Monday, April 30, 2012

By Kilian- Bamboo Harmony

Bamboo Harmony is one of two new perfume releases from By Kilian's latest series, Asian Tales. The name itself should tell you quite a bit about the fragrance, and the Asian inspiration points that this By Kilian collection is going in a very different direction that L’Oeuvre Noire and Arabian Nights. I also suspect that it's aimed at a different customer.

Bamboo Harmony is light. Very very light. And very clean. the promise of fig and oak moss barely materializes. I need to drench myself with the fragrance to make it even register on my skin as something beyond the initial blast of peppery citrus. If I use enough I can tell that there's some light green tea, green leaves, and even the ghost of a fig. The pale green thing is miles removed from perfumer Calice Becker's other work for By Kilian. As a matter of fact, if I were blind-testing I doubt I'd peg it as her creation. I might suspect a new Jardin- Summer Edition fragrance by Jean Claude Ellena, maybe something by Olivia Giacobetti for her Honoré des Prés line, but not a Becker for Kilian.

That's not a compliment, by the way.

Bamboo Harmony is a very pleasant perfume and I'm pretty sure the general public will find it a lot more appealing and wearable than Pure Oud or Back To Black. But since I'm not on the market for a cologne-type fragrance (and if I were, that's what Guerlain's colognes were made for), I'll have to pass on this light as air summer perfume and drench my sorrows in some good old fashioned tuberose. Calice Becker actually created one in By Kilian's Beyond Love.

Notes: Bergamot, brigarade, neroli, white tea, mimosa, spices, Maté Essence, fig, oak moss

By Kilian Bamboo Harmony ($225, 50 ml) is available from MiN NY (, Luckyscent and select department stores.

Photo of Veruschka from

Chanel New #4 Blush Brush

Since this is becoming a Chanel day, let's have a look at Chanel's new blush brush, #4. A few months ago Chanel revamped their entire range of makeup brushes, and rightly so. Over the last few years, the selection of excellent makeup brushes has grown exponentially, leaving Chanel more than a little behind, especially in the face brush department (my old #12 eye blending brush has fared better than the three year old  Blush Brush no. 7).

The new Chanel blush brush No. 4 is smaller, denser, and rounder. The handle is a bit longer, but not enough to make the brush feel much different in the hand. The main difference between No. 7 and No. 4 is the softness. The new brush is a couple of levels above No. 7 in its softness. It feels great on the skin, while my older brush has deteriorated considerably despite getting a lot of TLC.  The new Chanel brush is also more directional, as the bristles are tapered at the edge. The brush is relatively flat and can also be used for placing highlighters.

Out of my various blush brushes, the one closest to Chanel #4 in size and shape is Shu Uemura #20. All the other brushes below are bigger, rounder and/or fuller. It's a matter of preference, and I alternate between them according to the texture, amount of pigment, mood and whatever is clean. If you already have Shu #20 the only reason to get Chanel # 4 is as its backup. If you're looking to round up your collection by adding a flat tapered blush brush, this is a great option.

Chanel No. 4 Blush Brush ($54) is available from Chanel counters and

Chanel Riviere Illusion d'Ombre- Makeup Look

This is my quick way to use Chanel Riviere Illusion d'Ombre (reviewed and swatched earlier today). For the sake of the photo, I'm wearing a bit more eye makeup than I normally would: I'd use the same colors but keep it a little lighter, but a couple of test photos showed too little of Riviere, so I packed it a little heavier and had to readjust everything around it.

I paired Riviere with LMdB Naked and Jojo eye shadows and Bobbi Brown Caviar Ink gel eyeliner (heavily smudged and mixed with Chanel Riviere, including on the bottom lashes), Laura Mercier mascara. I kept everything else minimal: Le Metier de Beaute Peau Vierge tinted moisturizer, Hourglass concealer, Sunday Riley blush in Blushing and a clear lip balm.

Chanel Riviere Illusion d'Ombre Asia Exclusive Eye Shadow

Riviere is Chanel's Asia exclusive Illusion d'Ombre cream eye shadow. I usually never bother jumping through hoops to get Chanel Asia exclusive makeup items, as pretty as they are, because the colors tend to be too sheer and light for my preference (and skin tone). But Riviere is a sea foam green/blue beauty, so I absolutely had to have it.

Riviere has the familiar springy texture of Illusion d'Ombre and an almost metallic shimmery texture, but I find it to be a little milder and less glittery from some of the other shades in this Chanel range. It can be sheered for an all over wash or patted and packed. Chanel instructions (for all Illusion d'Ombre eye shadows) is to take the needed amount of product and avoid re-dipping and swirling in the pot, to save the eye shadow's integrity and texture. I did it for the swatches here, so you can see the little clump of Riviere I took out, and then used the applicator to apply as I would do on the eyelids.

Chanel's applicator is quite acceptable, but I'd recommend to also employ a cream eye shadow brush and/or a blending brush  for an even and precise placement and a nice finish. For best results and longevity, I also highly suggest using a primer. I've been wearing Riviere over the new Edward Bess eye shadow primers  and the results are wonderful.

Bottom Line: gorgeous.

Chanel Riviere Illusion d'Ombre cream eye shadow is an Asia Exclusive product. It's available from Chanel boutiques in Asia, so knowing someone who lives or travels to the relevant countries is your best bet. Flagship Chanel boutiques in the West sometimes I get a handful of items from rare collections, so it might be worth it to give them a call (especially if they know you as a regular customer). Right now, Strawberrynet also has Riviere in stock ($44). I usually advise against buying anything in cream texture from online discounters because the products can be older and past their prime, but in this case, since Riviere is relatively new I'd say the risk is minimal.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Aftelier- Sepia

I love antique and vintage stores, where I can spend hours upon hours browsing and touching little pieces from the past. Even the most simple odds and ends can have a story, and there's magic in finding something special and giving it a new life. Some of the items in those store can be heartbreaking, and for me, nothing is more so than the boxes with random old photographs of people and places. I look at them, family portraits, wedding pictures, a house on a beach somewhere up north... These are someone's relatives, someone's family history. Why are they here, forgotten and discarded, in a dusty hat box at some store in Cold Spring, NY?

I'm probably extra sensitive to this because so little has remained from my own family history. My ancestors lived in several European countries; World War II and the Holocaust stripped away the people, the stories and the photos of my long-lost relatives. I look at the yellowing sepia-toned photos and wonder if there are similar pictures of my family at antique stores in Vilnius, Sofia and Bucharest.

Sepia by natural perfumer Mandy Aftel of Aftelier Perfumes is about memories and their emotional impact. The fragrance straddles the here and now as well as the memory of an almost forgotten past. Sepia feels the empty spaces in the stories, wooden boxes and abandoned houses with today's sunshine and lives through the careful use of citrus, wood, and animalic hints. But despite the atmospheric elements and abstract ideas, Sepia is a lived-in perfume, meant to be worn on skin, used and loved, just like those bits and pieces at antique stores, waiting to be given a new life.

The particular use of citrus in Sepia will smell vaguely familiar if you've experienced some of Aftel's more recent perfume. We're talking all natural ingredients, the very best that can be sourced; maybe that's why this particular accord smells so alive, and not in that "fresh citrus" way you find in commercial fragrances everywhere. So if you never smelled an Aftelier perfume before, and the mere mention of citrus and cedar makes you think of the sterile L'Eau d'Issey, I can promise you these two are nothing alike. Sepia isn't clean (see Angela's review on Now Smell This). Its earthiness was achieved by an incredible use of cocoa, coffee and cepes (!!!) alongside oud and tobacco flower. Another perfumer might have chosen patchouli, but Mandy Aftel achieved a very complex effect with her work, as she stripped what could be a very gourmand heart from any resemblance to food. The result is sublime.

Sepia warms up and develops on skin, like a sun ray that crawls slowly as the day progresses. There's a little sweetness there and some funk. It reminds me of antique stores that smell of wood polish and vintage clothes (no mothballs, though), clean but old, trinket boxes that used to hold fragrant items, maybe good incense. The hint of ambergris in Sepia is the final touch of elegance, a remnant of better days and interesting stories.

Top: blood cedarwood, yellow mandarin, pink grapefruit.
Heart: pink lotus, strawberry, jasmine grandiflorum, cocoa, coffee.
Base: flowering tobacco, oud, indole, ambergris, cepes, labdanum.

Sepia by Aftelier ($150, 30ml EDP) is available from You can also purchase samples and a parfum concentration. The sample for this review was sent to me by the perfumer.

Somewhere along Route 40 in California, ca. 1930, from

Friday, April 27, 2012

Coming Soon

This is just a sneak peek at a few of the things that are coming soon. There's a lot more, of course: Gueralin, Chanel, Tom Ford, Sue Devitt, NARS, Lorac, Edward Bess, Kevyn Aucoin, Makeup For Ever, and of course, lots and lots of Hakuhodo brushes.

And also cats.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Guerlain- Ode (Vintage)

At first sniff Ode, the 1955 Guerlain fragrance, seems more related to other houses, mostly Jean Patou, than it is to Guerlain with the magical oriental perfumes. Ode is definitely different, but it shares some DNA with the 1929 Liu, a much earlier Jacques Guerlain creation that was rumored to be heavily influenced by Chanel No. 5.  Both are light and delicate, but where Liu is warm and sunny, Ode is very much a creature of early spring.

I have a 1960s bottle of Ode EDC. It doesn't seem to have lost even a drop of freshness. The overall impression is gauzy and frilly, very innocent. While I doubt today's high-school girls would approve, I do see Ode as youthful, or at least trying to be so. Elena of Perfume Shrine wisely commented in her review that Ode is a typical product of the 1950s feminine imagery. After the tumultuous years of the 1920s, 1930s, and the women empowerment of the war years, here we are back in nylons, girdles, being coyer than ever, playing Beaver's mom and smiling sweetly. Yes, I can see and smell that: pastel colors, flowers (the jasmine takes forever to gain some teeth), a hint of powder and very mild sweetness.

Were I blind-testing I doubt I'd ever recognize Ode as a Guerlain fragrance, at least in this eau de cologne form. That's not to say I don't wear it on early mornings. It fades by the time I'm more awake and ready for something bigger, and always leaves me in a good mood.

Added a year later, March 2013:
I'm now the happy owner of the extrait version (above), and it's smoother, sweeter and utterly charming. The orris and sandalwood have stronger presence. I layer both concentrations and feel prettier than ever...

Notes: aldehydes, rose, jasmine absolute, orris, sandalwood, musk

Vintage Ode ads:
1955 Crescendoe ad:

The Non-Blonde Is Six

Do blogs have birthdays or anniversaries?  I tend to think of The Non-Blonde as a live creature. Cute but exhausting at times. Not to mention high-maintenance.

Six years ago today I decided that I had more than enough to say about beauty, and that perhaps I could do it well enough for a public forum. Looking back, I'm amused at my chutzpah, but glad I had it. Otherwise I wouldn't be here, six years later, doing something I love dearly, learning new things every day, and meeting so many people who enrich my life.

Thank you for reading, tweeting, commenting and facebooking. You are the reason I'm still here, spraying, swatching and trying stuff so you don't have to.

Photo: Dior birthday cake from Amica magazine.

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush

People who favor vegan makeup brushes have been recommending and praising Real Techniques brushes since they came out last year. The line, designed by makeup artist and YouTube personality Samantha Chapman of Pixiwoo, and manufactured by the Eco-Tools people, is 100% cruelty-free and doesn't use any animal-derived products.

I never got to test the previously released Real Techniques brushes. My Ulta is perpetually sold out (seriously, you can tell where the Real Technique display area is from afar because it's an empty space in the makeup tool section). Also, the two brushes I really wanted to try (the buffing brush and the deluxe crease brush) are parts of different brush sets and that annoys me to no end. While the price of the sets is appealingly low ($18 each), I just hate having unnecessarily stuff shoved into my space. I hope Sam and Real Technique will release more individual brushes.

The Expert Face Brush is a small but thick and plump foundation brush (you can see it in the photo next to the small and precise Setting Brush that will be reviewed soon). It has a short and firm head that applies and buffs foundation very nicely. The talkon bristles are as soft as expected (softer than Sephora Airbrush range but have a firmer grasp than Sephora #55) and will especially appeal for those who share my dislike of floppy foundation brushes. I find that it works especially well with thin formulas of liquid foundations and tinted moisturizers, while thicker ones can streak if not buffed within an inch of their (and mine) lives.

Here's Sam's tutorial for using her Expert Face brush:

Now,  I still prefer natural goat hair brushes to apply foundation and think I get a better application and finish with them, but for a synthetic brush Real Techniques Expert Face is a great one and I've been reaching for it often for blending small areas.

Bottom Line:  lovely to have, essential if you're vegan.

Real Techniques Expert Face Brush ($9) is available from Ulta, in store (in theory) and online. The brush was sent to me for consideration by the company's PR.

Terre d'Oc Figue Zagora (208) Lipstick

I was introduced to Terre d'Oc during the Elements show in January. The eco-friendly French brand had a lovely display of skin care and makeup products and I learned that they also have a range of home fragrance and organic teas. The products are easy to find in Europe (including online), but now there's also a NYC Terre d'Oc boutique in Rockefeller Center (a visit is in my near future) where all the natural, delicious-smelling pretties can be found.

 The formulas are rich with good-for-you ingredients such as argan oil and shea butter. The percentage of organics in every product is listed on the box (see photo), so you know exactly what you get. This is not a 100% crunchy granola brand: the products are scented  and the color cosmetics of Terre d'Oc  have a French flair. The shades are elegant and understated, not necessarily light and subdued. Take for example this lipstick, Figue Zagara (#208). The formula is light, sheer, and comfortable, but the color is deep enough for a dramatic look. I love this dark purple and find it wonderfully flattering (my lips make it pull a little more pink than the swatch).

You can also read a review of some other Terre d'Oc products on My Beauty Bunny

Bottom Line: I'm sold.

Terre d'Oc cosmetics and home products can be found at their boutiques in NYC (55 West 49th Street) and in Europe, as well as online if you're in the UK. US residents can also be order by phone (347-380-7482). The lipstick was given to me for consideration by the brand's rep at the Elements show.

Photos not marked as mine are from Terre d'Oc Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Maison Francis Kurkdjian- Oud

You know what? I'm actually Okay with the oud trend. It beats peony and red pepper. And this is the reason we have several good and interesting perfumes. Oud by Maison Francis Kurkdjian is one of them.

Oud perfumes come in many shapes and forms. Some are rosy, others are woody and smoky. Francis Kurkdjian created an oud fragrance that is all gold. The first time I tried Oud, I sprayed it and waited for the familiar hit of a medicinal camphoric band aid-ish creature. But none came. There was also none of the sour rose that usually accompanies oud (thank you, dear Francis!) an spoils it for me. It's not that Kurkdjian's Oud lacks funkiness, though: Katie Puckrick smelled some train oil-dunked cheese, along with a nostril-flaring twang of bleach. I wouldn't go that far, but there is something pleasantly weird in the opening, before the golden part arrives.

MFK Oud soon presents a warm and spicy heart. Saffron and a jammy fruit that makes the oud slide in beautifully. The smoky oud and cedar and the opaqueness of some seriously good patchouli give that luxurious aura of a golden afternoon. Oud feels wonderfully balanced. Neither masculine nor feminine, little drama but not a shy little perfume, either. It has that thoughtfully-crafted, almost scientific precision we find in many Kurkdjian fragrances, even the most commercial ones.

Oud is medium-low in sillage but has enough elegant presence to last for 6-8 hours. That's probably my only complaint. I would've expected a more impressive staying power.

 Notes: saffron, elemi gum, Laos oud, Atlas cedarwood, and Indonesian patchouli.

Oud by Maison Francis Kurkdjian ($300, 70ml) is available from Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. The sample for this review was part of a  Bergdorf gift bag at a media event.

Photo: Golden harem, Topkapi by *Pia* on Flickr

Shu Uemura 18 R Face Brush

A story from my early childhood might explain why I had to have this Shu Uemura 18 R Red powder brush: One of my biggest challenges during my first year of preschool was adjusting to the food they served at lunch. None of it was up to my three year old standards that were fashioned by my mom. The worst offenders were the sardine sandwiches. They looked even worse than they smelled. I took one look at that mess and refused to eat it, telling the teacher that I simply didn't like the color. The exasperated woman blurted: "so, do you need me to paint the sardines red?", my answer: "yes, please!".

There you have it. Red is my color.

Shu Uemura 18 R is a powder/face/bronzer brush. It's big, made of loosely packed longish goat hair that makes it quite floppy. This is obviously not a tool to push powder into the skin, but to flick the excess away. It's also good at light blending without moving the products on the face and for applying and diffusing shimmery bronzers.

As for comparisons, 18 R is obviously more narrow and floppier than Shu Uemura 27, which is a true powder brush. It's softer than both Bobbi Brown Face Blender and Smashbox #2, and as a result picks up and applies less product than these brushes.

Bottom Line: nice but definitely not a must-have. Unless you're crazy for red stuff.

Shu Uemura 18 R Face Brush ($52) is available from

NARS Ramatuelle Trio Eye Shadow Summer 2012

In which I venture far out of my comfort zone (in more ways than one).

NARS Ramatuelle Trio Eye Shadow for Summer 2012 is gorgeous. It's also very different than anything else I own and from my usual go-to colors (mostly taupe and navy). But they tell me summer is approaching, orange is the new black and change is good. So I listened.

The colors in NARs Ramatuelle are a platinum/silver thing with the creamy texture, a peachy champagne with a harder, less smooth feel and a matte apricot that's soft and blendable. The silver is an interesting choice for pairing with the other two warm colors and I'm not sure I can pull it off (I have a hard time with silver in general). The champagne is an easy base/all over color with a considerable amount of shimmer, and the apricot looks more intense on my wrist but far less dramatic on my much darker lids, unless used damp. I surprised myself by really liking this color in the crease.

The end result, even with some of the silver applied to the inner corner is softer than I anticipated. Normally I'd save the silver part of Ramatuelle for evening, but since these colors were designed to go together, even occasionally, I tried to put it to good use here:

I'm pretty bad at taking photos of myself, but I gave it a try here. The light today is more than a little iffy because it's about to rain (I've been hearing thunder for a while now). The outdoor photo makes me look greener than ever, while the one indoors was too dark (I brightened it a bit, but that's the only correcting I did).

To see Ramatuelle on someone younger, blonder, with a peaches-and-cream complexion check out Cafe Makeup.

Bottomn Line: lovely.

NARS Ramatuelle limited edition Trio Eye Shadow for  Summer 2012 ($45) is available from The product was sent to me by the company free of charge.