Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Parfumerie Generale- Papyrus De Ciane

Marianne Nort- Ciane River, 1870

Dreaming green.

Nineteenth century English artist Marianne North wanted to paint the flowers and landscapes of foreign lands. One of her first solo journeys was to Sicily, where she sat by the Ciane river and painted the Egyptian papyrus that grows wild on its banks. The painting, above, has a dreamy quality. It engulfs you so much you can almost hear the rustle of the wind in the papyrus, the birds flying above and splashing in the the water. Papyrus de Ciane, the 2010 Parfumerie Generale fragrance, takes you to that spectacular place where everything is green, the sun is reflected in the river, and a light breeze caresses your skin. Perfumer Pierre Guillaume did all that with the grace of chypres past, a rare achievement these days.

The fragrance opens soapy, green, and rather French. Those of us who grew up with the sharp and bright chypres of the 1970s will recognize certain facets and feel almost at home. Papyrus de Ciane also offers a certain dry bitterness of galbanum (not as much as I would have liked, but that's what vintage bottles of No.19 and Miss Dior are for) that touches on the leathery. There's a crunchy grass touch that hints towards vetiver, and a herbal astringent cleanliness that once again takes me to almost forgotten old rooms with tall windows open towards water and blue skies, a playful wind blowing in their sheer white curtains.

This Parfumerie Generale creation seems to advance with the day and the position of the sun in the sky. There's a stage where Papyrus de Ciane goes from the brightness of midday by the river to the darker and richer vegetation just steps away from it, away from the safe path. All the smells and emotions are intensified by the dusky skies, then slowly relax onto the skin, where the fragrance turns into a skin scent of clean slightly floral musk. While there's little projection and no sillage after the first couple of hours, the soapily perfumes skin retains its smell for over twelve hours. I love it all year round, but find it comforting this time of the year (it snowed this afternoon) and wonderfully effective and bracing in the summer heat.

Notes: Bergamot, galbanum, neroli, broom, solar notes, lavender, mugwort, clove, incense, cistus labadanum, hedione, vetiver, Mousse de Saxe, Silvanone, white musk.

Parfumerie Generale- Papyrus De Ciane ($125, 50ml) is available from OsswaldNYC and Luckyscent.

Giorgio Armani Eye Tint: Minuit 2 & Senso 10

I resisted buying any of the new Giorgio Armani Eye Tints for weeks and weeks, insisting that I have all the cream eye shadows I could want, and didn't need anything else with a metallic finish. I stubbornly ignored online swatches and reports, though I did admire the way they looked on my friend (and biggest enabler). Resistance was futile. These things were just too gorgeous to avoid. So I did the reasonable thing and got one neutral color (#10 Senso) and the navy blue #2 Minuit and started playing.

I'm used to cream eye shadows being a foolproof kind of thing, but the texture, finish, and applicator of Giorgio armani Eye Tints makes them somewhat less intuitive. They're more liquid than cream (though not actually runny), have an intense pigmentation and a beautiful finish of a metallic sheen, as long as you pat the color down and don't sheer or overblend it. Then there's the question of just how much eye tint is right for an eye look, because the spongy applicator is rather large for a precise placement or for distributing the product where you actually want it.

I've tried several methods and various degrees of blending with both colors. If all you want is a sheer wash I don't think Armani Eye Tint is the right product. You'll lose all that's special about it and most likely end up with a muddy mess. That's why I was surprised when I watched this Pixiwoo tutorial and saw Nic use her Senso Eye Tint to create a grungy look. It ends up very pretty, but less grunge than I expected. It's something to consider, for sure, but I;m still not sold on this application.

I've tried fingers, but the issue of precision and muddiness was the same. Blending with a brush was better, but I've found the MAC 217 to be too large. Eventually I settled on small flat-shaped detail brushes, the tinier the better. Laying down the color in small pats exactly where I want it, intensifying where needed and carefully blending at the edges did the trick. This way I can create the shape I want, keeping most of the shine to the middle of the mobile lid. Another way to go is to use the tint as a vibrant eyeliner with the appropriate brush and create a shiny winged look, if that's your thing.

I've also found that the Eye Tints perform best over a primer (I mostly use NARS). Senso was especially prone to fading otherwise. The formula dries very quickly and stays in place for a full day. It doesn't melt in the rain and requires a good makeup remover to get rid of it (the classic Bioderma water works well). The finish can be incredibly smooth and doesn't crease. But it's all in the application.

Bottom Line: more for color enthusiasts and not for novices.

Giorgio Armani Eye Tint ($38 each) is available at select department stores and from Sephora.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Hada Labo UV Creamy Gel SPF50 PA++++

This is my second tube of Hada Labo UV Creamy Gel SPF50 and it's already half empty. I consume sun protection in large amounts, so it's not really a surprise, but I have to say that this particular one is my favorite. Until the next thing comes along, at least. It's the texture, more than anything else. An SPF 50 in a runny liquid form that sinks into the skin and feels cool and gel-like. At first the skin appears a bit tacky, just like after using an Asian toner, so I give it a few minutes before proceeding with my makeup. The Creamy Gel eventually disappears completely, and unlike most SPF products I've used, so far it has never clashed with any primer or foundation I've paired with it. That's a rarity even among cosmetically-elegant sun blocks that always seem to have at least one product that causes them to ball underneath.

The ingredient list (see below) doesn't hint how great it is. In fact, I wasn't convinced before trying it, thinking it was going to be too silicone-like, but Hada Labo UV Creamy Gel seems to be kinder to my skin than many other sunscreens. If I'm reading it right, this is a combination of chemical and physical protection (pretty low on the physical, though). There's no white residue and it doesn't disturb the balance (so neither dryness nor extra oil production seem to occur). You have to like the wet feeling and surface it creates upon application, and I do. I'm guessing it's the hyaluronic acid that makes it feel so good.

The silicone content means that another 'cone-based primer is not really necessary. I've tried it both ways, and found that I still like my radiance primers afterwards, but minimalism has never been my thing, so your mileage is likely to vary. All I can say is that I've left the Elta MD one to the husband (I've gone through several bottles of it last year) and haven't looked back.

Ingredients: Water, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Butylene Glycol, Isononyl Isononanoate, Alcohol, Dimethicone, PEF-12 Dimethicone, Polysilicone-15, Glycol Dimethacrylate Crosspolymer, Bis-ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Sodium Acetate Hyaluronate, Sodium Hyaluronate, Hydrolized Hyaluronic Acid, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Polysilicone-13, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Polystyrene, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Triethanol Amine, Titanium Dioxide, Silica, Hydrogen Dimethicone, Aluminum Hydroxide, Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

Hada Labo UV Creamy Gel SPF50 PA++++ can be found for around $13 on Amazon, and in most Asian markets/grocery stores.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Bobbi Brown Hot Collection Art Stick: Hot Orange & Hot Berry

Even beauty bloggers get the blues...
...and when they do, they order the weirdest things.

Don't ask me what possessed me to go for Bobbi Brown's new Hot Collection (Spring/summer 2015), a selection of colors described on Bobbi's website in terrifying terms such as "bright electric". I tried in vain to explain it to my friend Josie who was here as I opened the package. She knows me better than to suspect a case of shopping under the influence, but she had a good laugh nonetheless. Because really: Hot Berry and Hot Orange?

Well, actually, yes.

Applied judiciously, these Bobbi Brown matte cream lip crayons are not that crazy, at least over lips that are naturally dark. In its pencil form and even swatched on skin Hot Berry is more of a shocking pink color, but on my lips there's a raspberry tone that's a lot more wearable than I feared. The Hot Orange is even better. Since my natural color is on the cool side it balances the orange bomb and makes it more of a tomato red. I also tried mixing and blending the two colors and applying with a brush (a good idea in any case), but the jury is still out there. As you can see in the swatches above, the colors are so bright they make my skin appear horribly washed out. A blush is an absolute must here, and probably also a strong brow.

Bright Electric colors aside, my real issue with Bobbi Brown's Art Sticks is the dry matte feeling they give me unless my lips are practically swimming in a balm, which renders the longevity rather moot. These are intensely pigmented matte lipsticks, and thus one should follow the classic rules of exfoliate, moisturize, and apply with care-- just as you would with any bright lipstick. A good companion to the Art Sticks are the other Hot Collection items: Bobbi's Sheer Lip Color lipsticks in corresponding colors (review next week). Of course, all these products can be used on their own, but the sheer lipsticks are helpful in the fight against dry lips (I'd still  avoid the crayons if your lips show any signs of being parched or flaky).

Bottom Line: Why not?

Bobbi Brown Hot Collection Art Stick ($26 each) are available at the counter and online. The pencils come with their own jumbo sharpeners.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chanel- Misia (Les Exclusifs)

Art: Baroness Vera Wassilko by Christian Schad, 1926

Last night's review was of an opulent iris perfume with an almost languorous nature, the kind you find sprawled on the most lavish silks and doesn't get up until noon. Sort of like Misia Sert  herself, the bohemian muse who was also a friend of Mademoiselle Chanel. But Misia the perfume is a different creature. Crisp, clipped, linear, and determined, like a 1920s bobbed haircut. Misia delivers exact doses of iris and violets that walk the line between soap and powder, nostalgia and modern minimalism, Chanel and Guerlain.

 Misia is also very pretty. Not wistfully or heartbreakingly so, but pure and simple in its perfect proportions. The balance is kept so accurately that despite the turn towards the vintage dressing table through the powdery makeup vibe, Misia is still not overly feminine. It has the same gender-free appeal as Prada Infusion d'Iris: clean, approachable, a good office-mate kind of a thing. But this is Chanel, and the iris is more irisy, its spine is straighter, and the overall impression is of good breeding and good money, which is yet another point in favor of Misia: you get all the Chanel magic, tradition, and pretty packaging in a large bottle that's still cheaper than Tom Ford. Who can resist that?

Chanel's Misia has something austere about it, which is why I didn't use any photo or artwork depicting the actual Misia Sert on all her sensual and bosomy presence. The perfume watches its waist and doesn't get all foody and plump the way a Guerlain fragrance would have done given similar notes. Also, it lacks a certain playfulness, but that's probably what makes Misia so easy to pull off on any given day. It's there, it smells good, it's reliable. I can see Misia becoming the same kind of a default perfume that the various versions of No.5 are for me and Sycomore is for the husband. Too lazy or tired to choose? Going to spend the day around  people with unknown attitudes towards perfume? Grab that Chanel and go.

Notes: violet, iris, orris root, Turkish rose, benzoin , tonka bean.

Chanel Misia ($160, 2.5oz EDT) is available at Chanel boutiques and chanel.com.

Smashbox Photo Angle Pure Pigment Gel Liner

My first reaction when I saw the new Smashbox Photo Angle Pure Pigment Gel Liner pen and removed its red plastic sealing cap was "well, that's new". There might be other eyeliners on the market with a similar design, but I have yet to encounter them. Thus begun my lengthy experiment with getting this Smashbox eyeliner to do what I want. Hence: a pretty steep learning curve. I hope you can see in the closeup shots that the plastic applicator releases the pigment (more cream than gel, in my opinion), and you need to try and not get too much of it out when applying. While the initial dispensing takes a few more clicks,  Smashbox was serious when saying that one click is enough later on, and I find that it's actually sufficient for both eyes. My first few attempts ended up with black marks everywhere, from my fingers to various surfaces and cats that happened to be in the way. Eventually I got the hang of it,  and could actually enjoy a truly unique eyeliner.

The nice people at Smashbox promise a 36-hour longevity, a fact that I have no intention to check. but I can tell you that the eyeliner remains in place for what feels like till kingdom comes. Do take into account that using a large amount (such as for a graphic 1960s mod cat eye) and rubbing your eyes might result in a holly mess, unless your primer is an overachiever. Normal application of a thin line does not create the panda effect, though. Removal requires an oil-based liquid, quite a bit of it, and some patience. Also make sure your hands are clean before moving on to the rest of your face, or you'll find yourself in a chimney sweep situation.

The road to a thin line requires some practice, but it's worth it, especially since the cream/gel material is also good for tightlining (upper lashline. I didn't dare go lower), and survives a spring shower and a whole day of errands, socializing, and whatnot. Jet Black is truly as black as they come, and the whole thing is bordering on a professional product, for better and for worse. Is it necessary? I'm not sure, especially since Smashbox is already responsible for one of the very best felt tip liquid liners on the market (formerly named Heartbreaher Liquid Liner, now Limitless Liquid Liner Pen). I still have one at any given moment because it's so amazing. But the Angle Pure Pigment is thicker and I assume can work for intricate editorial looks, not to mention that it's a very convenient way to carry around a cream/gel eyeliner without worrying about drying and brushes.

Bottom Line: As soon (if?) as I've mastered this one completely I'm getting the blue version.

Smashbox Photo Angle Pure Pigment Gel Liner ($24) is available from Nordstrom and smashbox.com.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777- Khôl de Bahreïn

The very charming Stéphane Humbert Lucas will have to forgive me for the artistic license I'm taking here. The main source of inspiration for his 777 line has been the mystery and opulence of the Arabian Peninsula. But my own cultural background being what it is, and the symphonic iris he uses in  Khôl de Bahreïn all sing to me of Renaissance Florence, its palaces, art, and eternal beauty.

 Khôl de Bahreïn is probably the sleeper in the Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 line. The heavy hitters: oud, roses, roses plus oud, and the heart-stopping experience of O Hira are sort of expected in this context. But the layers of buttery iris, silk and velvet lit by the kind of sunlight you don't see outside of Tuscany, a fatty smell and texture touched by peach and soft petals over an equally plush musky-balsamic base--- all of that is as addictive as it is unexpected among the other gems of this collection.

The iris-violet got to me from the very first sniff on the very first blotter. It's the kind of iris/orris that reminds you why this is one of the most precious raw materials in perfumery. Layered, complex, almost edible yet undeniably dangerous. I wanted to roll in its damask-like folds, and I still do (spraying myself like it's my job is the closest approximation). As Khôl de Bahreïn opens up and melts on the skin the lush feeling intensifies. It's borderline gourmand (the nougat note, I assume, but I'm thinking of chocolate-dipped almond florentines, with their lacy texture and buttery melt-in-your-mouth texture), and just a bit juicy before entering that treasure room in the palace where priceless oriental rugs, boxes of spice, resins and semi-precious stones from all around the world are heaped on the gilded floor.

In Khôl de Bahreïn Stéphane Humbert Lucas has given us an unapologetic sensual pleasure and a glimpse into a fantasy that has probably never existed. Thus allowing us to indulge in our own version of that coveted world. It feels kind of like the day before the lottery numbers are announced, but at least here we're left with something semi-tangible as our own beautiful sillage.

Notes: violet, nougat, gums, iris powder, sandalwood mixture of benzene, amber, musky balsamic notes.

Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777- Khôl de Bahreïn ($220, 50 ml EDP) is available from OsswaldNYC and Luckyscent.

Art: Raphael, Portrait of Young Woman with Unicorn, c.1506.

Shiseido Veiled Rouge Lipstick RD302 Rosalie & RD707 Mischief

I have a couple of fail-safe brands, lines that I know that no matter where I am in the world, as long as there's a Shiseido or a Laura Mercier counter within reach I will be alright (zombie apocalypse notwithstanding). Thus, a new formula of just about anything from Shiseido means shopping. This time it was the new Veiled Rouge lipstick, a rich and balmy sheer lipstick that still packs enough pigment to make a difference and leaves a stain and enough moisture on the lip even after the glossy finish has transferred to one's tea cup.

And this is my one gripe about the list of promises the nice people of Shiseido made in the press release. My comments are in italics.
"Shiseido Veiled Rouge is a long-wearing (longer than a gloss), hydrating lipstick (true and then some) with transfer-resistant (totally not true) color that stays put, (as a light and pretty stain) locking in color and adding luster all day long (whatever)."
Why make promises that this really good and pampering lipstick can't keep? It's a not a unique or revolutionary formula, but it's a product that will make people happy as long as they're not expecting a Tom Ford performance. This slim lipstick takes little space in a makeup bag, and the sheer formula ensures a quick and easy application from the tube and an easy matching to whatever else one is wearing. Veiled Rouge has no scent or taste, and the sheen is quite minimal (no actual particles).

Rosalie Rd302 is a warm coral-based pink that on  dark lips such as mine appears like a natural barely-there enhancement, almost like a tinted lip balm (it definitely feels like that). Mischief RD707 is a sheer berry red, for those who don't wish  to commit to a sultry look but want that punchy sexy look in a color that is almost universally flattering. Both are perfect daytime/officewear lipstick. low maintenance and easy to retouch on the go. Shiseido has every reason to be proud of it without over-promising that only ends up hurting the product.

Bottom Line: Yes, please.

Shiseido Veiled Rouge Lipstick RD302 Rosalie & RD707 Mischief ($25 each) are available at the counters and online.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Currently- March 2015

Plus One by Christopher Noxon. The story of a not-so-typical Hollywood family. An easy read for late at night when I'm waiting for sleep.

Dry The River- It Was Love That Laid Us Low

Binge watching Orphan Black. How good it is? enough to get the Husband and I stay up Saturday night until after 4am.

Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 - Khol de Bahreïn. An incredibly satisfying fatty ambery iris.

The new Shiseido lipsticks. Review is in the process.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
Black skinny jeans tucked into tall boots. The cold has forced me out of my dresses.

Guilty Pleasure
Gluten-free lemon wafers.

Greek. Or what passes for Greek around here.

Allergies. And it's not even pollen season.

An open window,  a conversation with a friend, seeing progress. And my perfume collection.

Spring. As soon as the snow disappeared I could see the emergence of green stalks in the perennial areas. Soon there will be daffodils.

Spring dresses. I miss my knees.

Random Thought
I was not wearing my glasses first thing in the morning yesterday, so I  wondered why everyone on Facebook was posting "May the odds be ever in your favor".

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

Art: Dmitri Danish- March in New York

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Shiseido Skin Glow Enhancing Primer SPF 15

Primers belong to the less sexy side of makeup items. No sumptuous colors, no swatches to fawn over. Just a worker bee that (hopefully) does its job. I'm a primer fanatic, though, because the right one for your skin makes a world of difference. I keep several on rotation, but for the most part I'm loyal to Laura Mercier's wide range of options (I always have the Radiance and the SPF one on hand). But the new Shiseido Skin Glow Enhancing Primer SPF 15 had me clicking the "order" button the second I saw it. Because glow. And Shiseido.

The obvious question is a comparison to Laura Mercier's Radiance primer. After a couple of weeks using them alternately I'd say that the Laura Mercier has a more obvious glow (depending, of course, on the coverage level of your foundation) while Shiseido is more subtle in the shine department, for better and for worse. The texture feels lighter and more sheer (that's a definite plus), and the performance is on par with other leading brands under every foundation I've tried, from powder to liquid, as well as under creamy compact stuff (though any possible glow is firmly squashed when using them).

The SPF 15 thing is useless as far as I'm concerned. It's a level of protection I don't consider helpful (I use SPF 46-50). Maybe under moonlight or something. Still, as a last line of defense I guess it doesn't hurt, and I haven't had any skin issues with this primer, so it's all good.

Ingredients:  Avobenzone 2.5%, Octinoxate 7.4%, Octocrylene 3.0%, Oxybenzone 1.0%; Inactive Ingredients: Water, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Cellulose, Dimethicone, Peg-8, Sd Alcohol 40-B, Caprylyl Methicone, Dipropylene Glycol, Peg-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Peg/Ppg-36/41 Dimethyl Ether, Xanthan Gum, Glycyl Glycine, Paeonia Albiflora Root Extract, Zingiber Aromaticus Extract, Ppg-17, Triethanolamine, Barium Sulfate, Carbomer, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Alcohol, Sodium Metaphosphate, Dipentaerythrityl Hexahydroxystearate, Bht, Alumina, Sodium Metabisulfite, Tocopherol, Benzoic Acid, Fragrance, Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Iron Oxides.

Bottom Line: It works.

Shiseido Skin Glow Enhancing Primer SPF 15 ($30) is available at the counters and online.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Vincent Longo Lip & Cheek Gel Stain

I don't know why cheek stains are not more popular. They don't require special application skills (maybe some speed, as they set quickly), and the effect they provide can be incredibly natural and not "done". The sheer finish is very youthful and looks like the much-desired "coming in from the cold" look. Vincent Longo Lip & Cheek Gel Stains are a perfect example of that.

I'll start by saying that I don't use these Vincent Longo stains on my lips. I was willing to try at first, but the initial swatching confirmed that they were too dry for me, so I've confined them to less sensitive areas. The directions for use that appear on Vincent Longo's website also confirm that they should be used on well-moisturized skin, so you know that it's not for the parched and flaky.

Starting with a couple of dabs with doe-foot applicator and blending upwards with my fingers give a sheer wash of blush. I experimented with using even less stain, then adding a smidgen more, which worked well for a natural makeup look. I also mixed a drop with a hydrating primer (Smashbox) and blended over foundation as well as on just-moisturized skin (the latter looked nice but didn't survive the entire day). My conclusion is that the traditional use as a blush is much preferred if you need some longevity. These gel stains are so light that they fade within hours otherwise.

The colors I've got are Sweet Apollonia  (a reddish plum) and My Sunshine (terracotta). I can pull off both of them, and the sheerness makes these shades very adaptable. As you can see, these are pretty colors with a natural finish: no sparkles or shine, so they let skin show through.

Bottom Line: everyone needs a sheer blush here and there.

Vincent Longo Lip & Cheek Gel Stain ($22.50 each) are available at Nordstrom . On the Vincent Longo website they're listed as $24. Don't ask me to explain. The products for this review were sent by PR.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Amouage- Sunshine (Woman)

Contrary to popular belief, recent Amouage releases are not the first ones that veered from what is considered as the brand's signature style. Back in 2007 they did it with Reflection (especially Reflection Woman, but the masculine version was not exactly a bottled Arabian Nights tale, either), and I don't remember it causing a stir. Change is good, or at least better than just following a formula. So why is it that I seem to feel a rock in the pit of my stomach whenever I wear Sunshine, the latest Amouage release?

The Husband disagrees with me on Sunshine. He likes it on my skin quite a bit (he has yet to try it himself), and says that not only does he get the "sunshine" aspect, but he also thinks that this is not a particularly sweet perfume, at least in the dry-down. He didn't flinch the day I absentmindedly sprayed myself silly with Sunshine, causing the bedroom and the cats to retain a fruity tobacco aroma for the rest of the day. So maybe I'm completely wrong here. Now, I don't dislike Sunshine. I think it's pleasant (moderation helps) and can see the appeal. I also know that me requesting a lighter hand and some refinement sounds funny: you all know that I wear everything from Black Afgano to A*Men, so why do I wrinkle my nose (literally) at Sunshine?

I think it's half-baked. There's a huge gap between the intention of throwing a light floral bouquet to lift up a woody vanilla blend, and the heavy blackcurrant syrup that infuses an even heavier tobacco base and washes over anything lighter that happens to be in its path. In the fruity liqueur's defense I will admit that it's sumptuous, and the marriage between it and the blond tobacco is successful as a single accord, but that's not enough to hold a luxury perfume from one of the very best perfume houses out there. The official list of notes is quite impressive and I desperately tried to find any of them on my skin. Davana? osmanthus? papyrus? I get none beyond the impenetrable screen of pipe tobacco . Sunshine lives in the same neighborhood as Back to Black (By Kilian) and Tobacco Vanille (Tom Ford Private Blend) and drives the same car as  La Petite Robe Noire (Guerlain). It's just a bit louder  when they're all gathered for a block party, making the rest of them give it a certain look and reach for the booze (Sunshine has none, by the way).

Sunshine is warm and cozy to the extreme. I wore it several times over the cold winter that's just ending, and it worked better than on the first day I opened all the windows and tried to smell the first signs of spring and nearly drowned in my own sillage. It has the longevity and presence we all pray for, and half a spray gives me the full experience until the day after. Sunshine is worth a try because it's an Amouage and because on certain days it does work. I just expected better. A lot better.

Amouage Sunshine Woman ($450, 100 ml EDP) can be ordered by phone from Osswald NYC (212-625-3111), and online from Luckyscent. Amouage has provided a press sample for this review.

Photo: Sun Glare by Sara Downing via photos.nj.com..

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Mono Cream Eye Colour In Cocoa & Nude

It's amusing to think that until not that long ago cream eye shadows were among the most questionable items on the makeup market. Remember the day of creasing, melting, and migrating? Nowadays some of the best formulas and colors one can find come in cream form, and most premium lines offer them (as well as many drugstore brands).  I haven't had a bad experience with a cream eye shadow in ages (if you've had one, please share), and have to admit that the ease of application and blending makes me reach for them more often than not.

As a result, it's become harder to choose new cream eye shadows in colors that I don't already own, but I recently used up a couple of old Bobbi Brown ones, so these Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Mono Cream Eye Colour in  Cocoa and  Nude were designated as their replacement.

The creamy formula of Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Mono has a modern matte finish looks and feels fabulous. However, I'm not sure I made the best choice of color, which is totally my fault. I should have gone with the bolder signature D&G colors such as Dahlia & Stromboli and left the neutrals for Bobbi Brown.

Primer is not necessary here.  Dolce & Gabbana Perfect Mono cream shadows adhere to the lids smoothly (brushes or fingers, it doesn't matter. I love working with a MAC 127, but that's just me), set quickly, and do not move. The promised 12-hour longevity is dependent on skin and weather, so this might not be the best time of the year to tell (late August in NYC is the ultimate test for makeup), but I can tell you that the eye shadows resist rubbing, and other than a slight fading of Cocoa they stay put til kingdom comes.

The names Cocoa and Nude are pretty telling, though Nude has a pink leaning that does not occur naturally in my skin. Thus, I'm still trying to figure out a good use for it (mostly as a base and not on its own). Cocoa is a classic crease color, not very interesting, and on my skin it lacks a little life and is not a replacement for my discontinued Ash (Bobbi Brown). As I said: the fabulous

Bottom Line: I should have bought the blue one, Indaco.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Laura Mercier Paint Wash Liquid Lip Colour In Rosewood

Laura Mercier's newest lip color release is the Paint Wash liquid lipsticks: a range of nine creamy and opaque lipstick with a rather thick texture, a velvet finish, and an impressive longevity. I know that the first question would be how it compares to the Smashbox lip lacquer I completely fell for recently, but the answer is that these are two very different products. The Smashbox is in a catgory all to itself for the rare combination of comfort and insane longevity, while Laura Mercier's Paint Wash plays closer to Shiseido's Lacquer Rouge arena.

In any case, this is a truly lovely liquid lipstick that delivers a tenacious color in an easy to wear formula. I tried my best to show the thickness of this creamy texture, which explains why I prefer to smooth over the first layer with a lip brush and the apply a second coat. It doesn't bleed as long as you don't overload the goop, and Laura Mercier's scent-free formula is east to work with. I don't think it has any particularly nourishing properties, but as I've mentioned: it feels comfortable and isn't drying.

[Ingredients: Isododecane, Octyldodecanol, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Hydrogenated Styrene/Isoprene Copolymer, Mica, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Polyethylene, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax (Helianthus Annuus Seed Cera), Propylene Carbonate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Tocopherol, Dicalcium Phosphate. May Contain/Peut Contenir/(+/-): Ci 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), Ci 77491, Ci 77492 (Iron Oxides), Ci 15850 (Red 7 Lake), Ci 42090 (Blue 1 Lake).]

The color I received, Rosewood, looks and feels like a classic Laura Mercier offering: elegant and understated. They do have a couple of bolder ones (I have my eye on Red Brick), but Rosewood with its brown-based warm rose is a perfect fit these days.

Bottom Line: Like. Really, really like.

Laura Mercier Paint Wash Liquid Lip Colour In Rosewood ($28) is available at the counters and from lauramercier.com. The product for this review was sent by PR.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Patric Chocolate

This one is thanks to Mandy Aftel who shares my love of exquisite artisanal chocolate and pointed me in the right direction. I went to the website (http://patric-chocolate.com/) and started reading about this handcrafted brand from Columbia, Missouri. Bean-to-bar chocolates are my favorites, because you know with absolute certainty that the raw materials have been carefully selected with no shortcuts in order to make the very best product.

And it's chocolate.

I bought two to start with. Mint Crunch is from the permanent lineup and offers crunchy coco nibs and a distinct mint flavor in a smooth dark chocolate. The other one was February's limited edition flavor, Sweet & Sassy, a  Valentine's day gift for the Husband (and myself). I'm a huge fan of dark milk chocolates, and this was probably the best one I've ever had: rich and chocolaty with the comforting aroma of a milk chocolate. The extra touches of caramel and sea salt took this chocolate into toe-curling-eye-rolling-with-pleasure territory.

One of the most fascinating things about Patric Chocolate is that they work in very small batches, and when it's gone, it's gone. Until they make more (yes, kind of like certain perfumers). The next lot is scheduled to be available during the last week of March, so one can and should join the mailing list to be notified on time. It's a different approach to sales, for sure, as opposite as could be from mass-market manufacturing and retail, and I'll be the first to admit that it takes getting used to, especially for all of us who are used to the nearly immediate satisfaction of 1-Click Amazon Prime.

In any case, discerning chocoholics should give Patric Chocolate a chance. It's that good, and as I've discovered, it's worth the wait. Each bar costs $12, and regular shipping is $7.95, though when temperatures are over 60F you need the warm weather protection which I'm assuming is costlier. Not a problem this time of the year, obviously, just something to keep in mind.

Bottom Line: Yes, please (and can I get some more?)

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Early Scent Memories

Charlie, the 1973 wonder was also part of my childhood memories

It is often said that are earliest scent memories we have, from the almost forgotten depths of our childhood shape a major part of our tastes and preferences later in life. It's hard to prove, of course, since memory is unreliable at best, and our earliest "recollections"  are usually rolled together with family lore and photographs, and shrouded in  myths and mists of time. I've spent some extra hours recently (blame the Benadryl) gathering  a list of  such memories, the earliest I could think of and ensure are real. Generally speaking, I have a freaky kind of memory. I may no longer recall  new phone numbers or the license plate of my own car, but I can tell you who wore what at a particularly notorious party my friends and I had in December 1986. So my rule here was focusing on smells I remember from before starting preschool and the birth of my sister (both happened around the same time). This way I could be sure those are real, as they were strongly connected to the apartment our family inhabited at that time, to people who were no longer in our lives once we moved out, and to a very particular part of the city we left not long afterwords. These fragmented memories are amazingly clear in my mind and mostly verifiable ("Leave me out of this, you freak"---my sister. "Such a genius"--- my mother).

Very few of these scents are  about actual perfume, and I can't see an influence on my taste in fragrance, but maybe you can offer a better insight. In any case, I would like to hear about your own very early olfactory experiences and whether you see them as forming your adult scented lives.

* The inside of a washing machine. This damp and metallic smell as well as the texture of the drum inside still take  me back right there. I can't remember the detergent or the actual smell of the laundry, just the way the machine itself smelled to me, white and ominous.

* Our next door neighbor's cooking. A Moroccan immigrant, our neighbor Simmi made the best food in the world, and I still think so more than forty years later. A particular aroma of honey being heated with oil (I think that's the thing based on some recipes I've tried as an adult), small yeasty buns loaded with freshly ground pepper (I've found an Italian recipe years later that nearly made me pass out of happiness), and her incomparable fava beans. I've eaten at Moroccan restaurants in NYC and in Paris, but nothing compares to Simmi's food (or to her love).

* An outdoor market downtown. That one was and has always been unpleasant. Rotting vegetables rolling under the stands, blood from the butcher's shop, and the unmistakable smell of fish. All that combined with the general stench of a downtown area near a seaport. I have a feeling that parts of Elizabeth, NJ smell very similarly, but I have no intention to check.

* A weekend in summer. The interior of my dad's old Fiat nearly boiling and burning as we drive down to the beach, the dusty smell of the upholstered seats in the sun, and that first whiff of sea air. That was heaven, as were the overly salty french fries (too thin and overcooked),  orange juice (not cold enough and with no trace  of any orange that's found in nature, Kind of like Gatorade, now that I think of it).

* Maja soap. I talked about the actual perfume a couple of years ago, but my mom almost always had a few bars of the soap in her drawers, and the smell would fill the bedroom every time she opened them. It was weird and exotic to my little girls' mind. When my mom read my Maja post she sent me one of the soaps she still kept around (though I don't think this one hails from 1973, it's still incredible and is now perfuming my jammies and nightgowns).

We had one that looked just like that. Photo via strawstickstone.com/

* Kerosene heaters. I'm pretty sure my parents got rid of those after my sister was born, but winters in my very early childhood  are steeped with this very potent smell. I remember one time that the fringes of the rug caught fire because of it.

* Let's end the list with the one item that's most connected to who I am today. The smell of a tiny Parfumerie downtown, a mom'n'pop store (more of a granny type, actually), where my mother bought her skincare (I think) and other various womanly items, and I thought was pure magic. Better than Disneyland, for sure. I remember one time that the lady at the store gave me a lipstick tester and an old green eye shadow to play with. That night my mom and I played "beauty parlor" as she worked hard to scrub all that color from my face. But the store itself had that distinct powdery makeup smell, and something that was probably a Chanel No.5 imitation (I'm certain they didn't sell Chanel over there).

Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal

Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal, or in its full name "Sarah McNamara Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal Eye & Face" has been sitting atop my testing tray for months now as I've been trying to figure it out. I finally have a verdict of sort, after using this concealer on every area of my face and various body parts as well.

Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal is obviously a heavy duty product, one that's meant for camouflaging serious blemishes and discolorations. It requires a teeny tiny drop to cover wide areas, and you have to work it into a thinner paste as it's very very stretchy. In that regard, application is similar to classics like Dermablend and Kevyn Aucoin SSE (that latter is my holiest of grails in this category. SX 10 is an almost perfect match for me). The first problem with Miracle skin Transformer is that it's drier, so unlike the vehement claims in the press release and on  retailers websites, applying it on the eye area is a big NO. Also, if you've treating your skin for blemishes or using various chemical exfoliators to get rid of unsightlies, the concealer will enhance every flake and line in that area.

The other issue is color. Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal comes in four shades (don't ask me why Ulta only stocks one)-- again compare to the broad selection of Kevyn Aucoin or Dermablend. I received the one in Medium, and you can see what a bad fit it is for me. I don't blame (much) the product. My skin tone is notoriously baffling and impossible, with the expected depth of a Mediterranean pigment but at its palest form and with both ashy green and reddish undertones, and nary a hint of yellow. It's a color-specialist's nightmare, but "medium" colors are usually closer to the ballpark than what you see above.

I've given up on using the concealer anywhere on my face for reasons of dryness and bad color match, but as a cat owner I usually have various marks and scratches on my body (Marigold is notorious for climbing us like a tree). what I'v found is that by working a tiny drop between your fingers until it's warm and completely pliable, and patting it on a scratch, a puncture hole or a scab, it gives me a good and long-lasting coverage. That has to amount for something.

Bottom Line: far from perfect.

Miracle Skin Transformer Treat & Conceal ($34) is available from Ulta and Dermstore. The product for this review was sent by PR.

Monday, March 02, 2015

House Of Cherry Bomb- Tuberose Tobacco Cognac

The book I'm going to read tonight in bed is 'Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball' by Deborah Davis. The year was 1966, and the only place to be on the night of November 28th was the Plaza Hotel in NYC. Everyone wanted an invitation but only select 540 got the chance to be there and rub shoulders and masks with the likes of Frank Sinatra and his young wife Mia Farrow, Lee Radziwill, Lauren Bacall, and Tallulah Bankead (above). which brings us to the question: What perfume would you wear to such an event had you been invited?

Tonight my answer is Tuberose Tobacco Cognac from the House of Cherry Bomb, the collaboration of two NYC perfumers Maria McElroy (Aroma M) and Alexis Karl (Scent by Alexis). It seems like a good fit: dark as a night, warm like a plush ballroom, rich and heady as the atmosphere of the most coveted event of the century. We can only guess that the air that night was thick and heavy with smoke, booze, and hundreds and hundreds perfumes from an era before sillage became a dirty word. The white ball gowns of the ladies were created by the likes of Dior, Givenchy, and Halston. The scents probably matched the fur coats and dazzling jewelry. And Tuberose Tobacco Cognac, with its swirls of heady aromas, boozy and floral, tough and soft, would have been right at home.

The first thing I get from this Cherry Bomb is tuberose. You must love this note and love it dearly to enjoy Tuberose Tobacco Cognac, but that's pretty obvious from the name. The soaring femininity of the narcotic flower is counterbalanced by the full-bodied honeyed cognac and the even more honeyed yet mellow tobacco. On my skin it doesn't smell particularly smoky, just very thick. It's like an old box that's still redolent of sweet tobacco than the actual material.

There are other floral threads woven into the perfume's body, all intoxicating in the height of their bloom. This goes well with the touch of animalic that leads into the dry-down: dirty musk, skin-like ambergris, the smell of the warm bodies dancing the night away at the Plaza.

Tuberose Tobacco Cognac ($75, 1 oz EDP) is one of the atelier perfumes offered by the House of Cherry Bomb. It can be purchased in person at the studio (10th floor at 68 Jay Street, Brooklyn ) or through the Etsy store (I highly recommend ordering the sample set or the discovery set). Link provided for your convenience only and I'm not compensated in any way, shape or form.The perfumers provided the sample for this review.

To read more about Truman Capote's party check out this blog post on Fashion's Most wanted.
Photograph of Tallulah Bankhead arriving at the ball by Henry Grossman.