Friday, October 31, 2014

Winner Of Tocca Giveaway

Miss Josephine above has chosen Emi of Project Swatch as the winner of our little draw. Congratulations, Emi!

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Corday- Toujours Moi (Vintage Perfume)

Toujours Moi, Always Me, might sound like the name of a Paris Hilton perfume, but it's a lovely oriental perfume from 1923-1924, that was described in the 1960s Dictionnaire des Parfums de France as a fragrance "made for women with an assertive personality", and was recommended for evening use, to wear at receptions, the theater, for dining out and "ideal for fur wearing". Indeed.

Toujours Moi used to be so popular that in 1951 Corday issued a flanker, Toujours Toi (Always You). You can read more about it in this blog, dedicated to Parfums Corday.

I went back to Barbara Herman's book, Scent & Subversion, when I got my little bottle of Toujours Moi. Herman described this Corday former bestseller very accurately as the "love child of Tabu and Habanita", with a bit of Shalimar thrown in. I'm guessing that the ratio of Tabu to Habanita depends on the particular vintage of the juice you find. Mine is a bit older, pre-Max Factor, and comes in a bottle that has the tall and straight engraved glass stopper. The connection to Habanita was immediate: powdery and smoky incense galore, a bit dusty and free of any top notes that had once ruled the opening.

But it was the oriental woody base with an animalic hint that won me over. The sensuality unfolds as Toujours Moi envelops the skin with the warmth of that fantasy fur. It's just sweet and vanillic enough to present a temptation that lures you deep into the folds of the coat, where it touches the skin.

I wear Toujours Moi the same way I wear my very vintage Shalimar extrait. For myself, not caring how it's perceived by the cupcake generation. But it's also ideal for cozy wear and as a treat. Once upon a time it was recommended for going out at night. Tonight I'll wrap myself in a fluffy cashmere blanket and settle on the couch to watch Cary Grant in Arsenic & Old Lace while wearing this little treasure.

Notes (via Dictionnaire des Parfums de France): exotic woods, musk, myrrh, incense, orange blossom, rose, jasmine, amber.

NARS NARSissist Smokey Eye Set

Boy, am I late on this one. I received the NARSissist Smokey Eye Set eons ago, placed it in one of the "to photograph, swatch, and test" box away from feline reach. Then I misplaced the box and promptly forgot about it. When I found it a couple of weeks ago I was worried this NARSissist set is already sold out, but a quick search has shown that it's still available from NARS website; if you know where to look, that is. From any page on the site take this path:

With that out of the way, I obviously have to grump about the spelling of this palette's name, and remind the very lovely people at NARS that Smokey is a bear, while "smoky" is the adjective relating to smoke.

Now about the actual set. I was really happy that includes Mekong, the rich gold-infused espresso shade on the far right. I've been eyeing and waffling about this eye shadow since it first launched, hesitating because of the heavy gold shimmer. But I have to say, that Mekong was born to be applied with a damp brush and cause some good drama (the swatch is dry, though, to show how incredibly pigmented the color is on its own). The other two eye shadows in the set, Madrague I (matte cream with a buttery texture), and Bali (classic dark taupe, same wonderful texture) are a safe and easy choice, but adding Mekong takes it to evening territory.

Another way to use Mekong is over a smudged (or not) layer of Via Veneto, the black eyeliner.It's a mini version of the excellent Larger Than Life eye pencil (reviewed here). The regular pencil is one of my staples, so it's nice to have a purse-size version to tuck in a makeup bag, especially since it comes with the same built-in sharpener. The same can be said about the Wide Contour Eyeshadow Travel Brush #43 that comes in the NARSissist  set. This is the redesigned and improved version of the old #16. The name is accurate: this is a wide angled brush, so those with small lids and short gap between the crease and the lash-line might find it less practical, but I like it quite a bit, and in a pinch it can create the entire eye look, as long as you go from light to dark when using it, and don't start smudging the pencil and Mekong until everything else is already in place.

Bottom Line: a workhorse (and a great Holiday gift).

NARS NARSissist Smokey Eye Set ($59) is availabe from (see above how to find it). The product for this review was sent by the company's PR.

4 Tom Ford Outfits At amfAR LA Inspiration Gala

At least four stars chose to wear Tom Ford to the 2014 amfAR LA Inspiration Gala honoring the designer. Miley Cyrus and Rihanna gave us exactly what you'd expect from these two icons of class and taste. It's not a party until someone shows a sideboob, so why not Miley? In contrast, January Jones chose a frumpy and tired looking Tom Ford dress. Maybe in person the sparkle helped elevate this look, but it sure does not photograph well. And then we have Gwyneth Paltrow, who in the past had some rather amazing Tom Ford moments (remember the white cape and gown from the Osacrs a few years ago?). On this occasion, though, Ford equipped Gwyneth with a less-than-original, less-than-fitting pantsuit that does her no favors.

Can the honor be revoked?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Try Before You Die

Photo by Leandro Farina

Ever since reading The Perfume Bible last week and poring over the list of "100 perfumes to try before you die" I've been obsessively making my own lists, arguing with the authors (in my mind), listing and deleting, trying to decide between Onda and Rozy, Bottega Venetta and Elie Saab, L'Eau d'Issey and Escape (the latter is in the "worst ever" category). And you know what? I'm not going there. But I still want to make a list. Not the "100 perfumes every perfumista should try" (Robin of NST already did that), not "100 Best perfumes in the known universe", and not even "100 greatest classics" (Luca Turin already wrote the book).

 For once I'm being a minimalist. This is a list of 10 perfume I think everyone, be it a fragonerd or my assorted brothers-in-law, should smell at least once as cultural-olfactory references. Not because Gaia The Non-Blonde likes or hates them (well, maybe), but because I believe they have an important role in the fragrance world, and perfume is just one of those commercial/art/design elements that make up the modern world.

This is my list. I'm curious to know what's on yours.

  • Chanel No.5. Once upon a time everyone recognized it at first sniff. Nowadays younger generations are more likely to identify Coco Mademoiselle. Still, few perfumes are as culturally important (or as exquisitely composed).
  • Guerlain- Shalimar. It's nearly impossible to choose between the classic Guerlain perfumes. Still, Shalimar is the grandmother of all orientals (even if Emeraude came out earlier) and is the reference point for everything from Musc Ravageur to Le Labo Vanille 44.
  • YSL- Opium. The spicy oriental that defined the 1970s. Read "Fear of Flying" while wearing it.
  • Serge Lutens- Muscs Kublai Khan. There are many dirty musks out there, but MKK embraces the body like nothing else. Cleanliness, filth, a floral veil and a fruity undertone, it's as unique as it is polarizing.
  • Serge Lutens- Iris Silver Mist. I fully admit my bias toward Uncle Serge, so this is the second one from this iconic line. Since we can't have Fath Iris Gris on this list, I've chosen an iris from the other end of the spectrum, yet it showcases all the important characteristics of this note.
  • Dior-Eau Sauvage. The ultimate in aromatic-citrus that proves that these notes have more complexity than just "shower fresh". It'll also make you question the validity of most modern citrus perfumes from the last couple of decades. Why did they even bother?
  • Robert Piguet Bandit. I'm choosing Bandit over Fracas because there are uncountable big white florals out there, but there's only one Bandit. Gender ambiguous, leather, whips, and bondage. It'll help you understand art and music videos on a deeper level.
  • Thierry Mugler- Angel. No matter how much I personally dislike Angel, it's a a landmark in perfumery, the beast who launched a thousand clones, tainted the 90s with its monster rotten chocolate fruit, and probably the reason CB hates perfume. 
  • Frederic Malle- Le Parfum de Therese. This is the second appearance of perfumer Edmond Roudniska on this list (Eau Sauvage was also his). Therese, composed for the perfumer's wife, is one of the most beautiful perfumes ever created in my opinion. Diorama, Diorella, Diorissimo, and Femme de Rochas all lead to this magnificent achievement.
  • Hermes- Terre d'Hermes. It might be almost a cliche in men's fragrance, but this animal-mineral-vegetable perfume is a brilliant example of modern perfumery and the talent of perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena.

Julia Roberts- Quote Of The Day

Today is Julia Roberts' 47th birthday. I guess this is why UK You magazine decided to release these quotes from an upcoming interview with the actress (and Lancome ambassador):

By Hollywood standards, I guess I’ve already taken a big risk in not having had a face-lift. I’ve told Lancome that I want to be an aging model. They have to keep me for at least five more years until I’m over 50.”
The problem with this quote is not Julia Roberts, of course, but the way Lancome is dealing with "having to keep her". They promised to pay her, but apparently there's no obligation to keep Julia Roberts looking like herself:

Julia (and us) deserve better than this photoshop-fest.

L'Occitane Bonne Mere Olive Shower Gel

L'Occitane Bonne Mere is the brand's homage to the ancient artisanal soap making industry in Marseille, France. The bottle are designed as hefty cubes, like those chunky soaps made with a high percentage of olive oil and scented with the  various herbs and flowers of the region. The Bonne Mere range is extra gentle and is geared towards the entire family, including little children. The scents are soft and very low-key, and the formulas are supposed to be enriched with olive oil and olive water.

The scent of L'Occitane Bonne Mere Olive Shower Gel is, indeed, light and fresh. It's barely noticeable and would probably suit just about everyone, especially since it doesn't linger once you wash it off. The texture is gel-like and foams gently, just enough to make you feel clean. I have one major issue here: I was hoping that Bonne Mere is a true olive oil product, but while it does contains olive extract, the main body of the gel is made of coconut derivatives: coco-glucoside, cocamide propyl betane, and glyceryl cocate. For the majority of people this is a very good thing, as coconut oil is a good-for-you ingredient. From past experience I know that coco-glucoside is ok for me to use (it's made of the sugar in the coconut, not of the oil), but the other stuff? Not so much.

I wish L'Occitane had all the ingredient listed on their otherwise informative website. I had to strain my eyes to read the small print, which made me cranky (but at least not itchy). I find that I can actually use this gel as a hand soap, and it's gentle enough not to dry my skin. But I'm wary of bringing it anywhere my face or more sensitive skin.

Bottom Line: it's a good soap. Just make sure to read the ingredient list.

L'Occitane Bonne Mere Olive Shower Gel ($14, 10.1 oz) is available at L'Occitane stores and online. The product for this review was sent by the company's PR.

Art: Van Gogh, Olive Grove, 1889.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Memoire Liquide Reserve - Amour Liquide EDP & Body Cream

The first time I came across Memoire Liquide in person was years ago at Henri Bendel. They had a massive display of the various essences or whatever it was they were offering, and if you were lucky enough there was also a SA on staff that could help you create your own personalized blend. I always sniffed them, but ended up moving on to "real perfumes" because I simply couldn't be bothered. A few years later, Memoire Liquid introduced the Reserve line, a collection of already blended eau de parfums, accompanied by matching body cream tubes. Definitely a good idea, and I remember being fond of Encense Liquide, though I no longer have a sample to give you a good description.

Somehow I've found myself the owner of an Amour Liquide gift set (I think it was part of a press goodie bag), and occasionally (and sometimes against my better judgement) I actually put it into some good use. Because: gourmand vanilla. Need I say more?

The official notes are black orchid, tonka bean, Madagascar vanilla, and incense. These has a lot more to do with the dry-down than with the way Amour Liquide opens. I can't believe I'm saying this, but a zesty or uplifting top notes would have done this fragrance a world of good. Instead, what I get is sugar burning in an old and beaten pan that has already lost some of its non-stick coating, stirred with a plastic spatula that's also getting chard and melting. This phase is exacerbated when I layer it over the body cream, which smells like plastic and whipped cream blended together.

However, the hot mess starts to come together within fifteen or twenty minutes, and we're left with a more or less linear musky-vanilla scent that feels warm and cozy. Also very edible. The body cream itself is actually a great addition--- again, once it loses its plastic and burnt sugar aroma. The cream is rich and pampering, and does wonders for dry limbs. The EDP layered on top is long-lasting and rather satisfying, as long as you don't expect too many twist and turns.

I was asked once about Amour Liquide's relation to another sweet pink scent, Love from By Kilian. I have to admit that Kilian's  marshmallow fluff is more fun. It's quirkier and far less flat than Memoire Liquide's buttercream frosting. Both give  this pink and young impression, but I think Love is more bubbly and better conceived. This doesn't mean that Amour Liquide is bad in any way (well, except its opening). It serves a purpose and smells more expensive than 90% of those mall store cupcake scents. I'm still pondering finding something to layer with it, to add some maturity and character, but so far I only managed to amp the creamsicle factor by adding too many sprays of Stella by Tocca. And I wasn't  high, I swear. Next I'll go with something saner such as smoky incense or an orange blossom.

Memoire Liquide- Amour Liquid gift sets of 50ml Eau de Parfum and 5oz Body Cream ($110) are available from Twisted Lily. The store, as well as also stocks the items individually.

Image via Plastik Magazine.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Palette

I already told you how a couple of months ago I shattered my beloved Hourglass Mood Exposure blush. Since then I've playing with other blushes in that color ballpark, you know: brown plums, mauve browns, and such (and have completely fallen in love with a MAC one, of all things). I still missed my Ambient Light Mood Exposure, though. I waited with my repurchase until Hourglass released this palette, because it includes not just Mood Exposure, but also Luminous Flush (which I didn't own before), and a new limited edition color: Incandescent Electra (the one in the middle). The more blush the better.

Each pan within the palette is smaller than the full size single Hourglass blushes and contains 11 grams of product (compare to 15 gr in the regular size). Still, it's more than enough product, and the pans are wide enough for comfortable use with any blush brush. It's also a great way to mix two colors together, if that's your thing. I haven't so far, simply because I was thrilled to have my Mood Exposure back. But Incandescent Electra (see below) can actually use a boost from any of the other colors.

You see? Incandescent Electra is more highlighter than blush

Luminous Flush is a glowy rose, while Incandescent Electra is a gentle (not too orange) very light peach. The latter is more of a highlighter for me, probably because the particular pan I have (each one is slightly different) has a high ratio of the beige illuminator to the actual blush, and I don't even mind too much. It's pretty as it is.  The colors  are flattering, reasonably pigmented (yes, even Incandescent Electra in its own highlightery way), and have that pretty effect of all Ambient Lighting products. As with the rest of the range, it's obviously not a good match if you insist on all matte face products, but fans of the subtle shimmer and lit-from-within effect will be happy with the palette.

Bottom Line: Good value, I could use a different color than Electra, though.

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush Palette $58 is available from Sephora.

Tocca Crema Veloce Set- Giveaway

Tocca is one of those brands that make the best gifts. Delightful packaging, impossible -not-to-like scents (even Cleopatra that's generally too "fresh" for my taste is so nice), and really great quality. The trio mini hand cream tubes in the Crema Veloce Set are a great example of this. I've been a fan of Tocca hand creams for a while (I finished that tube of Giulietta in record time), and would have done the same thing with this set of pretties that includes Cleopatra (grapefruit and cucumber), Stella (Italian blood orange), Florence (bergamot and gardenia). However, I've developed a ridiculous and painful sensitivity to coconut oil and all its derivatives, so I have to let this set go without testing.

My loss is your gain. One lucky reader who answers the question below and will be chosen randomly, is going to receive this Tocca Crema Veloce set. The draw is open to US residents over the age of 18 (subject to all the laws and regulations of the State of New Jersey). In order to be entered please share a hand maintenance tip, your perfect manicure secret, or a favorite hand product, and please (PLEASE!) include a name and a way to reach you (email or Twitter account).

The product I'm giving away (retail price $20) was sent to me free of charge by Tocca's PR, and is unopened and obviously unused.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Perfume Bible By Josephine Fairley & Lorna McKay- A Book Review By The Husband

Editor's Note:
It's becoming harder and harder for me to look at perfume guides and evaluate them from a distance. Obviously, I'm not the target reader of the majority of these books, so reviewing them becomes a process in which I'm having imaginary conversations with the authors, which is not always what a potential reader needs. Enter the Husband, who represents a typical reader of this blog: a well-informed, well-sniffed, curious, and interested individual, but his life does not revolve around reading, writing, and talking about perfume (at least if he can help it). The review below is his.

Any book that has the presumption to call itself a Bible immediately sets the bar too high. And while this lovely book can be called many things, a bible is definitely not one of them.

Maybe a more fitting title would have been “My First Perfume Book”. The Perfume Bible is a very girly, beautifully done introductory book to many aspects of the perfume world with several unexpected extra topics that broaden the discussion. But it’s still not a bible.

It is an admirable task to try and write a book that would take a perfume novice and introduce her to the wonderful world of scent beyond the basic Sephora, mass market, celebrity and department store spray-ladies. The book tries to cover a lot of ground in less than 200 pages, jumping through a wide range of topics that include some basic information about perfume families, ingredients, how perfume is made, perfumers (noses), the history of perfume in 6 pages, perfume concentrations, perfume terminology, and a list of 100 perfumes to try before you die. It also includes a few more advanced topics such as naturals and synthetics, niche brands, niche perfume stores and a useful Q&A. There’s also a list of sources such as blogs and books (including a mention of The Non-Blonde. Gaia and I were tickled pink. No pun intended). The Perfume Bible also adds a few extra topics to the mix, like growing perfume plants, collecting perfume advertising, and collecting perfume bottles.

All this breadth comes at the expense of depth in almost all subjects, which is perfectly fine for an introductory book trying to open a door to a new world for the reader. But not feeling certain what will resonate with their reader, the authors tried everything they can think of. I was reminded of these colorful but thin travel books that aim to please absolutely all travelers by mixing the tried and true with the anecdotal. I admit to owning a few of those.

Reading through the book, here are a few observations and thoughts that came to mind:
  • As stated, this is a very girly book. From the pink cover and beautiful Rene Gruau-inspired watercolor illustrations, to the fact that the section dedicated to “Men’s Perfume” includes only 10 of them (!). Why is there an inherent assumption that men will not be interested? If you focus on the female audience, why include a masculine section at all? Maybe it’s a gift guide, but even as such it is seriously lacking.(Editor's notes:  No Egoiste, no Terre d'Hermes, Sartorial, Nicolai's New York, Knize Ten, Tom of Finland, A*Men, or anything from MPG? I could go on and on and on).
  • There is a section dedicated to bespoke perfume which brings again to mind the question of who the authors were targeting. Bespoke perfumes usually cost thousands of dollars and are a true luxury. But it’s not a necessary topic for an introductory book that explains the difference between an eau de cologne and a pure parfum.
  • I liked the bias towards niche brands and the emphasis on the credited perfumer as an important aspect of the modern perfume world.
  • Any Top 100 list is very personal and the choices tell a lot about the personal preferences of the authors. This particular list is decidedly on the feminine and lighter side of the spectrum. Fairley and McKay chose Fracas over Bandit, Feminite Du Bois over MKK, and Alien over Angel. There’s not a leather to be found and only one oud.
  • While there is a good answer in the very solid Q&A section to the question “Why doesn't my favourite perfume smells like it used to?” that discusses reformulations in a very frank way, it does not really talk about vintage perfumes other than to quote Roja Dove who says that in collecting bottles the juice is irrelevant and mention that perfume older than 2 years may not be good anymore. I'd give money to see Roja's personal collection of vintage perfumes, and would bet money they're far far older.
  • I find the idea of a “Signature Scent” very outdated. The authors make a big deal of finding a scent your children will always associate with you. My mother is indeed loyal to a fault to her Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps, but in a book that is all about exploring the vast and diverse universe of scent this is a throwback to different times. This suggestion does not connect to the overall theme. How about having a perfume wardrobe?

We now go back to the question of who is this book for. It is definitely not for a fragonerd who already knows much more than this book offers. Still, the next time a niece or a young friend shows interest in your perfume passion, this book may be just the nudge down the slippery slope. Next thing you know, they’ll come back to you asking for some samples, and that's a very good thing.

The Perfume Bible By Josephine Fairley & Lorna McKay (hardcover, $22.44) is available on Amazon through third party sellers.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dior Cuir Cannage 5 Couleurs Eyeshadow Palette

Because we all needed another brown eye shadow palette.

Dior has been churning out the quints this year and I'm having a hard time following the assorted collections (pre-fall, not-quite-fall, pre-holiday, almost-holiday, holiday--- who knows what and why). They're all so very beautiful I'm finding myself again and again wishing Dior would have a make-your-own-palette system so we can pick and choose from the best color in each. Cuir Cannage (released a few weeks ago) captured my attention because all five colors are so wearable, making the quint more versatile than most.

The five colors in Dior Cuir Cannage go from matte (the middle) to satin, iridescent, and shimmer. The iridescent plummy brown (top left) has an almost duo-chrome finish, and is among the mot gorgeous Dior eye shadows I know. The other special color is the darkest one (bottom right), a very cool toned super dark brown with an almost purple cast. The other three eye shadows in the palette, though easily duplicated, are excellent everyday colors: beige satin, matte medium brown, mocha shimmer. The greatness of Cuir Cannage palette is that it can carry you from daytime to special occasions and the colors can truly be worn together in any combination.

Bottom Line: an instant classic.

Dior Cuir Cannage 5 Couleurs Eyeshadow Palette ($60) is available from all the usual suspects. Right now Nordstrom offers a 10% discount online (no code necessary).

Kjaer Weis Highlighter

The latest product release from Kjaer Weis is a cream highlighter in a neutral-to-cool beige color with a visible shimmery finish that is still subtle enough for everyday use. The swatch above is obviously heavy so you can get a good idea of the color, but when you blend it (fingers work better than a brush in this case) the look you get is a lot more elegant.

As I mentioned above, the highlighter appears neutral, neither golden nor pink, but the shimmer has a silvery gray cast that might look a bit off on some skin tones. I get a more elegant result by mixing the highlighter with foundation (or even patting it underneath).  It can look quite iridescent if you pile it on, which is better for evening and for the very pale/cool toned.

 My own weird visibly green undertone works rather well with the color. I find Kjaer Weis' slightly waxy cream formula versatile for various areas of the face and for mixing with other cream (not liquid) products. It does especially well with Kjaer Weis foundation, but since I have an allergy issue with the coconut oil used in the foundation I can't enjoy this particular benefit (the highlighter is coconut-free).

The highlighter is made in Italy and is certified organic. It's also gluten-free but not vegan (because of the beeswax). I find that it stays on for at least 6 hours and fades evenly without leaving particles behind.

Bottom Line: great when the color is just right for you.

Kjaer Weis Highlighter comes in the brand's signature sleek refillable compact ($56) or as a stand-alone refill ($32, as seen above) that you can also pop into any free-style magnetic palette. Available from and
The product for this review was sent free of charge by the company.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Agraria Golden Cassis Woven Crystal Candle

You can see that the candle above, Agraria Golden Cassis, has seen a lot of use since we got it a couple of weeks ago. I've always been very fond of Agraria products, but I admit that since my relationship with cassis can be described as "complicated", I might have skipped this one (the newest scent from the brand) and missed on a truly satisfying home fragrance that lives up to the promise of being "golden" and doesn't annoy the husband with excessive fruitiness (he actually really likes this scent).

The first whiff of Golden Cassis is round, fruity, and luscious. No surprises, expect that the berries don't smell very "red"; they give an impression of yellow and orange fruit, just sweet and juicy enough but with a pleasant tartness. Later on, as the candle burns and projects, the scent gains an ambery-floral quality. Again, the feeling is of yellow and gold, and while there's no mention of it in the official note list, I could have sworn that I get a ghost of mimosa.

I mentioned projection, and as is usually the case with Agraria candles, their throw is impressive and I can smell the golden leafy-fruity aroma all over the house. Burn time is excellent:- they promise 40 hours from the 7 oz. size, but I'm pretty sure this candle has already passed this mark. Presentation is also beautiful: a decorative patterned crystal glass in a beautiful and sturdy box, and a silver-plated lid. Obviously, this is geared toward the gift market, but a good candle is such a treat for oneself, and this is a very gratifying splurge.

Notes: orange, berries, cassis, rose, jasmine, lily, galbanum, sandalwood, amber, white musk.

Agraria's Golden Cassis candles come in two sizes. The one above is the 7 oz Woven Crystal ($55), and there's a smaller option, the 3.4 oz Crystal cane ($35). Available at select department stores and directly from The product for this review was sent for consideration by the company's PR.

Gucci Peacock Magnetic Color Shadow Duo

To be honest with you, I don't think that this Gucci Magnetic Color Eye Shadow Duo in Peacock was the best choice for me. I would have gotten much more mileage from Fume, Aristocratic, or even Malachite (all three are on my wishlist right now). But there was something irresistible about the brightness of the blue and purple shades in  Gucci's Peacock, and only one of them, is actually out of my comfort zone.

The swatches you see above consist of one brush swipe (Shu Uemura N 10) over primed skin. It's a rather impressive pigment intensity even if the texture appears almost sheer. The navy has a significant amount of blue-silvery glitter which I could live without, but it's less pronounced on the lid, especially when packed with a stiff flat brush. The bright purple is more satiny (very fine shimmer). It's gorgeous, but I just don't have it in me to wear it on its own. I use it as an accent on top of a neutral color, from gray to taupe or for evening: over a black pencil or cream shadow. This way it adds drama and color without looking too purple.

I can't say that there's anything special about this Gucci duo. The texture is nice but I've seen nicer (the single I bought feels smoother than this particular couple); the colors are fun but not unique. The eye shadows are of decent quality and I have no complaints, but I'm not quite wowed. Perhaps it is the colors, after all.

Bottom Line: I should have chosen better.

Gucci Peacock Magnetic Color Shadow Duo ($49) is available from Saks, Neiman, and

Vincent Longo Flamenco Creme Gel Liner

Here's my secret weapon these days: Vincent Longo Creme Gel Liner in Flamenco*. While Flamenco, a medium taupe, is not a classic eyeliner color, it works beautifully to lighten a heavy/dark eye makeup look (see an example using a gold eyeliner in Lisa Eldridge's Plum Chic fall makeup tutorial). But the real secret here is how between the color and the iron-like wear of this Vincent Longo mousse-like texture, I've been using Flamenco as a cream eye shadow.

The whipped cream feel of the product is easy to apply and blend with a variety of brushes, natural or synthetic. It sets and dries quickly, and will not move until you use an oil-based (or a dual phase) cleanser.

Two notes about using the cream all over the lid: I highly recommend using a primer that smooths skin texture (NARS works well for me, but more mature skin might do better with Guerlain). Also, apply lightly and blend with a fluffy brush. The swatch above was done on bare skin and used enough product for both eyes (and then some). It shows you the depth of the color but also just how textured it can make skin appears if not applied carefully. As long as you keep a smooth canvas and a light hand, though, the result is beautiful, waterproof, and utterly delightful.

Bottom Line: There are five more colors in this range. Just Sayin'.

Vincent Longo Flamenco Creme Gel Liner ($25) is available from The product for this review was sent for my consideration by the company's PR.

* I know that the first question is how does Flamenco compares to Tom Ford Platinum, but since I never bought it (and have no intention to buy the re-release) I cannot answer this. If anyone has tried both products, please chime in.

Aftelier- Palimpsest

Eden by François Foucras

The best gift I can get from perfume is a a strong emotional reaction. Preferably a positive one. What I received from Palimpsest, the newest Aftelier perfume, was more than that: it is a feeling of well-being, comfort, and contentment. The luminosity goes beyond the notes, beyond the incredible quality of the raw materials; it's the olfactive representation of warmth and love that come from an eternal source. The result is both soothing and encouraging, heartwarming, and utterly divine.

Perfumer Mandy Aftel defines Palimpsest on her Aftelier website as a "fruity-floral". I guess it is, because the center accord or impression is a smooth and milky peach surrounded by garlands of white and yellow flowers, the lushness of jasmine and ylang-ylang. But there's a reason this perfume is named "Palimpsest"-- just like in those ancient manuscripts that reveal their content in layer upon layer of rich history, the exquisite materials and accords create a very rich tapestry that manages to combine some very complex ideas and weave them into one coherent picture of life at its best.

Australian firetrees via Wikipedia

The gum of the Australian firetree (also known as Christmas tree), or by its official name, Nuytsia floribunda, is sweet and eaten raw by the ingenious people of Western Australia. It's not a common ingredient in perfumery (the only other one I know of was the limited edition Fire Tree by Australian brand Nomad Two Worlds, and I had a hard time warming up to its rawness). I never smelled the firetree as a raw ingredient, so it's hard for me to tell how much of what I smell in Palimpsest comes from it and what is pure imagination. But fantasy is a big part of the perfume joy, isn't it? 

Tree Palimpsest by Ned Gannon

Every time I wear Palimpsest the Husband happily exclaims: "honey!". It's a very honeyed perfume, and I do well with those. A good honey note has both woody-smoky facets as well as musk and other naughty animalics emanating from the beeswax. It's all here, but as Kafkaesque has noted in her excellent review of Palimpsest, this perfume is more about peaches and sunshine, which brings us back to the start, to that encompassing joy and effulgence.

The first time I smelled Palimpsest I immediately thought about Edmond Roudnitska's Le Parfum de Therese. Another so-called fruity-floral that I associate with love and radiance, and performs some stunning perfumery acrobatics. Unlike Mr. Roudnitska, Mandy Aftel works with an all-natural palette, which makes this achievement even more impressive. No matter if you care about the natural label or not, Palimpsest is a beautiful and enticing perfume, one of the best releases of the year, and a true feast for the senses.

Aftelier Palimpsest comes as both an EDP and a parfum. I tried and loved both. Samples of either one costs $6, and you can get a mini of the parfum ($50) or a full bottle of either concentration for $170. Available from The samples for this review were sent by the perfumer free of charge.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

NARS Holiday 2014- Almería Blush & Burning Love Lip Gloss

NARS Holiday 2014 Color Collection, Laced With Edge, comes in a special decorated packaging that makes it a little more special (and collectible, if you're into that sort of thing). The modern lace pattern translated better on larger surfaces, such as a blush compact, than it does on the cap of a lip gloss, but it's still unique enough (and helps locate the right gloss quickly). But we're here to talk about the actual colors of these NARS products.

My choice from the Laced With Edge Collection were Almería blush and  Burning Love lip gloss. The blush, described by NARS as "tan rose" has a distinct reddish undertone and a fall vibe. The finish is matte(ish. No shimmer, but the way it sits on skin imparts a certain satin look). Typically to NARS, the blush is very pigmented, the texture soft and blendable, making this pretty blush highly covetable (it's sold out on the NARS website, but still available everywhere else, including Sephora online).

NARS did an excellent job reformulating their lip glosses. They toned down the smell (it's very lightly scented, but no longer smells like molten plastic), made the glosses even less sticky, and they keep adding gorgeous colors. Burning Love is a limited edition ( as is Almeria blush), a cranberry-like color (I think NARS called it a "bright ruby") that's supposed to have a very subtle shimmer, which you can sort of see in the tube, but becomes a smooth sheen on the lips. Longevity and wear are typical to NARS lip glosses, which means reasonable but requires re-applying (the tube lives permanently in my purse these days).

Bottom Line: yes, please.

NARS Holiday 2014- Almería Blush  ($30) & Burning Love Lip Gloss ($26) are available from Sephora and all the other usual suspects. These two products are limited editions and will probably sell out long before the holidays. Both items were sent to me by the company.