years ago I decided that I've had enough of smelling the Blond's favorite sillage monster, Givenchy Pi, and banished the bottle to one of the back cabinets, never to be used again until a couple of months ago, when I rescued it from oblivion.

The memory of what it had smelled like on my husband was still as sharp in my mind as its green opening notes, so I wasn't going to let him wear it. Instead, I tried it on my own skin, v-e-r-y carefully. After all, while the list of notes sounds just my thing (green herbs on top, vanilla, tonka, cedar and Benzoin at the base and somewhere in the middle there's a promise of anise, geranium and neroli), on the wrong man it is a powerhouse of sweet, powdery vanilla and a big (big!) amber-like drydown, of the kind that would earn its wearer a reputation as "the guy who bathes in cologne".

I like this so much better on my skin than on his. The top is still as loud and sharp as I remembered, but it tones down quickly into a sweet and warm wood-vanilla base that is nicely spiced with anise. It's a great cold weather scent that has both sexy and comforting qualities. It doesn't develop much from the moment the vanilla becomes prominent and on the scale that runs from "yummy" to "sophisticated" it's much closer to the yummy end. Still, it's a fun scent to explore and I enjoy wearing it. The staying power is amazing for an EdT, and I find that clothes must be washed to get rid of it. Otherwise it'd live in them for days (lesson learned the hard way with a dry-clean only sweater).

All the vanilla and powder action makes Pi very female-friendly. It's interesting that whoever makes marketing decision has chosen to declare it a masculine scent (with no girly version). Also of note are both the name, appealing to math geeks around the world (as well as to this retired math teacher) and the sci-fi ads. Pi in the sky? I'm not sure how this sweet, big scent goes with the image. Though that astronaut in the original 1998 ad sure is yummy...

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Let's Talk About It (Ask The Non-Blonde)

Some of the latest crop of email I got is worth public discussion, for better and worse.

"I was going to buy a few items from Saks and get the GWP, but I've heard it's not available online. What's the story?"
J. from Columbus, Ohio

My reply: The Saks (not too impressive) GWP is most definitely available online when you use the code REELBEAUTY on any beauty and fragrance purchase over $100. I know it for sure as I've shopped and already received mine. What isn't available online is the special GWP from the individual brands. I can't say for sure that it's true for all brands, but according to Paul, the customer service rep, the Lancome gift is only available in store.

Like many of you, I find it quite irritating. The beautiful beauty event catalog lists all the brands that take part in the event and what they're giving (the Lancome one is by far the best), but nowhere in there do they say it's an in-store thing only. Since the catalog specifically tells you that you can shop online with the code, one would assume everything in there also valid online. More so if you remember last month's Neiman event: They extra gifts were sent to all qualified shoppers. There's nothing we can do except to remember it for the nest round in six months.

"Loved your green nail polish review. How did you like the other colors in the collection?"
Tonia, Michigan

My reply: The ones I've tried so far (other than Irene The Green) are Juno (dark purple) and Kamilah (bright red). I love the purple. It's another stunning color. However, I'd be careful about wearing it during the day, as it's much brighter than it looks online (or even in the bottle). It draws a lot of attention in broad daylight and under fluorescent lights. I'd save it for night, dates and holiday parties.
The red didn't agree with my skin tone. The color looked garish on my hands. It's much better suited for cool undertones. The quality in both cases is just as exceptional as with the green.

"You never updated us about your quest for the perfect serum. Are you still using the Super C from Remede?"
Kathy, Auburn, Maine

My Reply: I thought about trying a different one because of the horrible, spouting bottle. But my skin was so happy with this serum that I gave it another chance. The next bottle didn't do the fountain thing, though I still need to watch the nozzle and be careful while pumping. It's a shame that such a great product is so badly packaged, but I'm willing to forgive. The serum helps with discoloration, hyper-pigmentation and corrects minor skin flaws. I might not look like a photoshopped-to-perfection picture of Liv Tyler, but my skin is noticeably (to me) better.

"If this is a beauty blog, why do you spend so much time and space blogging about perfume? It's not that interesting."
Becca, UK

My Reply: I apologize for boring you. However, the blog is about any beauty, fashion or lifestyle subject that I find interesting. That's why I'm here, writing. While not all beauty bloggers are perfume enthusiasts, I am one. Perfume counters are to be found in the beauty departments of stores all over the world. The two are closely related, often manufactured by the same companies. Personal fragrance is part of the beauty and grooming routine of millions men and women. It's always been part of mine, so I intend to continue talking about it.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Lip Smacking

This sugar scrub and lip balm combo is one of the little things you start using and immediately wonder how you managed without them. It's not that there aren't several lip scrubs already on the market or that a simple washcloth didn't do a fine enough job at sloughing off dry skin, but I find the Perfect Pout brown sugar scrub from Maiden Beauty to be highly addictive and it works amazingly well.

To test this properly, I didn't do the washcloth exfoliating for a few days and let some icky skin build up (I know you're all happy to know that). Then I tried the scrub and let it do the work. To my delight, it was just what I needed and then some. You rub a tiny amount all over your lips (you need very little) and enjoy the sugary, caramely taste (the smell is very candy-like, quite pleasant but might not be to everyone's taste). You can tissue it off, but since the product is completely edible, I find that giving it a quick lick to clean off the granules works best, as it leaves most of the balm part of the product on your lips until it sinks in and nourishes the skin without any heavy residue.

It tastes good and can become addictive, especially since the results are great. It's become part of my twice-a-day routine and my lips haven't been this happy in ages.

The balm has a similar scent though it doesn't actually taste as sweet. The texture is different than other popular products (Smith Rosebud Salve or Burt's Bees): It's more solid in the tin but wears much thinner. It feels a bit oily for the first 30 seconds before it starts sinking in and giving the lips a plump, healthy look, without stickiness or extra weight. The balm would probably not protect the skin from blistering winds as well as petroleum-based products would, but it does a better job in actually nourishing them.

The balm is tinted, but very sheer. I'm using the one in the darkest color, Lady, a supposedly cherry red that's actually more rosy. In any case, unless I'm applying a huge amount (totally unnecessary, as a little goes a very long way), the color doesn't even show. If you're pale you'd probably get more color.

The scrub and balm are sold together as a gift set (a stocking stuffer idea?), so you can't get them separately.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Seen and Smelled Around Here

I'm one of those who loved Black Orchid, Tom Ford's first fragrance for women. It works amazingly well on me; I don't get any of the infamous pineapple and crotch. Since it's strong and has a marvelous sillage, I felt it was best to retire it for the summer. I wish they came up with the EdT version, Voile de Fleur, a little sooner. It would have made a sexy summer night scent. I doubt that any of the Black Orchid haters would change their mind, since despite a more transparent composition the fragrance is about the same, funky, earthy notes included. But if you tried and found the original too heavy or syrupy, it's worth giving a try, because to my nose the blackcurrant is tamed by a more sparkling floral note, and the vanilla is also less fierce.

Trish McEvoy Eye Base Essential is giving the wonderful Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion a good run for its money. It works exactly the same way (dot on the lid, use your pinky to evenly coat, wait 15 seconds to let dry before you apply your eye shadow, which will now last all day/night without fading or creasing) and has the same feel to it- you know you're doing it right when your lid becomes a silky canvas.

Unlike the one from Urban Decay, this primer has five different color options. I don't know how necessary it is, since a primer is supposed to be completely invisible, but you ever had a problem with the Potion's shade, maybe the variety here would be worth the extra cost (Trish is $22 to UD's $15). I'm wearing the one in Bare and it works perfectly for me.

All of a sudden, after nearly a lifetime of dismissing Shalimar because it seemed to be everywhere, therefore not very interesting, I've fallen head-over-heels for the parfum version. It's all about the wood-vanilla base that emerges from under the citrus top notes. all I can say is that my skin really loves vanilla, which in return is very kind to me.

I have a vintage bottle, but the new one is just as good and addictive, and I have a serious problem of lusting after the limited edition Black Mystery bottle, just because. I just tried the EdT, and this one does smell too sharp and too common as far as my nose is concerned, so my recommendation for the parfum stands firmly.

Remember the days you only had one blush in your makeup collection? It wasn't that long ago, but with the ever-growing number of textures and options available, most of us have long succumbed to the pretty colors. Bobbi Brown Pot of Rouge is advertised as suitable for both lips and cheeks, but it's too dry for my lips. However, on the face it's perfect and the color Summer Pink gives me a natural flush: Not sun kissed or tanned, just a dark rosy color that looks healthy and not painted. This color seems to be available from the big department stores, but it's gone from the official Bobbi web site. I hope it's not a goner.

Something funny happened when my husband tried Comme des Garcon 2 Man. This perfume is supposed to be all about incense, wood and smoke, but on his skin it was pure and plain pepper. Black pepper, red pepper and white pepper, strong and pungent. I didn't think it was too bad, but he was so disgusted he had to wash it off right away. we both agreed that the original is quite lovely, especially in the drydown. I just need to decide if I can get over some disturbing opening note that was too vomitty for comfort.
CdG perfumes are available online from Luckyscent, but you can find the most popular ones at several department stores (my local Nordstrom carries them) as well as Jeffreys and C.O. Bigelow. The latter is fast becoming one of my favorite stores to sample and buy perfume. They offer many interesting brands while lacking the department store attitude.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Recent Sniffing

Not full reviews, because I didn't wear most of these for more than a day or two, usually for good reasons.

Racine (Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier)- This is one of their masculine scents, which indeed starts with the usual manly citrus that develops into a wood/vetiver combo. It's pleasant but predictable. The surprise was how late in the drydown (moderate sillage, lasts for eternity) it turned all Bandit on me, leather and that infamous note that we usually refer to as "hemp". Easier to wear than Bandit, that's for sure.

Chanel Chance-I've had the mini EdT for a couple of years; every time I've dug it up and gave it a try things went the same way: smelling the fruitiness, making a face (see image), holding breath, scrubbing off, still smelling fruit. Lather and rinse until all is gone. This week I decided to brave it and see what happens. I still dislike Chance, but eventually there's a drydown in which I get the faint whiff of something better and a hint that Chance might really be related to a few grown-up and quite decent perfumes.

Prada Infusion d'Iris- I like it. I really, really like it. But I have issues. Until that moment the the scent settles on me and does this pretty iris-woody thing, it plays hide and seek, and when it hides it feels like I'm not wearing anything. It's totally gone. My guess is that I'm anosmic to some important heart note. The sillage is minimal, which is another fact I'm not happy about and the lasting power questionable (two to three hours at most, no matter how much I soak my skin in jojoba oil). On top of that, Iris Taizo from Parfumerie Generale is prettier.

Bond no. 9 DNA For Her (Saks Exclusive)- Tom said that I would probably like this non-lethal white floral, and he was right. It doesn't have the tentacles of death that suffocate me in most Big Whites. Probably because it isn't Big. Yes, it's white and floral; it has jasmine, tuberose and gardenia. But the three sisters of doom are mellow, powdered with a layer of dusty earth, courtesy of the decidedly un-diva vetiver, and very wearable, even if it's not really me. My husband, though, didn't approve. It's too floral and ornamental for his taste.

D&G The One- This is the kind of synthetic fruity-floral crap that is going to kill mainstream perfumery. Surprisingly, it didn't cling to my skin for dear life, so I can't really call it a scrubber, as it was mostly gone by itself within 20 minutes and saved me some soap.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

More Pretty Zebras

I just got the jewelry catalog from French porecelain makers, Bernardaud. Sometimes it's for the best that they don't have e-commerce (the website is a Flash nightmare), because it'd be way too easy to go overboard with all the pretty things. My zebra obsession is pulling me towards that pendant above (there's also a leopard design), but I love many of the others.

Luckily, there's a store on Park Avenue (and also one on Michigan Avenue in Chicago), so the pretty is within reach. And my birthday is coming up next month...


Stores: NY - 499 Park Ave (it's on the corner of 59th)
Chicago- 900 N. Michigan Ave.
and eight more location throughout France. See website for

Pink with a Twist

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and many of our favorite companies have launched pretty pink items that we can buy and have a percentage of the sale donated to the good cause. You can have a look at offers from Estee Lauder Pink Ribbon Collection (most items are already sold out), Smashbox, L'Occitane, Prescriptives Pink Ahead Collection and Crabtree & Evelyn.

Since I don't do pink makeup and I'm not in the market for a more hand cream, I really loved this offer from the Pashmina Store: 5 % of every pink item purchase will go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, including the pink animal print silk-pashmina blend scarves. I'm all about zebra prints these days, so my choice was easy. It would liven up my dark coats on dreary winter days.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Men According to Ford

It's hard (impossible?) to review the new fragrance, Tom Ford For Men, and ignore the controversial sexually explicit campaign that launched it. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, just search for Tom Ford's fragrance web site and click the link to the gallery. Don't do it at work, though, unless your employer favors porn.

It makes me think of Barney Stinson, the character Neil Patrick Harris plays on "How I Met Your Mother". The guy is a porn-obsessed womanizing sleaze ball, but eventually you just can't forget that all the sex talk is coming from Doogie Howser.

Sitcoms and sexual hype aside, I like this perfume, both on myself and on my husband. My nose doesn't detect anything dirty about it. On the contrary: It's crisp, elegant and feels well made and well tailored. There's nothing skanky or tacky in this bottle, and the sillage is moderate and wouldn't offend anyone. It's suitable for a first date as well as for the board room.

The citrusy opening is sharper on my husband and softer on my skin. Actually, I need to spray quite a bit to even get the lemon leaf. I smell more soft green: basil and violet leaf. The development into citrus flowers is seamless and soft. There's no alpha male roaring in this bottle. Out of the base notes, the most prominent for me is the vetiver. It's more transparent than the rich Vetiver Oriental (Serge Lutens), but richer than the very clean Le Labo Vetiver. The drydown has a faint sweet ambery accord, further warmed by several woods. I can't find the promised animalic touch promised by the use of Cypriol, an Indian root (which despite the marketing blurb about never being used before in perfumery, is actually nothing new). Roots, woods and amber aside, this is an EdT and not a powerhouse perfume. It would not fill a subway car.

I'm happy to wear this scent, but would have been even happier if it lasted longer and had more strength. The limited edition Extreme which is due to be out next month is an EdP and should provide the missing depth. I'm very curious to see how it goes (and the images that would accompany that one).

The real target audience of Tom Ford For Men is actually the man, so here is what the bottle's just owner has to say:

You can't write a review concerning the new Tom Ford for men perfume without addressing the provocative ads first. My 2 cents as a man: They grab your attention, pun intended. But if your inner stud is expecting to find a sexy, primal hot and heavy scent, you're in for a surprise. Everything about this perfume, from the elegant bottle to the top and base notes is classy, polished and sophisticated. It is a great scent for work that I would wear after hours as well. Come to think of it, it actually delivers the sexiest scent of all, the pheromone of a polished and successful man.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Never Say Never

In which I go where I've never gone before, or: How I learned to love green nail polish

It started when the sampler pack of Utopia, the Zoya winter nail polish collection landed on my desk. I couldn't stop staring at the six vibrant metallic colors (The Blond's reaction: "Ooh, shiny!"). They stood there, tempting and incredibly pretty, waiting for me to remove the whatever berry color I had on at the time and give them a try. Normally, being a somewhat reasonable 36 year old woman, I'd go straight to the red or the soft golden champagne shades, but this time I was seduced by the more daring ones. I couldn't help it.

Taking a deep breath, I reached for Irene, The Green One. The color is a khaki/sage, which if you only wear one coat has a warm golden undertone. It was that undertone which won me over, because to my surprise (I was bracing myself for the worst) it looked very flattering against my skin. The coverage one coat gives is quite adequate: The color is rich and full. It was a breeze to apply, the brush was perfect (I'm a fan of thick nail polish brushes that spread the color quickly with as few strokes as possible), the texture and consistency couldn't be better and the result was completely smooth and even.

I spent my first day of green nails with only one coat of Irene, getting used to it and admiring both the color and my new found boldness. The next day I was ready and eager for more: I wanted to get the exact shade you see in the bottle. It only took a second coat to get there, and the result was lovely and earned me several compliments.

No one is more surprised than I am, but I love this green and can pull it off. I can't guarantee how it would look against very pale skin, but for me it's amazingly easy to wear. It's not witchy, crazy or extremely bold, and people would have to actually give it a good look and pay attention before they realize that you're really wearing a green polish.

I asked my husband (who when not guinea-pigging for me is a senior executive in a Manhattan interactive agency that caters to several type of corporate clients) for his opinion: Can Irene go to work? He thinks that it can, as long as the rest of your outfit is impeccably professional and you don't work in an ultra-conservative environment (or serving such a client). He feels that while the Utopia collection is a bold fashion statement, it's still pretty enough that it can be worn even on weekdays.

One last word regarding quality: According to their press release, Zoya products are free of formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate and toluene. They still manage to be amazingly long-lasting and chip resistant. I put it to the test, not wearing a clear top coat on my right hand. after five days the color on both hands looks the same (left is just a bit shinier) and neither has chipped. Quite impressive.

Utopia is the holiday collection and still isn't showing on
Zoya web site. Hopefully it will be there in the next few days. In the meantime I'm planning to try all the other colors. If I can work up the courage.

Update: Utopia is now available.

Chunky Heels

Speaking of questionable heels (see previous post), a Bergdorf Goodman newsletter declared yesterday the return of chunky heels. It's not exactly a surprise: We've been seeing it on runways, and it can also be considered as part of the natural fashion cycle: The next logical step after the platform shoe.

Some of these are better than others (I'm quite fond of the ones by Kors, Fendi and the Yves Saint Laurent seen in the photo, but I could do without the duck beak toe.

Are you sending your stilettos to long term storage?