the lipstick police

On November 5, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

I miss lipstick. I haven’t worn it for months. I suppose anything I say will sound like just so many excuses, I haven’t been committed, but here are the discouraging scenarios:

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1. I have a blemish around my mouth

Lipstick, especially red or berry toned lipstick, draws attention to redness on your face, magnifying the awfulness of any unfortunate friends who may have popped up. The problem is I don’t really like foundation, it only looks good from a distance and often breaks me out, so I avoid it day to day…which means I have a conflict, and the compromise is to wait to wear lipstick until my skin improves. This plan is dumb, however, as my skin is not at all on board, and there is no end to this waiting.

2. I am about to eat

I am kind of always about to eat, somehow! Which is fine, but you need to plan and reapply, which takes time and attention.

3. I am busy

I am genuinely, during the daytime, that kind of busy that means I do not look at my phone, barely have a chance to look in a mirror, hardly sit down to eat…I need to be better about taking time for myself to do things like put on lipstick (or just, you know, sit, eat, moisturize?? Champion exfoliators sometimes need a midday moisture fix, you know?), but it can be hard to make those things a priority when there are serious work-things to be done, often time-sensitive ones, at all times. My work is not life-and-death stuff but still there is a lot to do, and it matters to someone. And lipstick…needs a little attention. Lipstick cannot always be trusted!

4. I am not inspired

It is perhaps the result of not seeing many people, at the moment, of seeing always the same people over and over, and not very many of those…or of being in the wrong kind of mood, wherein I am not motivated to make much of an effort with my appearance, but I am not inspired. It’s not that no one would notice or appreciate an effort, people always do. And it’s not that I wouldn’t appreciate it myself, I know I would. So what is it? A low hum of unhappiness, I theorize, which requires a dramatic change in circumstances; in the face of which small joys seem especially small. I am working on a bigger change, and think I am putting my energy into that instead of the small things. The small things add up, though, which I am forgetting.

So, this is why I am not really wearing lipstick (or anything of much interest). But I am sad about it. I miss wearing it. I want to be wearing it. I am sort of bitter about the confluence of inconveniences that make it logical not to wear it. I level a disapproving glare at my life, which is so unfriendly to the wearing of lipstick, and at myself, she who is evidently not courageous enough to say to hell with it all and slap it on anyway. Too conservative? Too preoccupied with controlling the situation, surely. Too distracted by my imperfections. Too whiny.

I have a resolution in place to be better about this, to say to hell with it all! Right after this one egregious blemish heals.

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

playtime with Sephora

On March 1, 2016 by theseventhsphinx

As far as I’m concerned, Sephora has always been about play. Play and skincare. Makeup for me is about playing, fiddling, experimenting. Trying.

This I think is part of why I was interested when I heard they were launching a subscription box, though I have not purchased any of the myriad boxes on the market (popular for years now), nor do I feel any inclination to do so. Boxes have the appeal of presenting you with (potentially) new products and brands but, after watching/reading dozens of reviews, they are full of random junk, too. I have enough random junk, thanks, I prefer to be more discerning in my acquisitions. [Or, I like to imagine I am. I mostly am, with lapses.] In the main I like the process of research, reading reviews, comparing swatches, thinking, deciding. I don’t want that done for me, and I certainly don’t want it done for me for $20, $30 a month, and I certainly don’t want it done worse than I could do it for $20, $30 a month.

The beauty of the Sephora Play! subscription box is that it is $10. It’s breezy of me but this seems like an easy risk. A mere $10! At even $15 I might begin to squint and doubt, but $10, it might as well be $5 in my mind. Marketing geniuses. Earlier today I was at a shop selling cookies for 50¢. Who even sees that symbol anymore?! Damn straight I bought a cookie.

While Sephora carries dozens of brands, there is a comforting sense of curation in the chaos; I am confident of recognizing the brands represented and likely to be interested in them. Then, too, as it’s obvious how many eyes will be on the box, and how many brands eager to participate, they are fools if they don’t make it solidly good. And the machine behind Sephora…it is no fool.

Sephora Play subscription box

This is the February 2016 box, the program launched last September. I’m not exactly blown away by this stuff but I’m not disappointed, either. The Tom Ford perfume is a little trendy/obvious/boring but not bad, the MUFE lipstick is a crowd pleasing rosy nude shade, the Tarte mascara I’ve been curious to try, the Lancome eye pencil I don’t care about but don’t mind, would happily give away to someone who uses eyeliner more (or maybe I’ll try it?), and the BareMinerals lip oil balm thing* is the surprise favorite here, a creamy, sheer pigment that gives a luscious, semi-glossy, balmy look to the lips. Oh, there was a Bumble and Bumble dry shampoo, too, which I will gladly give away. Dry shampoo, it is not for the likes of me.

*I am also really liking the new YSL tint-in-oil, which leaves a plush, soft look to the lips while being so sheer as to allow the true sense, the natural shape and texture of the lips to come through. A lovely, sensual effect. More liquid than the BareMinerals one, which is more like a lip balm and more opaque…maybe I am slightly preferring the YSL one but it’s close, I like both. The YSL smells like ultra tropical guava candy, which could put some off on application, but that doesn’t linger.

For me the more lip products the better, but just being pleased with 3 out of 6 I’m feeling I got my money’s worth. Am I being too generous? This is partly because I have a system in place for diverting beauty stuffs that won’t work for me to better homes (everyone must have such a system, no?), and partly because I have a play budget, in my mind, which this does not exceed.

Not planning to cancel anytime soon, even if it is annoying to have punctuation built into a product name/title.

x

luxe lip: Tatcha Kyoto Red Silk Lipstick

On June 5, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

If you’re in the mood for a luxurious lipstick, you might consider the Kyoto Red Silk Lipstick from Tatcha. An ancient shade with a modern formula and beautiful presentation. This is a limited edition offering but currently available. Observe the handwritten note on my packing slip!

tatcha kyoto red silk lipstick

The color is the traditional geisha shade of shu-iro, which translates to vermilion or scarlet in English; an orange-toned red. This, though, is a red that can present as a true balanced red, a cool rosy red, or a warm red depending on the context. Quite a wily shade, and hard to pin it down. Or, easy to pin it down at any given moment but then always changing on you. It’s clearly warm toned when put against a distinctly ruby/cool shade, but has a deep rosy red color on the cotton round when I’m removing it…perhaps it is warmer on the lips than in the bullet? I don’t know. Good luck.

The concept is that it gives radiance to any complexion. I’m not guaranteeing it would do that but I’m pleased with its chameleon-like nature, and—however it reads—I really like the effect.

red lipstick swatches

Swatches in daylight, L to R (Kyoto Red in the center): Lancome Rouge in Love 181, Tom Ford Narcotic Rouge, Tom Ford Cherry Lush, Tatcha Kyoto Red, MAC Russian Red, MAC RiRiWoo, MAC Lady Danger

It’s not a sheer formula but it’s the sheerest of what I’ve swatched here. Lady Danger is more orange, Russian Red is darker and more blue-toned, Cherry Lush is brighter and rosier. I don’t find it as creamy as any of these formulas, actually, despite Tatcha’s silky promises, but it’s good for a matte formula (it’s more matte than the other matte formulas above, as well), and the fact that it isn’t crazy opaque makes the formula friendlier, in my opinion. I do an initial application to get a general shape, blot, and do a second application to refine the shape. Could use a lip pencil beforehand to make the edges more crisp but I tend to prefer softer edges anyway, so direct from the bullet is fine, with maybe a little help from my best friend, the cotton bud.

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Wearing it in the previous post, doesn’t really come across as orange-ey here, I wouldn’t say.

If I had to choose between these formulas I’d probably go with Tom Ford’s matte over this one…(that is, if I wanted to spend ~$50) but this is a unique color to my eye, and that is in its favor. I also really appreciate the fact that this is almost exclusively a skincare brand that released just one shade of one formula of lipstick, and this is it. Thus saying, this is the only lipstick you need.* Rather, this is the only shade of lipstick a geisha needs, and don’t we all want to channel her intrinsic elegance and impeccable taste? I like this brand.

*Though, we know that is not the case here…

tatcha kyoto red silk lipstick

[My name is Meghan. If you’re new to my blog, welcome!]

The lipstick is faceted at the tip, creating a distinctive silhouette that reminds me of Charlotte Tilbury’s lipsticks and some of Tom Ford’s new releases but which is its own creature. I wouldn’t say this makes application more precise but it looks really pretty. Also, I’m confident that this is the heaviest lipstick I own. Luxe points.

tatcha kyoto red silk lipstick

Here I’ve just drawn on the booklet that accompanies the product. Doesn’t look orange here at all to me!

xo

the casual red lip

On May 23, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

I never get tired of jeans and a t-shirt. High-waisted or low-rise, v-neck, scoop, or crew, it’s the quintessential casual combo.

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The great thing about the unobtrusiveness of jeans and a t-shirt is the influence the other elements of the outfit suddenly gain. You can look slovenly or ultra-stylish; it’s all down to the accessories and peripherals. How could anyone who loves accessories pass up such a chance to let them shine? I dressed up the simple base with beige d’orsay pumps, pearls, and a belt. Belts can be so effective.

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And a casual red lip like this is so great, so throwaway. Even better with sneakers and tousled hair. An ultra glam red lip is all well and good, but the unexpected, tossed-on red lip is this delightful surprise. Lisa Eldridge recently did a tutorial on this kind of casual glam lip (all red lips are a little bit glam, no?), which I recommend along with the rest of her channel.

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Tom Ford Love Lust blush layered over Chanel cream blush in Affinité with the phenomenal Josie Maran Argan Enlightenment Illuminizer— a stunning, metallic gold cream highlighter—on the cheekbones. Geisha Ink Silk Mascara, which is excellent, a densely bristled wand makes it easy to coat lashes in one or two swipes (I take some of the product off on a tissue before applying to keep the lashes natural). This small Canadian brand does wonderful eye makeup, I would also recommend their liquid liner.

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Don’t usually go for graphic tees but love this one.

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Sole Society d’orsay pumps, Express high-waisted jeans, J Crew tee, Madewell leather belt, Pearl Paradise lavender metallic freshwater studs, Skagen watch, Michael Kors pavé open arrow ring, Ray-Ban aviators. On the lips: Tatcha Kyoto Red Silk lipstick and NYX lip pencil in Hot Red.

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How great is this cocktail ring? Gold molded into coral with jade stones nestled in. Thrifted.

x

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