Thursday, July 30, 2009

Chanel Rouge Allure Fall 2009: Clandestine and Amusing

It's nearly impossible to go wrong with a Chanel lipstick. My choice from the six new shades for the season were Clandestine and Amusing. Neither one goes with Murano, the the eye quad palette (though braver souls without an 80s trauma might be willing to try Amusing with this strong eye look) , which calls for a more muted color, but they both go with me.

Amusing (left) is a brown based rose. It's dark enough to make a statement but still office-appropriate.

Clandestine (right) is a much warmer color- it's brick red but doesn't cross the line towards orange. It calls to mind a fall day and lights up the face. Please remember to exfoliate and use a liner, as Clandestine is quite red.

Both are creamy, comfortable and give excellent coverage. Amusing has a superb staying power that even resists a cup of tea.

Bottom line: Love.

Chanel Rouge Allure lipsticks ($30 each) are available from the nicer department stores and I bought them at Neiman Marcus.

Photo: mine. in the background you can see my tomato plants. They've grown significantly since I took the picture and I get to pick fresh tomatoes almost daily.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

NARS Smudge Brush No.15

I can't say I'm very loyal to any brand of makeup brushes. I pick the ones that feel nicely balanced in my hand and seem to be the right size for the job. Recently I needed something very specific- a narrow brush to apply dark eye shadow right on the lash line and do a little smudging, both on the upper lashes and the bottom ones. I looked at several options, and selected NARS No. 15 Smudge Brush.

It delivers perfectly. While I rarely do a real smoky eye, I use (very) dark eye shadows on the lid and blend them into my eye liner. I also like applying just a hint of color right into the lower lashes without getting a bovine or a basset hound effect. The NARS smudge brush does the trick very efficiently. It picks just the right amount of eye shadow and places it where it belongs. How did I live without it for so long?

Bonus photo of Buffy, just because she's so pretty:

NARS No. 15 smudge brush ($25.50) is available from Sephora  online and in store, and

All photos are mine. As is the cat.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ormonde Jayne Ta'if

Ta'if by British perfume house Ormonde Jayne is both playful and romantic. Sort of like the images I chose above. In theory- Ta'if is a rose scent, so the romance isn't a surprise. The unexpected elements are three:
1. the sparkling, peppery opening
2. the spicy, not very feminine drydown
3. I love it

I had several expectations when I ordered the Ormonde Jayne sample pack last year. I knew I was going to love Tolu, the big-boned, balsamic oriental (and I do), shrug off the white florals (ditto), adore Woman and Orris Noir (not so much) and dislike Ta'if on account of the rose- this note tends to go sour on my skin.

Ta'if became my first full bottle of this line.

I could tell from the very beginning that there's something different about this fragrance. Pink pepper might have become a modern perfumery cliche, but when it works it really does a bottle good. In this case, the top notes sparkle and shine. It feels uplifting and fun from the first moment, and also very pretty. The rose is pretty big here. It's honeyed, sweet and rounded with rich fruit. I can't really spot the dates, but I believe they are responsible for the honey-like part. I get some peachiness, in the best possible way, or maybe a peach liqueur, because there's some very pleasant booziness, balanced by a dry wood-spice drydown.

As the hours go by it's no longer all about rose. The big red flower is still there, but other notes are more pronounced and there's a spicy feeling. The obvious question here is about a possible similarity to Malle's Noir Epices, but I get none. I like Noir Epices well enough, but it doesn't move me. It's sharper and definitely not as sweet. I also can't compare it to some of the rosy Montale fragrances, as each and every one I tried so far turned into a sour mess on me.

The final drydown of Ta'if is an amber-wood-vanilla with a gentle rose floating just above. It's not projecting much, but it wraps the skin in a pleasant, soft and inviting aura that holds for about 8 hours. The perfume blooms nicely, both in the heat and while working out (don't give me this look: I do it in private, not in a crowded gym), but I loved it just as much last winter. It had a summery promise.

For a male perspective read Dane's review over at PereDePierre.

Ta'if, as all the other Ormonde Jayne perfumes (£68.00 for 50 ml) is available from the London boutique (12 The Royal Arcade 28 Old Bond Street). Thankfully, they have a beautiful and functional e-commerce site, , and they are happy to ship overseas. They also have a sample program that gives you generous samples of all 11 fragrances for £35.00 (shipping is free, but they do not subtract the VAT. Just pick a day the exchange rate isn't too atrocious).

images: Vogue Red Rose cover from, Valentino Rose Vertigo purse from Bergdorf Goodman

La Bella Donna Baci Baci Lip Sheer

I received La Bella Donna Baci Baci Lip Sheer in Prism months ago in some goodie bag and put it aside since the color, a less-than-medium pink, didn't excite me. But I finally started testing it and over the last few weeks it has slowly been growing on me, mostly because of a great (if sticky) texture. The cool silvery click pen is also a nice feature. It gives me the illusion this product is cleaner and less likely to get contaminated.

While Prism is, indeed, too light for my taste, it's so sheer that the pigment doesn't play a role here. On me, it acts like a clear, super shimmery gloss. It's good for when I want to wear a very dark lipstick but take it down a notch. However, the amount of shimmer (borderline glittery, actually) still confines it for nighttime. La Bella Donna Baci Baci Lip Sheer (that's a mouthful, for sure) is as moisturizing as they promise. It's a bit sticky, but I guess this helps with the staying power, which is higher than average for a gloss. It wears comfortably, and as an added bonus, all that moisture is very plumping. So much so that even my husband noticed and commented on it (not sure he liked it, though, but I sort of did. The pillowy effect is quite nice).

As a bonus, I discovered that this Baci Baci Lip Sheer works wonders with the dud that is Serge Lutens Lip Tint. I experimented one afternoon- first applied a generous amount of the Encre Pour Les Levres, let it set and then put on a coat of this gloss. The stickiness of Baci Baci prevented it from smearing and wiping the Serge, and since Prism is practically clear, it just coated my lips with a good amount of pearly moisture and extended the lips stain's life.

Now, while Prism is nice and a clear gloss has definitely a place in my arsenal, it's not one I'd choose myself. I'd prefer a darker shade, and especially one with less shimmer. I've read that some of the other colors in this range are not shimmery at all, but the teeny-tiny color swatches on the La Bella Donna site are utterly useless:

Seriously. How is one supposed to choose a color/texture from this thing? The only informed decision possible here is to go elsewhere for shopping, and La Bella Donna, as a small, independent brand that is in very limited distribution is losing big time from this inadequate website. Once again I find myself trying to remind a company that this is not 1999. They must give us a much better user experience if they want our money.

La Bella Donna Baci Baci Lip Sheer ($26.50) is available online from their website, It's also sold at a handful salons and spas. Bergdorf Goodman used to carry the brand, but last time I was there I didn't see the display and it's no longer on the Bergdorf website, so I suspect the line was recently dropped. While Bergdorf website doesn't list it, La Bella Donna is still sold there, so it should be available by phone and in store. I'm going to search again the next time I'm there.

Fall 2009 Makeup- Plum Lipsticks From YSL and Nars

The new dark plum colors we're seeing for fall 2009 are making me very happy. They're pretty, sexy and sophisticated. Here we see two of the leading looks: Nars (sheer lipstick in Fast Ride) and YSL (Rouge Volupté #22 Exquisite Plum). I plan to buy the latter, as I prefer the texture of YSL products (Nars lipsticks are often too dry for me, even the sheer ones).

Which one is your favorite? Are you going to get a plum colored lipstick this season?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Boots No.7 Protect & Perfect Beauty Serum

I wasn't sure that I'm the right person to test Boots No.7 Protect & Perfect Beauty Serum. My skin doesn't betray the fact I'm 15 months shy of my 40th birthday (good genes and compulsive maintenance. A disgustingly clean lifestyle doesn't hurt, either). However, the lines I do have are hereditary and are part of my expression: laugh lines near my eyes, and my forehead shows the signs of developing frown lines identical to my father's. Apparently, mothers everywhere were right: your face really does end up getting stuck like that. In addition, I also noticed recently that there's another line forming between my eyebrows. All that crankiness really doesn't do much for one's face, but I was sure the only salvation is Botox.

Still, when a product like Protect & Perfect serum gains not only a cult of followers that methodically clean out the shelves at Target, but also has some scientific that actually supports its claims, it means I need to try it. One day I actually found a lone box in the Boots No.7 aisle at the store, so it went home with me.

That started a twice daily new skin care routine. Protect & Perfect goes on smoothly and is quick to absorb. It's a good thing because you must follow up with a moisturizer, as this product feels a bit dry. It never clashed with any of my creams, and basically just went into the skin and stayed there, doing its thing. The box promised results within four weeks. I didn't see any change in the forehead situations, but honestly, I didn't expect to see anything. However, something was different and it took me a little while to realize that Protect & Perfect must be the best pore minimizer I've ever come across. My pores are pretty small to begin with, so it wasn't a big change, but getting an even smoother skin was a very welcome surprise.

I kept using the serum. Two or three weeks later I was scrutinizing my forehead and could not deny there was something going on. I didn't turn into Nicole Kidman or anything, but frowny 1, 2 and 3 (yes, they have names) were significantly less obvious. The line between the eyebrows, though, was still very much there and I was ready to declare that the serum does diddly squat for that kind of wrinkles. Until this week, when I started to suspect there actually is some difference. I can't prove it and everything was pretty subtle to begin with- it's not like any of these lines were that noticeable for the non-obsessive observer, but something is definitely happening.

The laugh lines are still in place, but that's how it should be for anyone who isn't Renee Zellweger.

Bottom line: I'm buying another bottle. Or maybe I'll go with the Intense version. More serumy goodness can't hurt.

Boots No.7 Protect & Perfect Beauty Serum ($21.99) is sometimes available from Target, in store and online. I bought it locally.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Matte Nail Polish- Zoya MatteVelvet Fall 2009

It looked like a good idea at the time.

With formerly extreme nail polish colors like black, green and indigo becoming acceptable in polite company, came the demand for something cool and new. Enter matte nail polish. The new trend is a departure from the ultra shiny nails we're used to see. No more piling on layers of glossy top coats to maintain luster. In fact, the new matte nails require that you use neither base coat nor top coat. It goes on over clean and dry nails (it's best to use a polish remover before application, to make sure there's no trace of lotions or other greasy substances).

I got to play with Zoya MatteVelvet, a collection of three colors in the new finish. Posh is a shimmery deep red, Loredana is a shimmery gunmetal gray and Dovima is a velvety black shimmer. The new colors come in a frosted glass bottle that actually hides the shimmer. The polish is actually has a muted metallic glint and a fabric-like appearance, which is where the problem starts for me.

The polish goes on easily, dries down in seconds (amazing. I wish all nail polish worked like this) and is essentially fool proof. But while the color is pretty and it's interesting, my nails end up looking fuzzy, like something went wrong. It's just not something I enjoy. The matte polish looks best in dim lighting, which brings out the best in this finish. It actually looks lit from within. But in broad daylight, said fuzziness occurs. Add to that the longevity issue (the Zoya website is very honest and warns you about it. It's a special formula and is not supposed to last) that causes flaking and chipping within 24 hours, and this is just not for me. I simply don't like this trend.

I removed the polish after two days, but that's probably because I couldn't wait to start playing with Zoya Truth and Dare, the two special collections for fall 2009. Both have gorgeous, deep colors with a sturdy, glossy finish. Photos coming soon.

Zoya MatteVelvet collection for fall 2009 ($6 per bottle) is available from select salons and the company's website, I received it as a PR freebie.

photos: mine. models: Peter (gray) and Buffy (white)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jean Patou Ma Liberte - The Lost Perfumes

Ma Liberte from Jean Patou was launched in 1987, a year that saw Glenn Close boil a bunny, Jon Bon Jovi livin' on a prayer, Bono still not finding what he was looking for, and the major events in my 17 year old world were acquiring and losing my first boyfriend and lamenting the disbanding of my beloved Smiths.

Other perfumes from that year include my long time favorites Panthere de Cartier and Tiffany, LouLou by Cacharel which my sister used to fumigate her bedroom, the classic elevator clearer Passion from Elizabeth Taylor and 66 others, most, just like Ma Liberté, are now discontinued.

If it were launched today (probably not by the fallen house of Patou, now part of Proctor & Gamble's toothpaste empire), Ma Liberté could have easily been a unisex niche scent. It completely lacks the shoulder pads or any of the characteristics of that decade and there's no way you'd imagine Nancy Reagan wearing it.

Ma Liberté has an elegant modern feel and a perfect balance of a crisp, almost light top and a warm, slightly dirty base. I get a lot of lavender in the opening, and something green and citrusy. The former stays on while the latter fades as the spicy, somewhat abstract floral notes make their soft entrance. But most of the perfume and what makes the lengthy drydown is a gorgeous leather-tobacco note that stays on forever. I get 10-12 hours of this perfumes (my bottle is the EdP), and while its sillage is restrained, there's no mistaking it in your very personal space.

It's this drydown that makes Ma Liberté both unisex and unique. The leather is soft and the tobacco warm, dry and inviting. It gives a rich and sophisticated feeling, as though you're in the know of a secret or two, but never ever (and I've worn it on a couple of really hot days this month) gets vulgar.

Just another reason to sigh about Jean Patou's fading glory.

Ma Liberté by Jean Patou was officially discontinued a few years ago. Bottles of the EDT are still available online for around $40. I don't know how much they differ than the EDP, which is what I reviewed here. The higher concentrations pop from time to time on various sites like eBay and Basenotes.

Top photo: an 1987 cover of French Vogue, featuring the amazing Christie Turlington
Bottle and Giselle: both photos are mine

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chanel Quadra Eye Shadow in Murano, Waterproof Eyeliner in Celadon

I've shown you a preview of Venise de Chanel for fall 2009, so now we're starting to look at the details, and they are green.

This isn't the first time we're seeing these greens in a Chanel quad. The Garden Party palette from fall 2007 had similar colors, but Murano has an extra green and the pink shadow is much lighter:

Speaking of the pink one, it's very sheer and extremely shimmery. The result is beautiful but utterly not appropriate for daytime. I mean it. It's like walking around covered with fairy dust. It's lovely for a night out, would work for the Holidays, but it's not office material. The shimmer also tends to scatter around the eye area (even when wearing a good primer), so some cleanup is necessary, unless you're going for the Tinkerbell look. I'm not.

The other shadows are the big story here. They are more iridescent than shimmery, which is particularly beautiful in green. I use the medium green in the crease and blend it into the neutral base (anything nude would work, I like the one from Le Meitier de Beaute for its perfect silky texture). Lining and shading with the darkest green adds more drama to this look. Done subtly, it can be worn during the day with no problem and no scary 70s-80s flashbacks. It can also be taken up a notch or two by using the Celadon eyeliner pencil and applying/smudging the eye shadow using a smoky eye technique.

Quality-wise, both the shadows and the eyeliner pencil are great. Other than the pink one that sheds shimmery particles, all the green colors stay put and don't budge. Pigment intensity is better than in many of the other Chanel quads (they tend to be on the sheer side), and the texture is fine and easy to work with. The eyeliner has enough creaminess to apply easily, but it doesn't bleed or smudge. I usually prefer gel or liquid liners, but the celadon color was pretty and unique enough to justify a purchase.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Route du Vetiver (Old And New)

Route du Vetiver is one of those perfumes that make me wonder if I like it because it smells good or because it's so interesting, bold and unlike anything you'd find in the wardrobe of most women my age. Of course, this MPG creation is part of their masculine line and the bottle I have actually belongs to my husband (who smells much better in it than I do, if I'm being completely honest).

Route du Vetiver is sharp and medicinal from start to finish. One needs to really like vetiver on all its aspects in order to appreciate it. It has everything: the green, the earthiness and the dry blades of grass. And then some. If you think Frederic Malle's Vetiver Extrodinaire is on the extreme side (I don't. It softens considerably on my skin), RdV would teach you an unforgettable lesson in vetiver.

That isn't to say that Route du Vetiver is linear. It isn't. The perfume develops and unfolds, the heart is even darker with the wet, just-dug roots, and the base is a bit more mellow, showing signs of wood. I could swear I smell oud, especially in the older version. Speaking of which, the original RdV, before Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier repackaged and reformulated it was even edgier. I happen to think that in this case the reformulation, while taking away from the perfume's originality (and probably also quality of the raw materials), might have done this scent a favor in terms of wearability (and definitely marketability). I have a small amount of the original (I can't call it "vintage", as it's only a few years old) and it's absolutely stunning in its complex top notes. It has more sweetness and an additional medicinal note that might or might not come from oud. After the opening wears off, the two versions start to smell very similar, and the drydown is the same (I tested this by dabbing from the new bottle the same way as from the older samples).

The new version is the one in the 100 ml (3.3 oz) bottles. If you're punched in the face by an evil vetiver in a slightly smaller, 90ml (3 oz) bottles, that's the original Route du Vetiver. Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier made the change about two years ago, which was probably when they started having serious financial problems. It's quite evident that things haven't improved there. This year they've closed at least one of their beautiful Paris boutiques and the most recent blow was losing their North American distributor. It's not clear what exactly has happened. I've heard all kinds of rumors. Some said the American distributor went out of business, others said MPG can no longer afford to produce the required volume to stay on American shelves. Since it looks like other major retail venues in the UK are dropping this line, I suspect the problem is rather serious. I have no idea how much truth there's in either story, but the bottom line is that none of the stores is getting any new shipments, though there are plenty of bottles around, online and offline. I was at Henri Bendel in NYC, where the entire range was still available three weeks ago. Things might have changed since then.

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Route du Vetiver retails around $110. I bought my (husband's) bottle online from BeautyHabit about a year ago (they're already out of stock). It's worth seeking a sample, but please don't buy blind. It might end in tears.

photo of vetiver and its roots:

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Oscar Blandi Luce

Oscar Blandi Luce looks like a conditioner. But it isn't one, as I've learned the hard way.

Luce is a light glossing treatment. I'm all for shine, which was why I picked this cute (but utterly inconvenient) bottle to begin with. But the problems started from the first use. I followed directions and started by washing and conditioning my hair (using the Oribe Signature products), then applied Luce, covered with a shower cap and gave it time to work. As I rinsed it, I could already tell that my hair felt too thick and had a weird texture. The problem with this product is the way it coats, thickens and separates each and every hair. I have too much hair for it to be a good thing, and no amount of goop in the known world could conquer the frizz.

But I'm a beauty blogger. I do my research and I try stuff so you don't have to. Which is why I didn't toss the bottle. I've read that this Oscar Blandi product needs continued use before you can expect to see results, so I kept applying it for another couple of weeks. While there was a little less frizz and my curls looked a bit shinier than usual, it still was not making me happy. I also made the grave mistake to test Luce without using a conditioner first. It was one bad hair day from hell. This product has absolutely no detangling capabilities and it doesn't nourish hair. At all.

I have yet to test Luce before straightening my hair with the styling iron. But frankly, since hair-ironing requires a couple of extra products (protective cream and finishing serum) as it is, I'm a bit reluctant to go this way.

Bottom line: Oscar Blandi Luce is not for me. My hair has enough shine as it is, since I don't color it and I use heavy duty masks and conditioners, so whatever gloss this products adds isn't worth the hassle of an extra step in the shower or the thick, frizzy hair that comes with it.

Oscar Blandi Luce ($25 for 8 oz) is available from Sephora and I bought it online, but can't remember from which one of these two stores.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I Know What You Did Last Summer- The Perfume Edition

Scents for summer fun

Ayala of Smelly Blog has organized this blogging event to celebrate a fragrant summer. It's a bit different than a Top 10 list, because we're focusing on pairing of perfumes and summer activities: real, imaginary and nostalgic. I tried to avoid the canonic when possible, so once again, not a word about Eau d'Hadrien...

1. Let's get the biggest cliche out of the way. A scent for the beach. CB I Hate Perfume At The Beach 1966 is to me the ultimate scent for one's yellow polka dot bikini. Skin, sea salt and lots of vintage Coppertone. Close your eyes and you're on the boardwalk on the Jersey Shore.

2. The classier alternative to hanging out on the beach is sailing. Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel smells like sea air without being aquatic. There's enough wood there to make you think of a polished yacht. Another contender in this category is Sel de Vetiver by The Different Company. A sophisticated touch of salt on skin. Just tie a silk scarf in your hair.

3. From salty to sweet- a day at the theme park. Sticky, sweet and fun, but still with a summery vibe and that special something in the air. Balmain Ambre Gris is all that.

4. There's nothing like taking a nap in a cool room after spending hours outside in the sun. White curtains moving in the breeze, crisp sheets and a perfume that evokes hot, dry air and sensuality. L'Air du Desert Marocain by Tauer is like nothing else.

5. Jet Setting around the globe calls for something light in a big bottle, but with enough personality. Dior Escale à Portofino is more than a simple citrus cologne. It's sweeter and richer with notes like almond, caraway, galbanum and musk and conveys an old world elegance.

6. A drive-in movie in an old convertible car. I haven't done that in decades, but the memories are sweet... Etro Gomma makes me think of leather interior and fresh air. Only the popcorn is missing.

7. A summer fling. Intoxicating and nostalgic, look back with a smile. Annick Goutal Quel Amour! is fruity and sweet. Girly without being utterly silly and goes perfectly with a sun dress, a tan and a cute guy in the ice cream parlor.

8. A sexy night out on the town. You need a fragrance that blooms, intoxicates and takes over the stinky NYC August air. Tauer Un Rose Chypree is the ultimate in romance and would make the simplest dress seem unforgettable; Narcotic by Strange Invisible Perfumes is a green tuberose over a vanilla base. An honorable mention goes to Tom Ford Neroli Portofino and even better (if you can find it) the original and discontinued L'Occitane Neroli .

9. Attending a summer wedding. A pretty outdoors venue on a Saturday afternoon, your second cousin is already smashed and your great uncle Eddie is doing the robot. Keep cool and calm with the always-appropriate Serge Lutens Clair de Musc or Fleurs de Citronnier. That is, unless you're a reluctant bridesmaid and the bride has made you wear something pink and hideous with a big bow on your behind. In that case just put on Miel de Bois and see how that clears a path wherever you go.

10. An afternoon on the patio, a pitcher of iced tea and homemade ice cream (one can dream). Put some citrus geranium leaves in your tea and wear Parfumerie Generale's Jardin de Kerylos. A crisp and dry fig, with floral notes and not a hint of coconut. It makes even my Jersey back yard look pretty.

Please visit the other participating bloggers:

Bittergrace Notes

I Smell Therefore I am


Moving and Shaking

Perfume Shrine

+Q Perfume Blog

Savvy Thinker

Scent Hive

Smelly Blog

Photo: Santa Monica Pier 1920 from Dr. X's Free Associations

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lancome Absolue Hand vs. Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv Hand Cream

A hand cream face-off

Last week when I talked about using unloved high end face creams and serums on hands, my friend Tom commented on how important it is to keep the paws from showing signs of aging. Crepey skin, brown spots... not pretty. The thing is that most regular hand creams are good for providing a protective layer from drying environment, but they do little (read: diddly squat) in the anti-aging department. We're lucky if they have an SPF, but mostly they're either overpriced Vaseline or some version of body butter. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but we need more.

Enter the high-end creams.

While sometimes it seems crazy to pay so much for a tube of cream that sits next to the sink or in the remote control basket, many of these products actually make a difference in the way one's hands look, and that can be priceless. The two creams I've been testing lately, Lancome Absolue Hand and Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv Intensive Smoothing Hand Cream, are serious players in this field, and both give my beloved Chanel a run for its money.

Lauder Re-Nutriv feels thicker and takes longer to fully absorb. But the soft and smooth feeling lasts longer. On the other hand (ha! I actually did some of the testing simultaneously, one on each hand), Lancome Absolue offers SPF 15, which is a huge advantage.

Both creams perform well and keep my skin texture nice and smooth. Since sun protection is the number one step in keeping hands in great shape, if pressed to choose one I'd go with Lancome, but perhaps I'd feel differently in cold and dry weather.

In any case, don't forget to apply sun block before getting in your car. It's easy to overlook, but one gets seriously exposed to those evil rays while driving.

Lancome Absolue Hand ($42 for 3.4 oz) and Estee Lauder Re-Nutriv Intensive Smoothing Hand Cream ($45 for 3.4 oz) are available from decent department stores and directly from the companies online stores. I got several travel size tubes of both with various purchases at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.

Image: amykagawacom

Chanel Fall 2009 Makeup Collection: Venise de Chanel

This is just a photo preview of the makeup items I chose from Chanel's 2009 fall collection, Venise de Chanel. Supposedly inspired by Mademoiselle's fascination with the romance of Venice (yawn. How long do they think they can keep milking Mademoiselle's various "fascinations"?), there's definitely some serious color and drama there. The center of this collection is the Quadra Eye Shadow in Murano, which offers some irresistible (to me, that is) greens.

I'll review everything in the coming week or two, but just wanted to give a sneak peak of these pretties. The deep purple Vendetta nail polish isn't actually part of this collection, I just thought it was super pretty (you'd notice I mismatched the bottles and the boxes in the photo, not that it matters).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte - It's actually good for something

...just not as a perfume.

It's not like I had high expectations from Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte. When it comes to the Cristalle range, I don't really get the EDT (I wear the EDP), but I can (sort of) appreciate it for what it is. Knowing that Eau Verte is most likely the post-IFRA replacement for the original EDT on its real citrus and oakmoss should have been enough of a warning. After all, I smelled the newly reformulated Eau d'Hadrien (Goutal) and wanted to cry. Whatever they use now to replace citrus oil is not very convincing, but I hoped Jacques Polge might succeed where Isabelle Doyen had failed.

The first whiff of Cristalle Eau Verte goes straight to my head, but not in a good way. It's sharp, sour and takes a few brain cells and my nose tissue before it burns off. From then on things mellow down considerably into a sheer and pleasant lemonade-limeade. If you squint and try hard enough to find it, there might be a floral thing going, but not enough to bloom in this acidic potion. No matter how much I spray, the perfume doesn't last after an hour and a half, which might not be a bad thing, because a couple more hours of this would have bored me to death. There's just nothing there to capture my attention and interest. I would never have guessed Cristalle Eau Verte was a Chanel. It lacks any hint of cheekbones and good breeding one might expect from this house.

But I promised a positive angle, so here it is: while testing and hopelessly spraying, trying to make Eau Verte work, I got a good amount on my clothes. Unlike my skin, a cardigan and a yoga jacket managed to retain the scent for several hours, and it worked a lot better on fabric. The scent was a bit sweeter and more balanced and pleasant. So there you have it, for $105 you can have a 3.4 oz bottle of refreshing linen spray.

Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte is available from Bergdorf and Neiman Marcus for the unreasonable price I mentioned above. I managed to drain a couple of samples from these stores before giving up on it.

Art: Sparks by Pamela Sukhum

Illamasqua Afterhours Makeup: Coming Soon

In a time when brands are pushed out of the market and limit their distribution, a new launch is always good news. According to WWD, Illamasqua, a British cosmetics company is coming to Sephora by the end of this month.

The interesting thing about Illamasqua is the concept: Makeup For Your Alter Ego. This is makeup for nighttime. They specialize in bold colors, false eyelashes and vampy nails. Judging from the photo on WWD, we won't see a "nude collection" here, though looking at the company's website, I see all the neutral colors one could need, so maybe it's not just for creatures of the night.

I'd love to hear from overseas readers who've tried Illamasqua products. How good (or bad) is it? What should I try? Please comment!

Photo of Illamasqua counter at Selfridges: WWD, Eyeshadow palette:

Monday, July 13, 2009

Serge Lutens Nuit de Cellophane- Why I love It

Nuit de Cellophane, the spring 2009 release from Serge Lutens, has surprised many by seeming too pretty and simple for the house that brought us Muscs Kublai Khan, Ambre Sultan, Chergui and many others. When it comes to Lutens, the expectations are many, but a fruity-floral isn't one of them. The result was people wondering if Uncle Serge has lost it or sold out, because Nuit de Cellophane is just too...wearable.

I fell in love with it from the very first sniff. In my perfume cabinet, "pretty" scents aren't very prominent. I guess I needed a new one, and Nuit de Cellophane fit my idea of a beautiful summer fragrance. It's not that I haven't tried others. I had high hopes for several ones from Ormonde Jayne, including Osmanthus, which is sometimes compared to Nuit de Cellophane, but as is often the case when my skin meets florals, things didn't work out as expected. There's always something off- a jasmine that gets too green and screechy, a rose gone sour or a whole composition that tightens its hands around my neck (hello, Datura Noir).

Nuit de Cellophane on its osmanthus-jasmine-honey-musk structure is perfectly balanced. The fruity notes- a rounded mandarin in the opening and the apricot derivative of the osmanthus, are not too sweet and have more texture than actual taste, if that makes any sense. Wearing it feels like putting on that perfect summer dress, the one that just fits effortlessly but still looks stunning, showing just enough glowing skin without the risk of a wardrobe malfunction, or clings just the right way, making one's figure look flawless.

The honey is more of a background note here, it's nothing like Miel de Bois. It serves the purpose of helping the notes glide into the gentle wood-musk base, and stays there to keep things sweet. Nuit de Cellophane is perfect for day as it is for night. When layering, it plays amazingly well with Santal Blanc, and I've also started experimenting with Rousse. If you have more ideas, please comment (I'm still working on the ultimate Serge layering post).

I don't play the What Is Uncle Serge Trying To Tell Us? game in deciphering and making sense of the Lutens body of work. I love and wear about 75% of his perfumes, because I find them breathtaking and they work for me. Nuit de Cellophane isn't any different in that regard. It's a rich, layered fragrance that blooms beautifully on my skin, regardless of its ranking compared to MKK.

photo of Anna May Wong from
Night Magnolia by the amazing N. Robert Wagstaff

Nuit de Cellophane ($120) is available from the trifecta of luxury department stores (Barneys, Bergdorf and Neiman Marcus) and also from Aedes, Scent Bar and Beauty Habit. Most of them sell online, I bought mine from the latter.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Bobbi Brown Nude Collection Fall 2009- Sorely missing inspiration

If Bobbi Brown's Nude collection for fall 2009 looks familiar and gives you a little déjà vu feeling, you're not wrong. Last year's fall, the 2008 collection was Shimmering Nudes (link goes to Blogdorf Goodman), and then we also had the 2007 Stonewashed Nudes (an old post of mine), and I'm pretty sure there was a between seasons mini-palette with a similar theme. No, it's exactly the same, but still very (too) similar.

I love Bobbi Brown and fully subscribe to her vision of pretty neutral colors that enhance one's face without looking painted, but this recycled collection is really crossing the uninspired line. Between the been-there-bought-that eye shadows, the too light lip colors and another shimmer brick (does anyone still use those?), there's very little to get excited here.

You can also feel the economy at work here. While last year's 7 eye shadows Shimmering Nudes palette was priced at $50, the new Nudes eye palette has 6 colors and retails for $60. Also, unlike previous seasons, there's no special packaging. Instead, the eye shadows are housed in the standard Bobbi Brown refillable 3 colors palette. It's a very good idea, especially because it allows you to reuse the pan and customize it in the future as many times as you wish (until they change the format again, like they did not too long ago when switching from round pans to the current square ones). Still, a $60 palette should look a lot more interesting and convey a level of luxury this one sorely lacks.

The only good news from the Nude Collection is the new long-wear gel eyeliner in Caviar Ink. It's the darkest possible brown, almost black but not quite, which is my favorite choice for daytime eyeliners, as they are less harsh or contrasting. I bought it on the spot, because I was running low on the Espresso Ink and was curious to see the difference between these two.

Espresso Ink is a touch warmer and also has a miniscule amount of red shimmer. You can see the difference in this photos, more noticeable in the one I took with the flash.

Bobbi Brown Long Wear Eyeliner Gel ($22) is available from any decent department store and at, which is where I bought mine.

Top image from Bobbi Brown newsletter
Swatch photos are mine, the orange tabby in the second one is Kosh.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A Souvenir From The Past

My interest in vintage perfume started a few years ago, when I realized that things no longer smelled the way they used to. The solution was, naturally, eBay, where I found myself searching, bidding, sniping and often losing auctions to other perfume nuts (like the sealed bottle of Fath Iris Gris I lost to Patty of Perfume Posse) with the same mission and obsession.

A couple of the more interesting items one can find on eBay are old collections of micro-mini perfumes from the 60s and 70s. As far as I know, they were sold as souvenirs on duty free carts during flights from Paris. These boxes often contain the pure extrait de parfum version of then-popular scents, ones that either vanished completely or have been horribly reformulated.

I got this one a couple of years ago, at the beginning of my vintage journey, and it took me a while to warm up to these scents and get them. Each tiny bottle held about 2 ml extrait, most of them are actual miniatures of the original.

Fath de Fath (Jacques Fath)- This was probably the reason I wanted this set. I was (still am) very curious about the legendary fashion and perfume house of Jacques Fath. The problem was that the top notes are completely dead (there was probably quite a bit of citrus there) and at first I thought the perfume has turned. Once I actually gave it some time, I discovered some of what hides under the rubble. There's a robust floral heart and a dark chypre base. It feels formal and formidable. Not sure about wearability, but since I have a full sealed bottle coming (of the vintage, not the reissue), one that hopefully was better stored and have retained more of its glory, I'm going to find out soon enough.

Fidji (Guy Laroche)- The 70s in a bottle. I remember playing as a kid with a bottle of Fidji my mom had around the house (a gift from a someone well-meaning but utterly misguided. She wore nothing but the original Chloe) and probably used to clean light switches and the telephone receiver. Other than time travel to my childhood, Fidji is also green and sweet, a happy scent from an era when you could evoke a tropical feeling without the smell of a pink drink and cheap suntan oil. Just add a silk pareo. The current reformulated EDT smells like the vintage parfum's poor and trashy cousin.

Magie (Lancome)- A sweet floral with more than a little animalic base. Some of the top notes are gone, but there's still enough here to enjoy. It's a bit too lush to be considered polite, which makes it a lot of fun, at least in theory. I wouldn't dare wear this version of Magie in public, but it might be just my skin chemistry. Jasmine is rarely my friend.

Empreinte (Courreges)- The big surprise in this collection. I knew close to nothing about Courreges Parfums and never heard of Empreinte before the little gold bottle landed here. I loved it from the very first sniff. It starts dry and peppery and has a hint of smoke, almost BBQ like somewhere in the heart, which would have put me off if not for the beautiful leathery drydown. It could easily be considered a masculine nowadays. I saw new bottles online of an EDT, but have never come across one in person, so no idea how they compare. Might be worth checking, though, because Empreinte is a great scent.

Climat (Lancome)- My sister had a bottle of the EDT in the very early 90s, but rarely (if ever) wore it. She was more into heavy orientals while I preferred big chypres, so Climat was quite neglected in its modest aldehydic non-glory. I never really got the point of this perfume until I smelled the vintage extrait and discovered it had nice cheekbones and a lot more character than I've assumed, but it's still not me. I suspect my sister would like it better nowadays, especially in the EDT (Sis, if you're reading this, ask mom what she's done with the bottle).
both photos are mine

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Blue Eye Shadows (and how to apply them)

My teal Laura Mercier eye shadow was only the beginning. Apparently, an obsession was born.

Deep blue, azure, sea blue, sea glass, sea green, indigo... These eye shadow colors say summer, vacation, the French Riviera. They make brown eyes pop and can almost guarantee a good mood when wearing them. Most brands have something to offer, some are new (Lancome Declaring Indigo has just launched), others have been around for a while (Sue Devitt had actually released her sea-themed palettes last fall).

Palettes that include a neutral color or two are the most practical to carry in your makeup bag, but since most of us own enough cream, taupe and sand eye shadows, a single in a rich, stunning blue might be the best choice (Nars Tropic and Urban Decay Electric Blue are prime candidates) for the "if you only get one" category.

When it comes to application of blue (or any bright colored eye shadow, really), good brushes are the key, because it's all about blending. Sure, the models in those pictures look stunning, but unless your name is Daria Werbowy, you're not supposed to show up to work like that. Here are the basic steps for a wearable blue eye shadow look:

1. Apply a light, neutral base color all over, from lid to brow (ivory, cream, beige, whatever. Bobbi Brown Navajo is a good option).

2. Using a crease brush, apply a taupe/ light brown/any other neutral that's just a bit darker than your natural skin tone to the lid and crease. Now blend them together (a blending brush is an essential tool) until everything is seamless.

3. Apply the blue shadow close to the lash line from the inner part outwards. Use a bit more in the outer corner and draw the line upwards, if desired. It all depends on the shape of your eye and lid.

4. The blending brush is your best friend. Blend a little more. Tip: I sometimes use a little more of the taupe or cream at this point to take some of the edge off. Be more daring at night, but for a daytime look you only need a little, just a pop of color that makes things interesting.

5. Have you blended enough?

Eyeliner tip: a very thin not-quite-black looks best here (applied as close to the lash line as humanly possible). Lancome Artliner in Smoke, Julie Hewett cream liner in Newsprint Bleu and Bobbi Brown Long Wear Gel in Indigo Ink are my favorites. For a more subtle line you can also use a blue-black eye shadow applied dry or wet with the thinnest eyeliner brush.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Lisa Hoffman Vitamin A& C Serum

Another chapter in the quest for the perfect serum, or: The secret of fabulous looking hands

I wanted to love the Vitamin A& C serum from Lisa Hoffman's skin care line. After all, it's a small niche brand full of good intentions. The ingredient list is short, precise and doesn't contain scary or questionable chemicals (unless you're from IFRA, and in that case the grapefruit peel oil might send you into convulsions, but that's not the point here). But despite the promised vitamins (Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbat is vitamin C and Retinyl Palmitate is vitamin A, both are good for you, as far as my googling could tell), most of what's in the silvery pump bottle is silicone, the same stuff that goes into most hair serums.

Not that there's anything wrong with it. But when it comes to my skin care needs, coating my face with silicon (it takes a little while to absorb) was not the right treatment. I gave the serum three weeks before I gave up, but it obviously clashed with my moisturizer and didn't provide the skin brightening I expect from vitamin C products.

Like many unloved skin care products, I started using the Lisa Hoffman serum on my hands. I do this often, as most creams and serums, even if I find them to be underachievers, are still more active than the average hand cream. While definitely not nourishing enough by itself (my hands can get very dry), I find that it's fabulous for locking the moisture from a good cream and making my hands look and feel very smooth. The antioxidants and vitamins can't hurt, either.

Lisa Hoffman Day & Night Vitamin A& C Serum ($95 for 1 oz) is available from The travel size (0.5 oz) I received was a PR freebie.