Friday, August 29, 2008

Exceptionnel de Chanel: Beyond The Hype

I wasn't impressed with the email campaign Chanel launched for the Exceptionnel mascara. I thought it was annoying and lacking in actual information. But I was in the market for another mascara since while I appreciate what I'm getting from the dramatic Givenchy brush, but sometimes I prefer my lashes not to be the center of attention or require their own table at a restaurant.

Exceptionnel de Chanel is a nice mascara. It adds volume and gives a little curl (though I would still use my Shu for perfect results). The formula is only moderately dark or thick, and it's not very lenghtening, which is fine with me. I'm well-endowed in the lash department, so at times the Givenchy makes me feel a little like Dolly Parton in a padded bra.

The best feature of Exceptionnel is the wand. The alternating rows of regular brush and comb bristles do a very good job in spreading the mascara and separating the lushes. In two weeks of constant use I have yet to see a clump. There was no smearage even after getting caught in the rain and it withstood NYC humidity.

Removal is easy: all the usual suspects work well and require minimal effort.

But is Exceptionnel de Chanel a revolutionary product? Is it the greatest thing ever?

It's a good mascara, but except for the really cool and effective brush I'm not convinced it's any better than any other very good mascara I've ever used. I like it and I might buy again, but I also might move on to the next new thing, or back to some of my reliable favorites from the holy trinity of Lancome-Clinique-Lauder.

Exceptionnel de Chanel mascara ($28) is available from your local counter at the better department stores or online. I ordered mine from, where they also offer it in three more colors.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Color Of French Lingerie: OPI Ticle My France (Fall 2008)

I'm not ready for summer to be over. But there's something about fall collections, fall fashion and September editions of all the magazines that even I find exciting. OPI took it to the max with their fall/winter La Collection De France, which (unlike the one from Essie I've blogged about yesterday) is different and inspired and very evocative of an urban winter.

But before I start applying the more unique grays and purples that still look out of place in the last days of August, I chose the lightest and most subtle polish in that collection to carry me until after Labor Day (and probably later. This is a fabulous neutral that is always appropriate).

Tickle Me France is is a muted mauve, almost nude, that's both elegant and sexy. It's the color of exquisitely made, über-French undergarments. While this won't be the talk of the town like a couple of others in the collection, I'll probably wear it more often.

OPI nail polish is available from nail salons all over the US. I bought mine online through Amazon.

Photos: mine. Models: Kosh and Tulip.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An American Blogger In Paris: Etat Libre d'Orange

Our last full day in Paris (or actually, our supposed last one. We ended up staying another day because of a cancelled flight and airline delays, not that it did us any good, being stuck in an sub-par airport hotel that had no wireless connection) was spent at the Marais. I already wrote a little about it here and The Blond gave a culinary tour in his own blog. But the afternoon was about perfume.

I had the pleasure of meeting Denyse of Grain de Musc (a brilliant bi-lingual blogger who is as fascinating as her vintage perfume collection). We arranged to explore the Etat Libre d'Orange boutique, a line that I only knew by reputation and have previously avoided, mostly because of the marketing hype around it.

Launched in 2006, the house has made a conscious decision to build a reputation of questionable aesthetics (drawings of erupting penises, names like Don't Get Me Wrong, Baby, I Do Not Swallow) instead of promoting the actual quality of the scents (which is high) or the talent of their noses (ditto). The marketing was just a bit too junior high for my taste, so as curious as I've always been about any new releases, sniffing them never became a priority.

Thanks to Denyse who translated and explained, I got to hear about the notes and ideas behind the scents I smelled and tried. And it's always a lot of fun to sniff with another perfume lover. These are the people who would never give you weird looks as you inhale deeply and do a stream-of-conscious blabbing.

First I asked to try Rossy de Palma because I've always been fascinated by the actress/model with the amazingly unusual look. The perfume, however, didn't live up to the legend. It's a rose and not an interesting one. I wasn't moved enough to give it skin space, but then again, I'm not that big on roses to begin with.

Next came Vraie Blonde (a name that alludes to the age-old question of drapes and carpet matching) which earned my curiosity just because. It's a cute little aldehydic bellini, but I'm just not the type.

Encens et Bubblegum was different enough to earn precious skin real estate. There was something about the game of bold sugar and soft incense that captured me. I expected it to be much more crass, like a middle school Lolita who giggles too much and hikes up her skirt to show a bit too much not yet fully formed thigh. Instead, I got something twisted but pretty, girly but not all the way Barbie. It makes me happy every time I wear it, and the only thing preventing me from calling Bendel and ordering a bottle (other than my dislike of such a hassle. I've already whined about Bendel's miserable e-commerce) is the husband's deep disapproval of the bubblegum note. He picks it up in blind testing, so it's not just an aversion to the idea.

Then came Rien. That's one big oxymoron if there ever was one, named "Nothing" but haunting and distracting like very few scents can do. It reminded me of Bandit and has a lot in common with it, except that it's much more butch. It's like Bandit stripped from its floral heart and having everything else about it amplified to an almost cartoon version of a smoky, tarry, black leather scent.

It's fascinating from the very first beautiful/ugly notes. This is the scent I would have expected to see named after Rossy de Palma, her avant-garde face and twisted characters. The first couple of hours are all burnt leather that fascinates, repulses and makes me question my taste. I don't know where or how I could wear it in public, as to a "normal" person who stumbles into my personal space it would smell downright scary and not at all like a perfume.

The drydown is all dark and subtle incense. The smoke and tar are toned downed and it's different enough from Bandit to deserve a place in my wardrobe. I still don't know where I could wear it, and I would advise anyone to sample thoroughly before purchasing (and not to wear it on a first date, unless applied at least two hours prior to your rendez-vous).

If you're somewhat familliar with the ELdO line you know what comes next.

Yes, that one.

I wasn't willing to leave the store without trying the infamous Sécrétions Magnifiques. A perfume that's supposed to have accords of blood, sweat and sperm with a side of milk and is so reviled that sales assistants are rumoured to avoid spraying it. I didn't want to stink up the place so I dabbed it on instead. The metallic opening was certainly unpleasant. I suppose that's the bloody part. Then it became watery and most of all reminded me of a stale load of handwash water that was left in the sink for too long after the dirty clothes were removed from it. There's an unwashed aspect there and a floral laundry detergent but that was about it. Not something I'd like to wear, but not really puke-inducing. And unlike any other ELdO I tried then or since, Sécrétions Magnifiques had the least staying power.

To read Denyse's account of our sniffage, go here.

Images: photos of the boutique (that has a large part dedicated to artistic erotic photography): The colorful illustrations that adorn the tester bottles but not the ones that are actually for sale are from the ELdO website.

Etat Libre d'Orange perfumes are available from Henri Bendel in NYC and Harvey Nichols in London, as well as online from the French site (that will ship to the US and charge an arm and a leg for that. It's better to deal with the concierge service at Bendel). If you're in the UK you can also order through Imagine that.

Essie Nail Polish Fall Collection

There are several innovative new nail polish collections for fall, but the one from Essie is not one of them. Don't get me wrong: it's very pretty, the quality is great, they all have a nice glossy finish and look great. The colors are very classic and would be a great addition to the permanent line instead of a limited seasonal edition. Who doesn't need great reds and rich pinks?

But compared to other offerings this season, the Essie collection is just not inspired enough to get one excited about fall colors. I got the mini pack that contains Forever Young, Lacy Not Racy, No Boundaries and Tomboy No More (I wish every company would sell a mini version of every collection. It's the best deal) to replace some old bottles of classic reds and pinks that are way past their prime, and a regular size bottle of Swept off My Feet which is a beautiful warm rose because I recently ran out of a similar color from Lippmann Collection and couldn't be bothered to pay $15 for a new one.

Not that every color needs to be a bold fashion statement and I'm a big advocate of classic looks, it's just when I'm looking at seasonal special editions I want to be surprised and excited and not to feel like I've seen it all before.

Essie nail polish is available locally at many nail salons and from The mini pack of four color retails for $18 and a regular size bottle is $8.

All photos are mine.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Smashbox Wicked Lovely Gloss in Sultry: Making It Work

Smashbox Wicked Lovely series has beautiful, goth-inspired packaging. The whole look is intriguing in theory as long as we all remember that if you overdo it, it can get very Elvira very fast. But I'm sure we can all show the required restraint. I chose to focus on the lips.

The sexy dark look can be difficult to achieve, as I discovered the hard way. From lip gloss on my teeth to uneven color that looks like I just bled all over myself. Not pretty. Even when done perfectly, like in the promotional photo on the Smashbox site, it can scare children and small animals. I made it work, eventually, but I can't say I fully endorse this specific product, Smashbox Wicked Lovely lip gloss in Sultry.

It's not that there's anything wrong with it: the texture is pleasant and feels nice and moisturizing on my lips. Despite the glittery appearance of the tube, there are no gritty particles and the look is shiny but not disco ball. The color is very dark grape, which is theoretically pretty and does not make teeth look yellow.

The problem starts with application. Just like when using a dark red lipstick, you need a perfect canvas (exfoliated and well-moisturized lips), otherwise every imperfection would show and the pigment clings exactly where you don't want it. I have a tiny scar on my bottom lip, but regular glosses actually cover it up. Not this one. It became more noticeable. The gloss also tends to bleed if not applied just right and you need to have exactly the right amount on: too little and you get patches, too much and it comes to visit your teeth.

The secrets for perfect application are, again, taken from the red lips technique: you need to use a matching lip liner (I didn't buy the one from Smashbox, but instead used something I already had, a Lancome pencil in Raisin). Also, after you're done, use a concealer brush (and your concealer, of course) to carefully define your lips on the outside and blend it outwards. It's not just a double protection to keep the color where it belongs, but also gives a more polished look.

Now, personally, I prefer my lips to not be so dark. It's just too much and I doubt it flatters me. Since I use a healthy dose of lip balm to keep things smooth and manageable, the result is what you see in the picture below (the flash made it a shade or two lighter, but that's the general idea).

Bottom line is that this is a gloss that takes work and I'm not certain the end result is worth the hassle.

Smashbox Wicked Lovely line is available from most department stores, the Smashbox website and Sephora, where I bought mine. The lip glosses retail for $18.

Top image, all the others are mine.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fall Inspiration: Sue Devitt Sea Spray Fall 2008 Collection

What inspires designers when working on a fall collection?
Autumn leaves, darker days, harvest colors.

And, apparently, the sea.

The image above (click on it for a full size view) is taken from Barneys newsletter about Sue Devitt's fall makeup collection. I looked at some of the items on the store's website, and they're very pretty in a not-really-my-color way, but I can't avoid thinking this could have easily been a spring/summer look.

What do you think?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Darker Lips Of Fall- Rouge Dior Fiction Brown

We're back to discussing the new fall collections in all their dark lip glory. Before we go hardcore with the vampy colors, there's still an elegant option from Dior, even if many of you thought that the Dandy look, at least the way it was officially introduced, is a little too weird. The lesson here is that the fair and blondes should choose carefully and go for a more subtle makeup. Especially since there's no airbrushing and special lighting in our lives.

Those of us who can pull off a brown lipstick would find Brown Fiction to be a very wearable color. Unlike what you see above, it has just enough red in it to look alive (assuming the color on the model was achieved with makeup and not digitally, it's probably the result of layering with the Lurex Plum Ultra Gloss and then blotting the shine away). The color is on the warm side, opaque enough to stand out and the the texture is velvety smooth. I need more moisture than what Rouge Dior provide, so I tend to apply it over a thin layer of lip balm. It means less staying power, but I prefer soft lips over painted but parched.

Lipstick photos are mine, Dandy look from Nordstrom website.

Dior Dandy collection is available from Nordstrom (where I bought mine) and Sephora, in store and online. Rouge Dior lipstick retail price is $27.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Fragrant Treats- Harney & Sons Flavored Tea

It seems like many fragrance enthusiast are also tea fanatics. It makes a lot of sense if you think of it: Good tea has a complex aroma and your enjoyment starts with inhaling deeply and appreciating nuances and notes.

While I love a good Oolong and a first flush Darjeeling, sometimes one just want a comforting treat (yes, just like even the most sophisticated chypre lover occasionally seeks a cuddly vanilla scent). And just as with perfume, my favorites in this category are vanilla and chocolate.

You might know Harney & Sons teas from Barnes & Noble stores where they offer a limited selection of their most popular fruity teas, but if you pursue their catalog or web site you'd find some of the most interesting blends.

Just like my imaginary cousins in Buckingham Palace and Balmoral, I like milk in my tea. The vanilla and chocolate flavors are especially amenable to this. But the one that really stands out (and makes me wish for a perfume with similar notes. Do you know any?) is Florence, a chocolate and hazelnut mix. It's rich and heady, and serves as a perfect low-cal, low-fat substitute to hot chocolate.

Photos: mine. Model: Thomas

Monday, August 18, 2008

An American Blogger In Paris: Skalli Jewelry

Le Marais quarter in Paris is a fun and eclectic place. It has a mix of Judaica, a gay population, two (great) vegetarian restaurants, art galleries, trendy stores and falafel. We were there to meet Denyse of Grain De Musc and explore the Etat Libre d'Orange fragrance line (which will be the subject of another post), but on our way to the store, we stumbled upon an interesting looking jewelry boutique that attracted me with bright colors and clean, geometric lines.

Jean-Marc Skalli launched his line in 1997, first selling through other retailers and department stores before opening the first boutique in 2001. His jewelry is now sold at Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, as well as in five Skalli stores in Paris and one in Lille. The website promises that online shopping is coming soon, but doesn't specify a time frame.

The store also offers watches and (gorgeous) cuff links in addition to the expected earrings, necklaces and other pretties in glass, enamel and silver. I loved the pop-art feel of the designs and the strong colors, but didn't need too much time to zero in on this green necklace. It's different enough to make a statement without being over-the-top.

The address for the Marais store is 9/11 rue des Rosiers. 
Images: storefront from Skalli website, necklace photos are mine.

Scariest Thing Ever

Olympics trampoline. Seriously.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What I didn't buy today:

1. I started the day at the DVF boutique in the Meat Packing district. There was this gorgeous blue and white sweater dress that fit me perfectly. I absolutely loved it and was already mentally accesorizing it when I noticed a little problem: the 100% wool was terribly itchy. I had it on for less than ten minutes, but could already feel the inside of my elbows getting raw. A few more minutes in it and I would have looked like Liz Taylor above. The SA said I wasn't the first wish the dress was cashmere or at least a cashmere blend.

2. Serge Noire doesn't love me. The weather today probably didn't help, bringing out all the wrong notes. Normally I have no problem with spice and cumin (Arabie being the exception), but from the opening notes till quite late in the drydown (when it became a very butch cousin of Black Cashmere), Uncle Serge's phoenix was far less a mythological bird and much more tandoori chicken.
The blond kindly asked me never to smell like this ever again.

Image: Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf from

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Requiem, Mass. by John Dufrense. The tragi-comic story of a dysfubctional family. I haven't read his previous novels, but now I absolutely have to find them. This book takes you places.

White Winter Hymnal- Fleet Foxes. Their album is the one new release I absolutely loved this summer.

Frequently worn outfit/item
A white denim miniskirt from J. Crew. It's the perfect length without being too age-inappropriate. I pair it with several DVF tops for a pulled-together look.

Donna Karan Chaos. Who knew it was perfect for summer?

Tinted moisturizer

Fresh tomatoes. That's what summer in NJ is all about.

Half unsweetened ice tea, half lemonade

Guilty Pleasure
Using perfume to scent bed linens

Bane of my existence
Feline waste management

Serge Noire

Today is Madonna's 50th birthday. How is that even possible?

This Oovoo bag:

Please share your own current loves (and hates)!

Grace by Charles Dwyer, Vinings Gallery
Madonna circa 1986, Getty Images
Oovoo bags

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ask the Non-Blonde: Makeup For The Beach

Lynn from Philly is asking:
" I’m about to spend a couple of weeks on the Jersey Shore, and while I’d hate to look tacky and overdone, I’m no longer comfortable walking around all day with bare face. At my age it’s more frumpy than cute. What can I do to look fresh and natural but still well put-together?"

I hear you. There’s something utterly ridiculous in going to the beach looking like you spent an hour putting on your face, but unless you’re a 16 year old California girl, au-natural doesn’t always do the trick. The thing is to wear the essentials, but not make it obvious.

You still need some coverage and a little defining color, but it shouldn't look like layers of makeup, and it should never ever smear.

Natural beauty starts and ends with healthy, even-looking skin. A primer, both face and eye, keeps whatever you put over it in its place. Also, you need far less colored product when you’re using a one, so a tinted moisturizer that gives the sheerest coverage is enough. Make sure that at least one of the products has a 15 or 20 SPF. Smashbox has a version of their famous primer with a 15 SPF, and many tinted moisturizers come with one. This summer I'm loving You Rebel from Benefit Cosmetics, which really deserve a separate post.

If you still need a little extra coverage, dab a little concealer, but do it after the tinted moisturizer is in place to avoid over-application.

If you're going to be outside all day, chances are your cheeks will get naturally flushed, so unless you have the complexion of an extra on Buffy The Vampire Slayer, you can probably skip the blush, and just give your face a light dusting of powder that also has some pigment in it. My holy grail in this department is Laura Geller Balance-N-Bronze.

Eyes: Avoid anything too harsh and too black. Unless you really need both eyeliner and mascara to look alive (we all have these days), use just one of them. A dark or medium brown look less painted while still doing the job. I'd also avoid liquid eyeliner and prefer a pencil for a softer look. The eyeshadows can wait till you go out at night.

Lip balm, rosy lip gloss or tint and you're all set.

Now for some 80s goodness from my long lost youth:

Let's hope the people at Lauder have a healthy sense of humor

From Yahoo news.

Edit: The link now shows that they fixed their typo. My screen capture above is how it appeared originally.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Good And Bad Hair Days: Sebastian Whipped Creme

Sorry. I just had to post this picture of Tyra Banks and her crazy crimped hair. Suddenly it's 1984 all over again.

For those of us who prefer their hair untoasted, there's something better.

I haven't used any curl enhancing products in a very long time. Usually I found them either drying or sticky and stiff. I tend to prefer overachieving moisturizing leave-in conditioners, but the trade-off is losing my curls. still, soft, manageable hair is non-negotiable when you have about 3' of the stuff on your head.

I probably wouldn't have tried Sebastian Whipped Creme had it not arrived here, but I'm very happy I gave it a chance. It promises to nourish and define curls, leaving them soft and bouncy. This is exactly what happens, and I'm happy to report that I haven't had a bad hair day in weeks. I towel-dry my hair like I always do, shake the can (it's just like a whipped cream container, including a nozzle that dispenses these cute rosettes that look edible), spray into my palm (probably double the normal amount, but my hair is also at least twice as long and thick as the average person would have), distribute it through my hair and forget all about it.

The result is perfect full ringlets that don't stick, puff or fly away. I still use the tiniest drop of hair cream right above my forehead, just to keep that part frizz-free, but that's all I need. The Creme has a pretty strong scent that's a bit too much on the plastic gourmand side, but once in my hair it dries down nicely and my hair just smells faintly sweet if you sniff it up close.

Sebastian Whipped cream is available from ($18.96). I got it as PR freebie from Allure Magazine that has some impressive giveaways throughout the month of August.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

So... - Donna Karan Chaos, Old And New

A brief history of Chaos Theory:
Once upon a time, before Donna Karan perfumes became an endless chain of Be Delicious flankers, each one with its own plastic fruit note, there were some original and interesting creations in unusually beautiful bottles. Chaos was a 1996 release, supposedly commissioned by Donna Karan's late husband, Stephan Weiss, who also designed the bottle. It was discontinued in the early 2000s, after Mr. Weiss' death. The reason was never publicly stated. Some said it was Karan who didn't want this painful reminder sold in stores, others pointed their fingers at the Lauder corporation, owner of Donna Karan Cosmetics.

Chaos, being a sophisticated spice and wood scent, was never a huge bestseller, but had a cult of fans that seemed to have grown exponentially after its removal from the shelves. Those who hoarded bottles made big profits on eBay. I saw bottles go for north of $600 and some etailers still have a few precious bottles in stock, so outrageously priced you just have to laugh: $1499.

Blogs and message boards all contributed to the myth. It became one of the poster items for coveted discontinued perfumes. It was often suggested that were Lauder willing to bring it back, they would see nice profits. It looks like someone had been listening, because Chaos, along with some of its other siblings, is back. The packaging has changed: all the perfumes now come in plain black bottles with a gold, black or silver label. But if you've been dreaming of the juice for the last six or seven years, you're just a visit (or a phone call) to Bergdorf Goodman away from holding your very own bottle.

The info on the BG website seems to be inaccurate: They list all the fragrances as eau de toilette, while in reality Chaos (and I'm pretty sure Black Cashmere as well) is an eau de parfum, as you can see clearly on my own bottle.

The big question, though, was about the juice itself: Is it the same as the original one?

When I first sprayed it yesterday it was immediately recognizable. I never tried any of the dupes, so I don't know how convincing they were, but this one was clearly chaos. Still, it had to be tested side by side with the old perfume. I've been hoarding a sample that March of Perfume Posse has sent me, and this was the perfect opportunity to revisit it.

I applied old Chaos on my right wrist and new Chaos to my left. Right away I could tell it wouldn't be easy to accurately compare. It starts with application method: dabbing and spraying lend different results, as was apparent at first try. I re-applied the new Chaos by dabbing, which gave it a similar feel to the original, though still not 100% identical. But this is where one needs to also consider the perfume's age as well as storage. While my sample was safely kept in a little drawstring bag insidemy dresser, it was still in a vial with a plastic cap that might have affected the juice. The age is probably the bigger factor here, since I have a feeling that something in the top notes might be missing.

The older sample shows more of the heart notes, the ones you can also find in the denser, darker Black Cashmere: mostly saffron and woods. For the life of me, I can't detect the promised chamomile and lighter spices that are all very prominent in the new Chaos, making it lighter and further removed from the gothness of Black Cashmere, the way Chaos was originally described. that's the main reason I suspect my sample has most likely aged a bit.

Chaos has an almost fizzy quality from the cinnamon, but the spices keep elegant and poised. Yet, it's sheer enough (much more so than anything I've ever gotten from the original) and easy enough to wear on a summer day. It's probably a tad lighter than what it used to be, if to go by my sample, I just can't guarantee by how much.

The sillage is decent without being overbearing and the lasting power is great. I can bask in it for a full day. And it's so very pretty.

So, is the new Chaos exactly the same? Probably not. But it's very very close.

Image: Statue of Eris, goddess of chaos, Autumn's Photostream

Chaos and the rest of the scents in the series are only available from Bergdorf Goodman, where I bought mine (and Harrods, if you're in the UK) and can also be ordered online or by phone. Rumour has it that Bergdorf is already out of Chaos, but it's not a limited edition, so more will be available soon. All bottles are 3.4 oz and priced at $85.

Back To School

The New York branch of Cinquième Sens, the Paris-based perfumery school is officially opening next month. The first class, a two-day introduction to perfumery technique and the language of scents, is described as a "Complete immersion in the perfumery universe, from the origin of raw materials to perfume classification". Those attending the class will learn about:

  • different players in the perfume universe

  • steps required for perfume creation

  • a precise vocabulary for describing scents

  • the main raw materials used in perfume making

  • olfactory families and perfume classification

  • leading brands

When : September 23rd-24th 2008 + 3 other dates in 2008
Where : 274 Madison Avenue, Suite 1804 New York, NY 10016
For more information please contact Laetitia : [email protected] or call 212-686-4123

I can't wait.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Givenchy Phenomen'Eyes mascara: Tilda Swinton, this mascara may change your life

Not that the fabulous Ms. S needs much help: She might not have eyelashes, but a) she has a polyamorous relationship that includes a husband and a younger man, and b) she knows George Clooney.

Those of us with less interesting personal lives can, at least, get some amazing lashes with the new Givenchy Phenomen'eyes mascara, even if it requires some adjusting.

The good: It delivers. The hedgehog brush really does what it promises: No lash left behind. It reaches the furthest corner and the wispiest hairs and coats them with a very thick, very black color. It has some thickening agent and lengthening polymer, and somehow it also curls. I got the longest, most doll-like lashes I've ever had and haven't touched my Shu curler since started testing this mascara.

The bad: The mascara is so thick you get a little clumping that you need to untangle with the brush. You also need to re-think and relearn you application technique, and because the brush covers much less surface, it takes quite a bit longer to apply, compared to a regular mascara. It also takes more work to fully remove it, and if not cleaned thoroughly, you'd find yourself with a walk-of-shame worthy residue the next day (I use two Almay pads for each eye and then follow with Bi-Facil).

Staying power: While the mascara mostly stays in place (even for 16 hours), there is some flaking. You won't notice it on your lashes, just under the eyes, so you need to keep some cleanup supplies with you. It doesn't smudge, unless you accidentally rub your eyes, which is a really bad idea.

The mascara is an overachiever, which for me makes it a problem if it gets on the lower lashes (which happens if you work the brush into the corner of your eyes). It's so dark and thick it gives me a too wide-eyed look that borders on the bovine. I had to learn to work with a lighter hand to avoid it. When applied right, the effect is just stunning, to the point I'd suggest to save it for date night. There's a brown version coming out soon, which I hope would be more meet-the-parents friendly.

Givenchy Phenomen'eyes mascara ($27) is available from Sephora. I ordered it online.

Tomorrow We'll talk About This:

Donna Karan Chaos- the reissue

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Two Little PSAs

1) In case you missed the news, Donna Karan has relaunched the legendary discontinued scents, and is making some eBay sellers cry: Chaos, Black Cashmere, Fuel, the Essence series and the original Donna Karan. They've been repackaged in plain bottles, but if the juice is the same, I think we can live with it. The perfumes are exclusive to Bergdorf Goodman (and Harrods, if you're in the UK) and can be ordered by phone: 212-753-7300

2) Colette Paris is collaborating with the Gap flagship store in NYC (5th avenue, near Henri Bendel) and opening a mini-store for one month only, September 6 through October 5, taking the concept of a limited edition to new places. There will be special items made specifically for the occasion and also some famous and highly coveted ones: Le Labo Vanille 44 will be available there.

Photo: Grace Kelly and her mother shopping at Bergdorf. Getty Images.

The Non-Blonde: FAQs, Policies, Guidelines

I've been getting more and more questions and inquiries regarding the behind-the-scenes of beauty blogging and the way I do stuff. I figured it's about time to post something official and try to put all the answers in one public place. Here goes:

Who writes this blog?
The Non-Blonde has only one writer and editor. That would be me. Everything you read here (unless, of course, I'm quoting another source, which I always credit) is mine.

Can I write for The Non-Blonde? I'd do it for free!
Thank you, but at this point I don't have any plans to open this blog to more writers. Guest appearances by my husband notwithstanding.

Who pays you?
No one.  I'm not paid to write or review anything. I get some income through ads on my side bar, but it's not part of the content.

Do you sell posts or links?Can we place our content on The Non-Blonde?
No, no, and no.
No paid content, ever.
And no wire hangers.

Do you accept (free) products for review?
Yes, if it's something I want to try. However, accepting a product doesn't guarantee that I'd end up blogging about it. I only write if I have something to say, good or bad. I figure that if I'm bored, my readers would feel the same.

Do you write negative reviews?
Have you read this blog?

Seriously, when a company gives you freebies, does it mean you'll write a good review?

What makes you an authority about beauty and fashion?
Absolutely nothing. I'm a former math teacher with a business degree and strong opinions. I have a passion for makeup, cosmetics and perfume and nearly 25 years (eek!) of (obsessive) experience as a user. Still, what you read here is nothing but my very personal opinion. Your mileage may very likely vary.

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If you like this blog, you're more than welcome to put a link to it on your own site. It's a great compliment which I deeply appreciate. I might do the same if I feel like it.

What about all the other links you have on your sidebar?
If they're here, it means I really really like them.

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You can link to me, but if you want my actual content and writing featured on your commercial site, you'll need to pay what I charge as a freelance writer. Contact me for details.

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What you see is what you get.

I'm not a doctor, nor am I a health professional. None of my recommendations can be taken as a medical advice. If you have a skin, hair or another health problem, please discuss it with your physician. I am not responsible for any result or consequence of your decision to try a product that worked for me.

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Image: . Botched up manipulation by me.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

An American Blogger In Paris: More Perfume Shopping

Living right next to the Paramus malls and 15 minutes away from Manhattan makes one a bit jaded and hard to impress when it comes to shopping. There are very few things you can't find around here, fashion-wise, but when it comes to perfume shopping I was quite jealous of what I saw in Paris.

I'm not even talking about the obvious ones: Serge Lutens and his bell jars or the gorgeous Guerlain boutique. It's more about the variety and the many options, far above and beyond what we're used to see here.

Let's start with Sephora. While I've been told their stores vary and not all of them are that amazing, the flagship on Champs-Élysées is a huge wonderland. They had just about any beauty and makeup brand I could think of, including Bobbi Brown and Armani (the former has been gone from our Sephoras years ago, the latter has never made it). As far as fragrance goes, I was surprised to see the entire Serge Lutens export line, Bond no. 9, many other brands and scents that have been taken off mainstream shelves in the US (Kenzo Jungle L'Elephant!) and the entire regular (not the Exclusifs) Chanel range in all concentrations, including parfum.

Speaking of Chanel, the perfumes can be found everywhere. From department stores (more about them in a minute) to big and small perfumeries, and the parfums are right there on the shelves. The same goes for Robert Piguet. Here, you're lucky if you see Fracas at a brick & mortar store, but in Paris you can go out and also buy Bandit, Baghari, Cravache and Visa (I think I need a bottle of that. I spritzed it at just about every store I visited, and the verdict is that it makes me happy in all its fruitiness).

A special pleasure are the lovely boutiques of niche and semi-niche lines, where you get to play with the entire range. Parfums de Nicolaï have a couple of stores. We visited the one on avenue Raymond Poincaré, tested a few things and liked the brand as a whole, couldn't find anything we absolutely had to have right away, though Maharnih might be calling my name, after all. There was something in the rich base that grabbed my attention. Maybe the (synthetic) civet.

The Maître Parfumeur et Gantier boutiques are on the baroque side of interior design with their marble floors and lavish decoration, full of ornamental bottles, scented gloves (their specialities) and thy stock the full range, including those scents you rarely see on our shores. They also have an impressive (and expensive) line of home fragrance (I adore the amber). I still prefer their masculine scents to the girly ones, and there is a bottle of Racine in my future.

My one disappointment was Evody, a store famous for niche offerings. I hoped to see a much better selection of Parfumerie Generale and was certain I'd be leaving it with at least one bottle, but they only had about 1o of the scents, which is far less than what you can find at Scent Bar in L.A., and none of the limited editions. They did have all the Lutens, Piguet, By Killian, The Different Company and several other lines, as well as Marc Jacobs Daisy, for some inexplicable reason. Actually, Daisy was everywhere, you couldn't escape it.

We visited Colette, mostly so I could smell their Le Labo exclusive, Vanille 44. It's far less vanilla and much more labdanum, and while I liked it, it wasn't a must-have. I've heard people complain about the noise and chaos atmosphere in Colette, but I actually enjoyed it. It's very informal and you can play with the perfumes (many niche lines and the unavoidable Daisy) as much as you want without a SA breathing down your neck and trying to explain to you about the Comme des Garcons aesthetics. The Blond has fallen hard for Hinoki, which smells fabulous on him: dark and earthy, the funky notes are far less prominent on him than the incense and vetiver. I did my best to like the Juliette has a Gun scents, but failed miserably. One was too fruity and young, the other a boring rose. They didn't like my skin, either. The fashion floor at Colette was fascinating. Hair-raising expensive and gorgeous items. You're not allowed to take pictures and the security guys are very efficient about it, so I have nothing to show, you'll just have to believe me it's worth a visit.

Paris Department stores are not your local Macy's. I don't think I saw even one bottle of Britney Juice or Eau de Donald, but both Printemps and Le Bon Marché have an amazing selection of luxury and niche brands. On top of the many others I've mentioned above, you can waltz in and buy Tom Ford Private Blend, Armani Privé, the entire Miller Harris range, L'Artisan, Annick Goutal (because, apparently, all the free-standing Goutal boutiques are not enough), including Les Orientales (lovely and raising the question regarding Musc Nomade: exactly how many musks do I need?) and Lubin. Le Bon Marché was especially amazing, offering the Il Profumo line (I don't think I've ever seen them outside of Scent Bar) and the quirky bottles of Isabel Capeto. They also have a mini Guerlain boutique (like the one at Bergdorf) that had all the rarities, from the Art et Matière line, Les Parisiennes and the Four Seasons collection.

Something that made my day (or week, even): Printemps have a nice L'Occitane counter. It wouldn't have been worth mentioning, considering I have a L'Occitane store practically a walking distance from home, except for one thing: They were clearing out old stock of the original Neroli perfume, an old favorite of mine, which I was left with less than 1/4 of my last bottle (and recently watched how a bottle on eBay has gone well over $100. I'm not paying that for a L'Occitane). It was 40% off and now I have a lifetime supply.

Less satisfactory but very interesting was a private perfume store, Parfumerie Victor Hugo (130, Avenue Victor Hugo. It's a few stores down from the Frederic Malle boutique and around the corner from Parfums de Nicolai). A mom & pop shop (literally. The owner, her husband and daughter can all be found there) with great selection of cosmetics and fragrance. The makeup includes Chanel, Dior and Clarins, and the perfume section would make your head spin. I don't think I ever saw all the Dior masculines on one shelf, including Jules (!!! I really should have made the Blond get it). There were several other colognes that are considered extinct on our side of the pond (the original Lagerfeld and Calvin Kline) as well as new stock like Encre Noir. On the feminine front they had all the Chanels, including bath and body products, all the export Lutens, By Killian, Piguet and many other brands, old and new (when was the last time you saw Ma Griffe in an actual store?).

I was testing happily when I suddenly saw a very familiar blue box. Niki de Saint Phalle. And I don't mean the EdT. They actually had the parfum, both 1/2 oz and a 1 oz. The prices were outrageous: the smaller bottle was north of 200 euro and the 1 oz was marked well over €300 (I can't remember the exact price for the life of me). Niki, in all its weird glory is among my most favorite perfumes and I was dreading the day my 1/4 oz runs out. So I decided to treat myself to the smaller bottle. Thus begun an hour in which the store's owner and her husband tried to make their their credit card reader work. It took them a while to discover it wasn't connected to the phone, and then there was a whole other saga which we couldn't understand due to the language barrier. It was so aggravating I wasn't thinking straight, otherwise we'd have just walked to the nearest ATM and paid cash. But I just gave up, which turned out to be a very good thing, because I just discovered that have the 1 0z bottle currently in stock for 1/5 of the price. There's also a 10% coupon floating around and free shipping. My bottle has arrived today and I couldn't be happier. It's the real thing and smells as gorgeous as ever.

On top of all the niche and luxury brands you can easily find, there's the mainstream market. There's a Marionnaud store on every corner, which is more or less a b&m equivalent to Fragrancenet, albeit far more expensive (I don't think Paris believes in discounters). But you can try everything on, so no need for crazy unsniffed purchases. I was interested to check the Balmain exclusive, La Môme, which wasn't yet available here. I thought it was nice, but for the price (49€) my socks remained fully unrocked. The same went for the other new Balmain, Ambre Gris that you could see all over Paris. Of course, upon my return I started kicking myself for not getting them, if only for the sake of their hard-to-find status. Thankfully, I didn't have to kick too hard. If you've seen the various perfume forums you know that Parfum1 now has both scents for a lot cheaper. Last week it was $25 each, before the discount code. Now it's been kicked up slightly to around $30, but still a bargain that would make our friends in Paris cry. It's an interesting lesson in global marketing, if nothing else.

All photos are mine. The two at the top are of Niki de Saint Phalle's Stravinsky Fountain near the Pompidou Center. Sadly, the fountain, the sculptures and the entire area are dirty and run down. Some pieces are missing and there's no sign that explains anything about the artist or this creation. We stumbled upon it by chance and immediately recognized her work. One of the sculptures is very similar to the snakes on the perfume bottle.

More perfume shopping in Paris:
Frederic Malle
Serge Lutens
Etat Libre d'Orange

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

An American Blogger In Paris: Father & Sons Menswear

One of our many discoveries (other than a dangerous devotion to pain au chocolat) in our previous visit to Paris was Father & Sons, a smallish brand (about twenty five stores in France and Belgium) of menswear. We stumbled on their original store right by our hotel on avenue du Général Leclerc (in the 14th e.). The colors made us step inside, where the Blond found several items that he absolutely had to have.

We happily returned there during our recent visit (we stayed at the same hotel) and took advantage of their summer sale. The clothes are fun, especially the Sport collection, which is full of comfy, wearable items in both neutrals and bold stripes. The dress items are also nice (I especially liked the ties), but many of them can be bit too much for the average American workplace.

An added bonus of shopping there: the staff is very much on the eye-candy side.

See here for locations (no e-commerce, sadly).

Top two images:
Loot photo: Mine