Thursday, December 30, 2010

Egyptian Magic Cream: Putting Lord Pharaoh ImHotep AmonRa's pride and joy to the test

(Yes, that is really the CEO and founder of Egyptian Magic Cream's name.)
I love multi-use products. Even if I just use them for one thing, just knowing that there are more possibilities makes me happy. Like using kitty litter under your car tires if you get stuck in the snow. But Egyptian Magic is special, this is the sort of thing you'll want to use yourself, give it to your entire family, and put it on your puppy's winter-chapped paws.

First of all, I must tell you that this is not a "cream" at all, it is actually a salve, made from olive oil, beeswax, honey, royal jelly and bee propolis. I will mention here that they also list "divine love" on the ingredient list. Ugh. Anyway, moving on. When you use Egyptian Magic, you can swipe your fingers along the top of the (generously sized 4 oz) jar, warming the solid salve with your body temperature. I actually prefer to scrape a bit out of the tub with a cosmetic spatula to be more sanitary, rub it between my palms to melt it, then I apply wherever it is I feel like applying it. I've used it on extremely irritated, reactive facial skin and found it to be soothing and indeed healing. I've used it on rough heels and elbows, and it softened them nicely. It makes one of the best cuticle treatments I've ever found. I've used it to shine my hair (don't use on fine, thin hair) and as a lip balm. I have mixed loose mineral pigments into a bit of it to make creamy, bright shades to use on lips and face. It is wonderfully hydrating, fantastic for dry skin and suitable for people with eczema. It is also supposed to help heal post-surgical skin, bug bites, blemishes, diaper rash and scars, but I can't speak from experience on those things. I don't need a baby, but I could use a mini-brow lift and a kind benefactor. Right.

I find that Egyptian Magic is a great alternative for those times you want to reach for the Aquaphor but are kind of dreading the greasy aftermath of it (like before bed as you fear for your pillowcases). Another benefit for some will be that the ingredients here are all natural, contains natural antioxidants, and the jar does have an expiration date on it (in my case, it's October of 2014). Here is a night time moisturizing skin ritual I've grown to love involving Egyptian Magic:

-Cleanse with a gentle cleanser (I love Atopalm Moisturizing Facial Cleansing Foam)
-Use a hydrosol or thermal spring water spray (La Roche Posay has selenium which soothes skin)
-When skin is almost dry, use a gentle moisturizer like Atopalm MLE Cream, or retinol/retinaldyhyde product
-Apply a light layer of Egyptian Magic, gently pressing into the skin all over face and neck, which will effectively seal in moisture

I have a lot of skin sensitivities, rashes, breakouts and such, and a product like this is extremely useful to me. This takes dry or damaged skin, brings it into the supple arena and keeps it there. It's also gentle enough to use around the eye area. I should note that this would probably not be a good product for people who are very allergic to bees. It would be nice if they made little travel sized jars to throw in your purse, because it's a huge jar and not travel friendly. You can transfer some of the contents into an empty small jar, though.

Overall, I think this product is well worth a try if you have stubborn dryness, are prone to irritations, or just to have around for any number of the uses I have mentioned here. A 4 oz jar of Egyptian Magic is available for $36 at b-glowing.

[product was sent to me for review by b-glowing. I have no affiliation with Egyptian Magic or b-glowing, and am not being financially compensated. My opinions are solely my own.]

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sara Happ The Lip Slip and Kaplan MD Lip 20 Gloss

This is the tale of a balm that wants to be a gloss, and a gloss that wants to be a balm. Amid the confusion is my delight. Confused or not, both Sara Happ The Lip Slip and Kaplan MD Lip 20 Gloss have instantly taken their places in my daily roster of lip products.

Sara Happ The Lip Slip has a slightly sweet taste, and smells softly of vanilla and rose. It has a lot of lasting power, has a bit of a shimmer effect in a transparent light pink base. It is highly moisturizing, and looks gorgeous when worn alone or layered over lipstick. It comes in a generous half-ounce size, so it will last quite a long time.

This is the inspiration for the product: "the supple feel of a shimmery gold YSL calfskin bag, a bottle of Coco Chanel Mademoiselle, your favorite camisole; soft, sweet, nude, girly and grand."

The presentation is really lovely and would make a great gift. Once the recipient realizes you've given them the gift of voluptuous, glossy and super-hydrated lips 24/7, you'll become one of their favorite people, I promise. It retails for $24 at b-glowing.

Kaplan MD Lip 20 Gloss is a treatment gloss if ever there was one. A gloss that wants to be a balm and pamper your lips so badly that it actually succeeds, and then some. The shade I have is Nude Sparkle, and it has a nude, sheer base with pronounced bronze glitter. It sounds like party central and it looks extremely festive if you layer it on, but never does the glitter look tacky, it is totally luxe. It is extremely comfortable to wear, has a mint scent and is not exactly glossy in the traditional way; the glitter does all the talking here and is free of any tacky feeling that usually accompanies gloss. There is supposed to be a bit of a plumping effect, but I don't really get much of that, and there is no stinging or tingling. What I do get is a moisturizing, glamorous treatment "gloss" with a totally non-sticky base and SPF 20 that has me very excited, because this has not really been done before to my knowledge. Something new in beauty that is useful to me! I have been wearing this non-stop. It makes lips smooth as glass and super-sexy. 

Lip 20 Gloss was developed by dermatologist Stuart H. Kaplan to be an anti-aging lip treatment intended to provide moisture, repair lips, add natural fullness and sun protection. Some of the star ingredients here are marine collagen, antioxidants, botanical extracts, hyaluronic filling spheres, sea buckthorn berry extract, aloe vera and Maxi Lip, a patented peptide. I also have my eye on the Natural Sparkle and Clear Sparkle shades, and definitely plan on picking them up soon.  It retails for $30 at b-glowing

[Products were sent to me by b-glowing for review. I have no affiliation with b-glowing, Sara Happ, or Kaplan  MD. My review is completely my unbiased opinion, as per usual.]

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Soivohle Winter Poem: a review

My first experience with Soivohle's Winter Poem shocked me instantly out of my dead-of-Winter coma that I had been struggling through. Released for sale on Winter Solstice at midnight, I was pretty much first in line for this. It's not at all the type of perfume I would usually try from the description alone, but for some reason I knew I had to give it a spin.

The opening is filled with bright floral notes of freesia, gardenia and jasmine, and it doesn't take long for the fruits to squeeze their way in. I detect perhaps yuzu or nectarine, and it persists well into the dry down. The florals sparkle, shimmer gently and offer a welcome mental and emotional break from the winter blues. These are not the hard-edged, heady floral notes that usually give me a hard time.

After about an hour of wear, the base emerges with moss and a soft musk, but they never dominate in this blend. They are there to support the flowers and the fruits through their linear journey to the end. This scent has an inherent sweetness to it that is not cloying, but really serves to bring out the light earthiness of the base notes.

As I wear it, I long for Spring, with its giddiness and promise of rebirth. I think I understand why this doesn't smell like a rich "Winter" scent, its freshness and ability to clear the mind's cobwebs is why Winter Poem is an instant classic to me. It is a perfume blended with great care and skill, and I hope that many of you will get to experience it before it's gone.

Winter Poem's base is from a saved quantity of one of Liz Zorn's earlier perfumes called Writing Lyrical Poetry, but has been tweaked to create an original limited edition absolute. It is available in a 15ml flacon for $100, 5ml for $35 and a sample size for $5 on This perfume will only be available until Valentine's Day. Liz Zorn's new Facebook Page can be found

Painting: George Bellows, Love of Winter 1914
Photo of Winter Poem 15 ml flacon, property of Liz Zorn

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Le Labo Cuir 28 Dubai city exclusive due out this month

From Edouard Roschi:
"We are working on an exclusive scent for both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, as part of our "city exclusives" range - which we have already put out in six cities - with the Dubai scent hopefully ready for release this December. The scent is called Cuir 28 and will contain woody and spicy tones."

Needless to say, I am hot on the heels of this one. While it's true I have endeavored to collect every Le Labo scent made even if only in sample form in most cases, the thought of a Le Labo leather fragrance is almost too much for me to bear. I believe it has currently been released for sale at the Paris Gallery Le Labo shop in Dubai.

I've already spoken with The Perfumed Court via email, and they seem uncertain at best as to whether or not they will be able to secure any bottles.  On that note (pun intended), if anyone can help me track down a sample or full bottle, I'll be forever indebted to them.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Amaranthine via My Dairy Queen

When my cat Maggie (aka Miss Crabtree) was diagnosed with a cancerous nasal tumor this past February, we weren't sure how long she had to live. Due to the nature and placement of the tumor, chemotherapy and the anesthesia required for radiation treatments were not going to be feasible (plus, all the going back and forth would have been upsetting to her). So, we had to adopt a "wait and see" attitude. Over the months, I had grown to become her nurse extraordinaire, giving her multiple pain medicine injections daily. At the time, I worked in an animal hospital and had everything I needed to give her the palliative care she deserved. I fussed over her every moment I could, and we both loved it.

We had been best friends for the 13 and a half years of her existence. She had been with me through many significant phases of my life, and had moved residences with me countless times. She had a fiery, demanding personality, but was very adaptable and easy at the same time. She and I were inseparable, and had a love between us that I never dreamed possible between an animal and a person. When I looked into her eyes, I saw myself. I often wondered if she viewed me as an extension of herself in the same way.

After I found out she was sick, my one wish was that she could be with me for one more Christmas. She loved lounging and sleeping beneath the Christmas tree so much, and she would revel in all the wrapping paper and ribbons, guarding the presents and surveying the festive land like the queen lioness she was. However, Maggie's tumor steadily worsened and so did her overall well-being, until I decided that I could no longer manage her pain with medications well enough. I had to let her go. That day in late August, just before my birthday, I suppose that part of me went with her and I don't expect to see it back again.

[this is a short video of Maggie "quacking", taken about a month before she died]

I was thinking about what scents I associate most with the joy that she brought into my life, and what I came up with is not surprisingly associated with food. Maggie was instantly obsessed with anything I was eating, and that especially applied when it came to desserts. Her favorite was the cream from tiramisu, and of course, vanilla ice cream. I found out while taking a continuing education course on animal nutrition that cats cannot taste sweetness. That blew me away. I wondered, what was it about desserts, ice cream, even the wrapper from a bran muffin, that made them so appealing to her? It wasn't sweetness, that I knew, then how about dairy? That must be it. She was a dairy queen.

So in honor of Maggie, I will wear Penhaligon's Amaranthine tonight. With notes of condensed milk, vanilla, cardamom and tonka bean (evident in the drydown), I think I could have made her quite a nice dessert with those ingredients. Amaranthine initially brings forth green tea, rose and Egyptian jasmine along with other floral notes, musk and sandalwood, and comes across to me as a complex scent (the most complex of any from Penhaligon's I've tried).

It wears strong and long, and speaks of lightness and depth all at once. The potent florals, bright green tea and coriander languish for some time, but the drydown is completely different. It moves stealthily, it's smooth, delicious, and all of those wonderful gourmand notes get to come out to play. And they do, joyfully.

                         [photo of Maggie and the brownie, 2004]

Monday, December 20, 2010

Best of 2010

I've put together this little list of my favorite products from 2010. It has been a very eye-opening year for me, especially concerning my exploration of fragrance. I've discovered a lot of new skin care products and methods to care for my skin that have helped me immensely. My candle addiction has led me to some amazing scents and places to buy them. New beauty products have sprouted out from practically every corner of the world, and I have enjoyed testing them out.

One n' Only Argan Oil Shampoo & Conditioner is available at Sally Beauty and is a great dupe for Moroccanoil Moisture Repair Shampoo & Conditioner, and costs only $9.49 each ($8.49 if you have a Sally Club Card). I actually like these better than the Moroccanoil, I find it leaves my hair extremely moisturized and soft.

Nail Polish
Deborah Lippmann Hit Me With Your Best Shot is an amazing shimmery metallic black that I can't seem to get enough of, and you can get it at Luscious Cargo for 25% off right now (all Lippmann products in stock are on sale).

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz Cuir et Champignon is an earthy, breathtaking perfume that combines the nouveau foodiness of mushroom with the Do Not Eat taut strength of leather. The addition of woods, tobacco and civet make this an unforgettable and addictive blend you'll want to revisit often. The 0.25 oz EDP refillable purse spray is available at DSH Perfumes for $40, along with many other sizes and also bath and body products.

Firing up a Voluspa Maison Rouge Warm Perique Tabac candle is a special treat. The smooth woods and leather is a scent I would easily wear on my skin, and wish I could. Even the tiny travel votive will create enough scent throw to fill a room. The 15 oz size (along with several others) is available at Candles Off Main for $27.

Chantecaille's Les Macarons Face Palette is an unbelievable assortment of delicious eye, lip and face colors and a double-ended brush. Their formulations make blending pleasurable, and there is lots of fun to be had here with the lovely pinkish shades and deep plum liner. This is a lovely gift, but I would be surprised if you could buy this and actually let it go. It's available for $68 on Chantecaille's website.

Skin Care/Books
The Skin Type Solution by Leslie Baumann, MD This is the updated version for 2010, and I can't say enough about how much this book has helped me understand my skin better. According to dermatologist Leslie Baumann's philosophy, there are 16 skin types, not just the four we're used to. You can take the quiz that's in the book HERE. In the book, she goes on to provide an in-depth explanation of what products you should be using (and avoiding) for your particular skin type. I have just realized this year several things I have been doing wrong, and it's nice to finally feel like I'm on the right track and I'm seeing results to support that. The book retails for $15 at the Baumann Store. 

Yep, I only have six entries for this list. I've covered all the categories I feel I need to. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season, and a fantastic 2011!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Great Neutralizer

I've discovered something that really does help neutralize perfume remnants between scrubbings (I personally scrub scents off of my skin several times a day for testing purposes). CeraVe Lotion will help soothe irritations and protect your skin from barrier compromise and the harsh effects of soap, and surprisingly, helps to neutralize any leftover scents on your skin (doesn't obliterate them, but helps). The lotion itself is unscented, and comes in a 12oz size for about $13 USD at drugstores. I discovered this hidden talent of CeraVe's quite by accident, but I am glad to know of it. Hopefully some of you may find it useful too.

Friday, December 17, 2010

One Sex

I was busying my mind this past evening with thoughts of how so many serious perfume lovers don't seem to have many stigmas when it comes to whether any given perfume should be worn by a man or a woman. I love the adventurous nature of perfume lovers. Even if someone has very particular tastes (and we all do, don't we?), they are usually first in line to try something new to them or different, regardless of which sex the scent is intended for. Plenty of scents have qualities that speak clearly of femininity and masculinity, but it seems some of the most well-loved scents among us can easily be, and are, worn by either sex.

One of my very favorite perfumes that fit this category is Comme des Garcons Wonderwood. It contains insanely smooth varied woods, slight incense and nutmeg, and is a perfect scent for the cooler months. It also has a light feel to it thanks to a little punch of bergamot and cedar, and could safely suit any season.

Next I'd like to mention Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Wood. This is not just an earthy oud, there are vague spices present that remind me a bit of Black Orchid. There is a somewhat sweet drydown that meshes with my body chemistry in the most perfect way imaginable. This scent is a chameleon, for sure.

The last scent I'm favoring for this topic is Le Labo Gaiac 10 (Tokyo Exclusive). Continuing along the heavily woody path, Gaiac 10 leaves an impression of tea on my skin along with freshly snapped cedar branches, olibanum and a soft base of musk that wears very close to the skin. This is a radiant and lovely scent that I would be very happy to have a full bottle of, but geography says I cannot.

What are your favorite "unisex" scents?

[photo of the beautiful Jenny Shimizu from Rodarte: the book]

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Oudinest one

This photograph should speak for itself, even though it's a bit blurry. My bottle arrived today, 15ml (benefit of ordering directly from Le Labo in NY- they have a smaller size available). If I keep harping on about how this cedar-laden, sharp yet smooth oud masterpiece has changed the way I think about fragrance, and how it makes me happy to even think about it, I may find myself forsaken by my readers. I certainly hope not, but if I find that to be the case, I will comfort myself by spraying some more Oud 27.

15, 50, 100 and 500ml size bottles available at the Le Labo webstore ($52, $130, $200 and $650 respectively), as well as body lotion (8oz for $60), body oil (4oz for $60) and perfume balm (10ml, $80).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dior Gold Revolution Vernis

I love a good metallic nail polish. I will say this: I have become extremely used to Essie polish and that is almost exclusively what I use, including nail polish remover, but I am always tempted by some of the higher-end brands. I took advantage of the Sephora VIB $20 gift card that was sent out, and bought myself this little beauty:

It's called Gold Revolution ($21), formerly known as Timeless Gold (it says Timeless Gold on my packaging and bottle, but the number, 226, is the same). This is a really beautiful metallic, and I've got nothing like it already. I am going through another gold/bronze phase right now, and this nail polish feeds the need quite well. It has a unique blend of gold, silver and bronze metallic flecks that give a very chic molten effect. You won't need to worry about matching this polish with your skin tone, it will work on everyone, I promise.

Another thing I like about Dior nail polish is the brush. It's wide and flat, and covers the nail nicely so that you don't need to make too many passes to get the coverage you want.

I am also eyeing up Aztec Chocolate from Dior. a plum taupe shimmer. Based on my experience with Gold Revolution, I won't hesitate to indulge again.

*photograph used is solely my property

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Anya's Garden Light and Amberess

I was fortunate enough to have won Perfume Shrine's recent giveaway of Anya's Garden perfume. I had a choice of Light or Amberess, a 3.5 ml mini bottle in parfum extrait form. I quickly decided that my choice should be Light, simply for the fact that I've got nothing like it in my collection and I wanted to push my boundaries (although I really wanted to try Amberess also). Both scents are part of The Outlaw Perfume Project, which you can read more about on founder Anya McCoy's blog. Anya was very kind to also include a sample of Amberess, so my joy was practically doubled when I opened the package. But, I will start with Light. One foot in front of the other.

This is the first perfume I've tried from the Outlaw Perfume Project, and my expectations were pretty high. What I did not expect was that the perfume would render me so speechless, it's taken me a full 24 hours to even begin writing about Light.

It opens with a burst of baked citrus, but I smell rind drying in the sun, not the fruit. It's not overly tart, but smooth with a striking warmth to it. It moves on to clean territory (which I really love), there is a slightly soapy astringence to it. The frankincense notes are barely present, and I've realized that they are probably not meant to stand out here, or to be recognized as rock stars. I am feeling the Big Picture with this scent. This is not traditional perfume, this is a treat to be savored.

The scent fades fairly quickly, but that is to be expected. This fragrance is akin to watching a beautiful sunset. You're there for the moment, the experience of it, and it is glorious. You know it will be over soon, but that doesn't take away from the enjoyment of it.

A little bit on Amberess. This is a potent blend, it will get you noticed (in the best possible way). To be truthful, I am not a huge fan of amber OR rose, but this blend smells surprisingly right for me, and I adore it. There is a lot going on, and it's hard for me to detect the layers, because the overall scent impression is so powerful. It is resinous, floral and fresh, while feeling full of deep mystery. In a word, fierce. The drydown is not the powdery sort of amber I've come to know (yes!), instead, it is rich and slightly sweet, and it lasts for hours.

I have experimented with layering Light and Amberess together, and got a stunning result. I originally was not going to try and layer them, but I'm glad I did. It smells like pure botanical luxury, and the combination is precious.

Light is available in parfum extrait (3.5 ml for $60), EDP (15ml for $100), and Cologne strength (15ml for $50). Amberess is available in parfum extrait (3.5 ml for $75) and EDP (15ml for $125).

Top notes: Sicilian cedrat, Israeli yellow grapefruit, french juniper berry
Middle notes: Chinese aglaia flower, French genet flower, North Carolina ambergris
Base notes: Hojari frankincense oil, edible frankincense sacra resinoid

Top notes: none
Middle notes: Zambian princesse de nassau, rosa moschata, African musk, rose otto and musk rose absolute, Madagascan ylang ylang, South African rose geranium sur fleurs
Base notes: Indonesian patchouli, Himalayan amber oil, Turkish styrax, Greek labdanum, Peruvian tonka bean, Salvadorean balsam tolu, balsam of Peru, Chinese benzoin, Madagascan vanilla

*Photos are property of, and were taken by myself*

Monday, December 6, 2010

Peels: the truth so far

I am always looking for new at-home peels to try in order to address my issues of skin texture, spots of discoloration, black and white heads, and need of general anti-aging benefits. My problem is that my skin is sensitive and sometimes reactive, which limits what I can use.

I recently tried Makeup Artist's Choice (or MUAC) for the first time. They are known for having affordable, potent skin care concoctions, and have been touted as such on the Makeup Alley skin care board which I frequent. They offer sample sizes of virtually everything (which is wonderful), so I got a variety of products. They included a free sample of their Cucumber Toner; which I found to be very soothing and refreshing. For the purpose of this post, however, I'm mainly going to talk about their alpha beta Radiance Peel. They included a helpful instruction card with it. Unfortunately, I didn't think things through very well, and skipped the patch test. This oversight cost me. While the peel seemed gentle enough from its description (mandelic acid and fruit enzymes, both on the gentler side of the peel spectrum), it proved to be just too strong for my skin. I only left the peel on for two minutes, and after I used a cloth to remove it and then used a very mild, acid-free cleanser, my skin was red  and inflamed with raised bumps. I will say this, several hours later, my skin was almost back to normal (with the exception of a decent sized red splotch on my jawline), and felt extremely smooth and soft. At only $14 for a 1/2 ounce size, this would be a great, inexpensive peel for someone, just not those with sensitive skin. I intend to keep trying other MUAC products like serums and cleansers, but I will probably steer clear of their peels. *unrelated product of note: they sell one ounce of 100% pure virgin argan oil for just $10, and it's lovely.

*EDIT: the day I wrote this, the damage this peel had done to my skin had not yet fully emerged. I had dry, inflamed scaly patches all over my face, and a big, broken-skin welt along my jawline. It's now the fifth day after I used the peel, and my skin is finally back to normal. Hallelujah!

I am a huge fan of Paula's Choice products. I like Paula Begoun's skin care philosophy, her no-nonsense approach, and I truly believe that for your money, her products pack the biggest and most effective punch.  She recently released a couple of new AHA products; RESIST Weekly Resurfacing Treatment with 10% Alpha Hydroxy Acid and RESIST Daily Smoothing Treatment with 5% Alpha Hydroxy Acid. They were designed to be used together but you can use them separately as well. They are available as a package deal on the website for $46 and there are also sample packettes available. I bought the full size of the Daily treatment, and it is wonderful. You can't do better for daily maintenance, and I highly recommend it, even for people with sensitive skin. I have used it (so far) for a week straight with zero irritation or redness. It is a thicker, lotion-like formula, and it is meant to be used right after washing the face before any other products. You can use any anti-oxidant serums or moisturizers afterward. I recommend waiting about 30 minutes after using the Daily AHA treatment before applying any other products, so as not to dilute the effect of the AHA. I got a couple sample packettes of the Weekly Resurfacing treatment which I was also very interested in trying. It has a very thin, toner-like consistency, and can be applied with a cotton pad or with fingers. I had to take pause, because it is meant to be used on the face overnight once a week, and I knew right away that my skin would not tolerate that. The other option is to use it as a mask, leaving it on for 10 minutes, then rinsing and going on with your normal skin care routine. I tried this, and it was effective. There was just a little stinging, which I know shouldn't go on for more than a couple of minutes, so I rinsed it off a few minutes early. The irritation faded quickly, and the results were good. Overall, the Daily 5% AHA treatment is a slam dunk, and used in combination with the Skin Recovery Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum w/ Retinol (one of my favorite products, of which there are three formulations to suit your skin's specific needs), your skin will definitely feel soft and smooth, and over time, the benefits will be incredible.

My last peel product will be the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Daily Face Peel. Now, I will say up front that there is some criticism of this product for its inclusion of alcohol, but I have not found it to be a problem for my skin. Alcohol in small amounts will not really do any harm to your skin, but some people won't use it at all, so I wanted to mention that first. The other issue is with packaging. There are two options: a two step pre-soaked towelette packette system, which is what I prefer, because the beneficial skin ingredients will not be compromised like they can be with the jar packaging system. Bacteria, light and oxygen can mess with the good stuff. But, moving on, the first step is the peel and the second step neutralizes it. I like the simplicity and ease of use with this peel. I also like how my skin is not irritated at all when I use it, and this is the only peel where I get an amazing glow right after I use it. Exactly what is in the peel you ask? Well, I don't really know. Dr. Gross is not up front on the label as for what concentration of AHA/BHA is in the peel, but he does say that there are 40 ingredients in all (many of which I think are in the neutralizing step, such as a small amount of retinol), and he makes general claims about the anti-aging properties of the peel, and that it delivers results instantly. This is the first time I have ever said this: these general, lofty claims he makes? They are correct. Yep, he's not messing around, there are instant results indeed.  I've seen the Alpha Beta Peel infomercial on TV, he's on QVC, it's big, and I can completely see why. It's as close to a miracle product as I've found, and with a product this good, comes the high price tag. It's $80 for 30 individual treatment packettes, or $28 for 10 packettes. Here's the bright spot: you don't actually need to use them every day. In fact, I use one generally every three days, and continue to have great results. So, potentially, you can spend $80 and have three months worth of product. That's not too bad. If you have stubborn skin issues, you may want to consider the Extra Strength Peel, which is slightly higher in concentration and price.

I listed these products in order of efficacy from least to most efficacious, and the best is the most costly of course (unless you portion it out over two or three months like I do). I initially set out to find a replacement for the Dr. Dennis Gross product because of the cost, but it seems that the more peels I try, the more I want my Dr. Dennis Gross peel back. 

**Here is a tip from me to you: throwing cost to the wind, if you should get a bad irritation from a reaction to a product, nothing helps soothe and actually heal my skin like Creme de La Mer. Earlier in the year I had a horrible reaction to Bremenn's Emergency Zit Stick, a Benzoyl Peroxide treatment (I hadn't used any since I was a teenager), and La Mer nursed my skin back to health in record time. I know that lots of people think La Mer is overpriced and ineffective, but I beg to differ. I could devote an entire post to La Mer, but I won't (for now). This is just a piece of advice that maybe you'll need one day, but I hope you don't.**

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Layers: Under the Tree

Tonight, I smell as if I've been rolling around the forest floor, rubbing up against trees, streaking moss in my hair and on my body. I'm your cat who just came back inside from outdoor adventures unknown. But traces of scent remain; green milky sap, crushed leaves, all sorts of trampled flora, twigs, branches, whole oak trunks with bark slivered off without much effort by sharp claws. The season is Spring, the ground is thawing and all kinds of animals have marked their territory in one way or the other, but I pay no heed. I am just a traveler, and I already have a home. I am home.

Diptyque Philosykos & By Kilian Pure Oud

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nuxe Paris: 5 tried and 3 true

I won a Nuxe Reve de Miel lip balm in a Facebook contest, and I had wanted to try this lip balm for some time, so I was very excited to get it. Let's fast-forward to the end really quick, then I'll backtrack. This does not work for me as a lip balm. It is very thick, it is unfortunately grainy and feels waxy on the lips. Once you are able to melt the grains with the heat of your fingers, it's much better, and has a pleasant citrus-honey scent. I tried using it on my lips for a full day, and just couldn't get over the texture. Then I had the idea of trying it on my cuticles, and I have to say that as a cuticle treatment, you couldn't do better. It's also great for elbows and heels, and the jar is generously sized, so all of this is feasible. It is a wonderful skin protectant and is very emollient, and would be useful for outdoor activity or just waiting for the bus in the freezing cold (ahem). But, I like my lip balm to be smooth, and that's just not something I'm willing to compromise on. I am into the fact that there are no ingredients of animal origin (unless you count the bees), and no artificial anything here. This is a 0.5 oz jar, and it retails for $21.

I also received some samples of otherNuxe products, and I had an instant love affair with a couple of them. The sordid details follow.

The next thing I tried was Creme Fraiche 24 Hour Energizing Moisture Cream (dry to very dry skin). Now, I'll admit, I LOVE skin care products almost as much as I love perfume. In fact, skin care was really my first love. This is one of those creams that I'm going to covet heavily until I purchase a jar (you win, Nuxe!). Ingredients include vegetal milks of lupin (!), jasmine extract, pea, green tea, acacia flower, almond, soy, coconut, oat and wheat proteins, hazelnut and jojoba oils, and chamomile flower water. The fragrance is derived from essences of neroli, petitgrain, white orange rind and siberian pine needles. AND (this is the best part), it has glycolic and lactic acids, though most likely in very small quantities. This cream is rich but not greasy, super hydrating, cosmetically elegant to the nines, and smells like a dream. It comes in a whopping 2 oz jar for only $43. Brilliant.

Next up is the Reve de Miel Ultra Comfortable Face Cream. This one was far from comfortable, and an overall bust for me because of my sensitive skin. I'm not sure exactly what made my skin react a bit (with redness and itchiness), but this cream is intended for sensitive skin, so I would caution all of you sensitive gals and guys out there to skip this one. The texture and smell is very nice, and I wanted to like it, but after about a half an hour, my face started to feel hot and taut (the uh-oh moment). This cream also has a lot of natural ingredients, but some are different from the Creme Fraiche such as horse chestnut, honey, tomato, carrot, rosemary, imperata cylindrica root and sunflower extracts. It retails for $40 for a 1.6 oz jar.

The only product from the Reve de Miel line that I tried and really liked was the Ultra Comfortable Body Cream. It's strangely refreshing on the skin, has a wonderful botanical/honey scent and the hydration lasts quite a long time. It boasts some really good ingredients, too: hyaluronic acid, macadamia seed oil, and carrot and chestnut extracts among them. It retails for $35 for a 5 oz tube.

Our last stop is the Huile Prodigeuse Multi Use Dry Oil, which is very luxurious, and very European. You can use it on the body, face and hair, but I just tried it on my body. The texture is very thin, so I can see how this would be most useful in spray form (I had a packette to work with in this case). It has macadamia, hazel seed and sweet almond oil, and the fragrance is to die for. It smells mild and slightly sweet, and while it takes a little while to absorb into the skin, it's worth the wait. I can't remember the last time my skin felt this soft and smooth. It's $44 for a 3.4 oz bottle. I think this would make a really lovely gift.

I like (and am linking to) for these products, as they have frequent 20% discounts and great customer service. They have this storewide discount happening right now, if you use the code CYBER20.
EDIT: as of 12/7/10, the 20% discount code is TINSEL 20

Monday, November 29, 2010

TEMPTU Retouch Foundation

Right off the bat, I'll tell you that Retouch Foundation from TEMPTU is worthy of my highest marks (or very close to it) when it comes to foundation.

First of all, I didn't even realize that TEMPTU made a traditional foundation until recently, and you can barely even call it traditional. It comes in a click-bottom tube with a brush, and I admit that I have a love/hate thing with the packaging. It looks sleek, the cylinder is airtight (YES!), but it has a brush on the end (with a cap), which in general, I'm not a fan of. This is very handy for throwing in your bag and running out the door, and the brush is very soft and effective if you like that sort of application method. Personally, though, I want to apply foundation with my fingertips, it just looks and blends better that way. So, I just have to click out the product onto my fingers, and then go from there. It usually takes 3 or 4 clicks to get the right amount to cover my face lightly.

Whoa, boy. There is a lot to love here. It has a light texture and sheer coverage that has a satin finish (not matte, not dewy, just right there in between). I got the lightest color (001 Porcelain), and it has a very flattering slight pink tone to it, which makes it perfect for wintertime for me. It's got wonderful slip, so you have time to blend, and the color is buildable. Perhaps it is meant just to supplement the airbrush foundation for touch-ups, but it's perfectly wonderful on its own. It's got a vanilla scent to it, and that may bother some people, but I actually love it. This is ideal for someone (like myself) who is addicted to tinted moisturizer and wants something with just a tiny bit more pigment for the winter.

Several hours after application, skin still looks fantastic. It lays down the perfect canvas to apply other makeup, and does not settle into fine lines, look cakey or feel heavy. Best of all, it does not irritate my sensitive skin. I've also found that it's very useful for dabbing under the eyes to brighten the area or on blemishes or discolorations mid-day.

Retouch Foundation is top of the line as far as I'm concerned, and you just can't mess with the impressive lightweight formulation. I would just urge the company to offer other packaging options. I've never used TEMPTU airbrush foundation, but now that I know how beautifully their traditional foundation works for me and how their shades work, I'd be much more inclined to try it.

Retouch Foundation retails at $47, and you can buy it on their website at

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sensory Quesionnaire

Here is my result from filling out Glass Petal Smoke's Sensory Questionnaire:

Name/Country of Origin/Profession:
Carrie Meredith, USA

1.     What does your sense of smell mean to you?
My sense of smell is my ticket out of this stratosphere. I go to great pains to scent my environment just so, and choose and blend my perfumes each day either to suit my mood, or to alter myself, much as I did when I was younger with tattoos and piercings. To successfully modify my space, body and mind with scent is to exercise a certain control that is much more difficult for me to attain in other areas of my life. I use my sense of smell as a means of gathering pleasure where I can find it, and as a psychological tool to dig into and then reorganize my thoughts and creativity.

2.     What are some of your strongest scent memories?
All throughout my childhood, my mother would bring me along to the barn where she kept her horse. I would follow around the barn cats all day until I discovered that the horses were actually pretty cool too. I never minded the smell of horse manure or any horse-related smells. What held my particular attention was the saddle shop, and the smell of the saddle oil and leather, the boots and other riding gear. Leather and hay are two notes I am always looking for in perfumes these days. There is a place for horse skank, and surprisingly, that place is in my house.  

3.   What are some of your favorite smells (things in nature, cooking &/or your environment)?
Fresh watermelon is the happiest smell I can think of. To me, it has this ozone-y amazingness that can’t be surpassed. I also love the smell of cat fur, lilac bushes, leather jackets/handbags/boots, mud, mushrooms, wood (in any way shape or form, including live trees), funnel cakes being made, Kasugai gummy candies (Muscat flavor).

4.  Do you have any favorite smells that are considered strange?
I like the smell parakeets give off if you sniff their heads at certain points in their molt cycles. I think it’s a hormonal thing for them. For me, your guess is as good as mine.

5.  Describe one or more of your favorite cooking smells.
Warm corn tortillas, grilled pita bread, portabella mushrooms on the grill, fresh caramel corn, cake batter, pickled things, olives.

6.  What smells do you most dislike?
When I was a kid, my grandfather would make oxtail stew whenever my grandmother let him have at it in the kitchen. My grandmother used to cook homemade meals for her Afghan Hounds every day, usually ground hamburger and pasta or rice. Any combination of those ingredients can  remind me of doggie meals or oxtails. Let’s just say that I’ve been a vegetarian for 18 years and counting.

7.  What smell did you first dislike, but learned to love?
I have recently done a switcheroo with my scent preferences that has me surprised. I used to be obsessed with amber fragrances, and now they’ve become very hard for me to take. On the flipside, leather in perfume used to really turn me off, and now I’m seeking it out in as many different scents as I can in order to test my boundaries. I also used to have an aversion to jasmine, and that is also slowly earning my favor again.

8.  What mundane smells inspire you?
Burning wood, snow, rain and fresh air. The elements and how they relate to the changing seasons are the most inspiring things to me. I’m not sure if I would really call them mundane, but they are what you get, whether you like it or not, if you want to be alive every day.

9.  What scent never fails to take you back in time and why?
Musty paperback book smell reminds me of digging through all of my grandfather’s books when I was young to see if there were any I wanted to read. Of course, this was how I developed my taste for mystery novels and specifically, Sherlock Holmes.

10.  What scents do you associate with memories of loved ones?
a. My mother used to wear YSL Paris, among many others, but for some reason I always associate Paris with her.
b. My grandfather wore Brut, and I was just thinking about it yesterday actually, musing on the name. I wish I could have been in that board meeting when they greenlighted that name.
c. My husband has what I like to call “cake-head”. He uses Jonathan Product Dirt in his hair, and it smells just like vanilla cake. Anytime you go within two feet of him, the cake-head scent emerges, engulfing everything and everyone in its path. It’s actually kind of nice.
d. The smell of Lancome foundation (a rosy sort of floral scent) will always remind me of my grandmother. She wore a full face of makeup and dyed her short hair jet black her whole life and throughout her very elderly years.
e. The great love of my life, my cat Maggie, passed away a few months ago (she had cancer), and I had come to truly define myself as her caretaker ever since she was diagnosed in February. She had a particular love of one kind of canned cat food made by Merrick called Turducken. It has a very gamey, oily smell, and even though I hate the smell of any kind of meat (and kitty food goes without saying), I began to associate the smell of the cat food with Maggie’s utter ecstasy at being served the stuff, so coping with the smell of it became not just okay, but a really, really good thing. The cat I have now, Troutie, will not eat any canned food at all.

11.  What fragrance(s) remind you of growing up?
Anything from the Sanrio store, and fortunately, they are still going strong so I can indulge myself anytime if I want a walk down memory lane. Demeter came out with a Sanrio 50th Anniversary scent that is supposed to smell just like a Sanrio store. Long story short- fail.

12.  What fragrance(s) remind you of the places you visited on vacation?
Juara Candlenut Oil perfume is a divinely tropical scent, but the closest I’ve come to visiting any place tropical is The Mirage hotel and casino in Las Vegas. They pipe in this fake tropical smell that used to get me all pumped to drop some cash at the low-limit blackjack tables while drinking fruity cocktails. That’s what I call ME time.

13.  Describe a piece of sensory literature that is very magical for you.

Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie, who cares for all the crinkling of the pie?

The book The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley was published a couple of years ago, and was a revelation for me. It’s about an eleven year old girl named Flavia de Luce living in 1950s England who solves a mystery by using her precociousness, her bravery, and her deep understanding of chemistry and how to create poisons by using plants and other neat things. She is at once fascinated by the world around her, and repelled by many of its inhabitants, and that is a position I can sympathize with wholeheartedly. There are many wonderful sensory descriptions, and it would appeal to any perfumer or perfume enthusiast. Or any person with a beating heart.

                        Maggie (Miss Crabtree) 10/14/96- 8/27/10
EDIT: to show my dear departed kitty, who interestingly, had a tumor inside her nasal cavity, so although she couldn't much smell her food anymore, it was habit that drove her to run to the kitchen for Turducken. Around the same time, my doctor diagnosed me with a concha bullosa, a blockage in my sinuses that will probably have to be removed (which isn't that big of a deal). The coincidence continues to creep me out, but despite that, I ain't gonna let no "blockage" stop me from sniffing, although I wonder if it's affected my sense of smell at all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Gift Guide 2010

I've compiled this little list of gift options that I find to be exceptional in many ways. The price points vary as widely as the products themselves, and I have fawned excessively over each item and/or already own and happily use them. I have also listed any sales I am aware of associated with each company along with the item. Now, let your eyes feast!

D.L. & Co Gingembre art glass vessel with ginger scented candle
$250 [starting Friday, use code BLACKFRIDAY for a 25% discount on all products, including those from Modern Alchemy, Burn and Lisa Carrier lines]
This is pure, unadulterated luxury. It's hard to even begin to describe something that speaks for itself so clearly.

Paul Smith 2010 Extreme for Men Gift Set
$44.82 at A spicy, woody scent with an incense note, includes EDT 50 ml and Shower Gel 75 ml.
[Free shipping worldwide for the holidays, no minimum order]

Ash Pony Clutch in Black
on sale at for $245. This is a staggeringly cool clutch and would please the more edgy chicks on your list who get a kick out of buckles, zippers and other shiny and potentially dangerous things.

Alternative Apparel The Rocky Eco-Fleece Zip Hoodie
$50.00 [friends and family sale: save 20% with code FAMILY until 12/5/10. Also, some Black Friday discounts happening on selected items]
This unisex hoodie is the softest thing a person could put against their skin, and is made from a blend of organic cotton, recycled polyester and naturally occurring rayon. Everyone, including your mom and your brother will love this.

m Luxe Bath Collection in Hana
$25.00 at
Includes: Creme d'Amande Lotion (8 fl oz.)
Savon d'Amande Soap (5.75 oz.)
Luminaire d'Amande Candle (4 oz.)
A sweet almond scent with a hint of black cherry and chamomile, and a very good value.

Soivohle Art Liquide Little Black Box, Earthy Palette
$30 at Contains vials of Green Oakmoss, Sonoran Leather, Vanillaville, Massive Patchouli and Blood Orange & Vetiver
You can mix and match your own vials to go in this beautifully presented box, or choose one of the pre-selected collections. Prices will vary, but the quality and thought put into each fragrance will not; Liz Zorn is a talented perfumer responsible for some of the most memorable perfumes I've tried.

Besame Sweetheart Balm
$18.00 at, available in Sweet Rose (pink) or Cherry (red).
A moisturizing balm for the lips with a hint of color, can be used alone or layered over lipstick for extra sheen. Besame is noted for excellent, retro packaging and formulations, but the only thing retro about this modern must-have is the cute packaging. Find me a girl who doesn't want twelve more lip balms, and I will certainly be checking for a pulse.

Tarina Tarantino Queen Alice Lucite Chain Toggle Necklace
$175 on
An Alice in Wonderland themed necklace, "inspired by vintage 70's fashion and the yellowed pages of a favorite old book". A super cool statement piece.

REN Skincare Kit for Sensitive Skin
$30 on
Includes: Calendula & Arctic Berry Ultracalm Cleansing Milk (25 ml) Hydra-Calm Global Protection Day Cream (15 ml) Omega 3 Overnight Lipid Renewal Serum (15 ml) Frankincense & Boswellia Serrata Revitalising Night Cream (15 ml)
Kits are also available for Dry Skin, Combination Skin and Normal Skin.
[orders over $50 get free shipping and free Rose Body Care Travel Sizes]
REN Skin Care is simply awesome. I've used the brand for years, and believe that their products are well made and effective. A gift of skin care (especially one of this caliber) is giggle-inducing for the product junkie.

Tokidoki Robbery Palette
$49 at
Three cosmetic palettes containing eyeshadows and blush in an adorable tin with a removable magnet. Tokidoki has wonderfully saturated pigments in very imaginative presentations. You can also potentially break up the palettes to gift separately.
[free shipping over $50]

[all photos are property of their rightful owners]

Ingrid Pitt [1937-2010]

Ingrid Pitt, of Hammer Horror fame, passed away unexpectedly the other day at age 78 of heart disease. She was a major beauty inspiration of mine, and inspired me in many other facets of my life as well. Her wit was intact until the very end, and her writing was sharp, unapologetic, and she never shunned her sometimes racy past with her Hammer days. She broke down barriers by baring it all, and she did so proudly. She was a talented actress, and she had more spirit than any one person should be allowed to have. A couple of years ago we exchanged emails, and she egged me on to continue writing, and I'm happy for it. Every time I feel a voice of doubt rising up within me, I can hear her laughing at me and telling me to be brave. I'll never be as brave as Ingrid was, but I can only try.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Voluspa Floraison Eau de Parfum: 3 Scents Reviewed

I recently got a few samples of Voluspa perfume with my candle order from Candles Off Main (all Voluspa candles, of course). Honestly, I didn't even know that Voluspa made perfume up until the time of my order, so I was surprised and very eager to sniff. There are five scents total available from Candles Off Main, and they retail at a very affordable $18.00 each for 1 oz.

First up is Cocoa Tamarind. I got a very strong opening of cocoa and vanilla with this with a slightly bitter tang of the tamarind fruit beneath. So far, I was getting what I expected. Then it changed. A bouquet of flowers emerged, and I could smell nothing else. I waited about a half an hour, and by then it had morphed yet again. At that point, it settled into a soft skin scent with vanilla and a slight floral note within. Quite pleasant, but I'm a bit baffled by the wild alchemy of this perfume.

Next is Jasmine Brown Sugar. Once this hit my skin, I knew I loved it, and I instantly knew why. It smells incredibly similar to one of my favorite (and unfortunately no longer living) Voluspa candle scents, Vanilla Creme de Fleur. Fortunately I still have a bit of my last candle left for comparison, and it's pretty much dead on. Upon opening, the jasmine is present but not cloying (as jasmine usually is on me), and the brown sugar represents as a sweet skin musk. The effect is very soft, and the scent does not change very much the longer it's worn like the Cocoa Tamarind. This is a very comforting scent and I am happy to know that I am able to have a perfume to replace a favorite candle (rest in peace, Vanilla Creme de Fleur, you will be missed).

Last is Enfleurage. The opening is bright, sweet floral, slightly antiseptic. It quickly turns very Violet Candy on me, and then the rose notes emerge pretty strongly. The drydown is sweet, sweet, sweet flowers. My skin doesn't approve, unfortunately. Floral scents don't usually work on me, so I'm not surprised, but I had to try it anyway because the notes include vanilla bean and cucumber, and I was curious to see how they worked in. I can catch the vanilla, but not the cucumber.

Other scents available: Mimosa Martini and Mignonette.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fusion Beauty PrimeResults Anti-Aging Primer

I have a thing with primers. I like to try them all, but I'm slowing down on that because it's becoming evident exactly which type is suitable for my skin and the makeup that goes over it. Needless to say, I've got heaps of them. They get used a few times and then languish in a cabinet for the rest of their lives.

The Anti-Aging primer from Fusion Beauty is happily not one of those that will go forgotten. It has a thick silicone-based consistency that filled my fine lines, softened imperfections including little scars I have, and melted into my skin with body heat. It has a light peach tone that is quite flattering and very sheer (it will work on any skin tone, as it does not leave a significant deposit of color).

The packaging is sleek and I love the fact that it comes in a pump, because I have a primer from another company with a similar texture that I like, but hate that it comes in a jar. Packaging a primer in a jar is unsanitary and any good skin ingredients that might be present would be compromised with such packaging once they come into contact with oxygen and light. Fusion Beauty's Anti-Aging Primer also has generous sizing at one ounce, so it will last a very long time.

I used a cream concealer and mineral makeup over the primer, and found that the makeup I used stayed put very well, but what's really got me excited is how my skin felt smooth and hydrated all day. If you use a good moisturizer, a primer like this will literally seal in the hydration, and in this case, will impart additional hydration (sodium hyaluronate and glycerin).

The thing I dislike about most primers is how many are watery and if you attempt to mix them into your foundation, you have an unsavory texture on your hands, which leads me to my next experiment. I mixed my Fusion primer into my creamy tinted moisturizer (Chantecaille Just Skin), and it was HEAVEN. This is the answer to any conundrums of only having two minutes to do your makeup before you have to run out the door. Mix this primer into your cream or liquid foundation or tinted moisturizer, add a touch of blush and lip gloss, and you're done. Not only will you be done, but your skin will look amazing.

Verdict: Love. This is a versatile, thick primer that does what it says. It softens the look of lines and wrinkles, and perfectly preps skin for makeup (but in my opinion, could be used in lieu of makeup also). Containing Matriyxl 3000, rose hip fruit extract, peptides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, there are clearly several beneficial ingredients for the skin. The texture and formulation are ideal for dry, aging skin.

I have only one caveat: this primer is pretty highly fragranced with a floral-type scent, so if you object to that or are prone to headaches, I would avoid it.

[note: this product was sent to me for review by Fusion Beauty. My opinions are solely my own, and have not been influenced by any persons, corporation or organization]

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Micallef Aoud Chronicles

I tend to favor perfume houses and at the very least, test out everything they've created. In this case, it is Martine Micallef, whose fragrances have by and large captivated and inspired me. I find the quality and creativity of her fragrances to surpass most.

That is why I had to giggle when I tried Vanille Aoud on my skin. All of a sudden, I had this fantasy of a Hello Kitty Aoud fragrance being pushed by Sanrio, one that is sweetened up for a pre-teen and the severe earthiness of aoud is barely detectable. Micallef has another aoud scent that I find to be exceptional, Aoud Gourmet. While also sweet, Aoud Gourmet retains the integrity of the aoud, and it is the scent that made me interested in experimenting with layering. That's pretty huge.

With Vanilla Aoud, there is an odd tropical essence that pervades, a slight pina colada overtone that is pleasant, but not really of my ilk, reminding me more and more of Micallef's very light and fluffy Yellow Sea the longer it sits on my skin. A couple of the notes listed are musk and benzoin (and a surprising prune), but I would be surprised if anything could anchor this scent to your skin.

Not every perfumer's scent can be an absolute slam-dunk; that would mean that they are not human. I am convinced Martine Micallef is wonderfully human, and the wild variety and supreme craftsmanship that her fragrances offer us are well worth wading through a (very) occasional fizzler.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Layers: my bliss for one night (or more)

Tonight I discovered a truly inspiring scent combination. I will warn you, it may break the bank, but LUCKY for us, we've got for sampling.

Try a spritz of Le Labo Oud 27 (see previous review, it is woods in your face times twelve), and add a couple of light, well-placed dabs of M. Micallef Note Vanillee Art Collection. This vanilla from Micallef is a true, luxe, warm vanilla, unsullied by weird additives that can sour a vanilla quickly or make it smell cheap.

The result is my idea of heaven. It is Autumn, it is Winter, and potentially sleep inducing. By the way, I love sleep. In my life, it is only second to opening packages. If you want to hug people (read: men) and leave an impression they will remember, don't forget these two scents.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tocca Giulietta

Every once in awhile, a floral perfume comes along that I actually don't hate. Tocca Giulietta is one. It has a particularly fresh opening, it's the green apple and pink tulips that hit you at first and sends you into instant vacation mode. But this is a vacation that I've not taken (yet). The scent lingers on the floral plane for awhile, then the sweetness of vanilla orchid settles in, finally landing on a bit of woods and musk for the drydown. But the effect of the numerous floral notes (also including lily of the valley, Bulgarian rose and heliotrope) never quite leaves completely, making this a particularly well-balanced and poetic scent. Unfortunately the scent does not last very long on my skin.

The story behind the scent is memorable: it is an ode to the holidays spent on the island of Corsica by filmmaker Federico Fellini and actress Giulietta Masina. So in essence, this is a love story in a bottle, and it evokes a certain dreaminess with its freshness that is rather rare. Overall, it's definitely not my usual type of scent and I can't say I'll wear it with frequency, but there will be those moods, and when they arrive, I will happily wear this scent and think of shores unseen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

'Fumes! #1

Here lies Ms. Carrie, she was moderately kind. She wasn't too sweet, but very discreet. She smelled like a dream, as it would seem, but could never make up her mind.

First up is Penhaligons Lily & Spice. This perfume IS my childhood. My grandmother (who passed away last year) raised prize lilies and was a gardener supreme. She taught me how to garden early on in my life and I even had my own patch in her huge garden. I did not retain the green thumb I once had, unfortunately. The fresh initial burst of lily is so true to the flower, it's feminine to the Nth degree. Then, pretty quickly, a bit of sweetness sets in, and that's where it stays with the drydown, a perfect mix of the two. The spice is not very evident on my skin at all, but it is satisfying enough as it is. This is a light scent that would be the perfect gift, because it will absolutely delight anyone. Mothers, sisters, friends, bosses, you're golden. Take note, early Christmas shoppers!

Next is one of my new favorites, and I will be singing its praises forEVAH! It's Le Labo Oud 27, and I want to have its babies. I have had a fascination with Oudh scents for awhile, trying them one by one, filtering out the bland from the overworked from the exceptional. I love woods, and Oudh is the ultimate in woodiness, but it's tricky. It can be overpowering or just plain WRONG when paired with certain notes. Le Labo Oud 27 is one of the simplest I've tried, it's extremely clean-smelling, bright and fresh. It has an almost plasticky quality to it when first spritzed, which I actually don't mind. It's truly a unisex fragrance, and it's perfect for layering. This is the perfume equivalent of a favorite black leather jacket or cashmere v-neck sweater, you will love it for eternity and will keep going back to it because you love how you feel when you wear it.

Parfumerie Generale's Private Collection: Une Crime Exotique is one of those perfumes that gets you all giddy in anticipation and just sort of fails miserably once you try it on your skin. Harumph. It was so promising, with it's spicy notes and sweetness with tea and sandalwood, but it just smells like cinnamon cake on me. Cheap, pre-packaged cinnamon cake. This scent is suitable for the fans of very sweet gourmands only.

Next is another from Parfumerie Generale, Felanilla. This scent has a much-hyped skank factor, so I had to try it, as I dabble in skanky perfumes somewhat. I will be frank, I am totally confused by this perfume. This is the note list: vanilla absolute, saffron, orris, banana wood, hay absolute, amber. Here's what it actually smells like on my skin: POWDER. Effin' baby powder. It was the first scrubber I've tried in quite some time, and even after a vigorous scrubbing, it was still there, lurking, daring me to sniff again and make my face contort in agony. It's the car crash you can't help but turn your head to look at, it's a monster. A bad, bad monster.

So, that's it for now. 'Fumes #2 to follow soon!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mission Statement

Like many beauty blogs, this one is born of obsession. I am in awe of the ability a drop of perfume has to transform a woman completely, to change a mood, decision-making, and possibly the course of a life. I cannot even imagine life without experiencing the thrill of trying a new skin care product... "Could this be The One?" I am constantly seeking out the perfect colors, formulations and fragrances to flatter, enliven and enlighten, all in the name of improvement. If anyone reading this blog right now has ever found a set of colors, scent or a regimen and said "Eh, I guess this is good enough.", you can stop reading. What I write is not meant for the cool-headed, the reasonable or those who are easily pleased. I write for those who ask a lot of questions, are continually maddened by disappointment, and who experience major triumph from a good haul. Slip your neck inside the noose, you belong to Beauty.

I am going to do reviews, gush, expose the bad and push the good, ramble on and occasionally be short and to the point... but I will always care, because this stuff matters.