Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Annick Goutal- Sables

I refuse to title this review "vintage perfume". I just won't do it.
My bottle is not from 1985 (the yesr Goutal launched Sables) or even close. It's from the end of the previous decade or early from this one. I have cats older than that.

Sables by Annick Goutal is inexplicably labeled as a masculine. I think it's a perfect example of a gender-free perfume. it doesn't matter who and what you are when it comes to Sables. You just need to really really love immortelle and its fenugreek/maple syrup smell. Yes, there's a mellow sandalwood and amber dry-down that leads the fragrance into calmer waters, but from the very first spray to the last whiff I can capture, this is a major immortelle perfume. More so than anything else in my personal collection (and I'm not one to shy away from this note). The husband smells the spice notes better than I do. Apparently there's cinnamon (I get it) and pepper (completely alludes me). He finds it as easy to wear as I do and doesn't get the controversy around immortelle. It smells great, end of story.

When it comes to sweetness, I Goutal's Sables less gourmand than ELdO Like This and not as syrupy as Chypre Rouge (Lutens), both I love (probably even more so than Sables).  Projection is average, as is longevity, unless you saturate yourself with it like a waffle. I don't know how the current version (in the more elegant box) measures up, beyond a quick sniff I got which seems more mellow than the juice I have. It's still easy to find the older bottles with the more elaborate labels and boxes.

The current version of Sables by Annick Goutal is available at the brand's boutique and from Aedes ($149, 100ml). Please comment if you've smelled it recently and how do you think it compares to the original.

Photo of a butterfly on an immortelle flower via

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Lancôme Spring 2016 My Parisian Pastels Shimmer Cube Eyeshadows and Highlighters Palette

This is my one and only concession to the pastel trend of spring 2016. It's all the pinks and ice cream colors I can handle, and they come in a cute little tin that would have equally appealed to my seven year old niece. I'm not entirely sure that Lancôme My Parisian Pastels Shimmer Cube Eyeshadows and Highlighters Palette is dripping with Chic Parisienne. It's more like a certain type of fashion(ish) illustrations that accompanies magazine articles about how young Parisian women don't get fat/ never wear the wrong eye shadow/ avoid the mall/ can talk about Sartre while eating escargot. Whatever. Would these magical creatures buy and wear Lancôme's  My Parisian Pastels Shimmer Cube Eyeshadows and Highlighters Palette? I don't know. I'm just Gaia, a middle aged blogger from New Jersey, and bought this thing kind of against my better judgment.

Let's start with figuring out what is this thing and why does it look so much like The Body Shop Shimmer Cubes? The answer to the second part might be easier, since I seem to recall Lisa Eldridge, the creative director at Lancôme being a fan of that product (available at Ulta, by the way). As for exactly what is this product, I'd say it is whatever you want it to be, as long as your vision includes shimmer. For colored cubes of pressed powder in colors ranging from greenish yellow to lavender. The pigments are sheer and almost all of them are decidedly pastel. But it's that sheerness that allows them to be used on top of other makeup colors to add a mostly refined shimmer to one's look. I admit that I'm fond of the idea, because I love playing, mixing, and layering, while giving a new life to old staples.

Basically, a touch of any of the palette's cubes over your blush or eye shadow gives it another (shiny) dimension). Speaking of the shine, it is mostly high shimmer, but without any glitter particles. In theory, you may be able to use the colors on their own if you're so inclined, but the cubes were not formulated with high pigmentation in mind, and the only colors with any survival rate are the darkest ones. They perform much better over cream shadows, pencils, and blushes, and also look decent over intensely pigmented powder products (or directly over a cream foundation, but application can be patchy). I use a fluffy brush to get them on, something like a MAC 217, or a finger for just a dab in the middle of the eye lid.

The packaging has numbers and tells which ones are recommended for face and for eyes, but I'm pretty sure that I've mangled the original setting, so I no longer know which is which. I'll go out on a limb and say that a greenish yellow was probably not meant for the cheeks, but who knows? Another word about packaging: each cube is independently ensconced in a small plastic box with a lid, which prevents a mess and any breakage. The thing is, that it's kind of annoying fumbling with the lids (you have to take the cubes out of the tin in most cases) as you're trying to be creative and do an interesting makeup look. My advice would be to keep the thing for an at-home use, remove (but keep) the individual lids, so the product is ready for you as you open the tin.

Bottom Line: girls just wanna have fun (but can probably find better ways to do it).

Lancôme Spring 2016 My Parisian Pastels Shimmer Cube Eyeshadows and Highlighters Palette ($59) is available wherever Lancôme  products are sold.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Top Winter Perfume Picks- Selected (Mostly) By The Husband

Winter top ten perfumes are always the hardest for me to pick. Part of this is because I dislike this season so much. Another reason is that what many consider "cold weather perfumes" are among my most favorite to wear all-year-round, so it feels like all the leathers, heavy gourmands, and smoky fragrances have already been mentioned. I was lamenting this to the Blond who seemed unfazed by my plight. He's slightly more seasonally-directed than me in his perfume choices, or so it seems, and is far less likely to wear anything named "Cuir" in August or a citrus cologne in the dead of winter. "Just write about what you've been reaching for most often these last couple of months", was his suggestion. "What about you? What have you been wearing more frequently?", I challenged him. I've noticed that he has been quite focused on several bottles lately, not necessarily his old standbys,  while barely touching others.  Therefore, the first part of this list is The Husband's top picks for the season, He only had six, which made it easy for me to select the four perfumes I've been wearing a lot lately.

His top perfume picks for winter:

  • Undergreen Gold. Ginger and smoky incense. Quite a bit of ginger has been consumed in our house lately, so this perfume just goes along with our food. 
  • Terre d'Hermes (edt). That's a surprise, actually. I'm usually the one wearing it (and more often in summer), but something in the flinty orange composition has been calling to him lately. That, and the fact he's never visited Basenotes' male fragrance forum.
  • L'Artisan- Dzongkha. I finally got him (us) a full bottle of the stuff, so he's been naturally drawn to it. And, of course, iris and vetiver are his jam.
  • Parfumerie Generale- Querelle. Exactly the same reasons as above, minus the iris.
  • Chanel Egoiste Cologne Concentree (vintage). It's sandalwood and spice, utterly delicious and cozy. His scarves and coat have absorbed a good amount, shielding him from the cold.
  • Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777- Soleil de Jeddah. Funny: this was included in my summer favorites, because I found it to be juicy, and yellow, and all that's good and sexy about long summer days. On his skin the leather is very pronounced and there's no trace of mango. Skin chemistry, go figure.
And mine:
  •  Raghba by Lattafa Perfumes. This is both a guilty pleasure and a cheap thrill. It's a sugar-coated oud, with smoke and vanilla in the background. For under $30 it could have been a lot more tacky (it probably IS quite tacky), but I wear it well. Neither cats nor husband object.
  • Chantecaille- Kalimantan. There has to be a serious patchouli in this mix, and Kalimantan with its dry and formal ways is one of the more interesting takes on this theme. 
  • Parfums MDCI- Les Indes Galantes. It has all the makings of  a classic Christmas/Holiday season perfume: orange, clove, cinnamon, and vanilla. Just add cheer. 
  • My vintage pick for the season is Cabochard de Gres. It's all the coats, hats, and handbags I wish I owned , right out of an old French movie. In black & white, of course.

What are your winter picks? Have they changed since last year?

Please visit my friends at Bois de JasminGrain de Musc, and Now Smell This for more winter perfume picks.

Image: A winter scene by Chéri Hérouard for La Vie Parisienne, 1923

Thursday, January 21, 2016

FoTD: A Blue & Gold Evening Look Featuring NARS NARSissit Palettes

About to leave the house, I gave the light in the guest bath a try.

I was very eager last week to put on real clothes, do a full face of makeup, and do something fun after more than a week of feeling miserable and trying to prevent my lungs from leaving my body. It was just a casual dinner the city, but I wanted some sparkle, hence the blue and gold eye look. I used some new stuff, a bunch of old standby favorites, but most important: the two newest NARSissit palettes (L'amour Toujours for eyes, and the Sephora-exclusive Cheek Studio Palette). Here's the full list of products:

Smashbox Oil Primer (a post about oils coming very soon)
YSL Touche Éclat Le Teint Radiance Awakening Foundation (New Formula) in B50 Honey, applied with a Beauty Blender. Spoiler alert: I love it and got a full size bottle.
Rouge Bunny Rouge Impalpable Finishing Powder Diaphanous 

Under Eyes
Giorgio Armani Corrector (still my favorite product in this category after several years)
YSL Touche Éclat highlighter No.2. It's a staple.
(Yes, that how I look after correcting and highlighting. My eyes are set halfway into my skull)

NARSissist blush II from the palette
Becca Moonstone pressed highlighter

NARS eye primer
Eyeshadows from the L'amour Toujours palette: No. I (a nude) as a base all over the lid, VII (matte taupe) in the crease, X (blue) on the outer half of the lid, blended upward, V (gold) on the inner part of the lid, tear duct and under the lower lashes.
Lancome Artliner (Noir) along the upper lashes
Anastasia Beverly Hills Metallic Eyeliner in Gold (I think it's a Macy's exclusive) on the lower lash line. It's a rediscovery for me, and I really love this pencil for its smoothness, liquid metal look, and staunch longevity.
Buxom Amplified Lash Mascara (from a sample). Because of the gold shadow and liner I also applied a touch of mascara to the lower lashes, which I usually avoid (see: sunken eyes). I love the regular Buxom Lash and this is just as good.

Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk lip liner (is there anyone in the world who doesn't use this one?)
L'Oreal Infallible Pro-Matte Gloss in Nude Allude, a warm beige-brick kind of color that seems to work exceptionally well in this context. I love the formula (it's a relaunch) because it's not 100% matte.

Other Stuff
Earrings- Oscar de la Renta clip-ons from a couple of years ago
Dress- DVF
SotE- Nüwa by Roja Dove
Dinner- could have been better (and the waitress should have told us that the cake was gluten-free)

Parfums MDCI- Les Indes Galantes

This is an interesting journey.  Parfums MDCI tends to take us on trips to faraway lands and places lost in the shrouds of time. Perfumer Cecile Zarokian is extremely apt at doing so, and in Les Indes Galantes she brings us the exotic fantasies of the French at the time of Louis XV as captured by in the 1735 ballet, Les Indes Galantes (The Amorous Indies)*. The libretto for the ballet was supposedly inspired by a dance performed in 1725 by several native Illinois chiefs (try to imagine that event). It's a gorgeous piece though the modern mind finds it hard to ignore the misguided cultural appropriation that goes on in there (see the Wikipedia entry I linked above).

The MDCI perfume is all about the fantasy. The warmth, spice, juicy  fruit, and the kind of feeling you get when lying on your back with your eyes closed in a room so drenched in sunshine that your eyelids seem to have been bathed in yellow and orange light. It's particularly tempting when outside is actually winter and the sunlight in an empty promise that only exists indoors.

Les Indes Galantes is a spicy oriental with a massive gourmand streak. I completely agree with Patty of the Posse about the connection to Fendi Theorema, but where she finds the 1998 perfume to be an orange creamsicle I see it as a round and smiling being, like those creatures in the Fendi commercial. It's a minor difference, but Les Indes Galantes is sharper, heavier, more serious, yet still comforting and cozy. Like a grownup's home.

The incense and balsamic notes of Les Indes Galantes have a strong bone structure just below the soft surface. The official fruit notes are orange and raspberry, but I could have sworn that I smell ripe persimmons (there are not enough persimmon perfumes, if you ask me). It might be the orange hue that I almost see when I spray this perfume, bursting with color and passion. The spice mix (heavier on the coriander and clove where Theorema is cinnamon) is seductive yet dry enough not to dive head first into a vanilla-benzoin cliche. The steady hand of the talented perfumer assures it.

I don't know how my mind goes free associating like this from pre-revolution France through their idea of the Orient and the new world, to a mid-century modern home with teak furniture, orange upholstery with a nubby texture, and a round wooden fruit bowl on the coffee table. I just do, and that's what Les Indes Galantes does for me. The perfume came out just before Christmas and I'm sure that next year many  people will choose to wear it during holiday gatherings. I know I will.

Parfums MDCI- Les Indes Galantes ($250, 75 ml eau de parfum in the plain bottle. Like all MDCI perfumes there's also a $375 bust edition) is available from OsswaldNYC and Luckyscent.

* I have no idea where Luckyscent got the bit about the inspiration being the Mughal Empire of 16th century India or British Ceylon. I must remember to ask them.

Image: A 1955 record sleeve for Rameau's Les Indes Galantes. Found on a French auction site.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Surratt Beauty Prismatic Eyes- Glamour, Style, Visual

Surratt Beauty, like the work of its founder, Troy Surratt can be a hit-or-miss thing. I knew that when I got these three eye shadows from the new Prismatic Eyes range. I also ventured a bit out of my comfort zone when choosing the shades. As you can see, there's a lot more purple here than in my entire wardrobe. I'm still unsure how I feel about that, but I'll post a look soon and let you be the judges.

Prismatic Eyes are double-deckers. We've seen these format last year from Tom Ford and I skipped it entirely, because when I swatched one or two at the counter the glitter got everywhere and I thought the quality and shade selection didn't match the $60 price tag. Surratt's Prismatic Eyes captured my interest, though, because of the duo-chrome nature of the powder part, and at $38 a pop I thought it made more sense.

The entire Surratt line is made in Japan and reminds me very much of the Addiction brand by makeup artist Ayako. Surratt's availability has actually cured me from jumping through hoops and paying a markup to get my hands on Addiction products, so that's a good thing. I think I'm also more critical of them as a result. So, how do these Prismatic Eyes fare?

It depends.

The three I've got, Glamour Eyes, Style Eyes, and Visual Eyes, vary slightly in texture and pigmentation. There's also a learning curve to using them and I can emphatically say that unlike most common cream eye shadows (MAC, Bobbi Brown, NARS) these are not for makeup beginners. You need a combination of brush work and fingers for best results. Also: this is not a daytime product.

Glamour Eyes has a medium purple base that looks richer in the pan than it is on skin. This one has the most sheer and waxy texture out of the three I've tried, and it made my heart sink a little. You absolutely must warm it up a bit on the back of your hand before applying and carefully build up to get an even coverage. I highly recommend using a tiny spatula to scoop up some product onto the back of your hand and work it a little with your finger. Troy Surratt's own advice, "I like to use the Surratt Moyenne Classique Shadow brush to blend the crème into the lash line and up onto the lid, keeping the lash line rich and saturated while diffusing softly around the edges", will not work here. Neither the color nor the texture are saturated enough.

The powder part of Glamour Eyes is the opposite. It was a battle to even photograph this thing in the pan, but the color is richer on skin and more interesting. A mauve with an icy blue duo-chrome that shift beautifully. The texture of the powder in all three cases is out of this world: a thick and creamy consistency , somewhere between Make Up For Ever and Colurpop, that yields to brushes. I recommend a very dense lay-down brush that isn't to small, because as you pack the powder on you don't want to keep things even and not overload some areas. The tackiness of the cream makes the powder grab and adhere nicely, but if your brush is too full of product you will get a significant amount of fallout. Learning curve, and also expect some good cleanup afterwards.

Style eyes is the low-key most neutral one of the bunch. You can see in the swatch how much richer the cream part is. I also love the purpled gray color. It's pliable enough to be applied and blended with a 217 type brush if you want to sheer it out, but why? I'd only do that around the edges. The powder is the less convincing one in this duo. It's a silvered antique rose, which alright by itself, but is more ordinary, and to me it adds nothing to the cream base. Used on its own, a tacky primer or even a glitter glue is a must, because the silver shimmer gets everywhere. I suspect that someone with blue eyes would find Style Eyes absolutely stunning. On me, the pink falls flat.

Visual Eyes is a stunner, and if you are of a similar coloring as me, this is probably the only one you truly need. The cream shadow is a very satisfying inky blue, which once warmed adequately can actually be used as a liner with an angled brush (a thinner one doesn't grab the product evenly enough in this case, and you will need some stiffness during application). The creamy powder is a violet-blue duo-chrome, and the layered look is red carpet-worthy. I adore this one and must find more opportunities to wear it, because wow.

The creams never fully set dry. They stay put and don't migrate, but don't even think of rubbing your eyes or  touching them. The pigments themselves have wonderful longevity, but the texture is just not meant for a rough day (or night), and is better for a civilized event where you stay reasonably sober (or at least can keep on your feet).

Bottom Line: Choose wisely.

Surratt Beauty Prismatic Eyes ($38, each, made in Japan) are available at Barneys and Sephora. Certain colors get in and out of stock, so it's recommended to call several counters and/or sign up for email updates if you're chasing one shade in particular.

My All Time Most Worn Perfumes... According To Basenotes

I started keeping a log of my scent(s) of the day on Basenotes at some point in 2011. It was easier than maintaining my own spreadsheets, even if somewhat less specific when it comes to version, concentration, and vintages. One of the features Basenotes provides is a tally of one's most worn perfumes of all time. Now, accuracy depends on my zealousness in actually entering the information (I try), the database's completeness (they try), and the fact that a big chunk of data is missing from the period of time the site was hosted on a different server/application during 2013 (it's the internet, stupid). Still, my top 10 off all times according to Basenotes is worth a good look and some pondering:

The undisputed king of my wardrobe is Shalimar. I have a lot of vintage Shalimar in every concentration and reach for it without thinking. I carry a mini vintage EDT in my purse for emergencies and never pass an opportunity to snag another bottle at an estate sale or an antique store. It's Shalimar, it's mine, and there's no room for debate.

The second spot is far more surprising. L'Orpheline is not my most favorite Serge Lutnes perfume. That role is shared by MKK and Miel de Bois. I have no idea why there's no other Lutens in the top ten, but I'm pretty sure that it has to do with my failure to record many of my nighttime or going out wearings. My MdB bottle is nearly empty and I'm thankful for the backup bottles in the basement. So what is L'Orpheline doing up there? The answer is that it's an easy choice of an easy to wear and highly- complimented perfume. I wear it well and it gives me a respite from thinking and analyzing. A plain white t-shirt? Most definitely.

Philtre d'Amour is my early morning and summer nights perfume. A citrus done the Guerlain way. I only have one backup and I'm worried.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Bal a Versailles. Every bottle of the vintage juice I have smells slightly different, but all of them are skank incarnated. I don't think I have quite enough to be embalmed in it, and that concerns me.

Chanel No.5 Eau Premiere and No. 5: That also includes all concentrations of the latter, always vintage, always classy, and offensive only to those under age 16 and to my father. Go figure.

Chanel No.19. I probably wear the eau de parfum more often than other concentrations, but who knows. I'm pretty sure the actual number there should be much higher.

Etat Libre d'Orange Fils de Dieu du Riz etc. and La Fin du Monde. My actual favorite from the line is Tom of Finland, but I wear these two to bed semi-regularly. Fils de Dieu is a summer staple and the popcorn iris of La Fin du Monde is cozy and comforting. As a matter of fact, I'm going to spray it heavily tonight. The husband usually approves.

Closing the top 10 is another Guerlain. Arsene Lupin Dandy is decidedly modern, woody, and supposedly masculine. It gets me going and gets things done. I suspect it's also the last great Guerlain, which adds a touch of melancholy if I think of it too much.

Do you keep records/statistics of your perfume wearing? Do the numbers surprise you when you audit them?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

It Cosmetics Midnight Navy & Rich Plum Liner Love Waterproof Anti-Aging Crème Gel Eye Liner

This was a no-brainer. I already had an It Cosmetics in Silk Taupe and planned to get more colors. When b-Glowing had them for 60% off I was delighted to get Midnight Navy and Rich Plum. After all, I'd pay full retail price for these smooth waterproof eyeliners.

Everything I said last month about It Cosmetics Silk Taupe still stands:

  • The anti-aging claim is ridiculous.
  • The eyeliners are, indeed, waterproof and everything-proof.
  • Application is a dream with any eyeliner brush.
  • The finish is beautiful and matte, pigment intensity is top-notch
  • Removal takes an oil formula and a little patience.
  • This is one of the best gel liners I've tried.
The colors are named aptly. Midnight Navy is a sapphire blue that is far enough from black to be noticed. It's slightly less navy, really, and more of a royal while still being navy-ish. Rich Plum is a nice take on purple. with some reddish brown tones. They're beautiful, and while not absolutely  unique, none of the other eyeliner gel/creams I currently have is exactly like either one of  them. Or so I tell myself.

Bottom Line: Worth it even at full price.

It Cosmetics Midnight Navy & Rich Plum  Liner Love Waterproof Anti-Aging Crème Gel Eye Liner ($24 each, made in Korea) are available at Ulta.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Currently- January 2016

Twilight by Anna Syperek, 2010

What I should be reading is the manual for my camera and the other books on the subject I downloaded. But I'm up to my ears in beauty books and it's a bit too overwhelming as I really want to actually review them. Also, the only thing I wanted to read last week was Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber for the gazillionth time as comfort-reading. I have several print versions, but I think I want the e-Book just so I can stay up all night reading the entire series in one go.

I listened to a whole lot of David Bowie over the last week or so. His "Andy Warhol" has become a permanent earworm , his music permeating my dreams in the oddest ways, including triggering one about Bill Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Waking up my first thought was "Leonard Nimoy is also dead!", and the grief I felt was somehow doubled.
In any case, among the other oddities that my brain came up with last week was remembering this misguided tribute to Space Oddity. It's from 1983, which is barely an excuse. I've forgotten how hot Peter Schilling looked and how cheesy 80s videos were in general. Now I remember, and you will, too.

House Hunters International and House Hunters Renovations. That's all one can watch when your brain becomes one with the stuff in your sinuses, throat, and lungs.

Jessica said everything I could have said and more about David Bowie. And I'm unreasonably jealous of her for getting a Bowie sighting. I never did. Jessica's post expresses perfectly how it felt to discover his music all those years ago and how deeply his legacy is woven into my cultural makeup.

Parfums MDCI-  Les Indes Galantes. It's the newest one and I'll review it soon. Spoiler alert: If you loved Theorema...

Balmy lipsticks that don't aggravate dryness,

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
My Kate Middle Toe socks.
(No, we didn't get an ugly shag rag. It's one of the cat mats by the sliding doors. I was sitting there with Cedric and Peter watching the squirrels)

Most days all I want to eat is a bagel. And candied ginger.

I could whine about the lingering cough, the snow in the forecast, or the misuse of the word "haul". But I am here, you're here, and all the wonderful, shiny things our world has to offer are still around within our grasp. Isn't that marvelous?

The wonders a heavy-duty humidifier can work on one's breathing and sleep.

Valentine's Day. I can't help it.

To complete my Chikuhodo Z-series. I only have a couple of those brushes and I'd like to make them less lonely.

Random Thought
Maggie Smith is kindly requested to live forever. As does Bruce Springsteen. And the Queen of England.

How are you? What's on your list of loves and banes? Any wishes and recommendations?

Estée Lauder Serums: Old & New

The two bottles in the middle of the photo are practically empty. I used up the entire Estée Lauder New Dimension Shape + Fill Expert Serum trying to figure out  if I like it and whether it does anything for me, and the answer to both is "No". More on that below. Then there's my renewed love affair with Lauder's classic Advanced Night Repair (Synchronized Recovery Complex II). How many bottles of that have you gone through in your lifetime so far (including the previous formulation)? I have no idea how many times I've repurchased Advanced Night Repair in its various incarnations, and I remember my mother going through bottles of that as well.

It goes like this: I buy a bottle of Advanced Night Repair, finish it, buys another, use it up more or less, gets distracted by something shiny, experiment for months, then go back to my Estée Lauder and question my sanity for ever letting it go. The main thing is that I don't use ANR at night. For that there's retinol (right now I'm willing to wed Peter Thomas Roth for his one). I use the Advanced Night Repair in the morning, after toning (with a hydrating Asian or Asian-style "lotion", currently sending thanks and blessings twice a day to my reader Eileen for recommending Missha Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence Intensive). I apply the sticky serum to my face and neck, enjoying the way it makes my skin feel upon contact, allow it to soak while I brush my teeth and such before following with a snail product and finishing with a few drops of Best Face Forward oil (note to self: restock soon).

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair is famous for actually working. It brightens, smooths, and improves skin texture, while giving a boost to whatever you use on top for moisturizing. There are more effective nighttime renewal treatments (hence retinol), but I can't think of a better all-around serum that is more action than marketing. I bought the largest size this time.

Now back to the newer Estée Lauder serum, the much-hyped New Dimension Shape + Fill. Firming is a major buzzword these days. It's always been big, but the notion that a skincare product can actually "sculpt" your face seems to have exploded everywhere. I'd call BS, but I have actually encountered products that do something sort-of-kind-of like that, even if on a temporary basis. Estée Lauder New Dimension Shape + Fill Expert Serum is not one of them. Shape & Fill is a nice liquid serum that feels pleasant under makeup (under my sunscreen, really), and absorbs quickly into the skin giving it a soft producty finish. Nothing major, no super powers or extra hydration/tightening/firmness or whatever. Just a harmless light serum that my skin is happy to receive. In my experience, a firmed and plumped up effect can be achieved if the product has this "life of its own" freaky consistency that causes it to re-bond with itself on/in your skin. There are several such products on the market, and what makes them stand out is that a while after you scoop some out of its jar, the dip you made closes and the product's face looks as smooth and untouched as the first time you removed the lid. I swear by Laneige Firming Sleeping Mask, the Korean product (made by Amore Pacific) that I buy regularly at Target, and love using when I take a nap before an outing or an event.

There you have it. Estée Lauder does some things better than anyone else on the market, but seems to stumble and fall when it succumbs to trends (see the Shape +Sculpt eye kit, or Kylie Jenner).

Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair ($62-92, 1oz or 1.7oz) and  Estée Lauder New Dimension Shape + Fill Expert Serum ($89, 1 oz) are available at every department store and from Sephora.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Amber Eyes (Featuring Colourpop and Incubating Germs)

This was the first deliberate look I did in the new year, just before I got sick with a Dickensian chest cold. Looking at the photos now I can almost see the incubating germs having a party under my skin. Still, I decided to post them because I had fun creating something inspired by the huge vintage raw amber you see me wearing. It's actually a brooch that belonged to my maternal grandmother. I was after something colorful to brighten up the generic J. Crew gray sweater (a silk-cashmere blend from last season, I think).

I used three Colourpop eye shadows from their fall Forever Freshman collection (I'm still embarrassed by the name). When I checked last week the set was on sale and still available, but it sold out since. The shades themselves are not that unique and I'll suggest alternatives below. The thing is more about learning to work with colourpop's putty-like texture and understanding the difference between the various finish. My friend Josie was a great help (and an enabler) when I first got these shadows.

Colourpop mattes, at least the ones I've encountered so far, are pigment bombs. You need the tiniest amount, just a touch of the brush to the surface. They benefit from being buffed into the skin, and I use either a MAC 217 or a Paula Dorf Sheer Crease brush (depending on the shape I'm creating. The 217 is more vigorous). Everything else: satin, metallic, pearls, works best when applied with fingers, and again, in small amounts that can be built on as needed. There's no need to dig into the pan, and using a brush on the non-mattes is rather futile, as the particles will get everywhere and the finish will lose its integrity. If I were a makeup artist I'd probably skip these shadows despite their beauty and attractive pricing, because I'd feel it's a) wasteful, and b) less than hygienic to double dip and use fingers. But for the casual user: dip away and finger-paint. It's fun.

Here's what I used for the look:

Cle de Peau luminizer primer. It's flashing back terribly in the photos, but we don't live in photos most of the time.
LMdB Peau Vierge.
MAC Concealer Palette in Medium, the two top shades on the left mixed together.
Shiseido Translucent Loose Powder

MAKE eye primer
Colourpop eye shadows- "As If"- a matte medium cool taupe all over the lid and up to the crease (I could have gone higher, I think). Any matte taupe will do, or even MAC Paint  Pot in Groundwork or Tailor Gray. It got almost covered with the other stuff anyway.
"Melrose"-matte  terracotta applied with a pencil brush mostly along the lash line and blended upward sand outwards. Colourpop Bandit (permanent) is a good substitute, as are the rust color in the Viseart Neutral Mattes palette, or almost any matte bronzer color that has been languishing away in a drawer.
To finish it off, I put a touch of Colourpop Crimper in the middle of the lid and then spent five minutes cleaning up the gold glitter that got everywhere when I accidentally touched my face. Any sheer gold shimmer will do.

I tightlined with YSL Black Bronze cream liner, which is now a Europe exclusive (WHY?). Stila Smoky Quartz cushion eyeliner gel is the next best thing. I finished things off with that Stila mascara sample from their holiday palette. Because it was there.

Burberry Blossom blush
Beauty Is Life Balina multi  powder

MAC My Inner Femme

SotD was Hedonist Cassis by Viktoria Minya.
Germs courtesy of the husband who caught this plague a week earlier.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

NARS NARSissist Cheek Studio Palette (Sephora Exclusive)

It feels like NARS is giving sort of a second chance to those of us who hemmed and hawed about their NARS X Steven Klein One Shocking Moment blush palette until it sold out (I think it was the first item from that collection to get out of stock, while most of the other items are still available on the NARS website). Personally, I prefer the all-mirror packaging of the NARSissist line, fingerprints and all, so that's good. On top of that, while NARS is repeating the highlight contour shades from the Steven Klein palette, most of the four blushes in the Cheek Studio Palette are new(ish) and unique to this palette.

The top row of the Cheek Studio Palette is, as mentioned above, the same as in One Shocking moment. You get the Paloma I and Paloma II highlight/contour duo and the inevitable Laguna bronzer. The highlighter, Paloma I, is barely visible on my skin, and appears a bit powdery when swatched so heavily. However, like a great many NARS face product it performs much better on prepped and primed actual parts of the face. Which brings us to the question: what exactly would I highlight (or contour) with these colors? Paloma I is a matte highlighter, which I greatly appreciate as a setting under eye powder (the tiniest amount), under the brow bone, or anywhere on the face that could use a subtle shimmer-free lift.

Paloma II, the contour powder is soft and delicate, but it's also a warmer tone than I'd personally want for contour. Someone called it a "rose taupe", but my imagination doesn't quite go there. Granted, when I do partake in this activity I only sculpt my nose (my sister and her perfect-from-birth delicate nose are having a laugh at my choice of words), where nothing even remotely orange-like will ever do. What Paloma II does well for me is the sort of barely-there crease contour that works for a myriad of eye shadow applications. I've learned to appreciate this color and its versatility over the last few weeks I've had the palette, and I think the NARS people have hit on something there, even if it's hard to define what exactly is Paloma II.

There's a reason Laguna is included in so many NARS palettes. It's not just a classic bronzer, but a great bronzer. How many pans of it does one need in a lifetime is up for debate, But better Laguna than more Orgasm (and that's a sentence that only makeup people can write or say with a straight face).

Now, the blushes. The three left ones are only marked by Roman numerals, while the one on the far right is named Goulue, and is not exactly new. It was first released  as a limited edition  item in 2013 as part of the NARS X Guy Bourdin collection. Now it is back, but at the moment the single Goulue blush is only available to Sephora Rouge members, and there's a more or less established rumor that it's going to be this year's gift to renewing (or making the cut) one's Rouge membership. That's a lot of makeup politics for one gorgeous blush. This is my favorite item in the palette, as the berry shade with the typical NARS inherent sheen is flattering and somehow also sorta-kinda natural for winter. I'm absolutely crazy about this color.

The other three blushes in the palette require layering for me. Blush I is this icy cool pale pink with dangerous lilac leanings. I'm still trying to find it a perfect layering partner that can benefit from its presence, but it only now came to me: the answer is not plums or berries, but brown and bronze. Some experimenting is in order.

Blush II and III are rather warm and work well together. The dusky warmth and shimmer of II balance out the blatant orange hue of III and make an attractive duo. That's when I can stay away from using Goulue, that is.

Bottom Line: as long as you didn't get the One Shocking Moment palette.

NARS NARSissist Cheek Studio Palette ($65. The contour/highlighter/bronzers are  made in USA, while all four blushes are maufactured in Canada) is a Sephora Exclusive, and despite its original release date (February 1st) is available now from
The product for this review was sent to me by the company.

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie (1947-2016)

David Bowie quotes:

"I suppose for me as an artist it wasn't always just about expressing my work; I really wanted, more than anything else, to contribute in some way to the culture that I was living in. It just seemed like a challenge to move it a little bit towards the way I thought it might be interesting to go."

"I don't have stylistic loyalty. That's why people perceive me changing all the time. But there is a real continuity in my subject matter. "

"On the other hand, what I like my music to do to me is awaken the ghosts inside of me. Not the demons, you understand, but the ghosts."

"I'm not a prophet or a stone aged man, just a mortal with potential of a superman. I'm living on."

"That's the shock: All cliches are true. The years really do speed by. Life really is as short as they tell you it is. And there really is a God - so do I buy that one? If all the other cliches are true... Hell, don't pose me that one."

"When you've had red hair and no eyebrows you've got to have a sense of humor."

"I Don't know where I'm going from here, but I promise it won't be boring."

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777- Black Gemstone

Black Gemstone by Stéphane Humbert Lucas walks a fine line between scary to sexy. It's a heavy and opaque fragrance, all wood, incense, and birch tar. The "Black" in its name is fully justified, especially during the part of the perfume development that feels like you're walking right through a smoky room. In that dark chaos you might fear stumbling into things and sharp objects, which seem to swirl all around you in a chaotic pattern. Once you find your stride and the smoke becomes less tarry and rubbery and you start to see flickers of light shining through and guiding your way.

I confess that sometimes I over-apply, if I'm distracted or have simply forgotten how potent Black Gemstone really is. It takes longer to settle on my skin into the sweet incense, myrrh, and tonka bean, making the foreboding atmosphere of burning black tires in a back alley that much more intense. Is this part of the vision Stéphane Humbert Lucas had for this perfume? It reminds me of the story behind the 1969 Guy Bourdin image I used above. The visual, created by Serge Lutens during his tenure as a makeup artist, was done by completely covering the models in glue from head to toe before applying the black gems. What Bourdin and Lutens didn't realize was that they were in fact suffocating the poor girls, who passed out from lack of oxygen. While various assistants rushed to remove the layers of glue and shiny beads, Bourdin, who's gained a reputation of a model abuser, is reported to have said "Oh, it would be beautiful - to have them dead in bed!". Four photos from the two-day shoot were used for the Christmas issue of Vogue Paris. The one with the unconscious models made the cover.

I've known I was going to use this photo for my Black Gemstone review for a very long time. I love how it connects Serge Lutens to the narrative. His own Serge Noire is a fierce smoky incense that can also be a bit suffocating, especially as it's extremely redolent of spices that seem to have been scorched. While there's no mention of any spice in the note list of the Stéphane Humbert Lucas perfume, I'm pretty sure that I smell a good dose of saffron. It makes me anticipate an appearance of saffron's close companion, rose, but it never comes. Instead, the softer side of Black Gemstone is characterized by sweet fresh incense and tonka bean. This is where the perfume really shines.

Something happens on skin at a certain point. Each one of the major notes: myrrh, wood, incense, and tonka begins to sparkle. They are separated from each other and identifiable just before amalgamating into a sensual scent, delectable and inviting. It lasts forever and a day, and as you can imagine will fumigate the environment if one is not careful. Sometimes, though, it's fun to live dangerously.

Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777- Black Gemstone ($290, 50ml eau de parfum) is available from OsswaldNYC and Luckyscent.

Photograph by Guy Bourdin for Vogue Paris, 1969.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Givenchy Beauty Boutique Opened In NYC

Excellent news for those who are wary of the testers and atmosphere at Sephora and refuse to get assaulted at Barneys beauty level (I've given up on the rest of the store years ago, but now the beauty/fragrance department has become insufferable as well). Givenchy Beauty opened a standalone boutique in NYC, right on Spring and West Broadway. My friend Josie who reported the news and took the picture says that at lunch time on a weekday the place looks empty and ready for browsing without being trampled by tourists with selfie sticks.

I'm a huge fan of Givenchy lipsticks and mascara, and at some point in the past have gone through a couple of Givenchy foundation bottles (a long-gone formula, but this might be a sign I need to try some new stuff). I'm curious about their gel blush and cushion blush, so that is worth investigating.

What would you look for and swatch at the Givenchy store?

Photo: Josie Plumey.

Aftelier Bergamoss Eau de Parfum (Limited Edition)

The eau de parfum version of Bergamoss by Aftelier has an incredible clarity, like the first sunny day after a storm. Yet there's also the furry and intimate quality I find in the original Bergamoss solid perfume, that connects it to the civet-oakmoss classic perfumes without actually imitating them. At first spritz the bergamot is brighter, the peach has a peach blossom to peach skin trajectory, and the green notes are greener. It's also more perfumy, from the basic sensation of spraying and projecting a noticeable sillage and the way a liquid acts on skin. In this sense, Bergamoss edp is related more closely to iconic chypres that evoke vintage furs and handbags than its solid form.

However, the bright green facet of oakmoss and the way it's enhanced by the other notes connect this limited edition Aftelier perfume to nature: the mossy path among the trees, or at least the its fantasy equivalent for someone like me who doesn't do real nature. I get all the beauty and romance without the need for walking shoes.

The animalic side of Bergamoss is my favorite part. Civet tends to become sweet and cozy on my skin. I think the eau de parfum ends up sweeter and warmer, which surprised me given the more intimate nature of the solid perfume. It might be application and amount. spraying semi-lavishly has given me more quality time with Bergamoss and the opportunity to capture it around me and between layers of clothing. The result is slightly heady (for a civet-lover, at least), and very pleasurable. Beyond that, the two versions of Bergamoss are very very close.The liquid, being more volatile, can be somewhat of a 3D special effect. Not just technically but also emotionally.  Bergamoss wears like an armor, a favorite makeup look or an investment accessory. Mandy Aftel's meticulous craftsmanship has resulted in a a strength potion, a magical brew. I sometimes expect the small bottle to levitate on its own.

If I understand correctly, the reason the eau de parfum is a limited edition is the rarity and scarcity of some ingredients. I wish it wasn't the case because this version is somewhat more accessible (conceptually and financially), and because I love it so much. I guess that like all unicorns it's just not meant to exist forever in our world.

Aftelier Bergamoss Eau de Parfum ($60, 9 ml travel spray bottle) is available for the next month and a half on Mandy Aftel says it'll be around until around Valentine's Day, but not long beyond that.
The press sample for this review was sent by the perfumer.

Art: Odilon Redon-  Arbres et Maisons: Vue d’Hiver, 1880

Monday, January 04, 2016

FotD: Makeup On A Bad Skin Day

If I look grumpy in the photos it's because despite appearances to the contrary I haven't been indulging in my favorite coconut sticky rice (or anything containing coconut, as far as I knew). Yet I had a major skin reaction a couple of days earlier. It was already fading at that point (Benadryl and salycilic acid), but the area around my mouth and chin was still taking the fun out of applying makeup. So I reverted to my trusted emergency plan and did what I could. I find it amusing and telling that I posted about this issue two years ago nearly to the day. 'Tis the season and all that.

It wasn't my finest hour, but the Husband and I were just going to the movies (the new Star Wars, what else?). It was going to be dark, anyway, and I was about to put on my glasses and the 3D goggles over them (bringing sexy back). We all survived.

I didn't use foundation all over. Instead, I applied YSL Touche Eclat Blur Primer on my entire face and Le Metier de Beaute Peau Vierge (the tinted moisturizer, shade #2) around my mouth and chin using fingers. I did my best to mask major blemishes with my Cle de Peau concealer (Almond), but was mostly concerned about keeping it in place and kind of even, so powder was my friend (Laura Geller Baked Setting Powder in Medium, applied with a small brush where needed). For the most part, I left my face alone. It thanked me later.

NARS eye primer
I went for a somewhat exaggerated (because of the glasses) brown smoky eye using MAC Constructivist Paint Pot all over the lid and two eye shadows from the Make Up For Ever 15 Artist Shadow Palette. I tightlined with the new(ish) Lancome Drama Liquid Pencil in Noir Intense, and finished with Lancome Grandiose mascara.

A quick touch of Shu Uemura pencil in Seal Brown 02.

Surratt Artistique Blush in La Vie En Rose 3

I went against my own rule. I started with NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Rikugien (a multi-repurchase), but I felt drab and washed out so I added a (very small) touch of NARS Cruella (from the Velvet Matte pencil range). It did the trick.

Other stuff
Vintage necklace. I think it's mid-century Norwegian.
SotD: Etat Libre d'Orange- Encens et Bubblegum


Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 In Beauty

Happy New Year!

I didn't write an end-of-the-year beauty post last year (I did publish a perfume one). I wasn't feeling it. I was also questioning my place in the beauty blogging world, unsure if in a world of Kardashian imitators I still had anything to contribute. But 2015 taught me a lesson or two and affirmed to me that there's a growing audience that doesn't look at the world through an Instagram filter and my ten years of independent and unaffiliated beauty blogging do  amount to something.  That, and the support of true friends and regular reader is what kept me going and brought us to this moment. I coordinated this "Best in Beauty 2015" with Jessica of Tinsel Creation. It often feels like we're the last ones standing when it comes to old-school beauty blogging, so it fits, and it's a pleasure.

Here's the beauty year that was through my eyes:

Favorite Trend
2015 brought Asian beauty into the mainstream. You can now get a variety of incredible products on Amazon and even from Sephora. Korean brand TonyMoly has an actual store in NYC, and everyone seems to have incorporated sheet masks into their routines. Snail goo is relatively cheap and easy to source, Laneige products are are Target, and I'm in heaven.

Least Favorite Trend
Instagram brows. Instagram skin. Instagram eye makeup. Instagram sponsored posts.
Instagram everything.
This app started as a wacky way to post your lunch and raindrops on your commute to work through a filter that looked like your dad's 1970s camera. Now it's a way to promote stuff, to filter your skin into a wax figure level, and the eyebrows. Don't let me start on the eyebrows.

Still making up my mind on this trend
Strobing. I'm all for highlighting. I've always preferred highlighting to extreme contouring on my own face, because it works better for me. But strobing, or extreme highlighting, is sometimes taken to such a level I'm not sure one would enjoy looking at these photos two years from now. I want to glow, not look radioactive, and there's a difference.

Best ad campaign, heartwarming moment, uplifting collection
I didn't expect to be in tears over anything MAC, but MACnificent Me featuring my friend Tresor and a group of other unique and deserving individuals touched me like no other. The lipstick was fabulous as well.

Couldn't Stop Buying
Palettes. Especially eye shadow palettes. Palettes were everywhere, especially in the last quarter of the year gearing up to the holiday season. So many colors, so many textures, so much irresistible beauty. Among the best ones (maybe THE best ones) are the four Viseart palettes I now own (I've added the Dark Mattes and Satin Nudes to my collection). I was good and took full advantage of various sales, so it took the sting of the price, but I have to tell you, even at $75-80 a pop it's hard to do better than this French brand.

My First Dabbling
Indie American brands that produce standout colors and textures at affordable prices and are still made in the USA. Colourpop and Makeup Geek are still learning and growing, but the handful of items I bought and started testing have impressed me greatly. And have I mentioned that they manufacture here in the US?

This year I abandoned the idea of DIY nails and signed my life over to a local salon. They gel manicure has been a sanity and nail saving as I haven't had a broken nail since last May. No more chips or flakes, and getting my pedis professionally done got my back to send me a thank you card.

Best Foundation Discovery
Everyone was doing foundation in dropper form, be it in an actual serum texture or as a pure pigment (Cover FX. And, yes, I still owe you an "all the foundation I've tried this year" post). But the one I really really loved? The $80 Japanese Albion Gel Mask foundation I discovered through Lisa Eldridge. Best finish ever.

Most Disappointing Beauty Book
Speaking of Lisa Eldridge, the long anticipation to her book, Face Paint, about the history of makeup culminated in a sense of letdown. The book itself is gorgeous, the information fascinating, but it needed a firm hand in editing and tightening the writing. Lisa's videos are enriching yet succinct. I wish the same could have been said about her book.

Most Satisfying Beauty Book
Long time in the making (wasn't it announced around five years ago?), Dita von Teese's beauty book, is far more practical and a lot less eccentric than you'd think. Dita knows beauty and this book has definitely delivered.

Favorite Lipstick
Unlike with palettes and eyeliners, I did my best to curb my lipstick shopping this year and use up the sea of reds and plums already in my possession. Success was moderate at best, but this is the one lipstick I'm thrilled to have purchased: Sophia Loren No.1 Lipstick by Dolce & Gabbana.

Eternal Wisdom
If you were around the first time something was on trend, it's best to think carefully partaking in it again. That's all I'm going to say about brown matte lips.

If you've already visited Tinsel Creation for Jessica's list and want a roll down memory lane (more like a drunken tumble), here are my previous year-end posts, starting with 2006:

2006 (including perfume)
2007 (including perfume)
2009 (including perfume)

2012 Part A
2012 Part B
2013- Mine
2013- The Husband's

Image: Joseph Kuhn Regnier, Illustration from ‘The Works of Hippocrates’, 1934