Thursday, July 30, 2015

Currently- July 2015

Re Jane by Patricia Park. A modern retelling of Jane Eyre, relocated to the outer boroughs and with an Asian American twist. I'm enjoying it so far.

Anna Regina from Wolf Hall. I found the miniseries unwatchable, but the music is haunting and beautiful.

Last week we binge-watched Transparent, and now I can't wait to the next season. Jeffery Tambor deserves every award in the universe.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
Little crochet cardigans over summer dresses to deal with the heat-to-arctic-blasts. And hats. I can't go out without a hat.

Mortal skin by 777 Stephane Humbert Lucas. Review coming next week, but I can already tell you that I'm completely engrossed by it.

Chanel fall collection. t's been a long time since Chanel nailed it so perfectly.

Guilty Pleasure
Diet Coke. Sometimes I just can't help myself.

Pasta in a light buttery lemon sauce.

Itchy skin.

Peter the Cat had a(nother) minor surgery and has recovered beautifully. The vet says he doesn't quite understand this cat, but gave him a clean bill of health. Excellent news when it's your fourteen year old much beloved creature who's had various issues for his entire life.

Various house guests.

A fabulous statement piece. I don't even know of what kind, but I just want something with impact.

Random Thought
I'd rather hear more about the Kardashians than about Ben Affleck and the nanny.

How are you doing? Please share your recommendations, loves, banes, and random thoughts!

Photo by Vittorio Ciccarelli

Chanel Glossimer Chêne Rouge Fall 2015

Yes, I know, it's a lip gloss. Nothing revolutionary, just a shiny colored gel for the lips. But I've been a fan of Chanel Glossimer formula long before I started blogging, and have always adored the complex colors they's been offering. I've finished several in recent months, so it was time to treat myself to a new one, and Chêne Rouge from Chanel Fall 2015 collection was the perfect one. With a name like "Red Oak" it doesn't come more autumnal, and the deep red with a roasted tomato base is stunning.

The gloss has no scent or taste, stickiness level is at a minimum (Chanel were doing this back when wearing a Lancome lip  gloss was like walking around with an insect trap on your mouth). The shimmer is beyond fine, and the shine is acceptable for adults. It doesn't stay on past the first cup of tea, but who cares, when you can pull the elegant tube out of your purse and reapply?

Bottom Line: Irresistible.

Chanel Glossimer Chêne Rouge for Fall 2015 ($30, made in France) is available at the counters and from

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Jardins d’Ecrivains- Marlowe

There are many mysteries hanging over Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe: Why exactly was he murdered? Why wasn't Rupert Everett credited for playing him in 'Shakespeare In Love'? Why did author Deborah Harkness choose to portray him as a 'daemon', and an evil one at that, in her novel 'Shadow of Night'? And why did perfumer Anaïs Biguine of Jardins d’Ecrivains dedicated an ultra powdery tuberose fragrance to his memory?

I'll start at the end and tell you that I really really enjoy Marlowe. Sometimes despite myself and in spite of a very chaotic development of the perfume. It's messy, for sure, and the note list doesn't make any more sense than the nickname Kit as a shortened version of Christopher. But it comes down to this: give me some narcotic tuberose and I'm yours.

The opening of Jardins d’Ecrivains' Marlowe smells incredibly familiar to me. Not the notes themselves but the effect. I still haven't pinpointed it to one single fragrance, so perhaps it's the soapy aldehydic effect itself (aldehydes aren't listed, but I swear I can smell that fun nose tingle). It's also sweeter than I expected from the initial description. But before long there's the double whammy of brightness and vintage-like animalic heft that grounds the tuberose and makes it a lot more interesting than just as a soliflore. Not that there aren't other effects at play here: osmanthus and myrrh also add their heft and a tactile feel of an antique damask. I want to my palm along the weave and feel the intricate work, trace the pattern and dream of the places it's been and the room it had adorned.

Marlowe is also very powdery. My skin and nose can deal with it, but on the Husband the composition is shockingly flat and sweet. Smelling the fragrance on him made me understand Kafkaesque's scathing review in a way that otherwise would have alluded me. Marlowe works on me (the Blond agrees), but apparently it can also be rather unpleasant. I adore the musky dry-down and the way it seeps into the tuberose syrup making it carnal, slightly decayed, and a touch vampiric. Obviously, I'm projecting, but Marlowe can be terrifically sexy, and that's all I care for. That, and the fact that I let the husband drain the last drop of the sample to confirm how much he dislikes it.

Notes: Tuberose, Osmanthus, Elemi, Myrrh, Dried Flowers, Oakmoss, Labdanum,Tonkin Musk, Leather.

Jardins d’Ecrivains- Marlowe ($110, 100ml eau de parfum) is available from Twisted Lily, Beauty Habit, and Indigo Perfumery. The sample for this review was supplied by Twisted Lily.

Photo of Rupert Everett as Christopher Marlowe in Shakespeare In Love via IMDB.

Chanel Rouge Coco Shine Téméraire- Fall 2015

Chanel Rouge Coco Shine in Téméraire from the Fall 2015 collection Les Automnales had several surprises in store. I thought it was going to have a metallic finish (see photo of the Téméraire in the tube), but that seems to be just an overlay that doesn't translate when applied. There lipstick has a certain sheen, like all Chanel Rouge Coco Shine products, but it's not an 80s revival. Then there was its longevity and the strong stain left behind. It started as I first swatched it on my arm and had to use an oil cleanser to get it completely off, and kept this much-desired trait when I started wearing it. Very impressive for a lightweight high-moisture lipstick.

Téméraire ("temporary", ironically "Reckless") is a complex rich red. At first I thought it was leaning warm (the whole autumn thing), but it doesn't really, especially compared to the equally gorgeous Chanel Glossimer in Chene Rouge from the same collection. It's very flattering and I suspect that most skin tones can work with Téméraire. I, for one, am not waiting for the weather to cool down and become autumnal.

Bottom Line: Love.

Chanel Rouge Coco Shine Téméraire from Fall 2015 Les Automnales collection ($36, made in France) is available from and is already at most counters.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Amouage Opus IX

The other day the Husband and I fumigated Union County, NJ with our sillage as we went antiquing wearing Dior Gris Montaigne (him) and Amouage Opus IX (me). Nothing could stand in our way. I think it was the first time since starting to wear Opus IX a couple of months ago that I fully got it and felt more joy than conflicting emotions at the way the perfume soared and wafted through aisles of art deco, mid-century modern and Victorian items, piles of dusty debris from the past ripe for the picking. It felt right at home at the cavernous warehouse.

Opus IX needs its space. Amouage creative director Christopher Chong cites opera singer Maria Callas in La Traviata as his inspiration. This is supposed to be a diva clad in red velvet, and leather, adorned with a red camellia; someone ready to take center stage. The story of La Traviata is based on Alexander Dumas novel 'La Dame Aux Camélias', which for me will forever be embodied by Greta Garbo and white camellias (yes, I know that Sara Bernhardt was there before, but my Camille is Garbo, forever and ever). This is a whole different story. Louder, more passionate, and in the end more tragic.

But Opus IX is not all indoles, jasmine, growling animals and civet. One of the risks of sharing a perfume wardrobe and samples with another person is discovering that your partner smells a lot better in something you're desperately trying to befriend. Smelling Opus IX on the husband is a completely different experience. Gone are the dramatic shenanigans and loud scenes that spill into the street and give gossip fodder for years to come. Instead, here are sparkling florals over an incredibly noble and expensive ambergris.

I admit that up until a couple of years ago I didn't pay much attention to the existence of red camellias. Then I saw a Chanel line of red clutches of wallets embossed with them, making me perfectly willing to sell my soul for all eternity for one. The Japanese charm of these glorious flowers is also expressed in the perfume. There's a burst of sunny florals (probably not really camellias as those are more or less scentless) that demand attention and admiration like the best of the divas. The rich and thick jasmine is unmistakable. I didn't even know they could still make such bold and indolic jasmine perfumes that drips and melts into a honeyed base without losing foot (or sillage). On the husband the peppery woods are more apparent and much better behave- he smells of good perfume while I'm just steeped in a big pot of debauchery. I get more of what the Black Narcissus found disturbing and troubling in his review last week, while Opus IX has the potential to also be a stunningly beautiful perfume, depending on skin chemistry (and perhaps one's imagination).

Notes: camelia, jasmine, black pepper, guaiac wood, leather, beeswax, vetiver, ambergris, and civet.

Amouage Opus IX ($355, 100ml eau de parfum) is available from Osswald NYC, Luckyscent, and the other usual suspects who stock Amouage. The product for this review was sent directly from Amouage.

Maria Callas by Henry Kroener, 1956
Camellia Blossoms by Irving R. Wiled, 1889
Camellia at Ueno Shimotera in the Eastern Capital by  Utagawa Hiroshige II (Shigenobu), 1866

Monday, July 27, 2015

Chanel Fall 2015 Alezane Joues Contraste Blush Collection Les Automales

It's been a long time since I fell in love with an entire Chanel collection. Les Automnales for fall 2015 hit the spot for me in such a way I actually had to make difficult decisions on what I can live without (mostly eyeliners. Let's face it: not Chanel's strongest suit). But I had to get the blush.

Alezane (#260) is a stunning terracotta color, on trend with the back to the 1990s warm browns and a perfect transition into fall shade that coordinates well with the eye quad that I'll show you later in the week. The swatch speaks for itself, but there's one issue that needs to be addressed: sparkle. Lots and lots of sparkle.

The texture of Alezane itself is silky and incredibly beautiful, on par with Chanel's greatest. Dipping your finger or brush (any brush. It works with everything) into the beautiful dome is a pleasure, as is blending it onto the cheeks. However, the teeny tiny gold flecks you barely see in the pan or in the arm swatch show up much more on the face and they're actually a veil of micro gold glitter that cannot be ignored. There's so much of these particles that I'm not sure this Chanel Blush is workplace appropriate. Personally I don't care. I don't have an office job and don't need to rush into PTA meetings and such. But the visible glitter, as finely milled as it appears, is enough to make me not wear a highlighter with this blush under any circumstances, and question the powers-that-be at Chanel what exactly they were thinking.

Azelane is such a beautiful blush, warm and very Mediterranean in feel. But I know that the amount of gold sparkle would make many people pause before buying or wearing it, which is a shame. This color and texture would delight many otherwise, and had the potential to be a cult blush.

Bottom Line: are you ready to shine?

Chanel Fall 2015 Alezane Joues Contraste Blush ($45, made in France) from Collection Les Automales is available online from and is arriving at the counters as we speak.

Friday, July 24, 2015

PSA: A Huge Sale On Kiko Cosmetics ONLINE

Not only did Kiko Cosmetics launch a new online store for the US (, but there's also a big BIG sale on the majority of the products (in the few Kiko brick & mortar stores as well). The prices are jaw-dropping low (eye shadows starting at $1.90), and since I was already mighty impressed with the items I bought a few months ago some shopping has occurred.

What will you buy?

Image: Vogue, May 1959 via

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel- Brunette & Granite

My teenage self would have never believed it, but I needed to thicken my eyebrows. Neither would those who used to make fun of me.  But just like my eye sight and metabolism, my brows are not what they used to be. It's not that I'm paying the price of 1990s constant overplucking (I rarely did that), nor am I trying to get the Cara Delevinge look or even Instagram brows. I simply need a bit more volume, in the same vein that a good mascara plumps up the lashes. Hence the purchases of Anastasia Tinted Brow Gel.

I first got the one in Brunette, because I've been using Anastasia Brow Powder Duo in Brunette for years. I usually mix a bit of the darker side into the lighter one and that's a perfect color for me. Now, I think that in the recent reshuffling of the products Anastasia has changed things around, as my old Brunette (Dark Brown) looks more like the current Medium Brown. It's definitely (used to be) cooler toned. I also have the old Brow Wiz pencil in Brunette (now called Dark Brown), but I don't use it as often because pencils give a more defined look and I usually prefer it to be softer. Which leaves me wondering why on Earth is the Brunette Brow Gel significantly lighter and browner than its equivalents in other formulas, especially as it's described as a "medium taupe brown".

There's nothing wrong with it and I can and do wear Brunette on its own, but it's slightly more true brown than I prefer, and half a shade too light, making it a bit too obvious and Instagramy for me. It would have looked perfect on my sister, I think, as her hair color is a shade lighter but her undertones are in the same ballpark as mine (despite having a significantly lighter skin). But I loved the extra bushiness the gel gave my my eyebrows and the fact that its extremely tenacious (though I wouldn't risky in 100 degrees and high humidity. That's where a waterproof pencil topped with powder are for). Hence my purchase of a second Anastasia Brow Gel, this time in Granite.

Described as a "grayish taupe", Granite is a really really dark ashy brown. This time a full shade too dark. When my eyebrows were naturally thicker I could get away with almost anything, including wearing a touch of Bobbi Brown espresso eye shadow to fill the sparse area at the tail. That's no longer the case, so my latest solution is adding a smidge of Granite to Brunette and all is well, except my patience. I think I'm back to using a powder.

Other details worth noting: the brush is relatively large, so I doubt it would suit those with little to no brows as they need a more precise application. It works for me well, though, as the product finds enough hair to hold onto. The other things is that the brush picks up and deposits a lot more product than I need, so I have to wipe it on the edge of the tube. Otherwise I get very crunchy brows.

Bottom Line: fabulous formula, could use more color options and perhaps a smaller brush.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Tinted Brow Gel ($22 each, made in USA) is available from Ulta and Sephora.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum

I told you last month that I had a major disappointment when using a vitamin C serum from Peter Thomas Roth that did absolutely nothing for me. My next step was trying to find a new product that will be at least as effective as previous C serums I've used but will not stink to high heaven. A friend recommended a NeoStrata serum, but it was one of the Canada-only products, and I needed an immediate solution. So I went with the surprisingly cheap option of Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum.

Why was I so keen on finding a vitamin C? It's an antioxidant that fights free radicals (a major skin destroyer) and boosts collagen production (basically, that's the meaning of that hateful term "anti-aging"). Recent studies also show that the best and most stable form of vitamin C in cosmetics, l-ascobic acid, can reduce skin water loss and increase moisture content in the skin, thus helping to keep it hydrated. And the last benefit is correcting sun damage: Vitamin C has skin-lightening properties that help reduce dark spots (not just sun spots, but also acne marks). It's science, not magic, and good results are contingent on consistent use of the serum as part of one's skincare regimen that needs to include retinoids, AHA, a good moisturizer, and most important: an effective sun block (applied zealously).

The difference was visible after only a couple of days. Smoother skin, shrunken pores, better moisture absorption, a certain brightness that disappeared during the PTR month. Basically, all the benefits you want to see from your vitamin C serum. I use a moisturizer over it (absorption time is seconds), and can forget all about it once I step out of the bathroom. There's no stickiness and no trail of hot dog smell (there's only the faintest smell of... something, but it doesn't linger).

It seems that in the last six months Timeless has tweaked the formula. Previously it contained fragrance while the one I have and the updated ingredient list are free of it (the photo of the bottle on their website is of the old label). They may have also changed the vitamin E from Alpha Tocopherol to something else, but they're not clear about that. In any case, I love it and highly recommend giving this serum a try.

Ingredients: water, ethoxysiglycol, L-ascorbic acid, propylene glycol,vitamin E, polysorbate 80, panthenol, ferulic acid, sodium hyaluronate, benzylalcohol, dehydroacetic acid.

Timeless 20% Vitamin C + E Ferulic Acid Serum ($24.95, made in USA) is available from

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Aftelier- Bergamoss (Solid Perfume)

This one is for oakmoss lovers.

There's no way to mistake Bergamoss for anything other but a well-chiseled chypre. You can almost taste the green velvety magic of yore. Yet, this new perfume in solid form by Mandy Aftel of Aftelier does not smell "vintage" at all. Despite the structure, in spite of the very real ingredients (oakmoss, coumarin, and antique civet, among other things!), Bergamoss smells modern. Related to classic perfumes? Definitely. But it's a different interpretation, even more abstract.

Chypres have an inherent duality. They soar upwards, piercing the air like a bird of pray. But they also pull you into the depth of an enchanted forest where thick moss and damp earth make a dreamy carpet. Of course, this can be reined in and civilized to the nth degree with the help of leather whips, Dior handbags, or layers upon layers of peach chiffon. Bergamoss possesses all of these qualities. The opening is bracing and tart as the bergamot and its family of citrus rinds come alive on skin. At first one thinks this is going to be a crisp and curt perfume, maybe followed by galbanum. But, no. The bitterness is cut short by rounder and warmer notes, and Bergamoss becomes less green and fresh, more yellowish. The texture is soft and inviting, petals over velvet, though it's extremely hard for me to pinpoint the specifics without Mandy Aftel's own description of rose, peach, and tobacco. The warmth is obvious, though, as is the spiciness that goes along with it, and eases the fragrance towards the dry-down.

The solid form of Bergamoss feels perfect for the tactile sensation it creates. While the sillage of a solid perfume is more subdued, especially in the opening, as the waxy material warms up on skin you're engulfed in the beauty of its depth and complexity (it's incredibly long-lasting, though, even in tiny amounts). There's a shadow of sweetness that complements the musky animalic aroma that lurks just under the surface. The oakmoss is at its thickest, making me want to roll in it and never ever stop.

Notes: bergamot, sweet orange, peach, rose, tobacco, nutmeg, oakmoss, flouve absolute (a sweet French grass, according to Mandy Aftel), coumarin, antique civet.

Bergamoss by Aftelier is an all-natural solid perfume. It's in no way vegan, as the base material combines beeswax with jojoba oil, and the perfume itself uses antique but real civet. $240 on for 1/4 oz of perfume in a sterling silver compact. Samples are available for $6. The sample for this review was sent by the perfumer.

Art: Odilon Redon - Trees on a Yellow Background (one of the panels painted for the dining room of the Château de Domecy-sur-le-Vault). 1901

Lancôme - Partner In Crime Color Design Eye Shadow

I came, I swatched, I bought.

This was an impulse purchase. I was at my local Ulta (how many misdeed stories start like this?) where they have a full Lancôme counter when this Color Design single eye shadow, Partner In Crime,  twinkled at me. The color, a slightly grayed out antique gold kind of thing with a shimmering metallic finish looked unique enough to be swtached. I was thrilled to see that it's the new and improved Lancôme formula, that's smoother and more buttery than ever before.

The color of Partner In Crime is even more interesting when applied. It's not dramatic, but it definitely attracts attention to the luminous not-too-light/not-too-dark shade. It's also long-wearing as long as you're not an eye rubber, and even more important: the color stays true throughout the day (I do use a primer). Application is easy (you can pack it on or sheer it out), and thanks to the smooth and almost creamy formula there's no shimmery debris falling on the cheeks (I'm guessing this also depends on the brush).

Bottom Line: Yes.

Lancôme - Partner In Crime Color Design Eye Shadow ($20, made in Canada) is available at the counters, Sephora, select Ulta locations, and

(Photos taken inside my perfume cabinets among various vintage and semi-vintage Lancome perfumes)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Acqua di Parma- Colonia Ambra

Nobody makes summer perfumes quite like Acqua di Parma. Between their many variations on the eau de cologne theme and their beachy Blu Mediterraneo series. Now they've created a darker yet still fit-for-summer fragrance as part of the Ingredient series (along with Colonia Leather and Colonia Oud). This is Colonia Ambra.

The Husband, who's been testing Colonia Ambra along with me, had two initial observations: 1) this isn't exactly an amber perfume, and 2) it's really really good. I agree with both. This isn't a vanillic/benzoin amber or a sweet resinous one. The "Ambra" here is ambergris (or, more likely, its approximation as a perfume note and not the actual animalic ingredient), which contributes to the nautical impression created here. But you know what I smell most? Leather.  Smooth, musky, luxuriously lightweight, elegant leather.

Even in the relatively light/fresh opening there's a slash of bitterness, A hint of dry grass growing by the beach, (fantasy) driftwood, and polished old wood. The leather is surrounded by a classic gentleman's cologne notes, crisp and herbal (in his NST review Kevin calls it "vintage/barbershop aftershave lotion"), but it's still a very effective leather that should appeal to both men and women who adore this smell and want an easy to wear, surprisingly summery fragrance.

As Kevin mentioned in the review I linked above, this Acqua di Parma perfume is free of the dreaded marine notes. It's beachy without being aquatic (or tropical or nostalgic in the Coppertone way). The saltiness is very subtle, as is just about everything in Ambra. It makes me think of an old world seaside hotel and a vacation that includes dressing up for a tasteful afternoon tea  by the window facing the water.

Ambra behaves in the heat, asserts itself just enough as not evaporate into nothingness, and stays put for about eight hours, maybe more. It gives a clean air even in the clammy soup that is our current weather, which I appreciate greatly. And as I mentioned above, it's also 100% Husband approved. I think he considers the bottle his own. He's wrong about that.

Notes: orange, bergamot, petitgrain, nagarmotha, cedar wood , rosewood, musk, patchouli, ambergris, sandalwood, vanilla.

Acqua di Parma Colonia Ambra Eau de Cologne Concentrée (100 ml, $220) is available from Sephora and select department stores. The product for this review was sent by PR.

Tarte Fearless Amazonian Clay Blush

It was after using up a couple of those sample cards of Fearless (I think they came with various Sephora orders) that I realized I had to have this blush. Tarte Amazonian Clay Blush in Fearless is a pink-leaning coral that is just bright enough without going all neon orange. I simply fell in love with the color, even though I never got what was the big deal about the Amazonian Clay products.

It's a nice matte blush that goes on smoothly and is easy to blend.  I can't say that there's anything in the texture or finish that is superior to equivalent makeup from other mid-range brands. While neither chalky nor powdery, the Amazonian Clay blushes are on the dry side, which you can see in the swatch (done over completely bare skin, no primer or moisturizer applied). But these are good products, they perform well (ignore that 12-hour silliness. Any decent blush stays on over a well-applied base), and as I said: it's all about the color. I apply it with my standard Hakuhodo 210 and make sure to blend well (it IS a bright blush). The result is pretty, summery, and just a joy to wear.

I have to tell you that this blush lead the way to some additional Tarte purchases, lip colors in particular, because there's a Fearless lip gloss (currently lost in one of my purses), not to mention other adorable colors in various formulas. Ulta can be a very danger place when you're just looking for a hair mask.

Bottom Line: I regret nothing.

Tarte Fearless Amazonian Clay Blush ($28, made in the USA) is available from Ulta, Sephora, and

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Calvin Klein- Eternity (Revisited)

I actually used to really like Eternity.

I know.

I talked about it briefly before, but didn't spend much time re-sniffing or even wearing Eternity. Not enough to actually think about it seriously, despite having several old and older partial bottles around, including my last one from 1993, which is what I'm wearing right at this moment. I'm not sure that I'm having fun yet, but still, there's something about this Calvin Klein perfume beside the nostalgia.

It's funny that I used to perceive Eternity as a mostly white floral, when it's clearly yellow and sunny. Perhaps it was the combination of lily and muguet notes, or maybe the black-and-white ads that formed my idea of what this was all about. The best part of Eternity is the lush carnation bouquet surrounded by greenery and enhanced with marigold. It's realistic enough to be nose-singeing and cute at the same time. I get what I saw in it, but it's the rest of the flowers that were thrown in that I can now barely stand. It seems that in an effort to make the fragrance fresher, cleaner, and more watery it was infused with so much freesia that it's actually stomach-turning to my 2015 self.

Realizing that Eternity is an aquatic floral is quite a shock to me. No wonder that I didn't want to touch it much after the mid 90s. How did I even tolerate it before? The answer is perhaps in the light and cheerful woody-floral-musk dry-down and the unrelenting longevity that served me well on long days of work/school/travel during a couple of years that I lived out of a weekend bag. Still, the synthetic screech on my skin is alarming, and we're talking about juice from a really old bottle, so we can't blame the cheapening formula. In newer iteration the bold carnation have been tamed, but I haven't tried an Eternity from the last decade, so I can't comment on further changes. Believe me, the old stuff is unsettling enough.

How would I feel if I didn't have some good memories tied to wearing Eternity? Utterly disgusted, I'm afraid. The battle between the peppery carnation and the bilge water that makes the majority of what I smell on my skin is not pleasant. Musky florals tend to bore me, but I don't even get the luxury of meh in this case. Just a big old "what was I thinking?", and the urge to scrub myself to the bone.

You'll have to excuse me as I go to boil myself in the shower and then dab some MKK to soothe my soul.

Chantecaille Liquid Lumière In Luster

A sure sign that a product has become a big favorite is when I don't bother to put it away after every use and just leave it out for easy access. Normally all my makeup is organized in drawers by category (and sometimes also texture, such as cream blushes vs. powder blushes). It usually happens when I'm obsessed with a lip color or an eye shadow palette, but lately it's a highlighter: Chantecaille Liquid Lumière in Luster, a reddish shade that isn't too obvious and works well with just about everything I throw at it.

Chantecaille Liquid Lumière is a lightweight cream highlighter that has an almost gel-like texture but a more dense finish at first sight.However, since you can use it under, over, or blended with other face products, Liquid Lumière is incredibly versatile, and can appear whisper light and very subtle, just an added glow to your base and not full-on strobing.

I've tried Luster using all the techniques Chantecaille suggests. Here are my findings:

1. mixed with Cover FX drops (N35),  2. mixed with MAC F&B (C3),  3. mixed with a DHC serum 4&5. same swatches as above

*As a finishing touch over makeup: this gets the most noticeable effect, and looks very pretty as a complement to cream blush. However, I find that longevity is lacking and the highlighter fades into the rest of my makeup within a couple of hours. It's probably because the formula contains quite a bit of skincare-type ingredients which are supposed to merge with the skin.

* Mixed with skincare, under the base: doing this allows you to use the highlighter all over the face as an allover glow under your foundation. It's subtle, but very pretty, and adds a lovely dimension to my skin. The pigment in Luster is very flattering- just enough warmth to give the face a boost.

*Mixed with a primer: pretty much the same as above. Works better with light, non-silicone primers.

* Mixed with foundation or tinted moisturizer: produces the best longevity. It's probably a good idea to only apply on certain parts of the face where you actually want a noticeable glow, and use plain foundation elsewhere.

Bottom Line: summer love.

Chantecaille Liquid Lumière In Luster ($39, made in the USA) is available at select department stores, Space NK, and The product for this review was sent by PR.

10 Perfumes I Still Don't Like

From the very beginning of this blog I've been telling you stories of changing my mind about various perfumes. Years of constant perfume testing have taught me to never say never because today's scrubber might turn into my next true love. Except for when it doesn't. And this can happen with classic fragrances, huge best sellers, or niche favorites. Sometimes it just doesn't work, and even Uncle Serge can't change this basic fact. Here are ten perfumes I've never learned to love.

  • Dior- J'Adore. Not even Charlize Throne can make it work for me. Kind of like Sean Penn.
  • L'Artisan- Mure et Musc. I've tried every version and concentration. It's still a fruity nightmare.
  • Thierry Mugler- Angel. Do I really need to explain? 
  • Guerlain- L'Instant. The same also goes for the Homme version and most flankers. It's a matter of skin chemistry, of course, but on me this modern Guerlain becomes a shrill mess. I blame the apple note. Or something.
  • Guerlain- Insolence. Even Maurice Roucel's magic touch doesn't help here. Too much fruit, too little violet and iris, too high expectation.
  • Serge Lutens- Datura Noir. I came around to Arabie, I can now deal with Serge Noire, but Audrey II is still my nemesis.
  • Frederic Malle- Lys Mediterranee. I wrote the review on a rare week that Lys actually worked for me. I'm pretty sure it hasn't happened since.
  • Montale Black Aoud. As far as I know, Black Aoud is the perfume that made Montale into a niche sensation. Sadly, it's also the classic example where a rose note turns sour and rancid on my skin.
  • Chanel- Coco Mademoiselle. Reports say that Coco Mademoiselle have surpassed No.5 as the biggest seller for Chanel. I want to cry tears of fruitcouli.
  • Hermes- The entire Jardin series. I'm not even talking about the melon bomb of Apres la Mousson. Even the figgy Jardin En Mediterranee doesn't sit well with me, and you know where I stand about fig. All the Jardins screech, they stick, they claw at my nose and skin. It's not me, Jean-Claude. It's you.
How about you? are they any mega bestsellers or revered classics you never want to be around?

Photo via The Daily Mail

Monday, July 13, 2015

Gena Ultimate Spa Fission Likepumice

Cuban socialite Aline Johnson gets a pedicure, 1946. Image: Nina Leen/TimeLife Pictures

LikePumice by Gena, a spa and salon brand, is one of the most effective and interesting foot care product I've encountered. It's a foam that makes dead skin melt away within minutes and leaves my feet delightfully soft between pedicures, even after a summer day at the flea market. The canister and the dispensed product look like hair mousse at first, but after you let it sit for a minute and start massaging the stuff into your feet this impression changes drastically.

A few things to note:

* You need to shake the bottle very very well, especially after you've had it for several months, because the product tend to separate. It doesn't became less effective, but you need to mix the stuff back together.
* It's highly recommended to do the sloughing in the bath or shower, because things get messy and you want to be able to rinse away the icky skin debris.
* Your hands also get exfoliated at the same time, which I like, but if you have a reason to avoid it (sensitivity, injury), wear plastic or latex gloves.
* While LikePumice is extremely effective on dry skin and feet that are between pedicures, if you have serious callouses I'd recommend starting with a good soak and a foot file (this is the elventy seventh time I'm mentioning Diamancel Foot Buffer #11, but seriously, it should live in every shower). I never tried this Gena product on anything worse than "regular" dry feet, so I can't comment on heavy duty performance, it's just a logical assumption.

Bottom Line: Highly recommended. As long as you don't get freaked out by dead skin floating in the tub.

Gena Ultimate Spa Fission Likepumice is about $12 on Amazon, but can be found cheaper (as well as more expensive) at select nail salon and online supply stores.

2016 Update: Please read this post for more information about ingredients and effectiveness. 

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Bois 1920- Sutra Ylang

Sutra Ylang by Bois 1920 has as much to do with ylang-ylang as their Sushi Imperiale is related to raw fish. This 2005 release, one of Bois 1920 eight original creations, is a beautiful light floriental with a complex spicy edge that smells like a proper perfume. It's well-blended, sophisticated, and somehow manages not to overwhelm even in the summer heat.

Sutra Ylang and the rest of the Bois 1920 perfumes from 2005-2006 take me back to that time when "niche perfumes" seemed like the great new hope for fragrance connoisseurs. Bois 1920 was never quite as hyped as other lines that popped up at the time (the only other review of Sutra Ylang I could find is by Angela of NST), and none of the perfumes have become cult classics. It's a shame, really, since they really are very good: interesting enough, nothing weird for the sake of weirdness, and they exude equal parts of cool and quality.  Sutra Ylang is a great example of that.

The perfume opens sunny and airy. Citrus zest is carried in the air of a summer garden, where an abundance of flowers and herbs grow nearly wild in mid-July. It gives me the impression of an old Italian villa, a beautiful path lined with white stone benches leading towards the heart of the garden, where an antique fountain is hidden among the bay laurel shrubs. Speaking of which, the bay leaf is the real hook for me in this perfumes. There aren't enough perfumes that let it shine as well as it does in Sutra Ylang, where it serves as a perfect transition from the light breezy florals to to the heavier wood/amber base.

The dry-down serves a few surprises of its own. There's a perfect balance between the clean and proper and something deeper, sweeter, and dare I say skankier with a hint of almost-vintage like sensibility. Not enough of the latter, maybe, but Sutra Ylang still has that very perfumy vibe, neither masculine nor particularly feminine; just lavish and full of character, even if it remains on skin level and not as a mega sillage.

Like all Bois 1920 perfumes, Sutra Ylang is an eau de toilette that would have greatly benefited from a higher concentration. Longevity is questionable unless I saturate and marinate myself, which I admit to be happy to do. My cats find it highly objectionable, which is a rarity for these long-suffering felines who seem to have become completely indifferent to most perfume notes. Then again, I really do go to town spraying it.

Notes: bergamot, lemon, cardamom, bay leaf, rose, jasmine, violet, lily, carnation, sandalwood, cedar, benzoin, oakmoss, amber.

Sutra Ylang by Bois 1920 retails for $205 at Luckyscent and Barneys, but it seems that ever since 2008 when Angela's post was written you can usually find it significantly cheaper from various online discounters. Google is your friend.

Art: Dolce Far Niente by Will Hicok Low (c.1890)

Marc Jacobs Enamored Lips & Nails

This bunch of irresistible lip and nail colors came from Marc Jacobs and brightened a soggy summer day a few weeks ago. The shades are rather timeless, but have enough punch to make them fun for summer. And since when can I resist a good red nail polish?

The glosses, Marc Jacobs Enamored Hi-Shine Lip Lacquer, are semi sheer. The texture is among my favorites, not too sticky and very (very!) moisturizing. It reminds me of Cover FX Mint Glaze (do they still make it?) both in scent/smell and in the nice effect they have on the lips. Since the glosses actually contain peppermint oil those of you who are sensitive should avoid it. The colors I was sent are:
Love Drunk- a true mauve with barely noticeable gold shimmer (I had to tweak the lighting and find the perfect angle so you can actually see it). This is my favorite of the three and most days it lives in my purse for touchups.
Moonglow- a beige pink/nude that is 100% not my color, so I haven't tested it on my lips beyond the arm swatch. A friend with a better coloring than mine is getting it.
Uproar- a light orange shimmer that gives my lips just enough color to coordinate with a warm makeup look. It's easy to wear, fun, and can make the perfect orange for those afraid of orange lips.

I already knew that Marc Jacobs Enamored  Hi-Shine Nail Lacquer formula is utterly lovely (I had and shattered Delphine before I had the chance to show it to you). It applies easily and has a decent longevity for a non-salon brand (four days before you see tip-wear). These days I get color gel done on my nails (it's worth a separate post), but I take my own colors to salon for my pedicure, and these perform perfectly (and get many compliments from the techs and other patrons).

Jezebel- Cherry red, cream finish, my signature color. It's as close as anything can get to the glorious (discontinued) RBL Killa Red. Three coats recommended, two are the minimum.
Le Charm- Shimmery peach with extra silver shimmer. It's a bottled summer day, requires two coats. The photo on Sephora's website couldn't be more off.
Petra. A Stunning complex silvered dark purple with some warm/bronze leaning. One coat is enough, which makes me love it even more. Photos don't do justice, and I think I'm going to break a three month red streak and get it on my toes tomorrow.

Bottom Line: Yes, please.

Marc Jacobs Enamored Hi-Shine Lip Lacquer ($28 each) and Enamored  Hi-Shine Nail Lacquer ($18 each) are available from Sephora. All the products for this review were sent by PR.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Acqua di Parma- Fico di Amalfi (Blu Mediterraneo)

Last year the Blond and visited the Amalfi Coast in the spring. It was lemon season, with bursts of yellow colors everywhere, limoncello stands and lemon ice sold from vans and those little three wheel sort-of-cars along the winding roads. Here and there, though, I could see something else among the lemon and orange lemon groves: fig trees with tiny green, months away from ripening fruit. Long time readers may remember that figs are my favorite fruit, and the intoxicating smell of fig trees is the one thing I'm really missing here in the Northeast. It reminds me of many places from my past, most of all my Italian honeymoon. So instead of eating figs until  I can no longer move, I collect and wear fig perfumes.

Fico di amalfi from Acqua di Parma's Blu Mediterraneo series is a perfect summer fragrance, especially if you prefer your perfume on the light and citrusy side. The Amalfi connection is obvious from the bright lemon and orange notes, more zesty than juicy, with a touch of floral flutter. This is the Amalfi coast, after all. But I'm here for the fig, which is just a bit leafy, a touch woody, and dries down to a very smooth and light milky musk while still holding to the figginess. It's also quite dry, free of sweetness, and has a brisk cedar note that will make the fragrance just as appealing to men as it is to women.

 Acqua di Parma's Blu Mediterraneo range is incredibly light and unobtrusive. It shimmers in the air when you first spray it, then settle closer to the skin. I spray myself with Fico di Amalfi like it's my job, deeply marinating my skin, hair and clothes in order for it to stick (I should really get the body lotion for added oomph). Eight to ten spritzes that include my scarf and/or summer cardigan actually last all day long, emphasizing the musky woody fig that's in the base of the perfume. The initial application to my wrists and neck disappears within less than four hours, but since I really go to town with it and trap the scent all around me in layers, I get the easy breezy casual and uplifting scent of the gorgeous Amalfi coast to stay with me and make me happy throughout the day.

Notes: bergamot, orange, lemon, grapefruit, mandarin wood, fig, pink pepper, jasmine, musk, cedar, and fig milk.

Acqua di Parma- Fico di Amalfi ($100, 2.5oz) is available from Nordstrom and other select stores. I received a press sample from the brand's PR.

Image: Amalfi by Georges Barbier, 1922, outfit by Worth.

Laneige Water sleeping Mask & firming Sleeping Mask

I discovered these two masks during allergy season when I was about to claw my face off. I was reading online, desperately searching for something that would help calm and restore my itchy and burning face, and got some advice about Laneige, a Korean brand that's part of the AmorePacific roster, but miraculously is sold  at Target, of all places, and priced accordingly.  There are two target stores in my immediate reach, one on each side of the neighborhood, which is just one of the perks of North Jersey living (and almost makes up for our traffic situation). I sent The Husband to pick up the masks, because there was no way I was leaving the house in my drippy oozy state, and started applying as soon as I had them.

These are both sleeping masks, meaning stuff you apply before bed and let do its thing while you sleep, with no need to wash it off. The sheer colorless application also makes them perfect for air travel (see my previous posts here and here, and don't skip the Lisa Eldridge video I included). I was only flying high in my head (see Benadryl), and sleep was touch and go, but results of both product proved impeccable.

Laneige Water sleeping Mask is a gel that works in a similar way to old favorites such as the Dr.Jart or Sisley Black Rose, but even more effectively. My skin drinks every drop and wakes up fresh and smooth as new.The firming mas is a bit different, It looks opaque but goes on sheer, has a texture of a pudding or a panna cotta, and plumps up even the most ridiculously abused skin within 8-10 hours. I caould not believe my eyes, an interesting fact about the firming mask is that twenty for hours after you've dug in and used (1/4-1/2 a teaspoon) the product and it surface go back into smooth/untouched surface. Slightly freaky but very cool, and sort of explains what it does to your skin to get it into perfect shape.

Both Laeige masks did wonders for my skin in less than twenty four hours and have been since incorporated into my nightly routine, depending what else I'm slapping on. The seem to be bonding water to the skin at lightning fast rate, which was the right thing at the right time. Some of the ingredients seem more effective than others, but with all my skin sensitivity lately I had nothing but good reaction to it, and have I mentioned the calming effect? It's heaven.

Ingredients for Laneige Water Sleeping Mask:

Water, Butylene Glycol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Glycerin, Cyclohexasiloxane, Trehalose, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Fruit Extract, Beta-Glucan, Castanea Sativa (Chestnut) Seed Extract, Salix Nigra (Willow) Bark Extract, Hydroxypropyl Bispalmitamide MEA, Salicornia Herbacea Extract, 1,2-Hexanediol, Glycogen, Glutamic Acid, Dimethicone, Dimethicone/Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Dimethiconol, Lysine HCl, Magnesium Sulfate, Mannitol, Manganese Sulfate, Serine, Sucrose, Stearyl Behenate, Citrulline, Alanine, Arginine, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Zinc Sulfate, Caprylyl Glycol, Threonine, Polyglyceryl-3 Methylglucose Distearate, Polysorbate 20, Propanediol, PCA, Histidine HCl, Carbomer, Tromethamine, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Fragrance, Blue 1.
Laneige Firming Sleeping Mask looks even more science fiction like. Whatever is in there bonds the skin, plumps it, and create a lift that holds for hours. As long as you're not allergic to any of the ingredients and don't react to fragrance (a light spa-like floral thing that I catually enjoy), you're golden. /obviously, it's not a Botox alternative, but continued use shows that that my skin has never been happier (except when I succumb and eat coconut, but that's totally my fault).

Ingredient for the Firming Mask:

One thing to know is that this review is for the American version of Laneige products (made in Korea, but I can't guarantee that they're exactly similar to what you buy in Europe or in Asia (where the masks are known as "Sleeping Pack"). All I can say is that these are extremely sophisticated products that come from one of the most advanced skincare companies, so getting them at Target at such an attractive price is truly wonderful.

Bottom line: both Laneige sleep masks are excellent, nourishing, hydrating, plumping, and makes one feel incredibly good even at the height of ick season.

Laneige Water sleeping Mask ($23)  & firming Sleeping Mask ($30) are available at Target, in store and online.