We Need To Talk About Perfume

Fragrance is a peculiarly emotional thing for me. I weirdly feel like my identity is tied up in the fragrance I wear, so I can’t just choose something that “smells good.” I have to choose one that feels as if it fits both my personality as I am and the kind of person I fantasize myself to be- mysterious, layered, not consuming jalapeño Cheetos late at night at age thirty-two.

But finding a fragrance that both fills me with a feeling of  wonder and relatability, of “beyondness” and a sense of grounding, of myself and very much not myself, is difficult. Identifying a smell that is both aspirational and cozy – two words that I often need to feel  if I am to love it – is a challenge. And what makes things more complicated is after finishing a particularly excellent scent, I’m not interested in just purchasing the same one over again. I want to find something new. There are too many options out there in fragrance, and there’s always something unexpected emerging. The right, new fragrance can seem to open up an unexplored cavern in your imagination, a possibility or way of sensing the world previously unknown to you. And once that perfect, unexpected combination of notes hits your olfactory system, you’re addicted.

So the problem for me arises during the turning of fall and spring, when the latest fragrances make their debut. I have an itch for something new! This August, there are a couple in particular that have grabbed my attention: Lancome Idolê, Yvés Saint Laurent Libre, and Azzaro Wanted Girl.

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Idolê is beautiful, with a lightly sweet and very feminine air to it. It smells like optimism! But for how wearable it is, I can’t quite identify with it. I love the ambassador for Idolê – Zendaya – but I can’t quite relate with her in an intimate, fragrance-type way because of 1. her age and 2. her HBO show, Euphoria. I’ve not heard great things content-wise, other than what I’ve heard about the makeup. It’s funny how much the face of a fragrance will affect me. It’s the same as when I smell Dolce & Gabbana The Only One and love it, but can’t quite pull the trigger on the purchase because its ambassador is Emilia Clarke, and I can’t identify with her most known work in Game of Thrones. While smelling Idolê, I asked the lady at the Lancôme counter if she thought the fragrance was too young for me (she insisted not), mostly because I wonder if Zendaya is too young for me? Who knows. And the bottle is gorgeous, but it does evoke the feeling of a phone in your hand. You can definitely tell what generation they’re targeting.

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I have a different issue when experiencing Yvés Saint Laurent Libre. The bottle itself is stunning, a true work of art that anyone would love to display on their counter with its over-the-top glamour. The fragrance itself is sophisticated and luxurious. It smells like wealth, like something a Bond Girl would wear. However, Libre is a little too much on the aspirational side for my taste. I think I’d feel like a fraud if I wore it regularly. There’s certainly a depth and mystery to Libre, but it’s missing the approachability I need to feel comfortable wearing it every day. It feels more meant for a night out at Marché Moderne and less for work days at churches and schools where I often find myself.

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Azzaro Wanted Girl is the sweetest, most easily likable of the three fragrances. It’s juicy and warm (dulce de leche!), with a coziness that I always crave in perfume. However, I feel like I’ve done this fragrance before when I wore Lancôme La Vie est Belle for three years. I loved the warmth and tranquility that perfume brought to my mind – I’d wear it again, even with the obnoxiously sparkly commercials with very shiny Julia Roberts teeth – but buying a new fragrance with a similar feel doesn’t sit right. While I often have an urge to repeat fragrance purchases, the call of the undiscovered is too strong for me.

And so, what do I wear this fall? What will feel new, but what will also feel like me? What will smell sophisticated, but somehow friendly too? Well, this go-round I’ve managed to do something I’ve never done before- I’ve purchased a fragrance sight unseen, or moreover, smell unsmelled. Yes, I’ve made an online purchase that I’ve not sampled or smelled before. How on EARTH, in my world of extreme preparedness, did this manage to happen?

A Google rabbit trail lead me to discover Jeremy Fragrance, an award-winning German YouTuber who thrives on reviewing fragrances of all kinds. I’m sure I’m late to the party but WOW- the content is GOOD, y’all. You wouldn’t imagine a YouTube channel about fragrance to be particularly intriguing – I mean you can’t exactly “participate” – but somehow Jeremy takes you there. His uber- classy German accent, combined with an impeccably tailored wardrobe and perfectly-rolled R’s, make for the greatest listening experience next to hearing Mary Berry praise a lovely bake. Seriously, listen to him say “Carolina Herrera.” It’s unreal.

So upon discovering his channel several days ago, I watched Jeremy’s video ago titled “Top 10 Most Seductive Perfumes for Women Romantic Date Night Fragrances 2019”. Bit of an awkward mouthful there but hey, I was curious. I listened to him describe a range of scents – all veering on the sweeter side – that he perceived as sexy and seductive. Now, I’m pretty sure no matter what fragrance I’m wearing, I’ll still cross my eyes too much in conversation and emanate more Liz Lemon vibes than Kate Beckinsale vibes, but anyone can agree they’d still like to smell like Kate Beckinsale even if they can’t look like her. And so, I chose to take maybe the biggest gamble of my life and purchase the number-one fragrance on Jeremy’s list without smelling it first (because it’s literally sold nowhere so I had no way to smell without buying): Hugo Boss The Scent Private Accord. Apparently it makes Jeremy want to “smash [his] head into a wall.” I mean that’s a little violent but ok! I had never heard of it but as the youths say …….. “Yolo.”  I am all about a good recommendation and this one was so off-the-wall confident that I thought, you know what, this is what I’ll buy.

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The (um gorgeous?!) bottle arrived just less than an hour ago on my doorstep. And yes, the scent is good. Very good. I have to give it a bit to feel like me, but wow- I am excited about this. The description provides the following: “Addictive Cocoa Absolute pulses at the heart of BOSS THE SCENT PRIVATE ACCORD For Her. The freshness of Sweet Mandarin and captivating Osmanthus contrast with warm Tonka, for an irresistible Eau de Parfum that seduces the senses.” I can confirm it is indeed like a mandarin orange dipped in chocolate. Aspirational? Yes, decently. Approachable? Definitely, maybe too much. Sweet? Yes. Mysterious? My guess is yes. But suited for me? We’ll have to wait and see.

What are you wearing this fall? I want to know! xo, MR

 

 

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What I’m Using: March 2019

First day of spring! It’s a strange day when 50 degrees becomes what feels like barbecue and tanning weather. The sun’s been peaking out the past week or so here in Chicagoland, even though you still see the occasional snowdrift on the ground and there won’t be a flower in sight for three more weeks yet. In terms of beauty, this seems to translate into something more exciting and celebratory- more color, a new scent, and that whole idea of “feel good” beauty. It may not look like spring yet, but we can certainly pretend.

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The reputable classic: Kate Somerville ExfoliKate

This stuff is expensive, it really is. I’ve only ever purchased the mini size and I use a pea-size amount only once or twice a week to make it last. But … it works. This is the first chemical exfoliant I ever used and I can’t ever go back. The glow and difference in texture was noticeable pretty much right out of the shower. I should note that my skin doesn’t appear to be especially sensitive to chemical exfoliants (as in, my face doesn’t experience redness when I do AHAs and BHAs), so just beware if you decide to try it that you may react differently. I keep ExfoliKate in my routine during fall, winter, and spring and kick it out once summer hits and my skin isn’t so dry. So for now, it’s like my little spring cleaning routine.

The totally-unnecessary-but-super-fun extra: Glossier Play Glitter Geleé & Detailer Duo (Geleé in Phantasm)

Okay, this is just for fun. But it’s like, really fun. I used to wear glitter constantly in middle school. Every day I had a different color on- I did green, gold, red, anything. I love Stila’s Glitter and Glow liquid eyeshadow in Smokey Storm these days for some grownup glitter that can be subtle (or not!), but Glossier’s take on glitter is not for the faint of heart. It’s the chunkier stuff that’s really full-on craft store mode, and the Phantasm shade reminds of a the holographic Rainbow Fish. However, I especially love the Detailer tool Glossier has created for applying glitter- a silicone multitool that’s shaped like an angled eyeliner brush. It’s one of the things I’m surprised no one’s thought of before; it makes glitter application way easier, especially if you want to be really precise.

I’ve tested out the glitter once and plan to wear it on our quick vacation this weekend in Michigan. Because, you know, if there’s any place you think of when you think of wearing glitter for a night out, it’s for sure Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The luxurious shower addition: Weleda Wild Rose Creamy Body Wash

Another great Whole Foods sale find! While typically something like $12, I got it on sale for $8. And because it’s a smaller bottle, I use less of this body wash at a time than when I use, say, Dove, and unnecessarily squeeze out a giant blob because I feel like I have an endless supply. This formula is lighter than Dove but almost just as moisturizing (and much more natural). The smell is soooo relaxing too. There’s also primrose, pomegranate, and lavender for those extra sleepy night showers.

The fragrance I’ve been saving for spring: NEST Indigo Rollerball

Nothing – nothing, I tell you! – can usher in a new season like a new fragrance. But I have to be careful when I introduce a new perfume into my life because scents become so emotional, so quickly. You immediately start associating it with whatever memories you make while wearing it, so choose its debut activity carefully! I love several of NEST’s fragrances, and Indigo is mysterious and alluring. My nose always latches on to tea-based fragrances and this has a top note of Moroccan tea that’s creamy and a little mystifying to me. I love its moodiness; I just have to make sure it doesn’t make me feel too moody myself. :/

Bonus! The convenience you’ve been missing in your life: ClassPass

My friend introduced me to ClassPass with a $9 trial and I have to say, Kristin! Thank you! ClassPass is a service that allows you to pay a certain monthly fee that then gives you access to all varieties of fitness studios in your area. You can pick and choose what classes and studios you’d like to visit; there’s no commitment to one location or one type of fitness. I personally use it for yoga and have loved the freedom of being able to try different studios. Tried a class that’s a little too voodoo mama juju? Go somewhere else. Love one particular place? You can stick with it. Want a trial month? Get at my link: http://class.ps/maiA0

What I’m Using: February 2019

So it turns out, by happy accident, all the selected items I’m using this month are clean. But what do I mean by clean? Three of the four products I’m listing here can be found at Whole Foods, so we’ll start with their own Body Care Quality Standards linked here. The other product I’ve chosen is categorized as Clean at Sephora™, which, according to their site, means it’s formulated without the following: Sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, triclocarban.

Do I have time to explain how I know each of these aforementioned ingredients are harmful, and in what quantities, over what length of time? Nope. Would I want to even if I did have the time? Nope. You get to do the work on that. I just get to talk about the stuff I like.

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The everyday lipstick: Kosas Weightless Lip Color in Rosewater

I kept hearing about this brand around the Gram and on IntoTheGloss, and so I hopped over to their Sephora page to look at their oft-praised lipsticks. Lo and behold, there’s a cute lil video that explains how each shade (a seemingly perfect, approachable and ultra-flattering range of just eight) is meant to fit into your beauty wardrobe. And since I’m a sucker for the whole “your lips but better” thing, I went with the first lipstick described- Rosewater. It’s a cool-toned pink nude described as being the lightest of the bunch and kind of like your favorite t-shirt. I’m very familiar with the favorite t-shirt situation because, as my friends can attest, I’ve been wearing the same Bane t-shirt for about seven years now.

The formula is incredibly moisturizing and it’s so natural and wearable that I can treat it like a balm. I’m already eyeing Undone as a potential new addition once I run out of something else.

The obligation: Evanhealy Lavender Facial Tonic Hydrosoul

So I ran out of my Aveda toner and decided to pursue a much greener replacement. And you thought Aveda was green! Did you know Aveda is owned by Esteé Lauder?! And that since that ownership has taken place, that Aveda’s typically “green” character has very much changed? Don’t get me wrong- Aveda’s Dry Remedy line will probably be an on-and-off staple of mine for life (so long as they don’t change the formula, which they’ve made a habit of doing lately), but when I foolishly picked up a bottle of their new Cherry Almond shampoo a couple months ago without first looking at the ingredients, I was so disappointed to find it full of sulfates and all kinds of other ingredients typical of cheap drugstore shampoos.

But none of this really has anything to do with the Evanhealy toner. I’d eyed these Evanhealy “tonic hydrosoul” formulas at Whole Foods but never managed to smell the lavender one. I used an Amazon gift card to make this purchase from home one night and while I originally wanted the rose one, it was out of stock. Lavender is an ingredient I’ve used before and my skin has taken well to it, so I pulled the trigger. The reviews didn’t mention anything odd, though one girl said it smelled “more like vanilla.”

I have never smelled a nastier smell in all of skincare. I nearly gagged. This stuff smells like old milk. Get excited about the exclusively USDA organic lavender all you want- the stuff smells like garbage. And in case you haven’t gotten truly angry at a hypocrite today … I’m continuing to use it here and there. What?! Just because something smells funky to you doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad product! But truthfully, I’m continuing to use it because I wasted half a gift card on this and I now feel obligated as I can’t send it back. As to whether it’s effective or not, well, it’s toner. You pretty much don’t need it anyways. Hooray for that “green” Aveda replacement.

The secret to amazing foundation: Weleda Skin Food

About ten years ago in a fit of hypervigilance, I started “greening” over my entire face and hair routines. I read about three books, researched questionable ingredients for the ones most commonly agreed to be harmful, and scoured natural grocery stores in southern California for the best that natural beauty had to offer. It was around this time that I discovered Weleda Skin Food, an extremely rich moisturizer with a thick base of oils and beeswax meant as a cure-all for dry skin. I couldn’t imagine slathering the stuff on regularly (a little goes a really long way), but what did make sense was mixing it with makeup. Or at the very least, applying and massaging in a thin layer before applying foundation.

I had the fortune of doing a good amount of bridal makeup in my late twenties, and Skin Food was a staple on wedding days. It’s the perfect tool for giving a long-lasting glow under makeup, and everyone’s skin seems to take to it so well. I kind of forgot about Skin Food for a couple years as I experimented with other things, but I picked up a tube last month on Amazon and mixed it with a Lancome Teint Idole stick foundation for this look. How I’d missed the stuff! Oh also, I’m wearing the Kosas Rosewater here!

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The intoxicating fragrance: Nubian Heritage Goat’s Milk and Chai Body Lotion

This is another Whole Foods find I discovered via IntoTheGloss. Putting on lotion is one of the most boring things on Earth to me. You’d think something like data entry would be the height of tedium, not putting on lotion. But for whatever reason, if I have to put it on, I’ve got either do one of those in-shower lotion situations so it can be over quickly, or I’ve got to find a lotion I really love using.

Enter Nubian Heritage. Whenever I’m in Whole Foods I’ll always browse the body care section for anything that looks new and interesting, but lotion’s not typically one of those things. Very natural lotion formulas tend to separate and get messy or not moisturize as well as a couple drugstore lotions I’ve tried (yep- sorry), so I wasn’t sure how effective this stuff would be. But the smell!! Oh, the smell. The Goat’s Milk and Chai version of this lotion smells like … believe it or not … Viktor&Rolf Flowerbomb. You know, probably the world’s best-selling perfume that they pump through the vents at the Crystals shops in Las Vegas? I cover my legs in this lotion and it leaves the most pleasant dry-down on my blankets and sheets. And, what do you know, it’s moisturizes like a pro.

Bonus! The midcentury jazz icon you need to know: Wes Montgomery

You know how you’d be walking around a department store as a kid, listening to that jazz guitar “elevator” music in the background that you thought was cheesy at the time and had no appreciation for? Turns out Wes Montgomery- a sound I know I would’ve written off as “elevator” during childhood- is the moodiest mood of moods, and it’s a sound you could use in your life. If you have no clue where to start, just look up “Bumpin’ on Sunset” on Youtube or something. And because you’ll be hooked from there, you can head straight to Wes Montgomery on Spotify and let him gently accompany you on whatever task is at hand: cooking dinner, folding laundry, writing this post, sitting staring out a window, yelling at your kids, anything. It’ll work.

Scents 2.0: On dudesmells, why I’ll never buy a Marc Jacobs fragrance , and my guiltiest perfume pleasure

So, I had a little extra free time tonight, and instead of watching Honey Boo-Boo and eating a whole bag of Trader Joe’s white popcorn in one sitting, I thought I’d do something barely more productive.  I decided to wander around Nordstrom in search of inspiration for writing.  And my, how the waves came a’crashin!  It seems the first thing I gravitate toward when I wander through a department store is fragrance.  I’m always too worried that I’ll commit to something out of my budget if I look at the clothes a little too long, and as for the makeup department, well, I honestly have everything I need.  But there’s always something new to experience in fragrances; it’s rare that you’ve familiarized yourself with all for them.  And with the turn of the season usually comes a few new gems that designers and fragrance houses have tirelessly worked on to create a completely unique sensation.  Perfume has got to be one of the most fascinating things ever to me.  How something that’s virtually invisible on your skin can manage to evoke such strong emotions amazes me.  I’ve said it before, but while  I know folks who refuse to listen to particular songs because of the memories associated with them, I am one who refuses to come near certain fragrances because of the memories encapsulated in them.  My brain can’t take it.

But anyhow, back to my adventures in wasting time.  I’ve come to realize that I’ve been trying to really “grow up” when it comes to fragrance.  I can’t go for anything too cloyingly sweet anymore, and any kind of cutesy packaging will be enough to detract me from purchasing a fragrance that smells delicious.  The bottle of a perfume that I purchase these days can certainly be feminine, but it cannot be cute.  It cannot have jewel adornments, it cannot be too colorful, and it cannot look as if it belongs on college girl’s nightstand.  Highly mature nightstands only!  I think it comes with my obsession with trying to be a forty-year-old French woman.  For this reason (and practically this reason alone) I shun the fragrances of Juicy Couture, Marc Jacobs, and nearly all celebrity names (because seriously, have you seen celebrity fragrance bottles?  I didn’t realize Katy Perry’s target buyer was a two-year-old who also enjoys the Woggles and a fresh diaper.).  And when it comes to the others like Marc Jacobs, well, his latest called Honey smells undeniably pleasant, but it simply cannot be seen in my home.  But just hide it, you say!  Um, no no.  I absolutely have to display my fragrances.  I don’t know why it’s such a thing with me, but leaving my perfume out on display is just a weird necessity of mine.  It’s something I always envisioned doing once I moved into a place of my own; that and lighting candles when company comes over.  And offering them Cheetos only to be happily turned down so I can have them all for myself.  I think I have this weird fantasy of people smelling my perfume in my bathroom when I’m not looking and thinking, “Ohhhhhh, McKenna, she’s sooooooo mysterious and sophiiiisssssticated.  I’m overwheeeeeelmed by her myyyysssstery.”  And then I offer them more Cheetos.

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See Balenciaga’s Florabotanica located in the center shelf?  Here’s a counterexample of my previous point: the bottle is everything I want in perfume design, but the fragrance is just meh.  Boo.  It’s that perfect blend of awesome bottle and captivating scent that gets me, and it has to be just right.

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I’ve been eyeing the new Marni fragrance up top for some time now, as I’m crazy about the bottle and very intrigued by the scent.  And yet, I’ve debated that the scent itself (a little rosy, a little woodsy) isn’t too friend-friendly as I like to call it.  That’s my other trouble- I always worry about others appreciating my perfume selections.  I mean, a perfume is honestly there for others’ enjoyment as much as yours, no?  It’s one thing to wear too much of a good perfume; that can always be remedied.  But wearing any quantity of a perfume that’s just plain ick?  No fixin’ that, and it can do a disservice to those around you.  Some scents are universally wonderful (and those I patiently search for), but others are very subjectively appreciated.  I’ve literally stopped wearing perfumes that I’ve purchased on account of realizing that they just weren’t friend-friendly enough for my taste.  When you wear a fragrance that others appreciate, they compliment you.  This really is the case.  People consistently ask you what you’re wearing.  I’ve had one or two in my time though where that has not been so, and it has left me wildly insecure.  I hate for this to happen, and so in the past year or so I’ve vowed to take my sweet, sweet time searching for the perfect scent that others will love as much as myself.

I’ll also take a brief moment to address that otherworldly blue and silver bottle you see on the shelf, Thierry Mugler’s Angel.  The concoction is almost unbearably sweet, and yet intoxicating all at once.  You cannot stop smelling it.  It seriously invokes this sense of infinity and overwhelming nostalgia in me.  With notes of dewberries, chocolate, vanilla, caramel, red berries, and honey, I am not kidding- it is cloying, and yet powerful.  I once had a friend who used to wear it all the time, and for that reason alone I cannot wear Angel.  I can’t think of anyone but my old friend when I smell it, but it is a true masterpiece of a scent.

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A brief word on men’s fragrances- WHY DOES THIS NOT HAPPEN NEARLY AS MUCH AS IT NEEDS TO HAPPEN?!   Males (especially the younger set) seriously underestimate the power of a sophisticated fragrance.  A couple spritzes of a Tom Ford something-or-other seems to carry the potential to change Tracy Jordans into Ushers, Judah Friedlanders into Jon Hamms (not that those men can’t clean up, but you get it).  How this all occurs in terms of biochemistry is lost on me, but I’m a believer.  Don’t have the money for something, dudebro?  No worries, but save for something tasteful.  Do not wear Bod.  Do not wear Axe.  If you choose to wear Axe, I will personally pray for ladies to hiss at you as you pass by on the streets.  As wondrous as fragrance may be, do not buy into advertising that says that women will suddenly be happy to serve you as your playthings simply because you bought a cheap, albeit cough-inducing, body spray.  Axe carries the subtlety of a garlic sandwich, and consider it the male counterpart to Mariah Carey’s Lollipop collection.  And yes, if you’ve been searching for the snob in me, you’ve found her.  And yes, I’ve familiarized myself with an Axe fragrance or two so that I may pray for hissing.

But you know, I really shouldn’t talk too much.  I mean, we all tend to have those guilty pleasures when it comes to things like scent.  That ginormous birthday cake-scented candle?  Or the Bath and Body Works four-for-twenty deals, or whatever they are?  You know how it is.  While I dream in my heart of hearts of being a forty-year-old French woman that only wears Jour D’Hermes or a Frederic Malle’ elixir, I know my weakness for Country Apple and Love Spell.  And speaking of Love Spell (WHICH I KNOW YOU KNOW), can we be honest in naming my absolute guiltiest pleasure when it comes to fragrance?  I seriously just spent twenty minutes trashing on Axe for their sex-based advertising (though I do think its problems go beyond just being “sex-based”), and yet I’ll come clean and say that I have major difficulty resisting the following brand when it comes to perfumery, and their entire name is built on sex and the idea of a human “angel” (which would consist of no less than a full C-cup, mile-long legs, a six pack, and hair with extensions).yes

Awwww yeeeeeeee.  You know what I’m talkin’ about!  You’ve stood at this table!  You’ve smelled that smelly stuff!  AND YOU LOVED IT!  You KNOW you loved it.  Victoria’s Secret might carry some of the best fragrances I’ve ever laid my sexy Angel nosehairs on, and their popularity is testament to that.  Fragrances like Dream Angel’s Heavenly and Bombshell have won countless awards, and I’m always impressed by the brand’s ability to tow the line of girly-femme and bold modernity with their scents.  Save for the sticky-sweet teeny-bopper VS Fantasies collection (featuring the likes of Love Spell), nothing here seems to ever veer too far into berry-bubblegum One Direction Our Moment territory, which is exactly what keeps me interested in VS fragrances as a customer.

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The place might be far too pink and sparkly for my taste, but it’s the smelly stuff that keeps me coming back!  Victoria’s Secret Bombshell is my personal favorite, though I have to say, the bottle itself is very, um, French can-can dancer Barbie?  And I’ll admit that there are times when I look at the posters and photos of VS models around the store and think, Good God, Lemon!  You wearing one of these fragrances is like trying to make a cucumber spicy.  It might not work.

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Victoria’s latest offering is called simply that- Victoria by Victoria’s Secret.  And I’ll admit it, I’m smitten.  The scent is DEEEEEEE-lectable.  It’s sparky-sweet and very gourmand, and it reminds me of a more grown-up version of a Harajuku Girls fragrance I used to wear (oh yes, the ones with the little Gwen Stefani dolls on them).  However, LOOK AT THAT FREAK OF A BOTTLE.  The thing makes me gag!  I see poodles and cherries and Louboutins and pearls and nearly EVERY OTHER THING THAT I DO NOT WANT IN MY LIFE (and yes, I do not desire Louboutins; different discussion, different blog).  THE BOTTLE ALONE is stopping me from literally BATHING in this heavenly stuff.  Ughhhhhhhhh.  I know!   If you love how it smells just buy it and stop worrying so much about the stupid packaging!  But for whatever superficial reason, I cannot help but believe that the items I purchase say something about my taste, my aesthetic, my identity.  And I DO NOT identify with that bottle.  Sorry, Vicki.  Lose the bow, and then we can talk.

So anyhow, my trip into the Great Beyond of fragrances this evening turned out to be quite a  … trip.  I’m currently using Flora by Gucci, and while I’m highly satisfied, and I have to say that I’m not much of a signature scent gal so I know that once the Flora runs out I’ll be gettin’ along to the next thing I find (and I’m realizing that sentence just made me sound like some vagabond heartbreaker cowboy).  I’m still searching for my next olfactory love, but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with a shot of some old favorites.

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Lancome rarely does wrong when it comes to perfume, and that pretty little thing sitting in the front is what I was wearing this time last year.  La Vie Est Belle, if we must name it.  That might’ve been the fragrance that earned me the most compliments out of any that I’ve worn.  Shall I return to The Beautiful Life?  Je ne sais pas, mes amis!  Alright, time for bed.  Forty-year-old French woman is now demanding too much attention.  xo, MR

 

 

What great new mystery is THIS?!

I am a Sephora regular.  And by that, I mean that when I present my Sephora “Beauty Insider” card to be swiped with every purchase, the sales clerk always laughs when he or she reads the amount of points that I have.  It’s ridiculous.  And my points have just amassed to such an absurd amount because I never redeem them.  You can always redeem them for travel-size products and the like, but if you know me you know that I hate samples and travel-size items.  There’s just something in my psyche that won’t let me enjoy a beauty product when it isn’t full-size.  I have a hard time explaining it.  So basically, I’ve accumulated a humongous amount of points at Sephora, and to say the least, I am a valued customer.

I don’t know what it is about a place that houses nothing but makeup and beauty products that makes women like myself go off their trolley.  I mean, yes, I am into makeup and beauty products in a way that you could call addictive, but what is it about that stuff, and in particular all that stuff under one roof, that feels so intoxicating?  The appeal of makeup itself is a funny thing.  Sometimes I think we’re attracted to it because it looks like treasure, because it’s shiny and bright and colorful and it fits into the palm of your hand.  I read an Allure article once claiming that some significant percentage of women would actually eat their makeup if they could, because of its “candy-like” appeal.  It’s true though, isn’t it?!  When you see a bright, hot pink lipstick just sitting there under the lights of a vanity mirror, don’t you just sort of want to bite it?  It’s like that scene in Aladdin when Abu decided to give in to temptation and snatch the forbidden treasure, and as he draws closer to that ruby the size of a basketball, what does he do?  He licks his lips!  Makeup is sensual, in that we want to touch it and play with it, see what it does to our face, know how it smells, and apparently we even want to eat it.

The aggregating of all things makeup into one giant spectacle of epicureanism, however, is another matter of genius entirely.  I mean, think about what you see when you go through the beauty department at Nordstrom.  The first thing I notice are the lights.  Everything is just glowing in the beauty department.  New perfume bottles displayed in glass cases with uplighting like they’re museum exhibits, everything laid out on trays with mirrors to look an old-Hollywood kind of expensive, and so much chrome.  It’s either lighting, mirrors, or chrome. And then they inundate you with so many choices that you feel both overwhelmed and excited, but like a kid in a candy store, you don’t want to leave.  You want to taste everything.  I’ve always wanted to just walk out into the middle of the Bloomingdale’s beauty floor, stretch out my arms, turn my gaze up towards that Great Beauty Department Up Yonder, and shout “PAINT ME UNTIL I’M BEYOND RECOGNITION!  TRANSFORM ME!  COVER ME!  I’M YOUUUURRRRSSS!!!”

So, what do you think my reaction was when I received an email announcing the opening of a *second* Sephora location at South Coast Plaza, the mega-luxury-mall that I most frequently frequent?!  You know when you get so excited about something that you almost throw up?  No?  Well, there you go.  And how lucky was I to discover that I’d actually be able to stop by the new store on it’s opening day?

Not that lucky.  There was a line.  Just to get in.

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But don’t worry.  I was in line for maybe seven minutes.  No big deal.  It rightfully served the purpose of crowd control and enabling everyone to have an enjoyable experience.

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It was, admittedly, a bit crowded.  But it certainly wasn’t anywhere near what I’ve seen on a Black Friday.  Totally doable.  And there was the appeal of everything being perfectly clean and complete stocked.  Speaking of completely stocked …

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NARS blushes, relatively untouched by human hands, and almost fully stocked.  Do you ever get the urge to hit one with a little hammer and see it smash?  No?  Well I do.  I could’ve smashed all of ’em.

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A perfectly spotless new Laura Mercier counter.  It’s enough to make me flip my beanie.

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Unused, untouched, pristine NARS lipsticks, just waiting to be chewed on and smeared all over the faces of unattended four-year-olds.  Oh and hey, one of the sample lipsticks is already missing.  Ten bucks says someone lifted it.  I’m not kidding.  It would be a tempting thing to do, considering their mint condition.  I swear it wasn’t me … I swear.  No, really.  It wasn’t me.

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A gorgeous new Yves Saint Laurent display, complete with it’s glorious, chromatic gold packaging.  We often wonder why we’re prone to desiring products like these over, say, Dr. Pepper LipSmackers at the drugstore, and the fact that it feels like you’re dropping a little piece of the Crown Jewels into your purse might have something to do with it.

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An entire section of the store has been carved out just for fragrances.  I appreciated this considering every other location just has perfume and cologne set along the perimeter of the store.

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But you know, it’s not like I haven’t been here before and it’s not like I won’t be back again.  So I’m happy to say that I walked out of the store without a thing (and there’s also the fact that the line to the check-out was maybe twenty minutes long).  It’s funny because I somehow thought that this new location would offer a few different brands than the one across the way at the opposite end of South Coast Plaza, but nope.  It really was just more of the same (not that that’s really a deterrent in the end, anyhow).  And honestly, sometimes it just feels good to say ‘no’ to something that you normally have such a hard time resisting.

As I left, the attendants monitoring the line outside brought in the velvet rope and let all remaining guests in.  The chaos of the opening hours was over.  I guess when it comes down to it, it’s just another Sephora.  But somehow, it still carries the kind of intrigue and enchantment as if it’s something that I’ve never seen before in my entire life.  xo, MR

Some things and some stuff.

This post is going to be about exactly what the title says:  some things and some stuff.

I couldn’t think of some fancy, well-scripted intro where I blather on about the latest this and that without it simply sounding too contrived.  And so, to quote some nonexistent animated persons that I respect and admire deeply, I’m going to write about some things … and some stuff.

1.  I had Justin put some highlights back into my hair.  They’re subtle, ombre’d bits of caramel that provide just enough color to make me feel like summer is just around the corner.  I plan on going progressively lighter, but this was enough for now.  With my single-process hair color, I felt very one-dimensional (duh.) and I just didn’t have as much fun with my hair as I did when it had some lightness to it.  And so, it is with a heavy heart that I admit the possibility that a leeeeeeeeeeetle bit of blonde may help you have a leeeeeeeeetle bit more fun.  But hold your hosses thar!  I didn’t straight-up say that blondes unilaterally have more fun than brunettes.  Why, that would be plumb silly!  But I do believe that I am more satisfied with my hair when it’s provided with some colorful dimension, if only to use my hair as a metaphor for my life and provide the illustration that sometimes we need a little warmth and sunshine to shake us up out of the drab monotony of everyday existence.  This all sounds much better when you say it in the voice of Kenneth Parcell from 30 Rock.

Here is my hair as it was this spring, as colored and cut by Justin Kamm and as styled and photographed by Laura Licata:

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I have to say, it was raining that afternoon.  How Laura managed to keep my hair from turning into this, I’ll never know.

And this is the best picture I have of my new highlights, as well as, ahem, my awesome nephew:

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2.  I graduated with my Master’s degree last Saturday, and received some gifts for doing so (and some may have been for my birthday as well, which was celebrated here).  Some of those gifts included Sephora giftcards, which burn bigger holes in my pockets than lit matches.  Seriously, I don’t know what it is but I will save gifts of cash and any other such cards for weeks or even months, but you designate a mere twenty bucks for me to spend at that magical house of facepaint and I just go cuhhhh-raaayyy-ZAY!  There may not be a thing I need, but I will haul my butt down to the nearest Sephora and just stand in front of the NARS counter for a solid fifteen minutes, looking like a freak, without a single expression on my face, doing absolutely nothing.  I just stare.  And touch EVERYTHING.  I’ll bring my own brushes and by the time I leave that place, it looks like Jackson Pollock came back from the dead and decided he just wanted to do a quick masterpiece on someone’s wrist.  I’m convinced that dead artists would have a thing for me.

3.  If I could look like this as a redhead, that would be an okay thing.

4.  This is what I came back with from my most recent Sephora trip.

Dior

Well, the one on the left I’ve actually had for a couple months, but the one on the right is brand spankin’ new.  I haven’t so much as smudged it with a finger.  It’s called Stylish Move, and I look forward to using the bottom right and top left shades for bridal makeup.  But really, this one was kind of more for me.  Dior 5-Couleur palettes are the holy grail of eyeshadows, and while they are quite expensive (I’ll never purchase one without some kind of gift card), they blend so well, coordinate so perfectly, are almost always universally flattering, and I make long-lasting use of them.  I’m breaking this sucker in tonight, so I’ll have to let you know how it goes (though hopefully not via an obnoxious Instagram selfie, but I have a bad feeling …). Honestly, if you’re not too sure about what eyeshadows are right for you but hate wasting time on a bunch of individual shades (that add up in cost anyhow and can be difficult to store and keep track of), I’d recommend looking into just one of these palettes and letting it be your one-step solution to your whole problem problem.  Might I suggest Rosy Tan or Earth Reflection?

5.  I smell bad and get sweaty.  Sometimes.  Maybe.  If so, it’s because I don’t wear antiperspirant.  And I haven’t done so in years.  Why?  Because what makes antiperspirant do its thing is something called aluminum zirconium trichlorohydrex, a substance linked to early-onset Alzheimer’s as well as breast cancer.  Weird.  And we shave our armpits and layer on the stuff every day.  Weirder.  And our armpits are suspiciously situated quite near our breasts.  Weirdest.   So here’s the thing:  I use deodorant, but I don’t use antiperspirant (and no, there are no “natural” or “safe” kinds of antipersp; the aluminum ingredient is always the active one in antipersp).

For a couple years I used Tom’s of Maine’s Natural Unscented Deodorant Stick and my body adjusted well.  However, a couple months ago, my armpits started experiencing a burning and itching sensation that left my armpits peeling in a big ring and looking as if they’d been out in the sun with no protection.  At first I thought it was razor burn or something, but then I realized that the sensation was returning just minutes after applying the Tom’s.  And to my surprise, I found that many users had experienced the exact same symptoms after years of using Tom’s (Bless you, Internet only sometimes because mostly I hate you!).  Why all this burning and itching only started occurring after years of use, I’ll never know.

Anyhow, I discovered that Tom’s, while being free of aluminum and not an antiperspirant, still contains a chemical called propylene glycol.  PG, as we’ll call it, is meant to keep many body products from either melting or freezing, but it unfortunately also “alters the structure of the skin by allowing chemicals to penetrate deep beneath it while increasing their ability to reach the blood stream”.  Additionally, PG has also been linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, reproductive issues, allergy developments, and other bodily issues (as is the case with many substances in our body products).

So what do I use?

Deo

Desert Essence strikes again!  This brand is seriously so awesome.  My face and now my pits owe so much to it.  You can find Desert Essence’s deodorant at Sprout’s, Whole Foods, or any of your local hippie-dippie hotbeds, and it has no aluminum (and just realize if the product does not say it is an antiperspirant, it doesn’t have aluminum anyhow) nor any propylene glycol.  Excellent.

And now the inevitable question:  But don’t you have B.O.?

Yes.  Not all the time, and not every day, but sometimes, yes.  And do I care?  No.  Let me throw this out there:  Your body, as it naturally functions, is supposed to sweat.  It’s one of the processes that your body uses to eliminate toxins from your body.  Your skin operates like a third kidney, sweating out urea, metals, and minerals.  You get rid of about 30% of bodily wastes through sweating, with the other methods being pooping, peeing, and other glamorous things we talk about on beauty blogs where Kate Beckinsale and perfume are also talked about regularly.  I just said “poop” and “Kate Beckinsale” in the same sentence.

So anyhow, I’m honestly okay with sweating a bit through the day.  It’s literally meant to be.  And I’ll be straight with you- If I’m planning on wearing a delicate fabric or know that I’m going to have an anxious morning (interviews, standing up to rebelling freshmen in their math class, etc.), I do wear the clinical strength antiperspirant.  And I mean, like, the 25% aluminum kind (because if I’m going to wear the stuff, I’m going whole-sweaty-hog).  But I try to severely limit these occurrences.  And I’m trying to bulk up around the freshmen.

Anyhow, that’s my blabbering about some things and some stuff for now.  Until next time, stay sweaty, shop Dior, get your highlights on, and stay poopy Kate Beckinsale!

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xo, MR

And thanks to thegoodhuman.com for the smarts on PG.

Spring Blahs: What’s exciting, what’s frustrating, and what Ben Affleck did for my beauty routine.

It’s been a while since I posted last- over two weeks!  It’s hard to write about something like beauty and hair and the latest trends when you’re not feeling particularly inspired, and I haven’t been so much lately.  I’ve been dealing with a lot of what we’ll just call blah these days, and that’s okay.  Beauty and fashion are constant and probably won’t ever really “go away” so to speak, but sometimes I peek into the lives of people in these industries and it’s like they try to rely on these things to keep calm, stay happy and escape from the reality that life deals them … and that’s called self-medicating.  I don’t want to fall into that cycle, and so I’ve been allowing myself to accept the fact that there are times when I will feel “meh” about hairstyles, colored eyeliner, and CC creams.  There will be times when the things I typically enjoy won’t bring me joy, and that’s okay.  It’s a season, and the joy will come back.

This doesn’t mean, however, that I cannot practice joy in makeup, beauty, and hair.  I still see the goodness in identifying something that I really, really like and expressing how much I like it, even if it feels functional and not as interesting as other times.  And so here, in the midst of blah, I’m listing what I’m currently excited about (or perhaps what I’m not excited about) in beauty.

1.  Early one morning before taking off for teaching, I attempted to do this seemingly easy slicked-back hairstyle.  I thought I had the right product for it, and I had planned to wash my hair that afternoon so it seemed like a good chance to use plenty of gel.  I ended up looking more like a wet Pekingese than anything, or like a cow got really friendly with me and decided to lick me and just not stop until the cow’s tongue turned to sand.  I’ll try it again later when I’m not planning on standing in front of teenagers all day, susceptible to their scathing criticism and underappreciation for the avant-garde in the classroom.  Such peasants, they are.

2.  I’m excited for these.

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Every year, InStyle comes out with an issue that’s just about hair (awesome) and People StyleWatch‘s May issue always features a big beauty section covering skin, makeup, hair, and the works (awesome).  InStyle‘s main edition also features a “Best Beauty Buys” section in it’s May issue (more awesome).  I think I just like pouring over up-close shots of celebrities with inspiring hairstyles and makeup shown in hi-def, and issues like these are loaded with them.  I swear my hair gets healthier and prettier during the week after reading a new magazine like this.  I also swear that the longer you stare at a picture of Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s hair, the more likely you are to grab a curling rod and get to work on your own.  It’s this thing I call “envy”.

3.  I got through my whole bottle of Lancome’s La Vie Est Belle!  It’s a miracle, I tell you!  I never get through a whole bottle of perfume in just one season (because I frequently forget to put it on, in the first place), and I am so proud of myself for finally doing it.  I can officially call that my Fall/Winter 2012/2013 scent and I can now move on to bona fide summer fragrances, like my beloved D&G 3 L’Imperatrice, so I can smell like an unmistakably rich juicebox.

4.  I acquired the supposed shade of lipstick that was used on Jessica Alba in my post here (Avon’s Totally Kissable Lipstick in Lovey Dovey Pink, as my reputable resources tell me), but I proceeded to find that the shade was in fact a frosty pink that had me feeling more like this than anything.  I’ll be needing to do a little more research on that shade of Jessica’s.  I’m not convinced.

5.  I’m not at Coachella looking so impressed with myself that my eyes are rolled into the back of my head.

6.  But I WAS impressed enough with myself AND my hair one night to shamelessly Instagram this selfie.

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But come on, cut me some slack.  My hair was behaving like a voluptuous attention hog, I’d had an extra twenty minutes that evening to do a perfect smoky eye, and my bathroom lighting can get weird to the point where you can leave some photos unfiltered and they’ll still have a nice, flaw-concealing sheen to them.  And lest you believe this is a common occurrence, here I am, as I exist, right now:

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No filter, IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING.  Now if you’d excuse me, IMG Models is calling and I’m replacing Miranda Kerr in the Victoria’s Secret Angels lineup.  This is the face that will crush Gisele.

7.  I had my hair color refreshed recently, and I’ve found that since then my hair texture has slightly changed.  It dries much straighter, and each strand seems, I don’t know, perhaps a bit more wire-y or thick.  My friend said she’s seen it happen particularly with dark shades, and so I’m not really worried.  But I am prepping myself for going lighter in less than a month, I’d say.  I have relatively no layers in my hair at this point (what I’ve wanted- mission accomplished).  It’s weird though, I’ve had layers basically for the last ten years up until now.  I’ve finally grown them all out (and had them cut to one length) and now I’m now sure how I feel about it.

8.  I watched Argo the other night and proceeded to bite off all of my nails until each finger started to burn with pain.  No nail polish now for nearly a month.  Thanks, Ben Affleck.  You and your movies make a crap manicurist.

Alright, I’m done.  Time to go sleep on a satin pillowcase to keep my hair and skin smooth and to prevent split ends and breakage.  Yes, I obsess over breakage even in my sleep.  xo, MR

Explain this to me.

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Ok, so by now you know (that is, you know if you read this thing regularly) that I’m not exactly a fan of the kind of look I like to call “overcooked”.  Overcooked tends to look, well, over done.  And over done tends to look like this.  There are perfectly lacquered lips in some sort of bright shade, no doubt.  There is evident contouring.  There are false eyelashes.  There is plenty of eye makeup besides the false eyelashes.  There is obvious airbrushing and filtering.  There is perfectly curled platinum blonde hair (though they’ve likely strapped on some extensions that don’t need much curling, because extensions tend to have a curly life of their own).  There is an amount of face makeup that I could not even begin to quantify because while the point of airbrushing and filtering is to give the illusion that she has flawless skin, they ironically had to first slather on the pancake frosting MAC Studio Fix (yes, I frequently jab at this stuff) to initially prime the canvas.

I think this kind of look, however, frustrates me so much on Christina because she literally looks like this at every appearance, on every show, in every video, at every concert, in every advertisement.  I have the same beef with Kim Kardashian.  It’s just too much.  And when “too much” is “all the time”, “too much” starts to actually become boring.  When you are literally always looking like you just spent three hours in the makeup chair and an hour or two at the salon getting your hair wound around a curling rod, there’s no room for the really exciting “SHAZAM!” moments.  Doing the whole “long get-ready” process (as I call it) loses its thrill because that is your life every day.  As the years go by, how much fun can there be in getting dolled up when you have always gotten dolled up, every day of your life?!

My favorite parts of my week are always the one or two afternoons of “transformation”.  I won’t have worn a stitch of makeup (probably for lack of time and energy) for a few days, and I’ll come home from work with a couple hours to spare.  I’ll put on a face mask, cover my hair in oils, and watch a couple episodes of I Love Lucy.  I’ll then take a looooong shower where I’ll wash my hair (every fourth day), and leave conditioner in it as I do the rest of my shower stuff.  Then, if I have the energy, I’ll blow out my hair or I’ll just let it air-dry if I’m feeling lazy (which is most of the time), and I’ll go back an hour later and fix any kinks with a curling rod.  I’ll then slather on my moisturizer and apply as much or as little makeup as I like.  This is my happy place.

But what makes this my happy place is that I don’t get to indulge in it too frequently.  I look forward to it, and I savor it.  There are so many days in between where I smell, have bags under my eyes and un-groomed brows, and my hair is just … there.  I’ll just manage to get moisturizer on and that’ll be it for the day.  And while this frequently occurs out of laziness, I’ve also come to realize that I want to be able to take my time.  I hate rushing a process that I absolutely love, and so I’m finding that when I don’t have enough time to just relax and enjoy getting ready, I’d rather not “get ready” at all.  It’s the first clothes I can find, throwing my hair up or putting on a hat, applying lip balm, and I’m done.  I’d rather not even try than rush myself and not put real thought into my hair and makeup.

Maybe Christina gets to look so dolled up all the time because it’s part of her job.  And she has a crew of twenty ready to make it happen for her at a moment’s notice.  But regardless, I just know that I never want “dolled up” to be the regular for me.  At least, not the Christina kind of dolled up.  xo, MR

P.S.  Oh, and can someone also please explain the phrase “Sometimes all you need is red” to me?  I mean, really.  People gathered around a little conference table and thought of that.  And they thought it made sense, or that it was enticing.  Red food dye?  Red hair?  Red hot sauce?  Taylor Swift’s new album?  Now, if it said, “Sometimes all you need are those red Flamin’ Hot Cheetos”, I’d get it.  I’d get it.

The carrot.

What do you do to motivate yourself through a Master’s course where you are composing the first parts of your thesis in education? What do you do to motivate yourself through a course that has caused you to miss two awesome birthday parties (one with a 1920s-40s theme … I can’t even think about it, I had my outfit all planned out and everything), as well as spend countless hours frying your brain in front of a computer screen doing …… research?

You employ the rewards system, of course!

When I’ve got such a task ahead of me, I’ve found that the easiest way to help myself through it is to put a little something at the finish line so that it’s waiting for me when I, um, finish. It could be anything. Sometimes it’s not even a thing, sometimes it’s just an event to look forward to. However, in this case my reward at the end of the finish line came in the form of the newest Lancome fragrance- La vie est belle

I bought this baby a couple months ago in a manner not unlike how most of my fragrance purchases go down. I smelled it at Ulta one day and I literally could not … get it … out of … my brain. It was just so warm and sweet, like a delicious vanilla musk. I instantly knew that this would be my scent of Fall 2012. “But so soon?!” I asked myself, in the sweltering heat of early August. It just seemed like a little too much instant gratification to have it right then, and I had two perfumes that I was trying to get through anyhow! So I made a deal with myself- finish your next course for your MA (by October), and then you can open it. And in the meantime, finish one of your other perfumes.

Well, the coursework is finished as of tonight (finished early!) and I’m aaaaalllmost done with my Givenchy Ange’ ou Demon Le Secret. So, I’m not quite ready for it yet, but the plan is to unleash The Beautiful Life at the commencement of October. So be warned- if you’re around me at all this week I’m likely to be drenched in Ange’. I gotta make room!

For now, here is the most extravagant, hilarious fragrance commercial ever created, just for this “groundbreaking” perfume I’m about to bathe in. Man, is there anything better than a ten-trillion-dollar fragrance commercial? Well, maybe this.


xo, MR