Friday, February 28, 2014

10 Perfumes That Should Never Have Been Discontinued

Few issues can get perfume enthusiasts as riled up as the discontinuation of wonderful perfumes. We've all been there; we all have a list of lost treasures we wish were available again. To make this list I narrowed them down: it does not include reformulations (just about every classic) and reconstructions (Panthere de Cartier), nor did I count perfumes that were released as a limited edition (Tauer Orris). This is simply a list of ten(ish) perfumes that should have been kept in production for ever and ever because they were good and because they could have been a commercial success given enough time.

1. Cuir de Lancome. And I'm not even talking about the original. The La Collection version from 2007 was a brilliant floral leather.
2. Guerlain Shalimar Eau Legere. No, Eau de Shalimar is not quite as good.
3. L'Artisan- Orchidée Blanc. Oh, heartache! The delicate scent of spring- floral, earthy, leafy, and sweet. It came alive on skin and made you feel like La Primavera.
4. Alexander McQueen- Kingdom. This was a commercial flop when first came out and discontinued before McQueen's death. It took a while before people discovered how great this niche-character-in-a-designer-outfit really is, and all the overstock bottles were quickly snatched.
5. Annick Goutal- Mon Parfum Cherie Par Camille. It took guts to release a perfume like this in 2011, but apparently the decision makers at Annick Goutal didn't have it in them to actually keep this beauty on the shelves and sell it.
6. Jean Patou- Ma Collection (and just about everything else they ever made). I don't know if I can even pick among them, but let's say Vacances, probably the best lilac perfume ever made.
7. Fendi- Theorema. Ok, I get that the original Fendi by Fendi is perhaps too challenging in today's market, but the sweet and spicy orange goodness of Theorema would have, could have, and should have been a bestseller to this day.
8. The entire Gobin-Daudé line. One of the very first truly independent perfumer-owned brands. Production and distribution issues prevented it from being a commercial success. I'm pretty sure that had it been launched a few years later, Ms. Gobin-Daudé and her perfumes could have flourished. Online perfume conversation became more established and gave an unparalleled exposure even to the smallest and most obscure lines.
9. Le Labo- Aldehyde 44. This one was only sold at Barneys in Dallas, and discontinued when the store closed. Makes no sense. Couldn't they just make it an online exclusive? Or open a store in North Jersey?
10. Tom Ford- Amber Absolute. Speaking of things that don't make any sense. An amber that could give Serge Lutens a run for his money, and one of the top three sellers of the Private Blend. Yes, I get that this collection undergoes a major change every few months, but the original 12 releases were far better than everything that came out later.

Which perfumes would you add to this list?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Jessica Lange to Front A Marc Jacobs Beauty Campaign

Shortly after tweeting that the wonderful response to NARS signing Charlotte Rampling should encourage the competition to snag Helen Mirren, I saw the announcement that Jessica Lange is going to be the face of the new advertising for Marc Jacobs Beauty:

WWD, February 27th

 I know that some people don't approve because it's obvious that Ms. Lange had some unfortunate work done. A friend claimed that by choosing Jessica Lange for this campaign Marc Jacobs is essentially celebrating taxidermied faces from the Joan Rivers school of beauty, which only and plays on women's insecurities. While I do get where she's coming from, I still think that if we want to see the end of age discrimination and the marginalization of women past child-bearing years, we need to widen the range of what we think of as a face for a beauty ad, and I'm thankful to Marc Jacobs for doing his part.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Parfums MDCI- Cuir Garamante

Not much is known about the ancient civilization of the Garamantes,  the supposed ancestors of the Touareg people who live in the Sahara Desert.  There are few sources about the Garamantes origin and their culture. They may or may not have crossed the desert in chariots, and may have ruled the seas. Their decline and disappearance are also shrouded in mystery.  Few ruins of their cities have remained, such as the one in the photo above, hinting of a story about their glory days. This was the inspiration for Parfums MDCI Cuir Garamante.

In reality, Cuir Garamante is far less exotic and fierce than some of the descriptions I've read. It's a very civilized spicy rose-oud composition, exquisitely done- like everything by Parfums MDCI, but not very original. It's also not as leathery as the name suggests. In fact, I wouldn't call Cuir Garamante a leather perfume at all, despite the presence of a soft and smooth leather note somewhere in the background.

 Tested both on my skin and on the husband's, the most dominant facet of this fragrance is rose. What starts as a sizzling bright rose becomes darker and spicier very quickly. The pairing of saffron and rose is a beloved classic, and I get  fragments of familiar scents here: from Safran Troublant and Agent Provocateur to Black Cashmere and By Kilian Rose Oud. Not exactly, of course, just small reminders that this is something we've smelled before.

Cuir Garamante distinguishes itself by its smoothness. The soft leather gathers everything together, heats up the spices, and caresses the oud. There are no sharp edges, nothing particularly challenging or medicinal about the oud accord used here, and absolutely no barnyard. The rose is rounded, slightly fruity, almost voluptuous. Even I can't complain about it, because there's nothing fresh or green about this rose. It's sultry, actually, with just a dusting of desert grime to make it more interesting.

 Cuir Garamante dries down into a semi-oriental. It's not quite sweet, but almost creamy, which goes well with the supple leather. There's supposed to be some vanilla there, but this should not be your reason to try (or ignore) this perfume-- it's not about vanilla or any other gourmand idea despite the spices. It's a rose. A very satisfying and elegant rose, for sure, but not something we haven't smelled many times before.

Notes: pink pepper, nutmeg, saffron, rose, oud accord, papyrus, leather, vanilla, labdanum, incense, sandalwood.

Parfums MDCI- Cuir Garamante ($250, 75ml EDP in the regular bottle without the bust cap) is available at Osswald and Luckyscent.

Photo via Howzit MSN.

Want: Tomtom Jewelry Crossed Rein Collar

From Costume Norway magazine. Notice the matching cuff.

I'm in a serious covetous mood. TomTom is a Los Angeles-based jewelry line (all items are made in L.A.) which seems to be a celeb favorite. I've noticed them before, but the photo below of Ashley Greene wearing a different TomTom necklace made me go to their website and develop an instant lust for this gold-plated collar necklace. There's something about the almost art deco sensibilities, and the graphic lines against soft skin that makes this necklace extra desirable.

$220 on (the one Ashley Greene is wearing is Chevron Prix Collar, $350).

Photos via TomTom Jewelry and Zimbio.

Charlotte Rampling Named New Face of NARS

Few industries have more age bias than the beauty business. We're often left feeling that decision-makers truly believe that it's young adults who do the major spending at the counters, and the general aspiration is to look 21 forever and ever and ever. But here and there we hear inspiring news like today:  NARS announced today via WWD that as part of the brand's 20th anniversary celebrations (coming in September), François Nars has shot  a “black-and-white portrait-style image” of 68 year old Charlotte Rampling.

Ms. Rampling has been a long-time muse and inspiration for Mr. Nars, so it makes sense. She is a timeless and iconic beauty and has a wide appeal to several generations, just like models Veruschka  and Carmen Dell'Orefice who still make runway appearances, reminding us all that life and beauty don't end at 25, 30, 40, or 60.

Photos via several Charlotte Rampling fan sites.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Parfums de Nicolai- Amber Oud & Rose Oud

Did Patricia de Nicolai really had to make two oud perfumes and give them identical names to some very popular By Kilian ouds? I guess she did. Probably because every semi-luxury brand these  days has an oud perfume or seven displayed front and center on counters around the world, and barely-trained SAs eagerly shove them at you declaring their brand's product to be so much better than all the others because they're the only ones on the market using real oud. All Natural. From Laos. Nobody else does. Here, try it.See? The people in the next counter/boutique next door are lying and hyping their perfumes. Can you smell it? What a difference!

 If I weren't such a Nicolai fan I'd go the cynic route and say that this is just their way to stay in the game and offer something for people entering the boutique and asking for an oud perfume (preferably one that smells just like every other so-called-oud fragrance they've ever smelled). But I prefer to think that Patricia di Nicolai actually was inspired to add something new to the oud conversation, and wanted to do it her way. Did she succeed? Kind of.

The first thing to notice about Nicolai's Amber Oud and Rose Oud is that they don't smell very oudy. This is neither the very brash and loud synthetic version offered by Montale and their various immitators, nor the stunning barnyard shock you get from the likes of  Soivohle Carpathian Oud, from David Falsberg's work or Mandy Aftel's Oud Louban, to name my favorites. Nicolai's oud perfumes are also very gentle and lack the medicinal characteristics you find in most famous big ouds (Kurkdjian and Mona di Orio, to name a couple). These are very Westernized oud perfumes, easy on the nose (and the pocket), and very eager to please.

Amber Oud doesn't smell particularly ambery, especially compared to the Oriental fantasy of Kilian's perfume with the same name. It's actually a very herbal-aromatic concoction, like a darkened and deepened fougere that still maintains the bones of a great and classic men's cologne. It took me a couple of testings to really find the oud in this perfume, but it's there, hiding right behind the spicy front put by saffron and cinnamon. It's instantly likable, decidedly fresh, and very refined. Amber Oud probably suits and appeals to me more than it does for women. I just wish it wasn't so safe.
Notes: Lavender, Thyme, Sage, Cinnamon, Saffron, Agarwood, Cedar, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Vanilla, Tonka bean, Styrax, Musk, Castoreum, Amber.

Rose Oud is my personal favorite, and I'm not even that big of a rose fan.It's a sweet gourmand rose, more creamy than jammy-- like a rich Middle Eastern pudding enriched with the highest quality rosewater and decorated with fresh red fruit.  The rose is also a part of a huge floral bouquet that tries to camouflage  the warm skin. There's a peach skin muskiness in the base and even less oud-as-we-know-it than in Amber Oud. This is one sexy perfume (though my own  husband is kind of "meh" about the rosiness of it all) and I bet it's a massive compliment-getter for those who wear rose well.
Notes: Raspberry, Davana, Osmanthus, Rose, Lily of the valley, Agarwood, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Musk, Amber.

Parfums de Nicolai- Amber Oud & Rose Oud ($78 for 1 oz EDP each, larger size also available) is sold at Twisted Lily and Luckyscent.

Photo by PawlowskiCreations on Etsy.

Rouge Bunny Rouge - Original Skin Primer - Genesis

I'll start with the bottom line and tell you that right now Genesis, the original skin primer from Rouge Bunny Rouge is my favorite primer. Plain and simple. It gives me exactly what I want need from a face primer these days: an invisible yet otherworldly smooth barrier that not only re-texturizes the skin, but feels good, light, and soft on winter-weary face that has suffered more than a little abuse in the last few months.

Let's be clear: this Rouge Bunny Rouge primer is a silicone product that relies on various polymers to do the work. If you're sensitive to such ingredients this is not the right fit for you. For me, as far as silicone primers go, this is the best.  I am a fan of Guerlain Meteroites Perles, but Guerlain's primer is more wet and sticky, so there's a short wait time before you can apply a foundation over it, and the texture is thinner, which is sometimes preferred, but right now I need a better barrier, plush the smoothness of RBR is unparalleled.

Genesis is not luminizing. It's not quite matte, either. I couldn't take an adequate photo of the effect is has on skin, because it's more about texture and feel than about the way it appears. The result is incredibly smooth, which helps reduce the amount of base products I need to use even further (a good primer will always require less foundation). Longevity is perfect, and I find that makeup applied on top of this primer retains its color and finish for a full day.

Rouge Bunny Rouge - Original Skin Primer - Genesis ($44) is available from BeautyHabit,, and soon at Twisted Lily in Brooklyn.
The product is this review was a press sample sent by the company.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush- Mood Exposure

Earlier this month I ordered a couple of the new Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blushes. I already showed you Diffused Heat, but at that time I didn't even touch the other color I had, because Sephora sent me the wrong one. I ordered Luminous Flush but received Mood Exposure instead, and since the Ambient Lighting blushes sold out quickly during the VIB preview sale, I couldn't exchange it right away. Mood Exposure languished a fortnight in the Drawer of Doom, but last week I gave it another look and decided it was actually worth a try. I'm so glad that I did.

Mood Exposure is described as a "soft plum" while the marbling of Hourglass Ambient Light Powder in it is Mood Light (the one in Diffused Heat is Diffused Light). It looks rather boring in the pan, doesn't it? A drab beige thing with no brightness. This is the sleeper in the Ambient collection, and it's worth your time and cheek space if your skin tone is somewhat similar to mine: an olive/beige with a visible green undertone. These blushes look dramatically different on various skin tones (CharlestonGirl bought and swatched all six on Best Things In Beauty. There's no resemblance between the way they look on her skin and mine). The pigment in your skin brings out the real color of the blush (or squashes it). I also find that they swatch very differently on naked skin (more powdery, less pigment) than on a well-applied base. I've primed and prepped my arm the way I do my face with a moisturizer and a tinted primer, so you get the full effect.

Apparently, this beige plum color of Hourglass Mood Exposure is a lot more lively on skin than it is in the compact. The addition of Mood Light powder is, indeed, brightening, which lifts the beigeness and brightens the face subtly. It works perfectly for a look that is focused on eyes or when you don't want your blush to compete with your accessories. I shouldn't have been so surprised that Mood Exposure is a good color for me. I've been wearing blushes such as Lancome Aplum and Benefit Dallas for years. This offering from Hourglass is more delicate and luminous, but works in a very similar way.

Bottom Line: a brilliant mistake.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush- Mood Exposure ($35) is available from select department stores and Sephora. is out of stock at time of posting, but they should have it back soon.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Marc Jacobs- Honey

When Marc Jacobs launched Honey last summer, the PR team at Coty Prestige (the company that holds the license for Marc Jacobs Perfumes) teamed up with a group of fashion bloggers and asked them to create images and "Honey Spots". It resulted in various mood boards and nail art photos, many of them far more interesting and original than the perfume in question. I don't know if the people at Coty approached any perfume blogger with this offer. I'd go out on a limb and say that they didn't even consider it. They're not that stupid.

Honey is aimed at the same audience that bought other Marc Jacobs perfumes because they have cute bottles with a label that says Marc Jacobs. Are they interested in perfume? Maybe. Kind of. They do buy perfumes and presumably enjoy them (I hope). They want to smell nice, which I guess is what they get from Honey. Does it smell nice? Well, it doesn't smell particularly bad. Is that a good enough answer?   Honey is a sort of fresh, sort of fruity-floral.  Sort of perfume, but not quite. It's more like a detergent or shampoo, though not particularly luxurious, as the most dominant notes are a sort of pear, sort of peach, reconstructed fruit juice, plastic honeysuckle, and a chemical orange blossom.

The opening of Honey is a declaration of intents: fruity, sticky, and the kind of young that listens to One Direction. But as Robin said in her review on NST, it's tolerable. We've all smelled worse. The green and white plastic bouquet is more difficult for me to endure. It's trying too hard to be pretty, and it shows. The honey in Honey is more of that kind-of-sort-of thing that marks this perfume. You don't need to get your Miel de Bois for a side-by-side comparison. There's absolutely nothing in common there, and the animalic beeswaxy thing you and I tend to recognize as honey is completely absent from this Marc Jacobs offering. Why they even bothered to call this perfume Honey? I'd venture a wild guess and say that the bottle design came first as a sequel to Dot, the ladybug perfume from spring 2012. Someone created the bumblebee version, which lead to the honey theme.

As the fragrance settles on skin it becomes more and more about a not particularly good honeysuckle note. It penetrated the vague and generic department store perfume dry-down and makes the long hours Honey survives on my skin quite unpleasant (of course. You knew it'd hold on for dear life). The right skin chemistry and preference might not find Honey so aggravating, but I do. In a world that offers so many fantastic perfumes for those who dare to look outside of Ulta or Sephora, this dumbed-down idea of commercial perfumery is less and less acceptable.

Notes: pear, fruity punch, mandarin, orange blossom, peach nectar, honeysuckle, honey, vanilla, wood.

Honey by Marc Jacobs ($52, 1 oz) is available from Ulta, Sephora, and most department stores.

Top photo: Marc Jacobs in his PJs at the Louis Vuitton A/W 2013-2014 show in Paris, March 2013.

Art And Beauty

Woman in the Window (Wife of a Treasurer). Vasily Tropinin, 1841

Let's take a beauty break and look at some treasures that have noting to do with products, #hashtags, commercial interests, promotions, or social media. Just art, beauty, and a fantasy:

Portrait of Agnes Macdonald Poynter by Sir Edward John Poynter (1866)

Cleopatra, John William Waterhouse, 1887

Frederico de Madrazo y Kuntz - Amalia de Llano y Dotres, Countess of Vilches, 1853

Lotte - Christian Schad, 1927

Make Maraschino Cherry Silk Creme Lipstick

Make offers three lipstick finishes: matte, cream, and satin (delicate shimmer). I got to try one of the Silk Creme lipsticks in  Maraschino Cherry, a rich red with a somewhat rosy/pink leaning (more evident on the lips than in the tube). It's a classic color and a classic elegant finish.

The texture of Make's Silk Creme Lipstick is as smooth as you'd expect. There's not all that much slip when applied from the bullet, so the product and the color adhere to the lips instantly and precisely. I prefer to use a brush, though, because Maraschino Cherry is an intense color that benefits from a precise application. I get an even and long lasting (about four hours and a cup of tea) wear from two thin coats of color.  I find the lipstick reasonably emollient, but it's not moisturizing, so you'll need to prep and make sure your lips are well-hydrated. Make actually offers a lip primer which I'm curious to try. My guess is that it's the perfect companion to these pigment-saturated lipsticks.

Bottom Line: Beautiful.

Make Maraschino Cherry Silk Creme Lipstick ($25)  is available at select Barneys locations,, and directly from the company's website,, where 33.3% of each purchase will directly benefit the WE SEE BEAUTY Foundation, a non-profit organization that funds women-led co-ops in the US.
The product for this review was sent free of charge by PR

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sage Machado- Onyx Perfume Oil

I mentioned last week that I'm on a weird coconut kick. It was about food, not perfume, but it did made me reach for the one and only coconut perfume in my collection, Onyx by Sage Machado (there's a coconut note in some other favorites, such as Hypnotic Poison, Un Bois Vanille, and Premier Figuier Extreme, but it's in a supporting role). It occurred to me that I never dedicated an actual review to this sweet gem other than a quick post from years ago about my realization that  most men don't like coconut.  Back then I talked about the "night in the tropics vibe" I got from the eau de toilette version of Onyx. But the one I love and wear nowadays is the original version, Sage Machado's Onyx perfume oil. This one is far less beachy and has no white gauzy dress whirling around in the nocturnal breeze.

What we get from Onyx in oil form is a darker, slightly bewitching vibe. It's lace and velvet, antique Victorian jewelry, all layered over warm and flushed skin. The gourmand facets are mostly when you first apply the oil (I usually go to town with it, just because it's so delectable). Coconut, toasted slightly beyond the edible point, so there's already some smokiness there even before the sweet pipe tobacco takes its place right and center. The latter is much more complex than you'd expect from a "coconut oil". The atmosphere is thick, and there's a very raw oakmoss note there that gives a strong tactile feel, like layers upon layers of plush fabrics. The vanilla base actually lifts the fragrance. It's sweet enough to cheer you up, but not quite puddingy, which is fine with me. I wouldn't want to lose the uniqueness that sets Onyx apart from simple vanilla-coconut oils.

As the hours go by (Onyx stays put for more than 12 hours), the fragrance develops a sweet muskiness. It's soft and comforting, far less sinister than steampunk mystery I smell earlier. It's fun  to wear, maybe somewhat of a guilty pleasure, and very sexy-- even the man who won't touch a macaroon likes it on me.

Notes: black coconut, tobacco, oakmoss, vanilla, amber, musk.

Image: Tropic of Cancer - The Sorrow of Two Blooms (album cover)

Onyx by Sage Machado ($45, 1/8 oz. roll-on) is available from Luckyscent and

Friday, February 21, 2014

Winter Comforts- By The Husband (Pasta Telefono Recipe)

Are you tired of hearing me complain about the weather? I know that I am, so instead here's something much more positive and helpful, written by the husband who chose to focus on three great things: perfume, books, and food. His recipe for pasta with fresh mozzarella and fresh fennel is wonderfully aromatic. I adore fennel in every form, and it reminds me of the best parts of summer. We have  fennel in our back yard and it grows with a wild abandon. On the hottest days you can smell the leaves almost baking in the sun, wafting their anise-like aroma. Is it July yet?

In any case, here's the Husband's suggestions for some wonderful winter comforts:

Scent of the Week

I’ve rediscovered Amouage Honour Man:  a peppery, woodsy comfort scent that immediately conjures an image of a fireplace in a wood paneled library. Sophisticated, warm and cozy. Unlike many  Amouage fragrances,  Honour Man is not quite as big and Middle-Easterny opulent, but it's still enchanting with its woody smoothness. See Gaia’s full review.
*Wife's note: he needs a full bottle.

I’m reading “On Such a Full Sea” by Chang-Rea Lee and still trying to decide what to make of it. I loved Aloft, but this one is very different. It is hard to categorize and label. You could call it post-apocalyptic or futuristic and with a teenage heroine you’d immediately get a totally wrong impression on where this is going. It has an Asian sensibility and point of view that follows an enigmatic and rather passive girl through coincidental adventures in a future time Northeast while exploring issues of class, inequality, race/culture and social structures. It is a delicate and nuanced work but that somehow keeps you emotionally detached. Still an original story, style and voice that’s definitely worth reading.
*Wife's note: I really need to read something that's not about the Kardashians.

And now for the food.

Pasta Telefono is a very simple construct. Take a basic tomato sauce and add diced fresh mozzarella to elevate the dish to a much more tasty, messy family fun. The fresh mozzarella melts and creates strings that give it the “telephone cord” name. My version adds fennel to the sauce, which brings sweetness and a herbal aspects. I also mix only part of the mozzarella with the sauce and the rest at plating. It keeps the cheese less gooey and messy. Still tasty though.


1 small fennel head (or ½ a large one), chopped

1 small jalapeno,  chopped (optional)

1 can  diced tomatoes

1/2 lb dry pasta (225 g)

¼ lb fresh mozzarella (115 g), diced

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

½ cup white wine

spices and Italian herbs to taste


Cook your pasta. Drain.

In a large skillet saute the chopped fennel and jalapenos on medium heat until the fennel starts to brown and caramelize, 5-10 minutes.

Add the white wine, tomatoes and spices and let the sauce cook for another 10 minutes on low heat. Add the cooked pasta and mix well. Add ½ of the mozzarella and mix well. Add the rest of the cheese when serving and garnish with a few fennel sprigs.

*Wife's Note: yum!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Costume National- Scent Intense

Scent Intense is the other half of Costume National Scent, a supposedly darker variation on the ambery floral theme. Where Scent is more airy and sheer, Scent Intense takes its amber much more seriously. Costume National seem to have directed Intense towards women (while Scent has a somewhat more masculine leaning), but managed to still maintain the line's androgynous feel. Yes, it's an amber, but completely stripped of any ties to vanilla or powder, which makes it an easy choice for amber-loving men.  A friend with a good nose mentioned today a strong resemblance to L'Ambre de Carthage by Isabey, and I can see why. It gives a similar expensive tea, incense, and golden amber inside a wooden box vibe.

Costume National pared their amber down a little (compared to the warmer and more incensy Isabey). I'm doing my best to smell without the brand-bias, but I do think that Scent Intense is somewhat more urban/modern/minimalistic. I smell a cold hard surface somewhere in there, which is kind of a cool effect in an amber perfume. While my skin tries hard to amplify the woody amber, there's quite a fight (and a lot of development) going on there, bringing forth a synthetic smoke. It brings to mind the skyline of a big city that takes shape at dawn. The bleak and brutal lines of skyscrapers, dark windows, and warm breath in the cold morning air.

Scent Intense makes me wonder what would happen if Le Labo would create an amber perfume. Think of it: Amber 11, a Hong Kong exclusive. I'd expect it to smell pretty close to this 2002 fragrance, a little roughly drawn, only slightly exotic, and very easy to wear.

Notes: amber, woods, jasmine tea, and mother of pearl hibiscus.

Costume National- Scent Intense ($94, 50ml EDP) is available from Luckyscent and select department stores.

Top image: Eliza Cummings for Costume National ad campaign (Fall 2012) by Glen Luchford.

Rouge Bunny Rouge Makeup Brushes: 014 Highlighter & 016 Blender

Rouge Bunny Rouge 014 Highlighter Brush and 016 Blender Brush are a prime example of top-of-the-line synthetic makeup brushes. They look and feel like professional tools, well-balanced and packing some weight. The hair is as soft as it is dense, and feels wonderful even against sensitive and winter-weary skin. The other Rouge Bunny Rouge brushes I have are made of natural hair (Large Shader 003 and Blusher 002), so this was my first encounter with their synthetic ones. I'm very impressed.

The 014 Highlighter brush is a very versatile tool. Of course, you can use it for applying liquid or powder (it really is dense enough for powder) highlighter to the top of your cheekbones, but it's just as perfect for precision fave work, blending foundation and concealer, priming the entire eye lid-- it works. You can see above that it's slightly wider and flatter than Bobbi Brown Eye Sweep brush, so it really is an unusual size for a face brush and definitely fills a vacancy in brush collection, as it's softer (and generally of a  better quality) than Armani Blender Brush or Louise Young LY11.

Rouge Bunny Rouge 016 Blender Brush is another unique tool. It's a big and puffy (though not fluffy) eye blending brush that can also work for concealing and for smudging. In shape it's similar to the discontinued Sephora #13, but the way it works is close to the wonderful Hakuhodo G5527 (which is made of squirrel hair). Obviously, the RBR brush is domed and not pointy like the Hakuhodo, but because the latter is rather large, it's not exactly a precision brush, so not much is lost. If you're looking for a vegan alternative to the  G5527, this is your best bet. It's a must-have as far as I'm considered (as long as you have the lid space).

Rouge Bunny Rouge Makeup Brushes: 014 Highlighter ($33) & 016 Blender ($30) are available from,, and very soon also at Twisted Lily in Brooklyn.
The products in  this review were sent for my consideration.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Gucci By Gucci Pour Homme

Searching online databases for "Gucci Pour Homme" brings out several completely different fragrances. Gucci is one of the biggest offenders in axing a perfume (completely) and then creating a new one and giving the same name. So just to make things clear, tonight we're talking about the one from 2008 (though my samples were current. Sephora has been pushing this cologne pretty aggressively in recent months), AKA "The one with James Franco".

Gucci chose Franco around the time he was somewhat over-hyped (the following year he was named "The Sexiest Man Living" by I guess they wanted to bank on his smart artistic hipster appeal, which is better than many alternatives. Imagine how we'd feel if they'd booked Shia LaBeouf. Does his face sell perfume? Do men want to smell like James Franco? I guess that just like Gucci  by Gucci Pour Homme, this is a safe choice.

The opening of Gucci is so generic that it's quite  horrid. A smelled-it-a-million-times-before sweet bergamot and chemicals thing that calls to mind 75% of designer men's colognes from the last 20 years. It has that sharp and fresh and sweet thing going on that made me question my sanity and resolve every time I tried it. But as the fragrance dries develops and settles on the skin it becomes more wearable. The violet leaf freshness with its cucumber water aroma is decidedly not to my taste on any skin, especially my own. But the sweet pipe tobacco and sheer incense are very nice and, indeed, pretty manly. There's some fresh wood activity going on, and while my brain instantly registers it as very, totally, and incredibly synthetic, I can see why it has a mass appeal among Sephora shoppers.

Gucci by Gucci smells familiar (see "melled-it-a-million-times-before") and risk-free. It dries down nicely and if one has no idea that he could be smelling far more interesting, than this is probably enough. Me (and my loved ones)? I vacillate between being bored to tears and feeling grateful that it's not another aquatic.

Notes: bergamot, cypress, violet, tobacco leaves, jasmine, patchouli, amber, elemi.

Gucci By Gucci Pour Homme ($61, 1.7 oz EDT) is available from Sephora, Macy's and various online retailers.

Make- Defining Mascara

Things I want from my mascara:
a) Definition
b) No mess
c) A reasonably natural non-Kardashian look

Over the years I've found that at least half of that comes from the brush. Of course, a good formula that stays put and doesn't make lashes stick together is just as important, but the wrong brush can seriously mess things up.  Make Defining Mascara is all that, and exactly what the company promised: Defining. It doesn't add an unnatural length, but it gives an overall effect of a full and dark fringe.

The main thing I've noticed about it is the way the brush separates the lashes, coats them individually, and doesn't cause gloopiness. The design of the brush and the tube doesn't allow for over-application because it picks just the right amount of product, and deposits in the right place. The this point gives access to the corners and finer lashes. I love thin brushes that are also dense enough to coat the lashes evenly because they save you the need to apply layers upon layers of mascara. I find that two coats of Make is enough, especially for daytime, and even when I experimented with piling it on the result was still sane and didn't look like a furry animal has taken residence on my lids after rolling in sticky tar.

Bottom Line: a very elegant mascara, just like the packaging.

Make- Defining Mascara ($25) is available at select Barneys locations,, and directly from the company's website,, where 33.3% of each purchase will directly benefit the WE SEE BEAUTY Foundation, a non-profit organization that funds women-led co-ops in the US.
The product for this review was sent free of charge by PR

Skincare Roundup

Here's a quick roundup of skincare products I've been testing in the last six weeks. The theme here is Cosmetics You Can Buy at Whole Foods Market. I live about 5 minutes away from the largest Whole Foods in the state. Technically it's a walking distance, but since this is New Jersey and we do not walk anywhere. In any case, I was eager to try these and happy to subject my face to some new stuff. Here are the results:

MyChelle Pumpkin Renew Cream ($28.99): I already liked MyChelle's Pumpkin Peel because it's one of the mildest and most gentle ways to ease your skin into the world of peels. This cream is more of a runny lotion, and feels very light on my face (and it does smell like spiced pumpkin). It's no wonder the designation is for All/Combination skin types. A bit too lightweight for my winter skin, but works as an additional layer of moisture before makeup (and after I've loaded up on all the other stuff I need). If you're looking for a light hydration that absorbs right away this might be the answer.

Dr. Hauschka Regenarting Serum ($84.99): Dr. Hauschka products have countless devotees who swear by the brand's all natural and holistic care philosophy. I keep trying their stuff with no success whatsoever. This serum supposedly "firms mature skin, helping to minimize fine lines and wrinkles. Hydrating quince seed extract joins extracts of revitalizing kalanchoe and organic clover blossom honey to support the skin’s natural functions of renewal" which sounds fabulous, but the tightening I felt was of the unpleasant drying kind. One look at the ingredient list explained it all: the second ingredient right after water was alcohol. I gave it several more chances, hoping that the other ingredients would start working, but if my skin protests after every use it means a big fat NO.

Acure Organic Argan Oil  ($26.99): This was love at first use. Argan oil is really all that, and works to restore, hydrate and balance skin, nail, scalp-- just about everything. My favorite use of this is after a lactic or glycolic acid peel, as it calms any redness and makes my skin feel great. I also use it on my cuticles, elbows, feet, irritated skin-- it works everywhere. I don't know why the pump bottle is so much more expensive than the one with a  dropper (the same 1 oz amount is offered at $14.99). Still cheaper than Josie Maran and equally effective.

The products above can be purchased at your local Whole Foods as well as from various online retailers. They were sent for my consideration by PR.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Currently- February 2014

The doldrums of winter edition.

Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson. This is one of my favorite books of all time and has been so for the last 37 years. A haunting winter story about little Moomintroll who wakes up from his hibernation some time in January and needs to deal with winter and the creatures that inhabit it while all the warm and familiar things are either gone or asleep .
Moomintroll trying to reason with his Ancestor

Elbow- An Audience With The Pope

Meh. I may be the only one in the known universe that didn't enjoy Sherlock. I don't get the magic of Benedict Cumberbatch (though he did impress me in Parade's End), and the whole thing, from the plots to Mary Watson as an assassin did not work for me. Oddly enough, I do like Johnny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes as well as Lucy Liu as Watson in Elementary. Go figure.

Scents by Alexis- Body Made Luminous. It's probably the best chocolate perfume I know. The husband got me the bottle as a pre-Valentine's Day gift, and it was the last one perfumer Alexis Karl had and will have in some time, so I apologize for raving about something that's impossible to get, but I just had to. I'm obsessed.

Everything by Make, and if you saw the photos of the palette I posted today you know why. I was sent a few items for review and have ordered a few more, because this is the most impressive and cohesive makeup line I've seen in a while. It's so refreshing to find something like this after a long ennui.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
The above pair of Uggs. Yes, I know. Uggs. But they're sturdy enough for icy sidewalks and other environmental hazards while still having a good heel that makes me feel human. They've been through a lot in the three or four weeks I've had them and obviously can use a good shining. I'll do it tomorrow. Maybe.

Radishes sprinkled with coarse sea salt.

Guilty Pleasure
Various coconut candies.

this afternoon in my backyard

It's too obvious to even mention.

The email I received this evening from a long-time reader. Thank you, Theresa. It brought tears to my eyes.

Being able to open the window without getting a frostbite on my nose.


Random Thought
This is not very random, but kind of worth mentioning. If you have even a peripheral interest in perfume you probably already know about IFRA and the gradual crumbling of the perfume industry that it has caused since 2005. There's a telling article on Grain de Musc that you may have already read, which as far as I know is the first on-the-record cry from inside the industry. I want to know where these people were nine, five, and even two years ago when the writing on the wall couldn't have been more clear. Here's a selection of my own posts on this topic:

Something Is rotten (April 2009)
More About IFRA (April 2009)
Thoughts About IFRA And Skin Allergies (November 2009)
According to IFRA, you can't read or understand this post (January 2010)
Outlaw Perfumes- The Revolution Has Started (November 2010)
Outlaw Perfumes- Final Thoughts (December 2010)

How are you doing? What are your loves, banes, thoughts, and recommendations?

Top image: Winter 1947 in NYC via NY Daily News.

Make- Post Impression Palette

Make is an American makeup brand that launched last year by makeup artist Sam Addington. I first saw the products at Barneys and was immediately taken by the modern and very graphic packaging and the promising colors. Unfortunately, the aggressive sales approach at  the beauty and fragrance department in the Madison Avenue store has become so intolerable that I couldn't bring myself to linger at the counter, and just made a mental note to explore further.

But this is not a rant about Barneys. Make deserves our attention for the vision and execution of statement makeup with a very artistic edge, such as the Post-Impression collection that was the result of partnering with photographer Erik Madigan Heck (even if you're not familiar with the name, you've seen his work in major magazines).

Post-Impressionist landscape of the Hudson River by Erik Madigan Heck

The stunning Post-Impression palette includes five matte eye shadows: Thunder (murky charcoaled navy), Midnight (deep navy), Storm (my favorite, an almost teal dark blue), Hudson Green (hunter green), Poison Oak (deep forest green), one satin finish eye shadow (Acid- kind of mustardish yellow), and two silk cream lipsticks: Scarlet Oak (an orange red),  and Velvet Noise (burgundy). The colors are simply stunning, intensely pigmented and easy to work with. These are dark and stormy colors, meant to create looks such as these:

Both photos by Erik Madigan Heck
But used one per look these colors are beautiful and wearable. Your best friend here is a very soft eye shadow brush. My go to brush for this palette is Hakuhodo S127. It's incredibly soft and just the right size to pick up the perfect amount of color, lay it down and create a shape by gently patting, and then use the edge to blend without making a mess. I don't experience any fallout, so even though these Make eye shadows are incredibly dark, there's no debris under the eyes.

The lipsticks are matte and semi opaque. You can build them up for a full coverage, but I prefer a lighter application. The lipsticks are a little dry, so prepping and priming the lips is mandatory. Since you must apply these colors with a lip brush, the result is elegant and log-lasting.

The one issue with putting powder and cream products in the same palette is cross-contamination. This Make palette comes with a plastic insert you absolutely must keep and use in order to keep tiny blue flecks out of the lipsticks. It's annoying and makes me wish they'd come with separate eye and lip Post-Impression palettes. But as long as I'm being careful and tidy things remain reasonably clean, and I do adore opening the palette and playing with it.

Bottom Line: stunning.

Make Post-Impression Palette ($40) is available at select Barneys locations,, and directly from the company's website,, where 33.3% of each purchase will directly benefit the WE SEE BEAUTY Foundation, a non-profit organization that funds women-led co-ops in the US.
The product for this review was sent free of charge by PR.