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minor musings, deep contemplations, raves and reviews


Pharmacie delivery

This is what my bedroom shelf looks like thanks to an over-zealous (much appreciated) mother-in-law. I eagerly await using old favorites and testing new French pharmacie products and will report back post-haste! 

further down the rabbit hole // discovering niche fragrances

In this post I mentioned some fragrances on my vanity and while not entirely exclusive they were leading me down a path of discovery. I took note of what I coudn't get enough of; certain men's fragrances that leaned unisex (Givenchy Pi and Rochas Man), candles (diptyque Opopanax & Oliban), amber notes (Prada Intense EDP) and resin, resin, resin. I realized I don't so much want to smell 'good' as smell a memory, or a future possibility. I want olfactive travel. One of my deepest pleasures is to sit in a dank, mysterious church: Ireland, Wales, England, France and Israel all providing impeccable options. On the hunt for a specific smell to match that moment I unearthed Comme des Garçons Avignon, from their incense series.

It evokes the medieval city in the south of France and embodies Catholicism entirely. My preferred era, this could be the vehicle to get away when I cannot. It's smoky, resinous, dark, mysterious and eyes closed, you're in mass. I noted the frankincense and myrrh, the balsamic vanilla, and realized how polarizing this scent can be. Definitely not a daily spray, instead a respite. Extremely powerful and utterly personal. 
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem//cDg Avignon smells exactly like this place

Searching for less devisive possibilities I recalled what I love most about my favorite diptyque candles; resin. Opopanax uses its namesake from Persian bushes and Oliban from olibanum, or frankincense. I went in search of these trends on luckyscent.com, a site speciaizing in uncommon and superior fragrances. I took samples of By Kilian Sweet Redemption, diptyque Eau Lente and Les Néréides Opopanax based on recommendations from inputs of what I like and already own.

.7mL samples of resin expertise

When reading the explanations of these choices, I inevitably had to look up some descriptives and confirmed I was on the right path; benzoin resin, the sap from styrax trees, was a commonality in my choices.
                                                                                                        sumatra benzoin (styrax)

It's also the basis of my favorite house 'incense' Papier d'Armenie, a product I started buying in French pharmacies. Created more than 120 years ago, its booklet contains detachable strips of brown perfumed paper used for scenting or cleansing the air.


Les Néréides Opoponax is golden and ambery vanilla resin, it was my immediate favorite out of the 3 samples. It's reminiscent of Givenchy's Pi only with better quality ingredients (presumably the oil to alcohol ratio). By Kilian's Sweet Redemption immediately reminded me of my other scent by the house, Love except with a heavy orange blossom top note and something very rubbery and synthetic I can't get past; at any rate too gourmand for where I want this scent expedition to go. diptyque's Eau Lente is initially the other side of oriental, spicy with its cinnamon, clove and possibly anise, but thankfully this passes rather quickly and it becomes softer, magical and addictive, warm and totally opopanax. I think it's more unisex than the Les Néréides and I'm actually glad about that. I'll have to do more wear time testing to see which I prefer. 

Fall In, New Out

It's been an interesting transition into early fall. The approach of less is more and keeping a suspicious hand on my wallet are translating into less in and different approaches. I have to love what I'm about to buy. As in, I have to already have a major crush on it with the certainty it will turn into full bloom infatuation when said object is in frequent use (and a guarantee it will be used frequently). Gone are passing whims (except for chapstick) and trendy pulls. I am getting a thrill out of saying 'no' and the conversion from consumer to connoisseur is quicker than one might expect. My advanced European discrimination has already blown through cosmetics, well into hair and skin care and is passing onto groceries and other over abundant choices, big and small. Turning something away is the real power of choice; perhaps why exercising it becomes addictive. Instead of the thrill of the buy and the rush of the new, it's the dependence on something that makes all others useless and the freedom from choice that hones a good eye. It equals absolutely loving everything you have without regret regardless of price or lengths to obtain it, in other words material destiny. I'm not looking for a bargain, buying something just because it's a good price or using procurement for its temporary sensation. 

A natural side effect of this willful abstinence is simplicity and all its rewards; I know what I'll bring in a rush, I know what I'll want, what I'll use and there's not regret or after thought. Just satisfaction again and a sweet vindication that I trumped consumerism. I've gone from trying to do it all, read it all, use it all, need it all, to the unsaid French motto; 'why do today , what you can do tomorrow?' I could layer 7 products on my skin and rotate potions to target all cures, instead I'm cleansing and hydrating- and shock; my skin is self-regulating. I'd love to use a higher SPF (more than likely I'll keep getting it from foundation), should be targeting pore size and lightening UV damage, yet day after day, I find myself enjoying the freedom from stringency. It echoes days when I didn't take beauty so seriously and perhaps the lack of brooding was the key to youth. 

good things come in NUXE packages

A package from Paris is always the best; it undoubtedly would contain new mags, pharmacie products, some clothes for ma petite, espresso and some other random necessities. But sometimes I just can't wait- even despite the crossover price raping (French products sold in US, if at all, are usually double to triple the cost). One of my favorite pharma brands I regularly use is NUXE (nature + luxe), a botanical line without the use of parabens or animal derivitives. But this isn't a run-of-the-mill hippie line spewing organic marketing that seem to be so ubiqutious these days; luxury is part of the name and it is there in texture, scent and packaging. While La Roche-Posay tends to be my workhorse, NUXE is my effective indulgence. There are several products I use that have become staples, which influence me to try new things from the label. I recently purchased some items that I knew wouldn't be regretted. I ordered my package on Saturday June 23rd so the order wasn't processed until Monday the 25th, and I received it the 30th, three days ahead of schedule. Pretty nice for a brand's personal website (which tend to be infinitely slower than larger .coms) where standard free shipping was applied.

Here was the item I mainly placed the order for; a kit of my now essentials, Crème Fraîche de Beauté Suractivée, Huile Prodigieuse , Huile Prodigieuse OR and Eau Démaquillante Micellaire.


I love the idea of having backup travel-sized version of my favorites, namely the facial moisturizer and the oil. It didn't hurt of course that my order came filled with samples.


This was my free gift offered for spending over $50USD. A travel pouch and another mini oil (this time the classic version) and a mini body lotion from the new body line. I rounded out my order with a gloss formula I love- way more moisturizing than any gloss I've ever tried, almost like a lip butter. Definitely a lip treatment product. I already had a different color in the 4 shade line and this translucent shade was perfect for everyday. Smells like a very light tropical juice, not at all sickening.


This really feels balmy and high-end. It also happens to be universally flattering and a perfect everyday shade. I really questioned my Chanel glosses after this. Seriously. Why do I pay $30+ for sticky, short lived products that do nothing for the condition of my lips? Sure the CC's help, the small tingle of excitement when you see it in your pouch, and even the shades can be worthwhile. But if we're talking dependable, effortless and beneficial, then there's no comparison. And additionally, for me, this brand has strong memories of my pharmacy excitement while living in Paris. Stateside, it feels like a personal treasure.


A mini body scrub, firming body cream and another sample of the body lotion were also added, without my knowledge! Everything came wrapped in forest green tissue paper with a charming note and presented in this box:


And I refused to check prices for these products on my regular Belgium-based pharmacie website-- that would be too painful to bear. These were pleasure purchases, end of. They've already all been opened and in rotation, or stored away for upcoming travels. Luxurious, useful and well-loved; the best kind of spontaneous indulgence.

 

You've been forewarned!

I've been a reader/follower of Paula Begoun's beauty advice since my BF and i lugged around one of her volumes of Don't Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me; this was approximately 10 years ago. If you're familiar, the little smiley faces next to one of your favorite products can make your heart skip a beat; thank goodness she likes something!! It becomes clear that her stringent, not easily won over opinions can be tough on the average beauty lover, there are many a thing that she calls out as ludicrous, false marketing and a big fat waste of money. Likely 75% of what you own in fact. Yet there are some major key lessons I've learned from Paula, aka the Cosmetics Cop, so without further ado, here goes. You've been forewarned that what you thought about beauty, and specifically looking in your beauty stash on a daily basis will further fill you with questions of delusion.

 

1. Jar packaging is the devil's design. As standard and customary it is to see a jar of night cream on a vanity, it's a beauty oxymoron. Everything that is claimed about that product (and usually those claims are impossible anyway) would be negated shortly after exposure to air and light. That designer eye and face cream with the gorgeous packaging? Nothing more than a topical moisturizer and even potentially damaging after those ingredients have oxidized. It's also a breeding ground for bacteria (who's really using a sterile applicator when they've got 10 to be out the door?!).

2. An ingredient's pH must be respected or the claims are impossible. Think that do-it-all product is a cure all? Likely, it's not even effective for it's purpose if the pH is not low or high enough, especially when it comes to exfoliation. Furthermore, key ingredients function best at different pH levels, so if a product has multiple claims, chances are it's just not possible!

3. Alcohol is damaging to skin and should never be used, no matter the skin type. Seeing how this is usually the second or third ingredient in most skincare products, including luxury ones, there goes half the market! That can be both good and bad when it comes to weeding out what works and what possibly can't. That includes products marketed for oily skin- over drying your skin will only cause more oil production, remember, so even for that tight feeling some love, it's a no-go. What's more, alcohol causes the breakdown of collagen in the skin, so even if you feel no immediate damage or discomfort it's working at a level that will effect you for years to come. This will negate 99% of toners out there, as well as moisturizers and treatment products.

4. Fragrance is futile. Fragrance like alcohol causes irritation, inflammation and collagen breakdown evident and invisible, now and future. It's pleasant and preferable when applying beauty products and perhaps adds to the ritual, but in the end unless it's from very specific natural sources, it's a major detriment.

5. SPF is the only proven anti-aging product. While technology continues to advance each and every day, it's usually keen marketing that does so more. Ads are photoshopped and claims can be made without any independent scientific research and just a little asterisk to let you know that only 20 women actually saw a 55% improvement in 3 weeks testing time. Wow, shiver me timbers. Truth is, there are well documented components to a healthy skin care routine; major players that skin needs to function at it's best and as far as anti-aging goes, yes there are components to making skin behave younger, but to truly prevent further damage, it's all about blocking the effects of UVA and UVB radiation. A miracle cure all to topically erase things, which are working well below the surface are usually laughable, especially when combined with the paltry evidence that is usually paid for by a lab owned by the mother company. Paula begs the question; if this is truly the latest and greatest, why do you still have 20 similar products in your line Lancome, Estee Lauder, Clarins, et al. (trust me that et al. is very long)? It's a little insulting to someone even remotely versed in beauty or with a shred of common sense to believe that LR 34897 uniquely owned and created by L'Oreal is the fountain of youth (not to mention all the beauty mergers that render said exclusivity void). Ask yourself this; how much turnover is there usually from one miracle product to the next, every 6 months? Every season? And each time the new product is better than the last; just test a sales associate at a beauty counter and even they will get tripped up and start to contradict themselves. It's impossibly over saturated. And last time I checked; we're not all glowing beauties; we're actually more paranoid about our looks then we were 3 years ago, so what gives?!

--------ok, here is where you've probably had that nagging sense; is this all a giant conspiracy? am i being played? are major luxury conglomerates playing on my insecurities of beauty, esteem and youth? you might be on to something...----------

6. Skin needs a consistent regime to see results (*varying according to symptoms and seasons). Trying a new it product every other week will never come close to bringing results other than the placebo effect. New products always change our lives until that optimism wears off. There is no such thing as a quick fix when it comes to skin, cells need to turnover, exfoliation and purging need to take place. And more highly likely, an internal change needs to too; sleep, hydration and diet are usually far overlooked when it comes to skin's appearance. Sample products have become the bane of my existence; who doesn't want to try something new? They're everywhere and I can't avoid them! But I constantly have to remind myself: FOCUS!!  If there isn't a void in my regime, stop snooping! Less is sometimes way more. Your skin doesn't need constant introductions and your face really shouldn't be an experiment. If you don't have a specific, identified need for a particular product there is no use adding something just to see what happens or because other people who use it said it works for them. A basic order for day & night à la Paula looks like this (and it's helped me tremendously to tailor and weed out excessive products so there's no surplus):

DAY:

Cleanse>Tone>Exfoliate>Treatment>+MoisturizeSPF

NIGHT:

Cleanse>Tone>Exfoliate>Treatment>Moisturize

If it doesn't fit into one of these categories, and in this particular order, chances are it's frivolous, redundant and even excessive for your skin. Doubly exfoliating for example, can be harmful as can be leaving out the skin's demand for antioxidants and other cell beneficial ingredients that make your skin behave better and more youthful. Moisturizing with say a serum, before using your exfoliating product would be wasteful as well since whatever is in contact with your skin the closest will have the primary action.

7. Order is paramount. If present, fragrance and preservatives greatly effect the quantity and potency of ingredients listed below them. It's like a beauty brick wall. Additionally that key ingredient that's touted as the savior of the product? If it's at the end of the list, it's virtually not there at all.

 

These are just some of the tenets I've embraced thanks to Paula Begoun. There's actually a lot more; learning about ingredients and what's good and bad for all skin types, learning why skin behaves the way it does and what is and isn't possible to change are just a few more. It's not easy having your beauty fantasies killed, but then again once we can all accept that the $35 billion dollar beauty industry has it's own incentives and profits to gain, maybe we can make our own.

Vanities on the Vanity

Here's my tray of beauty; a very Alice-In-Wonderland, edited version of the desk I'd love to have. It resides on a shelf next to my bed that is becoming more and more within arms reach for my daughter who gleefully swatches compacts and smushes the Burberry kabuki brush no matter where or how I hide it. It's my mini department store; an escape of beauty memories.

It mainly consists of a floral breakfast-in-bed tray and a plastic organizer; small space, only the best of the best make it on here. It's not necessarily where I put on my daily face, that's comes from the medicine cabinet in the bathroom, yet I am here for hair clips, perfume and some 'color' when I do use it. My daughter has upgraded straight from a detangling comb to my Mason Pearson, so at least someone gets their glossy hair from it (I'm a chemically altered wanna-be blonde, I don't know what gloss looks like anymore).

In line with the limited space, only mini perfumes sleep here and a ToykoMilk scent I love that I bought when I moved to U.S. (so it's got excited immigrant memories attached to it). I'm tough on perfume; it's got to have either good or no memories connected to it (I don't usually like to go back in scent memory time) and it's got to last (which I imagine most people want as well, but then that negates more than half of the perfume world as the ingredients are usually shit nowadays) and it has to make me feel like somebody (not as is in the opposite of a loser, more like a persona).

Balenciaga L'Essence, Prada EDP Intense, Prada Eau D'Iris, TokyoMilk French Kiss . I absolutely love the Balenciaga and wish it lasted longer, I'm hoping if I wait it out, they'll make a concentrated version (the EDP is still not lasting enough for me, but is a scent I would purchase). The French Kiss is a gourmand that is not nauseating and lasts until the next day. Prada EDP Intense is dead sexy; masculine and oriental and I just want to live in that world, wherever it is. There is a Kilian purse spray (the black lacquered Versace-esqe atomizer in the rear) on this tray as well, that sometimes has a different decant in it.

Turquoise ring from Bali, Alexandre de Paris barrettes, Dior 'Oui' ring, O Fée black pearl studs

And of course nightly cream and morning deo...

daily necessities

Someday this baby will evolve into a proper table with a heavy mirror and seat, until then ...

Money well re-spent

I had done a few online orders at Sephora.com with various coupons and discount codes over the past few months. Unfortunately almost all of what I bought was either forced (to get free shipping) or didn't work out. Returning to Sephora.com in US is slightly hellish. You send back your goods (i even included my free samples and gifts for good measure) to an address without tracking of any kind. You don't receive a confirmation email when it's received and you can't find the status of said return for 3-4 weeks; that's an eternity for me and kind of shameful for US customer service. I'd call here and there and couldn't even be told if it was still received; the horror that $80+ of goods might be lost somewhere... Lo and behold I get an email 27 days after it was sent to tell me I was issued an online store credit. Woefully I'd lost the discount code and coupon of course. But I spent that sucker good this time; necessary nail care and what I hope to be my everyday, easy-as-pie face routine.

Express polish remover, brush-on cuticle oil, polish drying drops, concealer pencil, tinted moisturizer and radiant primer seem unreturnable. Faster manicures and natural, glowing skin? Money well re-spent.

Going, going gone; a story of going blonde.

i've been gone for awhile and in the process ...

i've always loved being a dark- haired girl. almost black/blue-black for a good part of 10 years. i did it myself and dreamed of days having someone do it for me (Even if it was just a root touch-up). you see i was blessed with the early grey gene and it was just always easier to do box color even if it meant sometimes 1x per month with the white just so obvious against the black. i toyed with 'going blonde' for a decade but it seemed 1. not me 2. too damaging 3. too expensive.

my best friend said every girl needs to be blonde once in her life and this kept ringing in my head along with the line 'there's a shade of blond for everyone'. starting this past June, i took the plunge. i was just SO tired of my hair. i knew i'd risk hating it, or what's worse totally regretting the damage i'd do to it, but we always want what we don't have and i just had to get it out of my system sooner or later. over the process of 3 majorly expensive salon visits i started by toning my hair and then gradually adding some warmth and daresay blonder pieces. it all looked good until the 3rd visit. Certain sections were getting so blonde and there was still residual black/dark brown underneath and here and there. Up until this point i wasn't willing to bleach my hair or do a full head. But it soon became apparent that my 'look' was getting a bit jumbled. i had seen and fallen in love with an ombre technique (often referred to as Balayage); a style that gradually gets lighter or darker, where the effect sees to be painted on. the best of both worlds, no?! this technique isn't easy apparently; in fact it's quite tricky to walk away without a clear lineation of one color to the next. ultimately my 3rd visit at unnamed overpriced salon was leaving me uninspired and with pangs of regret for starting this journey. i was apprehensive about going further. no hair inspiration around- i nay sayed all the fashion pics as just not possible in the real world. (indeed many a stylist will tell you they know what you're looking for and ATTEMPT to do it; execution is another matter.)

Stage 1

stage 2

 

 

now let's talk damage. hello dull. hello crunchy. hello losing hair and tangles. goodbye shine and manageablity. goodbye at-home blowouts, good bye quasi-trichophilia.

i found myself at once searching for every hair potion and salve imaginable. i simulataneously needed shine, moisture, protein, flexibility and a serious cut. the lesser of many evils, i decided a sufficient trim would make things more workable. since unmentioned salon has a policy of different stylists for cuts and color, i decided to just go elsewhere if i'd be starting off with someone new anyway. a very recommended, charming and more personal salon hit the spot and with the last appointment of the same day open, i took it as a sign of fate. without a picture to go by (shudder the thought) i described in great detail my hair journey up to how i was willing to loose several inches of preciously grown hair. amazingly i got a shaggy cut i'd wanted for years and was never able to receive both here and in France (and Ireland as a matter of fact). Even with very specific instruction and photos, I was never before close to satisfied. here i got the medium-length hair with layers and style i had wanted; something that looked good curly and straight and air dryed. looking back on that photo now it's ironic that she has the same dark-topped ombre color that i was currently searching for.

the elusive cut

my new stylist talked about the vision for my future color and was reticent to tell me the ultimo premium color job that cost me almost 4 digits wasn't très professional. a mirror to the back of my head left me aghast. unless i had kept my hair long and one length, any cut would have shown i was still severely dark underneath. (note to old stylist traveling through internet infinity; what were you doing for 14+ hours on my hair if you 'missed' such a region that could be only be best described as THE WHOLE BACK OF MY HEAD??!) . not to worry; when i, if i, decided to go further it could be fixed by get this; painting on the color where it needs to go. clever, eh (thank the French for inventing this technique in the 70's)?! no need for a head of foil and a silly dryer to make it appear to be in the process of something. technology, amazing.

anywho. cut to 1, that's (one) as in 'une', or sometimes referred to as uno, appointment later (granted hair was pre-lightened, although not BACK OF HEAD apparently) i walked away with ombre hair. voilà. oh and p.s. it wasn't damaged; it was healthier. whoa, hold on, could it be i was previously paying for the re-construction of the spa upstairs and the lime-flavored water instead of the service all those times i shelled out on single, double and color corrective processes?! besides the overinflated tips i had to leave according to the total and the overpriced hair care products recommended to me to fix the hair that was just damaged... well there goes judging a salon by it's cover.

after last visit

however, i still need to take precious care of said newly acquired golden locks- hot oil treatments (prefer coconut), protein masks and purple shampoo are still de rigeur. but it's to take care of the hair i actually like. what's more, i can actually touch up myself at home; sacre bleu, how!? because my roots are now properly dark due to the correct execution of an ombre color job. i can buy a chocolate boxed color and touch up them greys and move the blond up more in several months (kind of like a tetris game). or i can just have a root job done, when i go back to the salon in a month and want to be dark again . :) fickle is the world of beauty-

la vie en orange

Perhaps more so than any other shade, orange has my heart this summer.

American Apparel Neon Orange


Lippmann Lara's Theme (looks redder than real life here)

à bientôt!

Duocolor manicures

Sometimes I just can't make up my mind as to which color to wear, especially when there are several new additions! Or in this case, things just seem to complement each other....

Here we have Lippmann's I Know What Boys Like on the first two fingers and Lippmann's Between The Sheets on the other with a topcoat of KIKO's #309.

 

On the other hand was Lippmann's Call Me Irresponsible and Yellow Brick Road (again with KIKO topcoat).

Hey, after all, I've gotta get the crazy colors out of my system before fall approaches! (Case in point; Lippmann's new fall collection is pretty somber...)

à bientôt!