Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

Wishing you a happy, warm, and peaceful holiday season.

Art:  Fairfield Porter; The Christmas Tree, 1971; Lithograph in colors. Via Rago Auction House in Lambertville, NJ.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

FotD: Shimmer Green Eye Shadow

I need a short break from the pile of NARS products and from reviews in general, so let's see what I've done when let loose with some green shimmery stuff. I've been doing variations on this look with different products, including a toned-down one that's darker yet significantly muted than what you see here using YSL Eye Duo Smoker in 02 Smoky Green, which is dual ended shadow stick (one side is a cream hunter green while the other is a shimmer sage green). What I've learned is that I get the best results (in my opinion) by using as few eye shadows as possible. One cream/stick shadow and a brighter powder one are my ideal combination. It's definitely a look and makes a statement, but still very much in my comfort zone.

Edward Bess Precious Pearl Black Sea Primer
La Mer Soft Fluid Foundation SPF 20 (20? why even bother?) in Neutral, which I think is a great match. Applied with a Beauty Blender.
No concealer
Guerlain Météorites Pearls in 03 as my finishing powder. Mine is the old version, Beige Chic, now called Medium.

Etude House Proof 10 Primer
Bobbi Brown Cream Shadow Stick in Forest. This color is now discontinued and I'm trying to finish the last dregs in mine, but Laura Mercier Caviar Stick in Jungle will do (it's more khaki), as will Kiko Milano in #10 if you want to go brighter. Or the YSL. In any case, I blended it all over the lid and into the crease, then reapplied a little more over the outer part of the lid.
Strobe Cosmetics Alchemy eye shadow applied with a dampened flat synthetic brush all over the outer 2/3rd of the mobile lid.
Clinique High Impact mascara.

Burberry Silk & Bloom blush from last year. Did you get this year's version? I'm sure it can do just as well. This blush has enough glow that I skipped highlighter in the name of getting out of the door on time.

Rimmel Exaggerate lip pencil in 070 Enchantment
I also made a messy mix of Kevyn Aucoin Bloodroses lipstick and MAC Cremesheen Glass in Deelight and applied it on with a brush when it looked right to me. These concoctions are why I take so long to get ready.

Other Stuff
Denim jacket is my trusty and soft snap jacket from Current/Elliott. They still make it and it looks the same online, just beware that the jacket runs small if you're busty. I had to size up significantly.
Brooch- vintage Kenzo
Earrings- another vintage find.
SotD- Memo Italian Leather from a sample. I think I prefer Irish Leather because it's punchier, but this one is interesting for the tomato leaf note.

Monday, December 04, 2017

NARS Man Ray Collection Holiday 2017- Eyes (Swatches & reviews)

NARS Man Ray Collection for  Holiday 2017 includes two limited edition eye shadow palettes,  Glass Tears (in the photos above), and Love Game, which is only available in the UK and several European countries. The specific shades in the Glass Tears palettes are also limited, even though you can find similar ones in the permanent collection. The point here is the set as an artistic choice and the various looks you can expect to get from them. There's something very NARS about the Glass Tears palette. Just like in this collection duos see below) as well as in the large permanent NARS line, it does not shy away from pairing strong dark colors together. It can go editorial or tame, bright or soft, and you don't need to use more than 2-3 colors for your eye look, no matter what statement you're making.

Glass Tears offers two matte colors and four satins. They're generally softer in texture than many NARS duos which are usually best applied by  patting them on the lid with goat or pony hair brushes before blending them softly. The shadows are somewhat powdery but not messy  (I didn't clean up the swatches above, done with my trusty old Paula Dorf flat eye brush). 

The shades are (top row, l-r):
 Cry Baby, an ivory creamy matte. On my skin it's more like a soft and very fine face powder. It shows no pigment even on the darkest part of my lid (no chalkiness, either), so I use it lightly over a primer to perfect the base, and it definitely helps in blending.
 Heartbreaker, a blackened teal green. It's the star of this palette, naturally, and can be used by itself easily, or paired with gold. You can also create a smoky eye worthy of a silent film star.
 Loverboy, a matte black. Does anyone need another black matte eye shadow? No. But the artistry of this palette and the looks it's meant to create would be incomplete without it.
(bottom row, l-r):
 Tryst, a shimmer gold that leans somewhat green on an olive-toned skin. A lid or inner corner color, a great companion to most  eye shadows in the palette.
 One & Only, a shimmery olive. Tryst might be its natural partner, but using it along with the teal color is very very NARS.
 Vengeance, a classic warm medium brown with a low shimmer finish. Perhaps the most versatile but it would be a shame to stick with neutral combination. So again, go teal.

The image used on the palette's cover is Man Ray's Les Larmes from 1932 (or 1934, depending on the source). While the model was unnamed and I could not find any information about her other than that she was probably a can-can dancer, the theme of the palette seems to be the breaking of Man Ray's relationship with fellow artist Lee Miller. The need for revenge and vengeance was behind many Man Ray works that cut and frame the model (often Miller herself) in a violent way.

NARS Glass Tears Palette ($49, made in US) is a limited edition item for Holiday 2017. available at most NARS retail points. I bought mine at Ulta.

Left: Montparnasse, right: Debauched





The two eye shadow duos from the NARS Man Ray collection are Montparnasse and Debauched. They could not be more different. Montparnasse is a classic combination of a shimmery very pale gold (the left side) and a pearlescent very brown plummy color with somewhat of a reddish base. The colors are easy to work with, and my favorite way to wear them is by blending the dark shade obnoxiously all over the lid and beyond, topping it with the gold in the middle of the lid. No transition shade, no seven layers of crease colors. I've also used the gold under the lower lashes, where people whose eyes aren't sunken halfway into the skull would use the plum.

Those crying for transition shades would not find their relief in Debauched. Here the left side is a browned out purple and the right is made of scattered red micro-glitter in a dark off-black (or charcoal) base. I'm guessing it's an inferno reference. I can wear dark color on my eyes but I don't always want to go that deep. It's a welcome challenge for those of us who think they've seen and worn it all. Of course, one can always use either one to jazz up a neutral palette, but I think it's meant to evoke looks such as these ones of actress Theda Bara (nothing to do with Man Ray):

If you're trying to decide between the duos my suggestion is Debauched. You can easily find approximations and equivalents for Montparnasse in most makeup collections, but Debauched is unique. Is it a must have? I'd go out on a limb and say that nothing that contains red glitter is a necessity. But it's a look.

NARS Debauched and Montparnasse ($36 each, made in Canada) are available from all NARS sellers. While the website labels them as limited to the Man Ray collection, I understand from the press materials that they'll join the permanent line. Both were sent for my consideration by PR (for consideration=no obligation to endorse or even mention).

Artwork in the photos: Untitled, 1936, and The Witness, 1947.

The last eye products in the collection are two velvet eyeliners in Nagoya (straightforward purple violet) and Santiago (a coppery brown). They're a different formula than the much-beloved Larger Than Life eyeliners, softer, smudgier, and not quite as long lasting, but the don't migrate as much as a kohl would move around. They seem to have been designed to go with the eye shadow duos and are definitely great for expanding the range of looks they create. Neither one has the Man Ray lips logo or any indication that they're part of a limited collection, but the site clearly states that they're limited

NARS Velvet Eyeliners ($24 each, made in Germany) are available from and most other retailers.  Both were sent for consideration by PR.

Artwork used: Man Ray, Barbette Making Up, 1926.

NARS Man Ray Makeup Collection For Holiday 1917- A Quick Overview

Man Ray, 1932

As you probably know by now, NARS released a Man Ray-themed collection for holiday 2017. NARs usually goes big and impressive on holiday collections, especially when Francois Nars chooses a personal favorite as the inspiration (remember the Andy Warhol collection?). I was extremely excited about this one because while surrealism is not necessarily my thing Man Ray's fashion photography and portraits have been part of my mental landscape for many years.

The PR box I received found me doing a not so flattering jaw-meet-floor because everything in it was so beautiful and right, doing justice to both artist and customer. It was definitely the cure for my cynicism towards makeup collections (and brands) of late; the artwork was good for the soul. While I was sent most items from the Man Ray collection it was not everything, so I promptly hopped online to get a couple more that I knew I wanted. Like many other American NARS fans I was deeply disappointed to learn that one of the jewels of the collection, the Love Game eye shadow palette was exclusive to Space NK UK and the countries they serve. US Space NK was not included. I was examining the hoops necessary to jump in order to get it anyway, but eventually decided that it was a bit much, considering the number of palettes I have in general and NARS eye shadows in particular. I still sulked.

Why, Francois, why?

My original intention was to drop the swatches and reviews gradually,  but it's too much and we're getting closer to the holidays. So I'll do it in large consecutive batches, mostly by function. What you need to know is that in NARS usually splits big collections to Gifting collection (sets and other jaw-droppers) and Color collection (smaller and usually cheaper items). It doesn't really matter (try asking a store employee that wasn't trained by NARS and you'll see what I mean), so I did not make the distinction. One of the great things about NARS limited items is that they make enough of them. They don't completely sell out for quite a while. However, a few items are supposedly exclusive to certain retail doors. It only partially true, as looking in the press material and online has proven to me. I bought one of the NARS stores/online exclusives from Sephora weeks after it was labeled unavailable on My advice: look online for whatever it is you want, and if you don't see it call your local stores directly (that includes but not limited to Sephora, Ulta, Nordstrom, and other department stores, as well as the brand's regional standalone locations).

So let's start unpacking the collection.

Bonus: recommended reading for art and fashion photography enthusiasts. 

I've used two books for research and as background  in my photographs:
Man Ray, Lee Miller- Partners in Surrealism by Phillip Prodger, Lynda Roscoe Harigan, Antony Penrose,  2011, Merrell
Man Ray in Paris by Eric Garcia, 2011, Getty Museum

Friday, December 01, 2017

Currently- November/December 2017 Edition

Is it me or does the image above, Vanity Fair's December 1917 cover oddly and appropriately creepy?

Laura Ingalls Is Ruining My Life by Shelley Tougas. None of my usual comfort rereads wasn't doing it so I've gone prairie. It's cute and better for peace of mind than Philip K. Dick.

Ryan Adams covering Tegan & Sara's Back In Your Head. Actually the entire  The Con X: Covers is excellent and all proceeds from it benefit The Tegan and Sara Foundation, which fights for health, economic justice, and representation for LGBTQ girls and women.

Binging on art documentaries.  Every show made and written by Waldemar Januszczak is excellent: informative, thought-provoking, and wonderfully entertaining. The Renaissance would never be the same for me (and some things cannot be unseen). I need to look at his books.

I'm supposed to have a good re-sniff trying to think about the year's best releases, but it just makes me want more vintage. Not that there weren't a handful of things I truly loved and joined my collection, but the disappointments were many and colossal. Do I have enough pre-reformulation Miel de Bois backups?

Lancome Monsieur Big mascara. Hate the name, love the lashes.

Frequently Worn Item/Outfit
Scarves and the various accessories that hold them in place just so. See below.

How to use a penanular brooch. I saw an antique(ish) Scottish penannular on eBay and wanted to know how it works. I lost the auction but gained a couple of ideas for accessories I can use in a similar way.

I'm ok with guacamole as a food group.


Right this moment Sophie and Olivia are playing "Mouse for Cats" on my iPad together. They seem to take turns catching the mouse, and Sophie is somewhat better at this game. Occasionally they slap each other, but somehow it works out.

A new year.

A week without what the writers on call the "Perv of the day advent calendar".

Random Thought
Do you believe that Meghan really "knew nothing" about Prince Harry before their blind date? Regardless, I love her and the two of them together.

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

Pat McGrath Labs- Mothership I: Subliminal Palette Swatches & Review

Here’s the bottom line: I can’t use the old cliche “if you only buy one palette/makeup item this season let it be this one”. Not in good faith. And it’s not because Pat McGrath’s Mothership I Subliminal isn’t the most exciting release of the year, in my opinion. It is. It’s also gorgeous beyond anything my pictures show. And incredibly versatile, offering in only ten shades various options for understated neutral elegance, award show glamour, creative editorial looks, fun and fashionable, edgy and dark... you name it and it’s right there waiting for your brushes and fingers. The quality is superb in every way, from what beauty bloggers call “buttery” and Pat McGrath refers to as “emollient”, to pigment saturation. The Subliminal palette is easy to apply and blend if you know what you’re doing; and have I mentioned it’s gorgeous? The packaging, too, I mean. Heavy, luxurious, with a beautiful beveled mirror that you will actually use.

It costs $125.

And that’s why I can’t say that Subliminal is a must-have and feel right about it. But the palette does bring me joy when I use it (I don't mean to sound like Marie Kondo who doesn't have monopoly o feeling joy), as well as inspiration. I’ve done a one color look, a two, three, and four shade looks, and there’s still room for exploration there. It reminds me again and again why I fell in love with makeup all those years ago. If you’ve read my big palette post from earlier this week you know that’s a lot.

So what do we have inside Pat McGrath’s packaging? What is it about the ten eye shadows that creates the magic? I think it’s the combination of taupes, the bluest blue, the duochrome colors, and that stunning special effect topper that isn’t exactly white and isn’t exactly opalescent (and is nearly impossible to capture on camera) that deliver beautiful looks.

Here are the colors and my notes about using them.

Top Row (top of wrist downward)
Skinshow Nude- Shimmery/pearly pale golden beige. It's a long description for a deceivingly basic color. It can be the main lid color or an inner corner highlighter. Also works for me under the lower lash line since I've learned on Pat McGrath's site that you can use it wet or dry.
Depth- A cool dusty earthy brown matte. Blends seamlessly on the outer v and can become the star of a soft daytime smoky eye.
Ultimate Taupe- The name says it all. A pale greigy matte taupe.
Pale Gold 002- A true yellow gold metallic color. It's another wet/dry formula, but I have yet to feel a need to dampen my brush for it. It brings a lot of life the inner corner of the eye on a gray day.
VR Violet-  Apparently the VR stands for virtual reality. I'm a sucker for duochrome and this violet with a reddish shift is a stunner. This one has to be applied with your finger (or a dampened synthetic brush as a second-best option).

Bottom Row (from he wrist down the arm)
Xtreme Black- The obvious use for this darkest mattest sootiest of blacks is an eyeliner, either with a dampened small brush or dry. However you can create a magnificent evening look by covering the lid in this black and topping it with Astral White or various sheer glitters (those Stila liquid ones).
Lilac Dusk- I didn't think I'd love this shimmer grayed lilac as much as I do. Pat McGrath describes it as an "intense multi-dimensional crystalline lavender" and that's probably the secret of this unique lid color that can be easily worn during the day. This is the most powdery (=messy) eye shadow in the palette, but I don't mind it.
Substance- It's sort of the shimmer version of Depth from the top row. The texture is so creamy it almost feels wet (see: emollient).
Blitz Blue – You know that this is was the initial reason I chose this palette out of the three Mothership sets. It's the satin blue to end all blues. The opaque pigment goes on the lid so perfectly I'm kind of speechless.
Astral White – If I remember correctly, this is the color that was part of a couple of Pat McGrath's original kits, those that came in bags full of sequins. I was certain they were neither environmentally sound nor cat or vacuum cleaner friendly (Lizzy and Georgie who hang out with me during makeup time would have covered my entire dressing room and themselves with sequins). I still lusted after Astral White and now I have this opalescent white topper with an icy blue shift that you pat on with your finger over just about anything (other than the cats) and see what happens. The most dramatic effect is over black, obviously, but you can create the softest tonal look with Astral White, and it can go anywhere, any time. Does not work with a brush. At all.

About the swatches: they were done over a random eye primer (Lorac, in this case, because it was right there in front of me) using an ancient workhorse flat brush, Paula Dorf Eye Glimmer circa 2001, which is a synthetic brush wider than MAC 242. Except of course where it was specified to use my finger. All of them are one swipe of color, unblended and not cleaned up.

Some nitpicking:
1. I already mentioned that there's some powder falldown varying between the colors. It's not ABH Subculture level (a palette I actually like. One shade at a time), but I would not do my under-eye base first.
2. The outer cardboard packaging is artistic and pretty, but the gold print on its back came all blurry on mine to the point it was impossible to read the ingredients.
3. Speaking of which, I've tossed the cardboard box but I'm pretty sure that it said "Made in the USA", while the small sticker on the bottom of the palette itself declares "Made in Italy". Which one is it?
4. The palette comes with a separate card stating the names of the eye shadows. I wish they were engraved or at least printed on the palette itself. How long do you think I can keep it safe from George and Lizzy, not to mention Lilian who's also developed a fondness for makeup?

Bottom Line: See Above. Still, you'll have to pry it from my cold dead hands.

Pat McGrath Labs- Mothership I: Subliminal Palette ($125, probably made in Italy. Or maybe in the US. Ask Pat) is available from Sephora, where I bought it back in October and on

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Let's Talk About It: The Big Palette Rush

I'm fully aware that this post is going to look more than slightly ridiculous in light of the next one, which will be a review of Pat McGrath's Mothership: Subliminal palette. I still think it's worth talking about, because palettes are a big part of current makeup conversations, both negative and positive. Younger consumer seem to think that palettes became a thing with the launch of the original Urban Decay Naked Palette in the summer of 2010. This is not quite accurate, of course. There've always been makeup palettes, big and small. While "always" in my case is the last thirty years that I've been wearing makeup and can describe from personal experience, makeup palettes have been here much much longer:

 Max Factor 1967, three years before I was even born
A multitasking palette from 1965

I love palettes. Always have. As a teen I had a large drugstore one, kind of the equivalent of those noname mega palettes people were buying on eBay over a decade ago (or the current Coastal Scents and their ilk). I also had a couple of adorable  St. Michael sets, a Marks & Spencer brand known for embossed tin packaging and pastel color stories. The shades were comically wrong for me, but they gave me the push to start doing makeup on my friends, several of whom had the right coloring for those pinks and lilacs. I had incredible fun doing that.

As far as I can remember, my mother was not a palette person. She favored duos or trios, and never had more than a couple of those at any given time. Browsing through vintage makeup books in my collection I'm reminded that we weren't always supposed to build layers of transition colors and use three separate shades in the crease alone. 'the 80s weren't that big on blending, either, but that's a topic for another day. My own approach to eye shadow was using two (three max) colors at any given time, the dark one mostly on the mobile lid and outwards, the lighter from the tear duct and up on most of the browbone. Using a quint or a quad didn't mean applying all the colors at once (If you're a millenial it can't make much sense, right?).

I didn't own a proper Christian Dior quint until my very late twenties (I did have a couple of Dior duos; one is still alive, well, and sees regular use because the quality, shades, and pigmentation are still superb). The following Dior ad from the fall/winter 1988 campaign (remember when there were only two makeup seasons/collections a year?) featuring the inimitable Susie Bick  pretty much embodies that style (and might be the reason I must have every blue Dior quint they release. It's seared into my brain.

Musing on palettes of yore also reminded me that Inglot did not really invent the "Freedom System". Other brands probably also had similar setups, but back in 1988 or early 1989 I decided to get a "create your own" duo of Revlon eye shadows. You'd buy the pans and the lady at the counter would pop them in a plastic compact. I needed something that would have fitted in a small makeup bag, so in my eternal wisdom I picked two colors: a satin/shimmer olive green and paired it with a matte hot pink. Now you know all my secrets.

I'm realizing I've been drifting off the subject of real actual palette and the shelf space they take up in stores, individual collection, and mental wishlist (and rabid coveting list, of which I'm just as guilty). When did they become the must-have of all must-haves? In the  early aughts (2003, I think) Chanel launched their Jeans de Chanel collection, with an eye shadow palette (a quad, really) as its star. I'm guessing it was a pre-fall release  that was available starting July that year, but I waltzed into my local Blomingdale's to buy it in early September, because I thought it'd pop  up nicely against my planned outfit for our anniversary dinner. There were no availability issues and I bought the quad and the matching liner, rejecting whatever else was in that display*.

During that same period Lorac was still a makeup artist-led brand (do you remember the lipsticks that were all named after Carol shaw's favorite celebs?). They had two eye & face palettes that to me are still iconic. The Snake Charmer (which I've bought soon after starting the blog even though it was on the market for over a year at that point. Funny how makeup marketing wasn't all about urgency) and the Croc Palette. You can see both in the photo at the top of the post. They're still as amazing. And what about really BIG palettes? Why didn't Cargo The Runway palette (2009) cause a mass shopping hysteria? After all, that was already in the new era that in my opinion was ushered by both MAC and their endless limited editions (at the height of the crazy it seemed like every four weeks. Then everyone stopped caring), and Bobbi Brown's whose original Chocolate palette (July 2006 for the fall collection) was really the first mass palette stampede I can remember (please correct me if it happened before).

Speaking of Bobbi, mega palettes were one of those items her super pro artists used on events (nowadays some are available to the public on a seasonal basis). MAC artists also had them in one form or another (right along with the bad attitude). I don't think I've seen a non-store brand (even Neiman has them), not made in china 500 colors that no one needs, or non-holiday drugstore  humongous palette until the last few years. Lorac Mega Pro is an extrapolation of their regular Pro palettes (the success might have caught them by surprise at first), and most of us have seen them being hyped to the moon and back on YouTube and Instagram. Not that Lorac is the biggest or worst offender here.  "Luxury" brands that have never been seen before outside the internet, Established brands that had the liquid highlighter go to their heads, brands releasing the very same shades again and again, upping the cute factor on packaging and lowering the quality, and we shall not forget: limited edition collaboration with celebrated online personalities that your mother has never heard about**.

All of that comes with a  clear message: Buy it. Buy it NOW. It won't last and then you'll cry. And you won't have this never seen before rose gold eye shadow that will never be released again (until next month. And have we told you that it's a LIMITED EDITION? Go! Go! Go!

Which brings me to the reason of this post. I love palettes. The ones at the top are a small glimpse of my collection. From Wet 'n' Wild to Chantecaille, Juvia's Place to Guerlain and everything in between. The thing I resent is the deluge of poorly thought and designed products that are marketed by people whose job is to sit in front (or behind) cameras and tell us to go shop now, before the next thing comes along, that you need another twenty eight eye shadow palette that offers the very same colors you already have "because they tweaked the formula and now it won't shed glitter into your cleavage" (remember how that glitter was the best thing ever two palettes ago?).  In most cases it's no longer about makeup, passion for innovation or technique, and it takes away a lot of the joy I feel when seeing a new collection and analysing how it relates to what we've seen in the most recent shows, as well as historical makeup moments, and  eternal fashion and beauty icons. There's still a lot to love (I owe you an in-depth overview of the entre Man Ray collection, which is exactly why I love makeup-in-context so much), and Pat McGrath has brought back artistry to choosing colors and textures. It's just the rest of them that make me cranky.


  • How do YOU feel about the palettes of the last couple of years?
  • What makes a collection exciting for you? What and who can make you buy them?
  • YouTube and Instagram personalities who are not Lisa Eldridge: how important is their endorsement to you?
  • Have you stopped buying or even testing products from certain brands? Why or why not?

* Chanel gets me every time. Right now I'm bemoaning the fact that Jews don't do Christmas and we only do Hanukkah for the children, since the Le Singe de Leon highlighter in Or Rose and the new Jardin De Chanel Blush in Camelia Peche have ensnared me. Yup, just as I was ranting about the limited edition ludicrousness. I'm a Chanel sheep.

** I want to be clear that my issue about collaborations is with the brands and the crap they produce, not with the marketing personalities that front them. I have a lot of respect to those among them who have game and can hustle, because I absolutely lack the talent. If I have a bone to pick with them is about knowledge and intellectual curiosity, but it is not something I'll discuss in public because they're also people with feelings, sensitivities, and mothers who read everything that is said about them.

So let's talk about it. What say you?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Guerlain- Mon Guerlain (Perfume Review)

Usually when I take a perfume for a test run I also compose the review in my head as I'm going about my day. Once in awhile just as I'm building the argument why a fragrance is an utter disappointment I keep getting compliments from random people I encounter, leaving me with the reminder that the general public and fragonerds don't necessarily look for the same thing in perfume. Most people want to smell nice, not necessarily to stand out, and to get a level of familiar comfort from their little scent bubble. What do perfume people want? Especially, what do we want from a highly-anticipated release by one of the pillars of the industry? It's too easy to say "greatness". What does that even mean? We expect to not be bored, to get something new that doesn't reference the most commercial trends on the market, we hope for something that continues the venerable tradition without taking its name in vain. Apparently we want way too much.

Mon Guerlain was launched this year as the brand's big commercial release (for women) of the decade.  Signaling the importance Guerlain has assigned to this perfume was hiring the A-lister of all A-listers, Angelina Jolie, as the face and spokesperson of the perfume and declaring her its "icon". There were a gorgeous commercial and a photoshoot in what used to be the Jolie-Pitt French home, Chateau Miraval. There was also a press junket that included various quotes about what Guerlain means to her (the ever present bottle of Shalimar on her mother's dressing table, though Angelina herself is rumored to favor wearing masculine perfumes). All of that comes to show how seriously Mon Guerlain was taken.

Kind of. Sort of. Or at least when it came to marketing.

In reality, Mon Guerlain was a rebranding and rebottling of a limited edition fragrance from 2015, Mon Exclusif (source: Monsieur Guerlain). Despite its limited release Mon Exclusif was such a success the suits up there in LVMH knew they could make bank. And why wouldn't they? A pink juice in a modern version of the classic quadrilobe bottle, a decidedly vanillic gourmand that is still infinitely better than the pink juice of the decade, La Vie Est Belle (Lancome). And I'll take Angelina Jolie over Julia Roberts any day of the year. Add to that the endless talk about Guerlain's heritage and how they used Jicky's DNA to ground Mon Guerlain.

Jicky? What did I just say about taking the name in vain?

As someone who has a few bottles of Jicky in various concentrations from several vintages I can tell you emphatically: this ain't no Jicky. Mon Guerlain offers notes of citrus, lavender, vanilla, and coumarin, among others (coumarin is not what it used to be, but what is, really?). It's all stuff you could find in Jicky, but wearing Mn Guerlain on a hot sunny day while driving, I felt my car was filling up with the scent of functional lavender. A countertop cleaner or a fabric softener. It was deeply bothersome. Cooler days or bedtime wearings produced more of a comforting cuddle that reminded me of starched linens.  One of my friends called Mon Guerlain "a Jicky ice cream", while another found it revolting and unwearable. The Husband isn't certain he'd have pegged it as a Guerlain had I not told him.  I wouldn't go that far. Mon Guerlain deserves its shelf space next to La Petite Robe Noire and all its flankers, because that's what Guerlain is today.

We can clutch our vintage Mitsouko and Shalimar bottles all we want, but Guerlain isn't in the business of making iconic perfumes. They're here to create products that would fly off Sephora's shelves. Jacques and Aimé Guerlain were also in the business of selling perfume just as much as in making it. I don't know if back in 1889 they imagined a small group of perfume enthusiasts sitting down and weeping into their rare vintage Jicky bottles remembering (or imagining) the old days and complaining about the fake sandalwood and laundered patchouli in the 2017 Mon Guerlain. Maybe they'd be happy that the name Guerlain is still out there, perhaps they'd raise an eyebrow.

The blunt truth is that Guerlain has changed. Everything changes. We have our old bottles to remind us of old world grace (one of my treasures is a 100 year old Guerlain Heliotrope Blanc. I wear it sometimes), as well as glimpses into that world in art form. The image I chose to open this post is a series of photographs captured by Lee Miller in 1930 in front of the Champs Elysees store. We get views of the store's iconic sign, windows, and various reflections of the surroundings, all telling us little stories about the place. The most celebrated part of the series is Untitled/Exploding Hand in which we see an elegant hand (that sleeve!) clasping the Guerlain door handle amidst what looks like an electric flash but was actually the scrapings in the glass caused by decades of diamond rings on the hands of those entering and leaving the store (The Art of Lee Miller by Mark Haworth-Booth, 2007).

Guerlain- Mon Guerlain  1oz Eau de Parfum, $66.00, is available from Sephora, Ulta, and most department stores worldwide.

Images copyright of the Lee Miller Archive.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Currently- October 2017, Halloween

Man Ray, Lee Miller- Partners in Surrealism, published by Merrell, 2011. Obviously, more images than words, but the few essays there are fascinating (including one by Miller's son, Antony Penrose. Now I need to read his 1988 biography of his mother).

There's some good new stuff out there, such as the recent releases from Charlotte Gainsbourg, Beck, and Courtney Barnett. But for some reason I'm mesmerised by a new cover of an old 80s favorite, Moonlight Shadow. I think they first covered it in 2015 on their All Our Yesterdays album, but there's a new version. It might be even more haunting than the 1983 Mike Oldfield/Maggie Reilly original.

The new season of Finding Your Roots on PBS. The Larry David/Bernie Sanders episode was spectacular, as was Christopher Walken. I sit mesmerized every week by the way Professor Gates walks his guest through their ancestry and long-lost family history.

Don't laugh: I've become enchanted by last year's MAC Shadescents collection. I wasn't paying much attention when I first smelled them, but now over a year later I've been taking my time with them and having fun. They're slightly humoristic like a Halloween costume that's on the verge of vulgar but doesn't quite go there. However, if I never smell candy Yum-Yum ever again it would still be too soon.

I've been tinkering with my storage setup, rotating a few older items to the front, as well as testing new things. NARS Man Ray holiday collection is stunning, as it should be, and the same goes for Pat McGrath's Subliminal palette. I haven't decided yet what to get during the Sephora Rouge sale, but one of her lipsticks might be in the cards. On the cheap thrill side, Makeup Revolution's sub-brand Freedom has a series of 12 pan eye shadow palettes called 12-Pro. At $5.39 each (on you can't go wrong. There's an uncanny resemble to NARS Dual Intensity eye shadows and I've used them both dry and with a damp brush, and got a perverse satisfaction from pairing them with a Serge Lutens lipstick.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
Mixed metal vintage necklaces. The more the better.

Tea and a chocolate babka cake.

Bob is having various health issues that the vet can't quite diagnose. He's now sporting a modern and version of the classic cone of shame to keep him from scratching his ear. It's kind of an Elizabethan collar or a satellite dish, only bright blue and squishy enough to let him eat, drink, and sleep more comfortably.

Three of the kittens have found wonderful new homes and are happily settled. The rest of us, including Celeste, are one big happy family. The little ones we've kept are named Bingley, Jane, and Sally.

My birthday, I guess.

An antique bookcase for my playroom. Right now I have a short Billy there, crammed with art, fashion, and makeup books. It doesn't do them justice, not to mention how flimsy it appears.

Not So Random Thought
I don't believe any Hollywood or media figure who say they didn't know. There've been thinly veiled blind items about all of them for years. If Gaia from New Jerse knew so did Matt Damon.

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

Image: Vogue 1893 Halloween cover.

Friday, October 27, 2017

NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment

There are many NARS posts in our immediate future because I've been sitting on a growing pile of products taking my sweet time testing some.  I also had to reassemble and rearrange my photography setup ever since the guest bedroom which was where I used to do the work has become a kitten nursery. I can't say what took me so long and why I haven't thought of the brilliant idea of doing my blogging and photographing in my play room, which is where my makeup lives. Go figure. Now everything is in one place and there are fewer lip products moving around the house (not counting anything the cats have stolen and hid in their stash of milk caps, lonesome socks, pens, and tiny vials of perfume samples). In any case, this is not an all NARS all the time blog and I promise to talk about other things as well. But let's begin with the stuff that's been sitting here for the last four months or so,  NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment.

My opinion over the last twenty years has always been that NARS haven't gotten their lip game perfectly. Their colors were among the most beautiful on the market but they were flawed. Gipsy was my perfect lipstick and I've repurchased it at least three times. However, the formula made my lips crack and the lipsticks always went rancid before I completely used them up (those were the days that using up a product wasn't accompanied by a fireworks show and an announcement on social media).  was obviously a glutton for punishment, and Gipsy was so gorgeous. Eventually I stopped the self-punishment and moved on.  My favorite lip gloss was also NARS. Gothika, if I remember correctly. The formula was excellent for the time and the color, again, was brilliant. It was the way the familiar slightly chemical smell of NARS product that started going stale and rancid mid-tube that used to drive me crazy. But what was the alternative? Lancome's Juicy Tubes?

My point is that NARS has been trying and trying hard to improve. There were a number of limited edition formulas that didn't make it into the permanent line, innovative chubby sticks in more divine colors (and horrid smell that doesn't stop me from using up and repurchasing Rikugien and Cruella), and sometimes a sensational formula like their Audacious lipsticks. It's the liquid stuff where they most often stumble. Last year's release (permanent) was the Velvet Lip Glide, while now we have the Powematte Lip Pigment which took me forever to decide if I love them or hate them.

The Powermattes were obviously formulated to be more matte and pretty much along the lines of the modern liquid lipsticks. I'm not sure it works quite this way. Once again you need an unbelievable small amount of product for a sane and sustainable application. The redesigned wand is narrow and more precise, so in theory you can outline your lips perfectly. However, due to the goopiness by the time your cupid's bow is all ready to go the rest of your mouth has gone vampire after a snack. The lipstick takes a few seconds to dry (and much longer if you've been over-applying, as you can see in some of my swatches), and in the meantime it slides around feeling oddly oily on the lips. I haven't tried Lancome's Matte Shakers (the Juicy Shakers made me almost give up on the brand), but my friend Josie says the feeling is eerily similar.

So here's what I have to say after wearing several of these NARS Powermatte Lip Pigments for a few months (more than half of them are in the process of being rehomed): Start with a lip liner, matching or clear. It's non-negotiable as you can see in the watches that these colors bleed. Take me seriously about the tiny amount to use and apply it with a brush. Carefully. Don't touch anything until you're sure the color is dry enough (it will still transfer). Since the ones I've kept are mostly the red ones, any wrong move has resulted in a crime scene situation. It's a power pigment, alright. Dark colors will stain. Your lips, hands, pets. It requires a serious oil (I use camelia) to fully remove. Cats would prefer oil from a tuna can.

Now to the colors themselves. I've grouped them according to what made sense during the second and a half before Georgie (that's a cat, if you're new around here) tried to take off with the disposable applicators, clean and dripping with color, I used for swatching (see: rehoming). I'm sure you get the picture.

The Really Dark Ones

Paint It Black- A blackened purple or an inky brown purple.
Rock With You- Slightly charred beetroot. Wears beautifully.
Wild Night- I think Nick Rhodes had this in the 80s. A very dark red-based purple.

The Reds

Light My Fire- A predictably orange red.
Starwoman- Cherry red
Don't Stop- A very classic movie star red.
Just Push Play- Kind of a (fresh) blood red, very close to Starwoman.
Under My Thumb- A berry red.

Nudes and Browns

American Woman- This is the only one from this group I can wear. It's a warm dusty rose that leans beige.
Walk This Way- A slightly brighter and peachier version of the above.
Slow Ride- There's a stage in making caramel for toffee that looks like this.
Done It Again- This one actually belongs with the darkest group. Pure chocolate.
Get It On- J.Lo beige.
Just What I Needed- A darker and more red toffee, or a pink-based brick.

Pinks & Roses

Get Up Stand Up- A Betty Draper kind of retro coral-pink.
Low Rider- Another reto, this one from the 80s.  I had a shirt this color.
Give it Up- Pink Fuschia.
Warm Leatherette- Raspberry.
Save the Queen- A muted mauve (or is mauve always muted? In any case, please please please save the Queen).
London Calling- A corpsy purple, and I mean it in the best possible way.

Bottom Line: NARS wins at colors, and I was particularly happy to see such a wide range that's more inclusive than most. If you see the color of your dreams the hassle of application is worth it. Otherwise, buy an Audacious lipstick.

NARS Powermatte Lip Pigment ($26 each) are available at the usual suspects: department stores, Sephora, and online. The entire set of colors was sent to me by the company's PR.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

Buttered and toasted poppy seed bagels.

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

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.

Mr. Bingley

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

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

Talking with my 9 year old niece about books.

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.

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 (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.