Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Japanese Cosmetics According to Allure- A Quick Roundup

A couple of months ago Allure had a slideshow of Japanese cosmetics the magazine claimed "Will change your routine forever". I liked a previous list of Korean products, and I'm a huge fan of Asian beauty in general, so I did some further investigating. And shopping. I didn't buy all thirteen items, and I added a couple of others for good measure, since I was ordering through Amazon and their "you might also like" feature is scarily effective. Here are my impressions of the stuff I tried:

Kanebo Suisa Beauty Clear Powder. Individually-packed doses of cleansing powder. You pour it into your palm, add a bit of powder and wash your face with it. The result is kind of soapy and incredibly effective without drying my face too much, so it's great for thorough removal of sunscreen, cleansing oil, and skin debris. I've also used it with my Clarisonic brush with good results. Perfect for travel.

LuLuLun Balance Moisture Masks. I've been using sheet masks for years, both store-bought and ones I've made myself, and I have to say that these LuLuLun ones are among the least effective I've come across. The hydrating serum is weak and does nothing for my skin; I can't even say that it's particularly moisturizing. To add an annoyance, the masks are not individually packed, just float together in the main packaging so you need to makes sure you reseal it properly. To make a better use  of them I added various other serums under the masks, which worked well enough. Try Instead: Hada Labo masks.

Ichikami Kracie Hair Treatment Water. Rice water for the scalp. It's an interesting idea, and I've found that this product works as a really good scalp serum. It's calming while softening my hair. The downside is that at least for my hair the next morning I can tell that my hair has lost its shine and needs to be washed. Also, the dispensing mechanism breaks easily, so I need to pour directly from the bottle. Still, it's an interesting concept and worth trying.

Since I was already at it, I also bought other Ichikami Kracie hair products: Rice Bran Hair Care Set - Shampoo & Conditioner, and the hair mask. The shampoo and conditioner are okay, but not impressive. I can't say that they perform any better than any gentle drugstore equivalent items. I'm also not crazy about the very synthetic floral smell, though the husband liked it in my hair. The hair mask (Ichikami Premium Hair Mask), on the other hand, is wonderful. It provides extra nourishment and leaves the hair feeling healthy and soft.

Tatcha Camellia Nourishing Lip Balm. Like any other Tatcha product I've tried so far, this is a great balm, even if I'm not a fan of the jar packaging (it's a balmy gel, so I don't know why it doesn't come in a tube, either a squeeze one or with an applicator like a lip gloss. I'm also not sure the gold is really necessary, but it's a nice touch that makes this otherwise basic product feel more luxurious. 

And one bonus item from the list, which I've used in the past but didn't buy this time: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil. I think many of you are already familiar with this classic product.I'm a fan of both DHC and of oils, but this one is not necessarily my favorite. It's basically an olive oil, so I don't see the point of packaging with a heavy markup. Personally I find olive oil to be too heavy for my needs, so I passed. Try instead: Tatcha Cleansing Oil or Aroma M Camellia Oil.

Photo: Shinichi Suzuki- Japanese Woman in Traditional Dress Posing with Cat and Instrument, 1870s. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Currently- June 2015

Judy Blume- In the Unlikely Event. Makes me want to go and reread all of Judy Blume's books from my childhood and adolescence.I need to check what's available as a Kindle book.

Jacco Gardner- Brightly

John Oliver- Last Week Tonight. Also, Inside Amy Schumer. Outrageous and hilarious.

Lots and lots and lots of vintage Chanel No.19.

Coral glosses and lipsticks.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit

Guilty Pleasure
Not really guilty, but the the fact it's probably irreplaceable makes using my Givenchy III body oil a poignant pleasure.

California-style cottage cheese from Friendship Dairies. Don't laugh. It's the best cottage cheese I've ever had, and I could live on it. I kind of do, actually.

iPad charging cords. They stop functioning, and I can't even blame the cats in all cases.

Last week's SCOTUS ruling on marriage equality.

A weekend away with friends.

More perfume storage. We actually tried to change the layout of our bedroom to see if we can fit in another cabinet. We could, but the layout didn't work for us. so back to the first square.

Random Thought
Why did it take WholeFoods a month to restock their dried strawberries?

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

Top image:  Vogue.com

Five Recent Product Disappointments

It's been a long time since I've done an underachievers list of shame. I guess I've been extra lucky or incredibly choosy with the makeup and cosmetics I've chosen to test. Almost everything has been good and found its use in my rotation or my skincare routine. Except for these five:

1. Nature Republic Avocado Sheet Mask. I'm a mask addict and try to use them at least five times a week. I even have the Mask Maven subscription through BeautequeMonthly.com. As a matter of fact, this avocado mask came in my subscription box, which was otherwise brilliant. Except for this pore-clogging nightmare. It took quite a bit BHA and propolis balm to get the gunk out of my pores afterwords.

2. Bare Minerals Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream. I don't know why I had such high expectations and so much confidence in this tinted moisturizer, considering I deeply dislike most of the base products from this brand. The "Hydrating Gel Cream" got to me, most likely, and I just had to have it. Fail. I still owe you a foundation roundup from the last few months, but I can already tell you that this one will be at the bottom due to its drying effect and strange heavy finish.

3. Peter Thomas Roth Camu Camu Power C x 30™ Vitamin C Brightening Serum. After using up several bottles of excellent but stinky Vitamin C serums (Paula's Choice and Flavo-C forte), I was desperate for something effective that will not make me smell like skunk for the first eight hours of my day. This one looked like a good idea (it contains fragrance, which doesn't bother me). However, after several weeks I could tell it was doing absolutely nothing for skin brightening. Experience has taught me how to see the difference in my skin, and all the Camu Camu (Myrciaria Dubia fruit extract) in the world could not have faked it. I moved on.

4. DermOrganic Intensive Hair Repair Masque. I needed hair mask and was already at Ulta, so I picked this up on a whim. I've been so spoiled by L'Occitane that at first I wasn't sure what was going on with my hair, but the lack of extra nourishment or shine started to show. I have no idea why, since the ingredient list looks very promising. It should have worked, but it didn't. At least the smell was good and the mask is free of coconut derivatives so I didn't break out along the hairline.

5. YSL Eye Shadows. I reviewed them extensively here and here. so I won't repeat it again. But I was deeply disappointed with the latest YSL releases. Both the liquid and the powder eye shadows looked incredible in their tube and pan, but performance was shockingly sub-par, especially since there are so many excellent alternatives on the market.  

Did you have any similar encounters recently? Do these products perform better for you?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Fresh, The Tropical, And The Supposedly Inappropriate- Top Perfume Picks for Summer

Recently I've realized that for someone who doesn't believe in seasonal perfumes, I actually have certain ideas about what would smell best on a particular day; some of these scent of the day decisions do depend on the weather, even if I'm prone to wearing my vintage Eau d'Hadrien to cheer myself up mid-winter, or pick an amber that soars to high heaven on the hottest day of the year. When it comes to summer perfumes, my choices often come from three main categories:
Big, Bigger, Biggest (sillage)

Dennis Wojtkiewicz, 2013

  • Light & Fresh

This is the most obvious for most people. It's hot and perhaps muggy outside, of course you want something that will make you feel cooler, even for five minutes. These are the citrusy colognes, the fresh leafy greens, and the sunny herbals. Here are the ones I'm wearing this season:

1. Parfumerie Generale- Papyrus de Ciane. An imaginary trip down the Nile in the 19th century. Green, soapy, and refreshing.
2. Acqua di Parma has an entire range of summer perfumes, the Blu Mediterraneo one. My favorite among them  is still Fico di Amalfi, a citrus and fig scent. But even the fresh and breezy Ginepro de Sardenga has a wonderful peppery hook that keeps things interesting.
3. Nothing in the world beats the classic Guerlain eau de colognes, and Eau de Cologne du Coq is my catnip.

Leo Lloyd Sexton, Still Life of Magnolia and Mango, 1973

  • A Tropical Vacation with a Twist
The tropics with their heady flowers and juicy fruits are summer staples. Tuberose and gardenia are especially intoxicating in the heat, and the promise of sexy nights on the beach, little white dresses and salty tan skin is irresistible (said she who lives under a thick layer of SPF50, a large hat, a silk scarf to protect the neck, and in general avoids the sun):

4. Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777- Soleil de Jeddah . Sensual, juicy, and fleshy fruit, with an incredibly complex dry-dow.
5. Not every day can be a wild  Fracas day, so sometimes it's the very modern and elegant Rubj by Vero Profumo. The extrait is my favorite, but the eau de parfum is laced with a delicious passion fruit.
6. Aftelier- Cuir de Gardenia. An all-natural perfume that takes luxury and sultriness to unimaginable heights. An animalic floral with a leathery twist.

Danish Finest,  a beauty editorial inspired by Danish furniture designed by Arne Jacobsen, 2012

  • Things That Go Bump Bloom In The Heat

This is probably the most controversial category. If most people choose perfumes that are almost guaranteed to feel fresh and not offend anyone in the already suffocating soup that passes as air on a NYC August day, sometimes the only way to beat the heat is to join it. Five years ago I listed a somewhat crazy selection of not so summery perfumes for summer, and I still stand behind it. To the list above I will also add:

7. Serge Lutens- Vetiver Oriental. Vetiver, a dry and grassy green(ish) note is actually actually very appropriate for summer, but Uncle Serge has turned it on its head making it sweeter and more buttery by adding orris and chocolate.
8. You've got to have a big amber on a list like this, and Andy Tauer's L'Air du Desert Marocain is just one option. But since it's my favorite I'm putting it here.
9. Tom Ford- Black Orchid. This one is kind of related to the lush tropical perfumes in the previous category, thanks to a gardenia note and various fruits (pineapple?). But Black Orchid has always been more than the sums of its part, and thanks to the nuclear burst and the sillage in its wake I'm putting it here. One spritz only. Two in winter.

Vincent Van Gogh, The Garden at Arles, 1888

And one last perfume:
During all the years of blogging about perfume I've tried to avoid repeating this cliche, but Annick Goutal's Eau d'Hadrien was one of the ultimate summer fragrances. Deceivingly light in its  citrusy opening, morphing into a summer in Arles as painted by Van Gogh. In the  many years since I got my first bottle of Eau d'Hadrien the fragrance has been reformulated more than once and has lost every last shred of what made it so beautiful. I've missed my chance to include it in my lists and I never even wrote a proper review. But if you or someone you know has an old bottle of the real thing give it a spritz and remember its glory days.

For more summer picks please visit my friends at Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, Now Smell This, and Perfume Posse.

Top image via myvintagevogue.com

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Email Issues and an Apology

Seriously, it might as well be snail mail.

Remember when Gmail became oh so efficient and started separating your incoming mail into categories, one of them named "promotions"? Well, most of us are on quite a few mailing lists that include more than just us, yet Gmail gives the stinkeye to those emails. What's even worse is that some of the personal emails we get come from friends and family using their work accounts. Again, not Google's favorite thing (though flagging those seem to have been random). And if you're a blogger who is both on many a mailing list AND have professional contacts sending everything from press releases to personal pitches, emails and birthday cards: forget about. Your Promotions folder will overflow before nine am every morning.

Which brings us to my own worst practice: at some point over the last year I started categorically emptying that folder with barely a glance at its actual content. Yes, once I found an email from my sister there just before I was going to hit "Delete All", and a couple of other relevant emails did survive the almost daily carnage, but too many days to count I've just purged a hundred emails at the time while paying more attention to saving my cereal bowl from Philip and Peter who have a thing for Special K.

So this is a formal apology, a request for mercy, and a promise that if I've neglected to reply to a personal and/or important email, it's most than likely the result of Gmail being an overachiever and me be an underachiever. A dangerous combination, for sure. So, please don't take it personally, please resend anything you think might be of importance, and please accept my humblest apologies. I promise to do better starting now.

Mea Culpa.

NARS Dual-Intensity Blush In Panic

I certainly took my time with this one, haven't I?

I got Panic around the time NARS first launched their new line of Dual-Intensity blushes (there are six of them), and promptly put it aside in (excuse the pun) panic, only allowing myself to stare at it with disbelief once a day. Seriously, look at the colors and the sheen of its finish. Was this thing going on my face? I needed some time to even take the photos and swatch this blush, but that first finger-dipping led to actually playing with Panic and learning what I can do with it and what it can do for me.

NARS Dual-Intensity blush is the sibling of their Dual-Intensity eye shadow (see my swatches here, here, and here). I love the eye shadows and use them often as the focal point of an evening makeup look. They're among the most beautiful eye shadows I have, and once you figure out various ways to use each of them, they're also quite versatile. The question is if the same thing applies to a blush of similar finish and pigment intensity.

The formula of these NARS products was created to be used either dry or damp with equal effectiveness. It's not only true, but a damp brush (or a mini sponge-- try the eye shadow with the pea-size new Beauty blender) do not harm the the product that's still in the pan. It doen't change texture and never develops an icky crust. That's a brilliant feature right there. But unlike with those eye shadows where you sometimes want a foiled finish with a mega sheen, a blush might be a different story.

The swatches you see above are dry. The ones on my fingers are the result of lightly touching the surface of the blush, not even swiping it. And when I did the arm swatch I got the pearly color-fest you see in the last photo. Obviously, you need to blend this stuff as though your life depends on it, and use a small fluffy brush (a small duo-fiber is also an option). Neither the bright fuchsia nor the coral are exactly natural, but they are very very beautiful, and used judiciously they can impart some radiance and life to an otherwise sallow skin. But there's no way that I'm leaving the house sporting a metallic coral cheek, so the damp option, at least for Panic is irrelevant for me.

A friend of mine who truly understands makeup, texture and finish has told me that in her opinion the best technique for a "damp" use is actually to go all out and do a "wet" application. Meaning, mixing the blush with enough water to create a cream-to-liquid product, and then you can truly paint and blend it into a sheer color with an inner glow. I haven't tried it with Panic yet, but if NARS ever add a rich yet more muted color option to this range (it's truly missing a duo between Fervor and Adoration) I promise I'll do that. Another tip from my friend is that the real winners in this line are the highlighter colors. The more I think of it, the more Jubilation appears as a gorgeous versatile way to add dry or liquid sheen where you want it.

Bottom Line: extremely pretty, but not for the casual user.

NARS Dual-Intensity Blush In Panic ($45) is available at the counters, Sephora, NARS boutiques, and narscosmetics.com.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Laura Geller Sandy Lagoon Crème Glaze Baked Eyeshadow Intensifying Eye Palette

This was not quite an impulse purchase but almost. My general stand about Laura Geller makeup is that the face stuff is good-to-great, but the eye products I've tested over the years have all left something to be desired. But I was at Ulta and colors of the Sandy Lagoon Crème Glaze Baked Eyeshadow Intensifying Eye Palette called to be swatched. so I did, and liked what I saw, but I usually stick to my spreadsheets of planned purchases and review, so I passed. The following week I was at Ulta again, and somehow found myself at the Laura Geller display. You already know what happened.

Can you blame me? A beautiful medium blue, a rather unique wet sand color, and a taupe(ish) complex shade, all with a lovely sheen but no individual glitter particles. I could see many ways to wear these shadows and combine them with workhorse matte or satin colors from other palettes. Who could ask for anything more?

Well, I could.

Sadly, it's the gorgeous blue eye shadow that has been giving me the most trouble. If you look at the finger swatch, you can see that the blue is rather sheer and not as smooth as its siblings. In the swatches above, the sand and taupe feature one coat while I had to do two of the blue just to show its full impact. The texture is also slightly less creamy than the neutrals, which I think you can see. so the blue needs to be packed on the eyelid, which creates a massive amount of fallout. Obviously, once you get the desired results cleanup and doing your base are not an issue, but it annoys me to have my cheeks covered in sky blue color. I'm weird that way.

My first several wearings of Laura Geller's Sandy Lagoon palette were of the divide and conquer type. A damp touch of blue along the lashline, a twinkling sandy eyelid over a matte beige, taupe with everything... But the other night I decided to be brave and find a way to create an evening look with all three shadows, focusing on a bright yet smoky blue eye. My starting point was watching this tutorial by Siobhán McDonnell (formerly known as LetzMakeup). as I've said all those years ago, while Siobhán's style couldn't be more different than my own, her creativity and excellent technique are the reasons I keep watching. I had no intention leaving the house sporting that exact bright blue look, but I knew I could adjust it for the palette and my personal aesthetics.

Here's what I did (do watch the video I linked above first), and remember that I have deeply sunken eyes with a massive lid space, both mobile and under the brow bone.

1. Start with a blank face. The process gets kind of messy, so no use of doing your base until all the blue is gone from your chin.
2. Creating a smooth canvas for the eye: a good primer (I used Laura Mercier), then swipe the entire lid and brow bone with a matte nude eye shadow (I used Le Metier de Beaute, but anything from Bobbi Brown Bone to Free Spirit from the Tartelette palette will work).
2. Using a small flat eye shadow brush ( MAC 239 type, though I used the discontinued Sue Devitt Lash Line Definer) pat the blue eye shadow over the outer 2/3 parts of the mobile lid. Build the pigment to your heart's desire.
3. Using the taupe color and a crease brush fill in the crease and take the color as far and/or as high as your eye shape demands. I mostly used it to elongate the shape and blend the edges. I didn't add the touch of matte black that Siobhán had in the outer corner because it would have been too much, but I did put some extra blue for good measures.
4. Highlight the inner corner with the sand color. A tiny detail brush is best (I used my pinky finger and it ended up too much).
5. Finishing touches: a waterproof blue pencil on the waterline, blue gel eyeliner (Laura Mercier Cobalt) to tightline and along the lashes. Lots of black mascara.
7. Everything else (go with Siobhán's suggestion for a very nude blush and lipstick).

It was a fun look for a night out. Not something to do every day or even every week, but it was pretty and I enjoyed going slightly out of my comfort zone.

As for the palette itself, it's not a must have and not the best quality around, but if you're in love with at least two of the colors you could do worse.

Laura Geller Sandy Lagoon Crème Glaze Baked Eyeshadow Intensifying Eye Palette ($29) is available from Macy's and Ulta.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick In Golden Pink

This Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick in Golden Pink was a GWP (hence the mini size of the one in the photo) a couple of months ago. You know me. A cream eye shadow in a stick is my catnip, and even this Golden Pink color has proven itself as a great option for an all-over color wash or a base for something a little more intense. Golden Pink is a little more golden and a little less pink than the name suggests. It's kind of a champagne color, especially on skin (at least mine, which cancel a lot of pink undertones in makeup). It's a great basic.

Most major brands now have similar products, and everything I've tried, including the Bobbi Brown version, has been good. They sometimes differ in finish and color complexity (NARS really stands out), and my favorite blue comes from Laura Mercier, but in general there's not one standout (my next trip to the mall will include a stop at Kiko at the advice of several European readers). They're all good. Bobbi Brown's LW Cream Shadow Stick shares the buttery soft application that gives you a few seconds to smudge and blend before the product sets and stays put reliably until you remove it. It doesn't crease as long as you don't pile it on or build layers of cream and powder eye shadows for special effects (works for a quick photo shoot, not for a full day of work).

Bottom Line: give me one of each, please.

Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow Stick in  Golden Pink ($29) is available at the stores and from Bobbibrowncosmetics.com.

Monday, June 15, 2015

LORAC Alter Ego Eye Shadow Palette in Heartbreaker (Ulta Exclusive)

I had every intention to ignore Lorac's summer palette, at the least the one they showed on their website (and in the various newsletters) and also offered via Nordstrom. I thought it was cute but not particularly useful. Then I discovered that there was a second Lorac Alter Ego palette, one that was exclusive to Ulta, with colors that had me at first swatch.

I had to.

Obviously, this is a departure from the all-matte palettes I've shown you last week, but hey, it's summer, and a dab of colorful shimmer on an otherwise neutral eye looks good on just about anyone. There's something to be said for light-reflecting that brings out the best of your eye color. Since the colors are wonderfully pigmented you only need a little, and the fine texture makes application and blending very easy. Lorac has made things even easier in this palette by providing the matte base color that you can apply first all over the eye lid to help the other colors look and perform even better. Those of you who dislike tacky primers would love this base (it's just a powder eye shadow with a skin-like texture).

The highlighter is not strictly necessary. There's enough color and shimmer in the actual eye shadows, but I do like this ivory color and need to remember to use it with other makeup look. It's a lovely touch for the inner corner.

Most of the colors in the Lorac Alter Ego palette are actually easy everyday colors that you can accent with a touch of summer blues. Here''s what we've got here:

1  A very low shimmer light brown. Basic and wearable . Probably the one I'll make the deepest dent.
2  Pink Champagne. Another basic.
3  Probably the most difficult color for me, a warm purple that reminds me of summer flowers. Very beautiful and will look stunning against green eyes.
4  A classic bronze. A staple for summer nights.
5  Deep blue sea. My favorite. I use it as an eye contour with a slightly damp brush.
6  Silver. Not the most inventive, but useful for a good ole' smoky eye.
7  Aqua. I use it sparingly under the lower lashes with an otherwise neutral eye.
8 A cool dark brown. Another important basic that works to counterbalance the deep blue one.

The amount of fallout is rather minimal, especially when used with small soft brushes that don't kick much products. I think the Aqua made the biggest mess, but even that wasn't a huge deal. I love the many options and combinations this palette gives me, and its true summery feel. I wish it was American made. I admit I forgot to check before picking it up at my local Ulta, but it's manufactured in China, which disappoints me (Lorac is an American brand). But other than that, it's one of those highly satisfying seasonal treats.

LORAC Alter Ego Eye Shadow Palette in Heartbreaker ($24) is an Ulta Exclusive.Available in stores and online.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Two Fabulous Eyeliner Pencils: Kiko & Vincent Longo

I've added two eyeliner pencils to the overflowing cups on the vintage tea cart that holds most of my eye brushes and eyeliners (easy to move around as needed). The Vincent Longo was a press sample that quickly became my current favorite brown eyeliner (Vincent Longo Pro-Waterproof Eye Pencil in Cacao, $22, at Nordstrom, Dermstore and other online sources). You can't beat anything waterproof on a NYC summer (as I've discovered yet again when a favorite black pencil, Lancome, I think, migrated south south south...). Thus, a creamy, almost gel-like that's kind to the waterline yet stays where it should once set really saves my face. The medium brown color is easy to wear, does its job and looks less harsh than black, especially in strong sunlight. Definitely a winner.

I had to use the flash on this Kiko pencil swatch so I can show you just how metallic it is.

Then we have the last item I picked at the Kiko Milano store in the Garden State Plaza. Kiko Glamorous Eye Pencil #409, a metallic ocean blue color. This pencil goes on like a true gel, and is incredibly soft. It's smudgeable, and doesn't fully set, so I use it more as an eye shadow-enhancement or even set it with a tiny amount of translucent powder, but it's incredibly gorgeous so I can't keep it aside waiting for cooler and dryer weather. You must use a primer and remember not to rub your eyes, but it's kind of worth it for the color. The pencil is made in Germany (almost all other Kiko products are made in Italy, so this is an exception) and contains carmine. I still can't tell you how much it costs since as you may remember, I put the receipt aside so I can blog about it and promptly forgot where it is. Somewhere between a song and a peanut, I'm guessing, which is a good thing considering performance. Also:  as with all shimmer pencils, I wouldn't use it on the waterline.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Kiko Milano Mosaic Blush 08 Hypnotic Mauve

Previously on The Non-Blonde: I go shopping with a friend and find a treasure.

This blush was another one of my Kiko discoveries. I think it's a limited edition, and since I'm on a blush kick at the moment I was more than thrilled with how pretty it is. Yes, mosaic blushes are not exactly a new thing, but isn't this pebble pattern adorable? And more important: the color itself, a true mauve, flattering and wearable.

I was blown away by the texture of this Kiko blush. It's one of those silky, inner-glow, pigmented and blendable that you usually see from very high-end brands. The blush is lovely on skin, lasts the entire day (and we've had some clammy sweaty days here recently) and overall it's simply a great product and a wonderful addition to any blush wardrobe.

As I've mentioned in my previous Kiko post, I misplaced the receipt of the little shopping spree, so I can't tell you exactly how cheap it was, but the four items I bought set me back $40-something. It makes me want to run back to the Kiko store at the Garden State Plaza and fill several more shopping bags. Because it's that good.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Tarte Tartelette Amazonian Clay Matte Eyeshadow Palette

The palette we're looking at today, Tarte Tartelette Amazonian Clay Matte Eyeshadow Palette,  is somewhat of an alternative to the one from yesterday, Viseart 01 Neutral Matte. Let's make it it clear, though: this is not a duplicate or even similar, but both are high quality matte eye shadow palettes that offer twelve neutral everyday colors in a somewhat close ballpark.

Tarte Tartelette Amazonian Clay Matte Eyeshadow Palette stands fully on its own. The texture of the eye shadows is incredibly creamy (far softer to the touch than the Viseart, for better and for worse. It means that the powder is not pressed very tightly). The softness is what caused the cloudy mess you see above as a result of shipping from Sephora. It's not a huge deal, and the silkiness of the texture makes up for it. The colors are somewhat cooler and generally lighter than the Viseart, thus I see them as complementing each other more than competing. In any case, if you're mixing them take care care not to over-blend, since the Tarte colors can create some muddiness if overworked.

A couple of words regarding size/weight/value. Some people consider the Viseart to be incredibly expensive (~ $80) for a smallish palette in a simple plastic packaging. Now, the Tartelette is considerably more impressive, even though the dimensions of the palette are only slightly larger. The compact is heavier and has a satisfying heft. However, when you check the actual amount of product, it gives considerable less than Viseart. Compare Viseart with 24 grams/0.840 oz to Tarte's 18 grams/ 0.636 oz. Value is up to you to decide, of course.

Here's what you get in this Tarte palette:

1 (Free Spirit) A basic ivory
2 (Force of Nature) A warm nude with a peachy tinge
3 (Dreamer) A basic medium brown, perfect as a crease color.
4 (Multi-tasker) Bittersweet chocolate
5 (Caregiver) Shell pink. Completely useless for me, but the pale cool-toned among you will probably love it. A bit less matte than the other ones, which nearly cost me my sanity when trying to photograph it.
6 (Natural Beauty) Mauve
7 (Best Friend) Berry-flavored yogurt.
8 (Bombshell) The people at Tarte claim it's a dark plum, but on my skin and lid it's brown. An espresso color, to be exact.
9 (Super Mom) Light beige, somewhere between ivory and champagne.
10 (Wanderer) Warm tobacco brown
11 (Power Player) Taupe, yay!
12 (Fashionista)  A true black, quite explosive, to be used with a small delicate brush.

So there you have it. This is an excellent palette even if the colors are not exactly original. Personally I may prefer the texture of the Viseart better, because it allows more precision, but Tartelette is still so lovely, smooth and easy to work with that I find it a true staple (especially if you're sane and don't have several drawers full of eye shadow palettes).

Tarte Tartelette Amazonian Clay Matte Eyeshadow Palette ($44) is available at Ulta, Sephora, and directly from tartecosmetics.com.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Monsillage- Vol 870 YUL-CDG

Flight 870 from Montreal to Paris. What would you do if you had a one way ticket? How would you feel? What would you wear?

It definitely sounds more romantic than the similar flight from our local airport, EWR Liberty, but to be honest it's been decades since any flight has been a civilized affair, and Newark has nothing do with it. In any case, Vol 870 YUL-CDG by perfumer Isabelle Michaud of Monsillage tells a story of a departure, an emotional journey, and going after your dream that incidentally is about creating perfume.

One of the interesting features of Vol 870 YUL-CDG is how different it smells when dabbing than when spraying properly. I didn't like it very much back in 2011 when Monsillage released the perfume, and all I had were a couple of dab-on samples. I actually thought it smelled thin and almost aquatic, which I assure you it doesn't. Only when I got to spray the fragrant and give it full body wearing did I experience its true beauty. Vol 870 YUL-CDG offers one of the most beautiful and full-bodied ylang-ylang note you'll ever smell. It's the most dominant part of this Monsillage fragrance, and it leads the way into a delicious slightly spicy delicate fruit nectar phase. It's soft, round and feels very accomplished: this is not the fruity floral at your local mall. Instead there's a velvety layered feel, almost tactile, that plays beautifully with the way it develops into the dry-down.

If the description above seems to lean towards a traditional feminine perfume, the base is completely gender-neutral.A musky woody warm skin scent (that's the ambergris, I think), that's every bit as sexy as you'd expect a first night in Paris to be. There's something very human to it, This is the moment you alight and leave the aircraft and find yourself in the new city on all its foreign yet inviting scents, the droves of people walking the unfamiliar streets, the stores, the stores, the cafes, and the unknown.

Notes: Balsam Fir, Cedar Leaves, Pine Needles, Cypress, Clary Sage, Bergamot, Osmanthus, Ylang-Ylang, Apricot, Peach, Nutmeg, Clove, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Guaiacwood, Labdanum, Opoponax, Musk, Ambergris.

Parfums Monsillage Vol 870 YUL-CDG ($95, 50 ml eau de toilette) is available at Twisted Lily, where you can also order a sample.

My other Monsillage reviews: Eau de Celeri, Dupont Circle, Ipanema Posto Nove, and Aviation Club.

Photo: Norman Parkinson- Cardin Hat Over Paris, model Nena von Schlebrugge, 1960.

Viseart 01 Neutral Matte Eye Shadow Palette

There's no doubt that matte eye shadow palettes are having a moment as far as people who actually buy makeup are concerned. From Urban Decay Naked Basics 2 and even the weaker NB1, to several larger palettes from recent months. I may or may not have gone a bit matte-crazy myself recently, partly because I've been wearing so many bright lipsticks (remember these?) that I needed to balance that. The other reason is a friend who turned me into the cult of Viseart, a professional makeup brand that is not available at department store yet has been gaining traction as a prime quality and utterly gorgeous must-have. Viseart eye shadow palettes (they also have lip and concealing ones) tend to sell out quickly; I get the feeling that they make them in small batches, so it took me a while to get my hands on the one I wanted most (for a start), 01 Neutral Matte.

Twelve seemingly basic matte colors, mostly brown, in an unadorned utilitarian plastic compact (cheap looking, really). The magic is in the texture,  the depth of color, and the way the super finely milled powder behaves on skin. Matte eye shadows can be rather problematic: too chalky, too hard, difficult to blend, patchy looking... I've seen it all. The most modern formulas seem to have gotten over this hurdle, but it's not an industry-side achievement yet. That's what makes Viseart such a sensation, and 01 Neutral Matte into the desert island product that it is.

The colors in this palette are really the most essential in anyone's collection:

Top row:
1 A rich warm beige.
2 A cooler beige. Reminds me of lipsticks favored by J Lo
3 Kind of a doll-face apricoty beige.
4 A bright almost-white that I actually use as a sort of highlighter.

Middle row:
5 Dark coffee
6 Terra cotta, though it's more muted on skin than in the pan.
7 Warm cocoa
8 Cool medium brown

Bottom row:
9 An almost black and a true matte. The finish is borderline satin.
10 True medium gray
11 Cool taupe (great for filling eyebrows)
12 Warm(ish) taupe.

I know that at $80 (Sephora) or even $75 (AlconeCo.com) it seems a bit crazy, especially since this is not a big palette (  24 grams/0.84 oz of product, with talc as the main ingredient). But the superb quality and usability make it a really good buy, especially if there's a gap in your eye shadow wardrobe of matte wearable colors. Performance is phenomenal, and the joy of creating so many combinations, layering the colors, taking them from day to night... you know the feeling. A palette you don't want to put aside is a great thrill, and Viseart got me completely hooked on this one. The thing is that they have more (Dark Mattes, and Cool Mattes), and I haven't even gotten to the satin ones that are drop-dead gorgeous. I've had the chance to gawk and swatch a friend's Paris Muse palette, and loved it (Michelyn of CaFleurBon has swatches). But my next one will probably be 05 Sultry Nudes. I think. Maybe.

Viseart palettes are made in France and are imported here in frustratingly small quantities. Both Sephora and AlconeCo.com (the latter has, in theory, a greater selection) let you get on a waiting list to be notified when they're available. At this very moment 01 Neutral Matte is actually available from both ($80 or $75, respectively), so you can go for it.