Thursday, October 31, 2013

Coty- Meteor (Vintage Perfume)

Meteor de Coty is another forgotten perfume from the 1950s. It was composed by Vincent Roubert who's famous for creating Knize Ten,  Coty's L'Aimant and Iris Gris for Jacques Fath. Yes, that Vincent Roubert. Various sources state its launch date as 1949 but also mention that Coty didn't bring Meteor to the US until 1951. Crossing the ocean didn't help Meteor all that much: by the late 1950s it was already gone from the shelves. Some say it was available until 1964, but the latest advertisement I could find was from 1957, so I suspect Meteor didn't live to see the 60s. I guess there were enough classic floral perfumes around at the time, so Meteor didn't feel special enough to have a strong customer base.

Meteor might have been a boring little thing back then, but for the modern perfume lover who's frustrated with the lack of quality and creativity in too many department store fragrances, this lost Coty is a little treasure. Meteor is described in various places as a floral perfume, and it is-- an abstract white floral that leans towards jasmine. There's a green streak somewhere in its core, perhaps a jasmine-tuberose party. But the fun is in the animalic dry-down that lasts for hours and celebrates civet.My bottle is the splash eau de toilette, not the spectacular parfum with the glass stopper. Still, the quality of the juice and its longevity even when dabbing carefully are breathtaking. My next step is to decant some of it into a sprayer. I have a feeling spritzing this one with reckless abandon is going to be lots of fun.

Cleansing Oils: Erno Laszlo & Shu Uemura Ultim8

I love cleansing oils. I love them even more when I have to deal with a skin emergency such as  a sudden congestion due to overdoing it with product testing. Cleansing oils do two things: they remove makeup and they evict the gunk that wants to take residence in your pores. This shouldn't be mistaken as the entire process of cleansing (I'm working on a comprehensive cleansing guide for the middle-aged), but it is a very effective and important step. I was recently sent two excellent cleansing oils,  Shu Uemura Ultim8 and Erno Laszlo Phelityl Pre-Cleansing Oil,  that are worth discussing and exploring. I've been using both of them with excellent results, so here are my thoughts:

Shu Uemura  Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil
Shu Uemura is famous for their range of cleansing oils. I've had several over the years, but this is probably my favorite because it manages to do heavy-duty decongesting while still being incredibly gentle on the skin itself. For a cleansing oil it means that somehow the product succeeded in breaking down the bad stuff while not stripping the skin of the good oils that protect it and keep it supple. This is not a small achievement as those of us who work at keeping our skin clean and healthy yet can get very dry would testify. This Shu Uemura oil is also good at makeup removing, including tenacious mascaras. It washes off quickly with the mildest face cleansers you can find, taking all the gunk with it.
Shu Uemura  Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil ($42, 5.1oz. Larger size also available) can be purchased  from The product for this review was sent by PR.

Erno Laszlo Phelityl Pre-Cleansing Oil
I really appreciate Erno Laszlo for trying to make the cleansing process easier to understand by labeling this product a "pre-cleansing oil". Most cleansing oils (with the notable exception of the soapy Shu Uemura High Performance) need to be washed off with a second product to ensure that no grease or dislodged makeup debris stays behind. By telling the public in no uncertain terms that their Phelityl  is a pre-cleanser, the nice people at Erno Laszlo removed the mystery and vagueness from the process. The oil comes in a squat square bottle (no pump, but the pouring mechanism is very good) and is used like any other cleansing oil. It removes everything- mascara, sunblock, and stubborn sebum. The oil is gentle on my skin and has a very soft and luxurious feel. While Erno Laszlo recommend using their soap bar when washing it all off, I prefer a mild foaming cleanser such as Elemis Resurfacing Facial Wash.
Erno Laszlo Phelityl Pre-Cleansing Oil ($45, 6.8oz) is available at Nordstrom. The product for this review was sent by PR.

Guerlain Rouge G Lipstick- Gina #20

Guerlain Rouge G lipsticks are among my favorite little pick-me-up treats to get myself. There's something about the tangible luxury of the heavy mirrored case that makes me happy. These Guerlain lipsticks offer an excellent hydrating (plumping actually) formula and a finish that has the perfect balance between shine and smoothness. I also love many of the colors- Rouge G has several easy to wear reds that go with everything: from fall looks to the shiny holiday sparkle we see everywhere this month. It's no wonder that my most recent pick was Rouge G in Gina (#20). Gina is a warm red that doesn't lean too orange. It's a great choice when I need to balance the natural pigment of my lips. I think it's a luscious color, very lively and flattering. And as I said, it works for various seasonal looks.

Bottom Line: Adore. And the hefty case never disappears into the abyss that are my handbags.

Guerlain Rouge G Lipstick Gina #20 ($49.50) is available at the counters and from Sephora.

Happy Halloween!

"Fear Itself"-- Buffy The Vampire Slayer Halloween episode (season 4, 1998)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Profumum- Santalum

It's funny how our perception of a perfume house can change over the years. Back in 2006 when I first smelled several fragrances by Profumum I was quite annoyed and unconvinced. Everything smelled good. Really good even. But back then an uber-luxury line that focused on what appeared to be single-note perfumes at what seems then outrageous prices (if I remember correctly, Profumum bottles were priced at around $190 for 100ml). Lots of Estee Lauder masquerading as Tom Ford has been spilled since then, and even at their current price of $240 for the same 100ml these are still almost a bargain next to said Tom Ford Private Blend ($210 for 50ml). The single note thing? Everyone is doing that.

But there's a lot more to the Italy-based Profumum. I may not like everything in the line (my biggest nose-wrinklers are still Fumidus and Dulcis In Fondu), but I have a strong admiration for the quality and beautiful ornate compositions. They do wonderful gourmands, figs, and a gorgeous amber, and everything smells impeccable and as luxurious as it should. If I were pressed to choose a favorite Profumum, though, I might have to go with Santalum, because it's so rich and satisfying without feeling like an imitation of more famous sandalwood fragrances.

Santalum has undergone a reformulation since my first encounter with it all these years ago. I'm not sure of the official reason, but most likely because of the need to source out new raw materials (Mysore sandalwood is under strict restrictions nowadays due to over-harvesting that has made it an endangered tree). Never mind. It's still fantastic. The sandalwood may have changed, but it's still playing the familiar game of dancing between a rich dark wood and an almost-oriental perfume.

The fragrance opens slightly sharper than I've anticipated. The spiciness sends you right away to faraway lands and their spice markets. Cinnamon and clove, and perhaps the licorice taste of anise star are all present. The clove note manages to be both medicinal (only slightly and that camphoric touch that will forever remind me of my grandfather who was a dentist is gone very quickly) and floral like garlands of carnations and roses on ancient Buddha statues. Things become significantly sweeter and thicker as rich and thick sandalwood becomes infused with incense. Santalum isn't quite smoky, but there is that incense and myrrh on an altar feel to it. The late dry-down is perhaps where the difference between the old and new versions come into play. Today's Santalum is more ambery than I remembered and not quite as dark. Spraying Santalum straight from a bottle makes it last forever and reach the next room, while a dabbing, even a generous one, keeps things more manageable (and not as tenacious).

Profumum Santalum ($240, 100ml high concentration that's somewhere between an EDP and an extrait) is available from Osswald and Luckyscent. The sample for this review is of the current version and was made for me at Osswald in NYC.

Photo of carved figures of Buddhist angels--Bodhisatva--mounted on the backing screen inside the Byodo-in central pavilion. by a Japanese photographer, from a 1966 portfolio of photos of "The Byodo-in"

Shiseido- Accentuating Cream Eyeliner

The stuff inside the little pot of Shiseido Accentuating Cream Eyeliner appears almost glossy until you actually apply it to your lid. The creamy texture is very pliable and easy to use, but the impressive part is the way this Shiseido eyeliner behaves and settles on skin. It has an almost kohl effect that melds with the skin. I hesitate calling it a "lived-in" look because that implies a smeared and smudgy look, which is NOT the case here. The best way to describe the effect created by Shiseido Accentuating Cream Eyeliner is probably to say that it's the opposite of a harsh and graphic look. While the color is a true black, there's a softness to it that I find very beautiful. As soft as this cream liner is, it's also incredibly long-lasting and doesn't budge once set and dry. The line even resists an accidental eye rubbing. I've used it for tightlining as well as on the lashline with great success and no eye irritation.

Shiseido Accentuating Cream Eyeliner comes with the small synthetic brush you see above. The cover of the brush attaches to its bottom to form a handle, and the shape and density are perfect for the product. A couple of days after I got the eyeliner the kittens took off with the brush. Don't ask me how it happened or where they stashed it. I looked all over the place, but I suspect that somewhere in the house there's a secret stash of small items and single socks the cats are hiding from me. Since then I discovered that long and thin eyeliner brushes don't work well with this Shiseido cream liner (Louise Young LY24A and MAC 209 type). Instead, you need to go with a similar density to the original Shiseido brush and use stiff brushes- angled or ones like Hakuhodo K005.

Bottom Line: Love. Now I wish they'd make one in navy blue.

Shiseido- Accentuating Cream Eyeliner ($26) is available at the counters, Sephora (online only), and

Five Perfumes I wear To Bed

Bedtime perfumes are an oft discussed topic among fragonerds. Do you go for something cozy? calming? re-apply your scent of the day? Test something new? I even hear that not everyone wears perfume when going to sleep. I always have. Being unscented is not an option in my world, and I simply like the pleasure. But I have some rules, such as not choosing a new perfume I've never tried before. This was a lesson learned the hard way when I discovered that sweet dreams were certainly not made of certain fragrances. Then there's the fact that I share my bed with a husband and several cats, none of them enjoy aldehydes (and the husband tends to grumble about things "smelling like vintage"). Since I test so many perfumes during my waking hours, bedtime is when I'm off-duty and free to wear old favorites. However, some of my staples are so dominant that I have to apply carefully. I have no problem marinating in MKK during the day, but more than a dab can keep me awake half the night. A look through my files reveals that there are several perfumes that make regular appearances at bedtime, and with good reason. In no particular order:

1. Shalimar. Always and forever, in any formulation, but most often the vintage eau de cologne from the classic "clock bottle". It's the one vintage perfume the husband never complains about. It's just an effortless thing that smells "me".

2. Ines de la Fressange (1999). It took me ages to come around (mostly thanks to my friend Donna), but the delicate beauty of this green floral perfume eventually won me over. It's calming and very low-key perfume that is not distracting.

3. Annick Goutal- Encens Flamboyant. A truly meditative incense perfume. Namaste.

4. Annick Goutak- Ninfeo Mio. A green and clean fig that is never emotionally demanding.

5. Paul & Joe- Bleu. I love my ambers, but many of them are on the larger-than-life side, which can be too much when trying to wind down. Bleu is very measured and balanced, more chamber music than opera, which is exactly what I need to prevent twisting and turning.

Do you wear perfume to bed? If so, does it help you fall asleep? What are your favorites? 

Art: Flaming June by Sir Frederic Leighton, 1895.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jilbere de Paris Heated Spa Mitts

One of the things that seem to stand in the way of a good at-hope spa pampering is my tendency to multitask and inability to disconnect. The laptop, ipad, and my phone are always there, beeping with text messages, tweets, alerts, notification, Candy Crush requests (hangs head in shame), Grumpy Cat-- it's all there at my fingertips. Even when said fingertips need to be treated. Furthermore, I either read the gossip sites or watch Lisa Eldridge when doing my primping and preening. Fun? Yes. Relaxing? Probably not so much (despite Lisa's soothing voice and general awesomeness).

I already told you about my spa day last month. One of my favorite parts was the utter relaxation I felt when during my facial as my face was absorbing the various skin treatments I also had a my hands slathered in a nourishing cream and placed in heated mitts. It felt fabulous during the treatment, and my hands emerged soft and supple. I had to recreate the experience, so one of the first things I did back home was order these Jilbere de Paris Heated Spa Mitts. It's one of my best purchases of the year.

The thing is that when your hands are deep in this heated electric mitts you can't type, scroll, or crush candy. You have to stay put and hopefully relax. A good idea is to put on a face mask first, then do the hands, shove them into the mitts, lean back and relax with nothing but music in the background for 5-10 minutes. That's all it takes. Here's how it works: Jilbere de Paris Heated Spa Mitts have three heating levels (I go for medium). You apply a rich cream (a good hand cream, body butter, softening salve, with or without some kind of cuticle balm), then put on disposable plastic gloves (the kind they use at the deli. You can find them at Amazon or any drugstore under the sun). Place your protected hands in the mitts (which you've already plugged in and turned on before starting), and spend the next five minutes enjoying yourself.

I find that regular use makes a difference in the way my hands look and feel. I've tried the mitts with several creams and lotions, and really- anything goes. Right now I'm loving using my spa mitts with the Jason cocoa Butter cream you see in the photo (reviewed yesterday).

Bottom Line: now, if I could get the cats to learn massage techniques I'm all set.

Jilbere de Paris Heated Spa Mitts ($35.19, or $31.19 for Beauty Club Card holders) is available at

Shiseido Harmony RD750 Perfect Rouge Lipstick

Shiseido lipsticks rank very high in my shortlist. Every Shiseido Perfect Rouge I tried in the last five years ended up being a Big Love and in frequent use. The combination of a high coverage creamy texture and a beautiful formula that wears like feather-light balm is a true winner. Oh, and the colors are fabulous, too.

Harmony RD750 was added to Shiseido Perfect Rouge range for fall 2013. It's a slightly muted everyday red, a category that Shiseido has always excelled in making: a lipstick you (or st least I) will wear to the very last crumb. I know that compared to the glitz and glam of all the holiday collections this color is a bit of a wallflower, but it's the one I want to wear. All.The.Time.

Shiseido Harmony RD750 Perfect Rouge Lipstick ($25) is available at the counters, Sephora, and Also, if you have a freestanding Shiseido boutique anywhere near you (usually located near Japanese markets) I highly recommend visiting and doing your shopping there. These stores always have the best GWPs around (not to mention SAs who really know their stuff).

Monday, October 28, 2013

Marchesa- Parfum d'Extase

I started this review of Marchesa Parfum d'Extase (launched last year in September) three times already and have erased it again and again. You see, I've been boring myself, which is never a good sign. Even an alternate reality fantasy in which I'm George Clooney's companion for this year's award show season didn't work. Yes, there's a Marchesa gown involved, and of course, George himself. But none of it worked for me. Kind of like Parfum d'Extase, I guess.

A Marchesa perfume makes sense. The brand is almost an household name by now, at least in households that watch red carpet arrivals and Project Runway All Stars. Georgina Chapman, one of Marchesa's founders (the other one is Keren Craig)  is one of the judges on PRAS. It drives me crazy, by the way, that Chapman's "title" whenever she's presented there is "the beautiful Georgina Chapman". We all have eyes. We can tell that she's a very attractive woman. She has some much more impressive accomplishments, though. We should be thankful they don't list her marriage to Harvey Weinstein as one of them.

Back to Parfum d'Extase,  a fragrance composed by Annie Buzantian of Puredistance fame (Puredistance I, Antonia, and Opardu, but also have a look at her more commercial creations as listed on Fragrantica). Ms. Buzantian is an expert on "pretty" and this is exactly what she did for Marchesa. Parfum d'Extase is a fresh and feminine green(ish) floral that serves you a huge bouquet of delicate flowers all in pale hues of purple, pink and white. There's absolutely no naughtiness hidden among the soft petals. The iris note while dominant is so infused with water and freesia it's almost sheer. Parfum d'Extase is perfect and a little frozen in time, and just like Angela remarked on Now Smell This, would probably have a major appeal for brides in lieu of a Marchesa gown.

I can't say that Parfum d'Extase doesn't have any base notes. It does. There's an element of warmth there and I really like sticking my face down my shirt and breathing in whatever's left of it after four or five hours. But the initial floral blast,  as pretty as it is, gives me a piercing headache with a side of nausea (a very very rare occurrence for me).   Parfum d'Extase smells nicer (and even more interesting) on fabric than on my skin, so I think any other samples of it that cross my path will be best used in the coat closet. The whole pristine feel of the perfume is more of a something that smells good, but doesn't register with me as a personal fragrance. It makes sense that Marchesa also offers Parfum d'Extase as hair mist. It'd be like using a million dollar shampoo.

Notes: iris flower, star anise, blackcurrant, violet leaves, lotus flower, night blooming jasmine, Bulgarian rose water, orange blossom, iris root, ambrox and muscenone.

Marchesa- Parfum d'Extase (starting at $10 for a 0.17 oz/5ml roller ball) is available at Sephora.

Photos from Parfum d'Extase launch during 2012 Fashion's Night Out via Zimbio.

A Seasonal Pleasure: Chocolate

Chocolate is an all-year thing if you ask me. But some seasons are more chocolate-friendly than others, especially when it comes to scents, body treatments, and ordering products by mail. The one positive about having a birthday during the cold months is knowing that there's going to be lots of chocolaty things in the package my mom will send me next month. It wouldn't have worked had been born in July.

A year ago I made a list of my top chocolate and cocoa perfume picks. Today we're about a different kind of treat: beauty products and chocolate. Starting with the latter, a discovery I made last month when I was in New Hampshire. You know, I've visited chocolateries in several big cities from Paris to NY, but one of the very best (and perhaps most creative) was in Manchester, NH. Master chocolatier Richard Tango-Lowy trained in France and brought his knowledge and creativity to Manchester where he opened The Dancing Lion. There's a cafe section with several tables and a chocolate counter where you can pick and choose chocolate bars or handmade bonbons (a random selection may include treats like apple, pecan, & honey caramel with hard cider finished in Kenshi 70% dark milk chocolate or a ganache of Cotes du Beaune red wine & Vermont honey in Peruvian "Piura" 67% dark chocolate). Everything is exquisitely presented. Some of the bonbons are crafted using one-of-a-kind chocolate molds (see the Chinese mask above?). While the chocolate itself is sourced from the very best growers around the world, the unique creations and flavoring have a New England twist which makes them even more special.

Everything I bought and tasted was fantastic. I don't know if I should be sad or thankful that I don't live in that area. This stuff is addictive. The Dancing Lion accepts phone orders and ships within the US. You can have a look at the website ( for the current offering and you call them at  603-625-4043. If you're in the area, The Dancing Lion is open Wed-Sat (11am-7pm) and their address is 917 Elm Street, Mancester, NH. The address is now saved on my GPS.

Now for some chocolaty beauty treats for hair and body:

Alba Botanica Cocoa Butter Deep Conditioning Hair Mask ($8.99, 5.5 oz, They claim that it's an Hawaiian-style product. I don't know about that, but what I can say that it's an addictive hair treatment (after shampoo, skip the conditioner and go straight to the hair mask). The cocoa butter scent is divine, and my hair feels the benefits of a rich mask. The ingredient list* includes many good-for-you botanical oils and butters, including real cocoa butter, so it's not surprising at all. My one complaint: the jar is too small.  I polish it off in two weeks. [press sample]

Jason Natural Cosmetics Nourishing Cocoa Butter ($10.09, 4oz, I like this product very much but I have a major issue with the misrepresentation of the ingredients. This is not pure cocoa butter and not even a cocoa butter product. It's a great cream , chock-full of natural ingredients** with a skin-loving aloe vera and avocado oil base. It also contains cocoa butter (presumably a high percentage)  and is scented accordingly with all-natural essential oils. So the rich cream gives you that coveted chocolaty feeling while doing good things to one's skin. But I dearly wish that the nice people at Jason would be a lot more forthcoming whan naming this product. It wouldn't take away from its appeal, I'm sure. This nourishing cream contains some interesting active ingredients, such as retinyl acetate(vitamin A),  and Jason says it can and should also be used on one's face. I keep it for hand and body, though, with excellent smooth skin results. Tomorrow I'm going to discuss a deep treatment for hands and will tell you how I incorporate this Jason cream into the process. But for now, let's not forget the chocolate aspect: slather this all over and you'll want to eat yourself. [press sample]

*Alba Botanica Cocoa Butter Deep Conditioning Hair Mask ingredients: Aqua (Water), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetyl Alcohol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil(1), Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil(1), Glyceryl Stearate, Diheptyl Succinate, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter)(1), Theobroma Grandiflorum Seed Butter, Ananas Sativus (Pineapple) Fruit Extract, Carica Papaya (Papaya) Fruit Extract, Dipteryx Odorata Bean Extract, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Fruit Extract, Moringa Pterygosperma Seed Extract, Styrax Tonkinensis Resin Extract, Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Seed Oil, Aleurites Moluccana Seed Oil, Argania Spinosa Seed Oil, Brassica Oleracea Italica (Broccoli) Seed Oil, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Euterpe Oleracea Fruit Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil(1), Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Passiflora Edulis Seed Oil, Safflower Oil / Palm Oil Aminopropanediol Esters, Bentonite, Citric Acid, Glycerin, Quartz, Alcohol, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Triethyl Citrate, Vanillin.

(1)Certified Organic Ingredient

**Jason Natural Cosmetics Nourishing Cocoa Butter ingredient list: Aqua/Water/Eau (Purifed Water), Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Hydroflorate (Lavender), Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil (Sunflower), Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice (Aloe Vera), Persea Gratissima Oil (Avocado), Glycerin (Vege), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Butter (Cocoa), Buxus Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil (Jojoba), Stearic Acid, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A), Cetearyl Alcohol, Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Potassium Carbomer, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract (Grapefruit), Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Color (Natural), Essential Oil Blend.

Image via The Dancing Lion Chocolate.

Want: Givenchy Lucrezia Bag

Here's a good reminder that Givenchy is more than just a Kim-and-Kanye thing. The Lucrezia bag is actually a range of bags in several sizes and styles (totes, bowling bags, satchels), and they vary greatly between stores and even countries, making falling in love with one pretty futile if it's a Europe-only thing. But the elegant four color medium Lucrezia is available from net-a-porter. The great thing about it (other than the size that allows for stashing a sweater, a pair of folding ballet flats, a makeup bag, and the kitchen sink) is the beautiful details.

I think I'm in love with this Givenchy bag because it's not just timeless (as any "investment bag" should be), but also season-less. I have purses that are fall/winter or spring/summer only (and a much-beloved straw and leather one that I only carry between Memorial Day and Labor Day), but the Lucrezia will look equally good against winter coats as it will with a pair of sandals.

Available on net-a-porter ($2500), and that's where the photo is from.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Atelier de Geste- Wild Is The Wind

Atelier de Geste is a relatively new perfume brand that states its inspiration as derived from movement and the art of dance. I confess that this is where my eyes glaze over and they lose me for the most part, as this is one form of art that I fail to get (read: it bores me out of my skull). Thankfully, in Wild Is The Wind Atelier de Geste has created a truly gorgeous perfume that is talking my language of film and music, so I don't have to sit there scratching my head trying to figure it out. I can just wear it and feel it.

As someone who grew up in the 1970s and 80s, Wild Is The Wind meant David Bowie before Nina Simone (not to mention Johnny Mathis). What has been a constant throughout the years is the passion and romance of the song (and the 1957 movie). A rosy leather perfume goes perfectly with this inspiration, even if at first the Atelier de Geste fragrance smelled a bit too much like a "French Perfume"-- musc, rose, and  I could have sworn there's a major aldehydic opening though it's not listed anywhere (Mark Behnke of CaFleureBon agrees) . I guess this is what prompted the husband's comment "Nice, but there's nothing wild about this". But there is.

As Wild Is The Wind unfolds and gets the lived-in feeling of the skin it becomes both leathery and ashy.  The rose note is beautiful here: free of gender connotations but not of romance. It's dry at times, boozy at others but never sweet. The musk on skin level is dirty but not distractingly so. As animalic as the dry-down is, the composition is so carefully calculated that there shouldn't be a problem wearing Wild Is The Wind in polite company. It just smells warm and inviting. And, yes, sexy.

Watching various scenes from the 1957 George Cukor movie, the landscape and the perfume come together in my mind. The dusty terrain, the horses and sheep, a passionate Italian wife, 1950s femininity-- it's all there, along with the song lyrics that reveal a powerful longing:

Love me, love me, love me, love me, say you do
Let me fly away with you
For my love is like the wind,
and wild is the wind
Wild is the wind

Give me more than one caress
satisfy this hungriness
Let the wind blow through your heart
Oh wild is the wind, wild is the wind

You touch me, I hear the sound of mandolins
You kiss me
With your kiss my life begins
You're spring to me, all things to me
Don't you know you're life, itself!

Like the leaf clings to the tree,
Oh, my darling, cling to me
For we're like creatures of the wind,
and wild is the wind

[The most famous covers are, of course, the Nina Simone and David Bowie ones, but Esperanza Spalding, George Michael and Cat Power also have great versions]

For more about Atelier de Geste I highly recommend reading Katherine's interview with the creative mind behind it, Beau Rhee, on Mad Perfumista.

Notes: fire, musk, woods, rosebuds, leather, spirits.

Atelier de Geste- Wild Is The Wind ($130, 50ml EDP) is available from . The sample for this review was provided by the company at the Elements Show in NY.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lucien Lelong- Balalaika (Vintage Perfume)

It's a bit hard to tell when exactly Balalaika by Lucien Lelong was originally launched. Sources claim every year between 1939 and 1945, but my money is on the 1939-1940 time frame, both because there are ads dated 1940 and since the name of a traditional Russian music instrument probably belongs at a time before the division between East and West. Another interesting thing about Balalaika is that as far as I can tell it was the first of Lucien Lelong's perfumes to be issued in the hob bottle that later became the standard for the brand (though Balalaika extrait had a different bottle).
Naming a perfume "Balalaika" was probably meant to evoke faraway places. Especially one faraway land where the winter is long and the forests are dark and vast. The modern Lucien Lelong website lists the notes of Balalaika as "mandarin, violet, rosewood and gardenia with a woodsy note of musk and vanilla". Are those the original notes? I don't know. Of the two bottles I have, one is significantly older and looks exactly like the one you see in the 1940 ad at the top. The stopper is more elegant and elaborate than that of the hob bottles from the 1950s and 1960s. That bottle lost all semblance of top notes and is all about earthy and mossy woods, slightly lightened by an abstract floral core. It's very pretty, actually. Does it evoke the Russian Tundra? I doubt it. I think it smells very French.

I also have a small amount of newer juice, probably from the late 60s or early 70s (white plastic caps),  also an eau de cologne concentration, which is significantly more floral. I'd describe it as an incredibly mossy gardenia and would love to have a lot more of this version. It could have easily passed as a modern niche perfume. Even the husband has never voiced his typical "smells like vintage" complaint when I wear this particular Balalaika. It's a little musky, quite unsweetened, and while the sillage is minimal, its longevity is very impressive for an eau de cologne. This Balalaika does have the depth of an ancient wood to carry one's imagination. It's a little damp but not really musty, and a little mysterious and clings beautifully to winter scarves, including a Russian floral one that my mother got me years ago. I think they go very well together.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Laura Mercier Holiday 2013: Petite Baked Eye Colour Bonbons Emerald Trio

You know that I live for this kind of colors. Rich blue greens that bring out brown eyes in the best possible way. However, the texture of Emerald Trio from Laura Mercier Holiday 2013 Collection is a little difficult to pull off. Unlike Amethys Trio that I shared earlier today, Emerald Trio is loaded with shimmer, and the lightest color, Aqua, has actual micro glitter particles. Trying to photograph the palette was almost comical. I opened the unused compact, a small cloud of sea foam green glitter landed everywhere. I tried to wipe it away for the sake of a pretty picture, a certain kitten went after the kleenex, ending up with my fingers right in the product and on the plastic surface. Trying to wipe it, again-- and repeat the performance.

All of that doesn't take away from the fact that the two darker colors in Laura Mercier's Emerald Trio are incredibly beautiful. Malachite has a lot of blue in it, making me think of a gorgeous rococo damask fabric. Emerald might not be as unique, but it is a very true and rich emerald green with no gold or black in it. They have to be used with a damp brush, and I highly recommend not doing your base makeup until after you clean up the glitter debris. Doing it right will reward you with a beautiful holiday look (yes, that green is a bit Christmasy, so what?).

Bottom Line: my ideal set would have these colors in the texture of the Amethyst Trio.

Laura Mercier Holiday 2013: Petite Baked Eye Colour Bonbons Emerald Trio ($25) is available at the counters and from The product for this review was sent by PR.

Laura Mercier Holiday 2013: Petite Baked Eye Colour Bonbons Amethyst Trio

Laura Merciee makes some of the best baked eye shadows on the market: smooth texture, incredible colors, and usually less glitter fallout than one would expect. Baked eye shadows are not necessarily my favorite thing in the universe, but Laura Mercier is on to something as they do look festive. Hence the Petite Baked Eye Colour Bonbons for Holiday 2013. These are trios of baked eye shadows in tiny cases (brilliant as a stocking stuffer) and come in coordinated color schemes: Bronze Trio, Emerald Trio, and the one you see here is Amethyst Trio. I'll show you Emerald Trio later today, but let's focus on Amethys for a second.

All three colors in this palette have a shiny almost metallic finish but no actual glitter and no particles to land on your cheeks. The eye shadows in this set (from lightest to dark) are: Soft Amethyst, Lilac, and Violet Sky. My personal preference is to use them one at a time as an accent, but some of you wear purple a lot better than me, so you can definitely experiment.

Like most (all?) baked eye shadows, these Laura Mercier Bonbons benefit from using a damp brush, so that's what I did here, as the two lighter colors barely appear on my skin otherwise. Used damp, though, the colors are vibrant and very pretty.

Laura Mercier Holiday 2013: Petite Baked Eye Colour Bonbons Amethyst Trio ($25) is available at the counters and from The product for this review was sent by PR.              

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Favorite Rose Perfumes- Part II

From the Alexander McQueen 2008 Collection

Four years ago I made a list of Rose Perfumes For Anti-Rose People. It only had seven fragrances which I thought was more than enough. After all, a rose is a rose is a rose is a... well, maybe not quite. I'm still suspicious of rose perfumes, but I've added several more to my top favorites in addition to the seven perfumes I mentioned in 2009 (which I still love and wear with pleasure and abandon, though I eventually bought Amouage Lyric Man instead of Lyric Woman). Here they are:

Natasha Poly at Alexander McQueen, Spring 2007

* Neela Vermeire- Mohur. I thought the eau de parfum was the stuff of dreams, then I tried the Esprit, an extrait that will be launched in a few months. Gorgeous and soulful is an understatement.

* Providence Perfume Company- Rose Boheme. A natural perfume, rose and patchouli-- it spells hippie but it's not.

* Serge Lutens- La Fille de Berlin. Uncle Serge's third rose perfume was the one I absolutely had to own. Bought a bottle before I even drained the sample.

* DSH Perfumes- Rose Vert. A kaleidoscope of roses and memories.

* Guerlain- Nahema. Everything is better in extrait de parfum.

* Gres- Cabaret. A cheap thrill (at least it used to be) in the form of a soapy rose-chypre.

* Pierre Cardin- Rose Cardin. A little retro and a lot of sex appeal.

* Rochas- Tocade. A Maurice Roucel creation. Need I say more?

* Ungaro- Diva. Red velvet. Not the cake, but a gown.

* Coty-  La Rose Jacqueminot. Because we must have an impossible to find vintage bottle on this list. Seriously, LRJ is a good reminder of what Coty used to be. Utterly heartbreaking.

A DVF Dress For All Seasons (And Personalities)

Michelle Obama, Paris Hilton and I have something in common.

I'll give you one second to digest the statement above.

All three of us seem to be fans of Diane von Furstenberg's wrap dress in the classic chain link print. This dress has been around for a long time in different variations, and right now can be found in the New Julian Two version (3/4 sleeve) or as a Jeanne Two (full length sleeve), as well as in a maxi lengthe (DVF website only, I think). Paris Hilton styled her DVF dress with a Chanel bag and a pair of black  Louboutins, while the First Lady and I favor red Manolos. I also wear mine with a black cami underneath to minimize the cleavage situation, and I like to add a burst of color in the form of a long layered turquoise necklace (if I'm not wearing red shoes, that is). It's one of my favorite DVF dresses, actually, and as you can see- quite versatile and timeless. $345-$365 at most decent department stores and

Photos: Zimbio, Huffington Post, and DVF.

NVEY ECO Eye Shadow Palette #3- An Exclusive Sneak Peek

NVEY ECO is an Australian brand that offers natural and certified organic makeup. They use a talc-free base (utilizing corn starch instead) and focus on good-for-you ingredients such as jojoba oil, vitamins, chamomile, and carrot seed oil. Australia has always captured my imagination (kangaroos! koalas! wombats! Basically all of my fantasy pets), so I was happy to hear NVEY ECO is now available at Ulta with more and more items to arrive in the US soon, such as five color eye shadow palettes you see here as an exclusive sneak peek.

NVEY ECO Eye Shadow Palette #3 includes shades number 152, 153, 161, 155, and 158. All of them are easy to wear neutrals with a good color payoff (the swatches above show one swipe of color each with the basic sponge applicator that's included in the palette over primed skin). The texture is soft and gives a satin finish (except for the matte white color in the middle). As you can see, the beige eye shadow on the left is basically a slightly warmer version of my skin color, but it shows better on my lid and acts as a good base or wash of color for a barely-there makeup look. I've mixed it with the white color for slightly more impact and used the darkest brown in the crease and outer v for some serious drama. Obviously, these colors lend themselves for a variety of looks. They have a fall vibe going- the slightly warm, a khaki accent-- it's pretty much foolproof.

As I mentioned above, the palette comes with those silly sponge applicators, but otherwise it's quite sleek. The slim compact reminds me of the Louise Young palettes and slides into small makeup bags and clutches easily.

Bottom Line: not just for the crunchy granolas.

Zea Mays Starch (Organic Corn Starch)*, Zinc Stearate, Ethyl Macadamiate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Organic Jojoba Seed Oil)*, Stearic Acid, Lauroyl Lysine, Benzyl Alcohol, Salicylic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot Seed Oil), Organic Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Oil*, Glycerin. *Certified Organic Ingredient

NVEY ECO Eye Shadow Palettes will be in the US soon. Right now you can get the single eye shadows at Ulta ($18 each), though most of the colors featured in the No. 3 Palette are not available online. The product for this review was sent by PR.

Histoires de Parfums- 1889 Moulin Rouge

1889 Moulin Rouge by Histoires de Parfums is a  real Perfume. With a capital P. It has everything: booze, downy powder puffs, intimate animalics, spice, jars of vintage rouge, and silk stockings. Some people aren't into this these kind of fragrances, but I happen to love the richness, texture and vintage feel. Many of Histoires de Parfums "historical" perfume smell quite modern, but this one has  La Belle Époque written all over it in the best possible way.

I smell rose and powdery makeup right from the start, but they quickly become infused with plummy cognac and absinthe, including the sugar cube. The sweetness takes an almost gourmand turn with the introduction of cinnamon. It might be my wild imagination but I think of apple beignets for a moment, before 1889 Moulin Rouge takes a boudoirish turn and I'm transported to the salon and dressing rooms at the Moulin Rouge, as well as to the pampered world of the demi-mondaine women. The rooms there are heavily curtained, slightly stuffy, perfumes with bouquets of red roses sent by admirers and the scent of face powder and tonics. Let's talk about the powdery facet of Moulin Rouge for a moment: usually you get violets and lipstick, but here there's a lot sweet iris and dry iris to make me happy enough to do a version of couch can-can.

With all the things going on in this Histoires de Parfums creation you'd think the sillage and projection would be enormous. Instead, we get a solid long-lasting performance that's actually on the polite and wearable side. 1889 Moulin Rouge is quite feminine and as I said above, perfumy. Smelling it up close in your very personal space it's a sexy fragrance that is equal parts suggestive and sweet. Otherwise, the general impression is of a floral-powder ladylike perfume. I guess you'll have to make them step closer.

Notes: Tangerine, Prune, Cinnamon, Absinthe, Damask Rose, Iris, Patchouli, Musk, Fur.

Histoires de Parfums- 1889 Moulin Rouge ($125, 60ml) is available at Henri Bendel, Luckyscent, Bergdorf, Aedes and BeautyHabit.

Art: The Salon de la Rue des Moulins - Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1894.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Jason Natural Cosmetics Soothing 84% Aloe Vera Hand & Body Lotion

This comes from the "where has it been all my life?" department. The humble looking tube of Jason Natural Cosmetics Soothing 84% Aloe Vera Hand & Body Lotion has been saving my arms and legs lately, helping me deal with everything from abrasive products, mosquito bites, and rawness due to over-swatching (and removing of said swatches). It's brilliant, really: I've always been a heavy user of pure aloe vera gel, but the texture of the raw thing is on the sticky side. A good lotion that spreads easily and sinks into the skin quickly is a much more practical solution for hands and limbs, and that's what I get from Jason.

An 84% aloe vera content is a wonderful percentage that makes a real difference for used and abused dry skin such as mine. I've been applying this Jason lotion after washing and scrubbing my hands, when carrying a heavy shopping nag left the skin on my right arm dry, raw, and flaking, and-- as I mentioned above--between and after swatching makeup on my arm. The lotion soothes upon contact, moisturizes, and leaves the skin feeling softer and healthier. It's not a substitute for the heavy nourishing I need (that's what shea butter and body oils are for), but it solves a particular problem that I deal with every single day.

Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Aqua (Water), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glyceryl Stearate SE, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Dimethicone, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil , Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Panthenol, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Allantoin, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Amyl Cinnamal, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Citral, Geraniol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Hydroxycitronellal, Limonene, Linalool, Fragrance (Parfum).

Jason Natural Cosmetics Soothing 84% Aloe Vera Hand & Body Lotion ($6.97, 8oz) is available at Whole Foods, Wallgreens, and The product for this review was sent by PR.

Model: Josephine, who is naturally soft.

Soivohle By Liz Zorn- Carpathian Oud

Everyone has a favorite vampire. Liz Zorn of Soivohle is a purist who prefers Bram Stoker's Dracula, especially as played by Gary Oldman. Mine is Spike, AKA William The Bloody, the vampire who fought to regain his soul, killed two Slayers, loved a third with every ounce of his non-beating heart, and sacrificed his life for her. The theme of love and redemption is an important one in Spike's story, so I hope Liz Zorn would forgive me for connecting her vampiric Carpathian Oud to my undead of choice. William The Bloody Awful Poet didn't come from the Carpathian Mountains, but let's face it: neither does oud. Nevertheless, the darkness and depth (of both) catches you by surprise. Especially if you've become a little too accustomed to vampires who sparkle in the sun and cleaned up department store fake oud perfumes.

Soivohle Carpathian Oud comes in two concentrations: a demi-absolute (basically an eau de parfum) and a cologne. They are slightly different in the way they highlight various aspects of this intriguing oud. The demi-absolute is dirtier and more barnyardy, while the cologne has a sparklier and decidedly more floral opening. The latter also smells a bit spicy, especially on the husband's skin, though it dries down to the animalic raw oud of the demi-absolute, just not as dense. The floral notes here are pretty abstract, though I can distinctly smell carnation. I do get a gothic impression, dim-lit rooms where someone or something is waiting and lurking in the shadows, ready to turn your world on you, no matter if you surrender willingly or not.

The sense of danger and carnality is very strong in the dry-down. While the demi-absolute becomes one with the skin, wrapping it in its old and tattered coat, putting the lights out and allowing you to fall into a trance-like sleep, the cologne maintains the alertness of oud. Perfumer Liz Zorn has created a magnificent interpretation of this note. It's sensual and hypnotic, a dark temptation at its best. On my skin the animalics make a statement that's a bit beyond perfume. The husband wears Carpathian Oud more elegantly, I think. He finds it hard to decide if he prefers the demi-absolute or the cologne, though I think that the one we both gravitates toward the cologne a bit more (it's long lasting as all good ouds are and should be).

Notes: wild mountain poppy, laurel leaf, rhododendron leaf, dianthus, blood cedar, oakmoss accord, violet/orris, black amber, soft earth,  oud/agarwood oil, including Indian oud and Laotian oud, and a custom house blend of oud notes.

Soivohle By Liz Zorn- Carpathian Oud ($35 for 11 ml cologne or $50 for 11 ml demi-absolute. Larger bottles and samples also available) can be purchased at The samples for this review were sent by the perfumer.

Photo of James Marsters as Spike via some Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan site.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Urban Decay Vice 2 Eye Shadow Palette For Holiday 2013

By the time I turned 17 in my senior year of high school my friends already knew that I loved experimenting with makeup and creating interesting looks ("interesting" being a keyword here. They weren't necessarily good). I used to do everyone's makeup during sleepovers and such, and already developed my lifelong love for matte blue eye shadows. For my birthday that year two of my closest friends banded together and got me a beautiful birthday gift that included a massive eye shadow palette with twenty colors from neutrals to bright in various finishes from matte to 80s frost. Looking at the new limited edition Urban Decay Vice 2 palette for Holiday 2013 I'm reminded of that beloved palette. Of course, Urban Decay textures and finishes are miles ahead of my old birthday palette (some of the mattes in those days were incredibly hard and obnoxious to blend, while Urban Decay makes beautiful silky mattes). Modern shimmer and even micro-glitter look very different on skin than the pearly finish of yore, so with this mix of neutral colors and matte eye shadows next to the bright and eye-popping, the possibilities are many.

The palette includes a large mirror and a fluffy double-ended brush (synthetic) that I relegated to my concealer drawer. I prefer dense natural brushes for eye shadows, but have to say that I really like the blending performance of this little Urban Decay brush, and since I also used it for the swatches I can tell you that it is effective for placement. As for the colors, I could do without the pink and purple ones, but there's enough blue, green, and brown in Vice 2 to get my creativity flowing. The texture is excellent for both mattes and shimmers. The glittery ones have a tendency to share their glimmer with skin, clothes, and felines that get too close, but if you're an Urban Decay glitter fan you already know that. Applied over a primer these eye shadows have a phenomenal longevity and vibrancy.

Urban Decay Vice 2 palette includes:

Smokeout (dark brown-black satin. Ideal for a good ole' smoky eye)
Lovesick (black matte with iridescent micro-glitter)
Shellshock (a very metallic silver)
Coax (medium metallic pink with golden iridescent micro-sparkle)
X-Rated (baby pink satin)
Prank (dark navy matte with blue pearly particles)
Madness (bright metallic blue shimmer w/blue micro-glitter. Gorgeous and very Dior-like)
Strike (antique gold shimmer with silver micro-glitter)
Stash (deep olive green shimmer with iridescent micro-sparkle)
Poison (charcoal satin with iridescent micro-sparkle)
Radar (metallic brown shimmer with iridescent micro-glitter)
Damaged (bright metallic emerald shimmer)
Voodoo (metallic purple shimmer with iridescent purple micro-glitter. I might not wear it but I can't stop staring and swatching)
Betrayal (bright purple violet satin with blue shift- almost duo-chrome)
Derailed (medium metallic taupey-brown shimmer. Will be used to the bottom of the pan)
Dope (warm champagne satin)
Toxic (metallic copper-pink shimmer with tonal micro-glitter)
Habit (light nude matte)
Ambush (metallic brown satin)
Rewind (medium brown matte)

An extra swatch comparing all three black(ish) colors- Poison, Lovesick, Smokeout:

Bottom Line: pretty and surprisingly practical.

Urban Decay Vice 2 Eye Shadow Palette ($59) is a limited edition item from the Holiday 2013 Collection. It's available at Sephora, Ulta, and The product for this review was supplied by the company.