Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chanel Spring 2009 And One Good Perennial Lipstick



My expectations from spring makeup collections are always limited. They usually tend to be heavy on pink and other pastels which rarely agree with me. The good news about Chanel Spring 2009 Bohemian Fantasy collection is the lack of any Barbieness. It's darker than you'd expect, with the best item in the range being the deep violet nail polish and the chocolaty plum eye shadow in the Les 4 Ombres Quadra Eye Shadow (the silver gray is also very cute if less useful).

The bad news for me is how most of the colors look on my skin: Not Good.

The collection would probably look best on the cool-toned among us. Even the bold reds are geared for women with rosier complexions who can pull of pink based and beige lip colors. The blush was also too light for me and looked unnatural.

As for the items I liked, I already have very similar colors in my stash (including a violet nail polish. Zoya came out with one several seasons ago), so I don't actually need either. But that eye shadow compact is the one thing worth trying in the collection. The pigments were better than what you usually get in these Chanel quads.


The one thing I just couldn't understand was the lip palette. I looked at it, touched it, circled it, but unless I'm missing something major here, there was never ever so little actual material for so much money. If you think Serge Lutens lipsticks are atrociously priced at $75, this thing with its six tiny droplets of color (almost sample size) goes for $60. Did any of you discover a secret pocket of lip cream anywhere inside the compact?

My advice: skip the limited edition items and go for the regular collection. My latest discovery is Rouge Allure lipstick in Attitude. It's a mellow red with a dark rose base. It has more than enough personality to be considered a red, while still being daytime friendly on olive skin. It's a pretty and lively color which would serve you both in the cold months and later on this spring.

Like all Rouge Allure lipstick, it's comfortable to wear, moisturizing and wears for quite a while (unless it meets hot tea first). Definitely my favorite makeup item these days, with the added benefit of not having to hoard several before it goes away forever.

I tried to take a picture (with and without cats), but couldn't capture the exact color. You'll need to see for yourself in person, as the miserable color swatches on Chanel website are crappy (as are most of the images they use. They are rarely true to life. Someone in their marketing department needs to have a chat with the people at Sephora, Benefit Cosmetics, Nars and Bobbi Brown, to name a few companies who usually get it right).

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sniffed Around Town


(For the 2008 Perfume Retrospective, please see yesterday's post)

I've been revisiting a few previously-sniffed scents at the usual NYC haunts. These are not full reviews as I haven't (yet?) bothered with samples and full wearing under different circumstances, unless noted. Just impressions.

*links go to my actual reviews that were written much later*

Chanel Beige- (part of the Les Exclusifs range and only available from Saks flagship in the city). The first time I tried it, I commented that it just doesn't go with my hair. It was too floral, too Chanel, too Upper East Side. Totally not me. It's still isn't, but I sort of get it now. Apparently, Muffy Sloan-McPrep has been skipping some Junior League meetings because she's having steamy randezvous with her tennis instructor. And she's invested in some killer shoes.

Champaca Absolute (Tom Ford Private Blend)- I didn't expect to like this one, let alone love. A biggish floral with some fruit in it (plum?) is not my everyday thing. But like many of the other Tom Ford perfumes, it melds with my skin and becomes smooth and musky (in a good way). It doesn't screech or does weird gestures, so while I probably don't need to have a bottle, I would wear it happily if the stork drops it at my door (storks bring the oddest things to this house).

Fleur de Liane (L'Artisan Parfumeur)- I really shouldn't have bothered with this one, as it's everything I hate. A sheer green aquatic with more than a hint of melon. I don't always assign colors to scents, but this one is a poisonous, radioactive aqua. While Fleur de Liane is a Bertrand Duchaufour creation, I can practically hear Jean Claude Ellena cackling behind the scene.

Aedes de Venustas Eau de Parfum (created by L'Artisan)- Another Duchaufour, this time a pretty nice one. On my skin and to my nose it's cool, clean incense, very similar to Heeley Cardinal and CdG Avignon. I liked it better as a room spray or on my husband, though he was not impressed.

Amouage Lyric For Women- Yes, please.
Gorgeous, sexy, rosy, spicy, woodsy. Lasts forever. It's the very late drydown that I'm not yet sure about. It loses some of the mouthwatering quality for more wood. Still beautiful, though.

Carnation (Mona Di Orio)-  Can I live without it, after all?  This one must be tested and re-tested on skin, as what you get on a scent strip would lead you to pull a Luca Turin and hate hate hate it. My skin loves it, most of the time. We all know where that leads.

Dans tes Bras (Frederic Malle)- Either they tinkered with the formula since I first smelled the tester in June (long before it was released, so everything's possible), or my skin really does a number on this. The sprayed card I got in Paris retained its powdery scent for days, while on my skin (and practically everyone else's) things have mellowed down considerably and it's not that heavy on heliotrope, either. I've been known to kill violets, so maybe it was to be expected. In any case, Dans tes Bras is a nice skin scents, suffers from longevity issues and a mushroomy accord, and smells a lot better in the open air than indoors.

Oriental Brulant (Guerlain)- The only one out of the three Elixirs I like so far. The problem? My skin makes it very very sweet. Even Isaac, the cutest SA at Saks 5th Avenue had to comment on this. The drydown is so Shalimar-like (just without the interesting parts) when I wear it that it's more than a little redundant, especially at $250 per bottle.

White Patchouli (Tom Ford)- No can do. The rose-jasmine combo in the middle turns sour on my skin every time I try.

Sycomore (Chanel)- The one Exclusif that might just force me to break my resolve against family-sized bottles and actually buy one. It's a beautiful, smoky vetiver with an ethereal quality that keeps it from becoming too butch (not that it ever stopped me before. I can't keep away from the Blond's Vetiver Extraordinaire, Route de Vetiver or his Guerlain). Want.


Photo of Saks 5th Avenue: Voted Off The Island

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Year Of Perfume: 2008 Retrospective


'Tis the season: Looking back, making lists and trying to summarize the previous twelve months in a way that makes sense. A group of us, bloggers with a serious thing for perfume, is offering a 2008 retrospective of the fragrance world. Each one of us is writing from a different point of view and location (some are based in Europe), and there's no common theme. I chose to look at events and trends that shaped and influenced us as consumers.

1. Launched in 2007, Tom Ford's Private Blend line was met with quite a bit of groans and growls from many perfume lovers. The twelve scents released at the same time made many doubt the amount of care and thought that went into creating them and accused Ford of trying to become an instant Lutens. Coupled with nose fatigue (who has the attention span for trying 12 new scents from one house at one sitting?), a general annoyance at the limited distribution and Ford's own controversial reputation all caused many to not even try. This year, however, found people giving the scents a chance and finding out they really really like them.

Say what you may about Tom Ford and the soft porn campaign he ran for his (tame, office-friendly) mainstream Tom Ford For Men fragrance. The Private Blend is well-made, interesting and actually worth the hype. 2008 has found the scents (if not the man) getting enough love that the latest release, Champaca Absolute, had people ordering blind. Quite a change from last year.

2. After years of dreaming, pining, hoarding the few precious drops left and paying over $400 on eBay for bottles that may or may not have relatively fresh juice in them, fans of Donna Karan's long-discontinued Chaos finally got their wish with the scent's re-release as a Bergdorf Goodman exclusive. Someone at Lauder (the company that holds the license for the Karan beauty line) has definitely been paying attention, as they created a full line of other discontinued items: Black Cashmere, DK For Men and the Essentials, all in the new black bottles.

As expected with such a project, the controversy hit two seconds after the first bottles were sprayed: Was the scent reformulated? Did they ruin it? Weakened it? No one can tell for sure, as those who still have some of the old juice admit, their bottles have aged (very well, in many cases, even if most of the top notes are no longer there), and it's quite difficult to compare. The new Chaos is lovely, but many of those who ordered unsniffed, based only on the legend, were disappointed to discover it's not an Earth-shattering perfume.

3. Speaking of internet hype, the biggest stampede of the year was probably the Balmain craze. Take a fragrance or two from a classic house, previously only available in Europe for full retail price, no samples to speak of, one name evoking a desired raw materials (Ambre Gris) and the other one named after a classic French icon (La Môme), and all of a sudden release them in the USA through an online discounter for a fraction of the original price. The result is a mass hysteria of blind orders, ending with almost as many disappointed noses. While both scents are pleasant and very wearable, they are not the pinnacle of French perfumery.

4. While Le Labo continued with their (super annoying and totally unjustifiable) marketing gimmick of exclusive city releases (Los Angeles, Tokyo and London, joining the ones in Paris, NYC and Dallas) which you can only buy in person at those specific locations, Serge Lutens has eased his grip just a little and allowed for more of his non-export perfumes to be sold here in the US. You can now get Santal de Mysore, Bois de violette, Bois et Fruits and Un Bois Sepia at Bergdorf Goodman (and even order them by phone). The first three were recently made available at several other locations like Aedes in NYC, Scent Bar (L.A.) and the Canadian Perfume Shoppe. In addition, Chergui seems to have made a semi-permanent migration into the export line and is available wherever Lutens fragrances are sold. While I'm not sure this means you will soon be able to buy Muscs Kublai Khan at your nearest Neiman Marcus, it does seem like Uncle Serge has realized a thing or two about the art of making money.

5. Guerlain have continued the trend of odd marketing decisions. Releasing Habit Rouge in parfum while keeping some beautiful old classics in an EDT form, thus making their performance less than stellar. Combined with the LVMH tendency to cater to Saudi sheikhs more than to genuine perfume lovers (I have no other way to explain that Four Seasons set which contained one former Aqua Alegoria scent or the other four digit items that look more like merchandising than a perfume), it was not the happiest year for Guerlain fans. And I'm not saying a word about the ridiculous soft porn literature that accompanied the release of the Elixirs Charnels.

6. Chanel have expanded their Les Exclusifs line with more jugs of EDT juice while terminating the USA sales of the few formerly-available parfums (Bois de Isles and Cuir de Russie). Apparently, they think we all want to be supersized or go swimming in our bottles. While the new Sycomore is available wherever Les Exclusifs are sold (which means hardly anywhere), Beige is limited to Saks 5th Avenue's NYC flagship. According to a source in Chanel USA, it was never meant to be a major release and they were quite surprised at the internet uproar and downpour of phone orders the store has received. The result of the many blind buys was the usual disappointment, when buyers discovered Beige was a very tame floral and not as interesting as they hoped. What else is new?

7. Perfumes- The Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez is not the first book about perfumes. It's also a much less definite guide than the publisher would have you believe. Its strength (and also greatest weakness) is making perfume literature into entertainment. It has a somewhat broader appeal than most fragrance-related books (though for the life of me I cannot see the average L'Eau d'Issey one-bottle-a-year customer buying or enjoying this), and provides quite a bit of amusement to those who've sniffed a thing or two. Written by a scientist (Turin)and a former blogger and MakeupAlley popular reviewer (Sanchez), it mixes pop culture, snark and quite a bit of perfume knowledge. Still, at the end of the day, it's a book about the authors' opinions, a fact that seems to have escaped some of the online perfume community, fans and foes alike.

The release of the book was followed by a massive internet uproar from people who found their beloved scents being trashed. It was nearly as entertaining as some of Sanchez's more infamous quips, but not quite.

8. 2008 was the year the online perfume conversation has become even more important than ever before. Blogs and message boards have been spearheading trends for some time now, and this years we have also gotten some exclusive scoops and led important discussions. Denyse from Grain de Musc broke the story about the upcoming new Serge Lutens, Nuit de Cellophane, while I was the first to sniff and write about the latest Frederic Malle, Dans tes Bras. Our growing relevance is equal parts hard work, deep passion for the subject at hand and our loyal readers who make the effort enjoyable and worthwhile. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And a special thank you to Helg of Perfume Shrine for organizing this blogging event.

For more 2008 Retrospective, please visit these blogs:

  • 1000 Fragrances

  • Ars Aromatica

  • A Rose Beyond the Thames

  • Bittergrace Notes

  • Grain de Musc

  • I Smell Therefore I Am

  • Legerdenez

  • Notes from the Ledge

  • Olfactarama

  • Savvy Thinker

  • Tuilleries

  • The Perfume Shrine
  • Wednesday, December 24, 2008

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    Dr. Hauschka Rose Body Oil


    I can't help it. This time of the year I'm on a constant quest for soft and supple skin, and the result is a cornucopia of bottles, tubes and jars popping up on every flat surface in the house waiting to be slathered on skin (or rolled on the floor by a cat).

    Body oils are often extra easy to spread, which makes them very suitable for cold days wen you just want to put something on and get dressed fast. Of course, they also need to be absorbed quickly (but I can't remember the last time I came across one that wasn't).

    Initially, I was not impressed with Dr. Hauschka's Rose Body Oil. It sank in nicely, but about six hours later my skin was already showing signs of thirst. I tried it sporadically, but ended up neglecting the bottle in favor of other treats. Recently I unearthed it (or a cat did) and started using it regularly with much more impressive results. It seems like this oil performs a lot better over time and my skin definitely benefits. It's been weeks since the last time I got that tight and parched feeling (and dry earth look that comes with it).

    My only complaint is, surprisingly, about the scent. It's a lot less Rosy than you'd expect and (thankfully) very low key, but I often feel like I'm smelling the main ingredient, peanut oil, over the rose extract. It's a bit disturbing, actually, and not very luxurious. As much as I like my Thai stir-fry, I'd rather not smell like one. In any case, the scent is faint to begin with and fades quickly, so it doesn't clash with my perfume.

    Bottom line: You can't argue with a happy skin.

    Dr. Hauschka Rose Body Oil ($35.95) is available from stores specializing in organic and natural beauty products and online from the company's web site , C.O. Bigelow and Beauty.com, which is where I purchased mine.

    Estee Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang




    The last time I bought an Estee Lauder perfume was in the very early nineties, when I went through a couple of White Linen bottles before suddenly having a complete change of nose on it and not touching the last bottle ever since. Not caring much for assertive chemical florals, I allowed myself to ignore most of their releases, with the occasional sniffing stop at the counter for the sake of shaking my head and wondering "What on earth was Luca Turin sniffing?". Sensuous didn't rock my world, either, though , though at least I could see the appeal (other than Gwyneth Paltrow in only a white shirt and black stockings).

    But the list of notes for the latest Estee Lauder release, Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang (Ylang Absolute, Italian Bergamot, Geranium Oil, Bulgarian Rose Absolute, Cinnamon, Incense, Vanilla Bean, Sandalwood, Amber) sent me straight to the nearest Lauder counter as soon as I got word the bottles have arrived. I sprayed from the tester and continued my merry way to the Bobbi Brown makeup, thinking more about taupe eye shadows than of the happenings on my left wrist.

    Ambery perfumes come in many shapes, forms and ideas. It's the ingredients making what we recognize as the "ambery base" (mostly labdanum-tonka-vanilla. More on this in Helg's fascinating article on Perfume Shrine) that determine the actual feel of the perfume. And our skin chemistry. Mine loves amber in almost all forms and makes it radiate and come alive. I get far less powder and much more of the warm glow with some animalic teeth from most amber scents. Amber Ylang Ylang is no exception to this.

    That first testing has seen me going back to the mall the following day and buying a bottle. I just had to. That feeling of elegant warmth, rich and luminous is irresistible for me. While its a lot softer than the ultimate amber, Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, it's a lot easier to wear because it lacks the edge and punch. I save the Lutens for nights out and knock'em dead occasions, and wear this one whenever the mood strikes. The creamy and pretty facette brought by the ylang ylang is making the scent less formal than Ambre Sultan, but also far less sugary than other ambers I can think of, like Balmain Ambre Gris or Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Ambre Precieux. I can't say I smell much (or any) incense and even the sandalwood is less woody and more a soft light presence.

    It's interesting to note how differently this perfume is perceived by others. Angela on Now Smell This was underwhelmed, while Kristen the Beauty Addict felt it's the scent for a homebody. For me, it's not a fuzzy scent. It glows and pulsates too much to be ignored. Amber Ylang Ylang goes with cashmere, as the others have mentioned, but I pair it with my favorite burgundy cashmere sweater dress, the one that flows close to the skin and shows some cleavage.


    Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang is available from Saks, Neiman's and Estee Lauder.com. I got mine at my local Saks. The 1 oz bottle (perfect size) was $65, there's a 2.5 oz available for $120 and a gorgeous pure parfum bottle with semi-precious stones adorning the cap (above) that would cost you $300 for 1 oz. To put things in perspective, it's the price of 1 oz of Mitsouko extrait, which is just a little more on the masterpiece side of things, with all due respect to Erin Lauder and her vision.

    Monday, December 22, 2008

    My Little Guilty Pleasure- Sephora Vanilla Cupcake


    A recent Sephora order made last month has arrived with something extra: A birthday gift in the form of a mini (2.5 oz) Vanilla Cupcake bath & shower bubbles.

    It's cute. It's shimmery. It smells like dreamy buttercream. Not exactly the stuff one is supposed to pursue after a certain age. But I could not help myself and ended up wishing the hot water would never end so I could keep playing with the sugary bubbles.

    Vanilla Cupcake is shamelessly foody (I swear I could also smell coconut in the almond-butter-sugar-vanilla mix). It's also addictive for those of us not opposed to the genre, and I had to stop myself from ordering the entire product line. It's a fun scent, but I don't really want to smell like that, and eventually I was happy it didn't linger on my skin once I was all dried up.

    Speaking of dry, the fun ends once I'm out of the water. Despite the promises of hydrating ingredients like aloe and jojoba oil, my skin ends up feeling like it has been washed in regular (drying) soap. The gel's strength is not in pampering, that's for sure, but it doesn't stop me from using it again and again (and slathering myself silly with creams and oils once I'm out of the shower and back to my senses after the sugar high).

    Bottom line: It's not something I'd buy for myself, but this product is addictive in a guilty pleasure kind of way. It's like wearing a plaid miniskirt and knee high boots. Not very appropriate but a lot of fun.

    Sephora Vanilla Cupcake Body Collection ($12-$16) is available online and in store. The one I got was a Beauty Insider perk that came as a GWP during the month of my birthday.

    Image: http://alpineberry.blogspot.com/ (it was the most fun image search ever)

    Thursday, December 18, 2008

    More From OPI La Collection De France




    Now that the weather has taken a serious plunge towards the dreary and right before I go back to holiday reds, the mood calls for something different.

    Enter OPI's La Collection De France for fall-winter 2008. I've already talked about Tickle Me France-y, an elegant nude which was my transitional color. Now we go for the serious stuff:
    Parlez-Vous OPI? and You Don't Know Jacques!


    Both looked on the scary side when they first came out several months ago, but even back then their beauty was apparent. Parlez-Vous is a smoky violet, cool and aloof. I can't stop looking at my nails when wearing it because it's just that different from anything else I own and wear. I was worried about the color clashing with my olive skin, but it works surprisingly well. Two coats got me bottle-perfect depth and coverage.

    You Don't Know Jacques looked even more intimidating. In the bottle it is a dark taupe with strong gray roots, but on the nail (mine, at least), it actually has more brown and is a lot easier to wear than I ever expected. It's a melancholy color and works best on those days the sun is nowhere to be found. The look is elegant and not goth at all, quite suitable for most workplaces, as long as you keep your nails short and oblong, to avoid the Morticia vibe.

    The quality is what you expect from OPI. A good brush, great coverage, easy to apply and lasts (with the aid of base and top coats) five to six days before the first crack appears.

    OPI La Collection De France is available at decent nail salons and from various online sources. I'm pretty sure I got mine through Amazon for about $8.50 each.

    Photo: Winter Evening at the Louvre by Rita Crane Photography on flickr

    Wednesday, December 17, 2008

    Saving Face- Erno Laszlo pHormula No. 3-9 Cream


    The last month or so included flying cross country, having an evil cold and watching the weather go from fall to evil winter. None of the above is good for one's skin.

    I was being good, slathering my face religiously with my regular moisturizer, and on those days my cold threatened to get the better of me, also my secret cure: Vicks Vapor Rub all around my nostrils (seriously. It works wonders and prevents you from rubbing your skin raw when blowing your nose for the 1278th time in two days). But I still had a patch or two of blotchy, flaky skin that could use some extra help.

    That was when I remembered the sample of Erno Laszlo pHormula No. 3-9 cream for dry skin and cold weather. I received this the month before and was saving it for a time of need. That time has certainly arrived.

    The ingredient list includes vitamins C & E, yeast extracts and emu oil (so beware if you don't use products with animal-derived materials), and it promises improved hydration and reduced puffiness, irritation and chaffing. After a month of nearly daily use, indoors and outdoors, I can say that it helped heal miserable skin and get rid of those flaky patches at the side of the nose. It also did a good job protecting my face on blistery NYC days.

    pHormula No. 3-9 is not a substitute for an active twice a day serious moisturizer/anti-aging cream. I don't think it even claims to be one, but I'm making note of it just in case. You'd still need whatever cream that makes your skin looks alive. But it adds an extra nourishing layer of protection and helps with healing if you've been through a rough patch.

    The cream is thick and would probably be way too much if your skin is oily. Even for me, a little goes a very long way and lasts all day. Younger skin might find it of the "just sitting on the face" variety (a complaint often heard about La Mer), but some days I really do need a cream that would sit there and do its thing on the surface.

    Erno Laszlo pHormula No. 3-9 comes in a 1.7 oz jar which can be considered family-size. There's also a 7 oz option ($550) which would take a village to finish before it goes rancid. While the regular size is priced at $195 (most decent department stores and ernolaszlo.com), you can now get it from Dillards (at least online) for $110. The sample I received was a PR freebie.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Reflection and Self-Reinvention


    I turned 38 last month.

    Thirty eight is not a milestone, except in the sense of marking 20 years from one's 18th birthday, so I didn't make a fuss over it.

    Many years ago, I had a boyfriend who used to get seriously depressed and irrational every year around his birthday. It was more than a little ridiculous, since the birthdays in question were his 21st to 23rd (soon after the last one I had enough of the drama and left for good). My own approach has always been a bit different. I don't look back or drown myself in reflections about my questionable achievements and failures. I look ahead, taking note of all the new opportunities and experiences the coming year is about to offer me.

    After a certain point in your twenties, most age restrictions are gone forever, except for your eligibility to be elected for office in the U.S. (30 for a Senator, 35 for President and VP). It's no longer about things I'm now allowed to do, but about taking up opportunities as they come, branching out and trying out new things, especially those out of my comfort zone.

    That's what I've been doing in the last couple of months, and I'm ready to tell you about it. Don't get me wrong: There's nothing Earth shuttering. I didn't get a boob job (or even Botox. Yet) and haven't dyed my hair red. But there will be a report about some unusual (for me) footwear, a perfumery class, I did something with my hair and bought a bottle of Chanel perfume.

    Stay tuned.

    Image: The Mirror by Sir Frank Dicksee from http://www.squidoo.com

    Sunday, December 14, 2008

    An Odd Ball- Ojon Tawaka "The White Ball"


    Ojon Tawaka had a lot going against it as far as I was concerned. I'm not a bar of soap person, for reasons from germaphobia, cats who likes to play in the (dry and empty) bath, a deep dislike for soap scum and a general preference for the texture of shower gels and creams. And it's unscented.

    But this ball has won me over completely in recent weeks. I can't think of any other shower product that showed this much kindness to my very dry skin, while not being oily and actually delivering a clean feeling. Looking at the ingredient list, it seemed more like a moisturizer than a cleanser: it's all about cocoa butter and several oils and extracts. But somehow it works and feels nice in the process. I'd probably go for something stronger had I needed to seriously de-slime myself, but it delivers well for the normal filth level of suburban life.

    The ball comes with a little bowl and a metal drain that holds it in place. It's a bit awkward to hold and use at first, because the thing is quite big, but no special technique is required. There's no residue in the bath to complain about, and the ball still holds its shape and texture after weeks of use. Surprisingly enough, the cats show absolutely no interest in it, and I got used to the nutty, buttery smell which reminds me of a cross between black soap and shea butter. Not exactly Guerlinade, but I can live with it if the result is legs without the cuir de crocodile look.

    Ojon Tawaka "The White Ball" ($65) is available from Sephora. I got it as a PR freebie.

    Is Grunge Really Making A Comeback?


    Amidst all the other dark forecasts, here's another one to worry about:
    The Return of Grunge *
    I'm not retiring my Manolos any time soon, but what do you think?

    *Sorry, link no longer active. The original web site, Urbania, went down, and the article (by Kelly Kreth) hasn't been republished yet.

    Image: grungemovement.com

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Guerlain Super Aqua Serum (and a word or two about Orchidee Imperiale)


    My quest for better skin and a perfect serum continues, and sadly, it doesn't look like Guerlain is the answer.

    I managed to hoard enough samples of Guerlain's Super Aqua Serum for nearly eight weeks worth of daily use (that's how long it takes to see results with most serums). The stuff in the little blue tubes didn't look or feel very serum-like. It might be all in my head, but I like a thick, siliconey consistency, while Super Aqua was actually a thin lotion that was more difficult to trust. It felt fine and absorbed quickly, didn't seem to clash with my moisturizer and never irritated my skin.

    It just didn't seem to make any difference, and I had the feeling my face which was used to more active products wasn't getting the best treatment possible. Vitamin C products seem to work better for me. Or maybe I just haven't found The One.

    Speaking of which, long time readers might remember my devotion to Secret de Vie moisturizing cream from Lancome. It's still my number one product, but I've strayed a little and tested Guerlain's pride, Orchidee Imperiale. I only had one sample tube, not enough for serious testing and a full review, but I liked it quite a bit. It felt very similar to SdV in richness and in the general happy effect the cream gave my skin. It was fast to absorb, nourished the parts that needed it, calmed where required and adjusted to the changing weather. Just like Secret de Vie. The difference? While SdV costs $240 for 1 oz, Orchidee Imperiale is $400. At this price I expect to wake up and discover I have the face of Elizabeth Taylor at age 20, eye color included.

    Guerlain Super Aqua Serum, $156, (and the entire range) can be found at every decent department store, from Bloomie's and up. My stash o'samples came as GWP from several local Guerlain counters.

    Image: Golden Drop by Roberto Carnevali. www.photo.net

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Buffy Likes Pretty Things- CMZ Art



    Buffy is wearing my new necklace. A pendant of original art by Charlene Murray Zatloukal. I found her store by randomly browsing Etsy (a dangerous, dangerous place), not looking for anything in particular. Something in the melancholy quality of her work has caught my eye and heart, and this pendant was just perfect. It's not too rustic or crunchy while still looking decidedly handmade and special. I wore it today (before Buffy got her paws on it) and was asked about it twice in 20 minutes, so it definitely stands out.

    Her creations, both jewelry and paintings can be found in her own Etsy store (mostly art, currently there's an interesting charm/cameo pendant in red, $18.75) and in her family store, Pendants Plus. Her personal blog is here.

    Tuesday, December 09, 2008

    To Boldly Go- Estee Lauder Signature Hydra Lustre Lipstick In Black Cherry






    I've already mentioned my lack of enthusiasm for this years holiday makeup collections. None of them seemed exciting, innovative or featured too many must-have items. I was extra annoyed with Smashbox who repackaged existing products into "Holiday Kits" which are really good value but there's nothing really new in them and as far as I'm concerned, each set has at least one product I either don't need or don't like, which makes them not such a great deal after all. There are pretty palettes from Givenchy and Chanel, but once again, not all the colors are ones I'd pick. Bobbi Brown has the right idea in that department: empty pans for 3, 4 or 6 colors which can be filled with almost any eye shadow, blush and glitter lip color (why just the glittery ones?). Sice you're getting the full size products the result is wickedly expensive (the six color set ends up at $130. Ouch).

    That said, I ended up falling for a holiday lipstick: Estee Lauder Signature Hydra Lustre Lipstick in Black Cherry. It comes in the cool facetted design, as it's part of the Vintage Jewels range and calls to mind better days, when the Lauder counter in the department store was a wonderland of luxury and magic. I really like the face lift and new approach Lauder has taken in the last couple of years, making the house relevant and interesting again, even among the newer (over-)hyped brands.

    Black Cherry has won me over with its bold and rich color, a dark red with brown-rosy/plummish tones that make it a lot more wearable for me than the other colors in the collection, and creamy, moisturizing formula. It glides on easily even if you don't use a brush and stays in place even after your first sip of latte (though not as perfectly as when just applied). A comfortable wear, non-drying or flaking is always a plus. You absolutely must use a lip liner with such a dark color. I liked the one the SA had me try with the lipstick in store, the Automatic Lip Pencil in Midnight Plum, so I got one to go.



    Estee Lauder Signature Hydra Lustre Lipstick ($19.50) In Black Cherry is available online and offline from every semi-decent department store. I bought mine at my local Nordstrom where I got the best customer service I've came across at any makeup counter in years. It was not limited to the Lauder ladies. I felt the same way across the isle at Nordie's Chanel. Someone at Saks and Bloomie's should take note, because I'm giving my business to those who deserve it.

    Model: Giselle

    Monday, December 08, 2008

    Memo Paris- Lalibela And Other Treats


    Five months after returning from Paris, there's still one more story left to be told and perfume boutique to talk about.

    Unlike my other scent destinations I had on the trip, the visit to Memo boutique was not planned. The Blond and I stumbled upon the store while walking around. I don't remember for sure, but I think we were heading to the nearest Metro station when we spotted the place, and since it looked pretty, trendy and obviously smelled good, there was no other choice but to enter and check what it was all about.

    While you won't learn much from the company's website, Memo is a home and fragrance collection created by Clara Molloy, a book publisher who travelled extensively and was inspired by (more or less) exotic places. About half the beautiful store is dedicated to candles and room sprays, which all seemed quite nice even if none has actually captured me. I preferred to concentrate on the perfumes, which back then there were four of them ( a fifth one was launched last month), and on the very handsome sales assistant.

    The perfumes, a range called 'Les Echappees', just like the other products are supposedly evocative of faraway places, from Sundance, Utah (hence my raised eyebrow at the exotic claim) to Ethiopia. I tried three on my skin, and sniffed the bottle of the fourth, Inlé, which is osmanthus, jasmine and tea, named after a lake in Burma. It felt too watery from the bottle, but I'm not big on osmanthus to begin with and never gave it a fair chance.

    Siwa, a floral vanilla, didn't convince me it evoked the Egyptian desert. The notes: cinnamon, aldehydes, narcissus, whiskey, popcorn, musk and vanilla sound more interesting than the result on my skin. It was too pale for my taste. I like my vanilla opaque and thick, but can't deny Siwa is probably easier to wear for most than my beloved Un Bois Vanille or even Shalimar. The lasting power was the least impressive in the group.

    Sundance is inspired by Sundance, Utah, and is all about a softened tuberose. The notes sound a bit scary: bergamot, pear, lemon, tuberose, pimento, tiare, iris, sandalwood, musk and tonka bean. However, everything here was so smooth and toned down I can't even complain about the pear. Unlike my taste in vanilla, when it comes to tuberose I usually prefer mine to be housebroken. I really liked Sundance and was close to buying a bottle (I almost regret my decision to pass). It would make a cute, friendly warm weather fragrance and shouldn't scared even those who have emotional scars from Fracas.

    The last one I tested was Lalibela, named after an Ethiopian holy city which is a pilgrimage destination and has several ancient churches. Out of the note list (coconut, orchid, rose, peony, jasmine, patchouli, cistus, vanilla, tobacco leaf, incense and woods), what I'm getting in huge amounts are a dark and dirty rose and thick, heavy incense. This is a seriously gothic rose which makes the original Regina Harris oils seem like Little Miss Sunshine. The sales assistant called it "a sad rose" and I could tell he was not a fan, but I was captivated by this scent. It felt... purple, I guess. Deep, dark purple. It lasted on my skin for the rest of the day, into the night and until my shower the following morning, when I returned to the store and bought the bottle.

    Lalibela is really that strong and should come with a warning label. You can do some serious damage to your nearest and dearest if you don't spray with utmost caution (said she who can wear two spritzes of Miel de Bois). But the right amount is gorgeous and provocative. It works beautifully on a cold night (we've been having plenty of those recently) and stays on my scarves until I haul them to the cleaners.

    As I said, I didn't get to smell the most recent addition to the line, Jannat, which is described as
    'The wild flowers of paradise'. It's centered around frangipani, which tends to scare me, but I'm very curious if anyone has tried it. Please tell me in your comment.

    Oddly enough, the bath and body products are related to the home fragrance and range and not to the perfumes. I'm not sure what's the logic here. In any case, Memo products are only available in the Paris boutique (60, rue des Saints-Pères), Bon Marché department store or in the UK from Harvey Nichols (London and their other locations). The company's website tells you they do not ship to the US, so I'm assuming shipping to anywhere in Europe is ok. No one carries it here in America, but The Perfumed Court offers samples and decants of the first four scents, including a sample pack.

    The bottle I bought, 1.69 oz, was 80€ . The now have both bigger and smaller sizes, priced accordingly. The newer bottles also look a lot better (at least online) than the original one. I'm a bit annoyed with the cheap looking white plastic cap that evokes a drugstore product more than luxurious exotica.

    Wednesday, December 03, 2008

    In Which I Don't Learn My Lesson (But There's still A Happy End)


    Neither the miserable experience I had at the YSL counter when I asked to see and test the Pur Black lip gloss, nor my previous attempt at wearing an ultra dark lip color (I ended up giving it away to someone much younger) have deterred me from buying it online. After all, Sephora has a great return policy and customer service.

    I opened the package and applied it right away on naked lips and without looking at the mirror. The look on the husband's face, though, did not say " a cosmetic jewel ... and a spectacular fashion statement". It said "horror". A glance at the mirror and I knew why. My lips were unevenly covered with sticky purplish ink.

    I wiped it clean and decided to do the smart thing and put a much lighter color underneath first and then accent it with the Pur Black. Remembering something about a plum tone, I made the miserable choice of Bobbi Braun Mauve gloss. It's a bit edgy, but by itself it's an almost nude neutral on my lips. However, when worn together with the black gloss, the result was scary and purple. In a dead way.

    Before taking the gloss back, I decided to test it over a couple of my daytime reds. One was an old Lancome and another a just-purchased Chanel. The original lipsticks were soft, mellow reds. Topping them with a light (gently, carefully applied) layer of Pur Black transformed them into a glossy black cherry color, quite elegant and definitely sexy. So that's what this is about.

    The gloss is a new formula, shimmer-free and far less sticky than you might think from looking at the shine. It has the same herbal scent I dislike in the Golden Gloss series, but it fades quickly. The lasting power is not impressive and the first cup of hot tea does away with it. Use a mirror to reapply. And a lip liner. I mean it.

    YSL makeup is availble from most good department stores, YSL.com and Sephora. I bought my gloss ($28) from Sephora.com.

    Tuesday, December 02, 2008

    The Two Faced Perfume: Vetiver Dance- Andy Tauer (and samples giveaway)


    Vetiver Dance is not what it seems.

    Some vetivers are rich and lush. Think about the chocolate and jungle greens in the velvet that is Vetiver Oriental (Serge Lutens). Then there are the cold, crisp ones like Encre Noir (Lalique), Vetiver Extraordinare (Malle) and the wonderfully bitter and astringent Route de Vetiver (MPG). Guerlain Vetiver is crisp and dry, but oddly warm, and the same can be said about Lubin's Le Vetiver, though its opening is a lot more interesting than the drydown.

    Andy Tauer's Vetiver Dance is all of the above or none of the above, depending on what your skin and your nose make of it.

    I fisrt tried it several months ago, when the weather was still very warm and unforgiving. While the very first try of a minuscule amount was very Taueresque and promising, a full wearing on a hot day nearly killed the fragrance for me. There's a very strong lily of the valley note that jumped at me right away, suffocating the top notes completely. It surprised me, because a similar LOTV treatment in the mythological Hyacinth And The Mechanic was lush wonderful. Then again, I only tried it in those bitter cold days of late winter when one is willing to sell her soul for any promise of spring.

    The thick LOTV made it hard to focus on the other notes, even though the perfume's development was interesting even then. There were all the loved companions to the vetiver: an herbal note, a bitter crispness, the return of the promised grapefruit peel. I liked the late drydown, with its hint of dry Tauerade: ambergris, cedar wood, tonka and cistus are signature notes. But the mean and green was still somewhere there. It didn't look promising.

    As the weather became cooler I tried Vetiver Dance again and again and again, discovering it does much better when allowed to bloom outside. I found sweetness in the top and middle notes and an incredible dry vetiver later on. There's a point after about two hours on the skin, when the perfume changes direction right under your nose. Literally. It becomes something else entirely. While I've learned to appreciate the artistry of the first phase (face?) of the fragrance, what I would have loved is a bottle containing only the second one.

    Vetiver Dance is incredibly strong and potent. It lasts all day even when applied lightly, which is probably the right way to go given its strength. My guess is that it's a challenging scent only if you have muguet issues (I can't stand Diorissimo), and even then it's worth a try because it smells like nothing else. The amazingly rich drydown alone is worth the experience, even if you decide the whole thing is too much.

    Thanks to Andy's generosity, I have some samples to give away, so please leave a comment if you're interested. I'll do a kitten-assisted draw next week and announce the winners.

    Vetiver Dance is available in the USA from both Luckyscent (Scent Bar) in L.A. and Aedes in NYC. Bottles and samples can also be purchased directly from Tauer Perfumes in Switzerland. My samples were free.

    Image: Organic Forming No. 3 by
    Heidi Vaught

    A few notes about Chanel 2008 Holiday Collection and a rant about the eyeliner duo


    When it comes to limited editions and seasonal collections, people either love them with a collector's passion or get grumpy and annoyed about the gimmick and the fact they disappear from the shelves within a couple of weeks only to appear on eBay at an inflated price. Cranky and jaded as I might be, I actually belong to the first group. My reasoning is that in an over-saturated market, with new products coming and going, I no longer expect a favorite lipstick to be there forever. Instead, I'd rather have the newest and most interesting colors. By the time I hit pan, there will be so many other things to love I doubt I'd mourn the disappearance of my red du jour.

    All of the above means I expect the limited editions to be interesting, exciting and maybe even daring. All the things the current crop isn't (except for very few. More in a day or two).

    I'm the biggest fan of Chanel's seasonal collections, but I couldn't find a reason to buy any of the Holiday 2008 items. Don't get me wrong: everything there is very pretty, but for me, the end result was either "meh" or simply redundant. Consider, for example, the Beige eye shadow quad. It's a beauty, but do you need another set of mostly sheer browns? Me neither. The lip colors, all of them nicely done, were too pale when I tried them on (except for the Red Shine Glossimer), and the one item I really wanted, the Haut Chocolat nail polish sold out before I even had the chance to see it in person (note to self: next time order online as soon as you get the press release and before the mass newsletter goes out).

    Speaking of the Haut Chocolat polish, you can find them for $30-$40 on eBay, and I admit to considering the option, before taking a look at my nail polish stash and realizing the silliness. Unless it's really your dream color and nothing can compare to it, I wouldn't do it. Besides, rumor has it that just like last year's Tulip Noir which has made a comeback this season (saw them at my local Nordstrom and Bloomie's), it will be relaunched sooner or later.

    There's also another gold highlighting powder, this one is loose and even more expensive ($75)than fall's Facette d'Or. Why?

    But the thing I really wanted to talk about is the eyeliner duo that comes in the little compact. It first appeared as part of the Smoky Eye collection in a color called Noir-Lamé, which I promptly ignored. I definitely didn't need another black eyeliner. But I was curious about the supposedly new texture (Chanel's description: "Mistake-proof eyeliner duo enables every woman to achieve the perfectly lined eye. Stray-proof, powder-based formula easily mimics both the precision of a liquid eyeliner and smudged look of a kohl pencil. "), so the limited edition Brun-Lamé seems worth checking, even if I suspected it was too light for me (I prefer brown to black for everyday use, but it needs to be a very dark brown).

    You know what? This product is not "Lamé ". It's lame.

    Sorry for the silly pun, but this eyeliner has earned it.

    Because it's not a real eyeliner. Basically, it's a very tightly pressed powder eyeshadow. It's so stiffly packed that despite what they say, it can't be used efficiently while dry. And that's not just me saying. The sales assistant who did my makeup admitted to it right away. You need to use it with a (very) wet brush, which you can do with most eyeshadows on the market. Not only is the concept not new, there are actually some great products on the market to be used instead of water, to make the eyeshadow into a more stable eyeliner. I've been using the Paula Dorf Transformer for years, and it makes for a never-ending eyeliner wardrobe.

    So, why do we need two more brown eyeshadows to serve as eyeliners? I'm not sure.

    As for the Brun-Lamé, while in the compact, the difference between the two sides was much more pronounced than when wet and on skin. The shimmer almost disappears on application. The color itself is very nice, but as predicted, too light for me. It would probably look a lot better on a very light skin, especially if you're pale blonde and usually prefer brown mascara. But even then you'd do just as well with one of the brown eyeshadows you probably already own.

    Monday, December 01, 2008

    The Greatest Loves Of All (for now)


    Fragrance enthusiast (AKA "crazy perfume-people") tend to have certain common habits and quirks. We go through similar phases in our scent journey and we make personal discoveries. An experience that many, especially those of us with large collections, seem to share is the "Why do I even bother wearing anything else?" moments we feel when wearing a much-beloved perfume after not visiting it in a while.

    Only it's not just that one bottle. We tend to have several Big Loves that never fail, never disappoint and wearing them always feels like coming home. They bring out the best in us.

    Here's my short list:

    1. L'Air du Desert Marocain- Tauer Perfumes. My holiest of grails.
    2. Shalimar (parfum) and Shalimar Light- Guerlain (yes, a heresy to put them together. I don't care).
    3. Revelation- CB I Hate Perfume. I am a fig tree.
    4. Douce Amere, Muscs Koublai Khan, Ambre Sultan, Cuir Mauresque- Serge Lutens. I'm cheating here, as these are my current Serge obsessions. While I couldn't pick just one, they can change and vary.
    5. Organza Indecence- Givenchy. The most elusive (purchase-wise) and least floral from this house.
    6. Black Orchid- Tom Ford. Yes, seriously. A gourmand gardenia, and it loves me like no other.
    7. Sage Machado- Onyx (perfume oil). It's thick, it's sweet and it works.
    8. Lei- Mazzolari. Who's the powderiest of them all?
    9. Musc Ravageur- Frederic Malle. No surprises here.
    10. Onda- Vero Profumo. No list of mine can be complete without this one. She only comes out at night...
    11. Jil Sander no. 4 (especially the parfum)- Apparently, I'm Alexis Carrington.
    12. Regina Harris- Amber Vanilla. Variation on a favorite theme.

    What are your "why do I bother with anything else" perfumes?

    Image: Heather Murray Art. Chosen simply because of the adorableness factor. It was either this or a fluffy bunny.

    Thursday, November 27, 2008

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008

    The Cranky Shopper Returneth


    I couldn't help it. My curiosity got the better of me and I found myself in front of the Yves Saint Laurent counter at Bloomingdale's looking for the black gloss. I had to see it for myself and try it on. But the first obstacle in my way was the deserted counter. No SA was to be found. Left to my own devices I started playing with the YSL HolidaySet: The Bow Collection and was quite impressed. I liked just about everything they had there, especially the four color eye shadow palette: rich pigments, the softest texture and just perfect colors. I decided to get it and probably also the Golden Burgundy gloss.

    But where was the sales assistant?

    A lady from the Guerlain counter was efficient enough to go and locate the YSL guy, who was deep in conversation somewhere around the Dior area. He wasn't happy about being disturbed. I asked about the black gloss. Sure, he said, producing a golden box from a drawer, but we don't have a tester and I can't open one.

    Seriously? Am I supposed to blind buy a black lip gloss without actually seeing it in action?

    The guy shrugged. We don't have a tester yet.

    Do you sell many of these without a tester? Do you know how it's supposed to look?

    Another bored shrug.

    No "hopefully we'll get a tester next week/after the holiday/when Santa comes". No "leave me your number and I'll call as soon as we have one". No "Can I show you the Holiday Collection?". He was eager to get back to his conversation.

    Guess who didn't get my business?

    That's why they invented online shopping. There aren't any testers, but also no attitude.

    Monday, November 24, 2008

    Warm Fuzzies- Le Labo Vanille 44


    I remember when the news first broke about the Le Labo Paris exclusive, Vanille 44, people were equally excited and disappointed. Some wondered what could be so special in a vanilla fragrance to justify the hype and the price (obviously they have yet to be introduced to Shalimar parfum), while others went into a vanilla coma based on the fantasy and the imaginary pleasure.

    Then the first samples arrived and it became clear that once again, Le Labo aren't into accuracy in naming. While there's vanilla somewhere in the composition, this isn't about smelling like cupcakes (good), but those who hoped for a modern Shalimar offspring were disappointed. Still, the fragrance has created enough obsession, addiction and devotion. And of course irritation about the company's marketing methods.

    I was ready to buy a bottle last summer when I was in Paris. But once I actually tried it on, I just couldn't see why I should. Granted, it was pleasant and wearable, but it didn't rock my world enough to justify the cost (it was during a week the US dollar was at its humblest point and the exchange rate was impossible. The price was somewhere north of $300).

    I resisted when during the month of September you could get bottles at the Colette mini-store in NYC (it was a limited time thing), but I did go for a decant (The Perfumed Court has them), seeing as I liked it enough to want to have some on hand. I can't help it: Vanille 44 makes me happy in its weird little way.

    It's not the vanilla, I can tell you that. What I'm getting is the rare creature of soft and warm incense, peppery on top, woody and fuzzy later on. It lacks any sharp edges or mysterious sexiness. Instead, there's a mellow, squishy musk and a mostly dry, smooth ambery base that works for me like a cashmere wrap.

    It's called Vanille, but it's a grownup, unisex scent, more complex than meets the eye and nose at first. Had it been reasonably priced, I'd happily buy a bottle and indulge often. But at twice the price of a Lutens bell jar, I expect at least that level of greatness, which is just not there.

    Le Labo Vanille 44 can only be purchased from Colette, Paris (their willingness to ship overseas is questionable). Samples and Decants can be purchased from The Perfumed Court. That's how I got mine.

    Photo: Early morning in the Bois du Boulogne by Tara Bradford, Paris Parfait.

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    10 Most Common Makeup Mistakes


    Despite Jessica's Simpson effort to prove me wrong, I still think most of us don't really need the regurgitated advice most magazines seem to favor. Instead, let's talk about the more subtle things that can make or break our look.

    1. Not Using Primer-
    Eye primer and face primer not only make your makeup last longer, but they provide a smooth, receptive canvas for other products. You can use less foundation and get a better coverage. And they prevent color migration. Yes, it is an extra step, but it only adds about 30 seconds to the process. It's worth it, I promise.

    2. Concealer Before Foundation-
    If you're applying concealer to problem areas (zits, spots, uneven patches) before foundation, chances are that you're using more product than needed. Start with your foundation and spread it evenly. It gives some coverage and evens out things. Then add just enough concealer and blend it into your foundation. The result is more natural looking and far less likely to look caked.

    3. Too Dark Foundation-
    And I'm not even talking about the dreaded oompa loompa look. Between the weird lighting in department stores and our own tendency to look for coverage, it's very easy to choose too dark a foundation. Next time you're at your favorite counter ask for a sample of a foundation that's one shade lighter than what you're wearing. Test it under normal conditions. Chances are you're not as dark as you thought.

    4. Not Using a Lip Liner-
    Seriously. If you're wearing a dark lipstick, be it a sexy red or this season's vampy browns, you need a matching lip liner to outline and keep your lip color in place. Not doing so results in a sloppy look and color bleeding. Also, a liner in a natural shade would do wonders for your neutral colored lipstick and would make it last longer if you use it to fill the lips. Take a look at the comments on yesterday's post for more fabulous suggestions.

    5. Bright And Shimmery Blush-
    A blush is supposed to give you a naturally flushed look. Do you know anyone who actually blushes in shimmery coral? Me neither. Consider a muted rose or a gentle plum. If you want extra shimmer add it subtly where and when appropriate (which is rarely over your cheeks).

    6. Old Mascaras-
    Yes, I know the tube isn't empty yet, but there's a good reason you're told to toss your mascara after three months. All the air that's getting pumped inside every time you dip the brush in to it doesn't just make it a breeding ground for bacteria, but also dries the mascara out and makes it clumpy. And despite what you've been telling yourself, it shows.

    7. Black Eyeliner-
    Don't get me wrong: I love black eyeliner. It's sexy. However, even someone with my coloring doesn't need a very contrasting color for daytime. It can look very harsh, and if you're fair skinned or blonde it might look overdone and garish. There are so many better options, from the almost-black-but-not-quite to caramel. they will give you the contouring and definition in a modern, non-Amy Winehouse way.

    8. Skipping Powder-
    Powder has somewhat of a bad rap that's not necessarily justified. Of course, you don't want to go overboard or to look ashy (the result of too many "translucent" powders that are actually more white than naturally colored). But for a truly polished and natural face, you need a good finishing product that would even things out even more than your foundation does and would keep things in place. Opt for a pressed powder (easier to handle, less likely to look ghostly, travels better) that has a color to match your undertone. Apply with a good, thick brush (let the cat play with those cute puffs).

    9. Penciled Eyebrows-
    A penciled eyebrow looks painted and weird, even if you found the perfect color. It always surprises me to see how many women (otherwise well-informed and makeup savvy) make this mistake. Choose an eye shadow color that matches your hair color and apply with a thin, stiff angled brush using tiny strokes.

    10. Clinging To Discontinued Products-
    I know you loved that perfect eyeliner/lip gloss/stick foundation the evil people at the marketing department decided to discontinue. You loved it so much you wrote the company and had them send you every last scrape of it they had in their warehouse and then you haunted eBay for months searching for more. I did it, too. But it's time to let go. There are new and better formulas, updated and subtler shades and lots of new awesome products. There are constant improvement in textures and modern pigments. Today you wouldn't touch even the most luxurious lipstick or concealer from 10 years ago. They just don't measure up to the ones currently on the market, so why get stuck with an outdated look?

    Image: Modern Mechanix

    Wednesday, November 19, 2008

    Bobbi Brown Moon Rock Long-Wear Eye Palette


    The Good:
    Pretty colors, my favorite eyeliner, small enough quantities of each color so it's not likely to dry out before I got a chance to use it, portable, great texture, long lasting (over an eye primer).

    The Annoying:
    What's with the brush? Despite what the picture above shows, the brush that came with my palette only has one side, the thicker one. It's too big to be effective for the eyeliners, but stiff and uncomfortable for cream eye shadows. Even an old school sponge applicator worked better than the brush (and I'm not above dipping my finger in the shimmery goo and going to town).

    The Verdict:
    The Moon Rock palette has been serving me well over the last month. It's my current staple for an elegant and fun evening look with a subtle shimmer. Its sister palette, Night Sky is just as pretty, but cool toned and the colors looked a bit too harsh on me.

    Bobbi Brown Moon Rock Long-Wear Eye Palette ($55) is available online and from their department store counters. I got mine at Saks.

    Monday, November 17, 2008

    Magnifying Mirror Musings


    I've always had a love-hate relationship with those magnifying mirrors in hotel bathrooms. Do I really want to get that closely acquainted with my pores and under-eye area just when I'm off the plane? Not to mention the lighting in those bathrooms was not designed to flatter, and who knows what I'll see when looking that closely.

    On the other hand, they do make some tasks remarkably easier, not to mention precise, and I'm weird enough to enjoy looking at mascara wands up close and see exactly what they do for my lashes.

    My solution has always been trying to focus on the less scary areas of the face and ignore the rest. Or just skip that evil mirror altogether...

    On my most recent trip I got brave and really looked. It was somewhat of an ego boost to realize that even up close I have a better skin than certain (younger than me) celebrities. I also found out that such a mirror is very helpful in assessing your success in makeup removal. I liked it so much that now I'm considering getting a magnifying mirror for my bathroom at home.

    Do you have one? How do you feel about these mirrors and what you see in them?

    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    38


    Image: Birthday Wish by Brandi Milne

    Wednesday, November 12, 2008

    Sephora by OPI I'm With Brad Nail Polish




    Here's something you can add to your shortlist of life certainties: The one nail polish Jennifer Aniston would never wear: I'm With Brad from the Sephora by OPI collection.

    Not all of the colors in the line were created equal. Looking at the in-store display, I couldn't help but think that too many of the bottles had a seventies drugstore reject thing going on (read: cheap looking). But there are more than enough pretty and interesting shades. I got my mother a bottle of Let's Do Lunch, an elegant coral-beige, her seasonless signature color.

    I was looking for something super dark, but yet different than all the other dark burgundy versions I already own. I'm With Brad was a perfect choice and is currently working hard in my fall-winter rotation. Sephora's web site describes it as "shimmering wine over dark coffee", which is another way of saying "reddish Coca-Cola". In any case, it's pretty, sexy and dark without going into Elvira's territory.

    Application, as with most OPI polishes, is easy and smooth. Even I didn't manage to get it to streak. A single coat can be enough, but I like to use two to get the exact color of the bottle. Without a top coat, the first chips appeared after a couple of days, but when using one the polish lasts 6-7 days and looks great.

    I'm not really a Brad fan, but when it comes to this polish, it really is Jen's loss.

    Sephora by OPI nail polish ($9) is available from every Sephora store and online. I bought mine at my local mall.

    photos: mine

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Ask the Non-Blonde: Avoiding "Plane Hair"


    Lisa from Boston is asking:
    "My hair seems to be like yours: long, wavy and very thick. It's quite dry, but I'm good at keeping it shiny and happy. Except when I travel. Do you have any advice about how to keep hair from becoming frizzy, smelly and dry?"

    I know the feeling. Flights aren't exactly a trip to the spa, with their germy, dry, recycled air. This is the one occasion I slather thick coats of products over every part of me, from hair to feet. So, the answer is in the goop.

    I wash my hair a few hours before boarding the plane (the night before, if it's obscenely early), and work a considerable amount of a rich hair cream into it. I like Carol's Daughter hair balm, because it's very moisturizing and a little of it is more than enough. Also, the very strong scent wards off airplane smells. You do need to be careful and not overdo it with this product, as if your hair is not very thick, it'll get stringy/greasy. But the right amount for the right hair would do the job. You can also pick a drugstore leave-in conditioner (TreSemme anti-frizz smoothing creme or Garnier Fructis. Both are good, but I don't like their scents), and do the same.

    Once thoroughly gooped, I put my hair up in a (big, heavy) bun and forget about it until I reach my destination. A quick wash and my hair is as happy and shiny as ever, no trauma and no need for a rescue treatment.

    Image: 'La Bell Dame Sans Merci' by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). That's one interesting use for long hair.

    L'Occitane Immortelle Cleansing Foam


    While my mother is a big fan of L'Occitane's Immortelle skin care line, none of the creams has ever worked for me (this range is designated for mature skin, and I'm not quite there yet). This means I didn't have a good reason to buy their cleansing foam, other than the packaging: I picked it up months ago when I needed a travel-friendly cleanser, and the 5.1 oz pump bottle looked just about right.

    I used it for the two weeks I was away in June and loved it. Then I put my travel bag away and promptly forgot about it until this week when I had to pack again. That was one happy reunion.

    Everything about this foam is fabulous: the delicate scent, a light and airy texture, and most of all: performance. I find that it removes every last trace of makeup, including stubborn mascara (hello, Givenchy!), while giving my face the softest feel. There's no need for a once-over with a toner and my face doesn't scream for mercy afterwards.

    I don't know about the promise for brightening: A product that you wash off quickly can't do much in that department. But I can tell you that it does my skin a world of good in the softness and smoothness department, and I love that it's the first and last stop I need for cleansing and makeup removing.

    L'Occiatne Immortelle Cleansing Foam ($24) is available online and from every L'Occitane store. I bought mine at my local mall.

    Sunday, November 09, 2008

    Currently


    Book
    The Position by Meg Wolitzer. Sex and the Seventies.

    Song
    Everything I've Got In My Pocket from Minnie Driver's first album. Yes, that Minnie Driver. And she's surprisingly good.

    Frequently worn outfit/item
    An Elie Tahari black zippered cardigan. I loved it so much I got another one in gray.

    Perfume
    Organza Indecence. Perfect vanilla and spice.

    Makeup
    Bobbi Brown Palettes. Both the Mauve and the newest one.

    Food
    Mac & Cheese.

    Drink
    Water. Though this is really time for Champagne.

    Guilty Pleasure
    See above, under Food.

    Bane of my existence
    Hotel rooms with no wi-fi and too few electric outlets.

    Anticipation
    L.A.

    Thought
    Carrying your essential cosmetics in those ziplock baggies for air travel is getting very old, very fast. It's not the lady with the La Mer who is a potential terrorist.

    What are your current loves and banes?

    Image: Brandi Milne- Let's Eat Cake

    Thursday, November 06, 2008

    Pacifica Solid Perfumes: Cute Things In Small Packages







    As you can see, Lizzy and Giselle found these little pots of Pacifica Solid perfumes to be quite entertaining (then again, they are highly amused with twist ties, bottle caps, the zipper of my favorite hoodie and each other's tail). I enjoyed the cute packaging (they would make nice stocking stuffers) and portability: These tins are smaller than several of my lip balms.

    Like most solid perfumes, these ones from Pacifica are low in sillage and stay very close to the skin, while still being detectable if you get close enough. It makes me think that they'd be ideal when one is stuck in a very small space, like on a flight (there's some travel in my very near future, so I think at least one of these tins are boarding the plane with me. The size is TSA-friendly). I apply them to the back of my hand (I like the smooth, waxy feel), so sniffing it to block those horrid airplane smells is another good use.

    Out of the ones I tested, Spanish Amber is my favorite. While it's no Ambre Sultan, there's still enough richness and depth even in such a simple product, and the tenacity is great. When applied just before bed, I could still smell traces of it in the morning. My other favorite is Mexican Cocoa, a guilty gourmand indulgence of chocolate, spice and vanilla. Not for the boardroom or a night in the opera, but fun and comforting when you need it. The one that gave me serious issues was the very popular Tibetan Mountain Temple. I wanted to love this incense blend (ginger and a promise for vetiver and patchouli), but had a Serge Noir flashback: all curry, all the time. So I'm sticking with the sweet ones (and would have loved an enviromental oil in Avalon Juniper. It's clean, sharp and green, just like I'd love my house to smell on a winter morning. And maybe also laundry products).

    Pacifica solid perfumes ($8.95 each) are available online from the company's website and can also be found at select Whole Foods stores. I receives these lot as a PR freebie.

    Tuesday, November 04, 2008

    Election Day


    Monday, November 03, 2008

    Frederic Malle Editions de Parfums: Musc Ravageur


    What makes a perfume sexy?

    When I was very young, I felt it was all about the big chypres. I wore Paloma Picasso and Eau de Soir (the potent, pre-reformulation stuff) and felt ready to take on the world and every man in it. From there, I moved on to big floriental, especially with a rich vanilla and/or amber base. Tiffany, Panthere de Cartier and Jil Sander no. 4 were my equivalent and accompaniment to black lace and a push-up bra. I'll put Tom Ford Black Orchid in this category with my old favorites. It definitely feels right at home there.

    Then I discovered musks, leathers, sophisticated vanillas and the femme fatale of them all, Shalimar.

    Musks are weird creatures. There are the so-called dirty ones (Miller Harris L'Air de Dien, Serge Lutens MKK and CB Musk Reinvention, all turn into sweet cuddly creatures on my skin), the pretty ones (Serge Lutens Clair de Musc, safe to wear at any and every situation, layers beautifully with other SL scents), the ones to which I'm completely anosmic (SJP Lovely, Escentric Molecules, Narciso Rodriguez and most Egyptian musks I ever came across) and then there are the sweet, often gourmand ones, where musk is paired with vanilla, almond (Leah St. Bart) or cocoa (Musc Maori). They are regarded as comfort scents just as often (if not more) than they are considered sexy. And yet, we all have heard how men prefer gourmand in general and vanilla in particular. There's the legend of Shalimar and other Guerlains with their sweet tonka base, and there must be a reason young women who came of age in the 90s and later consider smelling "yummy" an advantage in the men-alluring arena, and translate it to smelling like cupcakes.

    This is the reality into which Musc Ravageur was born.

    From the name it is clear what was on Maurice Roucel's mind when he created Musc Ravageur for Editions de Parfum Frederic Malle. It belongs to the same school of thought as Shalimar: An oriental with a sharp, bracing opening that softens up and goes seductively smooth and rich, and on the right skin makes the elves sing (think Lord of the Rings, just with very little clothes. Thank me later for the mental image).

    The reason it's supposed to be so sexy and bone jumping ready is the way Musc Ravageur quickly turns into a velvety skin scent. The foody elements aren't about dessert, but they would make you want to bury your nose in some skin, just because it's that pleasant. But is it really about sex? Is this what you're supposed to wear for a steamy night?

    I find that Musc Ravageur develops better and is sexier on warmer skin, either in hot weather or in a well-heated room. Otherwise, the cedar and sandalwood are more prominent than the vanilla (not that there's anything wrong with it). If there's one thing I'm not smelling here is musk, but there's plenty of other stuff to enjoy, and the overall result is pleasurable and satisfying, so I guess that, yes, this is a sexy scent.

    But I still find Shalimar more daring.

    The official notes are:
    Top Notes- Lavender, Bergamot.
    Middle Notes- Clove, Cinnamon.
    Base Notes- Gaiac wood, Cedar, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Tonka, Musk





    Photo and clip: From Here to Eternity (1953).

    Frederic Malle Editions de Parfum scents are exclusive to Barneys in the USA (I got mine at the NYC store) and can also be ordered online from the company's web site. The 3X10 ml travel spray package ($85) is my favorite. I wish more companies would offer this option instead of big bottles with more juice than I could use in three lifetimes.

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