Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Your cheeks will thank you

I've been writing a lot about perfume lately, so I thought, why not do some makeup-y posts for a change?

I was merrily typing away when it occurred to me: Is this totally irrelevant by now? Do I really even need to write this post?

Is it not common knowledge by 2008 that NARS' Multiple Stick is the single greatest invention ever to touch cheeks all around the world?

Well, I hemmed and hawed for a couple of minutes, but then decided to go through with it. Who knows? Maybe there are one or two of you out there who haven't heard of this magic blusher wand. Besides, all good news is worth repeating.

I first read about the Multiple back in 2005, on the great but now seemingly dormant blog, Blend. I liked Blend quite a lot because it was written with such common sense and humor. A lack of common sense and humor make for one turn-off of a beauty blog. Too much like eating cotton candy, in my opinion.

Crystal at Blend raved about the nice way in which the Multiple struck a balance between a creamy application and a powdery finish. She was honest that, at $36 a pop, she had a hard time bringing herself to buy one of these things, but confirmed at the end that she was really happy with it.

Well I waited even longer than Crystal to get one (I must either be poorer or more of a skinflint). However I finally bought one a couple months later, and now I think I may be twice as enamored as she was in this little stick!

I deliberated a long time between the colors Cannes and St Barthes. I eventually chose the latter because it was so sheer and yet seemed to make all the difference between wearing and not wearing makeup. (It's not nearly as "brown" as it appears on the website.)

I got the best compliments after I plunked down my $36 for this thing. General, subtle, sort of mystified ones: "You look so nice today!" "Hey, what kind of soap do you use for your skin?" "You're so...glowy!" The compliment that cinched my devotion to the Multiple was given to me by my friend Elaine underground in Brooklyn's Nostrand Av. C station. She peered at me and said, "Wow, Natasha. You're radiant today!" When a tiny bit of blush makes such a difference that your friend notices it underground, I think one can safely say that the blush is a keeper.

Only lately have I started to cautiously use it as a eyeshadow primer. I'm pretty weak at applying any sort of eye makeup besides mascara, but just patting my finger lightly against the stick and then dabbing my eyelids leaves a nice, understated shine.

I would encourage anyone interested in buying a Multiple to take their time. Try out a lot of different colors on different visits to stores that have tester sticks available. Once you've decided, the Multiple will make a serious dent in your wallet but the product lasts for quite a long time unless you're living in some sort of "retro eighties world-of-the-bronzed-cheekbone" like Lindsay Lohan.

The only downside to the Multiple? I have no real reason for splurging on other fantastic blushers in seductive packaging, like Bourjois's good-smelling little compacts, Tarte's stickier but similar Cheek Stain, or Maybelline's well-priced and excellent Dream Mousse Blush.

P.S.: Perusing Sephora's online selection of blushes, I notice that there are a lot of Multiple-like knock-offs. You'll have to let me know if you find one that you like that is as nice as NARS's, only cheaper. This is one rare product where I'm convinced that the quality and the shades offered are worth the price.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Fragrance Rx

A million years ago, intrepid reader poetloverrebelspy left a comment for a post wherein I gifted myself some Lanvin perfume. She wondered aloud what perfume I thought she might like. "How fun!" I thought to myself. "Like an advice column with no real problems to solve...a doctor without a sickness to treat...A matchmaker with no heartbreak!"

So I asked her to email me three likes and dislikes and I would try to come up with some perfumes to try.

Her likes:

semiprecious stones, old photographs, citrus, cinnamon, bergamot

Her dislikes:

leather pants
(on anybody :), loud noises, Plax, heavy floral, chemical fruit scents (grape, apple, raspberry)

With these tidbits of preference I went thinking and smelling about, and came up with three suggestions sure to be winners. Here they are.

1.) Fleurs d'Oranger by Serge Lutens

I first learned of Serge Lutens perfumes years ago when I was a student in Paris. I was browsing the best department store in continental Europe and fell into conversation with a sales rep for Lutens's perfumes after smelling a number of paper samples. She had a rather complicated description of how his perfumes are so pure and refined and like silk on your skin, etc. etc. I listened politely and complimented the collection, but of course everything was way too pricey.

If I was a fine-perfume-and-fine-wine collecting type of girl and had a decent job, I would happily pick up something from this line. Whether or not you like a particular scent here, you'd be forced to agree that they are exceptionally well blended and thoughtfully balanced. Furthermore, the bottles are quite elegant, even if the type is slightly too frou-frou.

Assuming, dear Poet, that you are up for a splurge, do try Orange Flowers! It is incredibly warm and enveloping for a citrus scent (a good mix of the cinnamon and citrus you say you like). This perfume also starts out with a floral burst that quickly settles down into the rest of the mix, like with Rumeur. It is feminine without being the least bit cloying, like a perfectly tailored A-line dress. Go and read this lovely review by fellow perfume-loving blog, Perfume and Tea Make Me Happy (me, too!). It might well convince you that this hundred dollar treat for the senses is worth it.

2.) Bulgari's Thé Rouge

This perfume wins major points from me for daring to be different. It's a pretty ballsy little thing, don't be fooled by that delicate leaf decoration on the front of the bottle. Inside is a perplexing and original combination of fragrance notes: Pink Pepper, Orange, Bergamot, Red Tea Accord, Fig Pulp, Walnut, and Musk per Sephora's website. No strong floral overtones here.

I think Poet will like it because it's a little earthy and a lot eccentric, with a splash of bergamot to top it all off. At half the price of Fleurs d'Oranger, it suddenly looks like a bargain, right?

3. Heather by Demeter Fragrance

I. Love. Demeter. Nowhere else can you indulge your perfume whims for such a reasonable price. It's important to know that these perfumes are not the kind that will linger on into the evening; they have an alcohol base that fades quickly. You'll need to reapply somewhat frequently, but on the upside, you'll never reek. And luckily, their bottles are small enough to fit into a normal-sized purse or bag.

When I think semiprecious stones, quiet and old photographs, I think of Yorkshire. The moors, covered in heather. Ever-changing weather, a distant, beloved brooder and a lady's flushed cheeks. Gothic romance, in short! Perhaps you'll want to put a little bit of all that on your wrists.

There you go! By all means, Poet, write back and let me know exactly what you think of these perfumes if you decide to give them a sniff!

I'd be happy to do other prescriptions: just drop me a line with three of your likes and dislikes at

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Guest Blogging by the Queen of Eye Makeup

Ok, so, I knew this girl in college who always had the most smokin' eyes (literally--she can do a smoky eye better than anyone.) As someone in the stabby camp, I have always envied Molly's eye makeup. And now! She's telling us one of her secrets. Listen up folks, it's gonna be good.

Miss Molly Says:

I don't usually blog about product. In fact, I don't usually talk about product at all, because 1) half the time I'm not even paying attention to what I'm using, and 2) I'm friends with a bunch of dudes who really don't care, and 3) the women I hang with regularly are either the "natural beauty" type or the "wait, HOW do you use eyeliner without stabbing yourself?" type. And 4), I like to keep secrets.

But. When I found myself raving about Maybelline's Shadow Stylist to my best friend (solidly in the Stabby Camp), and then to my mother at her birthday dinner (she looked around the restaurant as if searching for the hidden camera – I don't think she's ever heard me talk about makeup, ever)… well, I figured I should find an audience who would appreciate a little gushing.

So, all disclaimers aside, I looooooove this product. I wanted to marry it, but apparently the Bible says Adam and Eve, not Eve and a little pot of eye shadow.

I am an eyes girl, all the way. If I only have time for one product on my face, I will choose eyeliner before anything else. I had this Barbie and the Rockers doll (basically, the Barbie version of JEM) when I was little, and I remember coveting her eye makeup. Her eyes were pink, purple, AND blue. (It was 1986.) Why didn't my boring social worker mother wear three shades of eye shadow to work, I wondered. When I grew up, I would wear three colors – or more! -- on my eyes every day!

Now grown up, sometimes I do.

Like anyone, I go through phases. Last fall was a major liquid eyeliner phase. The wonderful thing about liquid eyeliner is that it can be so delicate, and so precise. The terrible thing is that if you screw up, you look like Cleopatra, drunk. It's not pretty.

Toward the end of that phase, I started to tire of the look. I started to worry that my eye makeup was making me look like those old ladies who have it tattooed on, which is a look I hope never to achieve. The lines were a little too clean, a little too sharp. I wanted softer, smudgier lines.

And then I discovered Shadow Stylist.

The Shadow Stylist container looks exactly like the liquid eyeliner container, which is great because they're such nice complements to each other it seems fitting they'd come in matching containers. Like salt and pepper. Only when you open it, it's not a paintbrush, like liquid eyeliner, but a conical little sponge, covered with powder.

The first time I used it, I made a mess of my face, spilling black powder all over my cheeks. (The trick is to tap off the excess BEFORE you put it near your face!) But. Once I got the hang of using the sponge to draw a line of soft black powder across my lash line, I was head over heels enough to gush to my still-a-social worker, still-not-wearing-Barbie-makeup mother. "Isn't this such a pretty, soft line?" I kept asking.

Lately, I've been using it to darken a charcoal pencil line. (I dropped the liquid phase over the holidays –too much laughing until I cried – as it turns out, liquid liner gets all over your face the second you start tearing up. It's embarrassing.)

Shadow Stylist comes in a variety of colors, but I've been using "sultry black" to soften my eyeliner line, to darken the outer corners of my eyelids, or just as a substitute for actual eyeliner. I realize that you can achieve the exact same effect with regular eyeshadow, a very fine brush, and a steady hand. Indeed, back in college, when I was reacting to the dirty hippies all around me by paying meticulous attention to makeup, or just procrastinating on a paper, I had a whole set of tiny brushes I used. Out of college, though, who has the time? SS gives me the softness of a shadow with the applicator of a pencil, and I don't even have to be surrounded by filthy college kids to use it!

And though I know that we are all going to grow old with dignity, and embrace the fine lines in our faces as testament to the beauty, wisdom, and grace that comes with our years (right? we certainly won't stand two inches away from the bathroom mirror and trace the frown lines that cut like the Rio Grande Gorge across our foreheads, mourning the years of elasticity we never appreciated!) – still, you might find it comforting that the soft sponge applicator allows you a nice smoky line without having to stretch your too-delicate skin out to your ears just to get a straight line, and thus buy yourself a few extra months before the crow's feet really set in (making you look extra beautiful and wise…. ahem).

Shadow Stylist, I don't care what the Bible says, I will be Eve to your little pot of eye shadow any day.

Friday, January 18, 2008

3 Baths and a Challenge

Ok, so this isn't my bathtub. It's Cinderella's in Cinderella's castle at Disney World. It's a pretty nice bathtub though!

So, I've been taking a lot of baths with Holiday Lush Products.

1. The first was a Candy Cane bubble bath. First off, I was really impressed by how many bubbles there were because this bubble bar was over a year old. Lots of soft, lightly vanilla (but not a sweet vanilla! Yay!) bubbles made for a wonderful bath. Yummy yummy yummy.

2. The second was with the Christmas Party bath bomb. It turned my bath a lovely yellowy-orangey color and made my skin super soft! And! Best yet! It smelled a lot like Champagne Snow Showers (which smells like mimosas and snow ball fights in a light snowfall on Sunday afternoons). BUT! There is a lot more starry glitter in this than you'd think! (And I'm not allowed glittery bath bombs). Luckily, the glitter is star shaped, so it's easier to clean up, but I will be sticking this in a nylon next time I use it (and yes, next Christmas, I'm stocking up!)

3. The third was with a Lush bath bomb but I can't figure out what bath bomb it was! This was a disappointing bath on many levels (like the fact I ran out of hot water.) The bath bomb itself smelled kinda like cloves. It turned my water a weird shade of mustard yellow and was filled with something that looked like and had the consistency of soggy Fruity Pebbles. I really liked the scent (nice and spicy and warm) but not so much the weird Fruity Pebble stuff (so I'll nylon it next time). Any ideas what this might be?!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

On the ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth day of Christmas...

I'm comin' in just under the line, y'all!

Sure, CHRISTMAS Christmas is over, it's already 2008. But as all good Catholics (and some of the rest of us) know, the twelfth and final day of Christmas is traditionally today, January 6th. It's the day the three wise men came to Jesus' manger NOT to smoke a rubber cigar, as my sister and I used to sing, but to shower the little babe with gifts of frankincense, gold and myrrh.

Anyway, in honor of those wise men I decided to gift my remaining four days of Christmas to the wise men amongst our readership (too numerous to be counted, I'm sure). This scent's for you, you guys. These were fun presents to pick out, mainly because I was happily surprised how many nice-smelling colognes there are out there. Maybe you lady-killers should throw away the Old Spice and wear the following:

1. Dior Homme.

Smells like:
Lavender, Sage, Cardamom, Iris, Cocoa Bean, Amber, Vetiver, Patchouli, Leather.

Now unfortunately I didn't get to smell this on a real live man but that's probably a good thing. The mere scent of it on a paper tester was enough to make me float in the air, like in those cartoons when some character is hungry and is carried along by the scent of pig roasting on a spit or something.

It smelled so good: sexy, yet intimately reassuring. Noticable, but definitely soft enough to let some wonderful natural sweat smell come through.

And it wasn't the only Dior cologne that I found shockingly good. Unlike many of Dior's women's perfumes, the men's offerings were virtually all subtle, not-overly-complex-or-heavy blends based around one solid and identifiable fragrance note, just the way I like things.

Please tell me gross Tom Ford is not the one who deserves the credit for creating such a lovely line of colognes. If he is, I owe him an apology for thinking he's so gross. And maybe dinner and a movie.

2. Crave by Calvin Klein.

Alright, dumb bottle design. Everything about it looks very outdated. That phallic arrow/traffic sign thingy is obnoxious. But the smell is just fantastic.

This cologne is even lighter than Dior Homme - very clean smelling, like simple bar of soap combined with the smell of newly split wood and some lemon. My imaginary Ken doll would wear Crave in the summer and Dior Homme in the winter.

Calvin Klein's Escape for Men is not bad, either. In fact, I give four stars to the whole line, just as I do to Dior's colognes. I'd say Calvin Klein scents will please guys who want to wear something slightly younger and fresher and, you know, take their clothes off a lot, while Dior colognes are for the more worldly and allusive playboy. Who want to take their clothes off a lot.

3. Van Clef and Arpels for Men.
Apologies for the bad pic. Despite the blurriness, you can still see what a very chic bottle it is.

The scent is the heaviest of all those I mention here, but it is prickly and spicy enough not to overwhelm.

Did you have a crush on that silent, sulky, dark-haired, Rimbaud-quoting kid who smoked cloves in high school? I bet he wears this when he puts on his velvet-lined tux jacket to go play bass in his rock band.

This was Serge Gainsbourg's scent. Enough said.

4. Marc Jacob's Men.
I liked this fragrance despite myself. It is tad too sweet, I think, bu t the design is so classy that I can forgive a lot.

There is some sort of ingredient in here that I became completely smell-ddicted to. Take your pick: it was either the Italian bergamot, the Tuscan cypress, the cumin, cardamom, ginger, fig leaves, rose, cyclamen, Cedarwood, musk, or Indonesian Patchouli.

Kind of sounds like a gingerbread cookie recipe, right? Maybe that's what it was that made my mouth water.

This is perfect for your sensitive soul woodsman, or your Arcade Fire-listening dandy. Disarming, unique, and vibrant.

Phew! Made it!

And to all a good night.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New Years Resolutions

Do you have beauty resolutions? I sure do!

1. Blog more on this space
2. Take more baths
3. Stop saving the good stuff for a special occasion. I have enough good stuff that "day ending in y" is now a special occasion.
4. Continue in my quest to look like a professional adult in professional adult contexts. (This means make up and jewelery and nice clothing and non-frizzy hair...)