Thursday, January 28, 2010

Caron Bellodgia

I needed a good pick-me-up this evening (I'll tell the story tomorrow. It's beauty and shopping related), so I went straight to my vault of vintage perfume and got the Caron Bellodgia parfum. My bottle is small, quite old and holds inside the sunshine, flowers and air of vacation. It's no wonder the perfume was named after the northern Italian town Bellagio on Lake Como. If that doesn't make one feel better, nothing would. Just look at the photo above.

Bellodgia is very perfumy. The most dominant note here is carnation. It's sweet and more delicate at first before becoming quite peppery and assertive. Later it slides into a creamy drydown, courtesy of a sandalwood base. My experience is that the older your Bellodgia bottle, the better quality the sandalwood, which makes for a smoother, easier wearing. Carnation can easily be worn by men- just look at Diamond Water and Golconda by JAR. Maybe I should try smelling Bellodgia with a more open mind, but I doubt I would be able to make even my scent twin (who is a guy, for those of you just joining us) leave the house wearing it. Is it the other floral notes? I don't know- they are very well blended and I'm having trouble picking them even though I know there's some rose and jasmine there, and from the powderiness probably also orris.

The creamy drydown is also pretty musky, almost dirty but not quite (Caron never go all the way). It mellows down quite a bit as the hours go by but retains the basic idea and the strong carnation note. It's probably a bit too old fashioned to wear on a first date or a first day on the job, but it usually delivers on the promise of making your day very pleasant.

While I'm not fond of the thinner concentrations (EDP, EDT), the extrait is pretty easy to find. While I'm pretty sure the version from the last couple of years is not as good as it used to be (smelled it in the Paris boutique. It's probably the sandalwood they're using now), older bottles are still available here and there. Reformulated or not, it's worth trying if you are anywhere near a Caron boutique or a store that sells the extraits and the urn fragrances (Bergdorf Goodman in NYC and several of the big Paris department stores).

Photo of Bellagio from
Vintage Caron perfume ads:

Kanebo Sensai Lasting Treatment Rouge (LT 06 Matsu Kasane)

I'm starting to think that one can't go wrong with Kanebo Sensai products. At least the ones I've been sent to try so far. A lip color I wasn't even supposed to like has become one of my most used products, and now Lasting Treatment Rouge is teaching me a lesson about lipstick staying power and moisturizing. I must say it's setting the bar pretty high.

The literature about Lasting Treatment Rouge says the formula's secret is "gel-coated pigments" and they weren't kidding. It has a gel-like feeling the treatment effects are visible and can be felt within 10 minutes from application- my lips fill up and look smoother. They remain so for hours, while the pigment is rich and gives excellent coverage. The lipstick survives a drink but needs to be re-applied after dinner, though lips remain clearly stained- it's mostly the finish that is lost.

The color I have, LT 06 Matsu Kasane, is a reddish mauve-brown with a silvery sheen. The silvery flakes appear in other colors I saw swatched online, so if that bothers you it might not be the lipstick for you after all. I find that this finish balances out the LT 06 and makes the brown very wearable. I sometimes top it with a pink toned gloss to bring it down a little, but all in all, this color is about a shade and a half darker than natural color and is surprisingly flattering both for day and for night.

Bottom line: I see LT 04 and LT 05 in my future.

Sensai by Kanebo products including Lasting Treatment Rouge ($40) are available exclusively from Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, in store and online.The company's website ( also provides personal consultation by request. I received this preview sample as a PR Freebie.
All photos by me.

J.D. Salinger 1919-2010

If a girl looks swell when she meets you, who gives a damn if she's late? Nobody.
~J.D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Serge Lutens- Where Does He Go From Here?

The perfume industry isn't what it used to be. We've known it for a while, years actually. Some optimistic but severely misguided souls tried to comfort themselves that while the big names, traditional houses and huge designer brands are all about the money and thus happy to comply with both IFRA and their CFOs and discontinue scents left and right, we will always have niche.

But niche houses, big and small, have their own bottom line to consider. Gobin-Daude disappeared into the ether, the exact status of Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier remains unclear, but they haven't updated their website in a couple of years and their NYC retailers only have a handful of bottles still remaining (if any). They haven't received a new shipment in ages. Other great brands have been phasing out perfumes left and right. Tom Ford said from the very beginning that the Private Blend line will change over time. Underperformers will be replaced with other scents. Sadly, the first victims of the policy have already been announced (Bois Rouge, Moss Breches, Purple Patchouli and Velvet Gardenia. All of them deserved a better fate). JAR had to stop producing the magnificent Shadow, most likely because of IFRA's oakmoss restriction. Annick Goutal had to reformulate the classic Eau d'Hadrien because, apparently, citrus oil is a weapon of mass destruction. But the worst news yet broke yesterday when Elena of Perfume Shrine posted about Serge Lutens sending four of his fragrances to the big Palais Royal in the sky.

This is a first for Serge Lutens and has shocked and devastated many fans, me included. Uncle Serge has been honest and upfront (well, as much as his Holy Crypticness can be) about the reformulation issue. It's no secret that the new version of Feminite de Bois isn't the same as the old Shiseido one. The same goes for Chergui. There were persistent rumours about the future of Miel de Bois after it was pulled from the export range and placed in the more exclusive bell jar. Between the scent's lack of popularity and an issue with the raw materials being placed on IFRA's black list, MdB was doomed. But no one saw the other ones coming: the relatively new (though admittedly not the biggest seller) Chypre Rouge and the two classics Douce Amere and Clair de Musc. The latter is especially surprising as Clair de Musc was considered by many a Serge for beginners and a layering essential. It really seemed like it was selling relatively well. Obviously, not well enough.

The axing of the four perfumes was not the only disquieting news from the Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido. The most recent release, L'Eau Serge Lutens, had many of Uncle Serge's biggest fans scratching our heads. It was not just an "anti perfume". It was an "anti Serge", "anti Lutenade" and anti everything we've ever expected to emerge from the famed purple halls. Speculations were aplenty. From Papa Serge always doing the unexpected to simply selling out. Since Elena's review was as favorable as it was insightful, I was ready to believe it was his way of telling the world "You wanted clean? Here, let me show you how to do it right". Sort of flipping the bird in his very refined and ironic way.

But the latest news seem to be pointing to another, sadder direction. Have the Powers That Be at Shiseido, Uncle Serge's financial backer, started to put their foot down? Did they tell him to start making money, or else? Did they tell him that any new release must have a mass market appeal and smell shower fresh?

This is nothing but speculation of course, but my guess is that dear Uncle Serge is not going to have his art be dictated by bureaucrats and bean counters. As Elena has mentioned, he has hinted in the past that might go do something completely different. We've always known that perfume is not his be all and end all and he can always have Chris Sheldrake whip for him a special batch of extra strength MKK. It's us who are losing here big time and might be left with nothing but this.

Photos of Uncle Serge:

Grace Coddington is Vogue's secret weapon (or last hope)

It's no secret that most (all?) magazines are struggling. Vogue has done very little to remain relevant in recent years. As a matter of fact, the most publicity it probably got was when Meryl Streep donned a pair of Manolos to play Miranda Priestly, a character based on Anna Wintour in The Devil Wears Prada. Then came another movie. This time a documentary, The September Issue, which has brought to the public's attention that Vogue is more than Wintour and Andre Leon Talley with their society obsession and celeb anti-culture. The movie allowed Grace Coddington, Vogue's wonderful creative director, emerge and shine from behind her boss' tiresome bob with her dry sense of humour and dry red hair.

It looks like someone in Vogue's PR department has been paying attention, which explains the email I and other subscribers got yesterday. The message, titled "What's Your Story" was signed by Grace Coddington and featured the above picture (photographed by Didier Malige) as well as a longish blurb in which Coddington told about her Welsh childhood and how Vogue has inspired her dreams and made her move to London and become a model.  Apparently, the magazine is finally trying to engage readers and urges us to send them our own personal Vogue stories, promising that the best ones would be published in the April issue.

You know what? I'm sending them mine. After all, who can resist either one of the faces in the photo?

Lorac Red Carpet Reveal Eye/Cheek Palette

Red Carpet Reveal is another easy-to-love Lorac palette. It holds three eye shadows and one blush, well-coordinated and in elegant wearable neutrals. Glam-wise it's more understated than the Snake Charmer but more shimmery than the Crocodile palette. The lightest color, Debut, is a great evening highlighter, while Pose and Interview can be easily used during the day with a light matte eye shadow under the brow bone.

The blush, Main Attraction is a warm rose. I apply it with a light hand and often layer it with a light mauve, but it's pretty easy to wear on its own when you have a yellow or olive toned complexion. The texture of all colors is great- soft and smooth. The brush that comes in the palette is annoyingly thin and was the cause of the crumbling you see in the swatches. I apply the eye shadows with thick and fluffy good quality brushes and have no fallout issues.

The very sleek packaging and velvet pouch make the Red Carper Reveal palette easy to slip into an evening clutch. It's quite slim and doesn't take up too much space.

Bottom line: Great.

Lorac Red Carper Reveal Eye/Cheek Palette ($35) is available from Sephora and Ulta. I bought mine at

All photos are mine.

Hermès Amazone (Original 1974 Version)

I have a tiny bottle of Hermès Amazone in its original 1974 version. It's the parfum extrait and it's glorious. Of course it is- hyacinth, cassis, bergamot, geranium, rose and jasmine over a wood-vetiver-oakmoss base. Amazone used to be a very well-mannered fruity chypre. Less wildness and raw feeling than the vintage ads would let you believe, but still a lot of fun and depth.

Those of us who think of fruity scents in terms of BBW body sprays and other typical mall pink juices are often surprised when discovering how beautiful a fruit notes used to be when they were treated right and paired with oakmoss instead of vanilla. All of a sudden, cassis is just pulpy and sweet enough to make the rose more red and the other floral notes come alive and sparkle.

Was the perfume supposed to evoke the rain forest jungles or the fearless women warriors? The latter if to judge by the ads, but to be honest I get neither. It might be the hyacinth, but I find Amazone to be very romantic, well-dressed and coiffed and every bit as one would expect a vintage Hermes to smell- an elegant woman in a pencil skirt, good jewelry and a Kelly bag, her heels clicking on the pavement as she hurries to meet her lover in the afternoon. There's just a hint of naughty thoughts, a glimpse of lace under the silk blouse and a careful waft of the delicious perfume following her.

Don't blame me. It's the oakmoss. Maybe that's why the stupid bureaucrats banned it.

Today's version of Hermès Amazone is much more fruity, watery and altogether pointless. The vintage has become nearly impossible to find, especially in parfum, though it sometimes pops on eBay. Take note that sellers who use stock photos of the old bottles are often utterly unaware that they're actually selling the new version in the modern bottle.

Notes: hyacinth, galbanum, bergamot, jasmine, cassis, muguet, orris, rose, oakmoss, cedarwood, vetiver, amber.

Vintage Amazone ads:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

According to IFRA, you can't read or understand this post

The Scented Salamander features an interview with Stephen Weller, Director of Communications for IFRA. You can read the whole thing here and do some headdesking. Marie-Helene Wagner asked the million dollar question:
Could you explain to us why IFRA and the perfume industry have set their preferences on perfume reformulation rather than warning labels as in the food industry? If we take inspiration from the pharmaceutical industry, why not deliver perfumes with allergenic ingredients in a controlled manner, again with warnings and perhaps even prescriptions? Fragrances are routinely sold in pharmacies. One would just need a step-up of this circuit of distribution.
Here's the bottom line of the answer:
This is one approach to help inform the consumer to make a choice. However, not all consumers read labels or indeed understand the information on the label. Therefore, IFRA Standards are needed to help reduce the incidents of sensitisation to certain materials. Experience shows that labelling alone does not have the desired effect.

I don't know about you, but reading this makes me incredibly angry. I need a stiff drink. Maybe absinthe laced with oakmoss.

YSL La Laque Spring 2010- Beige Mousseline (Beige Chiffon #41)

YSL has two nail polish options in the Spring 2010 collection. While Mauve Silk (#143) is the one more heavily promoted, I'm all purpled out and chose the sleeper #41 (Beige Chiffon or Beige Mousseline) instead. This is a true beige with a hint of pink like a doll's skin. It's a true classic, as wearable as it gets and has this effortless French thing going for it. It's perfect for the mannequin hand look without looking dead and would make a great summer pedi to accompany vibrant sandals that don't need competition.

Quality-wise, you need three coats to achieve full color. It can be a drag, but this La Laque dries pretty quickly for a creme nail polish, so even I can avoid messing it up. I've used Zoya Anchor and Zoya top coat (which I have been renewing every other day) and have yet to see tip wear even after a week.

YSL La Laque ($20) is available from most department store as well as online. I ordered it from

Nail polish bottle photos by me, mannequin photo:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lacoste Pour Homme (Original 1984 EDT)

I found the old bottle of Lacoste Pour homme when I was packing the weirder items in the cabinets. I'm not certain about it, but I seem to recall that it was my mother who bought it for the Blond the first year we started dating, which means it's from the early 1990s. I doubt that he wore it much, because the same year I bought him Minotaur by Paloma Picasso which he loved (and couldn't be more different than the Lacoste). I didn't remember what it smelled like, so I started testing it  regularly in the last couple of months since resurrecting the bottle and have found myself oddly enjoying it.

The original Lacoste Pour Homme (not to be confused with the newer scent under the same name which was launched about 20 years after the original in a sleeker bottle and was accompanied by an ad featuring a naked dude and is utterly different and also quite vile) was an 1984 release and smells pretty traditional as far as male cologne goes. It starts with a green-citrus-lavender opening that used to be people's idea of "fresh" before the horror of aquatics appeared in our lives. It's brisk and bracing and feels like a cool summer morning, before the sun has fully risen.

Lacoste develops in a spicy woody direction. I smell a light cinnamon-clove touch, maybe some anise and mint and a  non-incense pine, which feels a bit off and too loud until it settles into the other wood notes. There's quite a bit of sandalwood which I dare say is nicer than the sandalwood you find in many mass market perfumes today. This is smoother, cooler and not creamy in the least, keeping the scent crisp and tight.

This original Lacoste Pour Homme is surprisingly long lasting (10-12 hours) and if heavily applied it's a full blown 80s power scent. My (our?) bottle is splash, so I only dab a little as to not overwhelm my nearest and dearest and anyone else within smelling radius who might raise an eyebrow at the retroness of it all.

I'm not sure if this cologne is still in actual production, considering there's a new and different Lacoste Pour Homme. I also can't tell you if newer bottles of the old juice (remember, mine is nearly 20 years old) still smell the same, but they are widely available online and priced between $30-$40.

Lacoste Pour Homme ads circa 1993 from
Vintage Lacoste fashion ad:

The Model Brow Tools

One of the important lessons I've learned in nearly 25 years of using makeup is the importance of using the right tools and brushes. It's true for cream products, powders and everything in between. It's especially important when messing things up can make the entire face look off. Shaping and defining eyebrows is one such task (if you've seen the First Lady in the the Haiti PSA you know what I mean).

I'll skip the tweezers talk (You can't go wrong with Tweezerman. I own a few, one in a zebra print because everything looks better in zebra), because this is about eyebrow brushes. We all know these little two-sided combs, one half for lashes, the other side grooms eyebrows. For years I thought that was the only necessary tool, until I've learned the importance of using an eye shadow and an angled brush to fill and/or darken the brows, and how to work whatever product I'm using into the hair so it looks natural using a spoolie brush- the one that looks like a standard mascara wand.

You can find similar tools at Sephora and from several eyebrow specialists. I bought these three brushes from The Model Brow, a line created by makeup artist and brow expert Elke von Freudenberg.  The spoolie brush is currently out of stock, but it's really a great tool- it blends the color evenly and softens the look to the point the brows look natural instead of drawn. I like this specific brush because the bristles are soft enough and not abrasive. The head is also flexible and can be bended into a more comfortable angle.

The slant brush is one of several I use. It's the most essential eyebrow tool as far as I'm concerned. A good brush for filling, shaping and adding color/length/volume should be thin enough to do a very precise work but not too stiff or narrow that the result looks painted and weird. This Model Brow brush is one I use very often.

The 3" dual-ended brush fits nicely in the smallest makeup bag and is a decent travel tool. I find it too small to use comfortably most of the time, but I guess it's good to have something like that in one's purse for brow emergencies. The more useful side is a slanted brush to fill the eyebrows. The other side is a fluffy eye shadow brush, meant to apply a highlighter under the brow bone. I prefer much (much!) wider and thicker brushes for this purpose.

The Model Brow tools by Elke von Freudenberg ($16-$6) are available online at, which is where I bought mine.

Brush photos by me.
Vintage photo by Yale Joel for Life magazine, 1953.

Makeup For Ever Aqua Smoky Lash Waterproof Mascara

They weren't kidding when they said this was a waterproof mascara. It survives heavy rain and a hot shower and just refuses to leave until you go after it with an oil-based makeup remover. The problem is that as far as mascaras go, Aqua Smoky Lash from Makeup For Ever is an underachiever.

While Extra Black is a rich glossy black color that gives definition to the lashes, it does diddly squat for length and I suspect the added volume is more goop than a real thick coat. The texture is quite thick and on the dry side and it clumps too easily, even when you make sure to wipe the brush before applying. I used two different tubes of Aqua Smoky Lash and the results were the same whenever I wore it.

Bottom line: Meh.

Makeup For Ever Aqua Smoky Lash Waterproof Mascara ($22) is a Sephora exclusive. I got a couple of sample size tubes with various other purchases.

Makeup For Ever mascara photos by me.
Vintage mascara ad from

Lalique Encre Noire (EDT)

Encre Noire, a 2006 Lalique release, was originally labeled as a masculine scent. Most vetiver fragrances are considered manly- it's probably something about the dry crisp feel of this grassy note and the way it's usually paired with citrus and wood. Encre Noire is not different in this. It has two facets- a dark and thick ink-like vetiver, of the kind Chanel took to the extreme in Sycomore, but also a very cool green, almost fresh and airy side. These two opposites come and go on skin, keeping things much more complex and intricate than you'd expect from a designer masculine eau de toilette.

The interesting thing here is that despite the notes, the bottle and the fact Encre Noire was originally being marketed for men (last year Lalique released a feminine version, Encre Noire Por Elle), I know many women who fell in love with it on first sniff and have been finding it very easy to wear. It might be because the vetiver here isn't very bitter (think Malle Vetiver Extraordinaire for the complete opposite in this regard). The drydown is both woody and musky, very smooth and balanced. To me it is a perfect example for a shared/unisex scent. Encre Noire is attractive, angular, with high cheek bones and a very distinct presence. It's wearable in an effortless way and actually feels stylish in a timeless manner, which is exactly the thing that makes a true classic. Fans of Guerlain Vetiver who are looking for something less obvious should give Encre Noire a thorough testing.

Encre Noire is available both as an EDT (reviewed here) and a 2 oz EDP. The latter has the modest price tag of $750, but it is more for the incredible Lalique bottle than for the juice (I only sniffed it a couple of time at Aedes, not enough to assess its greatness but I didn't feel it was JAR-good). The EDT is rich and long-lasting enough, in my opinion (12 hours easily), and while its retail price is $105 for the 3.4 oz bottle, several online discounters carry the 1.7 and 1 oz sizes for less than half that price. If I Remember correctly, I bought a bottle from Parfum1 during their 25% sale for less than $40.

Photo of Katharine Hepburn from

Friday, January 22, 2010

Guerlain Shalimar

I've taken Shalimar for granted. It's been around since 1925, and I've known it and could recognize it for as long as I can remember and wasn't really a fan. Shalimar wearers wanted to be noticed and to make an entrance. The powdery veil that encompassed them and announced their comings and goings certainly helped. Now I know it was probably the EDC and EDT concentrations. I doubt I've ever smelled the extrait de parfum anywhere until I started seeking it on my own.

Sounds strange, but it was only a few years ago that I abandoned the very misguided anti-vanilla prejudice. I learned to appreciate the facets of this note- woody, smoky, animalic and found all of that in Shalimar, once the opening fireworks of citrusy bergamot fade away. Yes, it's still sweet and big with a loud voice and a serious cleavage, especially in the vintage form, but there's a lot more to Shalimar than its sex appeal.

When I stared exploring Shalimar from the extrait back to the lighter versions, I began to smell the nuances. The drydown of the (vintage) parfum is stunning. The claws of the dangerous animal are right there behind the vanilla, waiting to pounce. The vanilla itself is rich and smooth, beautifully blended with the woody opoponax. The latter is a note I never fully understood until I stated wearing Shalimar on a regular basis and experienced the way it morphs from powder to sweet resin and weaved into a wood-to-incensy leather accord. There's so much mystery in the way Shalimar develops and breaths with the skin, and this is what makes this perfume so grand and fit for a queen.

At this point I love and wear every version, concentration and vintage of Shalimar. Unlike many older bottles, I've rarely come across one that has turned. Something in Shalimar keeps it fresh for decades, and the differences between the various bottles are not so much in quality, just in shades of beauty. Shalimar has most likely undergone several reformulations over the years. Because of the many editions and special bottles it's extremely hard to tell which is which, though there are several Guerlain experts in the scentoholic community that can date a bottle more or less accurately. But if you're here more for the juice than for the bottle, then it doesn't really matter. Once you get hooked on Shalimar you stop caring that much- not about the date, not about the fact your second grade teacher used to wear the EDC, not about some teenagers at the mall who wrinkle their nose at your magnificent sillage (happened to me once at Barnes & Noble). You just want to feel the magic and let it carry you away.

It's that good.

New bottles of Shalimar can be found in every department store under the sun, though the lower-end and Sephora usually only carry the EDT. Because of the price and shady sellers, the safest and most reliable way to get your paws on vintage bottles is to raid the closets of your great-aunt Tilly. Most chances she has at least one bottle stashed away, waiting for the right time to wear it.

Vintage Shalimar ads from
Photo of various bottles from my own collection.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ellis Faas- New At Bergdorf Goodman

Ellis Faas work as a makeup artist has graced the cover of top magazines and created the look and feel of many fashion and perfume ads (from Moschino to the Kate Winslet ads for Lancome). Her contract with L'Oreal has ended in 2007, paving the way to her own high-end niche makeup line which is coming to Bergdorf Goodmen (and Liberty London next month).

Ellis Faas makeup revolves around the concept of using colors that exist in the human body and are part of our natural look- the colors of skin, blood and freckles. Sounds interesting and at least the stock photos look gorgeous. The star of the collection is Ellis Red- a true red that comes in three different finishes- glazed, creamy and milky and promises not to be too orange or too blue. This is something I want to see and try.

I'm planning to be at Bergdorf some time next week. Looks like there's a new counter to visit. I promise a full report.

Image:, info: WWD

YSL Rouge Volupte Lipstick For Spring 2010- Opera Rose (29)

There's no doubt the colors in the YSL Spring 2010 are very... springy. There's lots of pink everywhere you look, which makes it a bit hard for me to love it. Still, even I need some happy colors in my wardrobe, so my choice was Rouge Volupte lipstick in Opera Rose.

Rouge Volupte offers one of the very best formulas on the market. I've already reviewed it when I bought Exquisite Plum from the fall collection. The creaminess, lasting power, pigment and coverage are amazing. The new Opera Rose is no exception (there are three other new colors, all far too pale for me). It's very rare that I find a pink lipstick that covers so well there's no chalky effect on the lips.

Opera Rose is really pink with a warm base. It reminds me of the inside of a pink grapefruit, just with a little less orange. I wasn't sure I could pull it off but I actually like it, especially on a sunny day when the light outside complements the color. Adding a little lip gloss that has a bit of brown or purple makes me a lot more comfortable- it takes the edge off while still allowing the spring pink to shine and do its thing. Le Metier de Beaute gloss in Cocoa Creme is perfect for this purpose.

Bottom line: Is it spring yet?

YSL Rouge Volupte Lipstick ($34) is available from top department stores and online. I bought it directly from the company's website,

All photos are mine.

Calvin Klein Euphoria (women)

A few years ago my mother and I were discussing some popular perfumes. I mentioned Calvin Klein Euphoria which was a fairly new release then (2005) and she commented that while Euphoria wasn't awful, it was "too much of this and not enough of that". I knew exactly what she was talking about, though I do think it has the potential of being godawful when over-applied (anything over two sprays is too overdoing it in this case).

The "too much of this" is easy enough to define- too much sugary synthetic red fruit with a Angelified patchouli edge. It gets very cloying very quickly and sucks all the air out of the room. The "not enough of that" part is more difficult to explain. Euphoria has some potential and on the odd winter day it can actually be perversely pleasant to wear, and more than a little sexy in a red velvet way. But it's not dark enough, and lacks some edge and mystery. Euphoria is supposed to have a mahogany wood note, but I can't say I get any. Some real wood with a masculine touch would have given the perfume a much-needed balance and save it from that poisonous synthetic territory.

It feels like someone at Calvin Klein perfumes (or rather at Coty Prestige that holds the license) was desperate to create a super sexy, irresistible tempting fragrance, or what people tend to interpret as such. The red fruity sweetness can make one want to bite into Euphoria and take it all in. But in reality, the poisoned apple can be hazardous to your health.

Euphoria by Calvin Klein  is available everywhere under the sun, from Sephora to every self-respecting online discounter. Prices are around $45 for a 1.7 oz of EDP. I always have a sample or two around, so I've been testing it for years, feeling both fascinated and utterly repulsed. There's no way I'd wear it in public, though.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bobbi Brown Sheer Color Cheek Tint (Sheer Mauve 7)

I was in the market for a new cream blush. I just finished a Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge in a limited edition or discontinued color  and wanted something similar, but none of the current colors in this range seemed to work. I love the texture, but the most of Pot Rouge shades are very dark with red or brown undertones that looked frustratingly heavy and muddy. The SA suggested I try the Sheer Color Cheek Tint which is a stick blush- not my favorite format (probably because the first ones I've ever tried were the ones from Tarte which I deeply disliked)- but the colors were interesting enough.

I was surprised how great the Sheer Cheek Tint felt and looked. It was a smooth application with no sticky feeling. The pigment was sheer but noticeable, blended easily and I liked the natural appearance. Sheer Mauve (no. 7) was exactly the  color I needed. It complements olive skin that isn't tan, adds some life and a healthy flush without going over the too-pink line.

The staying power of this stick blush isn't the greatest when on its own. The Sheer Cheek Tint needs good anchoring to last the day- a real foundation (tinted moisturizers tend to fade and take the blush with them) and powder, not to mention a primer underneath it all. It probably wouldn't be a good choice for the melty days of August, but right now this is my go-to blush. It also helps that the stick is tiny and takes minimum space in a makeup bag, easy to use on the go and only requires blending with your fingers, so no extra brush to carry.

Bottom line: It makes me look alive.

Bobbi Brown Sheer Color Cheek Tint ($22) is available from most decent department stores as well as from I bought it at my local Blommie's.

All photos by me.

Chanel Sycomore

Sycomore is the one scent out of Chanel Les Exclusif range that doesn't annoy me by being a sheer and ethereal version of a perfume that must have been a good idea at some point. A few of the Exclusifs had previous lives when they had depth and teeth (Cuir de Russie, Bois des Iles, No. 22 and even Gardenia). The other ones never had the chance to be anything more than an EDT in a huge bottle, though both Sycomore and Beige were named after long gone Chanel perfumes from the 1930s).

Sycomore is not anyone's shadow. It is full of character and brimming with life like the green marshland it evokes. A smoky vetiver with a strong tobacco note tinged with chocolaty patchouli has richness and depth beyond many other vetiver scents. It feels a lot more opaque than one would expect from an EDT concentration, though we've seen similar inky quality in Lalique's Encre Noire.

Sycomore is a unisex perfume with masculine leaning like many vetiver fragrances. My husband was the one who fell for the complexity from the very first sniffing. He tested it a couple of times before deciding he need a large decant, which I promptly got for him (there's absolutely no chance that even with combined efforts we'd finish a 200 ml bottle in the coming decade). My own experience with Sycomore has been interesting. I love it just as I love most (all?) vetivers. It wears like a thick smoky green veil, almost  Lutensic in the way it clings to my skin. Occasionally, however, I have an off day when it feels too swampy and murky for comfort. I find that unlike many other vetivers, I prefer wearing Sycomore during the winter because it lacks the bitter dryness that cuts the heat and humidity of August in the City.

Sycomore and all the other Chanel Les Exclusifs ($200, 200 ml) are available from Chanel boutiques around the world, Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC and Bergdorf Goodman, as well on Samples and decants can be purchased from The Posh Peasant and The Perfumed Court.

Photo: Green Swamp by Derek Corneau on Flickr.