Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Lady Gaga- Eau de Gaga

One way to cope with an oppressive heatwave is to perfume yourself with dignified summer colognes. There are all those beautiful classics such Acqua di Parma Colonia Assoluta, the various Guerlain eaux,  Dior Eau Suave, Chanel eau de Cologne, or Goutal Eau d'Hadrien (vintage, please). Their crispness and clean refreshing citrus notes seem like the only hope for our sweaty reality. One can also wear Eau de Gaga.

 The note list is vague: violet, lime, leather,wood notes. The Gaga imagery that came along with this 2014 release included a lot of naked male skin, and  the celebrity scent concept is so tired and boring that Eau de Gaga seemed to have headed straight to the discounters. It didn't sound or look like anything in particular, let alone a summer cheap thrill, but here we are.

Everything about Eau de Gaga (also known as Eau de Gaga 001, meaning that maybe there are/were plans for sequels) is fake. The violet, the leather, even the citrus bite in the opening. But it's fun, and the part that completely got me (and led to a ridiculous visit to a depressing TJ Maxx location) is a crisp and brisk tea note, slightly sweetened with a hint of summer berries. Ok, maybe embracing the undignified state of being here and drinking a tall glass of powdered iced tea, but I swear that served with enough ice in a nice packaging I can almost see that beautiful front porch with an old swing and a little sitting area, complete with a floral patterned tablecloth.

Longevity of Eau de Gaga is remarkable, which I attribute to whatever was used here to create the leather-not-leather note. It smells more like all the stuff on said front porch baking in the sun, so not exactly an Hermes boutique, but in this heat who has the energy to care? It works.

I'm not sure what's  Eau de Gaga's suggested retail price these days, but bottles can be had for less than $20. Back when it launched in Europe the smallest size was priced around £25, as we can learn from this ridiculous Glamour UK write up.

Monday, July 25, 2016

FotD: An Attempt at Matte Yet Luminous

I owe you several FotD photos, from creating a look with that gorgeous YSL eye shadow palette to the Charlotte Tilbury one. I have quite a few thoughts about the latter, but I'll need to recreate and actually take photos of the understated look I've done with it, because I was just not feeling well enough to commemorate the moment. What I do have today is a summer-in-the-city-resistant look, attempting to maintain a certain degree of luminosity while staying matte and not over-tempting the fates. It survived dinner, so that's something.

Laura Mercier Protect Primer (because there was still some light outside when I left the house).
YSL Touche Eclat Foundation in B50.
Etude House Big Cover Concealer BB, which I'm really loving, but find that the best way to apply it is by putting some on the back of my hand and collecting with the desired brush. The doe-foot sponge applicator is too large and it's hard to control the amount of product otherwise.
Shiseido setting powder.

MAKE primer.
Canvas and Clay from Lorac Pro 3 palette, in the most simple and non-fussy placement, a bit in the crease and some over the lid pulling outwards. I used one brush for both (Paula Dorf Sheer Crease).
YSL Effet Faux Cils Shocking eyeliner pen, mostly as a very thin line with the slightest widening at the outer edge.
Chanel Le Volume mascara plus a tiny partial strip of lashes just at the outer corner (the Lisa Eldridge technique).

A quick and light touch of Clinique Just Browsing in 03 Deep Brown.

I applied a lot more highlighter than I normally would, using Kevyn Aucoin Celestial Skin Liquid Highlighting. It's the liquid version of Candlelight, and my skin seems to eat it, no matter if I use it under, over or mixed with foundation. So I've used it generously on what would have been my cheekbones if I had any. I tried changing light source while taking photos (see below), and you can see below that I still don't glow to high heaven. I'm either doing it right or completely wrong, depending on your Instagram school of thought.
Charlotte Tilbury X Norman Parkinson Color of Youth cream blush (limited edition. I think it's still available on Charlotte's own website).

Chanel Aqua Crayon in 02 Cognac (I thought it was a discontinued color, but looks like Macy's still has it. The color is reasonably close to Cinnamon). I used it all over the lips as a base and for definition.
NARS Overheated Lip Cover.

Other Stuff
SotNight was Histoires de Parfums 1989 Moulin Rouge.
Dress: DVF
Vintage earrings (an estate sale find. They sort of look like tulips, which I've found irresistible). I've been asked about my earrings collection, and yes, it's all clip-ons and screw-backs, about 90% vintage or antique, with a couple of more modern designer ones. I've taught myself how to fix and doctor them, how to add comfort grips (YouTube is amazing for jewelry tutorials), but sometimes no matter what, some pairs are less comfortable than others. I've mostly gotten used to it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Lorac Take Me To TANtego Front of the Line PRO Eye Pencil Set

My next eye pencil post is going to be a massive multi-brand multi-color thing, with about ten pencils from a wide range of places. Today, however, we're looking at a cute summery set from Lorac, Take Me To TANtego, featuring their Front of the Line gel eyeliner pencils. The three colors n the set, Antique Gold, Rose Bronze, and Teal are limited edition seasonal shades and cannot be purchased individually, so that was enough of an incentive to go for it. Also, each Lorac pencil is priced at $20, while the set of three full size liners was $30.

I was looking at the box to see where Lorac manufactured these liners (their products seem to come from all over the globe). The packaging said "Assembled in the US of US and non-US materials", which is the biggest cop-out and also very annoying. But as I looked at the pencils themselves they say very clearly "Made in Korea", and I'm all about Korean cosmetics, so it's all good.

Gel pencils are fun and very gentle on sensitive lids. They glide smoothly with no tagging or pulling, and tend to set quickly and stay put once dry. This is definitely the case here, even if these LORAC From of the Line pencils do not win the 56 hour award (and that's a good thing and a story I'll tell you in my next eyeliner post). It's more than enough that they don't smudge or melt in summer humidity, and maintain their complex color.

See below if you're curious about my bracelet

Speaking of which. You know that the teal pencil was a major bait for me. It's darker than I had anticipated, and has an almost blackened base, making it an excellent color for dramatic lining. It's not bright in any way, and those of you who are curious about teal eye makeup but worry it can look too much for the office have nothing to worry here. Rose Bronze and Antique Gold are pretty true to their names. On my skin the differences between the two are more in line of which leans warmer (Antique Gold), and not so dramatic as to create a completely different look. Both have a substantial amount of shimmer, so if you're a contact lens wearer I'd hesitate to tightline or place them on the waterline. It works for me, though, and I like the effect I get when  I overload my lower lash line with Antique Gold and smudge it quickly (very quickly. It sets in no time). All three colors are great for lining, for use as a base for a powder eye shadow, or just by themselves for a quick and dirty smoky eye.

Lorac  Front of the Line pencils are self twisting and come with a tiny shaper to make the tip more tapered and sharp (similar to NARS pencils, for example). I can never get them to be super sharp, but they're not really meant to be, so it's all good.

Bottom Line: Worth the time and money.

Lorac Take Me To TANtego Front of the Line PRO Eye Pencil Set ($30, made in Korea) is available from Ulta.

The bracelet with the kitten charm you see above came all the way from Ireland. Some of you might know the very talented makeup artist Siobhán McDonnell of the YouTube channel LetzMakeup. I've been a fan for years, which is why I wanted to support her when she recently ventured into jewelry-making. Siobhán  is also a cat person, so the choice was obvious. She sells her creations on Etsy and ships worldwide, which is where I bought the sterling silver (marked 925) bracelet. I'm not affiliated with Siobhán or her store, and paid full price for my purchase. The link is for your convenience only

Currently- July 2016

It was either posting the image above or the Facebook meme announcing that 2016 has been cancelled for being too dysfunctional.  As I've learned from my lovely reader Eileen, perspective, joy, and appreciating each day for all its gifts is the key to the kind of life I wish for myself and everyone else. So, it's the July 1916 garden, blooming roses, a yellow dress, and not complaining about plagues, real and metaphoric.

I've started reading or rereading a dozen books in the last couple of weeks, I just can't finish anything. Not a single chapter. I need something light and enticing. In short sentences. Maybe with pictures of kittens.

On Dead waves- Blue Inside. The entire album is fantastic.

My attention span and The Plague are preventing the husband and me from binge watching the entire last season of Orphan Black that we've been hoarding on the DVR. This series was meant for binging, I think, because it's so confusing otherwise. And can I tell you how happy I am that Tatiana Maslany got an Emmy nomination? It's not that I'm not seriously rooting for Keri Russell, but Tatiana is beyond awesome.

Each and every one of my fig perfumes, especially the greener or woodier ones. I'm starting to think there are not enough of them. I have very little to add to my 2012 Fig Perfume List. It's not right.

I've rearranged some of my free-form and MAC palette by transferring them into larger cases. It's been very inspiring. Now I just need for my face to depuff and my eyes to stop watering and it's all good.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
In my current state there's very little to talk about. But I'm antsy to feel better and wear some of my pretty summer dresses. Or anything free of cat hair, really.

Last week everyone was cheering for Jennifer Aniston and her Huffington Post op-ed. As someone who chose to be child-free I could certainly agree with many of the points she made. People near and far spent years doing a uterus watch, speculating, warning me about my shriveling ovaries and generally being disrespectful. Jen has gone through that multiplied by the entire free world population, and unlike in my case, it didn't stop once she turned forty. The thing is, that's only one part of the story. Lainey from Lainey Gossip has a slightly different view that's worth reading, even if you disagree with her.

Fresh figs and peanut butter. Not together, but never say never.

This is remaining a No Bane Zone even if it kills me (which it probably will).

Visits from the local raccoon family (I leave them food on the deck). Also, these faces:

Gloria and Georgie

Gloria and Georgie, again


The kittens are learning to climb up and down the stairs, which hopefully means that I'll get my dressing room back for myself soonish. It'll be nice.

A full bottle of Le Feu d'Issey. I might as well wish for a unicorn.

Random Thought
Random photo, actually. First Lady Grace Coolidge and her pet raccoon, Rebecca:

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

Monday, July 18, 2016

Charlotte Tilbury Instant Beauty Palette - The Dolce Vita: First Look

It looks like Charlotte Tilbury's Instant Beauty Palette - The Dolce Vita is the highlight of the beauty exclusive from Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale. I've heard people worrying that it would sell out before they get a chance to see it or even order online (this  palette's predecessor, a light colored version of the same structure was a blink-and-you-miss-it thing). Right now Nordstrom is only  running the early access part of the sale, limited to their card members, and I admit that I was thankful to my cat Sophie who woke me up at 5 am last Thursday, allowing me to shop the event soon after it started (I had to use the Nordstrom app on my phone, because the frenzy has crashed the regular site). The palette has arrived this afternoon, s you and I can share a first impression before I put it to the test (I promise a FotD once I get over the crud that has been slowing me down lately).

Charlotte Tilbury Instant Beauty Palette - The Dolce Vita is rather small. For better and for worse it fits in the palm of my hand making it a good fit for makeup bags and travel. It's perfectly fine for the eye shadow pans that look standard, but the face color pans would make it somewhat awkward for many face brush brushes. Looking at them I'm overcome with an urge to just grab a large(ish) blush brush and swirl all the colors together. I have a feeling it could work. The palette comes with a travel-size Legendary Lashes mascara. That's a nice touch.

The three eye shadows are a classic neutral combination: #1 is a champagne color, #2 a gorgeous taupe, while #3 is a dark cool brown. The texture is a smooth satin with a delicate gleam, none feature shiny particles, and the texture is lovely and silky. Depending on the brush you use, there might be varying amount of fall out, so I'd recommend delicate patting down and less than vigorous blending. Not that you'd need much. These eye shadows are easy to work with and almost blend themselves, so no makeup expertise is needed. Place, swipe, and go.

There are two blushes in the palette, both somewhat  on the warm side. No.5 is kind of peachy, while #6 is more coral. These are popular shades for a reason, and would flatter many. I like their silky matte texture and from the limited playtime I've had so far I ca tell they blend beautifully. The tiny pans are annoying. Even a small pointed Yachiyo brush lands outside the pan, so instead of Charlotte Tilbury's "swish & pop" method I'd just blend them together (it's not like she's invented anything new here. Bobbi Brown has been showing the same technique for decades).

A second swatch of the highlighter, trying t see how peachy it appears.

Last are the bronzer and highlighter. The bronzer is gorgeous. It's a medium shade with a satin-almost-matte finish that you can blend to the sheerest hint of a natural tan. I've gotten ridiculously pale and ash-toned in recent year because of a strict regimen of of acids, retinoids, and zero sun exposure (never without SPF 50, hats and scarves). As a result, few bronzers look even remotely natural on my skin and everything needs to be blended to the max. I have a feeling (will need to confirm) that the fine and luxurious texture of this Charlotte Tilbury's bronzer can work. I do have a compact of her Film Star Bronze & Glow that I bought mainly for the highlighter, so a comparison is in order.

The highlighter in the Dolce Vita palette looks so far like the weakest link. It's supposed to be the same as the Film Star one, but I'm not sure. I won't know for sure until I do a full face and see how the product interacts with everything else, but from the three swatches I've tried so far I suspect that the texture is different enough from both the highlighter in the Film Star duo and from the glorious limited edition Charlotte Tilbury x Norman Parkinson compact.  Maybe it' just the narrow uncomfortable pan that doesn't let me maneuver the brush, but the texture in the new palette seems thicker, less even, and I suspect that the color itself is a bit too saturated to function as a proper highlighter on my skin. I do appreciate that this palette was intentionally created for deeper skin tones who could not abide the previous version (there was no way those colors would have worked for me). But I'm more of a neutral light-medium, so a peachy highlighter looks questionable on my cheekbones. I presume.

This palette requires good testing, but I wanted to show you the swatches and give a first impression while it's still widely stocked  (Early Access for card members is until July 21st. After that it'll be available for everyone).

Charlotte Tilbury Instant Beauty Palette - The Dolce Vita ($75, made in Italy) is exclusive to Nordstrom.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Perfume Oils- My top 10 Picks For Summer

I've heard from people who regularly forego regular perfumes in the heat of summer. For some it's a matter of sillage. I guess not everyone wants to waft their Fracas four blocks down. Others have a very real concern about  photo-sensitivity and the alcohol in regular perfumes. It's important: don't spray perfumes on any area  that's exposed to sun, because it can cause white spots on the skin. Oils are significantly better for a day spent outdoors, and some can also be a pampering treat before bed. The following ten picks are my very personal favorites this summer and beyond:

  • A niche classic, Monyette Paris is the  tropical vacation I'm not getting anytime soon but keep dreaming about. A sultry summer night in a little bottle and we can all lose ourselves in the dream.
  • Aftelier Ancient Resins is a richly perfumed elixir oil you can use on your body and hair. The scent is dry and resinous, making it a great relief on a humid and hazy day, and lasts on the skin by itself, but will  also enhance any incense perfume you want to spray afterwords. 
  • I'm a huge fan of Madini oils in general, and the light and sweet Musk Pierre is a beautiful choice when you're seeking a clean musk that is one step above soapy, and is still sexy without going to the dark side.
  • Speaking of soapy, when one really wants to go there we have Goddess of Dreams by CJ Scents. I find this musky mossy gem to smell like a French soap, but the reason I've heard of it in the first place was because a lovely reader wanted to tip me onto an oil that is comparable to the (unavailable in the US) Nivea perfume that's supposed to smell like the classic cream.
  • Andy Tauer has a way with roses. His brand new Rose Delight body oil is 10%  rose fragrance blended in 90% pure jojoba oil. It's wonderful on skin, and the rose is toe-curling good (and I'm not necessarily a rose person). Exclusive to Tauer's own website.
  •  Staying in the all-over body oil, you knew I was going to mention the limited edition Chanel No.5 dry oil. It can satisfy your No.5 craving without sending a cloud of aldehydes into the summer air (not that there's anything wrong with that).
  • Sage Machado Onyx is another perfect summer night perfume oil. I can no longer eat coconut or use coconut oil on my hair, but I can still indulge in a black coconut perfume, and this one is enriched with moss and tobacco, making it dark and sexy.
  • Back to another full body experience is Nuxe dry oil. I use it from head to toe, and the clean musky soapy jasmine scent lingers  even without adding a spray of the sort-of-matching perfume.
  • Aroma M Geisha perfume oils come in little roll-on bottles that are great companions when traveling. Geisha Blue is chamomile, jasmine, and the perfect blue summer skies. 
  • I had a hard time choosing between the various fig scents Ava Luxe makes. Is it the green Fig Leaf? the milky Figuer?  the spicy Bois de Figue?  In the end I went with the complex Johri that seems to have it all. 
Do you prefer oils in the summer? Which are your favorites?

For different takes on the best summer perfumes please visit my friends at Bois de Jasmin * Grain de Musc* Now Smell This* Perfume Posse

Photo taken by The Husband in our garden.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Sabon Golden Iris Shower Oil, Body Lotion, Candle (Limited Edition)

I owe this pleasure to my wonderful friend Josie who wandered into a Sabon boutique in the city for some sniffing, and came out declaring the Golden Iris range as the perfect companion to one of our favorite iris perfumes, Khol de Bahrein by  Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777.  I've always meant to start exploring the bath and body products from Sabon, but being allergic to many soapy things I tend to stay on the safe side and stick with L'Occitane. Not having an itchy skin goes a very long way for me.

While Sabon doesn't put the ingredient list online (why isn't this a standard practice?), the stuff they do mention is olive, avocado, jojoba and wheat germ oils. No coconut (I'm extremely and painfully allergic), so I was ready to take the plunge. There are six items in the limited edition Golden Iris range and I got three:the shower oil, body lotion, and a candle. You can also buy a scent diffuser for your house, a sea salt body scrub, or a bar of soap.

Let's start with the scent itself. While it's not identical to the magnificent Khol de Bahrein, Golden Iris does share the rich buttery dough facet. It's soapier and somewhat more floral, while the SHL perfume leans gourmand, but there's no mistaking the elegant iris note that shares the same kind of warmth with it.This is a beautiful scent that smells sophisticated and far more expensive than you might expect from a bath and body line.

Sabon's shower oil is not really oily. It's a liquid soap that comes in a long neck bottle plus a pump,  feels very gentle and not drying on my skin. It projects nicely in the shower, filling the air with its wonderful aroma. It does not linger on the skin much past toweling off, but that's where the body lotion comes into play. It comes in a jar and has the texture and feel of a body butter. This is a very moisturizing product, and for people who don't have an extremely dry skin like mine it can probably serve as a cold weather pampering product. I find this lotion/balm very satisfying and nourishing, and love the way my skin feels afterwards. The Golden Iris scent of the lotion remains on the skin for a couple of hours, so it's a lovely treat before bed, even if you don't add a perfume afterwords. I do, of course, and find that just as Josie said, Khol de Bahrein settles into it beautifully for a very happy 24 hours.

The candle takes the soap facet of Golden Iris and fill the air with it. The throw is impressive, and I can smell it suddenly around the house when I don't expect it. It burns slowly though not completely evenly, and I estimate its burning time at around 48 hours.

Bottom Line: Since it's a limited edition I should probably stock up a bit.

Sabon Golden Iris shower oil ($18 250ml), body lotion ($25, 200ml), and candle ($35, 230ml) is available in store at Sabon boutiques and from their website sabonnyc.com.

Art: James Aponovich, 3 Pots of Iris , 2014

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Japonesque Kumadori Makeup Brushes

I came across the new Japonesque Kumadori brush series back in April while harmlessly (humor me) strolling the aisles of Ulta. The presentation and the resemblance to traditional Japanese brushes were too tempting to skip, especially since the Hakuhodo equivalents are among my favorite and most used brushes. Of course, one must take into account that the real Japanese brushes are meticulously handmade, while the more commercial Japonesque is mass produced.

Japonesque Kumadori brushes have beautiful and sturdy handles. Some are wrapped (like the traditional Japanese brushes) in wisteria stalks. and the whole look is more NARS than Hakuhodo. During the first couple of weeks I've been testing them I was sure the brushes were made from synthetic hair, because the fibers have a glossy sheen. However, further research (as in actually reading the available information) revealed that it's actually natural hair, though nowhere does it give particulars. If I had to guess I'd say coarse goat hair, and it's obviously cut, since the ends are rather blunt. You don't get Sokoho quality hair for these prices, and I'm perfectly fine with that in this case.

I picked four out of the five Kumadori brushes Japonesque offers (I skipped the fan brush, deciding I have more than enough of those. It looked like the equivalent of Smashbox #22 or Sephora #65). The largest of the group is the powder brush ($28), which looks like an oversized Yachiyo. The handle is proportionate to the head, and it feels sturdy and balanced. It is meant to be used with powder products: finishing/setting, bronzer, or mineral foundation. The size is comparable to something like Goss 00 brush, but obviously this brush is not nearly as soft. A closer comparison would probably be to Bobbi Brown's biggest powder brush ($66), so if you're after a snappy massive powder brush this Japonesque Kumadori is something to consider. Personally, I prefer somewhat smaller brushes for most powder uses, or a significantly softer one for the final blending and finishing of the face. I do find this particular brush efficient for a quick cleanup, though nearly three months and several washings later it still sheds and leaves some hair on my face.

Yachiyo brushes are incredibly versatile because of their size and shape. While my first go-to for blush application is the medium one by Hakuhodo, a large Yachiyo is perhaps my favorite tool for powdering the face and blending everything together. My old NARS has somewhat faded and frayed over the years, and I find the Japonesque Kumadori Contour and Highlighting brush ($19) a good equal. Both aren't half as soft as my Hakuhodo, but they're good for quick and dirty jobs. Do note that I cannot comment on comparison to the newest version of NARS since I haven't purchased it. It is, supposedly, far superior to the old and somewhat scratchy version. Also, while Japonesque has designated their Yachiyo for contouring and highlighting I personally think it's far too large for that. The brush blends well, but would pick up too much product for my comfort, and distribute it too far on the face.

I love my Hakuhodo Mizubake brush It's a favorite for cream and liquid blushes because it blends flawlessly. It's also a very good foundation brush, especially if you're after a not-too-firm and quite soft flat top brush. Japonesque's Buffing Brush ($22)  is denser (hence the buffing thing) and not as soft as my Hakuhodo, but it performs reasonably well. It also solves my one annoyance with the Hakuhodo by offering a slightly longer handle. Once again, shedding is an issue here (cream products exacerbate it), but I hope that eventually this will stop, because I find this brush to be a good backup, and at less than half the price I really can't complain.

NARS has discontinued their original large Ita brush #28 long before the redesign of their brush collection. They brought back the smaller Ita (formerly #21), but I have no experience with them, because I switched to Hakuhodo and haven't looked back since. The old NARS ones kind of sucked, because they were too scratchy. Japonesque's Blending Brush ($24) is better in this regard, but it's not truly an Ita brush. If you look closely you can see that it's significantly thicker, has longer hair and is shaped with a slight curve. This is why it's a blending brush and not one meant for sculpting and defining. Nor is it recommended for foundation application because of the sharp corners of the handle. Now that I think of it, this brush could also be compared to the lovely Tarte Swirl Power brush ($34), which is thicker than an Itabake and and has a similar curve to the Japonesque. However, the synthetic fibers Tarte uses are much softer than the Kumadori, and I'm guessing we all have better blending brushes that have a friendlier shape and/or feel gentler on the skin (and most likely both). If you're looking for a true Itabake brush I still think Hakuhodo is the way to go. I have the tiny version as well as the large one you see above (which isn't even the biggest offered), and between the two I'm covered (no pun intended), though I've been eyeing the medium one because it looks like a power tool that can multitask.

Bottom Line: I'd go with the Mizubake and Yachiyo shapes and skip the others.

Japonesque Kumadori Makeup Brushes ($19-28, made in China) are available from Ulta, where right now they have a Buy One, Get One 50% off sale on the brand.

Parfumerie Generale- Iris Oriental (Formerly Iris Taizo), Revisited

Back in 2007 I made a comment about the newly-launched (back then) Infusion d'Iris, saying that for pretty and easy going iris perfume we already have Parfumerie Generale's Iris Taizo, so why bother with the bleached clean Prada? A couple of years ago I revisited Infusion d'Iris, and felt exactly the same way. It's still nice, I still don't see a reason to by a bottle. I have been asked, tough, to talk more about Pierre Guillaume's creation, since there's been some confusion when PG changed the perfume's name to Iris Oriental. Some claimed Iris Taizo was completely discontinued, other cried reformulation, but most just completely forgot about this one (why? Why? WHY?).

Over the years I've gone through several large decants of Iris Taizo/Iris Oriental, probably at least the amount in Parumerie Generale's smallest bottles. It's become a no-brainer kind of staple, especially at bedtime; I have no explanation why this fragrance never made it into my top iris perfume list (which should probably get updated at some point). I also have a new bottle of the recent juice, which calls for a formula discussion. Uncle Serge said once that you should assume that every perfume undergoes some tweaks and adjustment about once every seven years. It's not always obvious,especially if the brand is dedicated to preserving the fragrance's integrity, but sometimes a serious difference is simply inevitable (I suspect he was referring to his own Miel de Bois).

My nose is experienced yet limited. I'll never pretend to have a "perfect pitch" when smelling, but I do have an excellent memory for some things, an a sort of brain index when it comes to perfume. If Iris Taizo has been reformulated when renamed Iris Oriental I cannot detect the difference. It is still that pretty and ornamental iris with a satisfying sweet wood base that I've been wearing for the last nine years.

I suspect that a big part o renaming the fragrance had to do with making it easier for the casual perfume buyer to understand what it's all about. It's an iris, indeed, but with all the trimmings and frills that make it fun, and a sweet oriental base. I'm won over from first spritz, as a good sprinkling cardamom-laced powdered sugar surrounds the wood and iris that land on skin. It's a similar feeling to opening a cookie box slightly carelessly, so the residual powdery stuff lands on the front of your shirt and the tip of your nose.You shove that first cookie quickly into your mouth because it's more tempting than cleaning up the mess, and the delicious sensation of being just a little naughty and gluttonous is too good to pass.

The iris itself is pretty straightforward in this Parfumerie Generale creation (compare to the thick and sexy Cuir d'Iris). It's petal-like and delicate enough to give the impression of something that sways and quivers in the breeze, except for a smooth windswept wood backbone. That woodiness deepens over time and warms up as you wear it, gaining the sweetness and slightly animalic tones of rich honey. The official notes mention fig-tree honey  (something I've been yearning to taste ever since I first I've heard about it. If anyone can tell me where I can buy this delicacy I'd be a very happy woman), which sounds like the most heavenly honey imaginable. If you're a fig perfume and honey perfume lover you can probably conjure all the complex undertones and nuances it must contain, the surprisingly human and carnal, the ancient tree standing right by a water stream cooling the air around it, the milkiness of the bark as you stroke it, and the burst of sweetness of the just-picked fruit.

You only get a hint of that in the honey-steeped wood of  Iris Oriental, but it's enough to satisfy yet not overshadow the iris itself. The perfumes seems to expand on skin, creating that gourmand but not-quite effect that perfumer Guillaume has made his signature. It's a good place to start if you're an iris novice or new to Guillaume's work, since it shows some very pleasing olfactory effects without going into the more bitter, earthy, carroty, or ghostly places this note can lead you. It's also a fun interpretation of a "pretty" iris than the now-classic Prada or the iconic Iris Poudre.

Iris Oriental by Parfumerie Generale is available from osswaldnyc.com ($179 for the large 100ml bottle) or Luckyscent ($125 for the smaller 50ml one. The 30ml bottles seem to be exclusive to the brand's own website, parfumerie-generale.com, where you can order them for 65.00 €).

Art: Torii Kiyonaga (Japanese, 1752-1815), Iris, ca. 1780

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Aqua Reveal Gentle Action Water Peel for Body (And A Few Facts About Skin Exfoliators)

A few months ago I finished my bottle of Gena LikePumice. I'm a menacing zealot about foot maintenance between pedicures, but before purchasing a new bottle I remembered that some time back I was sent a tube of Aqua Reveal Gentle Action Water Peel for Body, which the PR person told me was an especially great for feet. Aqua Reveal Gentle Action Water Peel is a gel that comes in a regular tube, giving it a major advantage over the Gena mousse. and it's less awkward to use. I was impressed with the amount of "dead skin" that seemed to have melt away as soon as I started massaging my feet. But eventually I started to ask some important questions. Beginning with how in the world do my well-pedicured, lotioned, and regularly filed feet still produce this amount of ick? Also, what ingredient is causing all this exfoliating action, since the product boasts "no acids, scrubs or enzymes"?

Google is our dear dear friend. Searching the ingredient list of Aqua Reveal Gentle Action Water Peel for Body has revealed (no pun intended. Well, maybe) two things. First, that the content of this $45/5 oz (150ml) tube was similar to a the very popular Japanese Cure Natural Aqua Gel (abot $28/250ml). Here are the ingredients of both:

Cure Natural Aqua Gel 
Water, glycerin, acrylates/C10-30, alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, dicocodimonium, chloride, steartrimonium bromide, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, gingko biloba extract, rosmarinus officinalis/rosemary leaf extract, butylene glycol.

Aqua Reveal Gentle Action Water Peel for Body
Water (Aqua), Citrus Aurantium, Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Water*, Glycerin, Acrylates / C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Steartrimonium Bromide, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract*, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract*, Oligopeptide-68, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Sodium Oleate, Dicocodimonium Chloride, Disodium EDTA, Butylene Glycol, Isopropyl Alcohol
* Organic

Not identical by any means, but the major difference I see is that Aqua Revel contains a significant amount of citrus oils which are actually a major skin irritant (ask IFRA) for those who are sensitive to it. The Japanese formula seems simpler, hence gentler. But what causes the massive exfoliation? That was the second revelation: I found this Beauty Brains article claiming that Cure is more similar in formula to a hair conditioner, and that the "peeling" we experience is actually the product balling up as the water evaporates and the acrylates polymer separates.


I don't believe everything I read on the internet (a good practice for beauty bloggers and presidential candidates alike), so I've spent half a a day looking up each mystery ingredient of Aqua Reveal on several sources. Here's what I've got (we already know that none of the various leaf extracts is an exfoliant):

Water (Aqua), Citrus Aurantium (that's bitter orange, also known in perfumery as bigarade), Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Water, Glycerin, Acrylates / C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer (Film-Forming/Holding Agents), Steartrimonium Bromide (an emulsifier, rinsing agent), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract*, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract*, Oligopeptide-68 (Peptide that induces significant skin lightening shown to have a higher activity than Arbutin and vitamin C. WHAT?), Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate ( Licorice root extract, an Ammonium Salt extract that helps to form gels and stabilize emulsions. It is also used to soothe skin irritations and to regulate the pH levels), Hydrogenated Lecithin (an emollient cell-communicating Ingredient), Sodium Oleate (a fatty acid), Dicocodimonium Chloride (an ammonium salt, emulsifier and conditioner for hair), Disodium EDTA (preservative, stabilizer, counteracts the adverse effects of hard water ), Butylene Glycol (solvent, helps other products dissolve in water as a viscosity-decreasing agent that thins creams and gels so they're easier to use, and as a conditioning agent), Isopropyl Alcohol (the most basic stuff, antiseptic).

Basically, I've been rubbing a hair conditioner meticulously into my feet.

But what about Gena products? Are they more of the same thing? It was almost impossible to find the ingredient list of LikePumice (which in itself is aggravating), but I have both that as well as the list for another Gena product, that latter was also sent by PR, Gena Sloughing Lotion Pedi-Care With Peppermint Oil.

Gena LikePumice
Butane (gas, that's what creates the mousse effect), Water, Alcohol Denant (yes, the drying stuff), Polyvinyl Alcohol (a thickener, used as  a surfactant for the formation of polymer encapsulated nanobeads. HA GOTCHA!), Papaya Fruit Extract (anti-irritant and soothing), Nettle Extract (used to treat gout and in flavouring of Gouda cheese.Seriously), PPG-8-Ceteth-20 (an emulsifier), Propylene Glycol (a humectant), Glycerin, Fragrance, Benzyl Benzoate (a component of Balsam of Peru, a repellant of ticks and mosquitoes, a cure for human scabies, and a good solvent, which is probably why it's here.), Butylphenyl Methylpropional (aka Lilial, a fragrance material that's considered a serious skin irritant), Hexyl Cinnamal (another fragrance molecule that imitates jasmine scent and is considered an allergen), Linalool (a common fragrance ingredient in shampoo and household products, an insect repellent and a good stress relief for your rodents).

Gena Sloughing Lotion
Water, Paraffin (mineral oil), Stearic Acid (a fatty acid, commonly used in cleansers), Cetyl Alcohol (a fatty alcohol commonly used in creams  and lotions as an  emollient, emulsifier or thickening agent) , Glyceryl Stearate (a lubricant and an emulsifier), Aloe Leaf Juice, Menthol, Peppermint Oil, Limonene (a citrus-smelling chemical used as a solvent in cleaning products) , Linalool (see above), Triethanolamine (a pH balancer since it's a strong base. Melts makeup and earwax), Silica, Methylparaben (a preservative ), Propylparaben (ditto. Also an anti-fungal).

Other then a headache, what we get here is a strong feeling of being duped. Perfume people reading this must be rolling their eyes so far back they can see their amygdala, since so many of the ingredients listed here are either banned or heavily restricted for use in perfume because of their skin-irritation potential, where it's a tiny amount of the product and you only spray a little, while these are products you rub lavishly into your skin.

I, personally, am not sensitive to any of the stuff above, so all  got was the false effect of melting skin created by the various thickeners and surfactants, and a well-lotioned and conditioned skin that gave me the feeling I was, indeed, doing something special for my feet.

Bottom Line: Use a good foot file and an effective foot lotion (that does contain acids or enzymes).

Aqua Reveal Gentle Action Water Peel for Body ($45) is available at Bloomingdale's, SpaceNK, and Birchbox. It was sent for my consideration by PR, as was Gena Sloughing Lotion. I bought the LikePumice thing myself, and have never tried Cure Natural Aqua Gel, the Japanese wonder. That has to count for something.

Image: Brigitte Bardot in Come Dance With Me, 1959

En Voyage- Rainmaker

One of my favorite things in the world is being at home on a rainy afternoon, the stormier the better, wrapped in a blanket with assorted cats, reading a book (okay, on the iPad, but still), until I fall asleep, surrounded by said cats. It's a delicious, cozy feeling, that makes me full of gratitude for all the things around me, those you can and cannot see. It was one such afternoon when I first tested Rainmaker, a new creation by perfumer Shelley Waddington of En Voyage. I woke up leisurely, savoring the sweetness of my cats Sophie and Lizzy who were spooning with me, and the warmth of the wonderful perfume I was wearing that felt like it had been spun around me like a soft cocoon.

Sometimes I need to separate myself and the perfume I'm wearing from its background story, as beautiful as it may be. Shelley Waddington composed Rainmaker around elements from the Pacific Northwest, its rain-soaked mossy forests, and the ancient traditions of the Native American cultures that lived there for countless eras, relying on nature and respecting it. I have yet to visit that area, and my lack of outdoorsy sense is the stuff of legends. This is why my perception of En Voyage's Rainmaker is based on my own sensibilities: the smell of a storm in the air of my Eastern suburb, the soaked mossy ground in my backyard (my idea and ideal of nature, green and lush in the summer rain, with wildlife visitors that include a family of rotund raccoons, a young cheerful groundhog, Frederic the skunk, an opossum of unusual size, and a boisterous crowd of squirrels and birds of every size that I feed daily).

More than anything, Rainmaker is an ambery mossy perfume. Ms. Waddington defines it as a "bright woody-amber chypre", and for once I'm not about to argue about a very modern perfume's relation to classic chypres. Rainmaker is exquisitely well-blended, so it's free of the rawness you often find in perfumes from micro-niche all-natural brands (including En Voyage itself). This one has earned its chypre wings through the balance between the bright lightning-lit skies, the wet flora, and the thick, rich mossy base that feels more plush and warm than wet earth and dirt paths, because of the not-so-obvious amber accord that holds it all together, and gives the fragrance an all day/all night longevity and seems to have attach itself permanently to my nightshirts and lounge-wear. And also to the kittens.

En Voyage- Rainmaker ($70 for the 0.5 oz eau de parfum) is available directly from envoyageperfumes.com. The perfumer has sent me a free sample for consideration (can also be purchased, along with larger size bottles), but I have since bought a bottle which I've been draining at an alarming rate.

Illustration: It rained All Day by Mel Kadel, 2012.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

YSL Scandal Collection Couture Palette

If I were a real makeup collector I'd have snagged each and every one of YSL's Couture Palette Collector, would have found a way to display them, and never ever used them. I do nothing of te above. I pick the ones with colors I know I'll use again and again, place them unceremoniously in the drawer where they fit the best and are easily accessible, and use them at whim, usually pairing one or two colors with stuff from other brands, to create a look I can wear for the sake of my face and not as a fashion statement. I'm a makeup heretic.

Yves Saint Laurent with his models, “Liberation” collection, 1971

The reason I picked Yves Saint Laurent's new Scandal Collection Couture Palette was not the evocation of the spring/summer 1971 range originally maned "The Liberation Collection", and described by some critics as "Ugliest Fashion Show In Paris". The outrage came for the most part from the designer's claims that he was inspired by the elegance of the war years and the Occupation (that's the Nazi Occupation, by the way), and the public, whose memories of the years of deprivation and restriction in the 1940s were still very much alive. Maybe they didn't want to go back to  square shoulders, short draped dresses, knee-length skirts, platform shoes and exaggerated makeup. You can't really blame them, and I tend to give a serious side-eye to anyone who romanticizes the 1940s. Yes, the aesthetics were striking in some cases, and the movies showed stunning clothes and makeup, so let's look at the photos but not forget what else was going on in the world.

Fashuon faux-pas or not, it was a seminal moment that inspired retro trends of the 1971 (just look at the above photo of Yves Saint-Laurent and his models wearing the Scandal collection). However, i picked this particular palette because it's a) stunning, and b) continues the quality improvement of textures and pigmentation in YSL palettes.

As usual, this is a five color quint, and some of the possible combinations are bolder than others. The eye shadows are dense in pigment but soft to the touch and for blending, can be patted, layered, diffused, and used damp for lining or emphasis. The jewel tones can each serve as the star of its own little show, and you can go by the general YSL suggestion on the box bellow or do your own thing:

The swatches above were done with a generic synthetic brush, barely touching the surface, just to show you how much impact the pigment has on skin even without trying. Even the highlighter is beautiful, and applied with an appropriately small yet fluffy brush can be used on the cheekbones or in the sweet spot on the temples. All colors have a certain satin glow without actual particles (you can bring them to an almost metallic level by foiling). Reddish and burgundy eye shadows are very much on-trend this season, so finding ways to make the middle color work for everyday looks has been fun (the mattes in Lorac Pro 3 are your friends).

Bottom Line: not just for the die-hards.

YSL Scandal Collection Couture Palette ($60, made in France) is available from Nordstrom and select YSL counters.

1971 Photos: Foundation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

Wishing you a sparkling and joyous weekend.

I'm going to commit some serious blasphemy, but I truly believe that the cover below, Richard Shindell live performing Bruce Springsteen's Fourth of July Asbury Park (Sandy), is the best version of this song.

Top image: Vogue, July 1942 via Conde Nast Archive