Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Lancôme 80th Anniversary L'Absolou Rouge Lipstick Rouge Desir 1951

1952 Lancome advertising

Like most Lancôme special collections the 80 year anniversary lipsticks have a slightly different box

To celebrate their 80th anniversary, Lancôme launched three new shades in their L'Absolou Rouge range. The colors are based on nostalgic shades, but all look modern and wearable. And the formula is, of course, their very best. I chose Rouge Desir 1951 because Impatient 1949 was far too light and powdery  pink for me, and for some reason I decided that the redder Rose Tango 1958 would become more fuchsia on my lips (a decision I may need to revisit).  So 1951 it was, and at first I was taken aback slightly by its brightness. But the color is gorgeous, and depending on your skin tone and more important. lip pigmentation, this is incredibly wearable.

I don't post lip swatches for two reasons. First, as much as I like all of you, I don't want us to get so physically close (seriously, lip closeups freak me out a bit). But the more important reason is that my lips are naturally much darker than most and skew lip product colors so much that it would make the swatches ineffective and irrelevant for most. Usually people who share my skin tone have lighter lips with much less purple in them. Thus, my more neutral arm is better for showing the true color of any lipstick and you can mentally adjust for your own lips.

The bold pink element in Lancome's Rouge Desir 1951 is considerably toned down when I wear it. The red-based pink takes on a plummy undertone, while still giving my face a much-needed brightness. It's a cheerful color, more timeless and classic than a typical fall color, and I find it very flattering and kind of French in the best possible way (you know the look: mascara, maybe a hint of natural eye shadow in the crease, lipstick and nothing else. Or at least faking that "nothing else"). It's a color that makes me happy in one of my favorite lipstick formulas.

Like all Lancôme lipsticks, L'absolou Rouge is classically perfumed. It's smooth with little slip but a lot of moisture that makes it feel luxurious and healthy on the lips. The finish is satin, no sheen but not matte either.  Longevity is among the best I've came across. The lipstick holds on for dear life, leaving a stain that you need to actively remove with an oil-based or a dual-phase cleanser. Every time I swatched Rouge Desir on my arm I was left with its remnants even after multiple showers and using an oil cleanser. It might be a bit much, actually, but I think lips are a bit more willing to let go of the lipstick. Eventually.

Bottom Line: Beautiful.

Lancôme 80th Anniversary L'Absolou Rouge Lipstick Rouge Desir 1951 ($30.50, made in France) is a limited edition color and exclusive to ( in our case).

Roberto Cavalli- Oro

I was playing a little game with myself, trying to check my love/hate ratio of perfumes created by Maurice Roucel. Results were inconclusive, since you can't really pit Iris Silver Mist and Musc Ravageur against DKNY Be Delicious and its flankers. But in the process I took notes of Roucel perfumes that I've yet to try, hoping to find something interesting. And I did, in one of the least expected places: Oro from Roberto Cavalli.

Roberto Cavalli's aesthetics is fully embodied in the name, the bottle, and the advertisement imagery. I haven't quite acquired this taste, and snakes are not my dream pet (that would be a sea lion, thank you very much). But I remembered having a sample stashed somewhere and by some miracle actually managed to find it. By the end of that day I found myself using a discounter's coupon to buy Oro for the princely sum of just under $12. Before starting to type this review I did the same thing to buy a backup bottle, just to be safe. I had to.

Oro has nothing to do with a snake print chiffon dress by Roberto Cavalli. Instead, it's a complex spicy amber (Michael Edwards classifies it as a woody oriental in a classical form. I'm not going to argue), with a touch of a 1990s floriental (though it was released in 2004), a hint of the yummies, and a certain weirdness that I suspect is all Roucel. The opening is almost a gourmand. I think of it as a very very peppery honey, sweet yet biting. Maybe that's the snake in the dunes under the blazing sun. Or perhaps it's the sudden appearance of something I can only describe as a turmeric-laced iris (there's no turmeric listed among the official notes. It's probably just my mind being susceptible to all that yellow). I definitely smell a touch of heady florals that lift the scent up and give it a burst of lightness before heavier notes take over.  The piercing element continues to provide a counterbalance to the sap, wood, and thick amber that make the majority of Oro and caress the skin in a very suggestive way.

I have no doubt Oro was meant to be a very sexy perfume, and it is. But maybe not in the overt J-Lo in a Cavalli dress way. Classic ambers are often rich and velvety, warm and inviting. Oro is all that, and it manages to remain interesting and just quirky enough to keep the interest of this blogger who smelled a thousand ambers (and bought an alarming number of them).

Oro by Roberto Cavalli is no longer on the designer's official perfume page, which means its production has been discontinued. However, it's easy to find online from various sources for something between a peanut and a song.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Estee Lauder Sculpting Shadow Brush

It was the shape that caught my eye. I have quite a few eye contour brushes that are cut on an angle, but the precise curve of this Estee Lauder Sculpting Shadow Brush looked very interesting. Sculpting is a buzzword at the moment (I'm working on a review of the new Estee Lauder eye sculpting kit), and it's obvious that this brush was designed with that in mind: it's meant to go into the crease and create definition, as well as apply the base color on the lid. According to the people at Lauder, the thin edge can also be used for lining and detail work, but in my opinion it's harder to do since the brush head is rather big (compared to a detail brush).

Comparison to Hakuhodo S122 and G515, both softer and fuller than the Lauder, better for an overall light wash or blending, less accurate for placement.

Lauder offers a tighter shape and softer hair than Burberry #11 and the old By Terry one.

The box doesn't say what kind of hair was used for the brush. I thought it was natural goat, but Saks web site claims it's synthetic. Isn't it time that companies are required to give us this information? In any case, the hair used for Estee Lauder Sculpting Shadow Brush is wonderfully bouncy, packed to maximum effectiveness, and feels nice on the lid. It's not as heavenly soft as my Hakuhodo squirrel brushes (S122 and G515), but it's nicer to the touch than any other eye contour brushes in my collection, which should tell you  a thing or two.

Does the unique curve make a real difference? Not for me. My mobile lid is larger than the brush head, so it's not a "one swipe and you're done" tool. But it doesn't matter. Between the hair quality, density, and the basic good shape, this is a really good eye brush that allows for blending the lid color, the crease, and a transition shade with ease and accuracy. It picks an impressive amount of product (depending on the eye shadow itself, of course), and is effective for both placement and blending, making it a useful brush.

Bottom Line: very nice to have, even if you have other eye sculpting brushes.

Estee Lauder Sculpting Shadow Brush ($32, made in China) is available from most department stores. For some reason I can't find it on Lauder's website, but it's just about everywhere else.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Kevyn Aucoin- Helena Pure Powder Glow Blush

This is my favorite blush until further notice ("further notice" might come tomorrow or next week, but still). The Kevyn Aucoin brand has been revamping, reformulating, and refining the products. I was fond of Kevyn Aucoin products before, but after my first forays into the renewed line with this Pure Powder Glow blush in Helena I'm fully sold.

The new products come in a gold box, so it's easy to tell them apart from the old stock in the burgundy boxes that matched the compacts and tubes (beware of discounters). The blush came in a little velveteen pouch, which I think they started doing a couple of years ago (my oldest Kevyn Aucoin products didn't). Unnecessary, of course, but it tells you that the brand is aiming higher. The compact has a mirror but no silly little brush.

The texture of the Pure Powder Glow is fine and silky to the extreme. It gave me a wow moment he first time I touched it. It's as finely-milled as they come, yet doesn't create a cloud of debris around the compact when you dip your brush. The feel is almost creamy, and application is a luxurious pleasure. Helena is a medium pink with some warmth yet leans plum. It has an inner brightness (no shimmer or shine, just the promised glow) that enlivens the face even on the most sallow of days, and pulls a look together no matter what else I've been using.

I can pull off a relatively wide variety of blush colors (no orange, salmon, or deep peaches, and nothing even close to lilac or lavender), but I suspect that this is one of the most flattering colors I own right now. The exquisite formula (lasts from morning to night) is also a big incentive to wear it. Pigment intensity is among the highest around. I've been using duo-fiber brushes to keep the color manageable, otherwise I'd have to spend some serious blending time. A touch of the fluffy brush to the surface is all that it takes.  The swatch photo shows a completely unblended one swipe of Helena. In reality I wear about one third of this amount. It's really that good.

Bottom Line: can you blame me for coveting the ones in Neolita and Natura?

Kevyn Aucoin- Helena Pure Powder Glow Blush ($37, made in USA) is available from select department stores,, and Beautylish.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Shocking de Schiaparelli (Vintage Perfume)

Is Shocking de Schiaparelli still as shocking today as it was when the perfume launched in 1936-37? What is a shocking perfume, anyway? My guess is that anything heavy on civet still makes people take a step back and make that face (Joey Tribbiani's "Who Farted?!" is a good approximation), and Shocking is certainly a civet bomb. Then there's the honey note that not everyone tolerates, and the general heaviness of spice, opulent flowers, and the kind of musk you rarely smell anywhere nowadays. Does it shock me? Not any more than looking at the marvelous surrealistic designs of Elsa Schiaparelli does. I find them exquisite and fabulous; the same goes for the perfume.

Elsa Schiaparelli and her famous shoe hat

My bottle is from the latter years of the original formula (late 1950s to  circa 1960), and the raunchiness is there in full force. Less oriental-spicy than vintage Tabu to which it's often compared (see these reviews by Victoria of Bois de Jasmin and Angela on Now Smell This*), and more sparkling in the top notes (though that might just be pure luck, as the juice in this old Shocking bottle hasn't deteriorated too much). What's obvious is that Shocking was meant to be noticed. It's big-boned, floral to the extreme, and is dripping with honey, civet and oakmoss. All the good stuff.

It's the honey that makes the difference between Shocking and many other civet bombs of yore. It smells less of fur and layers of opulent clothes and more of warm naked skin. I guess that's the "shocking" elements. Yes, there are furs there and a leather bag, but the sweet honey, decaying roses, and heavy musk take the wearer into the boudoir more than to a 1930s nightclub.

To me, Shocking de Schiaparelli is one of the dirtiest and thickest classic chypres I know. It lays it on heavily, exaggerating every facet to a surprising extreme. It's distracting, disturbing, and exquisite in a way you'd expect from the fashion designer who gave us the lobster dress. The perfume "smells like vintage" in the best kind of way. The roses are red, realistic, and shed their petals all over the skin just as the musk seeps into it. It sounds a bit creepy, and I think that's the whole point. You get each individual part (where did they find this kind of ylang-ylang? and where can I get more?) and it all comes together and surrounds you in a virtual reality that makes you feel like you've just stepped into a George Cukor movie set where old Hollywood stars are about to surround you in tailored suits, sharp shoulder pads and sculpted hats.

You can read more and learn of the different style bottles between older and newer versions of Shocking in this blog post.

*In her delightful fashion thriller, Slain in Schiaparelli, Angela M. Sanders (that's Angela of NST) uses one of the designer's creepier gowns as a part of the plot, and it all fits together perfectly. The book is darker than its two fluffier predecessors and I liked it quite a bit.$3.99 for the Kindle versions on Amazon, for a good rainy night.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Stila Got Inked Cushion Eye Liner- Smoky Quartz Ink

It looks a bit like caviar, but it's just the spongy cushion reflecting the light from the shimmer.

After testing and loving that bright Stila Cusion Blush I told you I was going to get its cousin, Stila Got Inked Cushion Eye Liner, another Korean-made product. My original intention was to buy Blue Sapphire, but even I couldn't justify another blue eyeliner. So I picked Smoky Quartz, a complex shimmery blackened bronze color that reminded me of old eyeliner I had and enjoyed in the past, such as Lancome Artliner Gold Passion and Rouge Bunny Rouge Tiger Eye. I had a vacancy in my collection so I used them up years ago, and Stila's Smoky Quartz fit the bill.

You can see that the color is beautiful. The shimmer is bright but very fine, and doesn't flake off or fall into my eyes. It brightens the eye area, especially when using an all-matte eye shadow look. It adds just the right amount of shine and light, and the result is polished and flattering. Performance is excellent. The eyeliner sets within seconds and stays put without losing its luster or precision from morning to night. I've applied Stila Cushion Ink with several eyeliner brushes, and my personal preference is using very thin yet semi-firm brushes. If it's too floppy the brush will not get coated evenly with product. My leaning towards the thinner ones is because of the shiny finish, but if you want more impact you can definitely go for a wider brush. I have done it for an evening look and it was pretty.

A look at the ingredients:

Bottom Line: Maybe I do need the blue one after all.

Stila Got Inked Cushion Eye Liner- Smoky Quartz Ink ($28, made in Korea) is available from Nordstrom, Sephora, Ulta, and

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Parfumerie Generale- L'Ombre Fauve

Before Felanilla there was L'Ombre Fauve.

Perfumer Pierre Gillaume of Parfumerie Generale is an expert in taking innocent, often sweet elements, and infusing them with naughtiness. The word "fauve" is loaded with meaning: untamed and animalic, from the fur color of a wild animal, to the expressive avant-garde art movement from the turn of the 20th century (okay, also a much-beloved shade for eye shadows and the name of a Judith Krantz heroine). All of them are connected by a feral aspect, and somehow have found their way into this Parfumerie Generale fragrance (sans Ms. Kranz, though).

I remember my very first impression of L'Ombre Fauve back in 2007. At first dabbing I thought it was a simple powdery amber, just something soft for an autumn day. But slowly the shadows got longer, the perfume darker, and I could feel the eyes for the beast lurking in the darkness. To this day something in L'Ombre Fauve makes me self-conscious of the way I walk and carry myself. I'm swathed in amber and musk (a kind of civety musk, somewhere between the warm fur of MKK and the layered cashmere of Musc Ravageur), and it's so opulent and distinct that I need to live up to its promise.

The animalic facet of L'Ombre Fauve includes a hint of leather and a certain unwashed element just under the warmth of amber. There's a connection here to a very vintage civety Shalimar,  less sweet and only remotely vanillic, which is where this Parfumerie Generale creation differs from Felanilla that came out the year after. For men who are not afraid of powdery perfumes L'Ombre Fauve is probably easier to wear, and to me it's a somewhat less distracting bedtime scent, or the perfume I'd pick for the first real fall day when I reach for a favorite soft scarf, a darker lipstick, and a luxuriously soft handbag.

L'Ombre Fauve is pure pleasure. It's tactile, emotional, shamelessly perfumy, and sensual. There's an intimacy there, but the imaginary space where you and the beast are locked is not really closed off. There's a window open to the sounds and smells of a city. It may be happening in the distance, but the sound and smell of tires, a smoke coming from a faraway burning pile of twigs and dried leaves. Wherever you are, you are not alone. And the tiger retreats further into the shadows.

Parfumerie Generale- L'Ombre Fauve ($125, 50 ml eau de parfum) is available from Osswald NYC and Luckyscent.

Art: Le Tigre -Gaston Priou, 1933

Estee Lauder Pure color Envy Defining EyeShadow Wet/Dry- Impulsive Blonde, Amber Intrigue, Ominous

I used the very scientific method to pick three colors out of the new Estee Lauder Pure color Envy Defining EyeShadow line: staring hard and then doing an eeny-meeny-miney-mo. Seriously, almost all of them looked tempting and I could have gone in many directions. As it happened, I got two high shimmer ones and a matte (there are two other finishes, a semi-matte and a more satiny shimmer), all in neutral colors but with high impact.

The formula of Estee Lauder Pure color Envy Defining EyeShadow Wet/Dry is different from NARS Dual-Intensity, but usage and results are not far off. At first glance the product appear more like a traditional powder eye shadow, but once you get into them you see that they are very modern, intense, and wonderful to handle and apply. The wet/dry thing is not as dramatic as with NARS (where I've found it can be an overkill). You can see in the swatches that the difference between application methods is rather minimal, but it doesn't matter: there's enough pigment and luster as it is.

The eye shadows are soft yet dense and do not create a mess when you attack them with a brush (or on your face). They maintain their finish and color for the entire day (I do use a primer), are easy to place and blend, and are just really really good.

Back to the colors I got. Impulsive Blonde looks more interesting in the pan than on my skin and lids. I hoped to see more complexity, but the eye shadow is straight on yellowish champagne with a metallic finish (it's categorized as "Brilliant"). I use it to highlight the inner corner of the eye or dab it over another color in the middle of the lid. If you bought Impulsive Blonde I'm curious to know how you wear it.

Ominous also has the "Brilliant" finish, and it's my favorite of the bunch. In this case the color on skin is more interesting and complex than in the pan and gains an almost purplish tone on top of its gunmetal base. This is a beautiful and unique lid color, and I find it very flattering. Somehow it gives me an extra boost when I'm wearing my glasses.

Amber Intrigue is probably the least intriguing color-wise, but it's a pretty little thing with a rich and almost creamy matte texture. It looks like Dutch-processed cocoa (the photo on Lauder's website is incredibly misleading), and works beautifully to sculpt and add warmth to the crease. I love the texture so much I hope they add more shades with this matte finish (I'd love one in cadet blue, for example). This eye shadow looks and feels like it belongs in a Viseart palette, and that's a huge compliment.

Bottom Line: Estee Lauder is becoming one of the more interesting department store brands.

Estee Lauder Pure color Envy Defining EyeShadow Wet/Dry ($25 each, made in Italy) are available at the counters and online.

Monday, September 21, 2015

MAC M·A·Cnificent Me Collection Featuring Trésor Prijs

This morning I did something I've never done before: I kept refreshing the MAC Cosmetics page waiting for a special collection to come online so I could order a lipstick.

I've yet to meet Trésor Prijs in person, but she's part of the online fragrance and beauty community and we've been friends for a while. I'm not surprised she was chosen as one of six winners to represent the fall collection from MAC's MACnificent Me contest. Trésor is loving, strong, and full of hope. she's an inspiration to all who know her. and, yes, she's gorgeous. The lipstick she's wearing is the new limited edition My Inner Femme, an intense warm red. I hope to show you swatches later this week.

$17 on

You can read this Teen Vogue interview with Trésor  and watch the video of her behind the scenes:

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Top Ten Perfume Picks For Fall


O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

It's not quite October yet, but the mood is right. I want the moment to linger a bit more, the sky to remain this magical blue, to hang onto the ripeness and colors, and to what remains of late afternoon light. My perfume picks reflect this. A few are hangers-on from summer, because I can't let go of my tuberose. The others are mostly new and of-the-moment because, again, let's savor what we have now. The one exception isn't even vintage, just a 2007 modern gem that's one click (or one visit to Osswald or scent Bar) away.  These are my top ten fragrance choices for fall 2015. What are yours?
The last remnants of summer that make the transition well for me are the surprising and original Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Bleu. I wan't expecting this, either, but the crisp and slightly bitter lavender-iris blend won me over. The other ones are more obvious: the rich and slightly cluttered Marlowe from Jardins d'Ecrivains is a good fit with its hint of decay and vintage feel, while Neela Vermeire's Pichola is spicy, radiant and I'm simply refuse to let it go, summer, fall, or winter. There.
Almost continuing the theme of transition perfumes is Acqua di Parma Colonia Ambra. It's clear that I'm not ready to fully dive into my trusted favorite ambers just yet, but for a fall walk along the graying shore this light amber with a hint of driftwood and travel is perfection.
Irish Leather by Memo is from two years ago, but only became available in the US semi-recently. It's a green leather, slightly aromatic, and a big favorite of the Husband these days. I've been sneaking sprays quite often.
Parfumerie Generale's L'Ombre Fauve from 2007 is a terrific smooth and sensual woody musk, if I'm really pressed to define it. It's a skin scent in the best possible way, yet takes twists and turns on skin, allowing for new discoveries every time I wear it.
Speaking of skin scents, Mortal Skin by Stéphane Humbert Lucas marks a slight shift in the perfumer's work. A turn inwards instead of to the Middle East. The result goes extremely well with the first cashmere sweater of the season.
The next pick doesn't actually launch until next week, but the sample I got of Bruno Fazzolari's vintage-inspired Seyrig won me over as soon as I uncorked it. Floral and animalic, laced with all the good stuff of yore and rich enough to longer on a vintage silk scarf.  I think that Mr. Fazzolari is the most interesting emerging perfumer of the last couple of years, and his synergy of visual art and perfume is breathtaking.
Many people I know turn to classic chypres as soon as the first hint of fall arrives. I'm more of an "all chypre all the time" person, but in any case Bergamoss by Mandy Aftel of Aftelier is what every chypre lover has been praying for since 2005 or so. A solid perfume in an all-natural formula that belongs right beside me most precious vintage treasures.
The last perfume on my list is perhaps or more typical pick for the season.  Larmes du Désert by Atelier des Ors is a balsamic myrrh-laden incense. It's dry and bold, just smoky enough and perfect for that first night you light the fireplace.
Wishing you a happy fall, a happy Jewish New Year, or just happy everything (if you'r an Australian non-Jew). For more autumnal picks please visit my friends at Bois de Jasmin and Now Smell This (more links will be added as soon as they're live). 
Art: Alexandre de Riquer - Tardor (Autumn), 1897.

Becca Moonstone Shimmering Skin Perfector- Pressed

I figured it was time to try the pressed version of Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector when I realized that the fill level in my bottle  was getting lower rather quickly. What can I say? Just like anyone and their teenager cousin I've been a highlighting fiend this past year, and Becca Moonstone is probably the easiest to wear product I have in this category. I'll need to replace the bottle soon enough, but in the meantime I wanted to test the pressed powder and see how it compares.

Moonstone is a gorgeous color. A pale yellow gold that's not too yellow or too anything, delicate enough (not Tom Ford level, but still exceptional) to avoid the disco ball effect, and easy to blend with any brush you can think of: a fan, a tear-drop, a a wide fluffy one, an ultra soft and wide squirrel eye shadow brush... it all works, and I can highlight and diffuse to the desired degree. The initial effect is more intense than liquid Moonstone, and for this reason I prefer the original Shimmering Skin Perfector. I like to mix a drop or tow with my base products for a subtle effect, and like that in a small amount the liquid can be used all over the face, while the pressed powder is a bit of an overkill for that. But as a precise directional highlighting powder that blends right into the skin and gives a gorgeous glow, Moonstone is a pleasure to wear.There are no actual particles and I don't get shiny debris flying all over. The intensity level is reasonable. I know it looks bright as a straight swatch, but it's easy to sheer the powder into a veil of light, which is what we all want.

The color itself is magical, in my opinion. My skin tone and its weird undertones make very colorful highlighters look off more often than not. The almost lack of color with just a hint of gold works well for me and looks more natural than you'd expect. For reference, I'm technically between NC30-35 (closer to 30 these days), with a visible ashy green (not olive) cast, and not a hint of sunkissedness.

Bottom Line:  It ain't easy being green, but a good highlighter helps.

Becca Moonstone Shimmering Skin Perfector- Pressed ($38, made in USA) is available at Sephora.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Charlotte Tilbury Eyes to Mesmerise Cream Eyeshadow: Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Mona Lisa

The Minority Report

After my  "meh" feelings and being rather unimpressed with the initial Charlotte Tilbury line launch I was sort of won over by the stunning Norman Parkinson collection. Granted, I picked and chose carefully, but ended up with two items I cherish and use. Between that and the gorgeous (and well-accepted) Eyes to Mesmerize range of cream eye shadows I was ready to delve in head first and buy all six colors. Thankfully, logic won and I only got three: Cleopatra (a rich peacock shade. You know I had to), Marie Antoinette (a  dirty gold, very complex), and Mona Lisa (a chocolaty bronze). Looking at these Charlotte Tilbury eye shadow for the first time and swatching them on my hand nearly sent me online to purchase the other three. They were SO beautiful with their rich pigment, mousse-like texture, and gleaming finish.

So Beautiful.

And so disappointing once you actually start using them.

I've seen so many online reviews praising and admiring these cream shadows. Everyone loves them. But between me and one of my friends who bought a couple of them as well, we could not believe the dismal performance. It took me back years ago to when cream eye shadows were the underachievers and rather useless part of makeup collections. In her book Style Eyes, makeup artist Taylor Chang-Babaian wrote ''The challenge with cream shadows is that they tend to smear and melt, often creasing on eyelids almost as soon as they are applied. ...look for a key word such as 'creaseless' and a great return policy''. The book is awesome, by the way. I need to go back to some of her techniques. But in any case, it's been years since I've come across a bad cream shadow. Until now.

According to Charlotte Tilbury "...simply use your fingertip to add a sheer wash of color across the eyelid. For a more dramatic effect, use a damp or dry brush and apply across the eyelid and lower lash line for high-impact, high-shine color.". Sounds easy and straightforward, especially with such a luxurious texture and intense color. We all know that with cream shadows less is more and you need to work in thin even layers (well, that's true for all makeup, but especially here). There was no problem creating a light and smooth surface, but the cream started migrating right away. A primer is a must, and I've thrown my entire arsenal at it. Generally speaking, NARS was the most effective, as well as one of the Urban Decay primers (i can't remember which. I was working from samples). Serge Lutens was a disaster, as were Lancome and Lorac. I found a sample of Too Faced, and it was okay. But no matter what, I could not keep the color in place. And that was only half the trouble. Marie Antoinette scattered shimmer particles when I applied it with a brush. And I wasn't buffing for my life, just gently patting it down. The other ones didn't so maybe it's a faulty jar, but who knows. I've found that the most effective way of application is after priming the lids to scoop a tiny amount on the back of my hand and work carefully with a brush or a finger, using about half the amount you think you need.

So I guess I made it work, sort of. But the inexcusable flaw of Charlotte Tilbury Eyes to Mesmerise is longevity. They disintegrate, melt, or flake within three to four hours (I'm being generous). They're not an all day product, and not even suitable for a date night. They're pretty while they last, but what's the point of carefully doing your makeup to have the key element vanish and dissipate? Yes, I can try and anchor them into place by setting with a powder eye shadow on top, but doing that takes away the unique colors and the gleaming finish. So, once again, what's the point?

Bottom Line: a major disappointment.

Charlotte Tilbury Eyes to Mesmerise Cream Eyeshadow ($32 each, made in Italy) are available at select department store and on Beautylish.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Comptoir Sud Pacifique- Vanille Ambre

Today was not a perfume-testing day. I felt like a middle-schooler on the first day of summer break: drinking in the freedom until it got to my head like little bubbles of joy, not knowing what to do with all this skin space. I let myself go to town. Started the morning with a healthy dose of very vintage Maja along with my morning tea. They clashed marvelously and I didn't care one bit. I can pick up the scent of Maja in my dreams, since it's part of my earliest perfume memories. I went about my morning. Emails, social media, a few texts, blog stuff. Had cereal for lunch because I could, did more blog stuff, switched perfume to Gris Clair so I could go out and run some errands without getting weird looks at Target.

When I got home I saved a bunch of samples that Bob has sent flying when he took a less than graceful jump. I touched a mini of Alexis Karl's Body Made Luminous and it's exquisite residue remained on my fingers (some is still there, even now). At some point in the afternoon I started s-l-o-w-l-y going through the piles of stuff in my dressing room, putting things away for future testing, adding a layer of blue eye shadow because it was there, a highlighter, taking a sniff of Tam Dow because there was an extra sample at some nook or cranny, rubbing hand cream and a cuticle oil, sniffing a new Lancome lipstick and since Lizzy was right there with me (she's the least destructive cat in the world) I also huffed the back of her neck (Shalimar and Tuna). I put a few decants away and found a completely forgotten bottle of a very vintage Ultima. Tried to remember which friend asked me about it recently. Decided it must have been Josie and sprayed myself silly with this dirty skanky beast.

I did more stuff around the house, medicated Peter, cleansed my face, changed clothes and absentmindedly gave myself a good dosing from the bottle of Vanille Ambre by Comptoir Sud Pacifique that I've been moving around from room to room the last several weeks. Then I realized what I was wearing.

Vanille Ambre belongs to the small but much-loved category of guilty pleasure perfumes I own. It's the fluffiest of all fluff, free of serious thoughts or any respectability. Last month I had my seven year old niece try this CSP perfume and she declared that it smelled like granny's sugar cookies and refused to wear it. I'd dare say that my mom's cookies have a touch more complexity thanks to the butter and careful baking time. But little Shelley pegged the sugary treat character of Vanille Ambre. This is a spun sugar kind of thing, laced with a sugary amber and sprinkled with a faint hint of milk chocolate dust. It's dessert, and not trying to be anything else. No booze, no smoke, no wood. Just straight on vanillic sugar, the kind my mom keeps stocked in her pantry in semi-commercial hoardery amounts (I may or may not tend to so the same). Maybe that's what Shelley was thinking about.

CSP Vanille Ambre is not something I consider a comfort scent. It's too bubbly, giggly, and pink. It's energizing in its weird little way, reminding you not to take anyone and anything too seriously, and also: start moving and do something fun. Or nice. Or productive. Just go and do it engulfed in this little cloud of pink cotton candy. It has to be a good day.

(Now you'll have to excuse me as I go to finish the rest of my skincare routine, take a shower, and wear vintage Mitsouko to bed).

 Comptoir Sud Pacifique- Vanille Ambre ($32, 1oz eau de toilette) is available at Sephora.

Image: Natasha V for, April 2012.

Urban Decay 1993 Matte Revolution Lipstick

1993 was the year I met the Blond and we started dating. As a matter of fact, it was around this time of the year, which might explain the wave of nostalgia that had led me to buying this Urban Decay Matte Revolution Lipstick in the color 1993. It's either that or a complete blogger meltdown. There are very few matte lipstick in my otherwise extensive collection, and even fewer brown-based lip colors. So I can say that I wanted to fill the vacancy, and Urban Decay gave me a good push in that direction.

I have to give UD some serious kudos. It's hard to make a lipstick in a truly matte texture/finish that doesn't send me screaming from its dryness. Matte Revolution seems to have a hidden almost emollient base that you can't actually see and doesn't affect the lipstick's performance, but allows it to sit on the lips peacefully without obnoxiously making them appear too wrinkled (it doesn't hide the lip texture, but doesn't emphasize it, either, and that includes the infamous little scar on my bottom lip).

Primed and thoroughly hydrated lips are an absolute must for wearing a matte lipstick. Urban Decay have their own lip primer which I have and use for this purpose (after pushing a good amount of Nuxe lip balm into the surface). I prefer to line just inside the perimeter with a nude lip liner and apply 1993 with a brush, to ensure a smooth and even finish (see lines and scars). But I have used the lipstick straight out of the bullet and wasn't chased out of NYC with pitchforks, so that works too.

The color of 1993 is exactly what the people of Urban Decay describe as medium brown. It does take me back two decades (I had a very similar color from YSL), and makes me ponder our collective sanity: it was brown lipstick, brown graphic blush, black eyeliner and matte eye shadow. Was my college just an army of brown zombies in black clothes? Looking back, I think the answer is emphatically yes.

The modern way to wear this color is by balancing the matte brown with something livelier: a healthy glowing blush, a hint of shimmer on the eyes, dewy skin. If I wear a very thin layer of 1993 the natural rosiness of my lips picks through just enough to perk it up, but I'm okay with a full coverage, especially since it's reasonably comfortable to wear and lasts for a long time.

The lipstick has no discernible scent or flavor. Here's the list of ingredients (via Sephora):
Octyldodecanol, Isodecyl Neopentanoate, Cetyl Ricinoleate, Kaolin, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) Oil, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax (Candelilla Cera/Cire de Candelilla), Cetyl Lactate, Cera Alba (Beeswax/Cire D'abeille), Barium Sulfate, Aluminum Hydroxide, Cera Microcristallina (Microcrystalline Wax/Cire Microcristalline), Polyethylene, Dimethicone/Bis-Isobutyl PPG-20 Crosspolymer, Octyldodecyl Neopentanoate, Water, Caprylyl Glycol, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Glycine Soja (Soybean/Soja) Oil, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Orbignya Oleifera Seed Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado/Avocat) Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Squalane, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Shorea Stenoptera Seed Butter, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Calcium Sodium Borosilicate, Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate, Polyethylene Terephthalate, Citric Acid, Acrylates Copolymer, Silica, Tin Oxide, [+/- (May Contain): Mica, CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77499 (Iron Oxides), CI 15850 (Red 6), CI 15850 (Red 7 Lake), CI 15985 (Yellow 6 Lake)].

Bottom Line: a good way to follow the trend.

Urban Decay 1993 Matte Revolution Lipstick ($22, made in the USA) is available at Sephora, Ulta, Nordstrom, and

Monday, September 14, 2015

Currently- September 2015

I'm on book three of C.J. Sanson's Matthew Shardlake series. In this one, Sovereign, we actually meet Henry VIII in person. The build-up to the event has been done incredibly well, and I've shared the narrator's terror of his monarch.

I only recently discovered Jay-Jay Johanson and I'm kind of smitten. I couldn't find a clip of Scarecrow, the song that got me on this kick, but here's  a song from a previous album.

Last week the Husband and I binge-watched Hand of God (an amazon original series). I've loved Ron Perlman since he played Vincent the Beast in the late 80s (I just died a little realizing how long it's been), because of the depth and emotion he could express even under the lion-like mask of Vincent. His new role as Pernell Harris, a judge so corrupt and dirty yet internally convinced in his way and religious zeal is incredibly hard to watch. Which speaks volumes of Perlman's talent. The series is a lot more violent than I normally prefer (yes, I know. I do watch GoT. Through my fingers, mostly), and the lack of sympathetic characters does a number on the watcher (I ended up rooting for Mayor Bobo, another corrupt politician). But it's excellent.

A cheap thrill: Oro by Roberto Cavalli. A spicy amber that was the best $12 I've spent in a while.

The new Chanel blue liquid liner. I've been on an even bigger blue liner kick than usual, and this one fits the bill like nothing else.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
Draped jersey dresses, short and long. I got a bunch at Banana Republic, of all places, and they've been serving me well. And vintage jewelry.

Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure
Watching I Am Cait. And loving every minute.

Carbs. The Blond and I had a little staycation during which we surveyed local bakeries, from little French cafes to Balthazar (it's about 15 minutes away from us, and it's a good thing the place isn't closer or we'd be in deep fat trouble).

The state of my dressing room (the spare bedroom my niece calls "the playroom" where my closets and makeup live). I need to reconfigure some storage solutions and a new system for new stuff that's came in and products that need to go.

I'm actually kind of motivated to do something about the above. I also started a new notebook for lists and ideas. It's the start of the imaginary new school year. Almost makes me miss teaching. Almost.

The weekend. Girl time with my closest friend.

A new camera. I've been fighting with my lemon of a Canon EOS Rebel T2i for nearly five years now. It's time to admit defeat.

Random Thought
For a book lover seeing home decor objects made of real books that are cut and glued is the same as a deer head trophy for animal lovers.

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

Art: Vase de Chrysanthemes by Armand Guillaumin, 1885.