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.

x

we ♥ Kiehl’s

On January 22, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

I’ve enjoyed Kiehl’s skincare for many years now. I picked up a number of their holiday sets as gifts recently and it made me realize what a solid position they occupy in my arsenal; many of the products are in my current routine and I don’t hesitate to recommend them. A brand that uses excellent natural ingredients to create no-fuss, reliable products, Kiehl’s rarely misses for me. They are not the most exciting products in most cases but still, there they are, again and again. There are many other skincare brands I use and enjoy, and it takes a lot to stand out to me beyond one or two products, especially in multiple skincare categories, but Kiehl’s does this easily. Their formulas also avoid parabens, mineral oil, alcohol, and silicones, which I appreciate.

Kiehl's skincare

At the moment I am really enjoying their:

Ultra Facial Toner – a fairly viscous, milky lotion, this is really satisfying to put on dry skin. It has just enough texture to be easy to apply with your hands (without running through your fingers) and is a great step after cleansing and before a treatment or serum. It’s hard to explain, but you know how sometimes you put on a moisturizer and it doesn’t seem to really do anything? This isn’t like that. I also really like their Clearly Corrective toner, and I plan to try the Rare Earth one stat.

Midnight Recovery Eye – A pleasant eye cream that absorbs promptly and invisibly, and feels nourishing. I don’t have dark circle issues, really, and to a certain extent I don’t know how much an eye cream could help me if I did, but I do believe in moisturizing the skin, and it seems logical to use creams formulated for the delicate area around the eye (though it’s hard to know what to believe as far as whether or not their various promises can be trusted – I seem to sort of arbitrarily believe or disbelieve on a case by case basis). The most compelling reason for using an eye cream for me is that it ensures that I moisturize that area carefully and consciously. Also, I like the act of it. I’m not that fussy about eye creams but I do like to use one morning and night, and I really like this one.

Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser – I love this cleanser. Love. It has a light clay/cream texture that provides extremely gentle but distinct exfoliation. Smells earthy in that wonderful way clay does, and leaves my skin feeling like I’ve just done a mini-mask. The tube in the photo is nearly empty and I will be repurchasing. I also really like the Rare Earth Cleansing Masque when I am in a proper mask mood, a thick yet creamy clay that goes on super smooth.

Super Multi-Corrective Cream – This is a new one for me and my current night cream. It has a slightly unfortunate scent of oversteeped herbal tea you don’t want to drink but that doesn’t linger, and I really like the consistency, a somewhat transparent, glossy cream (teetering on the edge of being gel-like) that absorbs into the skin quickly and effortlessly. Actually the texture/behavior reminds me a lot of the Ole Henriksen Sheer Transformation moisturizer that it is replacing on my vanity, which maybe I liked a tiny bit more? It’s a bit too early to say. Evidently it is firming and “correcting” my wrinkles as well… We’ll see about that, but it is moisturizing nicely, which is the job at hand. I am not remotely loyal to moisturizers.

x

la belle Chanel

On January 6, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

I’ve picked up a few Chanel skincare items over the past few months and have been really pleased with them. I ought to be pleased given the price tags [relatively reasonable representatives from the brand in this case, toners and cleansers being far below moisturizers and serums in the pricing heirarchy] but I am certainly not the type to convince myself that I like something because it was expensive. It is rather under that much more scrutiny. Chanel rarely disappoints, though, and the success of the skincare has made me want to reach for the other products I have from the brand. A great product is the best marketing.

Chanel skincare

I picked up the Brightening Moisture Lotion, one of the thin, slightly viscous beauty water toner-type products that are booming thanks to the Korean beauty trend. They make all manner of promises but I am particularly vulnerable to brightening formulas, weak in the face of my stubborn hyperpigmentation. If you don’t believe in toner this sort of product will have little interest for you, but I quite like this step, whether it’s a clarifying toner, an exfoliating treatment, an all-purpose skincare cocktail, or whatever.

[Ahem, I use all of these.]

These moisturizing formulas have the appeal of instantly plumping (I am seriously thinking of rehydrated raisins here) and moisturizing. I usually wait a few moments between patting these on—I only use cotton pads for the exfoliating or clarifying styles and otherwise avoid wasting product—and applying a serum or moisturizer. It can be difficult to put my finger on but I really like the effect these have. My skin seems subtly brighter and healthier, better hydrated. Better, that is, than with moisturizer alone. They often smell nice and are refreshing to apply. This Brightening Moisture lotion has a slight viscosity I like (too much like water and the product can be messy to use), and is similar to the Algenist Genius White Brightening Moisture Softener, which I also really like but the Chanel lotion smells better.

Chanel skincare

Chanel products smell uniformly excellent. Not all the same, by any means, but all excellent (Aveda also does this well, and Guerlain). Could be too floral or just too strong for some, and if you have fragrance sensitivities approach with care, but I really enjoy their style. It’s vaguely floral, even vaguely old-fashioned in some cases, or just not modern, and feels grown up and expensive. A fair bit of the price tag is the fragrance, I am sure.

I am also liking the Gommage Microperlé Eclat Maximum Radiance Exfoliator, a gentle scrub with non-threatening microbeads. Not my favorite exfoliator, a much more complicated subject I’ll go into later, but a pleasant everyday option. The beads aren’t so gentle and diluted that they feel useless and they aren’t so harsh or concentrated as to feel they could do damage to the skin. Also, it’s pink! And it smells good. I really only recommend this if you are in the mood to spend money or be…fancy.* A sentiment that applies across the board here; that’s Chanel for you.

*If you do want to be fancy, I highly recommend Chanel as a first stop. If you haven’t tried anything from the brand and want to dip your toes in, a lipstick (Rouge Coco Shine!) or nail polish is a great place to start.

The Base Lumière Illuminating Makeup Base I picked up as a primer/perfector to wear as an alternative to foundation, though it also makes a good base. So pleased with the finish on this, natural while being slightly mattifying yet also slightly illuminating. This kind of stealth skin upgrade is exactly what I want. The gel formula doesn’t always cooperate with water-based moisturizers and serums, so watch how you layer. Some trial and error needed. Same goes for the Base Lumière Universelle, a formula that couldn’t play nice with some of my must have skincare and had to go back.

Chanel skincare

Also shown, clockwise: Rouge Allure lipstick in Coromandel, Illusion D’Ombre in Rouge Noir (LE), Le Blush Crème de Chanel in Fantastic, perfume in Sycomore, Les 4 Ombres eyeshadow palette in Tissé Mademoiselle, Rouge Allure lipstick in Elegante.

My skincare is all over the place brandwise and pricewise, and I have favorite brands but nothing I would call outright loyalty or anything like exclusivity. Loyalty to products, yes, sometimes, but to brands not especially. I do welcome a few luxury items into my skincare routine, though. Just one can really elevate the whole ceremony. Have you tried any Chanel skincare? Any recommendations?

x

introductory henna

On July 14, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

I’ve been wanting to try to do my own mehndi for a really long time now, years. I really like the concept of a tattoo— and have a healthy appetite for tattoo reality shows—but I’m not yet drawn to any idea so powerfully that I want to wear it permanently. Enter henna, that clever, versatile dye.

It’s a different creature, really, than the etched precision of ink. It has its own history, and its own style, which varies from one culture to another, and lends itself beautifully to modern hybrids of tradition and innovation. Many designs have ancient origins and ancient meanings to match, ranging from simple patterns and shapes to those astonishing intricacy. You know how I like astonishing intricacy. If it is somehow tied up with wearable decor, so much the better.

henna paste cone

Somehow I wasn’t able to make the time for the project until I gave up, at least temporarily, on the idea of mixing my own henna paste, and got the ready-made cones (thank you, eBay).  I also needed a fair chunk of time, as the henna can take a while to apply and to achieve a dark, long-lasting stain it stays on the skin for at least 4 if not more like 6-8 hours. I had to decide on a pattern, too, which we won’t talk about how long that took. I opted for something geometric and straightforward to start.  If you are one of those people who can’t bear to look at feet, you’d best tap out now.

Designs on the feet connect the spirit, mind, and body to the earth. I like this kind of physical symbol or reminder, perhaps because my memory seems to need all the help it can get. And I like my feet. I like them as they are, just as I like my face as it is, but it’s appealing to embellish them all the same. It’s not exactly that I like them more when they are embellished…but I like the novelty and the energy of embellishment.

mehndi henna feet geometric design theseventhsphinx

I washed my skin and and rubbed it with eucalyptus oil (diluted) to prepare it to receive the dye. Henna also has an earthy, peculiar [though not exactly unpleasant, though not exactly pleasant] smell, which the eucalyptus combats. You snip the end of the cone to the desired diameter and essentially pipe the henna paste on, like frosting a cake. You can use a transfer to create the design or just freehand it as I’ve done here. I had a pile of cotton buds and toothpicks on hand to quickly remove errors before they became part of the story. I looked at a few hundred images and cobbled together two that I liked to make this design. You have to take care with anything around, as henna will stain a good many things if given the chance.

You keep your design intact for as long as you can manage, moistening it periodically with a lemon juice and sugar solution (I only spritzed mine with diluted lemon juice because I’m always going off-recipe, which seemed to work fine). It eventually starts to flake off and, in my case about 6 hours later, you scrape the remainder off.

mehndi henna feet geometric design theseventhsphinx

The initial stain is a bright rust, sepia, basically my favorite color ever.

mehndi henna feet geometric design theseventhsphinx

As it oxidizes it darkens into a deep, warm brown stain that lasts about 2-3 weeks. There are strategies for making it darker and longer lasting but I was only willing to be inconvenienced up to a point, and I’m delighted with the results of my first foray.

I don’t like to miss an opportunity to decorate myself in a new, personal way. And it’s so like me to want to do it myself, though I have seen mehndi artists at some of the Indian shops in the area. [Perhaps I’ll visit them after botching something with my non-dominant hand.] I find it extremely appealing, fitting, beautiful.

I absolutely love it.

I’m already thinking of what to try next, I like this medium so well. It’s versatile, flexible, it needn’t be too precise, neither in execution nor interpretation, and its duration is a comforting balance of not-quite-fleeting and not-remotely-permanent. And it’s beautiful.

Have you tried it?

x

 

almond joy

On March 29, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

There is a definite pattern in my bodycare preferences…

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(and in my eating preferences, too)

It is almond and coconut all the way chez Sphinx, with only occasional forays into other bodywashes here and there (though, come to think of it, I have the Dove nourishing almond oil one, and their nourishing almond deodorant as well) or some alternate body lotion (I like Amlactin, and a number from L’Occitane, like…their almond one…and their almond oil body wash…). Even when I stray from the pure stuff, these ingredients are often in there somewhere.

There’s a definite appeal to raw ingredients, their flexibility and malleability. You can start mixing already complex products but I find the results much more hit or miss, have difficulties getting textures to blend the way I hope, and often, if I like the product, it seems unnecessary. [My sense that it doesn’t always work out, then, may be a result of messing around with products I didn’t especially like in the first place. Hm. By that point I’m convinced I can’t make them any worse, however, so I can really have at them. Example: a body scrub from The Body Shop that I didn’t find scrubby enough, added granulated sugar until I was satisfied. Problem solved.*]

*I have ruined some things, too, but it never serves to discourage future experiments.

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1. NOW Sweet Almond oil—there are other brands but some don’t smell very good, this one has the virtue of not smelling like much at all, absorbs nicely into the skin, acts brilliantly as a carrier for essential oils and perfumes, lovely on the hair as well. Mixes readily with other oils to create still more hair/body options. Edible. Really wouldn’t be without this.

2. Dr. Bronner’s Almond Castile soap—great all-purpose soap. I use it as a body wash and sometimes as a shampoo, and to wash makeup brushes. A touch of marzipan to the scent, which I don’t love but which doesn’t seem to linger. I prefer the peppermint scent (but not the rose one), and have been meaning to try the eucalyptus. Takes ages to finish a bottle. Maybe next year, eucalyptus.

3. Barlean’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil—there are tons of brands of coconut oil around, and most of them seem just fine. This one is especially good to eat, and I use it all over. In my hair as a leave-in or deep treatment, as a skin conditioner, to sautée vegetables, as an oil/butter substitute in various recipes, added to grains to flavor while cooking, just…to eat.

4. Trader Joe’s Coconut Body Butter—I’ve mentioned this before, and I don’t like it any less now. Has a bit of a chocolatey richness to it that makes it especially delicious. Very thick and moisturizing. Such  great value.

5. Sun Bum Coconut lip balm—think will be picking up some of SunBum’s sunscreen come summer. Smart branding, good, skin-friendly ingredients. Nice to find lip balms with a high SPF. This is cocoa butter, mainly, but with coconut scent, so it’s in.

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6. Raw almonds—I cannot begin to tell you how many raw almonds I consume.

7. Coconut flakes—anyone have a good recipe for coconut macarons? They are the kind of indulgence that is just appealing enough and just expensive enough to make me want to take matters into my own hands. I like coconut milk, too, and coconut water, certain brands of, and that So Delicious (that’s the brand, not my emphasis, though it is really good) coconut milk ice cream. The mint/chocolate one.

I really wish I had some of that now.

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