Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Chantecaille Eye Define Palette

Chantecaille Eye Define Palette looks like an eye shadow set. However, if you try using it the way you'd normally approach a Bobbi Brown or a Lancome  palette you will soon realize that these mostly dark colors with their intense pigment don't really work for a traditional highlighter-crease-liner look. Even the shimmery gold is too dark to highlight your brow bone, and using two or three of the palette's colors together is more likely to turn one into a reject goth.

So what's the story here? It's all in the name. This Chantecaille palette is really all about defining and contouring. The colors are dark gold with a very warm undertone, milk chocolate, an intense tealish blue, a very cool toned dark inky purple (no red in there, so it will not make one look bruised) and a dusty charcoal. Each one of them can work as an eyeliner, even the gold. You can use them dry as I did in the first swatch or apply with a damp brush for even more color intensity. Each color works perfectly on its own, and while you can always experiment  with layering and mixing, this is not the best palette for it- it's an opposite approach to Le Metier de Beaute's kits and kaleidoscopes and the final result is decidedly different, but no less fetching.

The textures are near perfect, as you'd expect from a Chantecaille product. The charcoal is the only color that had minor crumbling, but the debris is easy to clean and doesn't affect application or the finished look. The shadows/liners stay firmly in place and maintain the color integrity even when you blend and rub them for a softer look (see third swatch). The palette is sleek and elegant and the included eyeliner brush is of good quality and quite useful.

The one thing missing is either a real highlighter or a light neutral base color to make the look more polished. Some people actually prefer to only wear a strong eyeliner and leave the lids otherwise naked, but my opinion is that it works better on the very young, while the rest of us need a little more than that. Thus, I always have to use an extra eye shadow or two with my chosen color from this palette, making it less than ideal for travel and quick fixes.

Chantecaille Eye Define Palette ($68) is available from top department stores, online and in store. I bought mine from Neiman Marcus.

All photos by me. Finding them on other sites with no credit makes me cranky and also creative in finding ways to hunt and haunt content thieves. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Untitled No. 3 by Sarah Horowitz

The first perfume to cure me of an acute aversion to violet was surprisingly not Apre L'Ondee (my appreciation for the Guerlain masterpiece came a lot later) and not even Uncle Serge's Bois de Violette. Instead, it was Untitled No. 3 by Sarah Horowitz.

The Untitled Series is a Luckyscent/Scent Bar exclusive- a commissioned limited edition range by several prominent West Coast perfumers. Sarah Horowitz is the creator of Creative Scentualization. I like her work quite a bit, but always found the Creative Scentualization perfumes to be a bit safe or too close to other favorites. But the abstract Untitled No. 3 breaks the mold and feels like a purple and green adventure.

This is a perfume oil, thus the development feels more like a spiral. It goes round and round in several directions but stays close to the core of the yuzu and violet that balance each other perfectly. It's not a citrus scent and not really a floral. The sweet anchor of creamy sandalwood-amber-musk is a beautiful and satisfying backdrop for the violet. One might not expect it from these notes, but Untitled No. 3 is not powdery at all and not overly feminine. Men who don't categorically object to perfume oils and violet notes might find that their skin brings out the darker spicy wood-incense aspect and would enjoy it quite a bit.

The Untitled Series is limited to 125 bottles of each scent. No. 3 by Sarah Horowitz ($65, 8 ml) was released  in 2006 and still available from Scent Bar in Los Angeles and their online store Luckyscent. I bought it about three years ago and my bottle is still fresh and full of life.

Image: Violet Flight, fractal art by Vicky Brago-Mitchell

Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics- Mineral Primer

I'm a primer fiend. If you're a regular reader you already know that (and you use one. Right? RIGHT?). A good primer create the smoothest base for everything that comes on top, allow you to use less foundation and get a better coverage and keep makeup looking fresh for long hours, even in extreme weather conditions (NYC in mid-August). Silicone-based face primers have become the standard and many companies offer one. They rarely vary, though some are thicker than others and all of them use some form of Dimethicone Crosspolymer as the main ingredient. The differences are in the minor additives and I've discovered that a few can be slightly pore-clogging.

Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics have their own primer, and looking at the list of ingredients it is, as they claim, chock-full of mineral and plant extracts. It's hard to say how much of it (if any) actually gets to work on my skin, but what I like about this Mineral Primer is that it actually feels lighter than than several other similar products I've been using. I wanted to take a photo comparing a drop of three or four silicone primers, but between my camera's limitations and my lack of skills I couldn't capture the difference. So you'll have to take my word for it- the Youngblood product looks the clearest and has the lightest texture. It doesn't affect performance, though. I still get the perfectly smooth canvas effect that works well with every foundation I've tried to use over it. Makeup stays vibrant and fresh from morning to night and I've not experienced any skin issues. Knowing that the primer is made of things like malachite extract, honeysuckle flower extract and also includes jojoba oil is just a bonus.

 Mineral Primer from Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics ($37.50) is available from Henri Bendel (highly recommended to visit the counter, where you can get some good advice and match the products to your needs) and from the comany's website, I've been testing a sample that was a GWP and recently received a full-sized product directly from the company.

Photo of Princess Natalie Palie in Paris, 1937 from

Kanebo Sensai The Lipstick (Hiwada 10)

It's quite a statement when a brand names one of it lipsticks The Lipstick, and once I tried The Lipstick from Sensai by Kanebo it was quite clear why they think it deserves the title. I find that the lipsticks I use the most are the ones that not only provide a gorgeous color and pretty shiny finish, but also keep my lips soft and moisturized throughout the day and would never ever end up as a leftover pigment on pruny looking lips.

This Kanebo Sensai lipstick offers one of the greatest textures you can find on the market. The rich pigment doesn't betray the fact that this is probably just as much a skincare product as a makeup item, which gives both immediate and lingering results. When I use the lipstick for a couple of consecutive days (hey, it happens), I see a difference in the level of plumpness and smoothness. I've been testing this lipstick for months now (the date on the earlier photos I took is from October) and it performed beautifully on the harshest winter days.

Hiwada is a very warm red.with a slightly orange-brown base. It's bold and dramatic and requires you to make sure your skin is in the smoothest, clearest shape possible (go for the whole shebang and don't skip anything: primer, foundation, concealer and light-diffusing powder). Keep the eye makeup minimal- mascara, eyeliner and nude-looking lids. Think of Dita Von Teese when she's off-stage and you'll get it right.

Bottom line: Red carpet-worthy.

Kanebo Sensai The Lipstick ($55) is available from Bergdorf Goodman online and in store and Neiman Marcus (online only). You can also order through the company's website and have a consultant call you to make sure you're getting the best product for you. The company's PR provided me with a free press sample.

All photos are mine. Model: Lizzy.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lolita Lempicka Fleur de Corail

I have the same issue with the juice inside Lolita Lempicka Fleur de Corail bottle as I have with the packaging. I can't decide if it's cute or tacky. In both cases it's quite overdone, but I actually like it, except for the moment the perfume takes an over-sweet turn and for a brief minute or two makes me queasy as though I was  quickly descending down one of those too big and too modern theme park roller coasters. Then something else surfaces, a light woody incense note and the world stops spinning.

I'm not a huge fan of Lolita Lempicka fragrances and never found a reason to own any.The coral-colored box made me a bit suspicious that  Fleur de Corail was going to be a fruity mess, but the bottle inside is actually light blue (though that's hardly a recommendation. I like aquatic even less than I like generic fruity florals) and somewhat clashes with the box. But this is a Maurice Roucel creation, and that's a good enough reason to give Fleur de Corail a chance.

So, yes, it's sweet. An ambery vanilla with some spice: cinnamon and anise. There's a huge tropical thing going on there, frangipani flowers and orchids (vanilla orchid, according to OsMoz). While the opening and the initial development feel a bit dense and take up all the air around them (that's what causes my occasional stomach reaction. I'm usually pretty immune to syrupy sweetness), things lighten up later and I find myself really enjoying the drydown, including its sweet musky end tail. Maybe it's somewhat of a guilty pleasure, but I do find the composition quite unique.

Lolita Lempicka Fleur de Corail ($69, 1.7 oz) is available from Sephora.

L'Occitane Aromachologie Repairing Hair Mask

It occurred to me that I never shared my most trusted hair care product. I did talk about L'Occitane hair care product in general, and they are, indeed, awesome. The best one is Aromachologie Repairing Hair Mask. This is a heavy duty, fix-every-hair-sin and bring it back from the dead product. If you're a normal person with a reasonable amount of hair on your head you'd probably only use it occasionally and to fix issues like over-processing, chlorinating and sun damage. It'd be too rich for you on a regular basis. But if your hair is dry, super thick and/or very long (thus requiring extra care to ensure shine and moisture), the Aromachologie Repair Musk should be part of your routine.

I have a very long hair. I keep it at mid-thigh length because that's how I like it. It's also very thick and can get dry very easily if not fed shea butter and cake (well, only the shea butter) on regular intervals. I've been using the Aromachologie mask regularly for nearly three years, some weeks on an almost daily basis if I feel the need. It's that good and is partly responsible to the health of my hair.

L'Occitane Aromachologie Repairing Hair Mask ($29, 8.4 oz) is available from every L'Occitane store and online.

Photo by Nina Leen, 1947

29 Cosmetics Reserves Moisturizing Lipstick (Ripe Rose & Take A Sip)

29 Cosmetics is a small brand from Napa Valley California that doesn't get enough love. Neiman Marcus isn't doing much (=anything) to promote it, and the color swatches they show are even less accurate than their regular unimpressive standard (seriously, Neiman, if you need an e-commerce guru I'm actually married to one). The company's own website is very pretty, but from my experience is also off when it comes to lip colors (the eyeshadow palettes are spot-on).

29's claim to fame is the extensive use of grape seed antioxidant for moisturizing, protection and fighting the good anti-aging battle. It has an SPF 20 which comes in handy on sunny days. Judging only by the look, the formulas and colors aren't quite as innovative as some of the latest and greatest products we've been seeing lately, these Reserves Moisturizing Lipsticks are, indeed, moisturizing, comfortable to wear and offer a somewhat understated but attractive look.

The colors I chose are Take A Sip (a brown-based rose) and Ripe Rosé (shimmery medium rose). Both give medium coverage, moderate shine and are very wearable and flattering. They don't survive the first cup of tea, so reapplication is needed throughout the day, but since supposedly you're slathering your lips in antioxidants it might be a good thing.

The lip liner I got with these two, Malbec, is actually darker than both so I ended up using it with other lipstick colors. It has a lot of pigment, glides on effortlessly and comes with a good sharpener. It's a quality product that I use often.

29 Cosmetics Reserves Moisturizing Lipstick ($25 each) and lip liner ($23) are available online from Neiman Marcus which is where I bought mine, and the company's website.

All photos by me.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Jean Patou- Cocktail Dry (Vintage Perfume)

The DVF boutique in NYC has a large seating area in the middle of the store where you can usually see a few guys who came in with their wives or girlfriends playing games on their phones, texting and trying to pretend they're not really there. Jean Patou had a better solution in the 1920s: his couture studio featured a cocktail bar where the gentlemen could lounge while the ladies were being fitted. It probably helped put the men in a good mood and made paying for the gowns a lot more palatable.

By 1930 Patou decided to convert the space into a perfume bar and asked his house perfumer Henri Alméras to create a perfume trio: Cocktail Dry, Cocktail Sweet and Cocktail Bittersweet. These are the ancestor of the better known Cocktail that is part of the Ma Collection.

Cocktail Dry and its siblings have been discontinued for decades and rarely appear anywhere. I was incredibly lucky to find a sealed albeit half evaporated bottle of the parfum and discover that while it's probably aged significantly, it still smelled beautiful. In its prime, Cocktail Dry was probably a lot greener, especially at the top. What's left is still very herbal and aromatic which makes me suspect it might have been a fougere. The surprising part of the scent is a round and full animalic base which I adore. The husband says the late drydown on my skin smells like honey. I think that's his perception of a certain type of animalic skank- think Miel de Bois or MKK.

I don't and of course would never wear fur, but the image created in my mind when smelling Cocktail Dry is standing in a bar, sipping something sophisticated (funny. I hardly ever drink) while having a luxurious fur casually draped over my shoulders. I'm also a lot taller in this picture and also speaking French, so I guess I really got drunk on this vintage cocktail.

1952 ad from

Weekly Roundup

Good reads from some of my favorite beauty blogs:
Over 40? Make sure to check out Charlestongirl's tips for avoiding the #1 eye shadow mistake at Best Things in Beauty.

Is there a serum that will help even your skin tone? Jennifer from Beauty In Real Life has a Clinique serum that works for her - check it out!

Are you considering a facial peel? See the amazing results that Kelly from Gouldylox Reviews had from her Rejuvenize Peel!

Potions, Lotions, and Serums, oh my! Blogdorf Goodman continues her 40 Days and 40 Nights of reviews of these "magical" powers.

Alice In Wonderland might be a childhood favorite or the latest movie craze. Felicia from This That Beauty shares with us all the makeup that has been inspired by the popular story.

Amber from Beauty Junkies Unite reviews the latest in mascara from CoverGirl with LashBlast Fusion.

Take a look at the gorgeous gloss shades that KarlaSugar from The Next Best Thing To Going Shopping Yourself swatched from Lipstick Queen Fame Glosses.

Kari from Fabulous Over Forty found a soothing solution to her eczema in Josie Maran's Argan Oil. Read how effective it was for her.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

CB I Hate Perfume- M4 A Room With A View

Something weird happens almost every time I visit the CB I Hate Perfume gallery in Brooklyn. I go there intending to buy a specific fragrance and end up getting another. I was going to get I Am A Dandelion and but home with Greenbriar 1968 (probably a mistake, and I still want that odd creature, Dandelion. It's much better than what you might think). Then last fall I was all about AmBrosius, but fell for A Room With A View after wearing it for the 15 or twenty minutes it took for its true face to reveal.

The opening of Room was instantly recognizable. I came to think of it as Brosiusade because it's so prominent in many of Christopher Brosius' creations (though not in some of my most favorite- Revelation and CB Musk). But Patty of Perfume Posse identified it as the perfumer's oft-used hay accord and she's right, of course.

The magic happens once the wet hay dries down a little and makes room for the other notes: fennel, dusty earth and some of the most romantic violets I know. Brosius was inspired by a scene from the E. M. Forster novel- the first time George kisses Lucy in a violet field on the hills above Florence; a kiss that begins Lucy's path towards freedom and true love. I remember the Merchant-Ivory movie starring a very young Helena Bonham Carter (pre-Tim Burton and Bellatrix LeStrange and oh so beautiful) and how it made me sigh wistfully. The perfume has a similar sensibility and delicacy- it's not the equivalent of a costume drama, but a soft projection of emotion. Speaking of his love for this scene, Brosius says:
...the point of this passage, and the reason I love it so, is what it represents: the moment when one simple beautiful gesture can transform an entire life.

A Room With A View smells like a simple beautiful gesture. It's understated in comparison to many other violet scents, has none of the too popular purple candied sweetness or creamy wood notes. It's light but not airy or watery- instead it takes into account all the accompanying smells one might encounter in a real violet field. It makes you wish you were there.

A Room With A View (M4) by CB I Hate Perfume ($90, 15 ml perfume absolute. Also in a 2m travel size for $17) can be found online ( I bought mine at the gallery on 93 Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Art: Field of violet flowers by Italian painter Paul De Maria

Breaking News: Takashimaya NYC is closing

This is sad news. WWD is reporting that Japanese retailer Takashimaya is closing the NYC store on 5th Avenue  in June. Takashimaya said it plans to sell the real estate and dedicate the proceeds to faster growing markets in Asia.

It's incredibly sad- I loved ogling the (unbelievably pricey) Japanese art and housewares, but even more so the beauty and fragrance department, even in its reduced size. It's even more unfortunate when you remember they just started carrying Mona di Orio perfumes (the only USA point of sale), and as far as I know they are the only ones in the NYC area who sell Neil Morris perfumes.

Info: Women's Wear Daily

Le Metier de Beaute Le Petit Poudrier Eye Creme Kit (03)

As I promised yesterday, here's my chosen Le Petit Poudrier Eye Creme Kit from Le Metier de Beaute's limited edition Spring 2010 items. These palettes include cream eye shadows and a cream liner ready to create multiple looks.

The one you see here is Mediterranean Madness 03. The liner is an almost matte black-blue (it looks almost black on my skin) while the eye shadows have a shimmery finish. The neutral colors- a rich bronze and champagne- work beautifully with the bolder colors- a grayish aqua blue and an olive green. It's a perfect summery combination that can be applied with a light hand or layered dramatically.

The kit doesn't come with an applicator because part of the concept of these palettes is that they are tiny and super slim. The eyeliner works best with a narrow sponge applicator, so make sure to put one in your makeup bag. The eye shadows can be applied with anything from a synthetic brush to your finger, but use a sponge if you want more intensity.

The best part is the texture- it's silky smooth and holds onto your eyelid better than any cream eye shadow I currently own. They stay put with no creasing or fading and even resist rubbing (so once they're set and dry you can't really smudge them). At first I attributed it to using a primer, but it turned out these shadows work the same way without it. I tested it further after swatching on my wrist and the lines remained solid and vibrant for hours until I removed them. Unlike the lip kits, where you're likely to use it up fairly quickly, I'm guessing the eye palette would last a lot longer. There's no need to reapply throughout the day and you'd probably need a little less product for each application.

Le Metier de Beaute Le Petit Poudrier Eye Creme Kits ($36) are exclusive to Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman and at this time unavailable outside the US. They are a limited edition items and sell quickly, so some colors are already sold out online (local stores might still have them in stock). I bought mine from Neiman.

All photos are mine. Model: Lizzy (though the wrist is obviously mine).

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier- Parfum d'Habit

According to most reviewers on Basenotes,  Parfum d'Habit by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier is a manly powerhouse storming on his horse into sunset. A vintage Clint Eastwood type of scent, perhaps. In reality, I don't find any cowboys in Parfum d'Habit, despite its strong jaw and all the leather and vetiver involved.

The opening notes are a bit sharp and nose-tickling. Online sources name them as blackcurrant buds, bergamot and petitgrain, and I certainly get the bitterness of the latter. But things soften significantly as soon as the leather comes into play. It's more of a vintage black coat than a buttery suede jacket, probably because the strong patchouli note keeps it dark and somewhat dirty. Still, the allover feel is warm, dry and woody. For the first couple of hours something is constantly happening on my skin. A green and herbal note peeks from under the wood, a hint of raw animalic sensuality that disappears as soon as I notice and try to catch more of it, and a lot of crisp vetiver.

Yes, these are some of the basics of masculine colognes, but when I wear it I don't feel like I'm putting on a costume or a false air. This Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier scent actually feels more refined than Racine or Route du Vetiver, maybe closer to Santal Noble. It's not flirty and doesn't try to please, but there's an air of easy confidence and effortless chic. That's a good thing no matter who you are.

After a long and unfortunate hiatus, Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier perfumes are back in the US and can be found at Henri Bendel and Luckyscent.

Photo: Lauren Bacall by Nina Leen, Life Magazine May 1945.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cat Eye

I desperately need new sunglasses. I also hate actually shopping for them because 90% of what's out there makes me look ridiculous. I avoided the last couple of trends of huge aviators and even bigger vintage-style shades, but it's time to replace at least one of the pairs I'm wearing regularly.

The cat eye frame is back, and while I'm pretty sure I shouldn't even attempt this look, I love the idea of it. Here's Taylor Tomasi, style and accessories director for Marie-Claire magazine. She was photographed in Paris during Fashion Week wearing these Norma Kamali sunglasses.

Photo from French style blog Cafe Mode (

Breaking News: MPG Perfumes Back At Henri Bendel!

I just got a call from Giuseppe at Henri Bendel: The Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier line is once again available. Since Henri Bendel is somewhat stuck in the early nineties ecommerce-wise you'd have to give them a call (212-247-1100) to order your bottle(s) or go to the store in person.

Update: Luckyscent (Scentbar) in L.A. is also selling MPG now.

MPG bottle store display photo by me (from a couple of years ago in Paris).

Le Metier de Beaute Le Petit Poudrier Lip Creme Kit (02)

The limited edition spring 2010 items from Le Metier de Beaute are not limited to new Kaleidoscope kits. Le Petit Poudrier are 10 palettes the size of credit card: there are 4 sets of cream eye shadows, four lip sets and two that are face kits with shades that can also be used on the lips. The colors are runway-inspired, fashion forward, and are meant to be layered and blended for a customized personal look. This is a regular concept in  Le Metier de Beaute's palettes- the Kaleidoscopes are built on the same idea, only in a much larger size (and a hefty price tag).

Le Petit Poudriers are so tiny and thin they fit the smallest evening clutch and are very travel-friendly. The pigments are beautiful but sheer enough to blend easily. In the case of the 02 lip kit you get an intense red base color that you can tone down and make to look warmer or cooler by layering on or more of the other colors.

The red base is like the one from the Red Rapture Kaleidoscope (pictured. I'm on my second one by now), but the other colors are different and generally lighter, so it's a little more versatile. While the Petits are significantly more affordable, you should be aware they contain far less product.

Le Metier de Beaute Le Petit Poudrier Lip Creme Kits ($36) are exclusive to Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman and at this time unavailable outside the US. They are a limited edition items and sell like hot cakes, so some colors are already sold out online (call a local store and see what they can do for you). I bought mine from Neiman.

Later this week: An Eye Creme Kit

All photos are mine.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Balenciaga Paris by Balenciaga

After twelve years of no new perfume release and officially stopping production of all previous fragrances, the fashion house of Balenciaga (currently headed by designer Nicolas Ghesquiere) has partnered with mega-perfume manufacturer Coty. It's an interesting marriage between a highly regarded fashion force and a company that today is mostly known for its drugstore offering and celebrity scents.

I was expecting the worst.

My surprise started with the elegant packaging and bottle. It doesn't look like the classic ones, but there's a certain elegance and aesthetics that seems to be derived from the original Balenciaga look. It's understated and doesn't look like the average item on an a Sephora shelf. The bottle itself has something of the iconic balloon silhouette that was created by Cristobal Balenciaga.

Balenciaga Paris is basically about violets. If that reminds you of Le Dix, this isn't a coincidence. It's very clear that whoever commissioned perfumer Olivier Polge to create the new perfume wanted to retain some connection to the house's original line. While this is a modern mainstream perfume- airy and thin without much complexity, it still has a vintage touch. Powdery violets are not exactly the signature of the Juicy generation.

The opening offers something peppery and green, telling you Balenciaga Paris belongs to the light and fresh category. It feels like early spring and has an unexpected cheerful attitude. The violets appear quickly and they are tastefully dry and powdery. The main point of interest here is the way the scent moves from soft sunshine to a secluded shade. But just when one hopes to find a little mystery in the shadows (after all the face and spokesperson of the perfume is Charlotte Gainsbourg), all we get is a soft woody musk.

While I'm thankful Balenciaga Paris was thoughtfully conceived and doesn't smell like another perfume for a focus group of 19 year olds who never bought a perfume outside of a BBW body spray, I still feel a bit cheated. Yes, this is a pretty and wearable scent. I already enjoy it now, in early spring, and know I'm going to wear it quite a bit in the summer. But that heavily photoshopped picture of Charlotte Gainsbourg in the ad speaks volume. She's an interesting artist with a unique point of view. In her everyday life she looks like this:

If this is your muse and you have all the history, couture and tradition behind you, I expect more than the J. Crew version of your runway gowns.

Balenciaga Paris ($95, 1.7 oz EDP with an excellent longevity) is available from Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, in store and online. I received my bottle at a Bergdorf press event.

Perfume ad from
Balenciaga gown fashion photo by Willy Maywald, 1951
Charlotte Gainsbourg photo from style blog Cafe Mode.

Bare Escentuals Buxom Big & Healthy Lip Stick

Everyone likes a good multitasking product and Buxom Big & Healthy Lip Stick from Bare Escentuals promises to line, color and plump your lips. It's an interesting concept and format, since all of the above is packaged as a thick retractable pencil. I had to give it a try.

The pencil is a bit too thick to really work as a liner for other lip products, unless you're using a color that perfectly matches your lips and is basically nude, which can't be said about any of the current Buxom Big & Healthy Lip Stick shades. Since I bought Barcelona, a very dramatic deep red, I'd rather not risk it. As a lipstick, the pencil is quite impressive in its coverage, pigment and performance. While normally I'd rather apply a dark lipstick using a brush, after minimal practice I managed to get a solid and precise result (very important for dark reds).

The texture is very light and matte. While it doesn't make the lips feel dry, after about an hour there is some tightening and every line (and in my case scar) is enhanced. Topping the Lip Stick with a clear gloss takes care of the problem, though.

My biggest issue is with the plumping. I don't like the minty-tingly sensation which doesn't go away for more than an hour. I feel that lip plumping by causing irritation to a sensitive tissue is not a good idea. High quality glosses show better results by adding moisture and actually making lips feel good, so that alone is reason enough for me not to buy another Buxom Lip Stick crayon. Also, swatching the pencil on my wrist made my skin itch for a while. Take this into consideration if you're sensitive.

Bottom Line: An overambitious product.

Bare Escentuals Buxom Big & Healthy Lip Stick ($18) is a Sephora exclusive. I ordered it online.

All photos are mine.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lanvin Arpege

I spent a lifetime disliking Arpege. The aldehydes did me in every single time, which was why it took me forever to understand and learn to really love Chanel No. 5. That felt like enough  and I wasn't planning to put any effort into making friends with Lanvin's iconic perfume. But I kept sniffing it occasionally and shrugging. It always felt wrong. The amusing part is that unlike other classics I've come to enjoy after experiencing them in a vintage extrait de parfum, my appreciation for Arpege was born one day at either Saks or Nordstrom. They had the EDP on a forgotten corner of one counter, away from the main area where they try to push whatever overpriced drek de jour (before it's sent to face eternity at the discounters). A too-blonde pusher just shoved a scent strips under my nose and I needed to recalibrate my senses before dying from exposure to a synthetic raspberry. I grabbed the familiar black bottle, sprayed my wrist and noticed how much better this old-school thing was in comparison. The amalgamated floral heart was a lot more substantial than in many modern perfumes, and even though there was a thin feeling as it moved towards the drydown and that familiar vetiver base that seems to have  taken over just about every reformulation of the great classics, it was still good.

Arpege remained on my skin for hours and I found myself enjoying it a lot more than anticipated. It made me got back to vintage and discover what it was all about. It's clear that this Lanvin perfume relates heavily to Chanel No. 5, but then again, so many other perfumes from the first half of the 20th century were created in that image. Even Guerlain made Liu. No. 5 is ingrained deeply in many people's scent memory and is instantly recognizable even after all these years. It's probably why I and others feel a certain closeness to it, and combined with the sweet, somewhat vanillic base it feels warmer and more embracing than Arpege. It's probably not what Mademoiselle had in mind, considering she didn't have a very soft and fuzzy personality.

To my nose, Arpege feels a bit more formal. It's drier, and lacks any sunny quality despite all the flower notes that were blended into the heart. It feels almost prim and proper until something winks from deep in the drydown and makes it more interesting. I smell wood, vetiver and at times I could swear there's oakmoss somewhere in the composition, though I can't confirm it. Now it's official: I like Arpege. A lot.

Arpege in its current formulation is available as an EDP from every online discounter and usually for less than $40. Some department stores still have it, too. The vintage can be easily found on eBay and second hand stores, though I'd recommend caution with the extrait de parfum, as it seems to turn easily and I've come across quite a few rancid bottles.

Vintage Arpege perfume ads (1959 and 1963) from
Photographs of Lanvin dresses (1951 and 1954) from dovima_is_devine on Flickr.