Saturday, September 30, 2017

Currently- September 2017


September got lost in a fluff of cat hair, odd weather, and a world that sometimes feels like it was written by Shirley Jackson. Today actually feels like fall, and the green bubble that surrounds our house and neighborhood has an air of anticipation. Three of the kittens are spoken-for, Celeste seems to be settling-in nicely, and there's a young cat from her previous litter (after Gloria & co but before the Famous Six) who makes appearances in our yard and we must trap and spay before it's too late. Whoever released Celeste into the wild has earned a special place in hell.

Book
I'm about to embark on a YA novel. The sequel to the 1000th Floor. Because my brain is all that these days.

Music
There's a lot of good new stuff, from the ear-pleasing Jack Johnson album to the emotionally satisfying Goths by the Mountain Goats, but I just listened to the PJ Harvey and Thom York collaboration, This Mess We're In. It's still as stirring as ever.




TV
Big Little Lies was binge-worthy, and I just watched the documentary about Princess Diana's death and funeral on Netflix, but the next great things are the new seasons of Transparent and One Mississippi.

Perfume
It's really fall, so I'm wearing Fumerie Turque. It's a Pavlovian thing for me.

Makeup
Things that require glitter glue. I want to shine, but there will be no fallout in this face.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
Kitten-proof attire isn't exactly glamorous. Black leggings or jeans and sheer flowy silk tops when I'm trying to look sane.

Food
Buttered and toasted poppy seed bagels.

Link
Have Children Lost Touch With Nature? I know little of nature and even less of children, but it's interesting.

Bane
Is there a word for fear of home renovations? Our master bath is in a dire need. You'll hear me complain more about it, I'm sure.

Joy
Mr. Bingley


Anticipation
My best friend is about to walk in the door any minute now.

Wishlist
An Indian summer.

Random Thought
The poop emoji is extremely useful when describing cleaning litter boxes used by kittens.

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

Art: September 1970, The New Yorker

Thursday, September 14, 2017

It's All Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye Shadow



Misadventures in depotting.

I've never been a depotter. I'm a purist who loves original packaging and can tell in a glance what's in every compact (and sometimes label them for ease of access). As one of those weirdos who still buys and uses single eye shadows, alone or to supplement a palette, I remember what I have and which drawer hosts them. It's all good. That's why I can't explain what gotten into me one afternoon a couple of months ago as it occurred to me that my cherished collection of Rouge Bunny Rouge  singles and custom trios has been under-utilized for a while for o good reason. I figured it was because it's very hard to tell which is which. The sticker with the name of the shadow is so tiny it's impossible to read, The trios are impossible to label if they stand on their side, so somehow these best-in-class beauties are often overlooked. The obvious solution: depot. Right.

Except that I'm not exactly a depotting pro. I refuse to use heat when separating the pan from its compact for fear of burning down the house or filling said house with the odor of burning plastic. And I'm stubborn.

I own that sharp depotting tool by Z-Palette which I've been using  relocate random MAC, Anastasia, and other magnetized singles from one palette to another. I know the theory: you stick the pointy end of the tool between pan and plastic, wiggle gently, slide it ever so slightly to the side, and feel the pan detach from the glue that holds it and pop into freedom. Except that in reality the spatula thingy jumps a bit, stabs you in the palm of your hand and pokes the precious soft eye shadow, chipping chunks from its surface or breaking it into crumbles that end up on one's Chinese rug.

Five survived out of ten full size Rouge Bunny Rouge single eye shadows.

Luckily that was the very week RBR had a brilliant 50% off sale. I hopped online, ordered the refill size of the fallen (for those available) and replacement singles when not. They'll stay in the original packaging. I'll deal.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Currently- August 2017


Previously on Cats of Our Lives (mostly for those not following Jersey Cats  or my Instagram): When this happened last year the husband and I failed miserably at trapping the young mother who gave us Georgie, Lilian, and Gloria. During this time she had at least one if not two more litters who made brief appearances at the yards of our neighbors as well as here. Then on June this year I've watched her do the dirty right outside our bedroom window with the cat who fathered Gloria et al. . That was it. We were on a mission. Said mission was sort of put on the backburner for several weeks as our oldest cat, Peter, was on a rapid decline. He passed away a couple of weeks ago on Friday at age 16 and a half, which considering the myriad of health issues that bothered him since a very young age, was a small miracle in itself. He was a loving creature and I've loved him fiercely for his sweetness, weirdness, and funny little habits.

That same weekend, on Sunday, the Blond set the HAVAHART trap on our deck, hoping not to meet any of our opossums or other wildlife up close. Not even half an hour later he heard that telling click of the trap, and braced himself to apologize deeply to Arlo the groundhog.Only it wasn't Arlo. It was the very pregnant momma cat whom we've named Celeste as far back as last year. A quick tip to our vet (a trusted clinic that's open on Sundays=priceless) affirmed Celeste's condition, her good nature, and excellent health and we were on our way home, where we've transformed the guest bedroom (sorry, guests!)  into a maternity ward as well as a "from stray to domestic" school zone. We thought we had between a week to ten days to settle Celeste into a routine, but contraction started the next evening, and we watched it all happen on a closed-circuit camera we installed in the room (for Celeste, not for our guests, I promise). The next few days were a blur and i was not fully clear exactly how many kittens were in that sweet little pile hanging on Celeste's belly. The answer turned out to be seven.

Unfortunately, within a couple of days we realized something was wrong. Celeste was acting like a trooper, but she was visibly in pain. We rushed her to the vet who diagnosed an acute uterine infection (part of the placenta was still inside). She had to undergo an  emergency hysterectomy (plus the rest of the plumbing for good measures) to save her life. By the time she came back home practically as good as new the next afternoon we've lost the runt of the litter despite our best efforts (feedings every two hours day and night), but I couldn't even dwell on that. Here was a cat after a major surgery that needed to produce enough milk for six kittens. With our help, of course, but still. I can keep talking about all things kitten and lactation until we all grow whiskers, but I'll just tell you that at this point the babies have more than doubled their birth weight and today the first one has broken the 7oz point. Cue a happy milky dance.

We're adopting Celeste as we've always meant to do, and hope to quickly find the gorgeous kittens the loving homes they deserve. Considering how incredible their older siblings (same mother AND father) turned out to be, who wouldn't want one (or three)?   I have to say that with all that's been going on in our country and beyond over the last couple of weeks I'm not mad that my personal world right now revolves around feline bodily functions.

Book/Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure
Taking my attention span into account all I manage to read are Game of Thrones recaps. Almost each and every one of them. Most of them might not provide any new insight, and some are downright silly (seriously? the healthiest romantic relationship is between Cersei and Jaime? And what's with all the Jorah hate? I adore the guy). Still, my favorites are the ones on NPR blog (Monkey See), the Washington Post, and both recaps (Unsullied and Sullied) on Watchers On The Wall. Apparently I can also talk about Thrones until we all grow reddish whiskers like Tormund's.

TV
I can see you all roll your eyes. But one last thing: Were I the only one almost screaming at the screen when Sam completely ignored Gilly's huge discovery regarding Prince Rhaegar's marriage annulment? Yes, dragons, ice zombies, and ice zombie-dragons, I know. But I totally watch it for the family drama.
Also: How satisfying was the series finale of Orphan Black? I'm glad Rachel wasn't reinducted into #cloneclub. The only thing that could have made it better was a return of Daario Naharis from whatever frozen Tundra he was last seen roaming (or Meereen. Nobody deserves to get stuck forever in Meereen).

Music
As much as I dislike the name of the band Cigarettes After Sex I really do enjoy their Apocalypse. Actually the entire album is excellent.



Perfume
I told a friend that today I smell like a lactating cat dipped in Parfumerie Generale's Cuir Venenum. The latter blooms nicely in summer heat. But my biggest current infatuation is Bruno Fazzolari's Secret Feu. It's iris. It's Bruno. And it stays on my skin all day.

Makeup
All the blue, teal, and turquoise eyeliners.  I might not go anywhere tropical in the near or far future, but my waterline WILL be Caribean blue. If you're unsure about it, try L'Oreal Infallible Silkissime Eyeliner pencil in True Teal.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
Other than my glam kitten-nursing outfits my dearest items are light scarves that hide any skin that might pick out from my dresses and see sunlight. I cover up like my life depends on it, which in a way I guess it does.

Food
Meh. I'm over food. Unless it's butter (say it in Paul Hollywood's accent).

Bane
Let's not talk about it. Actually, you know what? Some things MUST be talked about, even though it's a beauty blog.  I try to keep my political views to myself for the most part, even when it gives me a serious case of TMJ.  But not today. Not this week. Not ever. Nazis are not nice people. Here. I said it.

Joy
Talking with my 9 year old niece about books.

Anticipation
Our 21st wedding anniversary.

Random Thought
I've spent embarrassingly long time pondering which one of the nerd trio on Buffy was the closest depiction of Joss Whedon. I used to think it was Jonathan, but apparently this entire time it was Andrew with a side of Warren.

Wishlist
Good homes for all kittens.
Also, a floral dress that goes from sumer to fall and won't make me look like Caroline Ingalls.

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

Art: Insho Domoto, Cats, 1922.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Surviving August- Products For The Dog Days of Summer (and some nagging about SPF)


In all truth, this post should feature nothing but a single photo of the mammoth-sized air conditioning unit that sits behind the house. I owe it my sanity and should decorate it with flower garlands and assorted precious offering (preferably such that don't attract Arlo the groundhog). still, this is a blog about personal grooming, and as such we need to talk products. I'll skip the obvious: deodorants and blotting papers, a good rapport with one's pedicurist, and a large hat collection. Instead,let's look at the little things.

1. A good body powder to be used after the shower and before getting dressed. I'm all for luxurious Chanel after bath powders and even have a couple of pristine Givenchy III and Jovan Sculpture (a fogotten chypre) that I use before bed, but for daily use in generous quantities (and then some) I go with a classic, Roberts Borotalco, which you can find in various sizes and cheap prices on Amazon. It keeps my skin comfortable, non-sweaty, and fresh smelling from head to toe.

2. La Roche-Posay Serozinc spray. Not pictured here because I was distracted by something shiny while arranging the shoot, but this high-zinc water spray is calming my face and neck after scrubbing them to remove sweat and sunblock,  to recover from a heat rash or an allergy reactio, or just when my face is telling me that we both hate August. American stockist of La Roche-Posay don't have this miracle in a blue atomizer, but it's hard to find online from store like Notino.

3. Here's another essential  forgot to put in the photo. My old Clarisonic brush works extra hard during the summer (nothing like the gunk of a full day makeup, sunscreen, and good old sweat). I also has a Clarisonic Mia that was sent to me by PR a couple of years ago and has traveled the world with me. Since my skin is of certain age and more sensitive than ever, I use the brush with the dirt-cheap yet extremely gentle Cerave hydrating cleanser (it doesn't remove a speck of makeup by itself, but as the Clarisonic's sidekick it's excellent).

4. It's no secret that when I'm not out among people I keep my hair (all or partial) away from my face, up in a bun, half-and-half Middleton-style, or just twisted into one big mess at the nape of my neck (most likely). Even more than I like to hold my hair in pretty things I need said fripperies to be of an industrial strength. None of this is relevant if you have wispy silky strands that can be braided into glorious Daenerys Targaryen hairdos, but I need the big guns which I find at France Luxe. Some of these clips and barrettes are full glam and cost as much, others are a good balance of style and quality. I bu several new ones a couple of times a year because a girl with big hair needs a) variety, and b) some air flow on the back of her neck.

5) Dry Shampoo. Actually, all the shampoo in the world. But I've had days when my recently washed scalp was already crying for mercy by the time I was getting ready to go out for dinner in the city (also known as the polluted sauna). Bridging the gap is a good dry shampoo, and while I've recently tested that much-hyped foam one from Ouai, I was not impressed and promptly went back to my old favorite, aptly named New York Streets. I used to buy it by the dozen on Amazon, now it looks like a Walmart exclusive, which doesn't thrill me, but I'll pay the devil if I have to. Or switch to Colab.

6) The problem with waterproof mascaras is how cumbersome it is to fully remove them by the end of the day. Soaking, oiling, carefully babying, and you still end up with a faint trace under the lashes come morning. Tubing mascaras have been around for over twenty years, and I've recently gone back to the classic, Blinc. It forms a coat around the lashes (hence increasing volume), stay in place without disintegrating even under the worst conditions, and come evening you can take them all off with no rubbing or tugging, just use a washcloth well-soaked in very warm (not too hot) water.

7) Pure Aloe Vera gel. Yes, I also have Benadryl in cream and gel stashed in handbags ad around the house, but aloe is kinder and more versatile (burns, rashes, scrapes, bites, annoying people). I've been buying the one from Lily of the Desert for as long as I can remember. Some drugstores offer non-pure ones that are enriched with lidocaine or various antiseptics.

8) Waterproof eyeliners in easy to use gel formulas are everywhere. I'm an equal opportunity liner and my favorite come from many brands. Lancome Liqui-Drama (Sephora Exclusive) and YSL are outstanding for the range of gorgeous colors, but the Essence waterproof gel pencil ($1.49 on essencemakeup website) is among my (many many) staples.

9. Forgetting that one's lips require an SPF is the easiest thing in the world. You do your makeup, you prep, prime, line. and color, then you start your day and not always remember to do the whole thing right away between lunch and the car trip back. Any other scenarios apply. I love (love love) Coola Lip SPF. Tinted, plain, mineral, whatever. They all come in an SPF 30 and are very literally life savers.

10. Which brings us to the other life savers, and I mean that without a shred of sarcasm. The anti-aging benefits are nice and all, but a zealous and fanatical use of sunscreens does save lives. I'm cheating a bit here, since it's not an August or a dog days of summer product, but a 365 day a year thing, no exceptions. It's frustrating to see every corner pharmacy in France offering a variety of top-notch cosmetically elegant sunscreens at reasonable prices while our drugstores dole out those heavy white goops that promptly break me out and are impossible to use under makeup (and not that all of the eye-watering expensive stuff at department store counters is all that fantastic, either). Lucky for us this is 2017, consumer needs are heard (at least in some markets), and this internet thingy is making life easier.

I generally favor chemical sunscreen because they're the lightest and my skin is happy with them even if they contain alcohol. I buy tubes upon tubes of Japanese ones (Hada Labo and Biore) either online or at the local Japanese market, and use them like water (at around $13 a pop it's never an issue). Both my mother and husband have now converted. I also adore many French SPFs (see "cosmetically elegant"), though I purchase the European formulas and ot the USA versions, and do it through frenchcosmeticsforless.com (try sticking to your shopping list and not buying half of France). It's worth the wait time. They sell many brilliant sun protection products from bigger and smaller brands. My two favorites (texture and performance) are Uriage Bariesun SPF50 Cream (fragrance free) because it's gentle enough even on allergy days, and Bioderma Photoderm SPF50+ Laser Cream because it's the lightest and most pampering, yet effective enough for people undergoing laser treatments, so it's a no-brainer for a heavy retinoid and acid user like me (about $30 at the retailer mentioned above).

When it comes to purely physical sunscreens I've never had much luck until I've discovered Hydropeptide Solar Defense. The previous incarnation was only 30 SPF which I didn't consider enough for a midday outing but was adequate for a pre-sunset drive. It's now replaced with a beautiful SPF 50  ($48 on dermstore) that has a certain opalescent finish which I love under my foundation. It's the one SPF I'm willing to use instead of a primer, as it does a phenomenal job on both counts.



Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Five Little Makeup Tips That Make A Difference


It's always about the little things. I'm not going to tell you how important it is to avoid demarcation lines when applying foundation or blush, nor am I going to talk about blending your eye shadow (my personal rule about blending is that once everything is done and finished I take a clean brush and give my crease one more blending. It's kind of like the "look in the mirror and take one thing off just before leaving the house"). You already  know all of that and a lot more. The tips I'm sharing today are very little things that are easy to overlook though they make such a difference for me that I thought it's worth considering.

1. A good lighted magnifying mirror. They're terrifying and I doubt anyone enjoys staring at moon surface that is one's face monstrously enlarged. But this view is essential for at least two things: precision in applying eyeliner (especially since my eyesight is not what it used to be and I don't wear contacts), and getting a real idea of how my foundation, primer, and concealer interact with each other. The mirror shows streaks, flakes, questionable areas, and what really happens in my pores. It's the only way to truly judge a foundation as far as I'm concerned, as well as the true effectiveness of skincare. I use the Simplehuman 8" sensor mirror x5, and will probably add a small x10 at some point.

2. When it comes to eyelid primers less is more. I'm an enthusiastic advocate for primers. I use them on my face, lids, lips, and occasionally lashes. I never skip priming and will not consider doing a full face of makeup without this step. I've realized, though, how easy it is to apply too much, and I see the results occasionally on people's faces. I have yet to encounter an eye primer that requires more than the tiniest, almost pin-sized amount to create the desired invisible, smooth, perfect canvas. Annoyingly, whether you use a product in a squeeze tub or one that comes with a doe-foot applicator, the intuitive thing is to use the entire amount that comes out. That's at least twice what's needed, resulting in visible streaks, bleeding towards the lashes, pooling in the outer corners, and an even eye shadow application. The worst offender I know is Smashbox Photo Finish Lid Primer. The formula is fantastic and it comes in five shades, so it can camouflage hyperpigmentation on the lid. It fulfils every promise, but only if you scrape the applicator again and again and again, and then use a brush to pick a miniscule amount off it.

3. No matter how beautifully my mascara applies and how good it is, my lashes benefit from a quick go-through with a good lash comb. It's such a tiny thing that's easy to skip when in a hurry, but combing is the only way to completely separate the lashes, remove clamps, and create sophisticated  and elegant lashes. I know that retro heavy clumpy lashes were back for half a minute, but I prefer to avoid the 80s Aziza mascara look.

4. I like to start my makeup routine with exfoliating my lips. It doesn't matter what one uses: a homemade sugar-and-oil paste (messy and not my favorite, but it works), a balm/lanolin and a washcloth, or a commercial lip scrub (I like MAC and Milani, but will us whatever I've picked up while shopping for other things). Doing it removes flakes and also slightly prepares and plumps the lips for lipsticks. Treating the lips early one in the process gives them time to absorb some product, which helps prevent drying.

5. Good brows have both color and texture. When in a hurry it's tempting to go with the easiest, most fool-proof product one favors (for me that's Glossier Boy Brow in Brown with it's tiny brush and perfect-for-me color, but many prefer a clear gel or are so used to a specific pencil they can do it in their sleep). The thing is that achieving the perfect yet natural brows requires creating a three dimensioned realistic brow, not just filling in the gaps. This requires using two products of different textures that create a tiny bi of volume. It doesn't matter if it's pencil plus powder, powder plus gel, a pomade plus pencil or power--- whatever works. It's  that tiny bit of fullness that makes the brows look real and not painted-on.

Do you have small, almost trivial makeup tricks that make a world of difference?

The amusing image at the top is part of a beauty feature that appeared in the June 1972 issue of Vogue UK.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Jeanne Moreau (1928- 2017)









Jeanne Moreau quotes:
"Age does not protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age."
"Beyond the beauty, the sex, the titillation, the surface, there is a human being. And that has to emerge."
"If you want to live your life through to the end, you have to live dangerously."
"You should not separate your life from what you do."

Two American Perfumers And Their Modern Approach To Fragrance


The year was 2005 and people who love perfume had more places to visit on the Internet. Just as independent blogs provided more venues to discuss fragrance, people who has small businesses making and selling their own perfumes opened online stores. Several of them were Europeans*, but the biggest boom was seen in North America, and the majority of these indie perfumers were American women, who joined perfumers such as Maria McElroy (Aroma M), Mandy Aftel of Aftelier, and Dawn Spencer Hurwitz who've been running their own businesses for several years at that point.

If I were to stick pins in a US map to mark the locations of indie perfumeries you'd see a large cluster in California, and a smaller but substantial one in Brooklyn, NY. However, the two of the most fascinating perfumers I could think about are outside these areas in more ways than one. Both Serena Ava Goode (Massachusetts) and Liz Zorn (Ohio) launched their online stores, Ava Luxe and Soivohle, in 2005. Their work couldn't have been more different from the very start.

The first devoted followers of Ms. Goode found her because they were yearning for perfumes that were quickly becoming extinct. Her version of the classic Crepe de Chine is still in her catalog for a good reason: it's fantastic. Ava Luxe perfumes became cult favorites first for the true chypres, probably because 2005 also marked the beginning of IFRA restrictions that practically eliminated them. Then there was Ms. Goode's special touch for creating animalic musks, gourmands, and perhaps my favorites: fig perfumes. Fans cite Ava Luxe's Loukhoum as superior to both Serge Lutens Rahat Loukoum and Keiko Mecheri's Loukhoum. I'm not going to argue with that, as I wear all three (not together, I promise). The Ava Luxe interpretation is, indeed, heavenly.

The aesthetic sensibility of Ava Luxe perfumes has always seemed centered around the pretty and feminine. Bold or soft, the fragrances evoke the classic sensuality often associated with (French) perfume. There's a fascination with the exotic and orientalism that can be traced to the early days of the modern fragrance industry;  these are perfumes that were meant to smell like Perfumes and do so unabashedly. The more modern gourmands scents in the line also make a statement. They're literal and satisfying, offering the comforts of wearing not only Turkish delight but also condensed milk (Milk) and cookies (Madeline).

Soivohle perfumes come from a different place. Answering my question regarding her start as a perfumer, Liz Zorn says:
"I was particularly seduced by the idea of free form artistry juxtaposed against a backdrop of rigid structure. I am a painter and former graphic artist, so creatively there was a bit of an overlap that felt natural to me". 
Ms. Zorn is an abstract painter (you can view her visual art here). The canvases bursting with shapes and colors are not unlike her perfumes. The first whiff always takes me by surprise with a bold stroke that sometimes goes where you think it might, though not always. The collection relies on natural materials (90% and higher). If you've ever smelled raw ingredients in their pure form you know that they're not necessarily pretty. It's the alchemy and synergy of the blending that makes them wearable. It can be an acquired taste, since as Liz says, she enjoys working with "quirky smells" and lists some of her favorite notes: agarwood, mushroom, linden, earthy, green, waxy, gummy absolutes and concretes, lotus blossom and boronia. While not everyone is amenable to mushroomy perfumes, many Soivohle perfumes lean towards chypre, especially leathery or green ones. I was not all that surprised to hear that the one perfume outside her own collection Ms. Zorn wears is  original Caleche. You won't find a smell-alike in Soivohle, but the love of oakmoss is there, whether you go straight to Green Oakmoss or in the wild thickets of Meerschaum.

It's interesting to compare Liz Zorn's untamed chypres to those of Serena Ava Good. These are two different worlds and sensibilities, but sometimes all roads lead to oakmoss. Or to leather. I've been thinking about one of my favorite perfumes in the known universe,  vintage Jolie Madame. There's nothing quite like that anywhere, yet in Soivohle oft-discontinued Purple Rain Smoke you can smell a hint of that, only deconstructed and then reconstructed in an avant-garde way. It's not wistful or vintage-inspired, it's just an extraordinary perfume.

Speaking of violets, I went digging in my sample cabinet (yes, I have a separate cabinet for perfume samples. It's perfectly normal) when preparing to write this post and dug out Soivohle Lilacs & Heliotrope, which Liz Zorn describes as having "vintage feel with a modern twist", and Ava Luxe's Doll Face. So many of the notes are similar, with the delicate florals taking center stage while sitting on a very musky base. Where Lilacs & Heliotrope is a pulled-together grownup, Doll Face is, as Serena Goode says, "precious". It's a comforting and vanillic take on a subject we all know from Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue, with the twist here is the lacy white curtains and delicate miniature china tea set. It's definitely not a case of "If you love this you'll enjoy that", both are wonderful in their own way and deserve the attention of lilac lovers at least for the experience.

Now let's go back to where it all started, in 2005 as online conversation about perfume became more popular right along small artisan perfumeries. The Internet is not what it used to be. Social media has become the obvious place for marketing and introducing everything, from blockbusters to obscure products in every category. It's the new word-of-mouth that was once limited to websites like Makeup Alley and those in the know. In the new reality where self-promotion seems non-negotiable and utterly necessary, Ava Luxe keeps the most minimal presence if any. I'm pretty sure I haven't even gotten a newsletter in years. It hasn't stopped me from buying and restocking my favorites (being able to buy very small bottles means that one actually uses up things), but I'm pretty sure it's limiting the possibility of growth, especially since the glut of new releases obscures the view. It's hard to keep up as it is, and it's easy to forget the It Perfumes of yesteryear.

In comparison, Liz Zorn's perfume business, while being what we call "micro-niche", has a strong visibility inside our not-so-little bubble. In my opinion, Ms. Zorn has managed that which impossible: promoting without being obnoxious about it.  In her words:

"From a business standpoint it’s [social media] a good fit for us. Being in Cincinnati and not New York, having quick access to the public, being able to share our news with a larger audience via social networking is a big plus. I do the day to day social for our brand, and try to keep up with messaging, responding to requests and questions from our social network outlets. I think social has taken the place of the press release. We no longer send out press releases.
As far as how it affects the larger picture, it is somewhat of a double edged sword. There can be a big buzz about something one day and it’s forgotten the next. A story may circulate for a day or two with comments and buzz, then it’s gone forever. This can happen to new launches,events, etc. The constant stream of virtual imagery can be overwhelming. The trick I guess, is finding that happy place between promotion and real information. "

This brings us to the reason for this post. It started on Twitter, when several perfume writers were discussing our disappointment with an Allure magazine piece, The American Perfumers Modern Approach to Fragrance. There are various reasons to give the side-eye to the magazine and the writer, but the most obvious to us was the near complete exclusion of women perfumers. Yes, they do mention Estee Lauder, but as pioneering and inspiring as the grand dame was, she was not a perfumer. She did not compose any of the fragrances bearing her name. Youth Dew, which is discussed in Allure, was created by Josephine Catapano, who deserves to be celebrated for her achievements, as do other women perfumers, American and foreign, especially those who also run their own businesses. We came up with so many of our favorites during that Twitter chat that we decided to do more research and write our own articles. This was the result.

You can read more on Bois de Jasmin, EauMG Perfume Professor, The Scented Salamander, and this guest post by Alyssa Harrad on BdJ. 



*This is where we all should thank French perfumer Victoire Gobin-Daudé who launched her eponymous line in 2002, clearly ahead of her time, and was completely gone from the scene by 2005-2006.


Art: Rudolf Ernst,  The Perfume Makers, late 19th century to early 20th century.


One last note: None of the links above is affiliated nor do I get any monetary or other gain, and they're only included for the reader's convenience.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Currently- July 2017

Bing in Ming by Patricia Hansen


The thing with writing is that it becomes easier the more you do it. The opposite is also true. I'm up to my knees in drafts, lists, bullet points, and snippets. Completing them is another thing, especially since my intention is to change the blog somewhat and make it much (MUCH) less product-centric, but still informative and fun. I don't want to buy every highlighter on the market or swatch all the liquid lipsticks until my skin falls off. My intention has never been to tell you "go and buy (more) stuff" It's about sharing thoughts, opinions, experiences related to beauty and perfume. But just as one can get overwhelmed clicking the "What's "New" button on Ulta's website and getting twelves pages full of things you're supposed to covet and buy, the same can be said about beauty blogging (or blogging in general), especially when you refuse to be a pawn for anyone who's trying to sell something.


Book
After several books  started and abandoned (the most annoying one was The Vintage Housekeeper Circle by Alison May. I thought it was going to be a meditating on vintage housekeeping practices as well as practical advice. Instead I got an unedited FlyLady in a Laura Ashley apron). I did enjoy a  frilly summer reading of the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy with its over-the-top descriptions of food, couture, and home decor. Now I've downloaded B.J. Novak's short stories collection, One More Thing, and that's what I'll be reading tonight.

Music






TV
After months of comfort-watching every Star Trek episode from all the series' incarnations, the husband and I moved to contemporary television. We binged on several favorites: Grace and Frankie, The Americans, and Master of None (probably the smartest comedy on TV. Maybe ever). But right now it's all about Orphan Black and Game of Thrones. I had butterflies in my stomach anticipating the latter's season premier.

Makeup
Edward Bess Black Sea Precious Pearl Perfector. It's a silicone primer for those looking for a luminous dewy finish that still has a strong grip on foundation. It's given new life to a couple of foundations I was about to abandon as too drying.

Perfume
Dryad by Papillon Artisan Perfumes. Liz Moores might have created the best modern green chypre. It's like a 70s jumpsuit made of Scarlett O'Hara's green velvet curtain dress.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
A striped silk short shirtdress I bought from Banana Republic at the start of the season.

Food
Cherries. And more cherries.

Bane
The combination of humidity and creepy crawlers that makes stepping out to feed the squirrels into an episode of Fear Factor.

Joy


Also, the "who's a good boy?" conversations I have with George as we settle for the night.

Link
Just in case you haven't read this interview with former British Vogue fashion director,  Lucinda Chambers, caused a big brouhaha last month, to the point of letters from lawyers. As a result a few sentences relating to the way Ms. Chambers was fired got removed. I've read (and saved) the complete article as well as the amended one, and to me the important thing was not the HR kerfuffle, but the insight about fashion, magazines, and advertisers. The story behind the deflated and disappointing cover below, and the reason Ms. Chambers hasn't actually read Vogue in decades.



Quote
" I mean, movies are the worst, because the movie business is failing terribly and they think they have some amazing model that’s going to fix it all, and it all involves hiring a girl with 2 million Instagram followers. Hasn’t worked yet. And then in television it’s the same thing. Parts are offered to these YouTube sensations."
Jordan Gavaris (Felix on Orphan Black) in an interview with Vulture.

Random Thought
Eye shadow topper, lip topper (we used to call it lip gloss), blush topper- a second layer of makeup all over your face. There's a large Smashbox palette out right now that's all about toppers, which reminded of this. What's old is new again. They say that when you've lived through a trend once you should avoid it when it comes back. But what if I like an iridescent blue over my eye shadow?

Wishlist
To get my groove back.

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

Friday, June 30, 2017

Aftelier- Memento Mori Perfume Review

The Parting of Lancelot and Guinevere, photo by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1874*

The sample of Aftelier's Memento Mori has been sitting on the side table for many months. I'd carefully open it, take a whiff, and quickly put the cap back on. Occasionally I'd dab the smallest droplet I could manage onto my wrist, usually when the husband wasn't around to protest. Something about the dirty bodily butter smelled offensive to him from the very first moment. I'm all for butter. Danish butter, Irish butter, orris butter- they're all good. Do all of them belong in a perfume? Perhaps. When the perfume is a personal more or less bespoke item that becomes part of the wearer and a signature statement.

Memento Mori is not a condiment to go with your fresh baguette. It's too disturbing for that because of a strong animalic thread that goes through every stage of the perfume's unraveling. The dying violets heaped upon the butter here and here contribute to the forlorn atmosphere. There's a lot of skin here, but not the one of a present person you can touch and see. I picture going through the personal belongings of a loved one that have been stored and preserved in a clean and undisturbed attic. As you open an old leather suitcase you find a jacket you've borrowed countless times, letters bound in a faded blue ribbon, a book that you open to find a press wildflower from that summer long ago.

As the memories creep in with scents you haven't smelled in years the emotions also rush in, overwhelming you. You have no idea why they call it bittersweet. It's neither bitter nor sweet. The taste in your mouth is of salty tears and the scents you recall are rich and thick. You go outside and walk the all too familiar path until you reach the spot that used to bring you much solace. Today you see that someone has rearranged a handful of stones and scattered violets on the ground around them. You pick one up, the petals no longer fresh or bright. You'll press it and save it in the old book, adding the scents of this day, the air, the present, to the vault of memories upstairs.

Memento Mori ($180, 8ml) is available from Aftelier's website. The sample for this review want to me by Mandy Aftel.


* This was one of those times I knew immediately which image I was going to use for the review. I've been fascinated for decades with the work of Julia Margaret Cameron, a Victorian era photographer, whose often staged scenes have a ghostly atmosphere. This was long before the internet brought another Victorian photographic "memento mori" genre to my attention (don't google if you don't have to). The parting of Guinevere and Lancelot has all the sorrow, doom, love, passion, and regret encapsulated, as we the readers know what the future will bring them,while they only have their grief and perhaps a premonition. Valar Morghulis.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review- The Price of Illusion: A Memoir by Joan Juliet Buck


When I received a PR pitch about Joan Juliet Buck's memoir, The Price of Illusion, I was certain it was going to be a hate-read. Ms. Buck had a certain reputation based on her tenure as the American editor-in-chief of Vogue Paris between 1994 and 2001, when she was fired amid a scandal caused by a whirlwind of rumors. She was succeeded by Carine Roitfeld, who didn't seem to harbor much warm fuzzies for her predecessor. A decade later Ms. Buck, by then a freelance writer, took an assignment from Anna Wintour. She was to go to Syria and interview the first lady, Bashar al-Assad's wife, for Vogue magazine’s March 2011 “Power Issue.” The unfortunately titled "A Rose in the Desert" article was the end of Joan Juliet Buck's relationship with Vogue, as well as with readers around the world. With that in mind I passed on the offer to phone-interview the author and bought my own digital copy.

As I expected, the memoir has an underlying apologetic undercurrent as well as a good dose of rationalization. What I didn't expect was for it to be good, in parts enchanting and enlightening, sometimes juicy, often surprisingly frank, and almost consistent in its flow and narrative. I was captivated by Ms. Buck's stories about her childhood, her parents and grandparents, growing up in the world of movie-making surrounded by mega-celebrities who were close family friends. This upbringing doesn't breed ordinary people. It might, however, encourage a skewed worldview and character flaws, which is how Ms. Buck sees the road that caused her to make some very bad decisions.

Do I buy it? To a point, maybe. I'm not sure if and how I would have found it in me to to ask Anna Wintour what the hell had she been thinking and to send her to find a moral backbone. The book, though, offers a lot more than excuses. The stories and the worlds they paint are fascinating for someone interested in vintage movies, London and Paris of past decades, and, of course, fashion. The anecdotes are rich in details about people, decor, and stunning clothes. Ms. Buck doesn't hold back  the snark regarding certain people (every Karl Lagerfeld mention is delicious), but a thread of sorrow and regret saves the book from being more mean-spirited than necessary. The decades and locations come to life in front of the reader and you are free to make judgment for yourself. I might have cringed at certain points, but I was not bored for a second.

The Price of Illusion: A Memoir by Joan Juliet Buck (originally $16.02 for the digital version on Amazon) is currently available for $1.99.

Image: Vogue Paris December 1994/January 1995 cover. The movie themed issue is one of Ms. Buck's most iconic. Model Karen Mulder posing as Marlen Dietrich, photographed by Michael Thompson

Friday, June 23, 2017

Summer In New Jersey- My Top Pick Perfumes


My perfume picks this summer will focus on the here and now. Or mostly on the "here". Scents that evoke life in suburban New Jersey as I know it. The image above is a vintage postcard from Cape May, the southernmost point in the state (lovely bed & breakfasts, quaint and well-preserved Victorian houses, gorgeous beach where you might be lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins frolicking), but "my" New Jersey is up north, and my picks probably reflect that.

Tomato leaf scents are surprisingly polarizing. Some people can't stand them, but I'm in the opposite camp. Jersey tomatoes, just picked in my own garden are one of the greatest pleasures of summer, and I love rubbing the leaves and stems on my hands. The most widely known perfume utilizing a tomato leaf note is the classic Sisley Eau de Campagne, but reformulations have taken away so much of the charm it now smells too generic and thin. Instead, two of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's perfumes hit this summery spot like no other. Divine Gardens is a leafy green chypre That smells like my yard on a hot dry summer day. Tomato leaves, tagetes, and a herbal bouquet just ready to go into the salad. Speaking of herbs, the second DSH perfume that fits here is Agrestic from the perfumer's Cannabis collection. I'm not an expert on the subject, but to me this is a dry green and grassy perfume that entices with vetiver, moss, and a very noticeable tomato leaf note.

Speaking of grass, the scent of a just-mowed lawn is a weekly summer pleasure. The husband amuses himself in creating patterns in the back yard, but I just lean back and take in the smell that wafts inside. Many green perfumes have a grass note somewhere in the composition, but the most literal interpretation I've ever knew was the 90s gem Grass by the Gap (available on eBay in exchange of your firstborn). Luckily, we have Grass Accord by CB I Hate Perfume, which is exclusive to his gallery if I remember correctly (worth a phone call if you want to bathe in fresh green grass). For a more complex composition that has all the grassy blades but also the dreamy quality of a watercolor depicting a summer landscape, my absolute favorite is Parfumerie Generale's Papyrus de Ciane.

Marigold flowers (tagetes) are not just the most cheerful sight, they're also a natural bug repellent. We plant them every year around the tomato and pepper beds, and even Arlo, our groundhog, avoids the area. Tagetes play a supporting role in the background of many perfumes, but it's rare to find it as the star, perhaps because of its bitterness. Tagetes Femme by EnVoyage took a while to grow on me, probably because of the black current note and the general fruitiness. But it is a summer tagetes  perfume that's worthy of your skin space if you're a marigold fan (one of my cats is named Marigold and she isn't even orange). A more sultry tagetes perfume is the beautiful Tagete by Profumum Roma. It marries marigold with tuberose and jasmine, making it a perfumy and elegant choice for a dressed-up day.

Speaking of sultry, summer nights mean tuberose and other luscious white flowers. We can sit here until fall and debate Fracas vs. Carnal Flower vs. every maneater white floral under the sun. However, I wanted to point you in the direction of Fleur09 by Maria Christofilis. It's not really new as the perfume was released in 2014 (I bought a bottle for my mother, the Queen of White Flowers, soon after it first appeared in NYC).  The brand is getting traction now that two more gorgeous perfumes have launched. Fleur09 is a tuberose leaning towards orange blossom with a hint of honey as it warms up on the skin, perfect for a night on the town.

There's a reason vetiver perfumes are one of my summer staples. Summer here can be anything from glorious and picture-perfect to the dreaded triple H (Hot, Humid, Hazy). Days that feel like you're moving through a past-its-prime canned soup call for something that cuts through the air like magic. That's vetiver for me. My newest love in this category comes from Monsillage, the brand that gave us Eau de Celeri among other gems. The newest launch, Pays Dogon, is among the most complex and fascinating vetiver perfumes I know, without sacrificing sheer beauty. It's dry, raw, and spicy, and the added touch of ginger is exactly what we need these days.

One last sojourn into my back yard and a couple of old favorites. I started growing fennel years ago and discovered that on scorching days the fennel bed fills the air with a very distinct anise-like scent. It's another love it or hate it smell, and I'm firmly in the "adore" camp. The tender green stems of fennel are not the most assertive as a perfume note, so to get the effect of the fragranced garden I turn to absinth perfumes. They're not as gourmand as proper anise perfumes and are decidedly greener, which is what I want. There are several excellent absynthe perfumes on the market, and my favorite two are the classic L'Artisan Fou d'Absinthe and the less-famous and more herbal Absinthe by Ava Luxe.

What are you wearing this summer?

For more summer perfume suggestions please visit my fiends at Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, and Now Smell This.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Yellow Eye Shadow FotD- The Middle-Aged Version of Lisa Eldridge's Look


The mega eye shadow palette I had in high school included a wonderful canary yellow color that had one of the best textures in the set (the navy blue and deep purple were horribly stiff and unblendable, while one of the greens developed a hard surface almost instantly, which had me digging in with a tiny spoon). As a result I experimented with a lot, which surprisingly didn't rattle my mother too much leading me to decided that yellow eye shadow was my thing. Then the eighties ended.



Funny enough, the inclusion of a yellow eye shadow in the recently launched Viseart Warm Matte palette almost stopped me from buying it, but in the end my adoration of the other palettes I have from the brand has won, and I did want to play again. Then came Lisa Eldridge's brilliant video How to wear yellow eyeshadow - and look great! and it has inspired me further.  Of course, I had to put my own spin on it to adjust not just for my coloring (about  half a shade lighter and less yelow than Lisa's model, Farhanah), but also eye shape, and let's face it: age. The biggest difference here is that Lisa used a primary yellow while the one in Viseart's Warm Mattes is tinged with an orangey mustard that makes it easier to wear and , in my opinion, more sophisticated. If you want a true bright sunshiny yellow in a better texture than the MAC one Lisa used (see all the falldown in the video that appeared like a pollen explosion until Lisa cleaned it up), Viseart offers it in their Matte Editorial palette (I don't have it. For now), but I've seen swatches of a similar concept from NYX, Sleek, and Urban Decay.



Here's what I did:



Face
I applied the thinnest layer of Smashbox classic Photo Finish primer. My face was already well-coated in an SPF50 (Hada Labo), so I just wanted to make sure I had something between that and my foundation.
Armani Luminous Silk Foundation in 5.5
Eve Pearl Salmon Concealer in Light/Medium under the eyes, to get rid of any green/blue/purple that clashes with the eye shadow. I didn't feel the need for any additional concealing, so I used none, and have completely forgotten to set or finish anything with powder, which was a mistake. My under eyes creased significantly after two hours. My bad.

Eyes
Here's the main event.
NARS  Eye Shadow Base (applied considerably less than Lisa did because the eye shadow didn't need a thick or tacky base).
Viseart Warm Mattes: #1 all over the mobile lid, with a lay-down flat brush. I actually built up the color a little bit, because on my dark lid it was more muted than desired. Maybe I should get the Editorial palette. I covered most of the mobile lid from corner to corner, then mixed #2 and #3 for the crease the way Lisa did with her Huda palette. I don't have the latter and don't plan on getting it. I think.
Learning from Lisa's on-camera mistake, I decided to use a brown liner from the start. Laura Mercier Creme eyeliner in Espresso is discontinued, but Bobbi Brown and everyone else seem to have an alternative. It doesn't matter which, just pick a rich dark brown. My trick for faking a wing on deep set lids is to start it way before the actual end of the lid, thicken it as I go and finish before the lower part of the brow bone creates the abyss of despair known as my eye socket. Your mileage may vary.
Since Farhanah and I were not born in the same century, I didn't put anything on the lower lash line.
Mascara: Lancome Grandiose. It's official. I love it much more than the Extreme version. I had to go through multiple full size tubes of each, but the regula Grandiose gives me fluffier lashes.

Brows
Suqqu powder. That green one.

Cheeks
An ancient Chanel limited edition spring blush picked randomly from my drawer. Any warmer pink/peach would do, and you probably have more options in that color  category than I do. Pay attention to the application in the video. It makes all the difference.
Stila Heaven's Hue Highlighter in Bronze, which I bought the second I watched the video for the first time. I skipped it initially (I bought Kitten) because I thought it was too orange and glittery. It's not. It's a summer gold, slightly metallic, which I now apply using an old Shu Uemura fan brush. It's goat, I think, and gives the lightest yet even finish.

Lips
Mac Prep&Prime lip primer (see age difference), then I copied Lisa's work exactly: MAC Whirl pencil all over the lip and a good coating of By Terry Baume de Rose.

Other Stuff
Top by DVF
SotD Atelier des Ors Iris Fauve
I skipped jewelry other than a vintage ring that matched my nail polish. A yellow eye shadow is more than enough.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Glossier- Cloud Paint in Dusk & Haze







I have no problem admitting that it was Lisa Eldridge's fault. The moment I finished watching her "Illuminated Blush Glow" video three weeks ago I immediately clicked to Glossier's website and ordered two tubes of the new Cloud Paint. While Lisa chose the color Puff for herself I had to consent that my coloring is different  (a constant theme in my life: I do not look like Lisa E.) and picked Dusk (a peachy brown sunkissed color with a side of dulce de leche) and Haze (a classic berry). Who cares about the shade, though? I was utterly seduced by Lisa's promise of a "glossy expensive skin". Visions of the Hadid sisters and Rosie Huntington-Whitely were dancing around my head.

Glossier is a young American brand that has been taking over market share one product at a time. Sometimes it's incredibly successful, such as with their Boy Brow tinted gel (I just purchased my second tube), other times I don't really get it, as was the case with their original Balm Dotcom (I admit the name annoyed me even before I uncorked the tube), which seemed redundant.

But we're here for the liquid/gel blush in its cute paint tube. It's everything I hoped for. The texture is of a watery gel that threatens to burst out of the tube when you first open it (have makeup wipes within reach). Blended on skin the pigment appears natural and free of shimmer. It's semi-sheer but allows for some serious building up, one thin layer after another, and once set it does not meet until it's time to meet a good makeup remover.

The divine Lisa Eldridge has demonstrated application and blending Glossier's Cloud Paint with other face products: foundation, highlighters, and even concealers if you have a spot just where one is supposed to apply blush. The only thing I have to add is that the colors of the Cloud Paints can be mixed with each other to create more shades than the available four. It's a great product for spring, summer, and beyond. Glossier has definitely earned my respect with this one.

Bottom Line: I still don't look like Gigi Hadid, but my cheeks are glowing.


Glossier- Cloud Paint ($18, 10ml each, made in USA) is available from glossier.com.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Moresque- Aristoqrati


I've mentioned Aristoqrati by Moresque as one of my top perfume picks this spring, and true to that it's the perfume I've been wearing the most over the last couple of months. In another life I might have picked it as my signature scent for the time being, but it's been twenty eight years since I've been loyal to one perfume for longer than six hours. The point is that the blend of spice and geranium is very very enticing.

Moresque (I keep typing Mauresque, as in Serge's Cuir) is a line that follows the Middle Eastern style. I remember liking the Black and the White collections well enough, though none kept my attention span (oud, rose, jasmine--- the usual) until I reached Aristoqrati (from Moresque's Art collection that features even more elaborately decorated bottles). It grabbed me immediately because the nutmeg bursts forcefully from behind the fresh and slightly classic men's cologne opening notes. The astringency of geranium leaves and stems was familiar and nostalgic for me. As a kid I used to crush a leaf and rub it between my fingers, savoring both the smell and the rough yet velvety surface. I still do it sometimes.

Geranium is often used as a companion to rose notes. Its various facets can be herbal, green, even slightly fruity (think of apple geranium in iced tea). It brings out the peppery side of carnations,  and adds a bright sunny feel to heavier blends. This is exactly what happens in Aristoqrati, a perfume that otherwise is an intoxicating nutmeg and patchouli mix that conjures a certain oriental mystery. There's the earthiness of freshly-watered soil of the geranium bed in the inner courtyard, the scent of herbs from the kitchen garden, ancient stone corridors providing shade and coolness in the Mediterranean summer afternoon, and again lots and lots of spices, especially if one decides to go overboard and spray herself silly. It happens. And you cannot wash it off for a while.

A friend asked me back in February, after I've mentioned here that Aristoqrati was my Valentine's Day date night scent whether I didn't feel it was a bit of an odd or masculine pick for the occasion. Obviously, that person was not aware that given the choice I'd wear Nasomatto Duro over Diorissimo anytime. Still, no, I don't think Aristoqrati is gender-specific. If you're a fan of spicy orientals and a generous garnish of nutmeg you're more likely to enjoy this perfume. If you can't wait to put in your geraniums for summer, give it a try. And word to the wise, one or two spritzes will take you throughout the day (and night).

Moresque- Aristoqrati ($375, 1.7oz eau de parfum) is available from OsswaldNYC.com.

Image: Gigi Hadid for Vogue Arabia, Photographed by Inez and Vinoodh, March 2017.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Perfumes for an Italian Spring


We usually go to Italy in the early fall around our anniversary, because that's where the Blond and I have spent our honeymoon. Three years ago we went in early April, and it was decidedly different. The light, the taste of the air, they were abuzz in anticipation, even though the weather itself was on the very cool side most days. We stayed mostly on the Amalfi coast which was bursting with ripe  lemons and oranges, yards and gardens were green and lush (it rained a lot), and the flower boxes in every window were as I've remembered them, blooming with geraniums that seem to be there all year long (how do they do it?). We also bought perfume when a Sorento store was clearing out old stockrooms (vintage!!!)  as well as lines that weren't moving fast enough. It was glorious.

Here are my ten(ish) picks for Italian perfumes that evoke visiting that gorgeous country in the spring. All chosen with love and longing.

1. Bois 1920 Extreme is a modern fougere. Green with a twist, a tonka base, which is the thing to wear if you're sitting in the garden of one of those stunning Florence villas that are now open to public.

2. I obviously had to pick something by Eau d'Italie because their perfumes are incredibly evocative. While my personal favorites are not necessarily the spring ones, you cannot skip Jardin du Poete. That is spring, and that is Italy. As I'm sitting here looking at my backyard which is full of snow I fee an urge to dig through my samples and find it. Bring on the flowers.

3-4.  Never skipping an opportunity to honor the Florentine iris let's go with one of the prettiest (and more elusive), Iris by Hilde Soliani. Also, let's not forget her Il Tuo Tulipano, as it's as spring-like as it gets and can lift the gloom in an instant. A must-have, really.

5. You don't need me to tell you that Italian coffee bars are a staple across the country all year round. I'm not much of a coffee drinker but when in Italy even I will have an espresso and try to people-watch (the suits!) while doing so. Milano Cafe by AbdesSalaam Attar of La Via del Profumo (www.profumo.it) is that. It's more of a four season perfume, but the burst of energy it gives you is all spring.

6. I've had a tab open on my laptop for weeks with a draft for a review of Aristoqrati by Moresque, one of my favorite perfumes in the last several months. The Italian brand is mostly inspired by Middle Eastern perfumery, but the overflowing geranium note on all its facets (rosy, sappy, peppery, and that scent you get on your hands if you've been rubbing and squeezing the juicy green leaves between your fingers) is all Italy and sunshine.

7. (7a, 7b, 7c)No Italian perfume list will ever be complete without Acqua di Parma, it's only a matter of choosing, and my imagination carries me away whenever I start. We talked Iris, and Iris Nobile is lovely, as are the various iterations of Colonia Assoluta, because of all those amazing citrus groves you find seemingly everywhere (at least from Rome south). But it's the blue series of coastal scents and tastes that makes an extra balmy spring day feel like a prelude to vacation. My personal favorites are Cipresso di Toscana, Fico di Amalfi (more late summer than spring, but FIG), and Ginepro di Sardegna.

8. I still can't forgive myself for not visiting the grounds and museum of Santa Maria Novella in Florence back in 1996. I would have came back with my weight in perfume and body products and a new passion for non-mainstream perfumes. But which one is the most spring-like, considering my husband favors Peau d'Espagne while I'm partial to Nostalgia? The answer is the delicate Violetta, with its tender leaves and soft purple petals. Soon they'll bloom in my garden. Soon.

9. One of my all-time spring picks is and has always been the vintage version (as old as one can find) of the classic Lauren. The unique blend of violets and tagetes, crisp and sharp, suggests spring with every whiff. It's one of my favorite perfumes of all time and I have a semi-lifetime supply, but I've vowed not to include impossible-to-find perfumes in these lists. Besides, it's not an Italian perfume, so let's move on. But Italian brand Profumum Roma offers us the lovely Tagete, again, an impression of an Italian villa's gardens, probably at dusk, when the imagination starts flying.

10. I'm still waiting for a burst of springtime energy to propel me into the stratosphere (or to finish laundry. Whatever comes first). In the meantime I've been faking it with Il Profumo Ginger, a mix of ginger and good soap that feels as clean as the fresh morning air on the first day of vacation, when you're eager to go and see what's waiting around the corner.

Wishing you plenty of daffodils and tulips this spring. Please visit m friends at Bois de Jasmin, Grain de Musc, and Now Smell This for their spring picks. What are yours? 

Art:  Galileo Chini, La Primavera, 1914

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Face Oil Comparison: Vintner's Daughter VS. Best Face Forward


One of the most requested posts lately have been a comparison between my old standby, Best Face Forward Serum Oil to the much-hyped Vintner's Daughter Oil (it was buzzing even before Gwyneth Paltrow Gooped about it). Beauty oils have become very popular and are sometimes represented as the cutting edge of beauty (somewhere in the afterlife Cleopatra is having a good laugh at some YouTubers and PR people). Some oils are simple blends or even based more-or-less on a single ingredient (argan, marula, jojoba), while others combine and balance several types of oil that are supposed to provide a wider range of skin benefits (calming, healing, nourishing, brightening). Both BFF and Vintner's Daughter belong to the latter group, therefore are perceived as treatments or serum oils.  Long time readers know that I've been a loyal customer and user of Best Face Forward since 2012 (meaning that I've been repurchasing bottle after bottle, mostly at retail price). It made me somewhat reluctant to shell ot $185 for 1oz of Vintner's Daughter (1oz of BFF retails for $40, and you can also buy a 2oz bottle for $70). But the ingredient list of Vintner's Oil was very impressive and promising, and while researching I've found this interview with the owner of the company by Youtuber Stephanie Nicole (you can also watch her video about the science behind face oils).

Let's start with some more facts- the oils that make up the blended product. For BFF I have the screen shot from the website, and for Vintner's Daughter a photo from the back of my box:

BFF

Vintner's Daughter
As you can see, there's a lot more going on in Vintner's Daughter, though we cannot know how much of each ingredient is actually present in either one. Best Face Forward's three main oils are argan, borage, and carrot seed oil (which is responsible to the product's light tint), while Vintner's Daughter is mostly based grape seed oil (duh), hazelnut oil, and bergamot peel oil. Perfume people reading this who are familiar with IFRA and the issue of citrus oils in perfume are kindly asked not to have a stroke (more on the issue below). There are several similar ingredients, which confirms to me that April Gargiulo of Vintner's Daughter has been doing her homework and is, indeed, committed to creating an excellent product (I already know and trust Annette Wells of BFF and wish I lived closer so I could experience her bodyworks).

Another fact that's obvious the second you open the bottle and let the first drop fall into your expecting palm is the scent. While Vintner's Daughter doesn't contain any synthetic fragrance it uses not just the aforementioned bergamot (that's the stuff scenting in your Earl Grey tea), but also rose absolute, jasmine grandiflorum, neroli (that's a form of orange blossom oil), frankincense oil, lavender, and several more citrus oils. Basically, it smells  just like a Mandy Aftel perfume* (and that's a massive compliment). In comparison, while BFF does contain some rose oil which you can definitely smell if you sniff closely, it is not perfumy in any way, shape, or form. BFF smells kind of herbal-crunchy-organic, but even my husband has stopped complaining about it for the most part.

BFF directions for use

Vintner's Daughter directions insert


Other than the scent aspect that makes Vintner's Daughter much more of a luxury product the two oils perform the same way for me. They do good on their promises and keep my skin in tiptop shape (I do, of course, use various acids, actives, vitamin C, snail secretions, and whatnot). The nature of the product makes me more likely to go slather BFF after a long sojourn into a NYC winter night or when the humidifier isn't cutting it. You just don't go full-on anointment with a $185 oil. Unless you're Cleopatra. Or Cersei (in Game of Thrones you anoint the new king or queen with seven oils). My skin receives and absorbs the two oils very similarly and feels the same both in the short and the long run. BFF leaves a faint orange residue that is not visible on my skin, but it's something to consider if you're Emma Stone. All in all, it depends on your skin and the oils that feel best to it. Or what causes you an allergic reaction.

Which brings us to skin irritants, the natural vs. synthetic debate, and the fact that IFRA restricts the amount of natural oils used in perfume, where to begin with you get mostly alcohol with a eent tiny amount of an actual "perfume". Oils are good. Oils are kind. Oils can restore the appearance of the skin and make it look and feel dramatically healthier. And like anything they can cause an allergic skin reaction. Natural oils and absolutes contain a larger number of different molecules, thus increasing the chances one would have a reaction to one of those molecules. Put all those natural essential oils together and the odds increase almost exponentially. Certain oils are known to be more irritating than others (that is, for those who ARE sensitive to them. Not to everyone). Those include but are not limited to most citrus oils, lavender, and cinnamon. Then there's someone like me who is not sensitive to any of the above or any of the stuff in any of the oils mentioned in this post, but is extremely (and that's putting it mildly) allergic to pure coconut oil and some (but not all) of its derivatives. And I'm talking a skin reaction that includes red painful welts all over my body and scalp. So go figure and be careful. Patch tests are recommended for a reason.

Bottom Line: While I've thoroughly enjoy using Vintner's Daughter (my bottle is nearly empty), I won't be repurchasing because of the price. I already bought a new BFF that you see in the top photo. For aromatherapy I have other stuff.

Best Face Forward Serum Oil ($40, 1oz) is available for purchase from Annette Wells. Vintner's Daughter ($185, 1oz) is available from a few online retailers as well as directly from the company. The links here are not affiliated or sponsored and I only include them for your convenience, as they don't always appear first in a Google search. I do not get a cut of the sale or any incentives (and I hate that I even need to say it again, but beauty blogging is what it is these days).


*Mandy Aftel actually makes face oil for her Aftelier brand. The current roster included a honeysuckle one, a rose, and a jasmine elixir.  They're $65 for 12oz (aftelier.com) and are based on rice bran, sweet almond, apricot kernel, camellia, grapeseed, squalene, and rose hip seed oils, plus Aftel's own perfume blend. They're nourishing, providing a sense of aromatherapy, and because of the small dropper and the way they blend, I keep them in my foundation drawer and add a drop to most liquid foundation I use. I've been doing it since the very first Face Elixir Mandy has launched and it's a fool proof trick for someone like me whose dryish skin tends to get dryer from wearing foundation. I still miss the Ylang one.

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