Friday, April 30, 2010

Weekend Roundup

Last week some of you discussed the image I'm using for the Weekly Roundup. The idea the woman could be Lindsay Lohan has given me good chuckle. This is actually a cropped detail from a 1960s ad. I didn't save the source, but it was either Avon or one of the major drugstore brands. I do wonder who was the model.

Kari at Fabulous Over Forty tried out Clarisonic's new Opal Sonic Infusion System, with anti-aging sea serum for the eye area. It's the latest addition to the much-loved Clarisonic family. You will covet the Opal after you read her post!

Charlestongirl fell in love with Shu Uemura Art of Hair Ample Angora Volumizing Light Foam. She told us about its wonders at Best Things in Beauty.

Anne at BeautyXposé and Charlestongirl had their makeup perfected last weekend by Renato Almeida, National Makeup Artist for Shiseido. Renato used the fabulous new colors from Shiseido's Spring 2010 Collection. You have to see the eye shadow that they both loved - and the results!

Kelly told us what she would buy for Anne's mother, Connie, with a $100 gift card from Sephora. See what made the shopping cart for Connie's summer at Gouldylox Reviews!

Debbi at DivaDebbi spent at third of her youth doing what we all did: trying to get bronze. Now she has found Rephase D-White from an Italian anti-aging line to help undo the damage. She is thrilled with the results!

Cindy made some awesome product discoveries this month - from blush to hair to books. See what she's loving at Prime Beauty.

The swatching queen, KarlaSugar, got her hands on the new Tom Ford Lipsticks! Bet you'll pick out at least one of these beauties at The Next Best Thing to Going Shopping Yourself.

Enjoy your weekend and stay tuned for a special fragrance giveaway on Monday.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier- Santal Noble

I don't have any statistics to back me up on this, but when it comes to sandalwood perfumes the more popular ones seem to have that comforting creaminess of 10 Corso Como and Tam Dao. These scents go well with hot cocoa and a cashmere blanket, which is probably why they are considered more unisex than the formal Santal Noble by Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier.

Santal Noble is a very dry incense and wood scent with a dark amber-patchouli drydown. It's quite spicy and peppery, especially during the first couple of hours I have it on, and has an exotic vibe at times. If I spray enough of it (and I do. It makes a world of difference for Santal Noble's staying power), I seem to pick a light saffron note, especially in warm weather. The overall impression of this Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier cologne is very woody, crisp and impossibly proper. It can be the male equivalent of a cashmere twin-set and heirloom pearls, except that it's a lot more tailored than that. Santal Noble is a scent fit for Tim Gunn, and just like him, it's always right.

The original version of Santal Noble (before MPG repackaged and reformulated) seemed to have a richer, almost thick drydown, but since the sample I have is much older than my bottle of the newer formula, it also might be due to aging. In any case, the new Santal Noble is very good and satisfying, with its dignity intact. As for the gender issue, I understand why many women would balk at wearing a scent that goes well with a tux.  I still think it's worth trying, because you never know. I'm as girly as they come, but it's no secret that I wear vetiver, cedar and other woods much better than I wear rose or violet. It's all about skin chemistry and personal taste, after all.

Santal Noble as well as the other Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier fragrances ($120, 100 ml EDT) is available from Henri Bendel in NYC, Luckyscent/Scent Bar in Los Angeles and, which was where I purchased my bottle.

Photo of Tim Gunn from

Chanel Ombre Essentielle Eye Shadow (Bois Bleu and Safari)

When it comes to Chanel eye shadows, the quads and sets are the one getting all the attention, while the single eye shadows are unjustly left behind. The Ombre Essentielle range is worth trying, and from my experience the color payoff is often better than in some of the quads. The texture is silky soft without crumbling and easy to blend. I love the finish I get from them- both the subtle wash when applied dry and the rich intensity you see when used with a damp brush (see the swatches). It's also buildable enough for contouring.

A few seasons ago I fell in love with Le Bronze (#73) but had my eye on the other color released with it, Bois Bleu (#74) which I only bought recently during my quest for the perfect non-navy blue. I think I found it here. Bois Bleu is not quite teal but has a bit of green in it to make the color stand out.

Safari (#45) is a Chanel classic. It's one of those colors that are extremely hard to capture on camera. A complex satin taupe that goes everywhere and with almost anything. If I had to pick just one Chanel eye shadow from this range, I think Safari would be the one because of its versatility.

I find that using an eye primer is a must with the Ombre Essentielle shadows. They're very soft and need something to boost their grab on the lid. Chanel actually has a new eye primer in a pen which I'm very curious about, so expect a review soon.

Chanel Ombre Essentielle Eye Shadows ($28.50 each) are available from most decent department stores as well as online. I bought mine at Saks.

All photos by me. 

Ormonde Jayne- Orris Noir

What to wear when Mercury is in retrograde?

I don't know if it's the alignment of the planets, the weather or the pollen, but some days just feel off. A disturbance in the Force, if you will. So I wear Orris Noir by Ormonde Jayne, and I'm not sure if it's the cure or simply a reflection of my mood. But it's beautiful, dark and has a lot of spicy incense of the kind you smell in Donna Karan's Black Cashmere, only rounder and a lot more balanced with a touch of fruit macerated in liquor.

Orris Noir has the signature Ormonde Jayne notes- red and pink pepper and a very dry musky wood. They serve as bookends to a black velvet mantle of incense, gorgeous jasmine and a surprisingly pale iris. I was a little disappointed the first time I tried Orris Noir. I hoped for a more distinct and edgy iris, maybe with some unresolved anger. But I've learned to love and respect the subtleties and elegance of this composition. It's dramatic enough  without going all the way to Bertha Rochester's territory.

While the first 20 minutes of Orris Noir are quite strong and bold, it calms down a bit later and hovers just above the skin. That's when the incense and wood are at their best. Ormonde Woman has a similar feel, but I actually prefer this one because the wood isn't as austere and I can sometimes smell an animalic touch. I find Orris Noir warmer and sexier on my skin; while I think it's a perfectly gender neutral scent, when I'm wearing it there's a distinct femininity. This is one I think I want in the parfum concentration (though I've only tried the EDP), preferably with an engraved stopper, just because. Just thinking of it is already making me feel better.

Orris Noir by Ormonde Jayne can be purchased at the London boutique (12 The Royal Arcade  28 Old Bond Street) or from Harrods. Thankfully, it's also available online directly from Ormonde Jayne and they ship oversees. I originally bought the discovery set (£35.00, free shipping) which I highly recommend.

Photo of Tina Modotti by Edward Weston, 1921

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Erno Laszlo Blue Firmarine Treatment Bar

It says a lot about my trust in Erno Laszlo skin care that I was willing to test their firming face soap. I'm not a huge fan of soap bars in general, and face soaps tend to be far too drying. But the concept of a treatment bar that promotes skin renewal, firming and moisture binding seemed quite good. Moreover, this is not an acne fighting product and is labeled as suitable for slightly dry to slightly oily skin. And it's blue.

Testing Blue Firmarine for weeks has gotten me addicted to the clean feeling it creates. The main result I see after about four weeks of use is a more even skin and less tendency to flake around the nose, as long as I don't use the bar on very cold days. Super dry days are not the right time for an overachiever cleanser, so I'll never use it in the winter, but after a day spent in a sunny NYC, this is the perfect treatment.

The instructions for use recommend we follow with Laszlo Blue Firmarine SPF 30, but I admit I use either my trusty Secret de Vie or the Erno Laszlo pHormula 3-9 cream.

Bottom line: This is going to be a summer essential. Not for mature or extra dry skin.
Bottom line 2: I still wish it came in a liquid formula. Leaving a bar of soap out in a house full of cats is asking for trouble.

Erno Laszlo Blue Firmarine Treatment Bar  ($39) is available from select department stores. I received it as a PR freebie.

Image: The Big Blue by Bob Clark

Lancome Color Fever Shine Lipstick (Old Flame)

This tube of Lancome Color Fever Shine lipstick was a GWP (I can't remember if it came from a department store or, as you can see from the plain black packaging instead of the regular one*. I rarely have much luck with gift-with-purchase lipsticks because they tend to be either nude colors or very light, but Old Flame looked like it had some potential, so I kept it.

Color Fever Shine lipsticks (I have it in Simmering hiding in one of my purses)  are very comfortable and easy to wear because of their light weight. They are not sticky at all despite the almost oily texture (that's where the intense shine comes from). The glossy finish is pretty and not too shimmery, so it's daytime appropriate. There's an adequate moisture level so my lips don't get parched underneath, but its not as luxurious and pampering as the new lipsticks from some of the top brands, and there's no added benefit to the lips. The staying power is not impressive and I find myself leaving lip prints everywhere unless I'm filling the entire lip with a lip pencil underneath, which helps the lipstick hold.

Old Flame is a warm mauve. I suspect that like you see  in the swatch, if you have very pale lips you'll notice more of the brown base. My lips are much darker than my wrist and have a distinct purple tone that neutralizes the brown. The result is a very natural looking color, but because of the high shine it looks like I'm wearing an almost sheer gloss. I reach for it when I don't have the time or patience to make sure my lipstick doesn't clash with anything else I'm wearing and don't mind to reapply as often as needed.

Lancome Color Fever Shine Lipstick ($25) is available from every Lancome counter under the horrible department store lights as well as online. I mentioned above that this tube was a free GWP.

Photos by me.

Jean Patou- Enjoy

I bought a bottle of Enjoy in 2002 or 2003, shortly after this Jean Patou perfume was launched. I remember a little fanfare over it- after all, a new release from Jean Patou is quite major. There were displays and posters in some of the local department stores and scent strips in magazines (the husband says they smell the same to him and mostly like glue). It was an impulse purchase based mostly on a quick sniffing and spraying at the store and a wish to find a Patou that agrees with me (what a difference a decade makes!).

I liked the exuberance of the green fruit over an opulent classic floral heart (that's where the connection to the classic Joy starts and ends). In theory, that is. After wearing Enjoy for a week or so I realized we were not meant to be. The fruit notes (citrus, banana and pear. Sounds like mashed baby food) didn't like my skin and I didn't like them back and couldn't smell past them. A few weeks later I sold my bottle (and a full bottle of Sublime. Yes, I'm kicking myself).

You know how these stories end. After I moved and rearranged all the samples I have in drawers I discovered a couple of Enjoy vials. I decided to give it a try, and boy was that love. Years ago I've heard it described as a chypre and for the life of me couldn't figure out why and how. While Enjoy is definitely not a chypre (no oakmoss, for starts), it is one of those modern concoctions with a green note on a non-gourmand patchouli based. Don't mistake it for an Angel clone, though. The fruit here is sheer and the base free of any chocolate, caramel. There's no vulgarity or any of that cheap smelling yummy vibe.

Instead, this Patou (or rather Jean-Michel Duriez) creation is modern in the best sense of the word. It's approachable and friendly, but you can't mistake the good breeding and proud ancestry. It's no wonder the chosen face of Enjoy was Chiara Mastroianni, daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve. While Enjoy was labeled and targeted at a younger demographic than the classic Patou perfumes, they didn't try to be too young or compete in the 15-minute celebrity game. Ms. Mastroianni was 30 when she got the job, and her look, talent and depth have put her in the same group of second-generation of fame with Charlotte Gainsbourg, not Rumer Willis or Peaches Geldof.

Enjoy's easy manners and understated charm feel quite feminine when I'm wearing it. But men who are not afraid of a fruity opening and heart of rose can probably pull it off easily. It's much lighter than DelRare's Bois de Paradis, for example. One would think that a perfume like this would be the bestseller the house of Patou (now owned by Procter & Gamble) needed to make a commercial comeback. Sadly, it never happened. While the fragrance has not been discontinued (yes, I know everyone says it was and I thought the same thing until yesterday), it was pulled off the counters in the USA and relegated to the online discounters. Patou's official website not only lists Enjoy as one of the current  perfumes on the market, there's also a full range of bath and body products. I assume they can all be found on the shelves in Europe for their full retail price. Here it's easy to find the EDP online for under $50. Monsieur Patou might be rolling in his grave, but personally I'm just happy that P&G didn't completely kill the brand (even if they try their best to strip it from every last bit of luxury).

Enjoy 2002 ad: Images de Parfums
Photo of Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve: The Independent, 2009

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Chanel Mascara Comparison: Exceptionnel and Inimitable

In which we get too close for comfort. Literally.

I've been going through a bunch of Chanel mascara samples, trying to decide which one is the best and if I need to add any to my regular mascara arsenal. The mascaras were Inimitable in Noir Obscur and Exceptionnel de Chanel in #10 Noir. I tested two mini tubes of each line for several weeks.

Inimitable has been around for several years now. I had it in both black and brown at some point but was never enamored enough to keep purchasing. I can't be sure, but I think there has been a change in formula and it's now less prone to smudges. But it's been several years since I used Inimitable regularly.

As you can see, the differences are both in textures and in the wand. Inimitable has the better brush with short comb teeth all around it that separates and reaches the smaller lashes. This is important in this case, because the formula tends to clump. The look is dramatic and distinct with a lot of extra length but not vulgar, as long as you make sure to apply as cleanly as possible. It doesn't hold a curl very well, so there's some droopiness after a couple of hours.

Exceptionnel is quite different. The color is less glossy, the brush has only three rows of teeth (another one would have given it a serious performance boost) and its focus is on volume. The thick formula give the lashes a full coat that somehow isn't too heavy (maybe that's why the brush is a bit sparse) and holds the curl beautifully. The one big issue with Exceptionnel is dryness. It's dry to begin with and becomes even more so after a week of constant use. It's not a problem when you get the mini GWP and promotional samples, but forking $30 for a tube that will not reach the 3 month mark.

Bottom line: I'll stick with Armani.

Both Exceptionnel and Inimitable ($30 each) can be found at your local Chanel counter or on My samples came with various purchases online and in store.

Photos, eyes and eyebrows that are due to be groomed are mine. I'm not wearing any other eye makeup in these photos and haven't used a curler or a lash primer, so what you see is what you get.

A Perfume Shopping Companion- My Little PSA

I don't believe in buying anything, including perfume, just because it's on sale. That said, there are a couple of things worth the savvy shopper's attention in the current promotion code (20% off with code TWENTYOFFPW valid until May 9). Here's what I spotted:

Best Deals I Could Find-
Cuir de Lancome and La Mome by Balmain are both discontinued (the latter was a limited edition to begin with).    Even before discount they are incredibly priced ($30.75 for Cuir, $22.50 La Mome), and the 20% off makes both an incredible bargain.
EnJoy by Jean Patou is also in this group. $22.75 before discount.

Serge Lutens-
Uncle Serge is not exactly bargain basement material, so finding his perfumes at discount is always nice. Not all the scents are available, but take note that Santal Blanc, which is rumored to be pulled from the export line into the Paris exclusive range next year is in stock ($108 before the additional discount).

Other niche brands-
Bois 1920, Atelier Flou, Il Profumo, Les Parfums de Rosine, Comme Des Garcons

Also worth mentioning- Lalique Encre Noire (the men's version is by far superior), Cartier Le Baiser du Dragon Parfum and EDP (just skip the EDT), Jil Sander Pastel series (I've never tried them, but I know a few readers who are fans, a handful of Annick Goutal scents, Comptoir Sud Pacifique and Tom Ford for Men.

With $1 of each sale going to ASPCA, finding a bargain here feels even better. Just don't buy unsniffed. Seriously. There's still time to get a sample before you commit to a full bottle.

Are you ordering anything? Do you have any other tips?

And, no, I am in no way shape or form affiliated with Parfum1 (or any other retailer, for that matter). You'll notice I don't link to their site and I don't get a commission or any incentive. All links in this post lead to my own reviews.

Anne Koplik Designs at Klay Gallery

We're having a serious demonstration of April Showers the last couple of days, but Saturday was gorgeous and as springy as they come. It was a perfect day to walk the streets of Nyack, NY, and visit antique stores, galleries and my favorite patisserie on this side of the Atlantic, Didier Dumas.

Another high point was Klay Gallery on 65 South Broadway. Most of the space is dedicated to pottery and there are some gorgeous pieces there, all handmade and at least semi-local. There's also a selection of the cutest baby items- clothes, blankets and toys, including tiny crocheted sleepers (including in boy colors). And jewelry...

Anne Koplik Designs is a small family business from Brewster, NY, that has steadily built a reputation and an impressive client list. This necklace called to me with its happy spring colors and cute details. The flowers were enameled by hand, but unlike other enamel pieces I have, this necklace is very lightweight. The chain is very casual and almost rough-looking, which is the only thing I might have changed, but it looks great either with a sun-dress or a simple white tank top.

Anne Koplik has a website ( that needs quite a bit of spiffing up to do the jewelry any justice. As I said above, I bought the necklace ($58) at the Klay Gallery in Nyack, NY.

Photos and neck are all mine.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics- Crushed Mineral Blush (Rouge)

I've spent the last month or so testing the Mineral Basics Kit from Younglood Cosmetics. I'm not yet ready to write a comprehensive review of the foundation, since it requires more practice, adjustment and wearing it in hotter weather (thoroughly testing a new foundation takes nearly as much time as a new skin care product/routine because of the many variables involved in making one's face look semi-decent). But the big and pleasant surprise of the kit has been the Crushed Mineral Blush.

As far as my notes and memory can tell, I've never tried a blush in a loose powder form. Generally I prefer the fool-proof textures of a cream or pressed powder.But just like any product that is loose in a jar, this blush has superior blendability. Once you get the feel of exactly how much of it you need to use, the result is very pretty. Rouge is a medium warm pink with a touch of reddish brown. While the pigment looks very dark, it's actually a natural color that blends with my skin tone- I use a lot less than what I swatched on my wrist, of course.

I already tried and loved Youngblood's regular pressed blush, so I'm not surprised with the quality of the Crushed Mineral product. I don't see a difference when I used over other mineral face products or my regular liquid and creams. I don't have a preferred brush for this yet, but when I'm mixing the blush on a flat surface outside it's smallish lid, I find that I get great results with a fan brush (this application is more like a bronzer).

Since this is basically a pigment, it can also be used on the lips. I haven't tried it yet, but tomorrow I'll have my hands on the much coveted Magic Glaze from Le Metier de Beaute, and I fully plan to experiment mixing some with this Youngblood blush.

My one and only issue with the Crushed Mineral blush is the same as with most products in this format- loose powders are messy, no matter how careful you are. I need to carefully wipe the surface of my makeup cabinets before the cats get into stuff and leave mineral paw prints all over the house. Gracie was helping me take photos. As you can see, she managed to get some of the blush on herself in no time.

Youngblood Cosmetics Crushed Mineral Blush ($20) is available from Henri Bendel and online at I got it as part of the Basic kit from the company's PR.

All photos by me. Gracie was not harmed, though she wasn't too thrilled when I had to clean her up.

Five Things I Learned In 4 Years Of Beauty Blogging

Today is the fourth anniversary of The Non-Blonde. I started the blog because I had something to say, and 1465 posts later, I still do. The thing I didn't expect back in April 2006 was how many people would be interested in reading my opinions enough to follow the blog regularly. Had anyone told me back then that every day several thousands would visit The Non Blonde directly and thousands more are going to subscribe to my feed and read it through email, I would have said it was as likely as me wearing green nail polish, straightening my hair, testing eyebrow pencils on my husband, discovering that I smell exactly like a tall guy who lives in Los Angeles or attending press events all over Manhattan...

This blog has taken me places, opened a new world for me and introduced me to some of the most special and wonderful people I have ever met. This is the best part of writing The Non-Blonde. My readers are funny, smart and are very knowledgeable about beauty, fashion and perfume and I've learned a lot from many of you.

I also learned a lesson or two about the (beauty) blogging process, which is what this list is all about:

1. It's my blog and I'll cry if I want to.
The best posts are ones that fully reflect my experience, including my emotions. That's exactly what separates a real blog from sites that spout press releases and regurgitate material.  I have preferences and opinions, likes and dislikes, and this is where I express them. Which leads us to:

2. You can't be everything to everyone.
Really, you just can't. I write about stuff I find interesting, great, horrible, annoying, sublime...
But I can't cover every brand, style and price point. And I can't (and won't) fake it. Some people would stumble across this blog and dislike, disagree or think that I have the worst taste ever. Others get exactly what I'm saying and share my style and ideas, but even they might occasionally like an aquatic melon perfume. That's life.

3. Inspiration comes in many shapes and forms. Sometimes I start with the product, other times it's a place, a song or a photo that grab me and lead to a different post than what I intended to write . Blogging isn't a scientific process and I can't force it, even when there's a list longer than my arm of products, samples and perfumes to test and review.

4. Trust your gut.
If something doesn't feel right, it most likely isn't. I'm talking about offers, emails, opportunities but also people. After you've been blogging for a while, you get a feel for the industry and those who cover it. It's OK to take a step back, define boundaries and say "No, thank you". That's how I maintain integrity- the blog's and mine.

5. It's easy to feel jaded about the beauty and fragrance industry. Unless you look closely, all you see are the huge companies that buy the full page ads in magazines, maintain an incestuous relationship with the media and seem to have a cynical view regarding bloggers as well as their own consumers. But they are not the only ones making perfume or lipstick. While not all "niche" companies were created equal, there are enough interesting brands that are driven by passion for beauty and quality. Those are the ones that offer real luxury and are worth exploring.

I want to thank each and every one of you for the readership, support and friendship. You're the reason I'm happy to put the weirdest stuff on my face, test every perfume that crosses my path and stay up late to write all about it. Welcome to my fifth year.

Photo by Chris Gin, 2009

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Weekly Roundup

It's time to catch up with the circle of fabulousness. My friends have been testing, slathering and swatching, and they have insights and photos to prove it:

Kari at Fabulous Over Forty gave us a preview of Kate Somerville's new book, Complexion Perfection. In her book, Kate shares her own stories about the skin-care business, her struggles with eczema, and her eponymous skin care. Head over to Fabulous Over Forty to read more. Bet you'll want to read Kate's book!

Kelly at Gouldylox Reviews has the fabulous Hana Professional Flat Iron from Missiko to give away! You have to see how good her hair looked after a trial run. Then enter, friends! This is the crème de la crème of flat irons.

It was Giorgio Armani Beauty week at Best Things in Beauty. Charlestongirl interviewed Tim Quinn, Celebrity Face Designer, and showcased the line's summer makeup introductions. See why she's smitten with Armani!

Speaking of Giorgio Armani Beauty, KarlaSugar at The Next Best Thing to Going Shopping Yourself swatched Armani's powder blushers. Check them out. There's a lesson too. Colors come and go, so if you love one, buy it before it's gone!

What have the gals at BeautyXposé been up to? Testing Ole Henriksen’s Anti-Aging Perfecting Mask. Sounds like 10 minutes of tingling can add up to smooth, soft skin.

Lianne at The Makeup Girl has a new favorite eye cream: Kiehl's Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado. Sounds good enough to eat!

Felicia, with a brand new site design at ThisThatBeauty, has been writing a series on hyperpigmentation. Who over 30 doesn't have a touch of that? Her latest installment on DERMAdoctor's Immaculate Conception is a must-read!

Laurie at Product Girl shared her five NARS must-haves! She did the testing for you. Want to share your NARS favorites? Just leave a comment.

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend. It's been absolutely gorgeous here in North Jersey and even my allergies are winding down, which is a very good thing- antihistamines do weird things to my mind- I've been having wacky dreams starring Jean-Claude Elena and David Boreanaz.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Cher- Uninhibited (vintage perfume)

Celebrity perfumes were not invented by Paris Hilton, though I hold whoever gave her the deal responsible for the downhill descent of the trend. Without the Paris Hilton fragrances we probably wouldn't have gems from Kim Kardashian, Jenna Jameson and Pamela Anderson (and we wouldn't be playing a "guess the next luminary to have a scent" game. Take your pick: Snooki, Shauna Sand or Mrs. Ice T).

Uninhibited by Cher (a 1989 release) has something in common with Catherine Deneuve's perfume. Not any olfactory similarity (Deneuve was a hardcore chypre), but a certain point of view regarding the concept of celebrity scents. These are fragrances that actually try to represent the actress without patronizing the target audience.

Like Cher herself, Uninhibited is a big bottle of contradictions. The opening is bright and floral, before it turns to the dark side of extra dirty ylang-ylang and orris. It's bold, loud and strong, but at least on my skin it doesn't cross the lines of vulgarity. I never cared for Cher's music* but loved her movies. It was always difficult to reconcile the talent and sensitivity of her performance as an actress with her red carpet appearances. The larger than life costumes were quite tasteless and made Cher look like she was trying way too hard. Didn't she know she was already gorgeous without the feathers and bellybutton? Did she want to be remembered for showing her pelvic bones at every opportunity?

Uninhibited dries down to a non-gourmand vanilla mixed with some serious animalic notes. I'm pretty sure there's quite a bit of tonka in the composition, and maybe also civet, though I can't find any verification. It's a bit too heavy handed to be considered a "fine perfume". Wearing it is fun, but requires a little self irony and some restraint in application, as it's an aggressive scent that can take up all the air in the room. Even the EDT has a phenomenal staying power (24 hours on my skin), and it might never leave your coats if you get a drop on them. The late drydown is my favorite part. By the time you can no longer smell me from across the street, Uninhibited becomes an elegant oriental, more Oscar winner than an obnoxious diva.

Uninhibited was discontinued years ago. According to the information on Basenotes, there was (is?) an LLP dupe from the late 90s, but the original Cher bottle is a big part of the fun. It can sometimes be found on eBay, but I bought my bottle at an antique store for far less than I'd have paid online.

*There was an episode in season 4 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer where Buffy suspected her new roommate was an evil demon because she had a Celine Dion poster and had her Cher CD on repeat. You have to admit it makes perfect sense.

Le Metier de Beaute Creme Fresh Tint (Tenne)

I'm always amused to see how Sabrina from The Beauty Look Book and I are on the exact same makeup page, just with different shades. The other day she reviewed one of my newest blush loves-  Le Metier de Beaute Creme Fresh Tints. She's braver than me and has a more cooperative skin tone, so she got both colors- Poppy and Tenne. I can't do bright colors on my cheeks, especially not corals, so I only bought Tenne.

I love the versatility of cream blushes. They blend beautifully and give the most natural flush. Le Metier de Beaute Creme Fresh Tints have the perfect texture for the healthy glow look. The blush is creamy with a satin finish and sheer enough not to coat the skin but give it a good dose of color. It has absolutely no artificial looking shine, shimmer or glitter, so as long as you blend correctly and figure out how much color is good for you, this is the most fool-proof blush you can hope for.

I've been testing it over various foundations and it works with just about anything underneath, except mineral makeup in loose powder form. The germaphobe in me prefers applying it with a dense synthetic brush, but I admit it's easier and faster to get the desired result using your fingers. So I got over myself and  placed a pack of disinfecting wipes in my blush drawer.

The tints are supposed to also be used on your lips, but I can't pull it off. Between the texture and the color (Tenne is at least two shades lighter than my lips), it looks dry and chalky. The cream also settles right into the scar on my bottom lip, so for me it's a no go as a lip product.

Le Metier de Beaute Creme Fresh Tints ($28) are exclusive to Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. I ordered it online from one of them (can't remember which).

All photos are mine.

Chemical Bonding by Ineke

Chemical Bonding plays games with the sniffer from the very beginning. First comes the name, which might make one think about weird industrial notes, sterile labs and maybe a solemn and somber atmosphere inside grey walls. Then you spray it and get such a strong blast of lemon you want to make sure you didn't misread the label on this perfume.

The brightness is the main element in Ineke's Chemical Bonding. When the sharp citrus notes calms down you find yourself sitting in an open and airy breakfast room early on a weekend morning. The place is airy and the sunlight fills it through the open window. You're having lemon tea while looking outside, taking in the scenery and smelling the fresh cut flowers and mixed berries from the handmade white ceramic vase and bowl on the table.

Just as you think Chemical Bonding is a lighthearted fruity floral that is all about freshness, you start smelling the human element. The ambery musk makes you aware of your skin- the warmth of the sun as it caresses you, what it feels like to be touched, the dense and velvety texture and its smell.

You're ready to start your day.

Chemical Bonding ($88, 75 ml EDP) is the third fragrance by San Francisco based artisan Ineke Ruhland. It's available from beautyhabit and Liberty London, as well as directly from the perfumer's website ( I bought the sample set of all 6 scents from this line ($25 at the stores mentioned above).

Art: Lemon Tea by Susan Asworth

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

It's a fish eats fish world

We know it's the way of the world. I'm happy for both Essie Weingarten and Liz Earle who have accomplished something every entrepreneur hopes for: build a successful multi-million dollar business, make a mark in the industry and then sell it to a bigger company for a legendary amount of money. But I can't help feeling a little disappointed that from now on Essie Cosmetics and Liz Earle Beauty Co. will no longer be independent brands. The former is being acquired by L'Oreal and the latter by Avon, neither one gives me the warm fuzzies.

I guess it's time for a new wave of small indy companies to make it big.

Image: Fish Eat Fish by Michael Rossiter

Secret Clinical Strength Advanced Solid Antiperspirant/Deodorant

Yes, I know women don't sweat. They glisten. Whatever you call it, we are all familiar with the good fight against stink and underarm stains. Frankly, there are very few topics more boring than this, which is why I rarely blog about deodorants. I go to Target, scan the shelves to see if there's anything new and usually end up buying a solid or a gel from the men's section. The masculine products are usually quite effective and they tend to smell better than those tropical cucumber orchard things manufactured for women.

But I got curious enough about the idea of Secret's Clinical Strength line which promises to be comparable to prescription strength products. These deodorants/antiperspirants contain a high dosage (20%) of the active ingredient and a supposedly more effective formula. The instructions say to apply the product at night, right before bedtime because during the night the sweating mechanism slows down and the formula was designed to be activated and take advantage of the body’s natural temperature variations and react with the skin for an improved performance.  They claim it  will protect you the whole next day even if you bathe or shower the next morning.

I was a bit wary, but surprisingly they were right. Not that it matters much when I ignore the instructions and apply right after showering, but it's definitely very effective when applied the night before, no matter what you do the next day or how warm the weather gets. Ever since I started using Clinical Strength, I no longer had to think about my deodorant and never experienced wetness, ripeness and all the other joys that come with having underarms.

Bottom Line: If only there was a cure to the white deodorant residue on black camisoles my world be that much more complete.

Secret Clinical Strength Advanced Solid Antiperspirant/Deodorant is available from most drugstores for about $11.50. It might be found online for a little less.

Image: A 1977 ad for Secret deodorant featuring Cheryl Tiegs from

Chantecaille Les Delices Lip Gloss Palette

Chantecaille's lip gloss palettes are pure joy for those of us who love mixing colors and playing with brushes and shades until we get that perfect hue. Of course, each of the colors in the set is gorgeous by itself and can be worn alone- I actually own a full size pan of Campari. But it's more fun to dip and blend, right?

Chantecaille lip glosses are soft, smooth and moisturizing without ever being sticky. They might be sheer, but still rich in pigment and their shine (and shimmer, when applicable) is understated and elegant. Les Delices is the darker of the two palettes available (Les Sorbets is focused on pink), but you can lighten up any of the heavier colors by mixing it with the shimmery gold Cristal. You can also build the color and coverage by using the three darkest ones together, and each one of them can also be worn over a lipstick.

The gloss brush that comes in the sleek compact is excellent, and as far as I can tell it's a short-handle version of their full size, $30 brush. It adds quite a bit of value to this palette.

Bottom line: Beautiful and versatile.

Chantecaille Les Delices Lip Gloss Palette ($69) is available from most top department stores, online and at the counter. I bought mine from Neiman Marcus.

All photos are mine.

Viktor & Rolf - Flowerbomb

I don't know why it's called Flowerbomb. Yes, the official list of notes suggests all kinds of flowers, such as jasmine, rose, orchid and freesia, but every time I tried this Viktor & Rolf creation in the last five years, I got baby Angel.

It's the fruity patchouli, of course. I do smell the plastic rose note, but even that one feels fruity and Barbie Pink instead of something found in nature. Flowerbomb is not as cluttered and violent as Angel, but it has that  sweet junk food vibe. I mentally place it in the same category with Miss Dior Cherie, Hanae Mori and Coco Mademoiselle, only more pretentious than the first two and less calculated than Chanel. They all follow a similar formula for what is considered young and yummy- chocolate-fruit-musky drydown. The fruit in Flowerbomb is a bit more abstract. Sometimes it reminds me of strawberries, other times it's peachy. The musk is the same one you find floating in the air of most department stores. It bores me to death.

The best thing I can say about Viktor & Rolf's contribution to the genre is that it shows a little more restraint. Maybe it does have more floral notes in the heart that give Flowerbomb some delicacy and keep it from fumigating cubicles and elevators all over creation. It's not a bad representative of this style and the generation that wears it, I just don't like it very much.

Flowerbomb by Viktor & Rolf ($100, 1.7 oz) is available from Sephora and most department stores, and judging by the number of samples I tested for this review, they are easy to come by.

Photos: Flowerbomb anniversary cake from, Judith Leiber strawberry cupcake clutch from

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ellis Faas Creamy Lips L101 Ellis Red

Ellis Faas makeup line is modern and dramatic from the innovative packaging to the range of colors. And nothing is more drama than a very red lipstick, which is Ellis Faas' signature item. Creamy Lips is a liquid lipstick in a sleek pen with a sponge applicator. The formula is long-lasting and can act as a lip stain or a full coverage lipstick, depending on the amount you apply. But that's not the whole story- the texture is also extremely soft and moisturizing: it makes lips look and feel good for hours.

I've been playing with my Creamy Lips- applying straight from the pen, using a lip brush, blending with a balm to dilute the color or use over a lip primer. no matter what I do, it always looks good and leaves enough pigment for many hours. The lipstick's effect is still evident even after lunch or a  drink. While some of the color and finish transfers to the cup, my lips still look painted and feel soft and smooth. That alone is pretty amazing.

Ellis Red (L101) is the signature color of this collection and can be found in all three lipstick ranges (Creamy, Glazed and Milky). It was developed to look as close to "blood red" as possible, and you can tell from my somewhat disturbing swatch photo that this goal was fully achieved. Wearing Ellis Red makes your lip the focal point of your face, so make sure they're in top shape. Another thing to consider about the shade is that it brings out any redness and/or skin issue. So if you plan on wearing L101, take the time to do the works and cover any hint of imperfection. Use a good primer (preferably one that tones down any redness), a medium-to-full-coverage foundation, dab and blend concealers and highlighters where necessary and set everything with the finest powder you own. It's high maintenance, for sure, but absolutely necessary when wearing an Oscar night worthy red lipstick.

Bottom line: A must try for any red lip addict.

Ellis Faas Creamy Lips ($35) is exclusive to Bergdorf Goodman and Liberty London(€25.00). I recieved mine at a Bergdorf media event.

All photos are mine.

Annick Goutal- Ninfeo Mio

When it comes to perfumes centered around a very specific note, one can sometimes wonder if it's possible (or necessary) to have a new or different interpretation. Of course, the obsessed among us would tell you there can never be too many leather perfumes. Or vetiver. Or tuberose.

Or fig.

Ninfeo Mio, the newest perfume from Annick Goutal (created by the house's perfumer Isabelle Doyen) is a fig scent, and even I was surprised at the originality of this beautiful composition. From the sharp mixed citrus notes of the opening to the green depths of the perfume (galbanum, and quite a bit of it, judging by the excellent staying power), there's so much to enjoy in Ninfeo Mio I'm in a fig-lover heaven.

The perfumer's inspiration, the Italian Giardino di Ninfa, is evident. Citron, lemon, bitter orange and fig trees growing on an ancient stream, shading and protecting the ancient grounds. There's something comforting and captivating in aromas that have been there since ancient times (though the garden as it is today is the result of restorative work from the 1920s). It's beautiful and almost wholesome, but just wild enough to make you think of frolicking fauns and maybe a bacchanalia (or two) going on among the trees and shrubs. Ninfeo Mio is really that much fun to wear.

Like last year's Goutal, Un Matin d'Orage, Ninfeo Mio is an eau de toilette. I can't help but wish for an extrait de parfum. Not because it lacks anything, it's just my own desire to indulge in this green fig to the max. As I've mentioned, it stays on my skin for many hours. The citrus notes are gone, of course, but the fig, galbanum and general greenery delight me for more than 12 hours. It can be sprayed with abandon without ever feeling too heavy, and the lack of any sweetness makes Ninfeo Mio and ideal summer scent. On a man's skin (the husband's) there's a lot more wood and herbs than I smell on myself, no matter how much or how little I apply. It's the most unisex fig scent I've come across, even more than the crystalline Figuier by Heeley.

Annick Goutal's Ninfeo Mio is available right now in few select locations such as Bergdorf Goodman and Henri Bendel in NYC (and Harrods in the UK). I bought my 100 ml bottle ($115, the ribbed feminine version. The juice inside is identical to the one in the rectangular one) at Henri Bendel. Neither store offers it online yet (Harrods does, but they do not ship overseas), but you can order by phone. I have to say that I'm deeply impressed with the change I see at Henri Bendel's perfume department. There's a serious effort there to become a major force in luxury and niche perfume. Now if they only discover the joy of e-commerce.

Photos of Giardini di Ninfa by Komakino1976 and Fabio C. Favaloro on Flickr.