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.

x

 

 

smell this: Guerlain Shalimar

On April 8, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

Shalimar is an established classic, designed in 1921 by Jacques Guerlain and still on the shelves. This fragrance has been reformulated at least once but the essential notes remain the same; bergamot, jasmine, rose, iris, opoponax, vanilla. This is a complicated fragrance with a lot of powerful ingredients, and not only a lot on paper – a lot in the nose as well. Smelling iconic perfumes is such a good exercise.  I think anyone who gets sufficiently curious about perfume will want to experience the old classics sooner or later, certain of them anyway, whether a true vintage sample or the nearest one can get.

Shalimar EDC

I have yet to have an opportunity to smell the original formulation and can’t speak to whatever butchery the reformulation represents, but to me the current interpretation has a lot to appreciate. Anecdotally (Wikipedia on perfume histories is an interesting rabbit hole) it’s the result of an entire bottle of the latest synthetic vanillin being experimentally poured into a bottle of Guerlain’s Jicky, and was launched as Guerlain’s showpiece for the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925, an art exhibit designed to show the pre-eminence of French taste and style that was the highlight of the early Art Deco period. There is a great history of Shalimar on The Perfume Shrine.

We are discussing the EdC here, as that happens to be what I was gifted recently. It’s strange, I have hardly ever been given perfume. My mom gave me a much loved bottle of Jovan White Musk when I was 13 or so, and my aunt gave me a not especially loved bottle of…what was it? Lady Stetson? (miles away from the awful tropico-chemical aerosol body sprays in vogue in rural Maine in the 90s, which I largely shunned for Vanilla Fields), and I’ve had a few lovely fragrances passed on to me, but I haven’t had that feeling of having a new bottle of perfume in a couple of years. I am so used to being the one who gifts fragrance, I forget it can be given to me, too. How nice it is!*

*Potentially…

I was delighted to receive Shalimar, not because I like it [I’d only smelled it academically in passing years ago, and had only thought about it as a forerunner, a foremother] but because it is iconic, a sound addition to any fragrance library. It’s clearly echoed in later orientals, later leathers, in powdery and floral scents, in ambers and vanillas and incense fragrances…so many of these it seems could not exist without Shalimar.  That said, I do like it, though perhaps this does not translate to wanting to wear it often.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Shalimar EDC

Shalimar EdC opens with a zingy lemon and bergamot (think earl grey tea) accord, really bright, with an insistent sour note like cedar and civet (think animal musk/sweat and cat pee). The animality is strong for me, though for some it takes a back seat to the bergamot and soapy powder (highly recommend browsing the basenotes reviews of Shalimar). This moves promptly -within a few minutes – into the soapy floral heart of iris (for me dominant) and rose, which rose is never fully extricated from that original citrus. There is jasmine as well but for me it is more ‘complex heady floral that you know cannot be only rose or only jasmine’. It’s so over the top to have jasmine and rose, basically the two most expensive floral extracts and Guerlain famous for using the best. Either alone is enough to carry the day, and iris too can hold its own*, so it’s already a busy concoction, and THEN.

*Guerlain’s Apree L’Ondee, Frederic Malle Iris Poudre, The Different Company Bois d’Iris – I find iris soliflore fragrances are the best way to teach your nose the iris note, irises themselves are not so helpful, the root being the relevant thing.

On the coattails of the iris is an equally prominent note of leather, with vanilla and tonka bean creeping steadily in. For me the leather is unmistakable, though some seem to read it only as a smoky vanilla, or more like incense. Some people don’t seem to read leather at all, which to me is baffling, but the leather is the illusion, a mirage made of musk, amber, incense, and powder. The resinous note is evidently the opoponax – a note I don’t really have clear in my brain yet but which is a gum resin like frankincense or myrrh (opoponax is also called sweet myrrh) that smells luxuriously of balsamic and honey. Supposedly. I get what I would call sweet (amber, vanilla) and sour (civet, cedar) leather with a backdrop of powdery iris and incense. As time goes by, and this is a defiant fragrance that hangs around for many hours, this cocktail softens more and more, with leather, amber and vanilla waxing as the sourness and florals wane.

Shalimar will smell naggingly familiar to most, as it is still selling and still being worn, for many it is the scent worn by their mother or grandmother. Then, too, it is the ur-oriental, and all orientals are reminiscent of it. It’s had a cult following for nearly a century, the house’s flagship fragrance; innovatively sweet and exotic for the daring 20s. In addition to selling steadily in the main formulation, has spawned several offshoots or flankers, which surely sell in no small part due to the gorgeous bottle they keep re-releasing with slight variations on the original Baccarat design.

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Make no mistake, to my nose Shalimar is old-fashioned. It should smell old fashioned, formulated some 90 years ago and, from my point of view, worn by people much older than myself. Then, powder to me nearly always smells old-fashioned, as do basically all orientals, orientals being amber dominant scents with rich ingredients like musks and resins along with (often eastern) spices and florals. It’s strong! Not in the brassy 70s way or the cloying 80s way, and not in the modern Tom Ford way, but in a complex everything-but-the-kitchen-sink way that a number of iconic fragrances from the 1910s and 1920s demonstrate for us (ahem, Chanel No. 5 (1919)).

The beauty of Shalimar today is that it’s at a point where it’s so old it can be new again. It’s a potent, grown-up fragrance, even in the relatively sheer EdC formulation, and I can see it reading fresh and interesting on a younger woman, say under 40. Not that age matters, but youth provides a great contrast with these notes. Worn with complete at-homeness as a signature fragrance by someone older is a great look for Shalimar as well.

It appeals to me especially in the rain (that’s the iris), and it smells about a billion times better on skin than it does on fabric. No spritzing the scarf with this one for me. I need to power through the civet-heavy opening to get to the leather/iris bit, which is the part I can appreciate. I encourage anyone smelling Shalimar to spray it on and give it an hour. I can see myself more realistically layering this with a musk I actually like to add interest (say the Kiehl’s musk oil, or this one I like that I found on Amazon), or with a straight rose (say Tea Rose, or another straight floral maybe) to add interest, such that the layering fragrance provides a new driving force and Shalimar a soft ambiance. A dominant leather could be a nice pairing as well. Hm. Let’s talk about Tom Ford Tuscan Leather later, which is perfection all on its own.

x

bottle image via pinterest

smell this: Byredo Rose Noir

On November 12, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

I find my nose increasingly sparing with its praise. Once you smell a few hundred perfumes, you’re not so easily charmed as perhaps you once were. This is I suppose the development of some kind of discernment or taste, and I tend to think it’s for the best. It often strikes me as vulgar to like too many things [as I undoubtedly do], aside from merely liking things everybody else likes. I don’t want to eradicate vulgarity but it is something I want to display in moderation.

So, then, impressive fragrances stand out all the more. Anything that makes it into the category of beautiful stands out all the more. I was delighted to be so effortlessly pleased with Byredo’s Rose Noir.

Byredo Rose Noir parfum

If you don’t like the scent of rose, I guess forget it. The rose is a true lush damask rose, and she does not smell cheap (she is not cheap). It opens with a super ripe yet still sour grapefruit note mingled with a vague white floral (evidently freesia, a scent with little character in isolation, light and inoffensive) that remains as the rose comes gently forward. There is a poignant, woody richness that I tend to associate with oud (which I generally do not like, finding in it something sickly, rancid, like the oversweetness of rotten wood). It works for me here, providing a savory anchor that balances the full-on rose, much like black pepper does in The Different Company’s spicy Rose Poivree and Le Labo’s stunning Rose 31. I’m pretty sure I like it here because it’s not actually oud but cistus (labdanum(resin)) and musk creating that same sense of a faint neon glow. [Probably some aldehydes contributing to this as well.]

This balance is critical for me. While its boozy headiness is beautiful in its own right, damask rose isn’t a scent I want to wear. It’s too much. Though rose is by far my favorite floral, really one of the only floral notes I take much interest in (with the exception of Tiare flowers/Tahitian gardenias), I want it in combination with something. Vetiver (L’Artisan Parfumeur Voleur de Roses), incense (Caron Parfum Sacre), citrus (Perfumer’s Workshop Tea Rose)…something.

The sour grapefruit lingers (as does its brightness) and the resin has an intrinsic sourness/savoriness that prevents the sweetness of the rose from ruining the show. This is a wonderfully sophisticated scent. It reads clearly as a floral and a luxurious one yet isn’t especially heavy or dark. Not one of those rich roses suitable only for evening. The musk is gentle and sparing, and far in the background. All other notes play a supporting role to the rose. It could be accused of being too simple, not exciting enough, especially given the pricetag and that Noir, but being solidly pleasant is success enough. If it were somehow more exciting…I imagine the balance would be off and I wouldn’t like it anymore.

The junction of floral/citrus/musk reminds me a bit of Chanel Mademoiselle, which I also like, though this feels like the older, less obvious, more mysterious sister. The one who doesn’t care whether you like her or not. Harder to make her smile, and so more satisfying.

The edp is lovely for autumn/winter but I could see wearing this anytime. I expected it to be slightly stronger (esp. with that ‘edp’) but actually I like this concentration. I don’t think I’ll be getting a full size of this, I’m still longing for Profumum’s Victrix, but I think this is beautiful, and enjoy wearing it.

If you want to investigate other rose fragrances, this L.A. Times article mentions some great ones.

Valentine’s gift guide

On February 1, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

There is certainly a cheesy, overcommercialized aspect to Valentine’s Day but it’s true too that there is a lot of cute stuff to be had, and I don’t mind a certain degree of sentimentality. I can genuinely like it, even.

Here are a few pieces I would love to be given, and I’m sure I’m not the only one:

1. a luxurious red lipstick

Lipstick Queen Silver Screen Lipstick in Have Paris, maybe, or Le Metier de Beaute Maraschino

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2. pearls

Because, pearls. But also how charming are these akoya heart drops?

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3. a cookbook

I’m really into Mediterranean fusion cookbooks at the moment. Enjoying _Plenty More_ and definitely want to have a look at _Ottolenghi_.

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4. fancy lip balm

Always good to pave the way for kisses, no? This natural, nutrient-packed offering from Tata Harper caught my eye recently.  Be True lip treatment. There’s a tinted version as well.

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5. liquor, in conjunction, glassware

I don’t know about you, but I love being given alcohol. Champagne, especially. Say it with champagne! Better still, say it with champagne glasses. Really, really tall ones…

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6. the scent of roses

I always enjoy Tea Rose, a simple, bright citrusy rose fragrance from The Perfumer’s Workshop. It’s so inexpensive, too. I find it layers beautifully with any number of other fragrances, and especially like to use it to brighten or soften various masculine favorites of mine. Alternatively a lot of L’Occitane’s rose scented products are lovely, also their peony products, peony being much like rose in character but a bit softer and, in a pleasant way, harder to identify. I like the hand creams.

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7. gourmet ingredients

Gourmet herbs, spices, salts, things that come in beautifully packaged jars…I can’t get enough of that stuff. Surprise me.

8. a locket

I’ve been susceptible to the Victorian charm of lockets for as long as I can remember. I’m always looking for interesting vintage ones (I haven’t found one yet, in all this searching, but it’s one of those searches that’s been going on for years, off and on), and like a lot of different styles, from miniature hearts to oversized ovals. This chubby Tiffany’s gold heart has that classic (plain), clean (really plain) look I like. Lockets can be cheesy but, you know, it doesn’t have to be like that.

27679161_927308_EDIt’s unoriginal, I suppose, to give someone a necklace with a heart on it…but honestly I think necklaces with hearts on them are appealing. A dainty chain, a dainty heart*…maybe solid, maybe studded with some stone** or another. I can’t go for those swoopy, stylized hearts but a plain, shapely heart, sure.

*something like this tiny platinum heart, for instance

44870_main**case in point, the diamond heart necklace Lena Dunham wore in her recent Elle cover, speaking of Tiffany’s. I find that piece so beautifully sized and the shape of the heart appealing as well, curvy and proportional – there are many unfortunate heart attempts out there, as far as I’m concerned. Making a mental note to try to get my breasts to do this thing Lena’s are doing here. Imagine with a pearl pendant? Nothing not to like there.

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What do you think? See anything you like?

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on a rose kick

On June 18, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

I recently realized that all of the lip balms out on my dressing table are rose scented.

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What?! I like options! (Oh, I got this acrylic organizer at TJ Maxx, which liking.)

Completely unintentional!

I have a thing for rose, definitely (well, yes, and lip balm). I knew that already, but I seem to be on a real kick at the moment.

Here we have Rosebud Salve, a classic (I like the minted rose one, too), Jurlique’s Rose Love Balm, a deluxe sample of By Terry Baume de Rose (ridiculously expensive but also really, really nice. Wonderfully emollient, thick, feels productive to put it on), and an organic rose petal balm by a family friend. Which balm I reach for depends on the state of the lips and how I’m planning to follow up. I really do use all of them.

What you don’t know is that the Dior Creme de Rose balm (still love) and rose-scented Vaseline (which I don’t like as much as Rosebud Salve, not by a longshot, and won’t repurchase) are on my bedside table…

[Along with the unsexy Blistex Lip Medex, the mentholated tingle of which I enjoy.]

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