Saturday, February 23, 2008

Shampoo Woes

Why is it that every time I find a Shampoo I looooooooooooooooooooooove, it gets discontinued?!

It happened with Body Shop's Peony and something or other.
It happened with LUSH's Gentle Lentil

And it looks like it has happened again with LUSH's Reincarnate shampoo. :(

I'll probably switch over to LUSH's New shampoo (not that it's a recently unveiled product, the name of the shampoo is New) or their Ultimate Shine.

I do like their solid shampoos-- they last forever and are an excellent value. Plus, they travel well.

But, alas. As soon as I really start to like one, it'll be the kiss of death and it will be discontinued. :(

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Smelliness I Actually Enjoy!

My brother-in-law is one classy guy. He's a fancy-shmancy magazine editor, and travels all over the world on a constant basis, and loves my sister very much and takes care of her every need and wish and desire. And when he found out that I was going to be alone on Christmas, he insisted that I come spend the day with them, even though (a) his very-high-maintenance mother was visiting for a week and (b) I would be arriving at 2 a.m.

He and my sister then proceeded to shower me with more books than I could carry (they're both editors -- they get sent ten advance copies of things every day, and will never actually read all that stuff), plus she gave me some yarn and he gave me a gorgeous bottle of Jo Malone perfume.

Now, I am an unscented gal, for the most part. You probably know this about me. And I never buy perfume for myself because I have never been one to have money lying around for those little luxuries (when I do, I try to pay a little extra on my student loans). I've found precisely two perfumes in my entire life that I could tolerate. One was Cover Girl's Navy, and I was about ten years old, and I held my little sample vial of Navy very dear because my mother forbid me to wear perfume at such a young age (I recently found the vial while I was cleaning out my bathroom drawer in my parents' house last month -- it was fully evaporated, and I was sad). The other perfume I have ever really liked is Bare Escentuals' now-discontinued-in-spray-form Perfect Black Dress, which my sister gave me a few years ago and I rarely wear, but I did bond with another woman who eventually introduced me to my husband, because we both love Perfect Black Dress. I occasionally try Givenchy's Very Irresistible (also a gift from my sister) because I really do like the scent, but it always ends up being overpowering -- I get overwhelmed in the car driving to whatever event we're attending, and my husband hates it and gets angry that I smell different, so I just don't wear it very much.

Back to Christmas... I unwrapped this present from my brother-in-law, saw that it was a very generously-sized bottle of expensive perfume -- and perfume is such a personal gift, you really have to know your recipient's tastes like you know your own -- and was both overwhelmed with his thoughtfulness and a little bit apprehensive about having to wear a scent I might not like. I sprayed a little on my wrist right there under the Christmas tree... and to my surprise and delight, I love love love this scent. And through the whole day, I continued to love it. (Even better, my husband likes it too: he mostly doesn't notice it, which is just as good considering that he doesn't like anything that makes me smell not-like-me, but when I asked him directly, he said that yes, he doesn't hate it.)

The scent is Jo Malone's White Jasmine and Mint, which the website claims is a "light green floral" fragrance. I've always tried to steer away from florals because they tend to be too cloying to my nose. Not that I wear much perfume, like I said, but I think of myself as a person who likes the spicy spectrum of scents (and maybe a bit of citrus in the morning, but not if it's going to last later into the day). The White Jasmine and Mint has floral notes, obviously, but has woody and spicy notes as well (coriander and cardamom on top, cedar wood and vetiver underneath). And the mint is so subtle as to be almost unrecognizable at first sniff. I looked at the label after I spritzed it on and thought "really? there's mint in here?" But it becomes apparent -- in a really good, not overpowering way -- after a few seconds. And be sure to Discover the Story of this fragrance, because this is one "sensorial journey" definitely worth discovering!

This stuff is expensive. I would never buy it for myself, but I do so love having such a beautiful bottle sitting on my shelf, and I love wearing it. (Last Friday I wore it to a work dinner and I kept trying to smell my wrists -- through my gloves -- while driving. Not safe! But Mmmm! I smelled good! And it's great for daytime wear, too; I felt so grown-up and professional wearing it to work this week.) And if I ever come across another free sample vial, I will hoard it like the ten-year-old I used to be, in preparation for the day that I use up the giant bottle sitting in my bathroom cabinet.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Scraping and Scrubbing

Back in Ancient Greece, bathing was a social ritual. It wasn't so much about getting clean, because baths were public; it was more about the see-and-be-seen phenomenon that we now experience at swimming pools and beaches. Getting really clean, though, happened after all that soaking in the pool. Getting clean involved rubbing olive oil all over your body, and then scraping off the oil (and the dead skin and toxins!) with a special scraper called a strigil.

Sometimes I wish the oil-and-strigil method were still the order of the day. I love me a good scrubbing, the kind where you can feel that top layer of dead skin scraping off. But since my skin is also painfully dry, the water's inevitable removal of my natural oils is a rather unpleasant side effect of any bathing/showering/washing activity I do.

So I've found a compromise. First I scrub, then I oil.

I know you're not supposed to use scrubs that have big pieces of shell in them because they are too abrasive and actually can scratch your skin... but I really don't care. Because good ole' St. Ives Apricot Scrub feels so good -- so scrubby -- that I use it on my face every single time I shower. My face doesn't feel clean unless I scrub it, gently (not like I'm trying to scratch myself!), with the St. Ives goodness. And even though I've been using this stuff for years, just this morning I noticed a little bit of a sweet-citrusy smell that really helped me to wake up and feel more energized. I checked the back of the tube for ingredients and found some kind of flower extract oil, but I'm not quite certain if that's the source of the deliciousness. Still, it's nice to have a bit of aromatherapy (and refreshing that it's not marketed as an aromatherapeutic product and priced accordingly!) to start off the day.

When I'm feeling really splurgey (maybe once every couple of weeks), I also use Sephora Super Stars Body Scrub (which apparently isn't out anymore, but this link goes to something like it). The scrub has a creamy which smells amazing, and has giant jojoba oil beads and sugar and a ton of other good stuff that gives you a very scrubby-but-not-scratchy clean feeling.

After I've gotten all washed and scrubbed, I have to replenish those lost oils immediately. My solution has, for the last several years, been Aveeno Shower and Bath Oil. I love this stuff. I love the way it feels, I love the way it smells. I love that one bottle lasts for a very long time, and makes me feel like I'm really getting my $7 worth. But I don't so much love the way it gunks up the floor of my tub, and so I think I am ready to start looking for something else. I'd love to hear your suggestions and recommendations.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why hate perfume?

I first heard of CB I Hate Perfume through a friend about a year ago and was intrigued right from the start.

CB's angle on fragrance is that so many people do it wrong, why not do it right? "Right" in his book means perfume that is an artisanal product, carefully blended, subtle and powerful instead of brash and overwhelming, stylish and eccentric. The rather clunky name of CB I Hate Perfume is explained in the perfumer's manifesto.

The names and descriptions of the unconventional scents made my ears water and were music to my mouth. "Under the Arbor"? Yes please, in Tuscany, please! And "In the Summer Kitchen"? Just let me slip into my sundress! "Russian Caravan Tea"? Oh, Большое спасибо! Finally, I followed my Francophile heart and bought "Mr. Hulot's Holiday" online.

The next week, I was immediately a little disappointed upon opening the package. Inside was a sort of flimsy cardboard tube containing a squat little chemistry class bottle. I was silly to be disappointed, since Luckyscent clearly displays what you're going to get. CB says that he believes perfume shouldn't be about packaging, but for me, design is as much a spice of life as scent. Even rougher, more artisanal would have been great; slicker and more commercial would have worked, too. But to my taste, CB's design was an unhappy medium between the two.

When I applied the perfume, I was shocked and even more disappointed. My immediate reaction was, "God. Damn. This smells like one of those bright blue scented candles called 'Air' or 'Ocean Fresh' that you see at the supermarket!" Over the next 20 minutes, I calmed down a bit as the scent matured and became slightly more nuanced. It never got as complex as I had wanted it to. I never could manage to smell the "driftwood, seaweed-covered rocks, well-traveled leather suitcases and salty Mediterranean breeze" promised to me in the description. After wearing it a few times and feeling bitter about the $55 I had squandered, I got rid of it. (In fact, I confess that I regifted it to a friend of a friend! Bad form, Natasha!)

I am for sure one of those over-read, hiply-square girls. One of those young women who appreciates oddballs and rejoices in individuality, to the point that she has a bit of trouble reminding herself that individuality can be just as much of a selling point as conformity, and being "indie" is...well...pretty mainstream. One of those young women who, I am positive, make up a huge percentage of CB's clientele. But I don't think I'll fall for the flowery prose and the "feeling unique" again. Fragrance is poetry, to be sure, but poetry is not fragrance.

I'm going to stick the the world of perfumes as they are: some outrageously bad, some screamingly good. CB's attitude reminds me too much of a pretentious media artist I once knew who claimed there were only two coffee shops to get decent espresso in the United States. When I want a more unusual fragrance, I'll head to Demeter, the company CB used to work for. There I can get my dandelions, musty libraries and grape leaves on for a much more affordable price.

Besides: I kind of welcome the occasional obnoxious perfume. When I was 22, I wore Anna Sui's eau de toilette, a scent I think of now as truly horrible, way too stickily sweet. But I love catching a whiff of it to this day because I think of dumb, young me in my skivvies, holding my then boyfriend on his too-small bed.

If you want to give CB I Hate Perfume a try, then sample, sample, sample. Reviews on Luckyscent and several other websites will show you how divided people are about this line. Make sure you take your own word for it by sampling at the CB I Hate Perfume studio in Brooklyn or through the website.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I smell yummy

I was so excited this winter when Lush introduced its winter-limited-edition Champagne Snow Showers in a solid perfume. I love the scent-- mimosas and bitter cold mornings under a brilliant blue sky, Sunday afternoon snowball fights and something pretty sparkly...

But, I have a fear of solid perfume. Long ago, I read in my teenage bible of all girly things, Seventeen, to beware of perfume you have to apply with your finger because the smell tends to linger there.

Well, the smell doesn't linger on my finger, and I love it...

But... it doesn't linger on my finger, but it doesn't linger long, period. By mid-afternoon it's pretty much crapped out, which means it's time to reapply, except I can't be bothered to carry my perfume with me, so I just smell boring and normal for the rest of day.