Friday, January 20, 2017

An Iris in Winter- My Top Modern Picks

We're at the dead of a winter full of unease and discontent, and I'm looking for comfort, though not in any of the usual places. No sweater scents or smoldering ambers. Instead, I'm going with the icy chill and otherworldly beauty of iris. This top ten perfume picks for winter this year is an addendum to my old list of favorite iris fragrances, with the focus being newer brands and more recent releases.

Iris Fauve by Atelier des Ors will be available in the US next month. I've been sitting on a sample (hoarding, really), enjoying the hot and cold effects created by contrast of spices and roots, fiery vetiver and damp iris. It's quite spectacular.

The Peradam by Apoteker Tepe is more floral than my usual choice of iris, but somehow this one has shot towards the top of my wishlist.  The Peradam is ethereal yet grounded with a good base of cedar/sandalwood. It also spells winter with a transition from a gray and murky light of an early morning to the Northern Lights as seen on a crystal clear icy night.

Nothing feels more appropriate today than Etat Libre d'Orange's La Fin du Monde (actually, any ELdO perfume will do). Buttery, popcorny, warm, and bizarrely comforting. I own many bottles of orris-based perfumes, but nothing comes even close to this one. In today's market, this is one of the biggest compliments I can give.

Staying in the warm iris category, Khôl de Bahreïn from Stéphane Humbert Lucas 777 is a golden honeyed iris that wraps you up in luxury fabrics and transports you (first class, naturally) to an exotic paradise. It almost glides on the skin in the most sexy way.

Thinking of Khôl de Bahreïn, I am reminded of two delectable body products: Golden Iris by Sabon. The shower oil and body cream are still available, and I need to do something I tend to avoid: pick up a backup. They make a hot shower that much more pampering.

DSH Perfumes- Metropolis. In a sharp turn now we go to a cold alien world of metal structures and geometric art deco shapes. Perfumer Dawn Spencer Hurwitz has a knack for using iris in her creations, and Metropolis is a standout among them in its chilly aura.

Inlé by Memo is a cool and clear iris that feels like staring at the mirror surface of a lake that reflects the blue skies and white clouds. The inspiration was a place somewhere in Myanmar, but to me it's a cool day in the Italian Dolomites.

The standout for me from the Le Galion modern reboot was Iris. It's crisp, cool, and tinged with bitter galbanum and infused with old world elegant floral notes. It's the kind of perfume that makes you stand a little straighter, your outfit smarter, and your mood determined.

My previous iris list included Heure Exquise by Annick Goutal, a perfume in the classic style of Chanel No.19. I'm not sure why I didn't mention the other Goutal iris, Mon Parfum Cheri, Par Camille. This is a are beauty that seems to go out and back in production. The many changes in branding and distribution the company has undergone in recent years didn't help this fragrance with its vintage vibe and heavy plummy presence, but all I can say is that if you come across a bottle (discounters are your friends) grab it. The eau de toilette has more orris than the eau de parfum, so take that into account.

Iris de Nuit by Heeley is definitely not new (it was one of the original 2005-6 Heeley releases) but it's modern, sparse, and cold. Imagine a large wall-to-ceiling window on a top floor of a highrise building looking down on a gray rainy city anywhere in the world. It's late afternoon and the light outside is fading fast. Will you hurry out to catch the rain or will you stand there, mesmerized by the tiny cars far down below, the lights that start appearing in other windows all around you, and the lightning that strikes the darkening skies?

What are you wearing today and what were your perfume choices throughout this winter?

For more winter picks please visit my friends at
Bois de Jasmin * Grain de Musc * Now Smell This * Perfume Posse

Image: The Iris Chandelier- a sculpture by Craig Mitchell Smith,  photo by Gary Anderson, 2010, via 360 Main Street.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Burberry Silk and Bloom Blush Palette

You know I had to.

It's the color. And the embossed pattern. And the gleam. The packaging didn't hurt, either.

Burberry Silk and Bloom Blush Palette isn't really a palette in the sense of having multiple colors. It's just one product in a compact, but the blush itself is one the prettiest around. There's also something about the formula that makes it perform well both as a standalone blush and as a blush topper that adds an extra glow to the skin.

At first glance Burberry Silk and Bloom looks like a medium pink blush with a shiny finish. I had to check and verify that there's no overspray or actual metallic glitter on the surface. The effect comes from the embossed pattern and the light-reflecting is part of the blush itself. The product is actually much more sheer than it appears at first, but it's still a blush, not a highlighter. Of course, color intensity will vary by skin tone and depth, and I can't predict what will be the effect for women of color. I'm somewhere between NC30-35 with a distinct green undertone, and I love the look I get from this blush.

I think it's more of a chiffon than a straight up silk, because the blush is sheer. You see the skin through a pink luminous veil that catches the light just so. I had to play with my lighting, angle, and flash to give you an accurate swatch, because just looking at from the front you don't see shimmer. There are no shiny particles and the face isn't awash with a metallic coat the way some Instagram-friendly highlighters make it appear, so skin texture isn't emphasized or compromised.

As a blush topper Silk & Bloom adds life to flat matte colors if needed, or lightens plummy colors to make them more pink and bright. It also works over cream blushes, as long as they're not still wet. I get the best results when using a small dense and round blush brush (MAC 109-type, the old Hakuhodo 210 or newer G506). You'll get more pigment from buffing with a flat-top brush and more sheerness if you swipe it with a Yachiyo or another fluffy brush.

Bottom Line: a collector's item that asks to be used. A lot.

Burberry Silk and Bloom Blush Palette ($68, made in Italy) is a limited edition item, currently available from

Thursday, January 12, 2017

MAC Brushes Linear 1 & Oval 3

A couple of weeks after posting my review of Artis Oval 8 I ordered these two MAC eye brushes on the advice of a reader. If you recall, as much as I enjoyed the performance of the gigantic Artis face brush I've found it high maintenance and finicky tool that demands its own entourage just to keep it happy. Still, there's something about the concept and the shape that made me want to try more. MAC offers a very limited selection of oval brushes. There may have been more of them in the past, but right now all we can get are the Linear 1 and Oval 3 that you see here, as well as the Oval 6 face brush brush, which I'm guessing is smaller than my Artis Oval 8 as it's supposed to be suitable for blush application. In any case, I picked 1 and 3 so I could experiment with new techniques.

Linear 1 is supposed to be a mega multitasker: "...delivers a firm, precise stroke to line lashes and lips. Also defines and fills brows.". I've had this brush for the better part of a year now, and have used it for all of the above. I can tell you that there's no chance I'm ever filling my brows with it again. I have all kinds of eyebrow brushes, including the very wide Hakuhodo G524 (and see also this post for more shapes and sizes), and each one of them serves me faithfully. I don't have the steadiest had around, so applying brow powder with such a long and inflexible brush falls under Not A Good Idea. However, the weight and balance of the handle are fantastic, so I don't feel cheated by relegating the Linear 1 to other tasks. It works alright for the lips, though once again my preference is for precision tips that allow me to get a perfect cupid bow and a crisp bottom line. The brush does an excellent job, though, in working color into the lip for evenness and longevity.

With that said, MAC Linear 1 now resides with my eye brushes. It's a spectacular tool for the lash line, no matter if you're smudging a pencil, diffusing an eye shadow, applying color to your bottom lashes, or going grunge with a cream eye shadow all around. It takes a some practice to get the handle of it (no pun intended) because you're holding and moving the brush parallel to the skin, which is not necessarily intuitive after three decades of classic brushes, but it's worth the effort.

Oval 3 is described as "A brush that smoothly shades and blends shadow, powder and liquid or cream concealer". The flat and dense surface helps product apply evenly at first stroke. The slightly pointy shape is crease-friendly, and the size makes it fit almost everywhere. Here again you need to adjust the way you hold the brush and move it across the lid or elsewhere on the skin. Once you do you'll realize that buffing is easy and quick, as is creating a uniform wash of color. Just as so many regular eye shadow brushes can be used for applying concealer or setting powder to tiny areas, MAC Oval 3 is the same. It's a matter of preference and technique. My favorite use for it is with a cream eye shadow. My go-to has always been MAC 217, but the Oval 3 covers more surface with one swipe and feels softer. I've heard that some makeup artists use this brush in the crease, but here I'm a traditionalist. I prefer a lot of movement in the crease, circular or windshield wiper, and I do that with a soft domed or tapered brush. As usual, your mileage will vary.

My biggest complain about the massive Artis brush was cleaning it. It takes me forever to wash all the foundation out of the face brush and several more forevers until this thing dries. Smaller brushes are obviously easier in this regard. Also, I find that gel and cream eye product don't sink into the fibers as much as liquid foundation does, so it's much less of an ordeal. I don't know if it's the nature of the pigments or the fibers used by MAC are much different than Artis's, and the comparison isn't really fair unless we go head to head withe brushes of the same size that have absorbed the exact same foundation. In any case, MAC's oval eye brushes are less fussy than I've feared.

Bottom Line: brush nerds should give it a go.

MAC Brushes Linear 1 ($25) and  Oval 3 ($32) are made in China and sold exclusively at MAC stores (not department store counters) and

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

FotD: Bright Blue Eyeliner for The Middle Aged Face

I haven't done a FotD in forever. It was not for the lack of makeup old and new, nor was it for lack of creative experiments. I just was not feeling the need for documenting my face every time I buffed on a new highlighter or got ready to leave the house. Maybe it's a lingering effect of another birthday, the current disturbance in the Force (in every possible meaning and then some) and the winter blahs. In any case, I was looking over these photos from a few weeks ago and m notes about the makeup and decided it was worth posting. Because we can all use a hint of bright blue liner. Speaking of liquid liner, I really need to write a detailed photo-tutorial for doing a thin (and even somewhat winged) line on eyes that are set so deep one needs Lassie to rescue the from the well. It's somewhat of a technical challenge (an initial attempt was an epic fail), but I promise to get there. In the meantime, here's my bright liner for the middle aged face look:


  • Strivectin High-Potency Wrinkle-Filler from a sample that I used as a face primer. I have no opinion one way or another, since it was a one use sample packet and that's not exactly conducive for a real review. I've worn the look for six or seven hours, things stayed in place, it might have been too matte for my personal liking, but I (over) compensated for that. Whatever.
  • Guerlain Baby Glow in #3 Medium. It's still a favorite tinted moisturizer and I just cracked open a new tube (probably my third). It's the perfect thing for a good skin day and looks completely natural. And, yes, 'm aware that my hyperpigmentation is showing, but sometimes I don't care.
  • It cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye Illuminating Concealer. I have a mini or a deluxe sample or something which I was eager to try. However, the formula is way WAY too dry for my undereye area (not to mention that the caverns of deep set eyes cannot be concealed, only somewhat brightened). It is a good full coverage concealer elsewhere on the face due to its thickness.
  • NARS Light Reflecting Loose Powder. If it ain't broke, etc.


  • NARS Eye Base. Opened a new tube. I guess I really really like it.
  • All eye shadows by Anastasia Beverly Hills: Stone, Victoria, Buon Fresco (the latter is available both as a single and in the Modern Renaissance palette). I was going for a tonal look that didn't focus on the eye shadows and only created a bit of depth. Any two to three neutral satin or mattes that blend well together would work.
  • The eyeliner I used was a limited edition Lancome liquid Artliner, but many brands have similar products (Urban Decay in Chaos, Make Up For Ever in Diamond Blue, Stila Cobalt and Nyx Extreme Blue or Vivid Sapphire. Speaking of those Nyx bright liners, I actually have Vivid violet, which on my relatively dark lid looks very tame).
  • It Cosmetics Tightline-whatever (see review. It was utter crap).
  • Estee Lauder Sumptuous Extreme mascara. Still working through Mt. Sample here.


  • I started with Benefit Gimme Brows in Light Medium, which is my go-to when I want to tone down my color a bit, but decided to add a little texture with Suqqu brow powder in 01 Moss Green.


  • Shiseido Blush in RS302.
  • Barry M Illuminating Strobe Cream Stick #2 Iced Bronze. For someone who owns some gorgeous and elegant highlighters in every texture it was an utterly ridiculous purchase that looked even more patchy, cheap, and uneven on my skin. 


Other Stuff

  • I was wearing a short sweater dress by Comptoir Des Cotonniers which I later topped with a cardigan, I think.
  • Vintage earrings (yes, they were animal print).
  • SotD was Iris Silver Mist, which has probably saved the day, because that's what Uncle Serge used to do.
  • Here's Josephine, judging the world and finding it severely lacking:

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Clinique- Aromatics In Black

I realize that I'm one flanker behind. Aromatics In Black was a 2015 release, followed by Aromatics Black Cherry last year. Prior to that Clinique has released Aromatics In White (2014) which I couldn't stand because of its generic musky rose note and the extremely limited Aromatics Elixir Perfumer's Reserve (2011) which I should have bought but didn't (kicks self). The regular Clinique Aromatics Elixir is still a great perfume, even if only loosely related to the original 1971 version.  When I first heard about Aromatics In Black I sort of expected (hoped) that it would take the easygoing modern Aromatics back to darker and sexier realms. The listed notes could have gone many ways: Plum Leaf Accord, Pink Grapefruit, Bergamot, Osmanthus, Jasmine, Neroli, Myrrh, Vetiver and Tonka Bean. The actual perfume surprised me by being a floriental, kind of like a light and non-funky Black Orchid.

If I were blindly testing this fragrance I doubt I'd ever find the Aromatics Elixir connection. It's just not there. It doesn't matter, though. In Black is right up my alley with its satisfying sweetness and rich floral heart that are quite perfumy and velvety. It gives me a feeling of biting into something juicy (fruit, not steak) without being too literal. The fruit facet is abstract enough, the flowers well-blended with the osmanthus leaning to its peachy side. I think that's what made me fall in love with this fragrance from the very first go and why I bought the larger bottle (which I rarely do). I want to feel like that (and smell like that), and I want to do it often.

The base in the late dry-down is more tonka than myrrh, though I do get a hint of the latter here and there. The composition ends up as a warm and inviting, reasonably sexy, and comfortable to wear for those who like me enjoy this style. It's more modern than the lush florientals of the late 80s or early 90s (I'm thinking of Jil Sander No.4), since there's no trace of a cannibal tuberose. I'm okay with that and with the polite projection, but I do wish it lasted longer. As it is, Aromatics In Black retreats to skin-level after less than three hours and stays there for the rest of the day or night. Those who  faceplant into your neck/cleavage will still get a good whiff, but I want more of scent bubble, especially this time of year when I'm covered in layers of clothes and outerwear.

Clinique- Aromatics In Black ($59 for the 50ml or $79 for the 100ml) is available from, most Clinique counters, and various online retailers.

Artwork: La Garçonne by Jean-Gabriel Domergue, 1925

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Stila Matte 'n Metal Eye Shadow Palette

Stila Matte 'n Metal Eye Shadow Palette was my last purchase of 2016. I decided it would be a good companion to the two Stila Eyes Are the Windows palettes I already have, Mind (all matte) and Soul (half matte, half shimmer). I like the texture of Stila shadows, because the mattes blend well and the shimmers are long-lasting (I lay them down with thick soft brushes, so the finish is consistent, and blend the edges into the mattes). I use them mostly for subtle tonal looks with or without a burst of brighter color in the form of blue, green or purple liner.

The check pattern makes the palette stand out from the  Eyes are the Window series

Ingredients. It includes carmine.

The new palette introduces what Stila calls a metal finish. The lighter three are of a fine high shimmer, unless you use them with a damp brush (a face spray, preferably one that contains glycerin or other moisturizing agent, is best for this. Do try to touch the brush to only half of the pan, as it might change the product's consistency). I find them less metallic than Tarte's metals, Tom Ford quad in Nude Dip or several cream eye shadows that give a smooth almost mirrored finish. The darker three metal shadows definitely look more metallic, even when applied dry. Any way you use the metals, they're pretty and flattering. There's something for everyone in this combination of muted neutrals, though I'm not sure if they're saturated enough to have a good impact on women of color's skin.

Both finishes/textures are very soft and buttery. They also kick quite a bit of powder, so a cleanup is required under the eyes. I don't mind, but I know some people hate it. My advice is  never skip your eye primer and find which ones of your brushes work best with this formula.

The shades in the Stila Matte 'n Metal Eye Shadow Palette are (left to right, by row)-
Top row (matte):

See? They aren't really sheer

  • Vintage- neutral cream
  • Velvet- lightest pinkish cream
  • Feathered- yellow toned light beige

Second Row (matte):
  • Fringe- a slightly rosy beige
  • Suede- mauve
  • Velour- camel

Third row (metal):
  • Bohemian- lightest silvery taupe
  • Retro- shimmery rosy copper
  • Sequin- shimmery golden peach (leans yellow)

Bottom Row (metal):
  • Smolder- metal dark taupe that leans gray
  • Sizzle- metallic terracotta
  • Flare- copper
As you can see, the top row is very light. My eyelids are much darker than the rest o my face (or my arm), so when I apply any of these three they even out the lid and provide a good starting base, If your skin is very very light and almost sheer you will get quite a bit of pigment from them and will probably want to use the fluffiest brush when dusting them over the lid. Smolder, that dark charred taupe at the bottom row appears flatter than I expected when applied, while Sequin is quite yellow (great for the inner corner if you're olive-skinned). 

Bottom Line: not very original but fun and usable.

Stila Matte 'n Metal Eye Shadow Palette ($49, made in USA) is available from Ulta online and in store.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Best Wishes for a brighter, lighter, and happier 2017.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 Perfume Top Picks, Hall of Shame, And Some General Kvetching

It's becoming a numbers game. How many of the year's over 1500 new perfume launches can we even get to smell given the 365 days a year, one nose, a finite perfume budget, and only so much skin surface (and patience)?  This year even more than ever my top picks are a very personal list of new and almost new fragrances that stood out among the ones I chose to sniff and test. They've delighted me and brightened this poor excuse of a year. If 2015 was marked for me by mostly buying backups and vintage bottles, this year I've acquired a surprising number of new releases.

Before we get to the good stuff, here are a few things I had to get off my chest (this list would have been longer had I not complained enough back in February 2016):

Hall of Shame
This one belongs to Roja Dove who one-upped Uncle Serge's Hammer & Sickle bottle with a perfume named Oligarch for the Russian market.

General Kvetching
Guerlain standardizing the bottles, discontinuing Dandy (formerly known as Arsen Lupin Dandy), messing and remessing with the classics while releasing La Petite Robe Noire Ma Premiere Robe 2016.
Chanel. I don't mind the watered-down No.5 L'Eau, and I admit that I've longed for denser more concentrated versions of the Les Exclusifs. However, discontinuing the now classic eau de toilette formulations in favor of the muddy new eau de parfum was not what I had in mind.

With that out of the way I can focus on all that's good and brilliant. Here goes:

An older limited release now in wide(r) distribution
Maison Francis Kurkdjian Baccarat Rouge. It doesn't make up for discontinuing Absolue Pour le Soir, but it's so good I can almost deal.

Mainstream Surprise
And a celebrity one, no less. Sarah Jessica Parker Stash. Could have been easily mistaken for an edgy indie creation.

Most Adorable Bottle
While the juice inside was too light, sheer, and rosy for my personal taste, Grace by Grace Coddington and Comme des Garçons comes in a beautiful cat-shaped bottle that's a far cry from the ones we've seen from Katy Perry.

Beauty and perfume oils have been there since the dawn of the time, but just as the mainstream cosmetics industry seems to have rediscovered them, so did perfumeries. On my shelves the excellent ones from Aftelier (Ancient Resins was created for Leonard Cohen, but there are other great ones in the line) and Providence Perfume Company were joined this year by Chanel No.5 Body Oil, the oil version of SJP Stash, and the drop-dead gorgeous rose oil from Tauer Perfumes.

Super Limited Edition

  • Bruno Fazzolari x Antonio Gardoni Cadavre Exquise. A gourmand mega-beast. Only 99 bottles were made, but Luckyscent still has a few for sale. I don't need a backup but it's tempting.
  • Aeon 001. I bought  this complex animalic vetiver for the Blond's birthday, and I'm glad I did so before all 333 bottles were sold out. 

A New Line to Watch
Edward Bess is known for his fabulous and carefully edited makeup line. His previous attempt to add a perfume to his brand was less than successful, but he's back now with three perfumes that recall the glory days of perfume shopping (and wearing). My favorite is the woody-incesnsy Spanish Veil, but all three are pretty spectacular.

The Rest of the Good Stuff

  • Slumberhouse- New Sibet. A leathery, musky, mossy goat walking on a dirt path. 
  • Aedes de Venustas- Cierge de Lune. Light and dark, warm and cool, a sophisticated way of using vanilla in a decidedly non-gourmand way.
  • Parfumerie Generale- Indian Wood 11.1. A spicy milky sandalwood that showcases Pierre Guillaume's talent for the not-so-edible notes.
  • Rainmaker by En Voyage Perfumes. A lush rain-soaked mossy amber. I should have bought a larger bottle.
  • Eris Perfumes-Ma Bête. Blogger and vintage perfume aficionado Barbara Herman teamed with perfumer Antoine Lie to create this nostalgic animalic perfume and prove that it is, actually possible.
  • DSH Perfumes- Rendezvous is another animalic chypre in the classic tradition. If you loved Papillon's Salome and Bogue's Maai this is the one for you.
For More 2016 Perfume Picks please visit my friends:
Bois de Jasmin * Grain de Musc * Now Smell This * Perfume Posse

What Caught your nose this year? Have you bought it?

See Also

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