Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Esteban Paris- Classic Chypre

Fans of classic chypre perfumes have been hunting high and low to get their fix. The old ones no longer smell like themselves and whatever it is they call a "modern chypre" rarely comes close to the satisfying sensation we used to get when wearing the real thing. Between restrictions on raw material and the simple fact that anything that smells so oakmossy and perfumy is sadly out of style, they no longer make them that way.

Except for those who do. I already reviewed Chypre d'Orient, the little-known gem from Molinard. Today I'm bringing you another one of those new-perfume-that-smells-like-vintage, Classic Chypre by Esteban Paris. Compred to Molinard's Chypre, Esteban made things a bit safer with a lighter hand and a lighter concentration. Classic Chypre sneaks up on you rather than hit you on the head with its big pointy brassiere. The opening is an elegant mild green, a touch of bergamot, a hint of leafy herbs, perhaps something fruit with a dash of citrus juice dripped over it. A very spicy floral heart follows without committing to a specific note. It's abstract the way older perfumes meant to be: smoothly blended, opaque and a bit naughty, all the while keeping their expensive-looking gloves on.

I do smell the rose, somewhat powdery with no tartness in sight. I also feel the phantom presence of a red carnation, but that might be clove. This is where Esteban's Classic Chypre really starts soaring and you can just lean back and enjoy the ride back in time. A solid foundation of patchouli and oakmoss holds everything together. It has that deep and dark color of the forest floor or thick velvet curtains at an old mansion's library. This fragrance is absolutely delicious in a chypre kind of way, but not because it has vanilla listed in the notes. As a matter of fact I can't smell vanilla here to save my life and the only hint of sweetness comes from a somewhat mellowed-down patchouli.

If I have any reservations about Esteban's Classic Chypre is that it's an eau de toilette, thus a bit too airy and light. I wish it were at least an eau de parfum if not an extract. I keep imagining how luxurious it could be to dab a couple of drops where it matters instead of the heavy spraying I have to do whenever I choose Classic Chypre as my scent of the day.

Notes: bergamot, basil, jasmine, rose, spices, patchouli, vetiver, oarkmoss, vanilla.

Classic Chypre ($95, 50ml EDT) is available from estebanparis.com.  Samples can be found on The Perfumed Court.

Image: a 1957 photo that appeared in Playboy via The Nifty Fifties.

Shiseido S5 Rosy Flush Accentuating Color Stick Blush

Ten years ago I was very anti stick blush. It was more of a novelty item back then. There was something about the textures back then that put me off completely; the available colors didn't help, either. Things have changed since then and last year I found and fell for Chantecaille Aquablush in Charming, a gorgeous dewy blush that went with me everywhere. The problem? It's no longer available. It was time for a replacement.

Shiseido offers their own little range of semi-solid blushes, Accentuating Color Stick. They come in six shades, but only four are true blushes. The other two are  highlighters (very nice ones, by the way). That's the multi-use aspect they promise. In theory you're supposed to sculpt, contour and highlight your face with the various shades of this Shiseido stick. Me? I just want a nice blush.

Shiseido S5 Rosy Flush Accentuating Color Stick is a raspberry color that looks intense in the tube and is, indeed, very rich in color. I touch the stick to my face in three points--very lightly-- and then take a small dense and round brush (Hakuhodo 210 and even the very small 212 on occasion) and blend the color to my satisfaction.  If you click on the swatch photo (yes, I know it's far closer to my skin than you ever wanted to be), you'll see how minimal blending affects the blush's intensity. It's the ease of use (and pretty color) that makes this Shiseido stick blush a winner in my book.

I always build a good base-- primer, foundation, etc. and top things with a light setting powder, so this blush (as well as everything else) stays put all day long. If you just blush and go there'll probably be some serious fading since this is a hydrating sheer formula.

Bottom Line: more shades, please.

Shiseido S5 Rosy Flush Accentuating Color Stick Blush ($33) is available at the counters and from shiseido.com. Also at Sephora (online only).

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sonoma Scent Studio- Nostalgie

Nostalgie, the newest fragrance from Sonoma Scent Studio targets those of us who clutch our pearls in one hand and our beloved vintage Patou perfumes in the other while kvetching about the State Of Parfumerie™. We love our aldehydes sparkling, our flowers opulent and our animalics roaring and grawling. Perfumer Laurie Erickson of Sonoma Scent Studio knows the feeling, but she also took pity on our nearest and not so dearest when she made these notorious notes just a tad more palpable to the modern nose.

Nostalgie goes with flowing skirts and red lipstick. It's not sinister in any way-- the gorgeous honeyed mimosa note is too sunny for that. I honestly feel that this is a very feminine and cleavagy fragrance. Not that it should prevent men from trying, but it brings out my inner Marilyn from the first go. Nostalgie is a synergie of notes and an idea. It's not a recreation of any classic perfume from the past, but it can easily sit on the same shelf as many of them. If I had to label it I'd call it a rich floral with a creamy animalic base. The floral notes come and go, too sneaky to be pinpointed and dissected. There's an idea of rose and an idea of jasmine, but you're supposed to be focusing on the atmosphere they create.

Everything is round and soft in Nostalgie. Think of it as a 1950s gorgeous figure, not a gym-toned Popeye's biceps (hello, Madonna).  It goes with a black dress just as well as it fits a vintage floral print, as long as you're comfortable carrying it and smelling like you just came back from a Roman holiday (or maybe Paris).

Sonoma Scent Studio Nostalgie ($21, 5ml EDP purse spray) is available from sonomascentstudio.com. A sample was sent to me free of charge by the perfumer.

Photo by Richard Avedon for Harper's Bazaar, 1953, from myvintagevogue.com.

Notes: Aldehydes, Indian jasmine sambac absolute, Bulgarian rose absolute, mimosa absolute, peach, violet flower, violet leaf absolute, tonka, French beeswax absolute, natural oakmoss absolute, aged Indian patchouli, East Indian Mysore sandalwood, leather, vanilla, orris, myrrh, vetiver, and musk.

NARS Makeup Removing Water

As a devotee of Bioderma (Créaline H2O - Ultra-Mild Non-Rinse Face and Eyes Cleanser, I use it to remove my makeup before I do a deeper cleansing), the one annoying issue is that it's not readily available on US shelves. A makeup remover is a basic essential and having to monitor my inventory and order online is not the best solution ever. Enter NARS Makeup Removing Water.

I've been using NARS Makeup Removing Water for several weeks now, some nights testing it on half my face against Bioderma on the other half and I can't see a difference in performance. The texture and feel on skin is the same; I soak a cotton pad with the NARS Makeup Removing Water the same way I do with Bioderma, let rest on my eyelids for 30-seconds to a minute and wipes away all traces of makeup, including mascara (I don't use watreproof, so can't comment on that). Even the most stubborn eyeliners such as Armani or YSL melt away after a nice soaking without rubbing. The no rubbing thing is huge for those of us with sensitive eyes.

NARS Makeup Removing Water takes off my foundation and everything I layer on top of it with just two rounds (the second one is more for debris and leftovers). I tested the performance by using a toner afterwords, and just like with Biodrema- nothing was left on my face. And, of course, just as promised, it's soap, oil and alcohol-free, so my skin is very happy with the results. It's the opposite idea of the vintage photos you see above (found somewhere online ages ago, I lost the source)-- this is as gentle a product as they come, so anything else you do after is not affected.

Bottom Line: excellent.

NARS Makeup Removing Water ($28. The same price as the 250 ml Bioderma if you order it from Beautyhabit, but far more expensive if you're used to ordering from frenchcosmeticsforless.com) is available at the counters and from narscosmetics.com. I received the product free of charge from the company.

Shu Uemura Pressed Eye Shadows: P Dark Blue 696, P Dark Green 595, ME Light Pink 126, ME Medium Brown 885

One of the biggest pleasures that was taken from us (us= makeup lovers in the USA) when Shu Uemura pulled out of our stores is enjoying the trained eye and hand of a Shu makeup artist. Then there are the colors that for some reason are not available online, which is quite frustrating by itself, but really-- it's the advice of a Shu Uemura-trained artist that I miss most.

The palette you see here was custom chosen for me in Paris (yes, I know I'm really of late with this post). Some of the colors here were released for fall 2011 but are still available.  P Dark Green 595, ME Light Pink 126 are not available online (at least on the US site) and it's a shame because they're brilliant. The makeup artist who did my face zeroed in on the fact that I can wear both warm and cool colors and mix them together. She also commented that I could pull off a blue or green smoky eye. The eye shadows here ( P Dark Blue 696, P Dark Green 595, ME Light Pink 126, ME Medium Brown 885) were curated to work both as  a very dramatic look or as an easy daytime neutrals with just a hint of colored accent.

 P Dark Blue 696, P Dark Green 595 look a bit glittery in the pan but you can see how smooth they are on skin. They become fantastic eye liners, pigmented and intense. ME Medium Brown 885 is a rich bronze with almost reddish terra cotta undertones.It works on the lid and in the crease, can be sheered as needed and looks lovely next to the dark green or blue. ME Light Pink 126 is a pretty basic highlighter. My olive skin tone neutralizes the pink so I'm left with a great color that works perfectly and coordinates with a lot more than just this Shu Uemura palette.

The high quality of Shu Uemura's eye shadow is well-known. They're soft, easy to blend and meld beautifully with the the skin without creasing, falling apart or migrating. Like many other beauty (and Shu) obsessed people I tend to collect them, mix and match, and always admire the complexity of the colors. Now, if we only can get them back in our department stores.

This just in: I got a Shu Uemura press release detailing some promo codes for February. There are some nice GWPs there, so here it is for your convenience:
Promo code: FSHIPPING
DATE: Jan 30 – Feb. 5
Description: Free shipping on all orders

Promo code: ROUGE
DATE: Feb. 8th – Feb. 12th
Description: a deluxe 3 piece sample set with any purchase of $65 or more

Promo code: BEAUTY247
DATE: Feb. 15th through Feb.19th
Description: with any purchase of $150 or more consumers will receive a beautiful eye&cheek palette (a value of $65)

Promo code: REDCARE
DATE: Feb. 22nd – Feb. 27th
Description: a deluxe 4 piece sample set from our red:juvenus skin care line with any purchase of $65 or more.
Shu Uemura Pressed Eye Shadows ($15 each) and empty palette ($15) are available from the counters if you're lucky enough and from shuuemura-usa.com.

Guerlain-Myrrhe et Délires

The painting you see above, Lady In Oriental Dress, is a work by George Owen Wynne Apperley, an English artist (1884-1960) who lived mostly in Spain and Tangier; Apperley's more intense creations include smoldering nudes and portraits of passionate-looking Spanish ladies (among them his second wife). But it's the painting above that caught my heart with its tenderness and subtleties, not to mention the gorgeous dress and tapestry behind the subject.

Myrrhe et Délires is Guerlain's newest addition to the Art et la Matière line. I'm a big fan of this range of modern Guerlain perfumes. They're plushy and opulent, a great link and homage to the house's classic fragrances.  Myrrhe et Delires is a little toned down compared to statement perfumes such as Tonka Imperiale, Iris Ganache, Angelique Noire and many of the others. I was ready to mentally file it with Cruel Gardenia which I never fully got or wanted to wear until I smelled it on the skin of someone else. I still don't wear it, but I gained a healthy appreciation of what's going on with this anti-gardenia.

Back to Myrrhe et Délires. It opens up sweet and somewhat powdery without being a power perfume. There's some brightness at the top, the obligatory peppery fruit. If it didn't have a very Guerlain feel I'd call it ubiquitous, but even the top notes of Myrrhe et Délires are full and cushy. So the freshness is not your average pink punch and has a somewhat pale caramel background. I can't isolate the scary pear note no matter how hard I try-- the fruit feels more like something in a reddish color, peachy without being an actual peach, just having that color and suede-like texture.

The tactile feel of suede continues when the dry iris arrives on the scene. Its treatment is again very obviously in the Guerlain way. I smell a faint echo of the classics more than the recently axed Iris Ganache. Myrrhe et Délires is not as sweet and more introverted and reserved than one might expect. Wearing it day in and day out under various conditions, I can tell that this fragrance gains more confidence and projection when my skin is very warm. Despite the general idea of hot and heavy notes, I see most of the potential for Myrrhe et Délires during the summer months.

What I barely get here is myrrh. Myrrh is not a typical Guerlain note; since this is a new release in a line that focuses on showcasing raw materials it's immediately compared unfavorably to the newish Myrrhiad from Parfumerie Generale (see Octavian's review on 1000 Fragrances). I get what he's saying, but I can't help enjoying Myrrhe et Delires for what it is, not for what it's not. The dry-down on very warmed up skin is delicate incense and even more refined patchouli. Again-- this is patchouli the Guerlain way, so I just want to wrap myself in its folds and curl in it. There are other perfumes to get an intense frankincense and/or myrrh fix, this fuzzy creature is not one of them, at least not in the dead of winter. Myrrhe et Délires is an excellent soft oriental for daytime (the low projection is very office-friendly) or a first date thing-- one would smell beautiful without radiating the wrong idea too soon. It's probably too soft for me at the moment, but it's so well-composed and pretty I just want to dive into it head first .

Notes: Grapefruit, Black Pepper, Pink Pepper, Pear, Myrrh, Iris, Rose, Incense, Licorice, Patchouli.

 Myrrhe et Délires ($250, 75 ml EDP) is already at Bergdorf Goodman and in Paris. It will be in wider distribution at all Guerlain boutiques and everywhere that carries the Art et la Matière line. The press sample for this review was provided by the company's PR.

Art: George Owen Wynne Apperley- Lady In Oriental Dress

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Favorites For Winter 2012: My World In Scent (and more) - A Joint Blogging Project

Our winter so far has been mercifully mild (other than that freak October blizzard). Still, it is winter so I'm all about winter scents and little pleasures that focus on keeping warm. As you can imagine, the cats are very supportive of any activity that includes fuzzy blankets and me not moving. So, here's what I'm loving this winter:

My Kindle. Need I say more?  One of my worst childhood nightmares was being stuck with nothing to read, so the immediate satisfaction of ordering my books and having them delivered instantly is the most gratifying thing ever. There are quite a few perfume-related books in Kindle version. Right now I have waiting for me Perfume by Jean-Claude Elena,  Essence & Alchemy by Mandy Aftel and for quick reference the Turin-Sanchez Little Book Of Perfume.

Still on the Kindle front, since this is Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee year, the royal biographies keep coming out. I finished the newest one about Prince Philip's youth and have two other books about the Queen herself (The Real Elizabeth and Elizabeth The Queen). I also picked Not In Front Of The Corgies. The name alone is delightful and it was only 89 cents.

I keep my extra blankets in storage ottomans in the living room and in my bedroom. I love placing fragrant items in there, so the travel sachet from Monsillage Perfumes was a welcome gift.

Perfume: Winter is Onda, Onda is winter. Other than that and most free skin goes to Ambre Sultan, Amber 114, Amber Absolute, Ambre Fetiche, Esteban Ambre, AmBrosius... Do we sense a theme here? But the best new release lately is Nostalgie from Sonoma Scent Studio (review coming soon).

Also: I'll sell my soul for more (more! MORE!) very vintage Jolie Madame.

Tea: Harney & Sons Ginger Licorice. Can someone please make me a thick and dark perfume based on this one?

Food: The sourdough rosemary bread we get from Whole Foods is not my favoride bread in the universe, but nothing beats it when toasted and topped with avocado. Add a squeeze of lemon and a dash of salt and I can live on the stuff for days.

Restaurant: Sinus-clearing wonderful Thai food in a place that's happy to accommodate vegetarian weirdos like us. If only Ayada was not as far as Queens. (Ayada Thai restaurant, 7708 Woodside Ave, Elmhurst, NY Tel. 718-424-0844)

Oil: For the body and for my face. I just reviewed the wonderful sandalwood one from Clarins, but there are also incredible (and natural) body oils from Providence Perfume Company and Aftelier. I'm completely addicted to Mandy Aftel's Chocolate & Saffron body oil/hair elixir. It's as good as it sounds (and then some).

For more scented things and other stuff to brighten your winter please visit my friends on I Small Therefore I Am  Katie Puckrik Smells  All I Am A Redhead  Under The Cupola  Waft By Carol  Perfume Shrine  (and thank you, Elena, for organizing this project).

Images: 14k.gold on Flickr, The Daily Mail, Parfums Monsillage, Serge Lutens, Ayada.

Eye Makeup Look At Valentino Spring Couture 2012 In Paris

Makeup looks for couture shows are rarely wearable for those of us who actually have to leave the house wearing makeup. But the look presented at Valentino Spring Couture 2012 for Paris Fashion Week is actually achievable and will not drive our neighbors to call the men in white coats for us. Superstar makeup artist Pat McGrath used pencil eyeliner and powder eye shadow to draw little squares at the outside corners of models’ eyelids. The idea is nearly bare face that celebrates perfect skin (or, well, the perfectly made up equivalent), slightly lightened brows (use a brown eyebrow mascara) and the blunt eye liner.

We can make it work.

Photos and info: WWD (photographer: Delphine Achard)

Ellis Faas L203 Milky Lips

Ellis Faas Milky Lips is a range of soft liquid lipsticks in a lighter texture than the Creamy Lips (think of the relationship between cream and milk). They're not sheer, as you can see in the photo and can give any effect from a minimal stain to a full coverage.

The formula, like that of the other Ellis Faas lip products I've tried so far, is comfortable to wear and leaves my lips happy. It also excels in longevity when applied right, which brings us to the pen applicator and how to use it. The one big advantage of Ellis Faas pens (other than their slick appearance) is that they keep the product safely away from air and bacteria. The lip colors do not oxidize in the tube and do not dry out. But then there are the applicator tips, in the case of Milky Lips a stiff plastic brush, and they're quite frustrating and annoying until one learns how to deal with them.

The secret is to not use them on the lips. Ever. It takes a few tries to learn just how much (how little, really) product you want to dispense. Once you've got it, pick it with your lip brush (a flat one like Hakuhodo 270 or B523BkSL is ideal) and apply in thin layers to the desired intensity. You can also use your finger for a stain effect if that's your thing, but I'm a brush girl. Once done, clean the pen's applicator and put the cap back on.

Ellis Faas L203 Milky Lips is a rich burgundy. It's a perfectly balanced shade, not too red or too purple, and like all Ellis Faas colors has a certain quality that complements and compliments natural skin tones and doesn't look too harsh.  It's a beautiful color with a luscious finish.

Bottom Line: Worth the learning curve and then some.

Ellis Faas L203 Milky Lips ($35) is available at Space NK and from Sephora online and at their NYC Meat Packing District location. Also at ellisfaas.com. The product for this review was sent to me free of charge by the company.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

By Kilian- Love (Don't Be Shy)

One needs quite a bit of chutzpah to make a perfume that's inspired by pink marshmallow, bottle it as a hyper-luxury fragrance and charge accordingly. Kilian Hennessey and perfumer Calice Becker went there, and surprisingly or not, their 2008 Love (Don't Be Shy) from L’Oeuvre Noire Collection is actually pretty wonderful. As long as you're a fan of the genre, that is.

Love is fluffy. Love is pastel-colored. Love is sweet sweet sweet. On the wrong skin this perfume from By Kilian could go very wrong. I may have a skin that amplifies sweetness and everything vanilla, but my saving grace in the case of Love is the lack of actual fruit notes in the combination. So it's all sugar and vanilla all the time, with a certain powdery element, but not heavy one-- it's more like someone blew on the powder puff, releasing airy clouds of the sweet stuff into the air.

I'm thankful that the marshmallow in question is not the commercial junk food stuff from the corner store. We're talking about the real thing here, handmade and fluffy, not spongy. It's the stuff you find at Parisian confectionery stores, upscale Madison Avenue candy boutiques and sometimes at Whole Foods. It's rich and sinful, a truly guilty pleasure. It's probably not meant for the sophisticated grownups who order the cheese plate at restaurants, but I never claimed to be one. Are you kidding? If there's a Pavlova on the menu that's exactly what I'm getting.

So I wear By Kilian's Love and enjoy every minute of it. They have listed  reconstituted civet oil as part of the notes/ingredients, but I don't smell any animalics in Love. Everything is as cheerful as Ladurée colorful macarons. Love even has a texture that feels like you've taken a careful bite into the macaron and tasted the softness of its filling. It's that kind of sensuality. The white musk is probably the one element that bothers me. It's a bit too expected and clean in this context, and very very detectable. It was probably done on purpose, as a dirtier musk would have changed the lightheartedness of the composition. After all, even I have yet to dare layer it with something more sinister. Somehow a dab of MKK sounds utterly wrong.

Notes: Bergamot calabria oil, Tunisian neroli oil, pink pepper berries oil, coriander seeds oil, honeysuckle, orange flower absolute, orange water absolute, Egyptian jasmine absolute, Bulgarian rose concrete, Bulgarian rose oil, iris butter absolute, reconstituted civet oil, caramelized sugar, vanilla absolute, cistus labdanum absolute, white musk.

By Kilian Love Don't Be Shy ($255 for the 50 ml bottle in it's box with the key and all the trimmings, but also $70 if you only buy the travel size refills that are 4x0.25 oz). Available from Luckyscent, Saks, Bergdorf and Neiman Marcus.

Photo of Ann-Margret in Bye Bye Birdie, 1960, from drmacro.com.

News From Guerlain

It's the D word again: Discontinued. I have an official confirmation from Guerlain that Iris Ganache and Vetiver Pour Elle will be phased out by the end of 2012. This news comes on the heels of the latest Guerlain L'Art et la Matière release, Myrrhe et Délires (review as soon as I can, for now you can read more about it on Bois de Jasmin).

Iris Ganache is the first L'Art et la Matière perfume to be discontinued, but other exclusive Guerlain fragrances were axed before. Both Iris Ganache and Vetiver Pour Elle have many admirers, so I foresee a lot of griping and kvetching. Let's hope Myrrhe et Délires is going to take some of the edge off.

The Faces Of Paris Fashion Week

Above: Karl Lagerfeld arrives at the Chanel Spring-Summer collection show during Haute Couture week in Paris. Next: Anna Wintour all aflutter about the Giambattista show.

Daphne Guinness is a ray of sunshine at the Chanel Haute-Couture show:

Carine Roitfeld attends the Prada Store Opening during Paris Fashion Week:

Anna and Donatella:

More Versace- Cameron Diaz and Donatella Versace attend the Versace Haute Couture Spring/Summer 2012 Presentation:

Cameron Diaz was seen all over Paris (she's there for a fashion shoot). Here she is at Chanel:

And here's the only person who seemed to be having fun all week and not scared of Donatella: Ines de la Fressange (arriving at Versace):

All photos: Zimbio

Sunday Riley Indigo Waves 120 Prismasilk Eye Shadow

My love affair with Sunday Riley makeup continues (and apparently it's contagious: Sabrina went shopping and has some gorgeous photos on the Beauty Look Book). Indigo Waves 120 Prismasilk eye shadow fills a gap I had in my color wardrobe: despite its name, this is more of a grayed sea blue. Depending on the light, I can see a sea foam hue, an almost cadet blue base or a stormy sky color.

Needless to say, this Sunday Riley color is very flattering to dark brown eyes. It can be applied lightly the way I did in my swatch (that's how I normally wear such colors) or packed on and built up to dramatic levels. If you use a damp brush, the finish will be intense and metallic and the blue base shines through beautifully.

The texture of all Sunday Riley eye shadows I tried so far is delicate and finely milled (see Leprechaun here, I'll review a couple of others in coming weeks). It's a quality makeup line with complex colors that give excellent results, blend beautifully and will delight the makeup addicts among us.

Bottom Line: there's a lot more Sunday Riley in my future.

Sunday Riley Prismasilk Eye Color ($26 each) is exclusive to Barneys.

Roxana Illuminated Perfume- Hedera Helix

Roxana Villa is my green witch. She takes the essence of leaves and twigs, and turns it into perfumes, weaving into them grass, flowers and the sweet California air from her garden. Or at least that's how it feels to wear Roxana's Illuminated Perfeumes.

I'm a huge fan of Roxana's GreenWitch. It's a chypre from the ocean (see also the review of the solid version), a concept as unique as it's beautiful. Last year's release of Hedera Helix takes the green chypre idea to darker places-- an ivy covered old house, the wall of a secret garden, an evergreen forest in the morning mists.  The effect is very lush and more sappy than GreenWitch. It's also sweeter, especially when layering the liquid perfume with the creamy solid.

Hedera Helix in both versions is very very green. It starts a little wild and unruly, like an overgrown garden where the ivy was allowed (or neglected) to run wild and take over. It's a little mysterious; perhaps there's some danger lurking behind the bushes. But as the perfume dries down (maintaining its wonderful sillage for long hours) the sweetness is more pronounced, the morning breeze scatters the fog and the garden in front of you has nice walking paths and manicured lawns. The bushes are covered with little flowers, and people dressed for a scene from a Jane Austen novel walk arm in arm making witty conversation. You take your parasol and hurry down the path to join them.

Read other reviews of Hedera Helix on Perfume Smellin' Things, IndyPerfumes and London Makeup Girl.

Hedera Helix by Roxana Illuminated Perfume ($30 for a mini compact of the solid perfume, $205 for 7 ml of pure perfume extract, all natural and purely botanical) is available from the perfumer's Etsy store. While the samples for this review were provided free of charge by Roxana, I'm not affiliated with her in any way other than as a very happy customer. The link is provided here for your convenience.

Photo: a blackbird eating an ivy berry by Catherine Houston.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Clarins Santal Face Treatment Oil For Dry Skin

About a decade ago I was a devoted user of Clarins classic Huile Body Treatment Oil. I loved everything about it, but eventually got distracted by newer and shinier things. Now I'm using Clarins oil again, this time on my face. It's been seven weeks since I bought Clarins Santal Face Treatment Oil and incorporated it into my nighttime skin care routine; so far I'm loving it.

Clarins Santal Face Treatment Oil is a rich skin care product that feels and smells like an aromatherapy item. I guess that it is part of the calming and soothing package. The base is hazelnut oil with sandalwood, lavender and cardamom essential oils blended in. Those who hope for a face treatment that smells like Tam Dao might be disappointed, as the lavender and cardamom make this Clarins oil more herbal than creamy. But I'm here for the skin restoration and nourishment attributes of the oil, and they're here aplenty.

Clarins Santal Face Treatment Oil feels and behaves as something between a face serum and a night cream. Sometimes I do use a regular serum right after cleansing and before the oil, but even I know it's somewhat redundant. The oil simplifies the process- it goes over clean skin (excluding your eye area) and that's all. There's an immediate plumping effect; if I have an irritated or red patch there's also a calming sensation. While the oil doesn't look greasy or sticky on the face it doesn't exactly disappear on the spot. My skin doesn't look shiny or sleeked but it feels... oiled, I guess. I got used to it after a few nights, especially realizing it doesn't leave any oil stains on the pillow and that I wake up with an extremely happy skin that responds well to my moisturizer and the rest of my morning skin regimen.

Clarins Santal Face Treatment Oil targets dry to very dry skin. For me it's a perfect winter treatment. If your skin is oily, you might want to check out the Lotus oil (contains geranium, lotus and rosewood oils). There's also an anti-aging version, Blue Orchid, that I'm planning to try at some point, but for now my sandalwood and I are happy together.

Clarins Santal Face Treatment Oil ($50) is available at the counters and from clarinsusa.com.

Photo: life.com

Shiseido RS302 Tea Rose Luminizing Satin Face Color Blush

Shiseido Luminizing Satin Face Color in RS302 (Tea Rose) is a high-impact powder blush. I could have easily gone with RD103 (Petal), a light natural pink flush, but I felt I was all set and covered in that department and wanted a deeper, more saturated rose.

The texture of Shiseido Luminizing Satin Face Color is silky and almost matte. You need the lightest stroke of the brush to pick up color: the finger swatch you see here is not a real swatch: I just touched my finger to the blush surface. It looked scary powdery before I tested using a brush, but the blush is so delicate and finely milled it gives the promised luminous finish and blends beautifully.

RS302 Tea Rose is the darkest blush Shiseido offers. It has a reddish cast (looks more pink in direct sunlight) and will suit deep olive tones and probably darker skin without the furious blending required by me. On my pale olive green complexion I find that RS302 is a beautiful and lively color that looks surprisingly natural when used responsibly.

Bottom Line: this compact will probably outlive me, but I don't mind.

Shiseido RS302 Tea Rose Luminizing Satin Face Color Blush ($30) is available at the counters and from shiseido.com.

Monday, January 23, 2012

CB I Hate Perfume- M5 Where We Are There Is No Here

From the way Christoper Brosius describes his newest perfume, M5 Where We Are There Is No Here (#405), I half expected it to be on the weird concept(ish) side. In Brosius' words:
405 is a paradox – the antithesis of perfume. It is completely intangible and almost undetectable. Yet it has great presence and allure. Like the ghost of a flower, it touches the subconscious of those who wear it – and those who encounter it. Inspired by the last of Cocteau’s films, WHERE WE ARE THERE IS NO HERE is made to create a special place in the inner world. The world of poetry. The world of the imagination. The world of the surreal.
The ghost of a flower is in this case an ethereal jasmine. Forget everything you know about jasmine: the carnal and indolic, the green and sharp, the romance of summer nights-- it's not here. But it is still a jasmine, somehow, a little sweet, somewhat holographic. You can't see (or smell) the parts that connect the flower to its earthly roots and supplies. It's suspended in the air just a step or two ahead, but will you be able to touch it? Is it real? There's something trembling in the air right in front of you- is it a prismatic rainbow or is it a scent? Do you see it or smell it? Is it there at all?

The idea for an abstract and surreal perfume came to Brosius as he was watching Le Testament d’Orphée, the last film made by Jean Cocteau. I haven't watched it, but from what I understand, Cocteau depicted himself rising from the dead to relive certain moments from his past. Fragrance-wise this idea could have taken many shapes. From this fascinating NY Magazine article about the process of creating Where We Are There In No Here, I'm guessing that by the time Brosius zeroed in on jasmine and sandalwood, the path he took had less to do with Cocteau's movie and more with his own personal quest.

Now, I know that when many of us hear jasmine and sandalwood we think Samsara. I've spent the last week wearing M5 Where We Are There Is No Here during the day and dabbing vintage Samsara parfum (the original thing with real sandalwood) to try and understand the opposite approaches and how different these perfumes behave and develop on skin. Samsara is a luscious sex bomb. M5 is what's actually under the flashy clothes, heavy makeup (I'm thinking of the 1980s-90s Guerlain ads), and overdone hair. After sleeping a night in Samsara in a heated room under heavy comforter and assorted cats, there's a certain scent left on the pillowcase and sheets. It's not necessarily perfume; it's pleasant, though, and more musky and ambery than you'd think. M5 has a similar thing going on, but it all happens on skin, just behind that hologram of a jasmine.

If there's any sillage to Where We Are There Is No Here, then I'm missing it. The fragrance hovers just above the skin, where my camisole meets my dress. Sometimes I smell myself, sometimes I don't. The husband says M5 smells very CB, and I know what he means. There's something in the base of the perfume absolute that is both vegetal and ambery. It's recognizable if you tested many of CB's fragrances. Yet, it's different enough, more vague, the muskiness has nothing in common with the ripe and slightly stewed fruit of Musk Reinvention.

After days spent with M5 on assorted body parts and in various capacities I think I like to wear it generously, not so much dabbing as anointing.  It's a personal scent and I hate to use the cliche of "skin scent" because the latter often hints towards coziness while Where We Are There Is No Here is not a cuddly fragrance to go with your hot cocoa and marshmallows. It's an armor of sort, that can be worn on the cruelest NYC days when you have to face boardrooms without fumigating them, or when you know you'll be in closed quarters with a cranky soul that tends to protest your Joy. This? let them try. They'll never figure it out-- it's not really here.

Notes: ISO E Super, Hedione, Moroccan, Indian and Egyptian jasmine absolutes, amber absolute, Australian and Mysore sandalwoods, and a special “invisible musk” accord designed specifically for this perfume.

CB I Hate Perfume- M5 Where We Are There Is No Here ($21, 2 ml perfume absolute or $135 100 ml water perfume) is available from cbihateperfume.com.

Art: Her Mind Lives In A Quiet Room by Deborah Klein.

Smashbox Photo Finish Hydrating Foundation Primer

Smashbox was probably the brand that made face primers all the rage that they are. Showing the world that a clear silicone layer under foundation can make your makeup stay put and retain its color and finish until you attack it with a cleanser was quite revolutionary eight years ago. Most cosmetics companies have since caught up and offer their own version of primer(s) and Smashbox has a wider selection of products for various skin issues (I'm especially partial to the green Color Correcting Adjust that deals with red patches).  I've had a couple of the aqua color Smashbox Photo Finish Hydrating Foundation Primer tubes around for a while, but it took winter, a lingering cold (complete with a red nose and itchy skin) and a serious drop in temperatures for me to really get and appreciate it.

Smashbox Photo Finish Hydrating Foundation Primer has a light runny lotion texture that is quite different than their original primers. As a result it doesn't create a tangible layer over the face, but if you allow it a minute or so to set before you apply the rest of the makeup you will notice that the primer covers the skin in a very light and invisible film that allows a foundation (or tinted moisturizer) to glide smoothly and grab onto it. It provides a protective layer that while I wouldn't call it hydrating (my skin can develop some seriously dry patches if I let it), it fully prevents moisture from escaping. This is exactly what I need these days, and it makes a clear difference in the appearance and finish of my makeup. I was thrilled to discover how well the Smashbox primer works with LMdB Peau Vierge. I end up with a naturally dew and happy skin, no flakes around the nose and the general appearance of a sane and well adjusted individual. Miracles do happen.

Smashbox Photo Finish Hydrating Foundation Primer ($42) is available from Nordstrom, Sephora, Ulta and smashbox.com. The products was sent for my consideration free of charge by the company. I also received another free tube as a Klout perk.