Friday, June 27, 2008

Insert Lemon Jokes Here- Lush Lemony Flutter

The best thing about Lush Lemony Flutter is the name. It sounds light and airy, and makes you think about fluffy things, like lemon meringue pie. You'll need to adjust your expectation before trying it, because this thick buttery cream smells more like a lemony shoe shine (I'm always amazed by Lush fanatics who claim the products smell "yummy". From my experience, the best I can hope for is pleasant).

It comes in a little pot you need to dip your fingers (germaphobes will shudder), and you only need very little to grease your scales. I'm unconvinced of its merit as a hand cream, because it takes too long to stop leaving prints on my keyboard (and it makes cat hair stick to my hands). It feels nice when the grease is gone, though.

I can see why you'd want to use in on calluses and anywhere that needs to be seriously buttered, so it's good to have around. It's just not a fun product and doesn't feel lush and luxirious. The small packaging is convenient, but I much prefer the travel size tubes from L'Occitane.

Lush products are available online and from their stores, the latter is where I bought mine ($13.25).

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Face Time High Glass Lip Gloss

While deciding to go a la carte when I ordered my items from Face Time, instead of going with their boxed packages, I still went by the look that appealed to me most, the Sultry. I especially wanted the darker option for lips, as most of the colors seemed too pink and sheer.

I chose Jealousy (not a fan of this name), which is described as a warm tan tone, but ended up more of a sheer nude. Maybe I should have tried Image, but the threat of shimmer kept me away. While I wasn't planning on a nude, it's still pretty and wearable (doesn't make my lips look dead or J. Lo-fied). The fabulous part is the texture: light, comfortable and not sticky. I hope they'd add more interesting colors for the sake of those among us who have naturally darker lips (plum, please!). In the meantime, I like to mix it with a touch of dark liquid lipstick (I have one from Lorac that's a bit too much by itself).

Those of you who prefer light and pink hues have several choices in this range. If you tried, please comment on your favorites.

Face Time products are only available online, which is where I bought my gloss ($13)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

New Frederic Malle Perfume By Maurice Roucel

An American Blogger in Paris, Part 1: Stumbling Upon a Scoop

Imagine this: An eager blogger and her long suffering husband are vacationing in Paris. Naturally, they visit every perfume boutique and most beauty stores on both sides of the Seine River (see long suffering husband, above), including the Frederic Malle Edition de Parfum store, where they play with their favorites, discover new ones, and chat with a charming sales assistant who tells them that a new perfume is coming out soon!

The new release, Dans tes Bras (in your arms) was composed by Maurice Roucel, the nose behind my beloved Musc Ravageur and other gorgeous scents (Hermes 24 Faubourg, Serge Lutens Iris Silver Mist, Bond no.9 New Haarlem).

It continues the sensual theme of Musc Ravageur, though it's meant to be a little more subtle (don't ask me. On my skin, Musc is a cuddly comfort scent). The notes are: bergamot, cloves, violet, jasmine, sandalwood, patchouli, frankincense, cashmeran, heliotrope, white musk.

I didn't have any skin space left, so my experience is through a scent card (what? It's good enough for Luca Turin), which some 16 hours later is still radiating with the fragrance. It's lovely, though heliotrope haters would probably object to the powderiness. It feels like a classic French scent and I'm not entirely sure how steamy it is, but I like it nonetheless.

Dans tes Bras will be available in the US in October 2008.

Photos: The Non Blonde

Benefit Some Kind Of Gorgeous

I was fully expected to dislike Some Kind Of Gorgeous, a cream-to-powder foundation from Benefit Cosmetics. It only comes in two colors, regular and deep, and the texture had me worried: it feels very oily when you touch it, but goes on quite dry. I had to make sure my face was moisturized and primed, otherwise the powderiness was too much and my skin appeared dry. Actually, I wasn't sold on this product until over a few uses I noticed how well it settles and melts, until it gives a smooth and flawless finish.

The coverage is sheer to medium and the the effect is a very even complexion. Somehow, the regular color is a perfect match for me. I'm still not sure how well it works for very fair faces, but as far as I'm concerned it's a winner. The compact is very travel-friendly, and while you should definitely use a brush for best results, a (clean) finger would work in a pinch, so nothing else is necessary, making it ideal for an overstuffed makeup bag.

Some Kind Of Gorgeous ($26) is available from Sephora, several department stores and online. I got a mini compact as a GWP when I stocked up on some essentials.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Lost (And Totally Forgotten) Perfumes: Via Lanvin

Since the house of Lanvin is desecrating the memory of its founder, Jeanne Lanvin, by launching a pink fruity floral (blackberry, pear, and raspberryamong other notes) and naming it after her*, I thought it was a good time to remember a discontinued perfume from this house, even if it's one that was created years after Madame Lanvin's death: Via Lanvin.

Via Lanvin was launched in 1971 and discontinued in 1984 (according to Basenotes). The 70s, to me, are the years of Charlie (1973), an assertive green-floral-powder little thing that took over the world. There was a point in that decade that the only way not to have a bottle was to be Amish. That was the reality and the market in which Via had to compete. Like Charlie, Via is also a powdery green floral, but it feels soft and very French. I couldn't find a Lanvin ad for Via (maybe it was the lack of marketing that killed this perfume), but I'm pretty sure it couldn't have been promoted by photos of  a woman patting a male co-worker's butt. It's not that kind of scent.

I scored a sealed set of Via EdT and parfum. The first time I opened and tried it, it smelled quite fresh, other than a few seconds of stale aldehydes. I liked the elegant greens and the sweetness that followed. The floral heart feels very classic, which is probably what I recognize as "French": muguet, jasmine, orris and rose seemed to be everywhere. I think I like wearing Via because of the crisp narcissus note. It's green and crunchy in the best possible way, spiced up with some carnation.

My favorite part is the drydown. There's a moment where the vetiver emerges, and it's dry and fiery, almost smokey. It's more pronounced in the EdT, while the parfum is smoother and a bit muted. I wish there was more of this note before it burns into sweet powder. I also wish the lasting power was more impressive. As it is, I need to bathe in the juice to make it live long enough so I can fully enjoy it.

From the 1984 H&R Fragrance Guide, Feminine Notes:
Via Lanvin (1971) - Sweet Floral
Top Note: leafy green, bergamot, aldehyde, violet, lemon - green flowery
Mid note: lily of the valley, jasmine, orris, carnation, rose, ylang-ylang, narcissus - green floral
Base note: vetiver, cedar, sandalwood, musk, amber, moss - woody powdery

* Robin of NST is quoting a CosmeticsNews article, which originally stated that the house's brilliant designer, Alber Elbaz, was deeply involved in the perfume's creation. Allow me to doubt that.

I bought the set on eBay for less than a song. Bottles of both the EdT and the parfum can still be found there on occasion. Some e-tailers who specialize in rare perfumes offer a 0.25 oz of parfum for about $150. I don't think it's worth it, unless this is your long lost holy grail.

Image: . My set looks just like the one pictured.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lush Therapy Massage Bar

This chunk of solid body butter has recently become my favorite pelt softening item (for now. One doesn't become a beauty blogger without being promiscuous when it comes to products). Basically, this is cocoa butter with lavender and neroli oil, which means that the bar does a wonderful job moisturizing while smelling better than most Lush products I've ever tried.

They claim that it's good for scars and stretch marks, which is an attribute of cocoa butter, but I don't have any of the latter to test it, and my scars are still very much there after several weeks of use, so that's not why I'm so in love with this little bar. It's the way my legs and arms look and feel: like those of a normal person who has never resembled an exotic handbag in her life.

Since this is summer and a buttery feeling is not what I'm after when crossing my legs, I use a generous dose of Silky Underwear powder, which also helps with feeling smooth. I keep my bar in the little tin Lush offer (it's free if you buy two bars), so it stays clean and doesn't disintegrate prematurely. It's also very travel friendly.

I tried (in store) several of the other bars, but this is the one that smelled best, not that the scent lingers enough to matter. The one bar I'd recommend you avoid (unless you're 16 or under) is the one with the shimmer. It's just too much.

Lush products are available online and in their stores, which is where I bought my bars. The tin was a GWP.

Friday, June 20, 2008

For The Love Of Feet- Taryn Rose Sandals

Forget ballet flats.

I mean, really, forget them.

Yes, I know they're cute for as long as you can erase the mental image of Amy Winehouse in her ratty, blood-stained ones. And I know that J. Crew make them in very nice prints. But in reality, if you have flat feet, a shoe that doesn't have enough of a sole for shock absorbency is a ticket to painville. And, from what I hear from my friends who were blessed with a nice ballerina arch, they require some serious support, too.

Personally, my flat feet and I are much more comfortable in well-made high heels. There's a reason Sarah Jessica Parker was wearing Manolos all over the city when she was nine months pregnant with her son. I consider his mary-janes an orthopedic shoe. They are that comfortable.

I only make one exception. Not only are my hooves ridiculously flat, but also heat sensitive. No matter how comfortable the shoe, if I'm walking for an extended amount of time and the weather is balmy, things get ugly fast and we're getting into blisterland.

A few years ago I attempted to walk all over Paris in a pair of stylish ballet flats. They were quite nice, bought from Sacco, who make pretty and comfortable shoes. By the end of the day I was considering amputation, and spent the rest of the trip wearing my trusty J. Crew wedge flip-flops. Elegant it was not, and I beg forgiveness from all the French people reading this, since I wore these non-shoes everywhere, from Gallerie Lafayette to the Musee d'Orsay (I change into high heels when going out for dinner, though).

Now, I think I can retire the flip-flops. These Taryn Rose sandals are named Tyra, but I'll ask you to ignore the name and have a look. They are amazingly comfortable while still cute, have a thick, absorbent sole and don't chaff my skin. Even the thong part is soft and easy on the area between the toes. and French people will no longer have a reason to throw things at me.

Taryn Rose sandals are available from Saks and Neiman's, but I bought mine online from Zappos, where they are significantly cheaper.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chypre On The Beach- Pucci Vivara (1965)

Beach fragrances are not what they used to be. The idea today is of something light with notes of Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic and a side of coconut. But once upon a time, you could have put on a summer fragrance that had the power to transform you into a jet-setter on her way to the Italian Riviera.

Case in point, the original Vivara by Emilio Pucci (the new version is a harmless but forgettable juice in a gorgeous bottle, and has very little in common with the 1965 scent, commissioned by the Marchese himself). This is another lost perfume, discontinued ages ago, but can still be found here and there, mostly on eBay. I managed to find a department store-sealed package of the parfum.

The first thing that hits you on your head is the vintagey aldehydic remains of the top notes, and this little kick to the nose that announces the presence of a chypre. It smells dated and decidedly un-beachy, but not bad, especially if you have a thing for vintage scents. Still, it took me a while (and several tries) to learn to find the green notes and enjoy them.

Once the aldehydes go away, things get interesting. The development is all over the place. There are flowers, especially a peppery rose, in this classical heart of jasmine, ylang, rose, carnation and lily of the valley. Still, there's a touch of bushy, dusty Mediterranean greens that doesn't completely go away and keeps it from turning into a naughtier (vintage) Caleche. What I like best here is that Vivara never goes the soapy way. The drydown is much sweeter than I'd expected: while the oakmoss is there and tinged with patchouli, what I get in spades is benzoin, which makes it slightly addictive and more easily wearable, and perhaps a touch of dry, salty leather, that tames the sweetness and keeps it interesting.

I'm not sure if it's the bottle's age or the parfum concentration, but the sillage is very minimal. If you apply enough (read: practically marinate in it), you'll get hours of wear and will be able to enjoy every part of the development.. This is a lovely scent for serious chypre lovers. I'm happy to have it in my collection and wear it occasionally, but not sure I'd feel as compelled to own it had it been readily available and not a Pucci.

Still, it's more than just a perfume for a bikini. I think a pair of white jeans, a Pucci halter top and aviator shades would go nicely with the concept.

Images: perfume ads from Okadi, photo of Viareggio, one of my favorite places in the world, from Villa Rosa.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Reconsidering Summer: Bobbi Brown Beach Body Oil

I buy the weirdest things in the dead of winter. That's the only way I can explain the bottle of Bobbi Brown Beach body oil in my possession. Actually, it almost makes sense if you consider the gloomy weather and the dry skin. A product that promises to make you smell summer and solve that cuir de crocodile problem sounds like the best thing ever.

The only problem was that it didn't work. At least not back in December.

My first issue was the scent. It's my fault, considering I knew exactly what to expect and still bought it. I grew up with the European ideas of what a perfume should and shouldn't be, and this little creature that smells of suntan lotion and sunny sand falls strictly into the "shouldn't be" category. I have friends and readers across the Atlantic and I can't for a moment imagine any of them smelling this with approval. I didn't approve, either.

The second issue was with the oil itself, that seemed to just sit there and not do much to improve the scary look of my legs. I had to recheck the ingredient list twice to make sure it really listed all that good stuff, oils of olive, sesame, avocado and jojoba. While it sank in enough as to not make my legs look and feel oily, it still acted more as barrier and less as skin nourishment. I put the bottle away after a couple of tries.

A few weeks ago I dug it out and started applying it again. The scent hasn't changed, but it makes more sense in a summery context. I'd never buy the actual perfume from this line (or any other beachy fragrance), but it's pleasant enough for the few minutes it's still detectable. It could have been another one by Philosophy, maybe one named "Summer Grace". There are some muted, washed flowers, sun and ocean bleached woods and a very soft, clean musk drydown, if you can even call it that. It doesn't remind me of the colorful Jersey Shore and won't make you start singing "Under the Boardwalk". It's not even nostalgic for me, as a beach scent reminiscent of my childhood would have to be more salty and have notes of French fries and sticky, synthetic orange juice. I'm not sure I want to re-smell any of that.

As for performance, apparently the oil needs more time to do its thing. First application didn't differ much than what I remembered from last year. However, since I had it on all day and didn't wash it off in the first couple of hours, I noticed that eventually my skin has begun to accept the oil. The next day started with legs that weren't so dry, and the oil sunk in quicker and seemed to do a better job faster. The same happened in the following days.

Since the scent disappears quickly and I only apply it to my legs and (maybe) lower arms, it's not a factor in fragrance choice and doesn't require more consideration when layering than your average soap. I'd avoid it on sticky humid days, because once your legs are no longer at the scary stage of dryness, there is some residue which is the last thing you want to feel on a hazy summer.

Beach by Bobbi Brown products can be found at most decent department stores (Macy's isn't one) or from the company's website, which is where I bought my bottle ($28).

Image: Anne Packard: At the beach, from
Vinnings Gallery.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Velvet Veil Makeup Primer by Face Time

I got married by the sea, on a hot and humid summer night in 1996. I can't say I remember much of the actual event (people said it was lovely and the photos confirm), but I do know that my makeup could have used some help in the staying-in-place department. No one heard of primers back then, so it was all about using a good powder and hoping for the best.

Velvet Veil is the product I wish existed back then, because it performs amazingly well. I tested it against the elements: wind, pouring rain and a sweaty day. Nothing moved and it kept every foundation I tried fresh, and only required minimal powdering.

This is a silicone primer and the texture is thicker than the famous one from Smashbox. It's also more opaque, though once applied you see nothing. I like it for the way it keeps my face fresh all day, but I have a serious problem with its heaviness. I don't like the way my skin looks after wearing it for days (or the way I felt after 10 days of testing). It looks like my skin couldn't breath underneath the primer, though I'm sure there's a better explanation. Also, while I can't be completely certain the Velvet Veil is the culprit, I experienced some seriously clogged pores and a couple of zits I could have happily lived without. While it doesn't happen when I only use it occasionally, my skin definitely suffers if I make this primer part of my normal routine.

So, bottom line: a fabulous primer, but my skin isn't happy to encounter it on a regular basis. I'm keeping my bottle, but would only use it for special occasions that require heavy duty products with exceptional staying power.

Velvet Veil ($22) and the rest of Face Time products are only available online from the company's web site. That's how I bought my bottle.

Monday, June 16, 2008

What I Smelled, What I Couldn't Smell (and the winner of Kiki)

1. What I smelled (and wished I hadn't): Arabie by Serge Lutens
In theory, I should have loved Arabie. It has spices by the buckets, Mediterranean dried fruits (dates and figs, my favorites), sandalwood, myrrh and benzoin. It practically has my name written all over it. But this just comes to remind us how note lists are only suggestions and give no guarantees as to what happens on skin, and more important in this case, how the mind interprets the scent. Basically, this is the smell of an Arab market. The Lutens-Sheldrake has completely captured its essence. Arabie is an exotic journey to faraway lands, and in that sense it's a winner.

The problem? I hate it.

Hate is a strong word and maybe I shouldn't use it, but the effect Arabie has on me is so suffocating that I just can't stand it. I've been to these kind of markets and the scent is scarily authentic. It feels like I'm standing in the middle of a spice shop, sacks and containers of the most potent stuff around me, the air is hot and it's getting hard to breath. And the biggest problem is that all the smells of the souk mix together and I know that the next alley host the fish stores. While I can't smell it here, of course, I just know it's there, and I want to run away. Or scrub myself raw (and the last time I tried it on I forced myself to keep it on till the bitter end. While it softened and became more honeyed, the souk was still there).

2. What I couldn't smell (and wish I could): Escentric Molecules- Escentric 02 and Molecule 02
There's a lot of press material and discussion of the scents, the house and the creator, but I won't go into this for one simple reason: I can't smell a thing. The Molecule one starts with nothing at all, then there's something soft and far away, then nothing. The Escentric starts like rubbing alcohol and within 10 seconds disappears and leaves my anosmic nose frustrated and empty.
I already knew I was anosmic to some musks, so the latter is not really shocking. But Molecule is supposed to be centered around the scent molecule found in ambergris, a note I can usually smell just fine, be it rare and real or its more common substitute. I have no idea what's up with that, but I wish I could smell these two.
* The Blond can't smell them, either.

3. The winner of a nice sample of Kiki by Vero Kern is Jenna. Please email me your address.

Arabie ($120) is available from all the usual suspects who sell the Serge exports. My original sample came with other purchase from Aedes, though my last (ever) testing was at a Blue Mercury store. Escentric Molecules scents are sold both in Aedes and in Scent Bar (Luckyscent) in L.A. and cost $140 a bottle. I might as well spray myself in Pelegrino. My samples of both EM scents were a PR freebie.

Image: Understood by Thomas C. Fedro

Friday, June 13, 2008

Beauty in the details

While just about every store selling fashion and/or accessories has its own take on the animal print craze, I kept looking for something a bit different and less recognizable. I knew I wanted a bracelet, but was determined to avoid the enamel zebra pattern ones you see everywhere (besides, I already have this necklace. It helps when the man who buys me jewelry reads my blog).

I found this little handmade cuteness in Boston's Beacon Hill area. The store, named The Designers, has started as leather workshop and still sells leather products made on site, but they also have clothes, accessories and jewelry handmade by local artists, which to me is the ultimate luxury: beautiful and unique items, often one-of-a-kind that you won't see on every other person you know.

I'm linking to their site here, even though it's pretty useless in all its 1996 glory. If you're interested, you'll either need to get there in person or call the store (617-720-3967) and ask Jill for details.

The bracelet was made by an artist named Zelda and cost $45. There were many other jewelry items I was seriously coveting, but instead went with a gorgeous straw hat (not any of the ones pictured above or on the site. Something a tad less dramatic). The store's address is 106 Charles Street, Boston. Open every day except Sunday.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer Days- Lush Silky Underwear Body Powder

The heatwave we had here in the Northeast the last few days was bordering on hellish. Between hot, hot and hazy and overdosing on the a/c, my skin was ready to rebel. the challenge to keep my legs and arms moisturized but not sticky has called for an old stand-by product, Lush Silky Underwear.

Lush products are a hit-or-miss for me. Some are great, others are disastrous (whoever invented their foot creams should be fired). Tom has written an amusing review of their messy bath bombs (though their plain ones are pretty nice), and my hair was unimpressed with their shampoos and conditioners (but that was years ago, before I started blogging, so maybe I should give them another chance). In any case, Silky Underwear is their one product I make sure never to be without.

The concept is clever: a cornstarch-based powder that keeps you fresh, but it also contains grains of cocoa butter that moisturize the skin and keep it soft under the powder's clean veil. Depending on your needs, you can use it alone, or do what a sales assistant has shown me once: use a good lotion and then lightly powder yourself all over it. This way even the driest skin remains happy, but your legs won't stick to each other when you cross them. Some days that's the greatest achievements.

When it comes to scent, it's supposed to be a mix of jasmine and vetiver, but I wouldn't bet my life on it. What I get is a light woody...something. Despite the name, the powder doesn't smell overly feminine and thankfully it lacks the hippie signature of many lush products. My skin, the scent-eater, devours the fragrance even before the powder has fully settled in. A good thing for someone who prefers real perfume.

Lush Silky Underwear is available ($11.25 for 3.5 oz) from the company's website and in Lush stores all over the world. I bought my first one in store, but prefer to shop online and avoid dealing with the overwhelming mix of scents in the boutique.

Image: Golden Summer Rays by JalinePol, from
Vinings Gallery.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Uplift- Kiki by Vero Kern (and a giveaway)

During the wonderful dinner at the restaurant that is fast becoming my favorite eatery in Manhattan, Broadway East, the conversation turned to things we do to cope with stress and improve our outlook. A couple of my friends are outdoorsy and look to nature for inspiration. Another is into zen and likes reading about Eastern philosophy. I don't do spiritual. At least not in the traditional sense of the word. Corrupted by earthy, sensual pleasures, I go for the bottle. The perfume bottle, that is. I'm not really comparing, but it's simply one of my greatest joys, and the right scent not only makes my day, but also changes the way I feel about things.

Kiki by Swiss perfumer Vero Kern (creator of the irreplaceable Onda) is among the happiest things you can find in a bottle. In theory, the mix of notes should never have worked: lavender, caramel and exotic fruit sound like a nightmare brought by those who unleashed Angel upon us and cast the cruel spell that made women all over the globe believe they smell "yummy", while most of us gasp for air as they leave their unmistakable sillage around us.

But Kiki is a winner.

Maybe because it's Paris in a bottle. Lavender is a very French thing. Little embroidered sachets hidden in drawers housing exquisite lingerie. Expensive laundry detergents. Cool and crisp linens. White sheets on a fluffy hotel bed in a room with a very Parisian view, the smell from a nearby pastry shop wafting in through the window.

The exotic fruit note is not what you think. It's more of a subtle candied element, just as the caramel is more praline than fudge. It makes me think of lavender-infused milk chocolate, there's no chocolate note, and the perfume is only marginally sweet. It's just heavenly like that.

Not everyone enjoys lavender, and if this herb normally makes you think of your great aunt Tilly and her moldy purse, then you may skip it. Gourmand notes haters are not as easily excused. This might be the one to change your mind about them. Or at least make you crave this.

Thanks to Vero's generosity, I have a sample to give away. If you're interested, please say so in a comment. I'll announce the winner next Monday.

Vero Kern's perfumes are only available from her web site. All of them come as extrait de parfum, the highest concentration, and have an impressive staying power. You can purchase a sample set of all three scents (a review of Rubj is coming soon), which is how I first fell in love with them.

Image: Lavender's Sway by Fawn McNeill Barr from EBSQ Gallery.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


I'm finally going to start the new one by Jhumpa Lahiri that's been sitting here for a couple of months now. Or maybe I'll get distracted (again) by some non-fiction. We'll see.

David Gray- Nightblindness

frequently worn outfit or item
A vintage short black dress, a-line, with the tiniest white polka dots.

Chergui. I need to write a full review. Bought it in the fall and recently discovered how well it works in the heat.

Vegetarian sushi. There's a local restaurant here that makes amazing rolls. Their mock shrimp tempura is to die for.

Mango Bellini.

guilty pleasure
See above. Normally I prefer to eat my calories and not drink them.

bane of my existence
Closet space (lack of).

I'm going to meet my new niece in 10 days.

Serge Lutens bell jars. Several of them.

There's a rumour about the new Estée Lauder release, Sensuous, being close/reminiscent/a dupe of the legendary Donna Karan Chaos. I have yet to smell it, as I never thought a new Lauder would make me run to Bloomie's, but if there is even a hint of truth to the story, I'll stop torturing myself looking at those unboxed Chaos bottles from dubious sources on eBay. I'd rather buy something by JAR, or a couple of non-export Lutens than drop the money on an old Donna Karan.

What are your current favorites, banes and thoughts? Please share them!

Image: Red Door by Henry Asencio from Vinings Gallery.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Good, The Bad, The Oddly Shimmering And The Scary- Mario Badescu Summer Shine Body Lotion

This was supposed to be a simple and easy post, telling you how I've been testing the Summer Shine Body Lotion from Mario Badescu for weeks and how well it works for me despite the very icky plastic coconut smell (it's unpleasant for 5-10 minutes before disappearing completely). I was also going to discuss the tiny shimmering particles in it, that are pretty tame and only show up under direct sunlight or strong artificial light.

I also wanted to mention how the lotion has the perfect weight and texture even for more humid days, isn't sticky and keeps my legs supple. I was very impressed with its performance and was fully willing to forgive the scent.

But those shiny particles got me curious, as they look like mica, an ingredient that doesn't appear on the label (it's not the first time I'm questioning the truth behind Badescu labels). This got me into research mood. Now, I truly dislike it when people declare themselves experts on a subject based on their googling skills, and I especially detest those who act like they've earned a PhD from the Wikipedia School of Chemistry. I'm also aware that similar chemicals can be found in many other products in my (and your) cabinets, and have been there for years. It's important to remember that while the skin is our largest organ, it's the most effective filter and barrier. Otherwise we'd be dead long ago because of all the crap we come across. The skin keeps it outside our bodies.

Still, I'm a bit disturbed.

Here's the ingredient list, as found both online and on the bottle:
Deionized Water, Peanut Oil, Octyl Palmitate, Retinyl Palmitate, Myristyl Myristate, Dimethicone, Beeswax, Stearic Acid, Isopropyl Myristate, Sodium Benzoate, Quaternium-15, Diazolidinyl Urea.

Water, peanut oil and beeswax are self-explanatory. Let's google the rest:

Octyl palmitate- An emollient amplifying ester commonly used as a mineral oil replacement.
So far so good. My skin doesn't do well under a coat of mineral oil.

Retinyl palmitate- vitamin A, a skin normalizer helping to balance all skin types by penetrating the skin. A powerful anti-oxidant that increases skin elasticity, yielding younger looking skin.
Cool. No wonder my skin is happy.

Myristyl Myristate- Ester of myristyl alcohol and myristic acid. Esters are light oils used as cosmetic emollients.
Ok, emollient is nice.

Dimethicone- The most widely used silicon-based organic polymer, and is particularly known for its unusual rheological (or flow) properties. Its applications range from contact lenses and medical devices to elastomers, in shampoos (as dimethicone makes hair shiny and slippery), caulking, lubricating oils and heat resistant tiles.
I can live with that. There was a long list of common uses, from filling breast implants to treating head lice. I guess it's safe (unless you're the head lice).

Stearic acid - Stearic acid is a saturated fat that's mainly in animal products. It's also in some plant foods like chocolate. It's very stable in storage and during frying. A relatively large percentage of stearic acid consumed is converted to oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat). Stearic acid is used to form margarines, shortenings, spreads, and as a cream base for baked products. Even though stearic acid is a saturated fat, studies have suggested that it has little effect on blood cholesterol levels, because such a high proportion is converted to oleic acid.
I'm not too crazy about it being an animal product, but I shouldn't be a hypocrite, considering the content of many of my favorite products. Besides, I'm not eating it.

Isopropyl Myristate is derived from vegetable fatty acid from coconut oil, acts as a thickening agent. Used as an emollient and lubricant in preshaves, aftershaves, shampoos, bath oils, antiperspirants, deodorants, and various creams and lotions. More than 5 percent in a formulation can cause skin irritation and clog pores.
Note to self: Keep far far away from face.

Sodium benzoate-is a type of salt that may occur naturally in some foods but is more likely to be chemically produced and added as a preservative to foods. There have been some health concerns about the combination of sodium benzoate and ascorbic acid or vitamin C. When the two are mixed, they can form the chemical benzene, which is carcinogenic. However, sodium benzoate on its own is not considered a carcinogen, and you would have to consume a huge amount of it in order to have toxic levels in your body.
Umm, couldn't they find something that hasn't had any carciogenic connections?

Quaternium-15 is a quaternary ammonium salt used as a preservative in many cosmetics and industrial substances. It acts as a formaldehyde releaser. It can cause contact dermatitis, a symptom of an allergic reaction, especially in those with sensitive skin, on an infant's skin, or on sensitive areas such as the genitals. Quaternium-15 is an allergen, and can cause contact dermatitis in susceptible individuals. Many of those with an allergy to quaternium-15 are also allergic to formaldehyde. Allergic sensitivity to quaternium-15 can be detected using a patch test. It is the single most often found cause of allergic contact dermatitis of the hands (16.5% in 959 cases).
Seriously, who puts such strong allergens in a skincare product?

Diazolidinyl urea is derived from plants. It is a formaldehyde donor, but NOT formaldehyde in the gaseous state. Only formaldehyde gas has been linked to breast or other cancers. Diazolidinyl urea is considered safe even at high ambient temperatures, and has been extensively evaluated by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Board. It is considered safe for both leave-on and rinse-off products. Nonetheless, there is a statistically significant number of people (1 in about 1000) whose skin may be irritated by this preservative. It was recently re-classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to its highest toxic class, IARC 1 (known human carcinogen). Formaldehyde is classified as a probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some studies concluded that effects can result in: carcinogen, causes allergic reactions and contact dermatitis; headaches; irritates mucous membranes; damaging to eyes; linked to joint and chest pain; depression; headaches; fatigue; dizziness and immune dysfunction.
Say what? I'd rather go with a good old fashioned parabens, thank you very much.

So there you have it, controversy in a bottle.

Mario Badescu products are available at your local Nordstrom and from the comapny's website, which is where I bought my bottle. $10 for 6 oz, $22 for 16 oz.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Face Time Well-To-Hue Eye Shadow

Niche perfume and niche makeup are not equal. I have very few positive things to say about mass market fragrances of the last decade (I still buy an occasional vintage bottle, though). However, very often the same companies make the best makeup or skin care items. And while I'm always happy to try and find new favorites among the smaller cosmetics and makeup brands, I have yet to to be fully wowed and converted by them. Still, some of these lines are better than others

Face Time is one such company, created by NY entrepreneur Linsey Snyder. The concept behind the line is makeup items that are easy to coordinate, free of fads and ugly trends, and focused on making the wearer look pretty. That alone is a good enough reason to celebrate. They even offer a foolproof system: Beauty In A Box, a full collection of matching items, that includes everything one needs to make her face. They will even help you make a custom box according to your needs.

As cute as the boxes are, I chose to go a la carte. After all, I have absolutely no need of another black eyeliner pencil or mascara. I can also survive without a new blush for the time being (the noise you're hearing is the shelves and drawers that hold my makeup sighing with relief. Yes, my storage system has emotions). Today we'll talk about about eye shadows.

I chose two, Lauren's Loyalty and Jamie's Gem. The former is described as "oyster", or in plain English", beige. I hoped for a highlighter, but instead got a very sheer, gently shimmering wash that looks identical in color to my skin. It's not really the eye shadow's fault. It's my peculiar coloring that doesn't let light shades do their thing on my brow bone. The best I can expect in this department is a nice texture that doesn't look chalky and wouldn't crease under the elements. I definitely got it here, together with the delicate shimmer I mentioned above. I'm assuming that on someone who is a tone or two lighter than me,the effect would be nicer. The very pale should be careful, because "oyster" is probably not the best highlighting hue they can find.

The second color, Jamie's Gem is, might be a golden olive, as described, but the gold is very subdued and the olive has tons of green in it. It's very pigmented and requires the lightest touch and a good brush (I use a slanted crease brush from Sephora's professional series). It's easy to blend and looks very flattering with my coloring (that's my reward for being naturally green). It doesn't crease, even without an eye primer, but if you want it not to fade throughout the day, you'd better use one.

All in all, Face Time eye shadows are very nice, and so far are the best product I've tried of this brand (reviews of their face primer and lip gloss are coming soon).

Face Time products are available online from the company's website, which is where I bought the products I tried. Each eye shadow retails for $12.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

In Which I Actually Do Fresh Citrus- Manuel Canovas Route Mandarine

The sample carried the demure name Route Mandarine. The brand is Manuel Canovas, a design house famous for super luxury textiles. The list of notes from Beauty Habit includes just about every fragrant material known to mankind, and , frankly, sounds like a big mess:

Top: An airy blend of Egyptian Geranium, Florida Orange, Bergamot from Calabria, Italian Mandarin, Clove from Madagascar, Ivory Coast Citron, Cinnamon from Ceylon and Ylang Ylang from Madagascar
Middle: A provocative blend of Patchouli from Indonesia, Bulgarian Rose, Muguet, Egyptian Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Indian Sandalwood and Haitian Vetiver
Base: An oriental mix of White Musk, Vanilla from Madagascar, Amber, Spanish Labdanum, Indian Incense, Raspberry flowers and Egyptian Civette

The overall impression is of a mildly fruity citrus with fresh tendencies, and as my scent twin and I have already agreed: We don't do fresh. So, why did I go through the sample with so much pleasure and where do these thoughts about a full bottle come from?

It's both the aesthetic sensibilities of this perfume and the fact that it smells good and fully blooms on my skin, especially in the heat. It's pretty, uncomplicated, very cheerful and reflects the colors and fun I see in Canovas fabrics. It goes perfectly with this tote by the designer:

Maybe it's not really me, but I have a thing for seahorsies and it's such a happy little thing (the bag was available from Harrods two years ago for £139. Yes, for a canvas tote). In a similar manner, the perfume may not be my usual fare, but wearing it cheered me up significantly.

Images: bottle from, tote from The Daily Mail and fabric samples

I got the sample from BeautyHabit with a recent purchase. A full bottle is $95.

Monday, June 02, 2008

How to lose celeb friends and alienate people- Nina Ricci Style

Let's say you're a top designer or the manager of a prestigious fashion house. Who are the celebs and A-listers you REALLY don't want to be mad at you?

Now, how many of you have Sarah Jessica Parker on your list?

Apparently, neither Olivier Theyskens, the Nina Ricci designer, nor Mario Grauso, the president of the fashion division at Puig, which owns Nina Ricci, share this idea. The full story is here, but basically, when Sarah Jessica Parker came to Nina Ricci to get a dress for the NYC premier of Sex And The City, she requested something that hasn't been worn and photographed in public by someone else. It might seem a bit ridiculous to us mortals who buy off-the-rack, but for a celeb who wears couture at a major event, it actually makes sense.

The problem?

The picture above shows Olivier Theyskens with NY socialite Lauren Santo Domingo at the Met's Costume Institute ball early last month, and, yes, it's that dress.

I think I know whose creation SJP won't be wearing for her next big event.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Yves Saint Laurent 1936-2008

Some Yves Saint Laurent quotes:

"I participated in the transformation of my era. I did it with clothes, which is surely less important than music, architecture, painting ... but whatever it's worth I did it." (2002)

"I always believed that style was more important than fashion. They are rare, those who imposed their style while fashion makers are so numerous." (1993)

"The most beautiful clothes that can dress a woman are the arms of the man she loves. But for those who haven't had the fortune of finding this happiness, I am there." (1983)

"I tried to show that fashion is an art. For that, I followed the counsel of my master Christian Dior and the imperishable lesson of Mademoiselle Chanel. I created for my era and I tried to foresee what tomorrow would be." (1983)

The world is a little less stylish today.

Images: AP, The Fashion Box