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:


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.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Laura Mercier Editorial Eye Palette Intense Clays & Clay Smudge Brush

The best thing a cosmetics brand can do to get me interested in the gazillionth launch of the month is to actually offer something new. New to me, but also new to the brand, a product that's not a recycled idea from seasons ago, because guess what? I was here all those seasons ago and might still have that Chocolate palette or the eleventieth compact inspired by Mademoiselle's Chinese screens. Laura Mercier has knocked it out of the park big time with the new Editorial Eye Palette Intense Clays.

It was hard to gauge what we were dealing with from online promo pictures, so holding it in person and digging in was the way to go. This is a palette of thick cream shadows, three mattes (top row, l-r: Blackened Black Clay, Blackened Blue Clay, and Blackened Brown Clay), and three metallic clays (bottom row, l-r: Metallic Platinum, Metallic Pewter, and Metallic Rust). The "clay" designation is very apt. It's so densely packed that you can feel an almost putty-like effect. The best description I can give until you have your own fingers in the pans is that if you've ever touched Colourpop Supershock shadows it will make you think about taking the Colourpop pans and and compacting them to the densest, tightest version of themselves. Colourpop has this slightly whipped texture. This is the opposite.

The seventh pan in the Laura Mercier Editorial Eye Palette Intense Clays compact is the white Air-Light setting powder. At first glance one might mistake it for a light-diffusing, shine-inducing, jewel effect kind of topper you pat on the eyelid to intensify your eye shadow. It is not. It is also not meant to be uses with a heavy hand/dense brush, as I've demonstrated in the swatch below. This is a super light and fine setting power meant to set and increase the wear and longevity of the clay eye shadows. Laura Mercier does powders extremely well, and this is no exception. But you must used it right: once your eye makeup is done (but before liner and mascara) pat a teensy tiny amount of the Air Light with your fluffiest small blending/crease brush over the clay colors. I prefer any of my Hakuhodo or Chikuhodo squirrel brushes (S142 is a good one), but Suqqu M, Edward Bess, and even various MAC brushes will do. Just don't overload it, or it will look chalky.

Laura Mercier has released the new Clay Smudge Brush to go with this palette (purchased separately). The thing is, that while this is an excellent and surprisingly unique brush in terms of shape, proportions, and performance, it is not the first tool you'd want to use when creating a look with the clay shadows. Your pinky finger is a decent tool to pick up the putty, manipulate it into an even and thin layer and place it on the lid, blending carefully. A flat synthetic brush (for concealer or eye shadow) is even better. You can take advantage of the way these brushes are shaped and cut: more tapered, pointy, or round to get the desired placement, reach under the lower lashes, or create a gradient effect. The clayes blend beautifully into each other with less than minimal effort, and offer loos from neutral to heavily smoky, light to sultry blue. The mattes are obviously designed for lining and smudging, which is where the new Clay Smudge brush comes into play You can also add them with a light hand and blend into the metallic colors. One day last week I went all out blue, using the Metallic Pewter (more silvered cadet blue, really) as a base on the other third of the lid, closer to the lashline and outwards, and then topped it with a touch of that magical matte midnight blue.

When you want the look to hold all day/night it's advisable to use the setting powder (lightly. Have I mentioned that?). If it's just for a couple of hours and mostly taking pictures you can skip it. The clay shadows look more vibrant on their own and hold nicely over a primer (my lids are not oily and the weather is still very cold here). 

You'd think that someone (me) who's been collecting makeup brushes for decades would find a twin to the new brush that would make the purchase unnecessary, but to my surprise, Laura Mercier Clay Smudge Brush is quite unique for a synthetic smudge brush. I compared it above to the classic MAC 219 for perspective. Obviously, the LM is not a pencil brush. It's domed, not pointed, and while it's slightly denser and fuller than the It Cosmetics for Ulta No.124 Airbrush Precision Smudger, it's far smaller than the two I have from Urban Decay, so I skipped that comparison.

Bottom Line: for anyone who gets a real joy from playing with new makeup textures and combinations.

Laura Mercier Editorial Eye Palette Intense Clays ($48, made in Italy) & Clay Smudge Brush ($30, made in China), are available at Sephora, Laura Mercier counters everywhere, and lauramercier.com.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Currently- February 2017

I've taken up genealogy research for both sides of the family, mine and the husband's, pondering the neverending and utterly confusing ways of spelling common names like Isaac, Rebecca, Esther, and Maurice, both populating every branch of the family tree.  I also took the basic DNA test that dispelled a very long-standing family myth. The 0.0% Sephardi Jew in the report was especially surprising. At least that's one place I can skip when digging for Isaacs and Davids. Combing through records of people from Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Germany, Bulgaria, and in the husband's case the Czech Republic has opened more questions than it solved.  My Bulgarian side is particularly difficult to crack. The coolest part, though, is connecting with various third cousins, exchanging information and photos of common ancestors (the aforementioned Maurices. Or Moritzes. Or Mauricius. Take your pick). It's a good distraction, if nothing else.

My attention span has been making it hard to stick with any particular book. Or paragraph. I am waiting, though, for two hardcovers that are about to be released: Ines de le Fressange's second book (I disliked her first one, so go figure), and the much-anticipated Trish McEvoy tome, The Makeup of a Confident Woman: The Science of Beauty, the Gift of Time, and the Power of Putting Your Best Face Forward. Because we all need more beauty and style books (those familiar with the bookshelf situation in my house are snorting with laughter).

Just replace the names in the lyrics with "George and Bowie".

Restored on HGTV. Not to be confused with other home restoration shows, Brett Waterman is the real deal and amuses to me no end. If you like Nicole Curtis, you'll worship Brett and his commitment to stripping layers of paint from Arts & Crafts doors and built-ins.

MyHeritage.com. My version of time-travel.


A Valentine's Day gift from the husband (not Philip. He's been here for a while).

Various cream and creamy eye shadows. There's an interesting palette I'll show you on Monday.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
This is the time of year when I get extremely fed up with winter clothes in general and mine in particular. Everything feels worn to death, no matter how much creative accessorizing I do or how deep my fashion collection goes. It was fun to dig out a long black dress I bought a decade ago from Adrienne Vittadini (when the brand still had really nice boutiques offering well-made clothes), a twelve year old DVF knit jacket in red, black, and olive that I nearly forgot I had, and a funky pair of vintage Pucci boots, but I'm over it. Done. DONE. Give me a sundress and a silk scarf.

I'm also kind of done with food right now, thanks to a Thai dinner that kept me up last night.

My iPad is at its final throes. A new version is expected to be released in a matter of weeks. Let's see if the old relic can hold on until then.

My mom's butter cookies with date paste filling.


I took this picture earlier today in our backyard.

To but the two properties closest to us, bulldoze down the houses down and fill the space with trees, a koi pond, a raccoon habitat, and goats wearing pajamas.

Random Thought
Apparently Karl Lagerfeld got Meryl Streep confused with Instagram personalities.

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

Photo: Cardinal In End Of Winter Rain by James Oppenheim, 2011

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Butter London Sheer Wisdom Serum Shadow Review & Swatches

I have a couple of new eye shadow loves that have won me over not because of some unique color but thanks to innovative and beautiful texture. Today we're looking at the Sheer Wisdom Serum Shadows from Butter London, a product I bought out of pure curiosity. I picked four of the six available colors (kipped the pink and the mauve), and have been reaching for them at a surprising frequency (All.The.Time).

The "serum" part is thanks to the liquid shadow's viscosity. It does look and fee serumy, as in not watery or lotiony. It has a bounce, just like some skincare items (it's makeup, not skincare, but the texture is different than say, Armani, Rouge Bunny Rouge, or YSL). The Sheer Wisdom Serums also go on the skin at first touch shockingly light and sheer, just like a serum you dot on the lid and then blend. The result is an incredibly versatile eye shadow. You can keep your application at minimum and create the most perfect and beautifully blended no makeup-look. Or you can add more and layer, using the wand to load the product and then your fingers and/or a MAC 217 to build it up and accentuate the lid, crease, or any other part. Butter London has created here a complete matte skin-like finish that is utterly foolproof. The colors are natural and neutral for maximum elegance, but the darker once are up to the task of a smoky eye.

Longevity is an all-day affair. There's no sheen to fade, just a sturdy and reliable pigment that looks fantastic and way more professional than the easy application suggest. You can do a one color look or go for all four together (a method that can take some time to accomplish because one tends to play with the wands and brushes and admire her faux pro-skills as she goes). Whatever you decide, the process is fun and the result is pretty.

The colors I got are:
Buttercream- a classic vanilla that works well under the brows or even to lighten the lid like a primer.
Sepia Tan- a light warm camel color that works well in the crease or as a solid all over lid color.
Driftwood- a gray-leaning taupe. Perfect.
Maplewood- a rich brown I love to use on the outer V.

Bottom Line: maybe I do need that Mauve Mist shade.

Butter London Sheer Wisdom Serum Shadow  ($24 each, made in Italy) are available from Ulta.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Happy President's Day

Happy President's Day. I've marked the day by sending Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) an email of encouragement. Later there might be some shopping.

Image: George Washington, Engraved by Edward Savage, after a painting by him. Mezzotint. London, 1793

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

My Valentine's Day (Night) Makeup Look

The one above was an outtake, since Gloria was there helping me get ready (meaning: reaching for brushes, dipping her paws in powder, headbutting, singing about the glorious life of being Gloria the kitten, and taking off with stuff that will never be seen again). The Blond and I celebrated Valentine's Day at our favorite restaurant, Kajitsu.  We got engaged on that day twenty one years ago, so it's always been a special occasion for us. I doubt Gloria cares, though.

I think this photo actually shows the false lashes to their full effect, even though tomorrow I'm going to get a call from my mother saying: "ужас!".

I did a full skincare routine just before getting ready, but the whole day yesterday my face felt the dryest it's been this winter, and my eyelids were practically crackling (note to husband: check humidifier). That's why just before putting on anything else I reached for a sample of Macadamia Professional Nourishing Moisture Oil. I have no idea where the vial came from, either a press sample or a GWP, but it was nice, though not different than most other face oils one can find these days.
Knowing that I was going with a high-coverage foundation I also slathered on some MAC Strobe Cream instead of a primer. There was no danger of my makeup sliding off my face last night and I was more concerned about looking at least semi-alive.
My foundation was Edward Bess Black Sea Complexion Correction Mousse Foundation in Medium 03. I've been testing it in recent weeks (sample courtesy of Osswald NYC, though they're currently sold out). It's more coverage than I usually prefer, but the finish is beautiful and velvety. Brush application is still too heavy for me, but a damp Beauty Blender creates the right balance, and I supplement with a brush just where needed and skip concealer altogether.
I did illuminate a little under the eyes with Chanel Eclat Lumiere.
Absolutely no powder was used.

A good look at myself at the magnifying mirror made me grab Olay Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum. It was an Influenster freebie, and it's nice though you and I know that if you want to lift something just get a crane. The serum is light, moisturizing and works well under makeup, so that's all I can ask for. I used the eye primer from Cinema Secrets because it's also light and liquidy yet does the job well.

I wanted to go relatively light on the eyes, so I picked Viseart Paris Nudes palette: 1 in the crease, a mix of 2 and 3 on the lid and outward, and a touch of 4 to highlight. It ended up lacking contrast so I grabbed my Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow duo and used the matte bronzer to blend the crease and everything else I wanted to intensify, proving once again why this is probably Tilbury's best product.
To finish thing off I lined my upper lashes very lightly with Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen. I recently went back to using it as I discovered that I much prefer its longer side, and that I can use it to tightline even without the magnifying mirror.
Then came the falsies. I was going for a used and trimmed pair of Ardell Demi Wispies, but Gloria intervened and took off with one of them. Instead, I decided to live dangerously and go for Eylure Naturals No.27. It's a full strip that doesn't look heavy or too artificial and was kind of fun. For reference, I have no falsies skills, so I use the Revlon glue that comes with its own brush (wipe it down well before applying), and can't do it at all without a bent applicator (not regular tweezers).

Still in the spirit of adventure I reached for a GWP brow pencil by Milk Makeup and promptly remembered why I hate it. The gel pencil is too soft, therefore hard to control and gets everywhere. The color I have, Pilsner, their medium brown is far too dark for me, so I've found myself combing most of it off like a madwoman. With just a hint of color left in my brows I abandoned the mission.

That Charlotte Tilbury duo was already out on the dresser, so I used the bronzer lightly (with a duo-fiber brush) to give myself a little color. The highlighter side always looks a bit off (I wish it were lighter) until I put on a luminous blush. I went for the gorgeous Burberry Silk & Bloom, as I do two out of three times lately.

I mixed MAC Prep & Prime Lip with Colourpop Frick &Frack pencil liner (yes, not the actual lip color) and applied it with a brush in two layers. It stayed on for most of dinner.

Other Stuff
Vintage earrings
SotN was Aristoqrati by Moresque (the Blond wore Bel Ami Vetiver).
Dress from Flō by Ella Braitman . A must-stop boutique if you visit Tel-Aviv.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope your day is full of sweetness and warm fuzzies.

Illustration: Eric Fraser, 1936.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Oriza L. Legrand- Rêve d'Ossian

In this still place, remote from men,

Sleeps Ossian, in the Narrow Glen;

In this still place, where murmurs on
But one meek streamlet, only one:
He sang of battles, and the breath
Of stormy war, and violent death;
And should, methinks, when all was past,
Have rightfully be laid at last
Where rocks were rudely heap'd, and rent
As by a spirit turbulent;
Where sights were rough, and sounds were wild,
And everything unreconciled;
In some complaining dim retreat,
For fear and melancholy meet;
But this is calm; there cannot be
A more entire tranquility.
William Wordsworth, 1803 

"Ossian Poems" was a  reworked collection of ancient Gaelic folktales published in 1760 and attributed to a mythological Irish bard, but in fact written mostly by Scottish poet James Macpherson (1736-1796). Authenticity aside, these poems influenced many writers and painters throughout the centuries. The opening verse above from Wordsorth's Glen Almain; Or, the Narrow Glen (part of his Memorials of a Tour in Scotland, 1803) is a great example with the visual and sensory picture it creates. Fast forward to 1905 when classic perfume house (back then there were actual "houses" and not just "brands") Oriza L. Legrand created a fragrance named Rêve d'Ossian (Ossian's dream). Was it an olfactive imagining of ancient Celtic wars? An ode to wood sprites, the wise men who worshipped them? The deep forest of bygone eras? I have no idea. I've never smelled the turn of the 20th century perfume that was accompanied by this advertisement:

The 2012 reboot of Oriza L. Legrand as a brand makes me think of James McPherson and the literary licence (or forgery) he took with the Ossian's tales. I doubt that this modern green, and coniferous incense came from the original archives.  Still, I cannot help but enjoy it for what it is.  I love my incense burnt to embers as well as white and clean as it is in the case of new Rêve d'Ossian. It's a lovely mix of fresh evergreens, the coldest soapiest incense that evokes an early winter morning on its crystalline air and plumes of smoke. And some spice.

The cold incense is somewhat related to Heeley's Cardinal, so I'm guessing there's a churchy incense reference. My first thought, however, was of a friendlier Cardinal with some sense of humor. The ghost of warmth and spice keep Rêve d'Ossian from being too austere (if that's what you're after pick a bottle of Tauer's Incense Extreme). It's very wearable, and as I've been using up a couple of samples I had around and catching leftover whiffs from cashmere cardigans and scarves I started thinking it would also make a wonderful candle. Guess what? A quick search has revealed that such a thing exists. I know what I'm buying next at Twisted Lily.

Oriza L. Legrand- Rêve d'Ossian ($165, 100 ml eau de parfum) is available at Luckyscent and Twisted Lily. The candle , which I haven't smelled yet, seems to only be stocked at Twisted Lily ($54, 130gr).

Top image: cover of The Poems of Ossian,  Imray´s Edition, 1799.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

La Prairie Eye Shadows: Les Cristals Palette & Quartz Single

La Prairie makeup is a pure indulgence. You can tell that from the second you open the box and look at the packaging, to the way it feels to dip your brushes in the colors and apply them gently, hoping to create the most elegant ladylike look. La Prairie color range has always been understated with plush textures that do their best to flatter the skin. With that said, one of my most beloved blue eye shadows was La Prairie Hematite. It's discontinued now, probably because the brand's typical customer is not likely to be a blue eye shadow kind of person. It's too bad.

The subtle neutral hues in the current range are still very satisfying to use. The satin smooth texture is easy to place and blend. It takes very little effort (or planning) to achieve a sophisticated and very polished look, and I've yet to meet a brush that doesn't work with this light yet rich formula. Swatching is probably not the most impressive introduction to La Prairie eye shadows. Like all of the others I've tried, these are gossamery and delicate, mostly buttery if you stick a finger them, and create a puffy cloud of powder if you're only trying to get the pigment to show. It's when they're actually on the lid that you see the subtlety of the light hitting the various colors.

The single shadow in Quartz is a baked peach kind of a color. It's like a very light cinnamon or a pinkish brown, and is rather unique.  It's also a warmer color than La Prairie's beautiful Agate. I find Quartz to be a great companion to the eye shadow quad in Les Cristals, especially if you want an extra warmth in the crease or to take it to a slightly different place. Les Cristals is a classic neutral palette: cream, pale taupe, silver, and an almost matte charcoal that's a bit more stiff (all the other shadows, including Quartz have a satin/sheen finish).

Two things are annoying about these La Prairie eye shadows. This is a super luxury product, near the top of the price/weight. They perform as such, but you will see fallout when you start working with them. The extremely fine texture makes cleanup a non-issue (kick it off with a fluffy brush), but I know enough people who will find it a drawback. Then there are the silly little applicators that come in the compacts. This is 2017, not 1971. We all have quality brushes, so please give us a little more actual product in the pans and acknowledge that we know how to use makeup tools.

Bottom line: there are far worse ways to indulge yourself.

La Prairie Les Cristals eye shadow quad ($70, made in USA) and & Quartz single  ($45, made in USA) are available at Neiman Marcus and other select locations.