Thursday, January 31, 2008

Walk The Line- Fresh and Dior Lip Pencils

Talking about lip liners is a bit boring. The subject falls under "if there's something to say about it, you must be doing it wrong", but since lining mistakes would make one channel Pamela Anderson, it is worthy of discussion.

My all-time favorite lip liner is Gypsy Rose from Fresh. They have repackaged it into a double sided pencil together with Poppy Plume, but I'm just happy it's still available. I've been using it for at least five years, maybe longer. It's about half shade darker than my natural lip color and goes perfectly with every plum/rose/mauve gloss or lipstick in my wardrobe. It's easy to apply, says put for hours and does it job in keeping top coats in place.

Yesterday I reviewed the other natural color option, a rosy brown lip stain/gloss, so a good match for that would be Dior lip liner pencil in Natural Beige. The color almost disappears on my lips, which is exactly what I need most of the time. It seals the edges and keeps the lipstick firmly intact, and while it's not as soft as the one from Fresh, it does have a slightly better longevity.

There are other pretty colors in this range and I have my eye on the one in Candy Rose. Testing the shades can be a bit frustrating, as they appear darker on your hand than they'd be on your lips (I'm not the only one who first tries lip products on my hand before putting any on my face, right?), but since the Sephora swatches are a bit off you absolutely must try them in person before making your choice.

Would you try this at home?

A couple of very bold looks were seen on various red carpets last night.

Kate Hudson matched her eyeliner (lower lash!) to her electric blue dress for the L.A. premier of her new movie. She's gorgeous, but I'm getting so much 80s vibe I can practically smell Nancy Reagan.

Hayden Panettiere goes Dita Von Teese glam for an Old Navy event (that sentence alone is enough to raise eyebrows). Is it really a good look for an 18 year old girl?

Images: Faded Youth Blog

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SAG Inspired Lips- Laura Geller Lip Stay

The makeup looks we saw on the red carpet last Sunday inspired a whole bunch of emails asking me to recommend neutral lip colors that would flatter the olive skinned and naturally pigmented lipped among us. It seems like I'm not the only one who thinks that Eva Longoria tends to choose lipsticks that are too pale for her (J. Lo also seems to make a similar mistake very often), unlike the flawless America Ferrera.

While I've already covered the subject in past posts, I do have a new favorite in the natural looking lip color category, and it's even a long-lasting one, that can survive an evening of smiling, kissing and careful champagne sipping.

Laura Geller Lip Stay is a two sided lip product. We've seen several of these in the last couple of years, from Chanel to Max Factor. Lip Stay is very reasonably priced ($13, compared to Chanel at $32, though the Geller one seems to contain less product), but doesn't compromise quality.

I tried it in Pout, a rosy brown color, a bit warmer than my favorite plummish colors (which are usually along the lines of what America Ferrera is wearing in the picture, Lancome's Raisinberry Le Lipstique with on of my most beloved glosses, Color Fever Gloss in On Fire. Scroll down the linked post for my review), but is still very flattering and completely neutral on my face, so it won't clash with a glamorous dress or eye makeup. In the tube there's more than a hint of shimmer, but it disappears on skin. The color is easy to spread, sits pretty, doesn't dry my lips or weigh them down and it stays on for quite a long time, as long as you don't challenge it with very hot beverages.

The clear gloss coat is pretty standard: not too shiny or sticky, not too resilient and smells of vanilla. You'll need to reapply this part throughout the day or night, but that's to be expected.

Tomorrow: A lip liner to match this look.

SAG photos: Just Jared

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Skin Savers: Carol's Daughter Body Products

*** Winners of the Incense Extreme drawing, go back one post ***

And for today's fun:

My ongoing battle against the cuir de crocodile has been very successful this winter. Carol's Daughter body products have been a great asset in this war, and it looks like I have another holy grail cream: their Shea Soufflé. While they offer several other good options, the soufflé is perfect in a Goldilocks way: not too thick, not too thin, just rich enough to feel satisfying and nurturing.

The regular lotion would probably work for everyone who needs good moisturizing without coating the skin too much. Be careful if you also use the hair milk: the bottles look exactly the same and I ended up with lotion in my hair on a couple of dark mornings when I was primping half asleep, not remembering that the hair products are the ones on the left side of my dresser.

The body butter in the flat tin is amazingly rich, but quite greasy. It forms an excellent protective barrier that would work great for those who spend longer periods of time outside than my regular dash from door to car. You need to be careful if you apply it before dressing up, because it would get on your clothes. This is why I prefer to use it for a quiet night at home, before putting on thick PJs. The next morning my skin feels extra soft. Another word of warning: the butters are chock full of natural ingredients, including the color of whatever fruit they are made of. The Mango Mélange has stained my sheets with its orange color. It washed off easily, but you should not use it around your white satins.

The shea soufflé was the most perfect of the three products I tested. Rich, creamy but very absorbent, feels luxurious, pampers the skin and leaves it in a very happy condition for the whole day. With 47% of natural butters and oils, no mineral oil or petroleum (two ingredients that always end up making my skin feel dry), it's fast becoming my favorite skin saver.

Winners: Tauer Incense Extrême

The lucky winners in the Incense Extrême giveaway are:


Please email me your address.

Monday, January 28, 2008

SAG Awards Hair & Makeup

The good news: the smoky eye look seems to be on its way out (I have nothing against the idea of a smoky eye, but what you see on the red carpet is usually lost in translation once you encounter it face to face in the East Village or the Jersey malls). Faces looked fresh, eyes reasonably (unless you're Lisa Rinna) accentuated with black eyeliner and mascara, matte skin, neutral (but usually not beige, except for Eva Longoria who should have gone a couple of shades darker) lips, very little shimmer and no more goopy Paris Hilton mouths.

Christina Applegate's makeup stood out, and not necessarily in her favor. I was happy to see a bolder lip color, but that shimmer all around her eyes looked weird (click on the image to see what I'm talking about).

Teri Hatcher seems as always to have a little more eye makeup than most. And since I didn't have it last night, here's also a picture of her dress:

The bad news is that almost everyone looked like they had their hair and makeup done by the same people. Other than a few actresses (Debra Messing, Marcia Cross, Angelina Jolie) the ruling hairstyle was the soft, messy updo. The weather didn't help things. It rained in L.A during the day and made for a soggy red carpet and frizzy hair.

Another thing of note is the absence of necklaces. Instead, everyone seems to have opted for long, dangling earrings. there were also some pretty bracelets.

An overview of the dresses is in last night's post.

Images: Just Jared, A Socialite's Life

Sunday, January 27, 2008

SAG Awards- The Red Carpet Show

What do we have so far?

Six blue dresses (Marcia Cross, Andrea Bowen, Amanda Bynes, Nikki Blonski, Jenna Fischer, Kyra Sedgwick), two yellow dresses (Vanessa Williams, Kate Beckinsale), two florals (Teri Hatcher in Badgley Mischka, Cate Blanchett in a stunning Balenciaga) and a Seacrest-less crew that looks as uncomfortable without him as I am watching them conducting the most embarrassing red carpet coverage I've ever watched.

Other than lots of blue, metallic seems to be the order of the day, from platinum (Christina Applegate in Elie Saab) to gold (Debra Messing, in an Oscar De La Renta dress that was better in theory than in real life with all that armpit cleavage).

Little black dresses seem to be making a comeback (were they ever really out?) on Tina Fey in Alberta Ferretti and Ellen Page in Zac Posen, two of the most likable and eloquent actresses on the red carpet.

As far as hair goes, lots of soft, messy updos with long bangs. It's everywhere to a point where Debra Messing and her flowing open curls seem innovative. Or dated. I have yet to decide.

(Did I just hear Teri Hatcher and her unmoving forehead declaring she doesn't believe in Botox?)

From the look of Angelina Jolie's dress it seems like the pregnancy rumours might be true. I hope so, actually. Otherwise there's no excuse for all that tie-dye fabric. There's definitely enough room for twins in there.

There were few really dramatic dresses. Eva Longoria in Naeem Khan and Ellen Pompeo in Nina Ricci did the Old Hollywood thing successfully. Sandra Oh, on the other hand, not so much.

And Lisa Rinna is Little Miss Tacky:
Hair and makeup in the next post.

Photos: Faded Youth Blog, E!Online, People, Just Jared

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Lost Perfumes: Balenciaga Cristobal

In 1998, thirty years after Cristobal Balenciaga left his fashion house and 24 years after his death, his namesake perfume was launched into a very different fashion scene than it was during the designer's 1950s golden age.

It's interesting to note that Balenciaga's retirement is often associated with the increasing importance and profitability of the ready-to-wear market as opposed to the meticulous couture tailoring he was known for. But let's be honest: He was also in his early 80s, so that might have been a bigger factor than the commercialization of designer names and high fashion.

The perfumes that were launched by the designer himself, Le Dix (1947) and Quadrille (1955) have been watered-down and reformulated until someone at the Gucci Group, the house's current owner, has decided to put them out of their misery and discontinued them together with almost all the other Balenciaga fragrances. One of them is the 1998 Cristobal, a scent which was probably supposed to capture and evoke the spirit of the late designer.

Did the perfume succeed in doing so?
Maybe. It depends on your view of the Balenciaga label.

If you only look at the originality and detailed, luxurious perfectionism, then the answer is no. Despite the beautiful bottle with its elaborate cap, Cristobal the fragrance with its fruity-floral-vanilla based blend was far from a new concept in refined perfumery. However, dig deeper into the house's legacy and you'll find that Mr. Balenciaga was responsible for such creations as the cocoon coat, balloon skirt, the babydoll silhouette and the sack dress. Basically, some of the worst fashion trends of all time when taken out of their original context and made into an over-the-top, unflattering clothes that tend to wear the fashion victim who puts them on instead of it being the other way round.

Is Cristobal the fragrance equivalent of a balloon jacket?
Not entirely, because unlike a garment that makes your midriff look huge, Cristobal can actually be a very feminine and attractive scent, as long as you're careful not to let it have the upper hand. It's quite sexy with the ripe fig and vanilla combination, but if you're not careful the honeyed fig grows into a big juicy plum that will take over and suffocate you with its richness.

The perfume is quite sweet and there's no amount of sandalwood that can rescue it from being a big diva. I have the EdP version and only a vague recollection of what the EdT smells like, so maybe the less dense formula is easier on the noses of your elevator mates. That said, in the right setting and weather conditions (I'd be wary of wearing it when the temperatures start climbing back up), Cristobal has the potential to be a romantic aphrodisiac.

What's left of the Balenciaga perfume collection can still be found from the discount e-tailers and occasionally on eBay.

Okadi, Pheonix Art Museum and Di Moda.

Beauty Blogs Making Headlines

Women's Wear Daily has a semi-interesting article about beauty blogs, their growing influence on consumers and the way companies, retailers and traditional media are coping with us. Some are learning to live with it and even develop respect for independent opinions, others are launching their own blogs, trying to reach out more directly by skipping the usual purple prose of an ad campaign.

Here's the link, but you need a subscription to read the full article.

I had to stifle a little giggle when reading this quote by Stacy Baker, editorial director of Sephora: "A blogger has to know what she's talking about and have the résumé — or at least citations — to backbone her opinion,".
(For the record: My issue with Sephora was never with their beauty products, of which they still offer a great selection. My gripe is with their perfume department that is sinking deeper and deeper into the realms of Pink Sugar and the lowest common denominator)

What do you think? What bothers you more: lack of formal beauty credentials or the obvious obligation traditional media has to its advertisers?

Image: The Little Writer by Raccoon with a Cigar, from deviantArt

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Misunderstood- Laura Geller Balance-N-Bronze

Here's a product that gets quite a bit of bad rap (just look at the reviews on MakeupAlley), and I don't think it's justified. Laura Geller's Balance-N-Bronze is a split compact, a two-in-one product. One side is Bronze-n-Brighten (basically, a bronzer), the other is Balance-n-Brighten (a mineral makeup-style pressed powder).

I came across it in Sephora, tried it a couple of times before deciding I love it and got to have it, despite the reviews. After all, my skin knows best.

Unlike many of the disappointed reviwers, I don't try to use it as two separate products (I agree that doing that wouldn't be very efficient given the medium sized compact). It's the mix of both the bronzer and the colored powder that works so well and making it into a unique entity that's worth the precious shelf space in my cabinet.

I swirl a soft blush powder over both sides and then swipe it on my face just as I would a light bronzer and/or a powder. What I get is a very soft non-shimmery but glowy tan in a shade that matches my skin perfectly. It also adds a notch of coverage to my light and sheer foundation, gives it a smooth finish. What makes BnB special to me is the lack of shimmer and the natural color. It's always appropriate and never looks overdone. If I want a little more drama I can always add a little blush where appropriate, but for daytime it's hardly needed. It does a great job evening out my complexion, but unlike mineral makeup that comes as loose powder, it doesn't make my skin look weird, waxy or resemble Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. And that, my friends, is a very good thing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Shadows- Tauer Perfumes Incense Extrême (and a readers giveaway!)

The samples of Incense Extrême arrived a few weeks ago, the same day as the package containing my new camera. I ignored the bigger box and ripped open the envelop with the Swiss postmark. You got to have priorities and digital cameras don't smell.

Like all Tauer fragrances, Incense Extrême takes you places. While Andy described it on his blog as a minimalist scent, there's absolutely nothing here (thankfully!) to remind you of the biggest minimalist of them all, Jean-Claude Ellena (can I say thankfully again?). You get that unmistakable Tauer touch which goes from the top notes all the way through to the base that has more than a little of the "Tauerade". The frankincense is peppery and fresh at first, then becomes darker, woody and dry. Very very dry.

The "extrême" in the name might make you expect an over-the-top Catholic church on steroids kind of incense, or the entire CdG Incense Series crammed into a single bottle (Zagorsk would eat them all). This is not that scent. Instead, you get the different faces of frankincense, paired with a little wood and a little orris. Some feel it has a lot in common with Andy's limited edition, Orris, but my skin doesn't support this theory. Orris is more kaleidoscopic with the different layers picking here and there and revealing themselves almost randomly. Incense Extrême is much more streamlined and pulled-together. There's starkness in it, bold and clean, it dries down almost soapy, remains close to the skin, with just a hint of the shadows lurking from beneath.

Andy has warned me that this scent is basically masculine and would suit my husband better than me. A masculine label has ever stopped me before and I like wearing this scent, but when I smelled it on my husband I knew what he meant. A man's skin (or my man's skin) brings out more of the dark and mysterious part of the scent, those dark silhouettes on a bare ground.

Incense Extrême would be available starting tomorrow from Luckyscents. I have a few samples to give away, so if you're interested please leave a comment. I'll announce the winners early next week.

Art: Pine Shadows by Hamilton Aguiar from the Vinings Gallery.

The Devil Wears Too Much Blush

It's not just the makeup that seems a bit too pink (click on the image to see more clearly). Anna Wintour isn't really the floral dresses type, is she? And the jewelry (most likely a Boucheron, since the picture was taken last night at their 150th anniversary) is a bit too much for this look.

photo: A Socialite's Life

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Goddess of Pretty Things- The Goddess Guide by Gisèle Scanlon (Book Review)

Ignore the name. Despite the immediate associations, there's nothing new-agey, pseudo-spiritual or faux-empowerment in this book. It's not that kind of goddess.

Gisèle Scanlon, a Dublin-based illustrator and lifestyle journalist, created a book that looks like one of those pretty journals you see in stores, and is already full of scrapbook-like pages made of collages, mementos, photos, stories and little tips. It's about living in style, shopping for the best and enjoying every minute of doing it.

Had I been fifteen years younger, I'd probably regard this book as a bible for all that's pretty. Of course, back then I couldn't afford most of the recommendations, but it would have fueled the fantasy. Now that I can actually pursue the stores I also have my own opinion on most of the topics covered in the book, and a salt cellar full of grains when it comes to style gurus. Thus, I go for Manolo shoes instead of the too obvious Louboutins, I already know that I'm anosmic to whatever musk Narciso Rodriguez has poured into his perfume and when it comes to luxurious food, my top choice is this and not a steak bèarnaise.

Not that any of this takes away from this book's charm (and many good points and ideas). It's just that at this point in my life it's my own style that takes center stage and I'm a bit critical when it comes to other people's marketed ideas.

A fact that definitely explains this blog.

The biggest flaw of this book is the very little (if any) adjustment that was done for the American edition. Most of the stores and addresses given are in the UK, and while some can't be avoided, especially when talking about very specific items, there is room for some research and editing. The perfume chapter is a good example. Many great fragrances are mentioned, but you'd think none are available in the US, because only two stores are listed: Slatkin & Co. and Bond no.9, while all of the scents (except for the exclusive Serge Lutens Bois de Violette) can be found in NYC at Barneys, Bergdorf or the Chanel and Caron boutiques.

Still, The Goddess Guide is highly enjoyable. It's whimsical and personal, based on Ms. Scanlon's own experience, travels and good taste. It's beautifully done, full of joie de vivre and would be a pleasurable reading on a rainy afternoon or a fabulous gift for a young woman taking her first steps in style.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Serge Lutens- Ambre Sultan

Every once in a while I find a perfume that makes me stop in my tracks and realize that "this" is how things should smell. It's the scent equivalent of what Tim Gunn calls "Soul Stirrers" when he talks about clothes people should keep in their wardrobes (versus all those "meh" items that should never have been bought to begin with). In Serge Lutens collection of Soul Stirrers, Ambre Sultan manages to remain a major achievement.

On my skin, Ambre Sultan is very gourmand, from top to base. The spicy-herbal opening of coriander, bay leaf and oregano takes me straight to foreign markets and exotic kitchens (even though they are all staples in my own kitchen, so how exotic can it really be?). It goes greener and more resinous before settling into a sweet benzoin-vanilla base that still sparkles with amber and spice and completely lacks the powder quality that so often comes with the territory.

The rich and dark qualities make Ambre Sultan perfect for a cold day, though I loved the courage displayed by Tom, who reviewed it for Perfume Smellin' Things and braved it successfully on a July day in L.A..

Unlike another big amber (which I love and wear), Ambre Russe (Parfum d'Empire), this isn't boozey and only half as sweet. It also stays closer to my skin, and while long lasting (12 hours, easily), despite the assertive blast of the first spray it is not a sillage monster and can be used generously. I love having a significant amount of it on me. It feels like my favorite cashmere dress, warm and cozy, refined, well-made and incredibly flattering.

Ambre Sultan is available from top department stores (Neiman's, Barneys, Bergdorf in the US, Selfridges in the UK) as well as from Aedes in NYC and Scent Bar in Los Angeles. It can also be bought in a bell jar from the Salon du Palais Royal Shiseido in Paris.

Art from The Vinings Gallery: Journey Inward II by Pamela Sukhum.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

More Celeb Makeup, Good And Bad

Catherine Zeta Jones shows how to take a trend, like icy blue eye makeup, and get it to make sense on a real face by only doing it as an eyeliner and keeping everything else neutral. However, something went awry with her complexion and she could have used a mattifying primer, pore reducer or powder (click on the picture to see what I mean). I'd buy the lip color, though.

Tilda Swinton might have the most beautiful eyes in showbiz, but even she can't get away with no eyelashes and disappearing eyebrows. Her lips look parched under the dry, matte and too dark lipstick. The more I look at this picture, the more I want to chase her down the road with a mascara wand and a moisturizing lipstick in a soft color.

Photos: A Socialite's Life

The Slayer

While I don't love the dress and the hair looks a little off from some angles, Sarah Michelle Gellar's makeup is beautiful in these pictures from the premier of The Air I Breath last night. She doesn't have anything too trendy or extreme on her face, everything is perfectly balanced to flatter her features. Her eyes sparkles, her lips have the right amount of color and her skin glows while not oompa loompaing the tan.

Photos: DListed

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