Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Goodbye Gaia

We are heartbroken and devastated to share that our wonderful Gaia has passed away this weekend unexpectedly, from an un-diagnosed heart condition.

This blog has been for many years her passion and a source of tremendous joy. It gave her an opportunity to share her honest opinions on anything and everything, trying to make the world a little bit more stylish, fragrant and well moisturized. You all have given her a community, long lasting friendships and if she could make even one person feel better about themselves or save them time by telling them what not to buy, it made her day.
This blog is a true mirror of her interests and passions, starting every post with an arresting visual she worked hours to find, weaving together her personal story with a teachers need to educate and motivate readers to explore. Never saying Buy This but giving her unbiased opinions and hoping readers will continue their own discovery journey into the wonderful world of vintage and indi perfumes, quality makeup and brushes, science based skin care, context and history of fashion and adopting more cats.

She started the blog after finding very few other sources for real, true, personal sources of information on beauty products and perfume beyond the commercial world of the glossies. With some of the other early bloggers, she believed people need to hear the truth not through advertisers and marketing copy. Sadly, the wold has turned in a different way with influencers and alternative facts becoming the norm and honest writing and opinions devalued. She stopped writing about 3 years ago being so dispirited from these developments but still hopeful that one day truth will make a comeback.

Thanks again readers for all your support and love, I wish that this month's Currently would have been different but hope that she is in a place with unlimited cats, all historical perfumes and unimaginable beauty.

Can't finish without reminding everyone to wear sun screen, and if you have not had a physical in a while, go get one. now.

Lastly, I found this Nick Cave song on one of her social profiles this morning. It was her favorite and unbelievably sad and apt on this occasion.
Ori, The Blond.




I don’t believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
Not to intervene when it came to you
Not to touch a hair on your head
To leave you as you are
And if He felt He had to direct you
Then direct you into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms
And I don’t believe in the existence of angels
But looking at you I wonder if that’s true
But if I did I would summon them together
And ask them to watch over you
To each burn a candle for you
To make bright and clear your path
And to walk, like Christ, in grace and love
And guide you into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms
But I believe in Love
And I know that you do too
And I believe in some kind of path
That we can walk down, me and you
So keep your candles burning
And make her journey bright and pure
That she will keep returning
Always and evermore
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween

Art: Xavier Mellery, Autumn (Fall of the Last Leaves of Autumn), circa 1890-1893

Friday, August 30, 2019

Valerie Harper (1939- 2019)

Valerie Harper quotes:
"I used to get some ego thing out of saying I wasn't a star, just an actress. Forget it. I'm a star. I wanted it. I worked for it. I got it."
"Don't have the funeral until the day of the funeral, ... Live today. There's capellini in the cabinet to be cooked, which I'm doing."
"I love to inspire people. I’d like to be remembered in a way that they would take action. I love to get people moving [to better themselves]. I’d like to be remembered for energy. Pulling people on the dance floor!"

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July!
May the Spirit of Liberty and the memory of our Founding Fathers guide us in the years to come.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Currently- Very End of June 2019

I spent a couple of hours in the middle of the night yesterday (today, really) reading a novella by Connie Willis- I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land.  It's a quick read that pokes fun at people like me who believe wholeheartedly in digital books. I still adore the real thing in theory- smell, typeface, hardcovers- I just prefer the reading experience of the Kindle app on my iPad which allows me to read all night if I want to (I often do).

I like the new Springsteen album and various other stuff, but I woke up this morning with Paula Cole's 1996 "I don't wanna wait" running through my head. It's famous, of course, as the Dawson's Creek theme song, but I think it's bigger and better than that with all due respect to Joey and Pacey.
I don't want to wait for our lives to be over
I want to know right now what will it be

I added a subscription to Britbox and now we're watching the last two seasons of the UK Antiques Roadshow. The stuff they have over there makes me cry. The location, the sentimental items, and the amazing antiquy antiques one can find over there.

Clair de Musc layered with everything.

I'm in love with the Whale Song palette from Menagerie Cosmetics. You'd be surprised how easy these colors are to blend and wear. Either that or I'm delusional about looking like an 80s reject.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
Hair clips. Also known as the Jersey Tiara.

Gluten-free mini pretzels. All the fun without the heartburn.

I'm pretty sure I need a new prescription for my glasses. As well as prescription sunglasses. And I just added a x20 makeup mirror to my equipment. We'e not amused.

I can still read. And that moment when one curls up with a cat and an iPad (I know) under the blanket in a cool dark room is the epitome of joy.

A custom palette I ordered from Lethal Cosmetics may arrive this week. It's going to be fun.

I've been searching eBay for an antique brooch. Intricate silver filigree with a large aquamarine cushion-cut stone (or similar). I had one decades ago. It belonged either o my grandmother or my great-grandmother and I used to wear it on my scarves in high school or pinned to a hat (there's a story there). I kept it on a small trinket dish in my bedroom and that's where it was last seen as I was tidying my room just before a large group of friends came over for my seventeenth birthday. It was a bittersweet day for many reasons, and turned utterly sour the next morning when I discovered the brooch was gone. It never turned up. I have an unconfirmed guess.
I've been thinking about that brooch every one in a while. I wish I could find something to replace it, which is of course impossible and silly. I have a fun and satisfying vintage jewelry collection, so it's not really about the brooch. Except that sometimes it is.

Random Thought
The only reason I'm waiting for the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is to buy a trio of my favorite deodorant (Donna Karan Cashmere Mist deodorant stick). It cold have been a lot worse.

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

Art: Władysław Ślewiński, Woman Sleeping with Cat, 1896.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Gloria Vanderbilt (1924- 2019)

Gloria Vanderbilt quotes:

"I've always believed that one woman's success can only help another woman's success."
"The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you."
"You must always have great, secret, big fat hopes for yourself in love and in life.The bigger, the better."
"I've lived a lot, lost a lot, had dreams of love and fateful encounters, and although I suspect the answer is in the seeker, I still believe that what I'm looking for is just around the corner."

Friday, May 31, 2019

Currently- May 2019

House And Garden Spring Furnishing Cover by L. V. Carroll, May 1919

I'm sneaking this one in just hours before the end of May. I waited for Game of Thrones to be over so I could exorcize it from my mind and read things other than recaps. Yes, the last two seasons should have been a full ten episode each, yes, there was no payoff to several story threads, and true- the Night King ended up being pretty lame (the actor, Vladimir Furdik, is a delight, though). Still, the ending did make sense in the grand scheme of Westerosy things, and as long as Brienne and Davos are alive and well I'm happy. Now, where did Drogon go and what's west of Westeros?

Johan Harstad- Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in all that Confusion?
It's a Norwegian novel from over a decade ago (I've had it on my Kindle app forever), about a young man whose hero is the second man on the moon instead of Neil Armstrong.
There's something about the sensibility of some  Scandinavian literature that makes me want to hop on a plane and spend midsummer over there.

Erik Scott- The Invisible Wand

We just watched the first season of A Discovery of Witches. Like the books, it's not bad. With the added charm of Matthew Goode. Who doesn't like Matthew Goode?

Dodo by Zoologist. Actually today I'm wearing the brand's Chameleon, which is a marvelous musky skin scent, but Dodo is has completely captured me with its joie de vivre. I need both, and thankfully they're sold in a travel spray form.

Metallic pencils in light colors on the waterline and smudged a little under the lower lashes. I can't do a full dark smoky eye, but a bright copper or an antique gold work well and go with the season's marine blue trend.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
Well-supported sparkly ballet flats by Fit-Flops. Pretty and comfortable shoes. Who woulda thought?

These days I'm all about getting a lot of my nutrition via fresh smoothies. I'm even willing to have kale in my green ones, and kale has always been my line in the sand.

There can be no banes after a day spent on the shore.

Central a/c.

Are you a J.Crew fan? I've been shopping there for decades, buying decent basics I could mix and match with vintage pieces or higher end designers. But something has definitely changed. Vanity Fair is trying to analyze the evolution of the brand and its future.

Right now? A much-needed nap. Also, a chocolate lava cake. It's all about the small but delectable things today.

A cherry tree.

Random Thought
All the HMOs and other healthcare providers should have SPF stations on every beach and hand over free sunscreen. It's so much cheaper than the alternative.

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

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The One- Makeup Items That Always Work

Photo of Mary Chesebro Phipps Applying Makeup by Constantine Joffe for Vogue, June 1951

For me, that is.

Which is why I'm not mentioning any beloved skin care products because you may be as allergic to my tried-and-true as I am to your coconut oil-based cleanser (I'm talking serious reaction here. I get deep cystic acne as well as full body rashes from coconut oil Including, unfortunately, eating it). So this is just a quick list of makeup items that never fail me and I know I can use without hesitation no matter what else I'm doing with my face or how distracted I am. No need for mastering a special technique or employing extra tools. Slap, smear, blend, go.

The first thing that came to mind here was Lancome Artliner. I've been using these pens for thirty years and always have at least two or three in different colors. Artliner has been changed and redesigned a few times over the years, and the current  extra long felt tip iteration surprised me at first, but an Artliner is an Artliner, reliable and easy to use. Their brown shade is not only my perfect brown but also a go-to daytime favorite. The definition it gives my lash line is strong without too harsh a contrast, so it's a good companion to a very colorful eye look.

One more Lancome recommendation is their mascaras. I'm a believer in the holy trinity of lashes: Lauder-Lancome-Clinique. But Lancome is my go-to for my no-brainer. I like all of them, from the classic Definicils that gives only the most basic and natural look to the modern Monsieur Big (kind of an Instagram look, if you ask me) and the various Grandiose mascaras with their no lash left behind technology. But the Hypnose family is where my heart and lashes are. They're a classic "before and after" mascaras and the quality is superb.

Eye Shadows
MAC Satin Taupe single.
I could end it here and stop, which says plenty considering the endless eye shadow options on the market. Palettes as far as the eye can see, singles in unique colorways from indie brands big and small. But there's only one Satin Taupe bothin terms of color and texture that allows you to pack, blend, and use it as an all-over one and done color. I know not everyone actually looks good in taupe (it feels like heresy, but the fact is that no color is truly universal), and I suspect Burberry Pale Barley would do the same thing for the taupe-resistant crowd). It's also a good reminder of how good MAC permanent line is and has always been, beyond the oft redundant and sub-par limited collections.

Palettes. My first thought was "No way. I can't. Don't make me". But there has to be a way to make sense of the endless supply (I think of it as miles and miles of color, as far as the eye can see and beyond. And that's just my own collection). I won't attempt an "if I could only keep one" because it's pointless. Even in high school I had a handful of quads, duos, and two larger palettes. But here are one perfect palette for natural looks with some versatility, and another is a chic luxurious way to create more colorful combinations:

Viseart Neutral Mattes (a 12 pan palette) requires no effort in creating a look and executing it. The textures seem to work for most, and while the colors seem to lean more warm than true neutral you soon realize that you can actually pick and choose the cooler tones and never look ashy. Their small Theory palette, as nice as they are, do not give the versatility required for "The One". They're a one or two look pony each. Here's an alternative, though: Chanel has upped their eye shadow game to new heights over the last couple of years, the crown jewel for me being the new(ish. First released last year for spring) nine shadow formats. I've shown you the first limited edition one, Afresco, but have since added the second colorful one, Quintessence (still available, $70 at and select department stores) as well as the brand new all-brown Les Indispensables. Any of the colorful palettes will give you an incredible range of options which I don't always find in larger palettes that have a few too many redundancies.

Blush. To my surprise this was the hardest category. I have many incredible go-to blushes from brands across the price rainbow. A beloved La Prairie as well as a fantastic Makeup Revolution little thing. As in many categories there's a classic Lancome Blush Subtil that I've been repurchasing for decades (Aplum), along with a couple others. But what's a blush you're almost guaranteed to use daily and successfully with no clown moments, mismatches just before an event, or the occasional uneven blotchiness? Surratt Blush Artistique. And I'm as surprised as you are. Troy Surratt's brushes are fantastic but overpriced (buy Hakuhodo or Chikuhodo instead). The eye shadows Do.Not.Work.For.Me. I gave my entire stash of them to my eldest niece, and I wasn't sure she was too impressed, either. Some people swear by them and I have no idea why. Still, the blushes are from another world. I have five and even the one I bought rather tentatively (Duchess, a beige apricot) has proven to be a staple. They all look like a wash of pretty color on one's cheek more than a "blush". In an alternate universe I'd just own all of them and forsake all others. I live firmly in this dimension of reality, so not yet.

Cream and liquid blushes aren't as popular, I suspect, but I have to mention one because it's better than all the others I consider great (NARS, Glossier, etc.). Daniel Sandler Watercolour Liquid Blush. It's not a new product but since it's a UK makeup artist brand it tends to fly under the radar around these parts. They ship internationally (free shipping to the US on orders over £30) and best of all: you can buy little sample bottles. I tend to buy one full size every time and a bunch of sample colors, which are also amazing for travel. The combination of meld-with-the-skin texture, natural finish, and thoughtful pigments make Daniel Sanler blushes (Chelsea, Spicy, and Angel are my go-tos) the one.

I almost skipped highlighters because there are too many of them around, they're often overused, and like many makeup-crazed people I could probably live with 10% of what I own and not notice. Except for one. Which makes it suitable for this "The One" edition of carefully chosen recommendations. Essence Pure Nude Highlighter. It's a baked formula in a medium beige/sand/ champagne tone that leaves no particles or streaks on the skin and simply imparts a natural glow. Remember when highlighters were about that?  So, yes, this simple compact (currently on sale at Ulta for the princely sum of $2.69) is The One with one caveat: I'm not sure how the color looks on women of color whose skin tone is very dark and/or has a pronounced red undertone. If you know please comment.

NARS Satin Lip Pencil in Rikugien.
A jumbo pencil lipstick in a dusty rose pink and a satin finish. If you're very pale it's somewhat dramatic. If you're dark this is probably your nude. for me it's the everyday color I carry everywhere and probably the only NARS lip product that I keep finishing and repurchasing before it goes rancid. I gave one to my mom, what else can I say?

I didn't intend to include a base product here because just like skincare there are too many variables involved. But there's one products that multitasks and outperforms most expectations, though it's sometimes hard to define what exactly it's supposed to do. Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter is a glossy pigmented liquid that has a surprising amount of coverage. You're supposed to use it as is, mixed with other face products, layered under or over your base, or invent a new method that's all your own. The result depends on the variables I've mentioned, so I can' say do this and not that. Try all and see for yourself. The reason I will need a new bottle sooner rather than later is that I use over naked skin on the points of the face. The shade I have is 4 Medium - neutral golden yellow for medium skin tones, which would have been a hair too dark for me were this a tinted moisturizer. But the Hollywood Filter is sheer and glossy, thus more forgiving, so the combination of light coverage and clear shine is exactly how I love my base to look (I conceal where needed but prefer the minimal amount of coverage I can get away with most days). It's not exactly a "glass skin" product, since it has quite a bit of pigment (the gaps between the shades and dearth of very dark, very pale and true olive undertones are not very 2019). It's just a brilliant concoction that will work in many different ways for most, because you can mix it with much darker products.

What's your sure thing? Do you have products that have been your companions longer than your spouse?

Monday, May 13, 2019

Doris Day (1924-2019)

Doris Day quotes:
"I've never met an animal I didn't like, and I can't say the same thing about people."

"Wrinkles are hereditary. Parents get them from their children."

"Party all night? Oh lord! No, no no! I don't even like parties."

"I like joy; I want to be joyous; I want to have fun on the set; I want to wear beautiful clothes and look pretty. I want to smile and I want to make people laugh. And that's all I want. I like it. I like being happy. I want to make others happy."

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Currently- April 2019

In which I try very hard not to make it all about Game Of Thrones and barely succeed.

Tomorrow, Friday the 26th of April, is the thirteenth anniversary of this blog. It has to mean something, I’m just uncertain what exactly. It’s amusing to read my very first post, though. Some things never change.

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro. The subject matter is fascinating to me since I've been doing a deep-dive into my own family's roots, and Ms. Shapiro has been a favorite author of mine for nearly twenty years. I easily recommend everything she's written.

Think Quiet by Rare Dm.  I like the entire album (Vanta Black) well enough but several of the songs sound too similar to each other. This one is my favorite and it's enough.

Also, this. Obviously.

For the next four weeks there's only one show I care about. Sorry.

Posting about my occasional weird perfume choices seems to have cured me for the most part. Today I'm wearing Santal Noble by MPG and last night it was Piper Nigrum by Lorenzo Villerosi That's more like it.

I'm incredibly boring. I've used the 20% Ulta discount on the most basic skincare and personal care items, and will do the same with Sephora's Rouge coupon. However, last month I preordered the Whale Song palette from Menagerie Cosmetics, so I can continue my current theme of blue and green. I have their older two palettes and love working with them, creating both neutral and colorful looks. The texture is fantastic and the beautiful packaging doesn't hurt.

Frequently Worn Outfit/Item
Spring's the season I never know what to wear and always get rained-on. I rely on a rotation of very soft faux-leather jackets that drape nicely and go with both jeans and little silk dresses.

Wehani rice. It's a reddish whole grain rice that takes a while to cook (an hour and a half in our rice cooker) and has a spectacular aroma, flavor, and texture. Goes well in a stir-fry as well as with beans and guac.

I can't complain. The banes are small enough to let them go and move on.

Rebooting the blog and letting go.

Anne Bloeyn on Twitter. She says it so much better than I could.

Going to see Trevor Noah on tour. And, yes, also- whatever comes after the battle on Wintefell.

Other than for Brienne to survive the battle (no chance, I know)?  Ruffled dresses need to go away. Extra volume is the work of satan.

Not-so-random Thought
Either all the mentions of the Winterfell crypts safety is a rain of red herrings, or we're going to see several interesting undead. I know that most TV writers and commentators predict things we would really want to unsee, but I have a different take.  If we think back to the pre-season tease that has shown s the crypt, remember how all three dead voices were talking specifically about Jon Snow. Lyanna demanded that Ned protect her son, Catelyn lamented that her inability to love Jon was the reason of the calamities that befell House Stark, and Ned himself reminded Jon that they're of the same blood. So what if...?

Truly Random Thought
What takes up the most space on the internet? The husband claims it has to be porn. I'm convinced he's wrong. It's all about cats, right?

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

Photos of spring flowers by my sister, Shiri Hilton.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Winged Eyeliner For Deep-Set Sunken Eyes

Not like this.  Just so we're clear.
Kevyn Aucoin for Vogue, model Toneya Bird.

My eye shape isn't very common. It's a result of a bone structure that has the highest point of my cheekbone (actually it's the zygomatic bone, if I'm not mistaken) sitting not at the far out perimeter of the face pointing towards the temple, but an inch and a half closer to the center of my face and protruding straight ahead, casting a pronounced shadow on the entire under-eye area, as well as the very deep crease typical to regular deep-set eyes that comes with a very visible mobile lid.

My attempt at illustrating (copy/pasting various parts and lines, that is) my general eye shape.

This is what happens when trying to do a regular flick/wing. My sharp crease breaks the line and the colors actually pools inside.

This face situation has various consequences when it comes to makeup. Contour placement is extremely tricky if not completely useless. More frustrating than that is how my eye makeup needs to account for an under-eye shadow that can be slightly brightened but not erased. Nowadays it's fairly common to use fillers under the eye to make the area flat. However, I'm utterly freaked out by procedures this close to my eyes. My sight has been going downhill at an alarming pace and I'd rather not take any unnecessary risks, even the most remote and unlikely. I already know to expect cataracts in both eyes by the time I reach 60 (genetics. Thanks, dad and grandpa). I'm not happy about it, so I'm letting my eyes be until they need real medical intervention.

More than you've bargained for. No filters and no makeup other than a hint of concealer (Etude House BB Concealer) around the nose and Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Filter across the cheeks for the sake of dimension.

Back to makeup. the only color makeup I apply under the eyes is light and bright, never a full-on grungy black smoky eye.  Also, since my mobile lid sits so low (deep) under the bone, I can't just run a line from the lashline to the brow bone. A regular wing or a cat-eye simply can't work because the start and finish points would never align. Still, I wear eyeliner, and quite a bit of it. I even like to cheat a winged look quite often. One way to do it is by placing a few clusters (or a chopped strip) of false lashes right at the outer corner of the eye and curl them up to outer space (actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler who shares a similar eye shape to mine* has worn this look on several red carpet occasions). I do that once in a very blue moon, but  can't say I enjoy messing with the glue and placement. What I do is draw the faux wing on the mobile lid itself using either a liquid or a liquid pen eyeliner (gel and an angled brush also work. It's just a matter of preference). I take advantage of the large space of my mobile lid and take the line up as far out as I can, so it's visible when the eye is open.

An action shot attempt. You can see I'm straining to control the various elements from the remote to the eyeliner wand, but the point is to show you where to take the line and how far one can go.

A key to this technique is using a magnifying mirror and turning my head slightly to the side opposite the wing while looking towards the eye I'm lining. This way I can see exactly how far I can take the wing. Once it's up I look straight ahead and fill the gap between the eyeliner and lash line as accurately as possible, then clean up mistakes where I've colored outside the line with a makeup wipe and blot it with a tissue. That's it. All done. The key, as with most things in life is not to hold one's breath while drawing your eyeliner. It's true no matter the eye shape or technique, because the second you involuntarily exhale your hand will move in the wrong direction (best case. Worst case is stabbing yourself in the eye).

In this demo I've used a bold color (Nyx Vivid Bright in Vivid Envy, $4.90 at Ulta, and now I finally know what possessed me to buy it. It definitely stands out even in bad lighting), so you can see exactly what I'm doing and where the line goes. Obviously it's the same thing with a black eyeliner, just without evoking Kermit the frog. The other eye makeup I used here and above (except in the  pre-makeup shot are a light champagne eye shadow all over the lid and a light/medium brown in the crease.  Both are from Chanel LES 9 OMBRES Multi-Effects Eyeshadow Palette in Quintessence ($70, Bloomingdale's), but obviously anything goes and this is not a full or even planned eye makeup look. I also used one coat of Lancome Monsieur Big mascara for balance and contras against the green.

That's my trick for a slightly more dramatic eyeliner application for a truly difficult eye shape. This basic line can be the finishing touch for a sophisticated eye shadow placement and go with a elongated shape created with a medium-dark eye shadow color, tightlining or a cut crease.

*Jamie-Lynn also had a similar nose to mine, but she took care of that early on, circa the second season of The Sopranos. Good for her.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Seven Perfume Cravings that Prove I’ve Lost My Mind

Photo by Beata Cervin. You can read more here.

It’s not that I’ve stopped wearing Miel de Bois, thick velvety chypres, or any old amber-vanilla-sandalwood bombs. I do it with aplomb like we all did in the  80s, with one extra spritz for good luck. Every now and then, though, say once a week, I get a craving for something very very different. Sheer florals, wet florals, light musky florals, too prim and proper perfumes, fragrance styles that don’t go with my hair... Who is this person and why is she hoarding various Bvlgari Tea perfume samples in the bottom drawer of her nightstand? I can’t even blame spring, because the madness started over a year ago and has been fairly consistent throughout two winters, especially at bedtime or as a scent for the first couple hours of the day (until I’m fully awake, I guess).
  • Last year around this time I’ve told you how I fell in love with a most unlikely perfume, Linen Rose by Aerin. If that wasn’t enough, Sephora and a few department stores were pushing samples of another Aerin, the 2015 release Mediterranean Honeysuckle, one of their regular EdPs. I’m a sucker for honeysuckle, real and in perfume, so maybe it’s not a surprise that I fell for it. Still, the honeysuckle note here is steeped in citrus juice and heavily bleached by sunshine. It could have easily been a Jo Malone perfume, but who cares? It’s pretty and have lighted up many a dreary morning over winter.
  • Speaking of Jo Malone, this one is a sad craving because I missed out on the limited edition Wisteria and Violet from their 2014 London Rain collection. I held on to samples and hesitated for too long because it wasn’t what I envisioned as "my thing". It sold out rather quickly and that was it. The wisteria in my own garden is about a week away from blooming. We planted it by the deck, right next to the picture window of the living room, so its scent will burst in for a few days. It’s a gorgeous and fleeting moment, just like visiting London, my favorite city, and taking it in, trying to mentally tattoo every sensation and memory onto my heart. A bottle of this Jo Malone would have done me a world of good.
  • In a sharp turn from these modern fresh florals, here’s a retro one with billowing sleeves and a touch of melancholy. I’ve actually loved Nocturnes de Caron for many years despite or because it was clearly a perfume for a different woman. I’m not into astrology in any form, but I’m willing to bet no one familiar with Nocturnes would ever assign it to a Scorpio. I still feel a little like a pretender when I’m wearing it, but again, whatever. I might be a pretender but I smell like a proper lady.
  • This is where I’m feeling like a hypocrite because I’m over By Kilian and the various aspirational shenanigans of this Lauder-owned brand (yes, Aerin and Jo Malone are also part of the monster), yet I’m completely and utterly in lust with their Moonlight In Heaven. Let’s blame it on my severe coconut allergy that makes me compensate for it through coconut perfumes. Moonlight is a tropical pudding served alongside peeled wedges of sweet citrus fruit, and it all comes in clear glass bowls that reflect the light of the sunset from the beach. Obviously I’m in a need of a real vacation.
  • Fleur de Peau by Diptyque is another example of a “somebody else’s perfume”. It’s an iris, I’ll give you that, but of the very soapy and musky variety that I tend to skip (think Iris Poudre without all the poudre). It’s not makeupy, not particularly sexy, has none of the shadow and light of the truly great iris perfumes, but it’s pretty and actually warms up on the skin if you manage to make it last. Goes well with a vintage dress, pearls and opal, real hardcover books read by the open window, and beautiful cursive handwriting. I want to have a day like that every once in a while. Maybe I'll even do something with my hair in its honor.
  • This is where you get to wonder whether I’ve been abducted by aliens and replaced with a pod person. Last week I received a PR package from Elizabeth Arden. It had the original 2017 White Tea and the two new flankers, Vanilla Orchid and Wild Rose. Vanilla Orchid is a quince preserve that was cooked with a bit of vanilla but the pod was removed too early and not scraped into the jelly. Wild Rose scares me enough to wait until I can test it with a couple of friends. But it’s the original one that I suddenly find compelling (Reese Witherspoon is the campaign’s face, but it feels like she’s doing it in character as Madeline from Big Little Lies. That’s a good thing). I’m pretty sure I’m anosmic to at least half the structure of this fragrance because I’m not sure that in a blind test I can tell it apart from the Bvlgari one with the same name. I get a suspiciously cheerful citrusy white musk, slightly hysterical in its over-enthusiasm. It’s what you wear after finishing to KonMarie your entire home while you can still hear Marie Kondo’s giggly “ping” of the sparking joy moment.

  • Romulo Sans, Returned Gods, 2012
  • I thought that I was done with Chanel and we were never ever getting back together (told you: abducted, replaced, mind is gone). Between the disgrace that is Gabrielle, the travesty of L’Eau, and the gut job they did on the Les Exclusifs I’ve completely lost interest in anything they have to offer other than the makeup. Oh my god, the makeup! But the perfumes I’ve loved are ruined and the one I hated are now tolerable which is weird yet not enough of  a reason to wear Jersey. Then came 1957, the most recent Les Exclusif eau de parfum and I’m a goner. It’s both very modern using layer upon layer of white musk, perhaps the most synthetic of notes, but the layers are laminated in buttery florals like the dough of a French puff pastry. The sparkling citrus wrapped around young orange blossoms tames the animalic tendencies of this note. Normally I’d object to such treatment but somehow it works here. While the composition is new and even experimental for Chanel there’s still a nostalgic hint of real Chanel DNA when I’m wearing it. The world was quite nasty in 1957 if you weren’t a white man, middle class and above; as was Mademoiselle herself, so we need to be careful with the fake nostalgia. However, the 50s aesthetics can be enjoyed at face value, ironically, or as a guilty pleasure. That’s exactly how I’m going to feel when I order a bottle along with the newest Chanel makeup collection.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Beauty Gadgets- A Quick Overview

Anne Francis and Robby the Robot in Forbidden Planet, 1956

I live on the intersection of high-maintenance girly-girls (at what age do you stop referring to yourself as such?) and nerdy geeks who like the little enhancement tech gizmos bring to our lives (and get surprisingly ragy when things don't work as they should. Ask our old dishwasher, R.I.P.). Somehow No surprise then that I've managed to amass a small hoard of beauty gadgets with cords, electric and USB alike, that now demand their own power strip in my beauty room. I haven't tried everything that's on the market (I'm too skeptic to shell out for a NuFace, not to mention to make the commitment to use it fully according to instructions). The stuff reviewed here is for face only and is electrically powered, just so we're clear.

Possibly the strongest statement I'll make here is that if you're going to buy just one single item ever make it a lighted magnifying mirror. It's the least sexy of all gadgets and can be downright scary. But if you're about to get close and personal with your pores (see below) or if you're an eyeliner user particularly over the age of 40 you need this thing and you'll need it more urgently with every passing year. I've had an OttLight one over a decade ago (it was a PR gift)  and when it died I replaced it with an 8" SimpleHuman that has been serving me well ever since. It's an older model, x5 magnification that I supplement with a small suction cup x10 for eyeliner. The lighting action is sensor activated and USB powered. People who complain about the light not turning on right away have probably neglected the occasional cleaning of the sensor (I use an alcohol wipe). I rely on it daily and should probably look at adding a travel version, because the one I have right now, a KEDSUM tri-fold I bought on Amazon ($26) has been unreliable at best. It looks fantastic, but mine has issues charging (USB) and sometimes refuses to turn on (it has a switch in the back, but the mirror doesn't seem to care). I've travelled with it quite a bit over the last eighteen months and I'm ready for an upgrade.

I promised some pore talk, so we're getting to it. I have one strong recommendation and two shrill warnings. Let's start with one that does good. Many facialists have started supplementing their cleansing and extracting process with a steam/water-aided electric pulsating wand that shakes the pores clean. It's a good thing if you're not the biggest fan of manual extractions (I'm not, and the husband was traumatized by his one experience of a "relaxing facial". He still loves me. I think). The salon machines are not exactly sized or priced for the average consumer, but look online and you'll find a wide range of pulsing spatulas that promise to clean out your pores as well as give you an alternate setting that actually pushes skincare into your recently purified skin. Prices vary and I've taken my time researching before deciding on the right one for me, Labelle Ultrasonic Gentle Stainless Steel Facial Skin Scrubber Spatula by Trophy Skin ($149. I'm pretty sure it was cheaper when I bought it seven months ago). It works on a well-steamed (see bellow) and damp skin by sending ultrasonic pulses into the face that serve as eviction notice for the gunk in one's pores. I can't vouch for the effectiveness on seriously congested and acneic skin and wouldn't use it without consulting a dermatologist or a serious aesthetician first. All I know is that for my normalish skin that tends to get surface and just-under-the top layer blackheads this is a working solution.

It's important to read and understand the instruction, to remember that the gadget works on ultrasonic pulses (I rarely hear them  and the cats don't seem to mind. No idea about dogs), and to avoid scraping, pushing and digging. Don't apply any pressure to the skin. Just glide it, change directions according to the face nooks and crannies and let the spatula do its work. The result is part satisfying and part horrifying as tiny sebum plugs vacate the premise.

Once done it's time for your choice of skincare, but here's where the spatula falls short. The reverse pulses feel pleasant but I don't feel they contribute anything to serum absorption. Maybe it's just me, but I wouldn't purchase this if you're mainly interested in pushing products into your skin. I have something else to recommend.

But before we get to that I still have a warning: vacuum pore suction devices. No No. No. I bought a dirt cheap one a couple of years ago that did diddly squat. You'd think I've learned my lesson, but no. I had to get a more "serious" one, with adjustable suction levels, replaceable suction heads in various sizes, and broken capillaries to boot. The gunk, by the way, remained comfortable until I switched to the Trophy Skin spatula. If you ever asked yourself who's the idiot who buys this junk featured on Instagram, that would be me (though I bought it on Amazon. I'm still as dumb).

The precursor to pre-cleaning is steaming the face. Methods vary from the good old boiling pot and a towel over one’s head (not recommended in homes ruled by felines) to various small appliances you can buy anywhere. A few have more functions than others, but I have yet to find a reason to replace my current one which is at least six years old and was purchased for less than $30. It’s no longer in production, but its clones are many.  The rules are simple: stable surface, close your eyes, don’t shove your face deep in there, and give the cats a few other educational toys to distract them.

I mentioned above that I didn’t think that the reverse action of the ultrasonic spatula was doing much for me. Instead I’ve got addicted to the Foreo UFO device ($280 at Sephora). The price is scandalous because they’re trying to keep milking you for money with the refill masks. As much as I adore this gadget I’m still mad about it. The UFO comes with an app, which means you’re supposedly have to locate your phone and bring it to the bathroom. Thankfully the default settings are good enough unless you’re intent on a specific facial routine. Once the Foreo UFO is nicely charged (USB, what else?) you remove the outer ring, stick the round mask and fasten it back with the plastic ring. If you’re using the app this is where you use the phone camera to read the barcode of the wrapper, or just click it on and start massaging your face gently with the device, enjoy the change in temperature and the LED lights that are also supposed to be beneficial. It’s a 90 second luxurious spa treatment that I feel does wonders for my skin (I can tell when I’ve been slacking). There are several different types of masks. I buy the basic Make My Day and Call It A Night ($9.99 for a seven unit package), and keep empty wrappers of each on hand to scan as needed, because I have a little secret. Many of us have piles of sheet masks around and they’re not all made equal. A good masking session takes more time, relaxation, and a high quality mask (both the sheet and the essence). Cheap and flimsy masks do have their place since they still give a hydration and glow boost. You just need to cut them to an approximate size and stick them in the UFO under whichever setting you fancy. It’s a great solution for the more questionable filler masks in your Mask Maven subscription, various GWPs, and all the ones that are supposed to make you look like a cute animal for Instagram stories. No. I will not film myself wearing a lemur mask, but I will use it in the solitude of my dressing room with the UFO. One last piece of advice: don’t pay full price. Sephora and other retailers have sales.

Now we’re getting to some unnecessarily controversial territory. A couple of years ago Lisa Eldridge decided to pull down a video about her experience with with facial microplaning . She was slagged as anti feminist and a promoter of unnatural beauty standards because women have facial hair and peach fuzz and shouldn’t feel the need to get treatment for it. I’ve watched that video while it was still available and even if I hadn’t, being familiar with Ms. Eldridge, her work and philosophy I could tell you there was no way she’d ever shame a person for their facial features. Ever. If you want to really be horrified go search Monika Blunder channel for her (possibly sponsored) video on the topic. As a Jewish person with ancestry that engulfs the Middle East, Balkan countries, and most of Eastern Europe I can tell you that facial hair, fuzzy or not, has been the bane of my existence from age twelve onwards, including years I’ve yearned paper bags over the head would be an acceptable fashion choice. I’m laughing it off now from my chair in a well-stocked beauty room and a lifetime experience of beauty treatments, but thirteen year old me would have sold my sister for a solution that would make me feel better about my appearance, at least to a less suicidal point. Microplaning is not a simple face shaving since it takes off the outermost layer of dead skin and debris, thus revealing a healthier, less prone to clogging skin, and a better absorbent canvas for skin care. The full Monty clinical procedure is relatively expensive, and frankly, I wouldn’t trust just anyone with a #11 scalpel near my face. There are several DIY options, such as the one Wayne Goss has shown on YouTube last year but it was a manual tool and not an electrical gadget, so it’s out of today’s scope. I would say that it’s better suited for an experienced microplaner, because it’s still a razor of sort. So beware. 

The one I’m talking about today is the Dermalash 2.0 ($189 at Sephora, Ulta, and most department stores). It’s another greedy scam to sell you an expensive device and then keep you buying the much needed refills. I wouldn’t use the same blade more than three times, and again use your Ulta points and various 20% coupons to take the sting off. It’s still annoying, but it works beautifully. Two things to know: it’s better to let the peach fuzz grow almost fully back before repeating, because that’s how it takes off most of the filth that’s caught in it. The second thing is that you must carefully eject the blade from the device so you can actually recharge it. It needs to be placed (blade-free) head down into the base. The LED light will indicate that it’s charging. Too many people didn’t fully read the manual (it’s confusing) and have returned fully functional units because they couldn’t figure out this little detail. The results I’ve been seeing over the last months (since the 2.0 model was launched) have made me a believer. I wish I could show my mustachioed and side-burnt teenage self all these wonders. 

One last note: Clarisonic. I still have my first generation brush I’ve written about back in the day and a stash of the old brush heads since I’ve heard they’ve changed, and not all brush types have improved. I’ll check it in due course. To the one I bought all those years ago joined a MIA Fit a few years ago ($219 wherever Clarisonic products are sold. I think this model might be in the process of phasing out in favor of a  bright and shiny new thing). It was a PR gift which has been serving well and traveled the world with me. Except that first time in Italy when I realized the PR package didn’t include a charging cable. I ordered one immediately and it was waiting for me when I got home, but the hilarity in the shower was unnecessary. In any case, I love my Clarisonic brushes and I’m secretly coveting the ultimate prize in the series, the Mia Smart Luxe Ultimate Collection ($299) that also includes a face massager and and eye awakening device (and hopefully a butler that looks and sounds like Tim Gunn to administer all these treatment).

How do you feel about beauty gadgets? Any recommendations?

Saturday, March 30, 2019

New Perfume Releases- Do We Care? Should We Care?

Pierre Amédée Marcel-Béronneau, Parfum Caressant, circa 1897

There’s a YouTube genre of videos called “reactions”. People film themselves as they watch or read something semi-controversial, from the Red Wedding to celeb plastic surgeries, clips by Dr. Pimple Popper or their followers’ assumptions about their own lives behind the scenes. I was thinking about it recently while browsing lists of new perfume releases , making mental comments and the kind of facial expressions my mom has always warned me I’d be stuck with if I didn’t stop right that moment (she was kind of right).

I’m definitely not going to film myself doing it, but you may picture me trying to balance George and Lizzy, my laptop, iPad, messenger alerts on my phone, and a cup of tea. That’s the visual. My scent of the day was Chaos by Donna Karan from the original 1996 icicle bottle (“The Precious”. I also have the 2007 version in the black bottle which is just as discounted. Go figure). It may or may not influenced my attitude, but you tell me: can you avoid even a minimal snark when faced with the launch of Mademoiselle Rochas Couture, a new perfume that opens with notes of pear and pink peppercorns and dries down to a musk?

My reactions to the other perfumes went something like this (you can treat it as blind items if you wish):

Great. A flanker of a flanker of that thing I hated back in 2014. Can’t wait.
As opposed to “inauthentic woman”? Seriously? In 2019?
Mmmm... iris. Must. Investigate.
I actually like the name. It goes with my image.
Can they just bring back two or ten of the originals?
Who let this happen?
I had no idea they still exist! Cute. 
Lord. The bottle. They can’t be serious, right?

The thing is that I’m highly unlikely to get out of my way to try any of them. For any perfume I’m going to sample one way or another there are 30 that will be completely ignored, even if they come from brands that twenty, fifteen, or ten years ago I’d bend over backward to get a sample as soon as the first testers trickled in. 

I’ve washed my hands off Serge Lutens. I no longer recognize the brand that still occupy part of my soul and a considerable shelf space in my cabinets. I’ve given up on L’Artisan three reformulations and repackaging ago, and on Malle, Kilian, and Le Labo a Lauder ago. Indie and micro-niche haven’t escaped the feeling of drowning under a tsunami of releases that feel rushed and half-baked, even from some of my favorite artisan perfumers. I feel that we as consumer and semi-industry savvy are partly to blame for that. If you’re a blogger or a mega consumer who goes to perfume events, how many times have you eagerly asked the perfumer or brand owner “so what’s next?” all while spraying yourself from the tester of the new fragrance that won’t be launched officially until next week?

If you’ve been a perfume enthusiast for decades, do you still care? Are you still excited about a Harrods exclusive you’ll need to have muled to you by your cousin’s in-laws? Do you still get butterflies at the name “Tauer”? Do you order sample packs from Luckyscent? Do you call Josie at Osswald to reserve your bottle of the latest oud? Do you still expect greatness from Guerlain and Chanel? 

Let’s talk about it. I’m genuinely struggling with the question “should I care?”. I’m beyond privileged, of course, having the depth and breadth of a perfume collection that had begun around 1989. I have a serious vintage collection as well as modern gems that delight me to no end. It’s easier for me to shrug at a new Dior exclusive called Holy Peony. I tend to dislike peony notes, so whatever. I’m also not as jaded as to lose my love for DSH who never bores me, Bruno Fazzolari who recently created the solution for all of us who were gutted by Chanel butchering Sycomore (again). Buy a bottle of his Vetiverissimo and send me chocolate and kittens as a thank you (note to self: get one for the husband ASAP). I never skip a Zoologist release, even If I end up hating it, because Victor Wong’s vision is still an adventure. 

But should I try to keep up? Do I care? Do YOU care? And if you do, about what and whom? Are you hiding behind your vintage collection or are you out there shopping like it’s 2006?

Please tell me about it.