borrowed from the boys: aftershave balm

On June 25, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

There are a number of contexts in which I appreciate a masculine aesthetic, chief among them leather goods and fragrance. [And white button-downs.] A classic dopp kit with lipstick and highlighter in place of shaving paraphernalia makes for such a chic contrast. Some of that shaving stuff I’d like to keep, too.

aftershave balm

Piel dopp kit, Molton Brown Ultra Light Bai Ji Hydrator, Korres Vetiver Root Green Tea Cedarwood Aftershave Balm, Molton Brown Black Pepper edt, Nivea Men Post Shave Balm  

Aftershave balms can be a great option for any sensitive skin, often containing carefully curated, soothing ingredients that focus on hydrating and protecting the skin. The Nivea Men Post Shave Balm, recently popularized as a killer primer by the wonderful Dutch makeup artist NikkieTutorials, finally has this phenomenon on the radar of makeup lovers everywhere. Many of us, though, have been taking advantage of lines marketed at men for years. Aftershave balm formulas are often light and oil-free, with a natural-to-matte finish (the Nivea is especially matte) that make them ideal everyday moisturizers and great for diluting illuminators and foundations. They tend to be inexpensive as well.

An old favorite is Molton Brown’s Ultra Light Bai Ji Hydrator, which smells incredible. This is not your typical vague cologne scent but one with a beautiful floral element that is still firmly in the camp of western masculine fragrance (not that it would be bad if it weren’t, just saying it is). Great for reducing redness and soothing irritable skin. I love the contrast of lipstick or a bit of a done face and a masculine fragrance.

I recently picked up the Vetiver Root Green Tea Cedarwood Aftershave Balm from Korres, which has just released a number of new scents and products in the states. Another effective option, and a nice way to add a bit of scent to your routine, guys, those of you don’t like to wear cologne but wouldn’t mind smelling nice in some more understated way. The cedarwood is the dominant note here for me (I was hoping it would be the vetiver but it’s still nice). The super light yet lovely Black Pepper edt from Molton Brown I also recommend.

aftershave balm

These are not complex products, they just do a couple of things and they do them well. There is so much to be said for a reliable product like that, and I happily make space for such products in my skincare routine.

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on the menu: caesar vinaigrette

On June 19, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

Here is the recipe for the caesar vinaigrette I’m putting on various kale-heavy salads lately. I can’t get enough of this kind of salad; handfuls of kale and spring greens with enough variegated debris to make it interesting, doused with a punchy, sour vinaigrette.

kale salad

This vinaigrette is cobbled together from a few recipes and features significantly more vinegar than is usual for anyone, evidently. I don’t really measure any of this, I approximate based on these amounts.

2 T sherry vinegar (champagne or white wine vinegar also works)
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 tsp lemon zest (or, in a pinch, juice)
1/2 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp honey
dash worcestershire sauce
generous pinch of herbs de provence
1/3 c olive oil (Maybe less. I like a vinegar heavy dressing, some would use more like 1/2 or 2/3 c oil.  A nice grassy green oil is excellent here, and one with more of a black olive flavor is lovely, too.)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c freshly shredded Pecorino cheese (or skip this and grate big ribbons over the salad, or do both.)
salt and pepper to taste

Shake it up, dresses two large portions.

For example I pour about half over a mixing bowl full of vegetable matter. I’m not sharing that.

I like to shake rather than employ some tool to emulsify, was recently reading that shredding the olive oil can bring out a bitterness that shaking prevents. This dressing has so many powerful flavors that it probably wouldn’t make a significant difference but shaking is also quick and easy. I use a trusty Ball jar.

Also recommended: pimentón on avocado.

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a few summer essentials

On June 17, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

It’s finally summer proper here in Boston, which means it’s going to be miserably hot and humid in about 8 minutes. Isn’t it a little annoying how one is meant to be so happy about summer in our culture?* Autumn so superior, at least in the northeast, at least for this coat-lover.

*Actually, marketing-wise, we seem to meant to be thrilled about all of them in turn. But with summer it is especially egregious.

Well, summer has its good points. The rise in popularity of orange and coral beauty products has always been one of my favorite parts. Sunglasses. A thinly veiled excuse to get new lipstick. Late sunsets.

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Here are a few of my favorite things at the moment.

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Korres Wild Rose Vitamin C Active Brightening Oil, Glossier Rose balm.com, Dior Glow Maximizing Primer

I made this little ceramic tumbler, by the way! Will have to tell you more about extracurricular activities…

Loving the Korres face oil, kind of an oddly old fashioned rose scent but I like it. A little pricey but not so much that I hesitate before slathering (key). I’m one of those people putting oil on under or in place of moisturizer, so I have different types for different skin moods. This is a great morning oil that sinks in and feels nourishing but light. Getting a solid dewy base by layering the Dior primer over top. The Avene Cleanance Expert moisturizer is the light daytime option when I want a gentle skirmish with my skin rather than an all-out battle. This tiresome skin. The Glossier balm is nice and moisturizing with a hardcore castor oil/beeswax base. This scent has a surprising hint of oud along with the rose that makes it quite strong, likely not everyone will enjoy that. This is a thick ointment/balm that reminds me a bit in texture of the beloved Bite Beauty agave lip mask, though the more nourishing Bite lip mask is better for overnight or treatment situations.

summer essentials

MAC lipstick in So Chaud, Cargo Blush in Laguna, Ray-Ban Clubmasters

So Chaud is fairly new and so has that sheen of novelty that makes me like it all the more. This is a lovely orange-red, distinctly orange but with enough red to anchor it and make it quite wearable. Matte but still really creamy and pleasant on. Fantastic summer color, I’ve been eyeing it for a few summers running now and not disappointed. Cargo Laguna is a deep, vibrant peachy coral. They aren’t much talked about but the Cargo blushes are excellent, if comically large.

I think we can blame the longing for Clubmasters on the completely beautiful Priyanka Chopra, the lead in Quantico, of which I saw just enough episodes to deeply consider this style. Then, shopping, I stumbled across completely gold ones! Not offered in the U.S.? Sorry, can’t find a link.

This is an old favorite, the current anthem. Along with the amazing new Justin Timberlake, which is just stuck in my head.

Fresh fruit and vegetables are another serious favorite. I always eat a good amount of these but I’m really outdoing myself these days, consuming astonishing volumes of citrus fruit and avocado.

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top 10 cream and liquid highlighters

On June 7, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

Let us be clear that the first step to glowing skin is an excellent skincare regime and faithful hydration of the skin inside and out. That said, I like to glow much, much more than that. Enter highlighters.

cream and liquid highlighters

Highlighters and blushers are my favorite face products, and the ones I most consistently wear. They are my desert island categories, the first things I reach for if I don’t have the time or the inclination to do more. Even if I am wearing nothing else, I am usually wearing these two things (and chapstick. Then brow gel, then lipstick, then mascara). And, just as I—and my oily skin—slightly prefer cream blush to powder, I slightly prefer cream and liquid highlighters to their powder counterparts. They are capable of an extremely sheer, seamless look on the skin, nearly undetectable with the right formula (also sublimely detectable with the right formula). I like  the glossy, gleaming finish they provide and how effortless it is to apply them.

Looking for some glow inspiration? Don’t miss Lisa Eldridge’s definitive glowing skin tutorial.

In honor of summer, here are my top 10 cream and liquid highlighters.

Gold tones first, obviously my favorites:

Pat McGrath Skin Fetish, Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal, Josie Maran Argan Illuminizer, Chantecaille Liquid Lumiere, Benefit Watts Up

Pat McGrath Skin Fetish, Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal, Josie Maran Argan Illuminizer, Chantecaille Liquid Lumiere, Benefit Watts Up

Pat McGrath Skin Fetish in Golden, Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal, Josie Maran Argan Enlightenment Illuminizer, Chantecaille Liquid Lumiere in Brilliance, Benefit Watts Up

Pat McGrath Skin Fetish in Golden— The most golden of these options and the most natural on my skin. This has a firm, balm-like texture and leaves a sheer, even film of gold shimmer. I absolutely love this. The other side of the stick is a clear balm, great for giving a dewy, ultra natural look (Vaseline is also good for this, but a bit stickier). Totally effortless to apply, I just swipe it on my cheekbones and down my nose and pat a little around the edges. This will look yellow on very fair skin tones. Sadly limited edition.

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal— I recommend getting a travel size of this as I can’t imagine getting through the whole thing. This has a moisturizer-like texture and is great to add to sunscreen/moisturizer to give an overall natural glow. Pat it on the high points of the face for a beautiful glow. This is a peachy gold (the other colors in this line are nice as well, the beauty community has been raving about these for years) that I can imagine flattering most skin tones. You only need a drop and the finish is lovely, grown up shimmer.

Josie Maran Argan Enlightenment Illuminizer— This is what I reach for when I want a more conspicuous glow. This is the thickest consistency of the group, and the most opaque. This is not especially subtle but it is stunning. This is a slightly rosy but still true gold with serious impact. Use sparingly, a little goes a long way. Also cannot imagine needing the full size of this, I picked up a travel size on eBay. Perfect for high summer.

Chantecaille Liquid Lumiere in Brilliance— Most similar to the Josie Maran in consistency though a bit thinner. Excellent for mixing with moisturizer or foundation to add a general glow. Like the Josie Maran this gold shade is stunning on darker skin tones. I like a lot of the highlighters offered by brands that focus primarily on skincare, they tend to have lovely textures. I would say Josie Maran is in this camp as well, along with Lancome and the other luxury brands offering full skincare and makeup collections (Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, etc). I didn’t include the Dior Glow Maximizer Primer here but it can be used alone as a lovely, subtle highlighter as well, as can the Becca Backlight Priming Filter, both most similar in texture to the Lancome below.

Benefit Watts Up— Again, get the travel size if you can, this thing will last ages. This is a firm, stick formula, a little drier than the Pat McGrath but similarly effortless to apply and blend. I find these stick formulas the easiest to use in that you don’t have to worry about them moving around much on you. The more liquid formulas can start to take over your face if you aren’t attentive with your blending, which I usually do with fingers. They are also the kind of formula you can spend the least amount on and still get great results. Sonia Kashuk has a great little glow stick, and the LE Wet N Wild ones are surprisingly nice, too.  Where the higher end ones tend to stand out is in the fineness of the shimmer particles and their uniform consistency (less patchy). The Benefit one is what I keep in my bag as it is so tiny, and so quick and easy to use.

The pearl tones:

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Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Intensity One, rms Beauty Living Luminzer, MAC Strobe Cream, Lancome Eclat Miracle, Homeoplasmine

Alas, I couldn’t capture these at all, despite heavy swatches. Really it’s a testament to how subtle they can be on the skin.

Tom Ford Shade and Illuminate Intensity One— True white pearl color. This gives a lovely dewy finish, probably the best balance of natural yet difference-making in the bunch. That said, I’d say not worth the price unless you had definite plans for both products here given how many great alternatives there are.

rms Beauty Living Luminzer—A coconut oil base with great skincare ingredients, note that some skintypes won’t like coconut oil. Super sheer and natural, also a true white pearl shade, very pretty. Not my favorite packaging.

MAC Strobe Cream— A cult favorite for good reason, a thin cream great for mixing with moisturizers and foundations. A slightly pink tinged pearl color that is really pretty on fair skin tones. The most holographic of these options. Not especially natural but in a good no-doubt-about-it-we-are-glowing way. Get the travel size.

Lancome Eclat Miracle—My latest acquisition, a classic that was recently re-launched when Lisa Eldrige became creative director at Lancome, picked up entirely because of her strobing tutorial using it. Another one that is great to dilute with moisturizers/foundations and nearly undetectable on the skin. The luminous finish is really similar to the Tom Ford despite the consistency being much more fluid.

Homeoplasmine— The French pharmacy classic, essentially an all-purpose salve similar to Vaseline but a bit firmer. Endless beauty uses, including patting on the cheeks (or eyelids) either alone or on top of existing products to give a dewy finish, pinching onto the eyelashes so they catch the light, wearing as chapstick, rubbing into dry patches of skin, etc. Seems like every makeup artist has this in their kit.

Have you tried any of these? It seems like the whole world wants to glow at the moment, one of those trends I find a bit annoying because: yeah, obviously! I’ve been doing this for years. Psh. What I appreciate about a trend, though, if I happen to like it, is that it usually means a nice new selection of products to meet the demand.

This is rather a lot…but acquired over years of glow-preoccupation. I reach for different textures and colors to meet the demands of a given context and have them spread out over various bags and stations for convenience. And after all, I do have a blogthing…

One I am definitely going to try, too, is the stick highlighter Glossier just launched, Haloscope.

Going to have to give powder highlighters their own post. Really I love both, and layering.

x

 

weighty issues

On June 2, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

It seems, lately, like I am often thinking about my weight. Not in a negative way, necessarily, or in a positive way, just that I am aware of it. Thinking about the fact of it, wondering what I think about it. Sensing the cultural pressure to be slender, seeing the cultural norm of not being especially slender (of consuming consuming consuming), watching friends and acquaintances care deeply about and suffer over their weight…it is a complex issue.

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Today I weigh 136 lbs. This fluctuates easily 3-4 lbs in either direction in a matter of days. I am conscious of wanting to weigh slightly less, not that the number is especially important – in a certain window the number is useless, and not indicative of how I look or feel – but I have a sense of heaviness and lethargy that I know I do not have when I weigh less. It’s incredible how sensitive the body is to these slight changes, we are talking a matter of 5-8 lbs, maybe.  I care about this (being healthier, stronger, more energetic), though not actually enough to try very hard to achieve it at the moment. Lately I eat a bit too much (I prepare too much, and then eat it, and also eat an astonishing quantity of bagels), and my body is getting used to it and now wants too much. To lose the weight is fairly straightforward for me (luckily), I need to drop my caloric intake and ignore the hunger signals my overindulged body will send. To ignore those signals, I just need a very, very good distraction.

Not that I am remotely overweight, here, which is playing into my lack of motivation. The last physical I had, the doctor recommended a goal weight of 125 for me. [And told me to exercise more. I should exercise more, it’s true, though exercising for the sake of exercising is to me the most boring, unsatisfying use of time, and I need to be more strategic.] I have been, at the lowest in adulthood, 123ish lbs, which I can authoritatively say is too low a number for me. I have been, at the highest, 155ish lbs, which is for me too high, though really I was healthy at those weights and all the ones in between, and felt attractive, had body confidence, etc. I am confident now, too, but I  still have a preference. Of the myriad human silhouettes, there are some I prefer over others, and I have  specific ideas about the shapes* I would like to be. I am currently aiming for an athletic 128ish lbs. These numbers are useless to anyone but myself but I give them to show their power (just that I know them, that I was paying so much attention – that you likely know your numbers as well, that we think about size in the confines of this one number rather than in some more useful, nuanced way), which is insidious.

*This plural is so important…perhaps another way to say it is I have specific ideas about the shapes I want at my disposal, my body being just one element of those shapes. Ehhh…I begin to get that feeling that no one has any idea what I am talking about…a topic for another time, maybe.

I give them, too, because it is so taboo to give them, so gauche to ask. This always confused me, the same as the age question taboo confuses me. The fact of the body is visible, the height, weight, age, roughly guessable, the exact number useless, uninteresting to anyone else but you and your mom and your physician and the people coming to your birthday party and such. I am 32, I weigh 136 lbs…who cares? I care, actually, in the sense I am interested in everything about myself (not in the sense that I am somehow ashamed, or think of this as critical secret information), but why should you? Do we want to know exactly how much we have in common? Exactly how much to approve or disapprove, or praise or disparage?

I do remember, as a child, liking when someone was my age. It was more relevant then, with my knowledge-base growing so rapidly from one year to the next. It’s funny, the sense of wonderful coincidence it sometimes had to discover someone was my age, as if there weren’t millions of us. It’s relevant too with babies, who we talk about in months or even weeks rather than years, so quickly are they changing. Perhaps we haven’t outgrown this feeling that it is important, that exact number? Hm. End tangent.

Like so many aspects of beauty and style, all of the anecdotes in the world cannot help me know what to do for myself, and most everything anyone else is doing, while perhaps interesting, is completely irrelevant to me.

I don’t have a point precisely, but I wanted to express that this is on my mind. I consider myself a healthy and body confident person…and still. It isn’t foremost in my thoughts, but it is there. I am so irritated with our culture for doing that to me, and so conscious of the deliberate force with which I have to rebel against the idea that my totally nice and healthy body needs improvement (I compromise by thinking it doesn’t need but could benefit from small improvements, so technically I guess I am still failing at this), and the pressure to be thin, the virtue of which, at the extremes promoted now in the fashion industry and the monster machine of celebrity, are illusory, and socially constructed.

Ideals of beauty are social constructs. Construct your own ideal.

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