Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Wishing you a warm, safe, and full of the good candy Halloween!

Art: Lévy Dhurmer - La Sorcière, 1897

Friday, October 30, 2015

FOTD: An Evening Look Featuring Colourpop, My Glasses And Kitty Kate

I've recreated the makeup look I wore last night. We went out to dinner with the husband's aunt and uncle who are visiting from Toronto. The location was casual (Graffiti Food & Wine Bar in the East Village), so I was wearing dark-washed jeans, but with a black silk lacy DVF blouse that was too ornate for earrings or a necklace. So all the color and light had to come from makeup. I was also going to wear my glasses, as I guessed correctly that the place was going to be very dark and the menu printed in secret fonts.

What you see here is an exact replica of last night's makeup, with a funky scarf (Mewingtons) to create interest instead of said blouse. I also upped the color a little, to make it more photo friendly. The focus was obviously on the eyes. I went with a completely neutral/nude lip, so I wouldn't have to worry about patches and lipstick on my cake and stuff. I also paid extra attention to skin and concealed it like it was my job, both before and after applying foundation.

too close for comfort

A thick layer of various snail creams with that Lauder New Dimension Shape+Fill Serum. No, I still don't have a verdict, but it's getting close.
Using a very damp Beauty Blender I concealed my questionable chin with Youngblood Ultimate Concealer in Medium (a lighter shade than what you see in my old review). If I were using it on top of foundation I would have gone at least one shade lighter.
Foundation: Don't hate me. I copied Lisa Eldridge and used Albion Gel Mask Foundation in 060, which one of the most perfect color and texture matches I've had in my life. It's magical, Japanese, as expensive as sin, and here in the US we can order from Amazon, which is what I did about six months ago. It's my favorite evening foundation and from the photos you can see the flashback isn't too bad (I would still avoid for bridal as it has SPF25).
Extra spot concealing was done with a liquid one by Tarte.
Setting powder was Laura Mercier, finishing powder the pressed Guerlain Meteorite in Mythic 01.

The usual NARS primer.
MAC Brule all over the lid and under the brow for a bright even surface.
Now you get to laugh at me. Last month I bough the Colourpop Forever Freshman eye shadow collection (it's now discounted at $24 for all six eye shadows). The name is ridiculous and I'm so obviously not the brand's target demographic, but I didn't care. These colors are stunning and I wanted to learn how to work with their unique texture. So what I did for this look was use the matte terracotta shade, Melrose, on the outer 2/3s  of the lid and extended the crease and outer v with it (it makes sense when you consider my glasses), and tapped a hint of the soft gold shimmer Crimper in the middle of the lid. The key to these eye shadows is to think about using a minimal amount like you would with anything crazy pigmented, and then use half of that. Unless you are the age of a freshman and then you can do and wear whatever you wat because you're gorgeous by definition.
Eyeliner was again the brown Makeup For Ever Aqualiner (I should buy half the line), and mascara was Estee Lauder Sumptuous something-or-other in black.

The discontinued Chantecaille Aqua blush in Charming. I have yet to find a good substitution, so when I finish it I will cry.

MAC lipliner in Whirl and lipstick in Velvet Teddy. I told you I went very basic with that. There was a thick layer of By Terry Rose Balm underneath, which did more good than the lip color.

P.S. my scent of the night was Stephane Humbert Lucas 777 Khol de Bahrein

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Scent Of A Woman, Scent Of Her Shampoo

Lately I've been testing the same Japanese shampoo and conditioner set that my best friend uses. Both of us are serious fragonerds, so we have many perfume overlaps in our collections and we often wear stuff that the other one adores. It's what we do. But smelling of the same hair products is different. It makes me feel my friend's presence around me, and it's equal parts comforting and eerie. People often talk about scent memories. How a certain perfume or a smell transports them to a time and place, or conjures a lost loved one. But oddly enough, some of my strongest scent-related emotional reactions are not to perfume, but to shampoo. Or rather, the way shampoo/conditioner smell on one's hair.

I had a friend in middle school who used to wear Jontue. I'm sure she bathed in it (we all did in one thing or another), but what I remember most clearly about her is the scent of the cheap green apple shampoo she used. Just thinking her name brings that smell forward, and the long afternoon we spent in her room talking about the biggest mystery of the universe: Boys.

I'm not even going to start on the evil of the old Herbal Essence shampoo. The idea of smelling that green mess makes me want to cry for my meek, insecure, and utterly miserable twelve year old. I'm pretty sure that if I smell it in person I'll go back to being the ugliest creature on God's green earth. The memory is so powerful, and decades later it's as real as anything else around me right now.

The words "Flex Shampoo" immediately send me to the summer of 1982, months spent walking outside barefoot (I can't believe it, either), my little sister dragging behind me as we were looking for preteen adventures. It was a summer we were largely unsupervised, our parents tangled in all kinds of grownup stuff like selling and buying houses, dealing with older relatives, and other things we didn't understand. But my long and wild hair constantly smelled of Flex, and I felt I was just about to cover all the secrets of adulthood.

Years later, there was not one boyfriend in my life who wasn't addicted to the smell of just-washed hair. They'd bury their faces in my hair and inhale, feeling the magic of femininity. For some it was the first step to intimacy. For another it was the desired sensation of coming home from the army. It was a warm hug, a soft figure in their arms, and the complete opposite of "boy smell".  Countless generations of women behind me nodded in agreement. It's all in your shampoo.

Why do shampoo scents have such an effect on us? Shampoo and conditioners have a distinctive and strong sillage, especially on people with long and thick hair. Some of them use potent synthetic musks and other aromachemicals in their formulas to achieve this very effect. These are usually simple, easy, and very pleasant smells, with a familiar hook from green apple to vanilla that draws you in. Many girls over indulge in hair products before they're allowed to leave the house covered in perfume. It all contributes to that wave of nostalgia.

Do you have shampoo memories? Were your boyfriend/girlfriend addicted to smelling flex on you?

Image:TEEN Magazine, July 1969.

Three Mascaras I didn't expect to like but I do

When it comes to mascara, I'm more or less a believer in the classic trifecta Lancome-Lauder-Clinique. I've had mascaras from Chanel, Guerlain, Kanebo Sensai, Cle de Peau, Dior, YSL--- you name it, I've bought one at some point. But i always go back to my tried-and-true, and if I had to live with only one mascara brand for the rest of my life it would be Lancome (either Grandiose or Hypnose Drama. even Defincilis if I have no other choice). But I also test and occasionally buy other mascaras. Because they're there. Because I use them a lot. Because it's fun. And sometimes I get an unexpected surprise. Here are three mascaras I use a lot and enjoy, despite having zero expectations:

MAC Zoom Lash ($17. at the counters and
This has actually been a regular companion for years. I received a free one with one of those endless MAC collections and the mascara was the only thing I actually kept. And have repurchased regularly since. It's a combination of a smooth, non-clumping formula and thin and very precise brush that works with my eye shape and help me give my lashes an even coat that creates the polished look I tend to favor.

Urban Decay Big Fatty ($20, at Ulta, Sephora, and the brand's website)
A conversation with a friend-
Me: You're going to laugh at me when I tell you how much I love this mascara.
Her: (staring at my new tube of Big Fatty) I'm going to make so much fun of you. For years.
Well, yes. You don't hear much praise for Urban Decay mascaras, and if memory serves me right there's a reason for that. But Big Fatty, despite it's annoying name, is a master volumizer. The big brush doesn't get out of control and the results are a lot more elegant than I've ever expected. I bought a full size after demolishing several GWP minis.

L'Oreal Miss Manga Voluminous ($7.99 at Ulta and most drugstores)
I just finished a full size tube that I used until the very last drop. While I'm not sure that I'll repurchase in the very near future, it's because I'm going through the content of my mascara drawer and using up items at a rapid succession with the goal to only have a handful of full size tubes and a bunch of samples. It's a pain to go do a freshness check every few weeks and my germaphobe ways have caused to me to get rid of some new/unused items in the past. But back to Miss Magna Voluminous, which I bought after mistaking a friend's lashes for the best and classiest falsies I've ever seen. No, it was this L'Oreal mascara, and it creates this effect through a tenacious and very thick brush that captures every last lash in one or two strokes. My lashes never looked quite like my friend's (genetics do count) but I'm highly impressed.

Photo: Barbara Stanwyck, 1929

After The Rain- An October Morning

Some fall days are easy to love.
The windows are open, the cats are keenly watching the squirrels gathering acorns.
Scent of the day: Orto Parisi- Boccanera.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bruno Fazzolari- Seyrig

When I listed Seyrig, the newest perfume by Bruno Fazzolari in my Top Ten Picks For Fall it wasn't so much because it's an autumnal scent, but because I could not get enough and had no intention to stop wearing it just because the seasons have changed. Seyrig is beyond time or place, and just as you don't necessarily put away your Chanel No.5, Caleche, or Joy when the weather turns (or at least I never do), Seyrig is here to stay.

Bruno Fazzolari is as well-versed in vintage fragrances as he is in modern perfumery. His range goes from the avant-garde soot of Blacklamp to the nostalgic chypre Au Dela. Seyrig is another journey back in time. It is clearly inspired by the green floral aldehydic of the 60s and 70s. Thos of us who remember them fondly get equal parts comfort and excitement from such compositions. They were the promised mysteries of adulthood, the stuff we'll understand when we grow up. Now we're all grown up but that romance may still elude us. But Seyrig brings it ever so closer.

Then there's the syringa flower that gave its name to the perfume. A distant relative of lilac, closer somehow to orange blossom, it has a n airy quality. It's no surprise that on one occasion that I've practically showered myself with Seyrig the husband found the experience objectionable. So much fizzy bubbling aldehydes popping in the air among the various floral notes that at these quantities feel like a soapy-airy balloon. He thought it was ozonic, and while I couldn't see it at the time, I think I know what he meant: so much air bubbles bursting into a shower of tiny florets. All the while I was concentrating on the opulence of Seyrig's core, where Bruno Fazzolari has woven a thick tapestry of classic rose and ylang over a base of a dirty musky oaksmoss.

An earlier iteration of Seyrig smelled dirtier, more centered on those unmentionables of yore, true animlaics that belong in antique carvings on the walls of an ancient bath house of a questionable reputation  (I loved it beyond words, but what do I know?).  Seyrig as we wear it today has learned to walk the line. It's soapier, for sure, as the hidden corners have been scrubbed clean and decorated tastefully, but it still bears the recognizable marks of a real perfume, one that has a furry base, that you can rely on to make it through the small hours, after you've danced the night away dressed and bejeweled, and you're ready to keep the party going in somebody's house. Doing this, Seyrig connects you not just to those who partied before you in Don Draper's modern Manhattan apartment, but also to the revelers who bought the very first bottles of Chanel No.5, Chypre de Coty, or My Sin.

Seyrig by Bruno Fazzolari ($110, 30ml eau de parfum) is available directly from as well as at Luckyscent. The sample for this review was sent by the perfumer. I've since purchased a bottle.

Art: George Barbier, La Danse, 1914

FotD: Viseart Neutral Matte Palette For A casual Jersey Afternoon

Katie putting the finishing touches

I was heading to the nail salon in a typical Jersey attire (well, these were my best yoga pants) with emphasis on comfort, so I decided to go with a fresh and casual face based on warm nudes. The focus of the look is the lightest colors in the Viseart Neutral Matte palette.

I used #3 all over the lid, #4 in the inner corner and where I wanted a hint of brightening, #8 to define the crease and #7 blended into the outer corner and slightly upward. The only brushes I used were Smashbox #4 to lay down the color and cut the crease (a little) and Hakuhodo J5522 for blending (everyone needs five of them. Just so you know).

The light level at the room was dismal, if that (it's a dreary rainy day), so I'm not happy with the way the photos don't show the skin. I was kind of proud at the effect I achieved in real life, a luminous skin without any extra highlighter. The real star of the little video clip, though, is my little Katie. If you listen closely you can hear her squeak.

 Here's what I used:

Cle de Peau Luminizer Enhancer Base. That's what we all did before strobing was a thing, and that's what I'll keep repurchasing after.
Le Metier de Beaute Peau Vierge #2. My favorite tinted moisturizer in the whole world.
Hourglass stick concealer in Natural (on anything unsightly)
Rouge Bunny Rouge Luminous Skin Wand in Alula under the eyes (the pen is nearly finished. Have yet to decide about a repurchase).
All face products were applied and blended by hand, except for:
Rouge Bunny Rouge Diaphanous Powder (I used a random Shu Uemura fluffy powder brush).

NARS eye primer (I'm about to open a new tube)
Viseart Matte Nudes palette (see above)
Makeup For Ever Aqua Liner #12 (a rich brown that doesn't look too stark while still creating the necessary drama)
Urban Decay Perversion mascara (from a sample. Not sure how I feel about it.

Shu Uemura pencil (Seal Brown). Just a small touch the tails (mine, not Katie's)

Youngblood Mineral Pressed Blush in Blossom. As natural as they come. applied lightly with a Suqqu cheek brush.

Kjaer Weis Passionate lip tint ( a repurchased staple).

The top is an old cashmere sweater I got at Bloomingdale's once upon a time, the earrings are vintage, and if I remember correctly a gift from a certain beloved friend from Ohio (and his cats).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Sonoma Scent Studio- Amber Incense

In anticipation of the reopening of Sonoma Scent Studio's e-commerce I thought this is a good time to talk about perfumer Laurie Erickson's Amber Incense, a fragrance released earlier this year. The beautiful wood-dark resins composition is perfect for the season and for a day I got a new pair of cozy slippers (Bob and Cedric destroyed my beloved old ones. You don't want the details). It's all about warmth, but also a hint of mystery and even the outdoorsy note familiar to fans of Sonoma Scent Studio. It feels as though you opened the window to let  the fall air into your home.

Collectors of amber and/or incense perfumes probably have several iconic perfumes in this much-beloved style. Yet, for most of us there's at least one classic amber-incense fragrance that we just don't get. Or simply dislike for one reason or another. In my case it's Ambre Narguile (Hermessence collection). It turns into a giant apple turnover on my skin, and I don't even like to eat these pastries, let alone feel like one. Amber Incense is what I hoped Ambre Narguile would be back in the day: a tender  amber with whiffs of incense and a welcoming gourmand note.

Amber Incense is  like coming home on  a dreary  rainy day into a softly lit room where the smell of a freshly baked plum cake dominates the space. Putting on said slippers and sitting in a favorite spot next to a cuddly cat or three, watching the shadows outside become longer until the trees outside are enveloped in darkness, you get a feeling of well-being that warms you from the inside out. You want to bask in it and immerse yourself in this golden happiness, and even the pile of books on the side table doesn't pull you away from being in the moment, inhaling the various aromas of indoors, outdoors, damp, toasty, furry, and woody. This is what pleasure smells like.

Sonoma Scent Studio- Amber Incense ($64 for a 17ml bottle, other sizes and samples available) can be purchased from The website is due to reopen the first week of November, but Laurie Erickson can accept email orders and/or contacted on Facebook. The sample for this review was sent to me by the perfumer.

Art: John William Wwaterhouse, The Sorceress, 1913

Palette Storage: Art Nouveau Letter Holder

My latest find (actually it was the husband who spotted this on eBay) is this antique Art Nouveau brass letter and stamp holder. It only holds two palettes, but it's a great way to keep a couple of items that are in my current constant rotation (or being tested) within easy reach. I haven't figured out what to do with the tiny stamp compartment in the base (the lid lifts up), but it doesn't really matter. The main function is there, and I love it very much.

eBay and Etsy, as well as estate sales (antique stores tend to jack prices up too much) are a great place for cute storage solutions that look more interesting  than the average Muji stuff (nevermind that all my vintage stuff stands proudly on top of several Ikea Alex units). Do you have any unusual makeup holders?

Sophia Loren N°1 Lipstick by Dolce & Gabbana

There's no one like Sophia Loren. None. At eighty one she's still a beauty icon with a coveted style and energy. "Would Sophia wear this?" has been my mantra when looking at clothes for years, even though she's significantly taller than me. So it makes sense that Dolce & Gabbana makeup created a lipstick in collaboration with the divine Ms. Loren. From it's name, Sophia Loren No.1 we can hope that it's a first from several. Especially since No.1 has been selling quickly. This Dolce & Gabbana lipstick received more press and PR overseas, but even with this relatively soft launch stores in the US that got it last month are nearly out of it by now. It sold out on Sephora before I even knew it was already in stock, so I bought mine at Macy's. as of this morning, Saks 5th Avenue flagship store still has it, as are probably various counters around the country, so my advice is to give them a call. Like right now.

With or without Sophia Loren's embossed signature, this Dolce & Gabbana lipstick is excellent. I don't know why the promotional materials call it "cherry red" when this is a rich and deep rose color that for me (and I'm guessing for Sophia as well) as is the perfect "my lips but way way way better" color. On me it's very close to neutral that goes with anything and looks very polished and beautiful. I adore this color and it stands out even my not so small collection.

The lipstick has a very strong classic makeupy fragrance that you either love or hate. I'm a fan, especially in this context. While looking at the lipstick in the tube the finish appears matte, but it isn't. The texture is lightweight and creamy and the finish is a true satin. Again, a classic. Longevity is average (survives a cup of tea, fades after a meal), and performance is great: no pooling into lines and scars, and no bleeding beyond the lip line even when applied directly from the tube.

Bottom Line: get it while you still can (unless you hate heavily scented lip products).

Dolce & Gabbana Sophia Loren N°1 Lipstick ($35.50) is a limited edition item, available at select Saks, Macy's, and Sephora location. You'll need to call them individually to find where it's still in stock. NYC area seems like the best bet, but please comment if you manage to locate it elsewhere.

Book in the background is Classic Beauty- The History of Makeup by Gabriela Hernandez.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Maureen O'Hara (1920- 2015)

Maureen O'Hara quotes:

"In a career that has lasted for over 60 years, I have acted, punched, swashbuckled, and shot my way through an absurdly masculine profession."
"I was tough. I was tall. I was strong. I didn't take any nonsense from anybody."
"They said my nose was too big and they wanted to bob my nose. I said, sorry. If that's what you want, buy me a ticket and I'll go home."


Friday, October 23, 2015

FOTD: Blue Eye Shadow With Guerlain Beaugrenelle Fall 2015 Écrin 6 Couleurs Eyeshadow Palette

I just had the surprise of my life. I'm not using my regular Canon DSLR camera for these photos, because a) my camera is five years old and shows it, and b) I need to maneuver it so much to capture the look that it's highly cumbersome. So there I was, taking photos with a little ELPH point&shoot, cursing under my breath because my hair was insane, my skills are iffy, and the light was all wrong. Then I discover that my little innocent camera also recorded a video of the entire thing. And oddly enough, it kind of shows the makeup a bit better than any of the stills. who knew?

So despite my better judgement I've uploaded the video and you'll be able to see me pose within an inch of my life. But let's go back to the makeup. I wanted to show how I wear blue eye shadows by using Guerlain Beaugrenelle Fall 2015 Écrin 6 Couleurs Eyeshadow Palette. I had to use about twice the amount of color I'd use for a face-to-face encounter (see crappy lighting), but I think you get the idea and the placement. I've actually used all the colors in the palette, including the cream liner even though its texture is not my favorite. Here's the breakdown of all the stuff on my face:

Estee Lauder New Dimension Shape+Fill Serum (again, instead of a primer. Still not sure about the whole thing)
Guerlain Lingerie de Peau foundation (#3). A holy grail and a recurring repurchase over the years.
Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage #2. Another holy grail that tethers me to Laura until the end of times.
Shiseido Translucent Loos Powder (because it was there in front of me)
Laura Mercier Secret Finish

Addiction blush in Rose Bar (applied with Hakuhodo 210, because I wanted it to show in pictures. I usually go for a small Yachiyo)

MAKE eye primer
the aforementioned Guerlain palette (applied with two Hakuhodo G515 and an ancient MAC 217). Also used a random flat eyeliner brush. Probably a Sephora brand.
Lancome Hypnose Drama mascara

A touch of NARS brow gel only at the tails, which have always been sparse (weird for someone born with a unibrow)

MAC Soar (I really like this one)
Ciate Olivia Palermo in Praline. I told you it's my version of nude.

Top: Elie Tahari, necklace: a random thing I bought in a shoe and accessories store in Paris over ten years ago.

So there it is. No editing, filtering, no photoshopping. A completely unintentional video.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Jean Couturier- Kéora (Vintage Perfume)

Look at this advertisement. Isn't it amazing? The slogan translates more or less into "No emotion has ever been felt so deeply" (the American version read "Never has a fragrance provoked such emotion"). I don't know about you, but these words would have sent me sniffing right away*, and I would have expected something a lot more dramatic than Kéora, a mostly forgotten perfume by Jean Couturier, a label most famous for Coriandre, a bold rose chypre from the 1970s.

So, who remembers Kéora, a 1983 perfume that has probably been reformulated a few times before it disappeared even from the back shelves of mall kiosks?  Little reliable information can be found about this Jean Couturier perfume, except for its launch year, the advertisement above, and Michael Edwards' classification of Kéora as a rich oriental and confirmation that it has been officially discontinued.

What we're left with is our nose, the last dredges from an old bottle and a nostalgic feeling. Kéora is kind of an oriental perfume, but not in the obvious sweet vanillic way. It's delightfully spicy (nutmeg? allspice?) and quite bold from its very opening. I get something quite aromatic and herbal in the top notes, which combined with a bright floral powdery heart my nose tends to interpret as lavender, though I'm familiar with this effect and know that this is a phantom note, something that I read as lavender even when none is around. The nose is a funny creature.

I'm won over by the combination of a powder bomb and unlit incense. It's sweetish, quite assertive (we're talking about an 80s perfume, after all), and despite the warm colors of the image above and the orange box, the color I associate with Kéora is a dark murky purple. As the scent mellows down I can feel the romantic aspect of those whiffs that linger on my clothes. It's reminiscent of Parisian nights and long meaningful conversations by candlelight. And like other memories from the 80s, it can be felt quite deeply.

*The more I look at the guy I'm  reminded of an old boyfriend. Except for  the unnatural lack of thigh hair. Or back hair. So maybe not.

The Snail Trail- Korean Skincare (Missha, Mizon, TonyMoly)

Several years ago I got a PR pitch from a well-known Korean skincare brand that was establishing a stronger hold of the US market. They wanted me to try their range of snail mucous products, which was praised to high heaven. The year was 2010 or so, and while I've heard something about snails in cosmetics it seemed more of a weird gimmicky thing, kind of like the fish pedicure. Also mucous. One of the most revolting words in the English language. I politely declined, and ended up testing some other creams and serums by the company that did diddly squat for me, so I had nothing to say about them and never got around to reviewing.

Fast forward to 2014-2015. I've learned quite a bit about Asian cosmetics and have replaced many of my old staples with basic Japanese and Korean products. I've also done as much research as I could about snails and was happy to discover that the little creatures are not harmed. It makes sense if you think of it: they're needed to keep producing their precious slime (slime-- only marginally better than mucous). I also discovered that it matters a great deal what percentage of the product is actually snail secretion (another bad word). Not all gastropod-based products are created equal, and they differ in texture, absorbency, finish, and performance. Here are the ones I've been testing and using lately:

Missha Super Aqua Snail Sleeping Mask ($23,, made in Korea)
Missha is one of the better-known Korean brands thanks to their groundbreaking BB Cream (which I dislike, but that's a discussion for another post). This snail sleeping mask seems to be everywhere, perhaps because of its very attractive price. However, at only 15% snail extract this is the least concentrated product of this bunch. It also contains 2% baobab tree extract, which makes me think of this:
"Children, watch out for the baobabs"  --Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Anyway, snail and baobab trees aside, this is simply a decently hydrating sleep mask, along the lines of  Dr. Jart+ or Laneige. It's lighter than both, thus less effective for me personally, but might be just your thing if your skin is oily yet dehydrated or if you're 20 years younger than me. I think that the Laneige masks are far (far far) superior, even without a drop of snail goo, and are worth the price difference.

TonyMoly Intense Care Snail Hydro-Gel Mask ($19.30 for a pack of 5 on Amazon, made in Korea)
I'm down to my last two of those, so it's time to reorder. I've tried a variety of snail sheet masks (a sheet mask post is in the works), but TonyMoly's is my favorite because it's extremely hydrating and calming, and the construction of the mask itself is high quality and easy to handle (nothing worse than flimsy masks that disintegrate before they're even fully unfolded). It contains fragrance and mineral oil, so beware, but personally I find these masks very effective, especially before a night out when I'm questioning my sanity for leaving the house. 20-30 minutes of relaxation and I feel like new.

Mizon All-in-One Snail Repair Cream ($16 on Amazon, made in Korea)
This is an odd one. At 92% filtered snail secretion I'd expect it to pack some serious punch, but after weeks of using it I couldn't tell much difference. It's supposed to replace your serum (meaning goes under moisturizer), but the matte feel and finish of the cream gives me a pause every time. It, indeed, requires a good moisturizer, but even so I can't tell if it's doing much for me. Maybe I should use it as a primer. Who knows?

Mizon Snail Recovery Gel Cream ($9.99 on Amazon, made in Korea)
This is my favorite snail product bar none. NONE. At 74% filtered snail extract I never expected this level of performance. But when Mizon  say "recovery" they truly mean it. Scrapes, cat scratches, breakouts, scars, sun damage--- everything looks and feels better after one or two days of use. The most shocking part was how the gel cream eliminated a milia I had next to my right eye (a result of an eye cream sample I was testing months ago). Within a week of snailing it (and everything else), the pesky little thing opened up and disintegrated without leaving a trace. The tube is 45 ml, and I've been going through them quickly, so I always have backups. On humid summer days I didn't need extra moisturizing. Now that the weather has changed I use LRP Tolerian Riche on top and all is well. I haven't been this crazy about a product in a very long time.

Mizon Black Snail All-in-One Cream ($18.33 on Amazon, made in Korea)
Are black snails the gastropod equivalent of black cats, hence more magical? No idea.  At 90% snail extract this cream is visibly different than the other Mizon All-in-1 above. The texture is... slimy. Really. It's quite runny, But also a lot more hydrating and nourishing. I use it as an extra treatment and another layer under my SPF, and so far it's kept seasonal effects at bay. I also massage it into my hands, as no residue is ever left and I can resume typing while admiring the plumped up appearance of my skin. I think it has helped lighten the scars on my right hand (cats ran through it).

Mizon Snail Repair Intensive Ampoule ($13 on Amazon, made in Korea)
A clear serum (80% snail) in a bottle with a dropper, this caters to the Western concept of serum under a cream. It absorbs quickly, feels good on skin, and have been a good companion after vigorous cleansing. I think you can alternate between this and one of the creams, or simply choose a preferred texture. I don't find it any less or more effective than the Black Snail, but it's good to have options. one advantage of the Ampoule formula and texture is that you can mix it into your base makeup (foundation, BB cream, Cover FX drops) and get a smooth and radiant skin.

How do you feel about snail products? Have you tried any?

(An outtake photo of Miss Olivia inspecting the products can be seen on The Non-Blonde Facebook group. Have you joined us yet?)

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Arquiste- Nanban

Nanban, the newest Arquiste perfume, feels like a return to the line's original narrative. A big part of the charm for me was the way creative director Carlos Huber managed to bring together various aspects of his heritage (L'Etrog), his native Mexico (Flor y Canto), and various  cornerstones of Western culture (Aleksandr, Fleur de Louis, Infanta en Flor). Oh, and also some good sexy fun (Anima Dulcis). Those perfumes not only resonated with me on several levels, but also kept me interested in the story around them. This is a big deal for the jaded perfume blogger who's read eleventy seven press releases too many.

Nanban is a Japanese word related to the arrival of Portuguese (and later Spanish) merchants, explorers and missionaries in Japan during the 16th century (they were unceremoniously kicked out later in 1614). The Nanban, those foreigners brought to Japan guns and bad table manners:
"They eat with their fingers instead of with chopsticks such as we use. They show their feelings without any self-control. They cannot understand the meaning of written characters." (from Boxer, Christian Century. Thank you, Wikipedia).
But that was not all. The Nanban trade period also promoted a certain cultural exchange that was expressed in art and a decorative style, as well as Japanese sweets and pastries that recreated Spanish and Portuguese recipes. But how does this mix (and often clash) of East and West comes together in a modern perfume?

Quite beautifully.

More than anything, Arquiste's Nanban is a resinous perfume, redolent of spices and leather like the stockroom of a high-end merchant dealing with precious materials from all over the world. You step inside and the noise and hassle of the alley outside disappear, and you're standing in a dark treasure cave that gets your imagination and taste buds going. Ornate boxes full of black tea, carefully-wrapped saffron threads, peppercorns of every color, dried flowers for various infusions, and exotic incense.

I have a thing for chewy balsamic notes that are almost sweet but not quite. At its best, myrrh does exactly that, and Nanban has that myrrh in spades. Sometimes I'm reminded of a childhood memory: getting tree sap all over my hands (and probably on my clothes), the smell of old pines, late summer shrubbery (it's always late summer in those memories), and secret hiding places among the trees. that's how Nanban speaks to me and lets me step into those long gone shaded afternoons. Maybe not exactly 16th century Japan, but evocative and beautiful just the same.

Arquiste- Nanban ($190, 100 ml eau de parfum) is available from and Barneys.

Image: Nanban ships arriving for trade in Japan. 16th-century six-fold lacquer and gilded screen (Wikimedia Commons).

Makeup Look: FotD With NARS Steven Klein Collection

I'm getting a head start on my biggest New Year resolution: posting at least one makeup look a week. To say that I don't have the skill or the right equipment is an understatement, though both issues will get rectified eventually.  I'm determined to figure it out and get more comfortable in front of the camera, no matter how cringe-worthy the whole process feels like right now.

This look is almost all NARS, with a focus on the three new items I just reviewed. Here's the breakdown:

Estee Lauder New Dimension Shape+Fill Serum (as sort of a primer)
NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer SPF30 in St. Moritz
Serge Lutens compact foundation in B40 used as a concealer
NARS Light Reflecting Loose Powder

NARS eye primer
MAC Blanc Type eye shadow all over the lid
NARS Never Too Late eye shadow on the lid and to create a round shape
NARS Stud patted in the middle of the lid 
NARS Stylo black eyeliner
Lancome Grandiose mascara
(brushes used: Hakuhodo S121 G and S133)

Nars Almeria blush from last year's holiday collection

NARS Special Force lip gloss
LMdB Dualistic lip liner in Rose.

Brows: forgot to do anything. Earrings: vintage. Shirt: J Crew adorned with cat hair.

NARS Fantascene Steven Klein Collection Holiday 2015- Stud, Never Too Late, Special Force

NARS holiday collections are where Francois Nars go all out there. Recent years have brought us collaborations with the archives of Nars' biggest icons. While I doubt anything will ever top the NARS + Andy Warhol 2012 collection, this year's partnering with Steven Klein is definitely getting there. I've never felt comfortable with Steven Klein's work. You're not supposed to, really. It's supposed to be disturbing, subversive, and make you feel slightly ashamed. This quote from a New York Magazine article about the photographer is spot on:
"Mindlessly glam fashion photography is a dead or dying form, and Steven Klein, the anti-fashion fashion photographer, helped strangle it."
I don't know if I'm okay with it, but I can't stop looking.

 The actual combinations of Klein's work with NARS products is only available in the gift sets and palettes of the Fantascene collection. The single items have a simple black/white graphic carrying his name. I have to admit that I'm kind of fine with that. I'd rather have a little more serenity when I open a makeup drawer.

The items I've picked from the collection are exactly that: classic, elegant, serene. The two single eye shadows, Stud (a shimmery pewter that will get taupe lovers to hyperventilate) and the dark murky olive  Never Too Late fit in with any neutral wardrobe. And who can resist a high pigment classic red lip gloss? Killer Shine Lip Gloss in Special Force is similar but more red than last year's Burning Love that had a berry undertone. The wand is different: a small pointy brush instead of the doe-foot sponge, and it allows for a very precise application. Always a good thing with intense colors. The gloss is free of scent or taste, and is similar in texture  and performance to the recent NARS gloss formula: not too sticky, nice color payoff, average gloss longevity.

The eye shadows are also typically NARS. They're not the softest to the touch, but they perform beautifully on the lid and blend well over every kind of base. There can be a little fallout, depending on the brush you use (and the amount of product it picks). NARS shimmer formula is among the most reliable in terms of texture and pigmentation. Most of us have already plenty of experience working with it, and even NARS newbies will not experience much of a learning curve. They work, they look pretty, and these particular colors work well with each other.

Bottom Line: what's not to like?

NARS Fantascene Steven Klein Collection Holiday 2015 is available from The products you see here were all made in Canada. Stud and Never Too Late are $25 each, Special Force is  $28. The gloss and one of the eye shadows were sent to me by the company's PR. I bought the other eye shadow.