Monday, January 31, 2011


These Valentino wedge sandals might be the summer statement shoes I've been after lately. I'm a little worried the embellishment might be a bit too much, but I wear a lot of light neutrals in summer that could stand a little extra spice, even if it's green and punkish. And you rarely go wrong with Valentino.

Valntino studded leather and rope wedge sandals in forest green ($695) from  Net-a-Porter

Spotlight On A Blogger: Charlstongirl from Best Things In Beauty

A fellow cat lover, a fabulous blonde power shopper, Charlstongirl from Best Things In Beauty is also a true inspiration for me on life beyond cosmetic counters. While I'm rarely able to pull off her favorite colors, her opinion and point of view are invaluable to me. Charlstongirl is one of the leading voices in intelligent beauty blogging that goes far beyond lipstick colors or the latest trends. I hope you also follow her on Twitter to get the full scoop.

Here's Charlstongirl in her own words:

When did you start blogging and why?
I started blogging about beauty in the summer of 2009 (I had written a local political blog years before, when blogs were new). I had been reading beauty blogs and saw an invitation for guest bloggers on BeautyLuxe. I responded, and I wrote a few posts for Kimberly. I realized quickly how much I enjoyed writing about my beauty passion - and that there weren't many beauty bloggers in my age group. Since I was a frequent flier at all the department stores, and I had closets full of beauty products, I knew my subject was a natural. I love writing. I had intended to major in journalism in college, but was snagged by psychology. I published the first Best Things in Beauty feature in July, 2009, and the rest is history.

Every blog seems to have a special voice - what's the message on your blog?
That's a good question. My readers might be able to provide a better answer than I can. I like to focus on beauty products that are the "best in beauty." I don't want to waste my time - or theirs - on products that don't make the grade. When a product has been hyped, and I don't think it's worthy of our money, I might cover it as a warning. Otherwise, I skip the bad and mediocre and feature the best (or newest). As a rule, I focus on higher-end products, but I try to cover the best from drugstores too. I don't cover teen beauty; I have no idea what the kids are buying. I always try to provide balance on the blog, featuring not only makeup (which seems to be the most popular subject), but also fragrance, skin care, hair care, tools, celebrity beauty now and then - everything beauty. I even write a rant now and then.

Following the beauty industry is fun. Beauty products are affordable luxury; buying them is so much easier on the wallet than collecting Giorgio Armani fashion! I am fascinated with every aspect of the industry, from the science behind skin care and cosmetics to public relations and marketing, so I enjoying reading, researching, and talking beauty. That's one reason you'll often find me hanging out at beauty department counters, picking the brains of product line reps for ingredients, why products work, and what's coming, along with techniques and tips. I love sharing that information.

Have you always been a beauty fanatic or did it come later in life for you? What made it blossom?
No, my interest in beauty products has waxed and waned. I went to a strict Catholic high school, and I'm sure visible makeup would have been a no-no. I was a cheerleader, and we had to keep our hair above our shoulders! Can you imagine? Somehow, we were supposed to keep our skirts from flying up in the air and exposing our "bloomers" when we jumped. I was always on the edge of trouble over my hair, skirt length, and bloomers. Once I went to college, my interest in fashion and beauty blossomed. Even as a college student, I had a subscription to Women's Wear Daily. There wasn't an online edition "way back then." Every day, WWD was delivered my college mailbox. It was a treat to pour over the latest news. Even today, I eagerly await my monthly fashion and beauty magazines. WWD Beauty Biz is my favorite.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm in my early 60's and single. I live in a fabulous home in Northern Virgina, and I love my garden, which I built from nothing, with love. I have two cats, Charleston and Savannah. Charlie is a gorgeous Snow Marble Bengal. Savannah, equally gorgeous, is a rescue cat. She is definitely schizophrenic, and, unfortunately, she has epilepsy. I love antiques, art, books, and great food!

I was frantically busy when younger, earning a Ph.D. in psychology and subsequently running my own management consulting business for many years. Now, I work for a large financial company in compliance and ethics. I have always been a volunteer, and much of my "spare time" and money have been spent on local and state issues, including land use and conservation and environmental/animal causes. I have also been active in many horticultural societies. That's one reason I write Best Things in Beauty under a pseudonym. If you Google my real name, many pages of results from local civic association activities will be returned, including some of my most-famous mouthy quotes from public hearings. I decided to keep my various lives separate.

What's your daily beauty routine?
It's relatively complicated. Every morning, I get up and wash, condition, and style my hair (using a mousse and hairspray to set the style). I try to use hydrating products. I am always testing products, but I return to my favorites unless a new product has knocked my socks off (that happens fairly often). Before work, my regular beauty routine starts with a cleanser for my face and neck in the shower. Then I apply one of my favorite serums and an eye cream (I've been using Cold Plasma Eye, but I'm always on the lookout for a new one). After they absorb, I add a moisturizer (or two) and makeup. There has to be sunscreen in one of them. My makeup always includes a concealer, eyelid primer, eye shadow, mascara (I love Maybelline Define-A-Lash), foundation (usually Giorgio Armani), blush, lipstick, and lip gloss. Sometimes a highlighter too. Before I'm out the door, I add fragrance. During the day, I re-apply lip color/gloss/lip conditioner repeatedly, and I often use a hand cream during the day. Before bed, I always cleanse my face thoroughly, using an eye makeup remover if I need it after the cleanser. Then I do skin care: serum, moisturizer, and now Chantecaille's new Biodynamic Lifting Neck Cream. Morning and evening, I use a body moisturizer. I also use a hand moisturizer after I give Charlie his evening treats. Right before I go to bed, I apply Lisa Hoffman's Spa Facial Lip Moisturizer). I supplement my regular products (some of which I rotate) with whatever my skin "tells me" it needs. For special occasions, I add products, such as eyeliner, which I don't wear every day. I know I should, but I prefer to beat the traffic rush into DC. Another product I use is scented hand soap. I love it and have a nice one at every faucet. Then there are the home fragrances (diffusers and candles), which delight me.

How many lipsticks/glosses can be found in your handbag at any given time?
Too many! More than I'll ever use in a day or week. I'm bad at subtracting - really good at adding, though. Recently, a Clarisonic rep held my handbag for me. It was heavy because it had my camera in it. I roared at his response, "Girl, no wonder your back and knees are bad! This purse is ridiculously heavy!" Well, of course! It had a full face of makeup in it, with every shade you could imagine. I pared it down after my knee surgery, but I doubt it will remain spare.

What's the best beauty advice you've ever received?
From my dermatologist who told me to stay out of the sun and always wear sunscreen. He should know. He's had to use liquid nitrogen to remove a lot of actinic keratoses that have resulted from my unbridled attempts to become a bronze goddess when I was younger.

What's the most surprising thing you have learned since staring your blog?
My readers have become a second family - definitely my friends! People warn that cyberspace is "dangerous," and I've seen some pretty nasty comments on blogs. At first, I was reluctant to "expose myself" to that. I feel so privileged, though. I have never experienced anything but warmth and love from my readers. I'm sure I have the best readers (and friends) in the world. I've formed lasting friendships with so many wonderful women (a few men too!). We e-mail, we call, we comment back and forth on the blog. Blogging has been an enriching experience. I'm also thrilled with the many beauty bloggers I call friends now. Our roundup team is amazingly talented. I check in on each of their blogs every day. I hope all my readers do too.

Photo of Bengal kittens by Junglelure on Flickr.

Sephora by OPI Do I Know You? Nail Polish

I just broke another nail while tending to feline waste management, so my nails are once again a bit of a mess. As soon as I finish typing this post I'm going to take care of the situation: file, buff and polish using a color that makes everything look more... polished, I guess. Do I Know You? from Sephora By Opi is a sleeper color, a rosy beige mauve thing, classy with enough personality. It doesn't attract much attention but it complements warm skin tones and looks elegant but not boring.

I love the application of most Sephora By OPI polishes and Do I Know You? is no exception. It's not streaky, dries quickly (especially for a creme formula) and is low maintenance- just polish and go. A clear top coat every morning makes the manicure last for almost a week with only minor wear to the tips.

Now if I could only get the cats to clean after themselves.

Sephora by OPI nail polish ($9) is available from Sephora stores and online.

Photos by me.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz- Epices d'Hiver

We're having a cruel winter. It looks and feels like Narnia under the reign of the White Witch. The world is covered by a thick coat of snow that only grows deeper every week, Christmas is not coming any time soon and as much as much as I like my wardrobe, it only contains dresses and sweaters, not a magical lion. Perfume is a different matter, though. A good warming fragrance like Epices d'Hiver by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz can make things (and me) feel a lot better.

Too many perfumes of this genre can be too much of a good thing and hit you on the head with a spice cake. But the thing about DSH's Epices d'Hiver (winter spice) is the perfect balance. It starts very peppery and a little masculine, but the other spices kick in quickly and make a warm and delicious wrap that lingers close to the body but has enough kick to be felt and smelled. The dry-down is even better: an ambery vanillic incense thing, soft as cashmere and musky in the nicest possible way. Epices d'Hiver is almost foody but not quite, and almost animalic without going there all the way. Dawn Spencer Hurwitz created a beautiful, wearable winter scent, perfect for a snow day snuggling as well as when you need something to help face the elements.

Epices d'Hiver has great longevity (8 hours on my skin) and a very polite sillage. The clove, cinnamon and vanilla notes cling to scarves and shawls for more than 24 hours. This  Dawn Spencer Hurwitz creation can be easily worn by both men and women and I'm oddly curious to experiment and see how it behaves in warm weather. That is, if spring and summer  ever come back.

Epices d'Hiver by Dawn Spencer Hurwitz ($120, 1oz EDP) is available from where you can get samples and various concentrations and sizes, including a body cream.

Photo by Norman Parkinson.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Just Because: Cute Overload

I came across these the other day as I was browsing Cartier ads for my Must II review and thought you might enjoy them. What's better on a Sunday morning than a cute kitten and some luxury goods?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekly Roundup

Another week another snowstorm. If you follow me on Twitter or belong to The Non-Blonde Facebook group (links on the right) you might have seen a sneak peek of some spring items photographed on my snowy deck. The way things have been lately, if summer collections will appear in March/April there's a good chance they'd also get a snowy background in my photos. How wrong is that? To cheer us all up, here's the latest crop of fabulousness from the beauty and fragrance blogging world:

Cream blushes are a major asset for a glowing complexion. Charlstongirl loves them and explores the YSL relaunch for spring 2011. See her shade selection at Best Things in Beauty. Silky Praline might be in my future.

There's something about real French skincare that feels extra effective (just look at the skin of many a Parisian woman). Kari at Fab over Forty has re-discovered French skin care by Orlane. Expensive and effective- and makes me want to try ASAP.

I'm a devoted fan of Armani Eyes To Kill Mascara and I know many of you are with me on this. Sabrina has published the definitive comparison of Eyes to Kill Mascaras: Regular vs Excess. Read her review at The Beauty Look Book.

Three Custom Color's Sweetest Thing Palette is the talk of Twitter. Carla at Product Girl will tell you why.

There's a lot of buzz about Wet 'n Wild, a little colorful and cheap drugstore magic. Amy has eye shadow recommendations at Café Makeup.

Speaking of drugstore secrets, Debbi explains why you should sign up for the CVS ExtraCare Beauty Club at DivaDebbi

While you are at the drugstore, check out Olay's skin care. If you haven't tried it yet, Jane has some tips for you at Daly Beauty.

I was very close to buying Benefit Bella Bamba blush when I saw it in person. It's really pretty and wakes up the face. Eventually I decided it was a touch too warm for me, but look how pretty it is on Kelly from Gouldylox Reviews.

On the fashion front, last week we told you about Part 1 of Jennifer's facts about tights and pantyhose. You need to check in at BeautyXposé to read Part 2.

Ines from All I Am- A Redhead has been exploring one of my favorite houses, Parfumerie Generale. I share her enthusiasm for Bois Blond. It's a stunner.

British Beauty Blogger brings us the scoop about Givenchy summer 2011, Acid Summer. It's so far out of my comfort zone I have no idea how to deal with these colors, yet I'm intrigued. Will you try them?

One last not really related thing: Ben Schott from the New York Times invites us to share our favorite things on his Weekend Competition. Now I have the Rodgers & Hammerstein stuck in my head, but how fun it is!

Don't forget sunscreen and heavy moisturizers if you're heading out to the snow, and enjoy your sunshine and warmth if you live in saner parts of the world. Happy weekend!

Photo of model Natalia Vyrostkova by Francois Feuilhade de Chauvin for Cosmopolitan Russia, January 2010.

Rene Gruau in 3D at Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week

Fashion illustration Rene Gruau (1909-2004) worked for many of the classic couturiers. He also created the advertisement artwork for other very French items,from Champagne to Air France. But for many of us Gruau's  most iconic work is his Christian Dior fashion and perfume ads. And apparently, John Galliano feels the same.

Galliano's collection for Christian Dior Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2011 aimed to bring Gruau's illustrations to life. It was a complete success. This is couture and not Ready-to-Wear, so I don't predict any item making its way into my closet (though I would sell my soul for a jacket or two from this collection). The same goes for the red eyebrows. But the clothes were inspired and inspiring and the makeup look was as Dior as it comes, with sharp arched eyebrows, winged eyeliner and bright red lips.

Vintage Dior ads by Rene Gruau from
Christian Dior Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2011 photos by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images via Zimbio

Heidi Klum As The Face Of Astor (Coty)

Heidi Klum has a huge deal with Coty and as such she's the face of their European-only Astor brand. This week she was on a promotional tour in Germany, and this was one of the looks she presented. I usually love Heidi's makeup. She's a pro and knows exactly what works for her, so I'm surprised she let the makeup artist who did this job get away with it. Purple can look stunning on hazel eyes, but this is too much and isn't flattering. It also doesn't look well-blended.

Don't you think Heidi deserves better?


Kevyn Aucoin Concealer Brush

Concealers, like any other makeup items, require different brushes depending on their texture and the task at hand. Are you trying to highlight a larger area and blend it seamlessly into your foundation? Are you trying to hide a scar? cover a blemish? Is it a thick cream or a light fluid concealer? Then there are your personal preferences regarding bristle type and shape. Generally I'd recommend having a few concealer brush in different shapes and sizes so you're ready for most common tasks.

Kevyn Aucoin Concealer Brush is unique in its small flat head. It's meant for detailed and precise work, and make the smallest imperfections disappear when using a high-coverage thick product. Hiding small blemishes and thin scars is suddenly easy because the Kevyn Aucoin brush grabs the right amount of spackle and deposits it exactly where and how you want it. The head is thinner and flatter than in most pointy concealer brushes (like Laura Mercier and Sephora Professional Platinum) and smaller than in traditional flat ones (think Chanel, Smashbox and most others). That's why I also like using this brush for highly accurate jobs like applying concealer around the lip line to create the perfect lipstick look and keep everything firmly in place (it also need to perfectly blended, otherwise don't bother).

Kevyn Aucoin makeup brushes have a pretty handle- maroon colored inside a clear lucite shell. They're sturdy, stable and have a comfortable weight and grip. The concealer brush washes easily and dries quickly. I reach for it often and find it an essential tool.

Kevyn Aucoin concealer brush ($24) is available from Barneys, and

Photos by Sophie and me.

My lovely assistant:

Must de Cartier II

Wearing and assessing a perfume that is or was the signature scent of someone you used to know, is difficult at best. It's hard to tell if you like (or dislike) it due to the memories or because of the way it smells. It took me a while and 80% of a miniature Must de Cartier II EDP to get over myself and smell the juice for what it is.

My former friend used to wear both the EDT and the EDP. If I remember correctly, the eau de toilette was greener and more mossy. I think I liked it better, though I don't have a sample to check. You see, Must II was only around for a short time- launched in 1993 and discontinued somewhere between 1999 and 2000 (I bought my friend a bottle in early 1999 and it was already a little hard to find). I'm guessing it was never crazy popular because very few bottles remained and the prices they reach online nowadays are between $200-300.

I really dislike the top and middle notes of the eau de parfum. It smells both aquatic and aldehydic, a combination that feels very wrong. The floral part is dominated by a metallic muguet, another questionable element as far as I'm concerned. But it gets a little better once it reaches a musky wood territory and I have to say Must de Cartier II has a quiet elegance and enough complexity to make me think of it as one of the last very French perfumes. I may not like it too much but I appreciate the idea behind it: a well-dressed, perfectly coiffed kind of scent. It smells of money and connections, nice hotel lobbies and good jewelry. It was a little out of place in the early nineties, when you either wore Angel or Eau d'Issey; Must II was somewhere in the middle (conceptually speaking, it smells like neither) and didn't attract enough attention to itself, which was probably part of the charm and the problem.

Notes: bergamot, peach, tarragon, green notes, hyacinth, plum, tagetes, mandarine, jasmine, rose, muguet, carnation, ylang-ylang, narcisssus, orris, orchid, sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss, cedarwood, amber, musk.

1993 Must de Cartier 2 ad  and 1996 Cartier Parfums ad from

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Edward Bess Warm Flame Deep Shine Lip Gloss

Warm Flame is one of Edward Bess original Deep Shine lip gloss colors and the reddest in the collection. In the tube it looks rather close to the newer Amor gloss, but as you can see from the swatches, Amor is pink-red while Warm Flame is true to its name. It can be worn alone or layered over lipstick. I've worn it with Edward Bess dramatic Midnight Bloom lipstick as well as atop low key nudes- it gives both shine and extra pigment.

Like all Edward Bess glosses, the only fault of Warm Flame is the strong fruity scent. It doesn't linger for too long and at this point I'm so used to the smell no longer bothers me, but I know some of you really dislike it. Still, the texture, color and the way Edward Bess lip products wear all make them an incredible treat and among the best you can find.

Edward Bess Deep Shine lip gloss ($30) in Warm Flame and other colors can be found at Bergdorf Goodman, select Neiman Marcus location as well as online. Also from

All photos are mine.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme

There's a whole genre of modern men's "cologne" that completely baffles me. They usually come from major designer fashion labels and they all smell the same. They sell like hot cakes, you smell them n the well-scrubbed necks of young men in urban bars and lounges, as well as on suburban dads toting their offspring and the weekend groceries in and out their 4Runners. They all smell like an unidentifiable citrus, watery violet leaf and a very fake woody vanilla that is supposed to translate to "yummy" but never does. I doubt I could ever tell them apart in a lineup.

Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme is one of them. What I mostly get from it is an aquatic-ozonic opening and the artificial sweet violet leaf thing. It smells like a watered-down, faded by countless laundry cycles  perfume my father* might have worn at some point decades ago- a zombie, frankensteined version of Grey Flannel, Furyo and   Acqua di Gio, and that is as bad as it sounds.

The dry-down, once the ozonic notes go away is easier on my stomach. I understand why men who don't know any better and their partners who themselves tend to wear and buy whatever is marketed most heavily at the moment would buy this. After all, it's an Yves Saint Laurent, it smells familiar and the bottle is cool. I just wish they did know (and smell) better.

Dane of Pere de Pierre don't always agree about specific fragrances (though it often seems like we share the attitude). In the case of YSL L'Homme, we're fully on the same page. His review is here.

*My dad nowadays happily sprays himself with Uncle Serge's Gris Clair.

Yves Saint Laurent L'Homme ($43, 1.3oz) is available at Sephora and most department stores. I've had several samples lying around that came free from various stores.

2006 YSL L'Homme ads starring Olivier Martinez from

Diorskin Crystal Nude Natural Matte Skin Perfecter

Diorskin Crystal Nude Natural Matte Skin Perfecter  is a multitasker. It's a face primer, but one can also use it over foundation for a matte finish. Now, oiliness in winter is something I haven't encountered in decades, so I have no intention of trying the latter function. I've been testing Diorskin Crystal Nude as a primer under several foundations and tinted moisturizers, and this is what I'm reviewing here.

Dior also offers a radiance boosting primer, so I was worried Crystal Nude would be extremely drying. This wasn't the case, even on sensitive areas. Diorskin Crystal Nude is waxy and does feel a bit dry in the compact, but it responds well when it touches the skin. I've been applying it with the little sponge that comes in the compact, both dry and damp (though I suspect the latter is not recommended). Application is smooth even though it has far less slip than any other primer I've tried, for better and for worse.

The hardest part is keeping track:  because of the product's dryness and the fact it's completely clear you can't really see where you've already applied it and where you might have missed a spot. I have yet to find a way around this. I probably waste some product when making sure I've got it all covered, and considering the price per quantity issue (the compact holds 0.26 oz ) this is not a good thing. 

Every base color I've tried worked perfectly over Diorskin Crystal Nude, and this is something I appreciate- I've had several primers curdle under some foundations (or maybe it was the other way around- who knows?). This one stays in place and definitely helps achieve a better and smoother coverage.

I've never tested Crystal Nude under makeup-melting conditions, so it hasn't faced the horrors of an August in NYC. Also, my skin is not exactly Grease Central, so once again, there's only so much I can say about the promise of  a shine-free complexion. But it's not overdrying even in winter and it is a good primer as far as holding onto makeup.

That said, this is decidedly not the product for me. I can never be 100% sure it was the primer, but every use ends up with 3-4 clogged pores. Texture? Ingredients? I really don't care. Congested skin is not a good look.

Diorskin Crystal Nude Natural Matte Skin Perfecter ($40) is available from Dior counters everywhere as well as from Sephora. A press sample for consideration was sent to me by the company.

Both photos are mine.

Sisley Phyto Lip Shine Sheer Burgundy No.6

Sisley offers two lipstick formulas,  Phyto-Rouge Hydrating Long Lasting Lipstick which I'll review soon, and the more sheer Phyto Lip Shine. Supposedly, the latter is a glossy treatment-focused product, but don't let this confuse you. At least in the darker shades, Sisley Phyto Shine packs on the pigment like any other lipstick (I only bought Burgundy #6, but also played with other red and plum colors).

You can see how one coat of this lipstick could be quite enough, but applying two intensifies the effect. The finish is satiny but not really glossy. It's a very grownup shine, I guess, and would always look polished and appropriate. The formula is very comfortable. It's not balmy and doesn't look or feel thick. I can't say it adds any moisture to my lips (=no hydro-plumping. I think I just invented this word), but they do feel protected. Also, after several hours of use and two re-applications there is a smoothing and softening effect, so I guess the mango butter is effective.

In terms of lasting power, Sisley Phyto Shine is pretty average for a lipstick (and good for glossy ones). The Burgundy color leaves a stain after a snack or a drink (and more if I use it over a lip liner), but reapplication is probably needed after 3-4 hours to maintain the finish. Sheer Burgundy #6 is exactly what you'd expect from the name- it's somewhere between wine and red, a bit purple, would look deliciously dramatic on paler skin tones and just right when you have dark pigmented lips like mine.

Bottom Line: Looks, feels and packaged like a true luxury.

Sisley Phyto Lip Shine ($50) is available from top department stores and online- Bloomingdale's, Saks and Neiman/Bergdorf websites.

Photos and veiny wrists are all mine.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guerlain Tonka Impériale

I've been living with Tonka Impériale for nearly a year now, almost since Guerlain launched it as their newest perfume in L'Art et la Matière series. I guess I didn't feel like reviewing it since just about everyone else did, and it looks like perfume lovers who also enjoy orientals and in particular the Guerlain way of churning them simply love this well-composed, slightly boozy gourmand. Basically, it's sweet but not too much, complex enough so it doesn't bore us, pays enough homage to the classic Guerlinade without being redundant or too literal in this "back to basics" approach.

It's very obvious that Thierry Wasser, Guerlain's house perfumer, has a real respect to the house's tradition. And to its loyal fans and customers who deserve better than Idylle. I love wearing Tonka Imperiale on all its honeyed tobacco, incense, almond cookies and, of course, vanilla-tonka base. This perfume is softer and more subtle than the list of notes suggests. As L'Heure Bleue wearers can tell everyone, a pastry accord doesn't need to smell like Jessica Simpson. It should smell like Paris, and Tonka Imperiale has that French thing going for it while still offering snuggly comforts.

The tobacco, hay and vague incense-woodiness (I get both more in the middle before it dries down into vanilla) keep Tonka Impériale from getting too sweet and too obvious. Instead, it's warm, sexy and has just enough sillage to make a great date night perfume. It also has all the addictive qualities that make a signature scent. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some less promiscuous oriental fans are adopting this perfume as their one and only. In another life or a parallel universe it could have been such a candidate for me. As things go in the real world I'm just happy to have it as part of my rotation.

Tonka Impériale ($235, 75ml EDP) is available from Guerlain boutiques around the world (those that stock the  L’Art et la Matière series), Saks flagship in NYC, Bergdorf Goodman and online at (look for the fragrance trunk show category). As always, The Posh Peasant and The Perfumed Court sell samples and decants of various sizes, so please don't buy blind.

Photo of Lee Miller by George Hoyningen-Huene

Lancome Blush Subtil Mauve Coquette

One of the thing the people of Lancome really know how to do is blush. The colors of their permanent line have always been pretty and wearable, with the bonus of rarely getting discontinued. The textures have improved throughout the years, making them somewhat more delicate (I still remember the 80s version and can't believe we actually used that. Then again, most other brands were far worse).

Mauve Coquette is a medium shade, neutral-to-warm on the warm-cool continuum (see how it changes with the light in the photos), and tends to go with the wearer's coloring. On me it pulls warmer, but I saw it on a pale, pink cheeked face and it worked just as well. I didn't watch it very heavily here, so there's enough pigment to either go with a bold sculpted look or apply sheer and natural.

The texture is not quite matte but there are no obvious shimmer particles. Like all Lancome blushes it blends very well, despite not being the softest or silkiest. There are better and more refined formulas on the market that give the face something extra: a glow that's beyond face paint. But as far as traditional blushes go, this is quite nice.

Bottom Line: one of the best in the mid-department store level.

Lancome Blush Subtil ($29.50) is available from your local counters and Some shades can also be found at Sephora (Mauve Coquette is not online). Mine was a GWP (hence the packaging)  from one of the department stores (possibly Bloomingdale's, but I can't remember for sure).

All photos were taken by me.

Monday, January 24, 2011

L'Artisan Parfumeur- Traversée du Bosphore

Crossing the Bosphorus, taking a journey between Asia and Europe, visiting Turkish markets, smoky bars, spice and sweets sellers sound more like a Serge Lutens mission statement than a L'Artisan Parfumeur brief for a perfume. Yet it was Bertrand Duchaufour who took the trip and composed this travel memoir for L'Artisan, complete with a Turkish delight note.

I wasn't expecting to like Traversée du Bosphore so much, let alone love it. I thought that between Uncle Serge and Keiko Mecheri, I was all loukoumed out, not to mention how apple and pomegranate notes are not necessarily my idea of fun. It turns out that Traversée du Bosphore is not about fruit at all. There is a perky lightness in the opening, but none of what we've come to know as a sticky red fruit accord. It was quite amusing, actually, since the first time I tested this L'Artisan on my skin (the husband has tried it a couple of months before but it was mostly a neutral musk on him) I also tried Frederic Malle Portrait Of a Lady. I was full of anticipation for the latter and thought I was going to love it. Instead, the Lady turned out to be a fruitchouli and the one that captured my attention was Traversée du Bosphore. I wanted to spend more time with it.

On my skin, Traversée du Bosphore is equal parts dry iris, soft aged leather, vanilla and musk.  Very few L'Artisan perfumes were made to hit you with a sweet stick, and this is no exception, despite the Turkish delight accord. The perfume is very warm and dry, and despite the obvious leather note, the tactile feel of it as more suede-like. There's some spice emerging from behind the iris, but it's subtle- those who dislike the souk aromas of many Lutens fragrances have nothing to worry here. It's saffron, not cumin, and the general impression is of something wafting from some distance while you actually stroll in the open air, not stuck in the  back room of a spice merchant. The dry-down is very musky but in a clean, non-animalic way. It's powdery and the vanilla is pale, demure and has fresh rosy cheeks- it's not a femme fatale scent and not overly foody. A man who wears vanilla well should have no problem pulling this off.

Traversée du Bosphore has an impressive lasting power. It may be a quiet scent but it stays alive for 14-16 hours easily, and if I apply it at night it's still very much there in the morning. I find that wearing it outside in the cold mutes the scent down considerably, but getting back inside makes it bloom and gain more sillage. I'm curious to see how it performs in the summer. I have a feeling it might become a favorite hot weather oriental.

L'Artisan ParfumeurTraversée du Bosphore ($115, 50ml EDP) is available from all L'Artisan retailers- MiN NY, Luckyscent and the other usual suspects.

Photo of Ortakoy, Istanbul, on the Bosphorus by Fikret Onal