Friday, March 19, 2010

Fragrance Bouquet Loves: Natural Berry Lips

It’s been a while since we’ve had a “Fragrance Bouquet Loves…” feature, but now that the spring seems to have finally come, I can’t resist writing about one of my favorite makeup looks. The bright glare of the sun and its warmth is not only reflected in our collective moods, but also in our looks: Gone are the heavy clothes and fabrics, gone are the sensible shoes, gone the strict up-dos. Importantly, gone also are the make-up styles we’ve favored all winter: It’s bye-bye to Chanel’s Noirs Obscurs (did you buy into these LE’s? I went for Maniac), bye-bye to serious browns and bye-bye to anything that looks heavy and overly done. It’s spring and fresh is the word.

Fragrance Bouquet Looooves natural lips for spring and summer. What do you think of when you hear the words ‘natural lips’? The past decade beauty magazines have conditioned us to mentally associate natural lips with nude lips, but even publications fiercely devoted to the nude lip look are starting to revoke: The word is finally out that what looks good on camera and on the catwalk simply doesn’t translate as successfully in real life, with most faces ending up looking washed-out and pale. Let’s face it: Natural has more to do with shades of pink than with shades of beige!

My own personal favorites when it comes to natural looking lips are the shades mimicking soft, yet vibrant berry colors. The idea should be your lips but better, as trite and overused as that phrase might sound. Still, that’s easier said than done. A shade that looks perfectly natural in the tube might end up looking gaudy on the lips (and as one who refuses to test used lipsticks on the make-up counter, I can tell you that my lipstick drawer is filled with such failed purchases). Okay, so we are looking for that elusive “your lips but better” look, but where can we find it and what exactly does it look like? Let’s take a look at the perfect embodiment of the look, modeled by the woman who champions and wears the look best, Giselle B√ľndchen. In fact, this whole post is inspired by her: I was mesmerized by her effortless look a couple of years ago and have been copying it ever since.

As you see, Giselle ROCKS this look, seemingly having found the perfect shade that accentuates her lips by flatteringly enhancing the color, yet appearing completely effortless, as though she is not wearing any lipstick at all. Aside from finding the all-important shade, the other key in achieving this look is texture: Lipgloss can look goopy and even the finest layer will attract too much attention due to its glassy shine. Anything matte or overly opaque on the other hand will ruin the natural effect of your own lips showing through, precisely what we want to avoid. The texture needs to be lightly sheer yet offer enough pigment to give that erotic flush of color that will enhance your own. Well, look no further than MAC’s Lustre finish line of lipsticks for both the perfect shade and texture. The absolute best one is Rue d’Bois - a supremely natural looking sheer midtone pink. It contains pearlized pigment, but it is so finely milled that the result on the lips is just beautiful natural-looking shine without a single hint of flashy glitter. Seriously this is the best natural looking, your-lips-but-better berry-pink that I’ve ever laid my hands on! It is HIGHLY recommended. Moreover the pearlized pigment is multidimensional and should suit all skin tones. Unfortunately this perfect shade was (at least until two years ago) only available in Europe, Middle East, Africa and India. I am not sure if it is now available in the USA as well. In the event that it is not, please give the second best choice a try: Naked Paris - another sheer lustre with finely milled pearlized pigment. This one is also a beautiful pink tone but contains slightly darker brown-pink undertones so it is not my first choice. Fair-skinned beauties who can’t find Rue d’Bois in the USA might also want to give Radiccio a try (my third choice). This is a sheer mauve-y berry color which will work best for those who have really fair skin with blue undertones as its tone is blue-based. Beauties with fair skin which has yellow undertones (or olive-skinned beauties) might also want to check out Avon’s Frozen Rose. This is an amazingly beautiful conditioning sheer with enough pigment to give that desired ‘oomph’! It is rather more flashy and thus a little less barely-there than the MACs, but it still very natural looking. It has a beautiful, subtle gold sheen.

Finish the Look: Flushed cheeks are the perfect compliment for this look. Use a cream blush, as this will suit the look best, by allowing your skin to show through and keeping the natural appearance intact (powder blush can diminish the dewy appearance we’re looking for). Do as Giselle and subtly flush the arc that passes over the nose as well, mimicking the look you’d get if you’d spent the day in the sun. Load the lashes with mascara and you’re done! If you must use coverage for your skin, go for a tinted cream and only apply on areas that truly need it, allowing your natural skin beauty to show through.

Full Lips: If you’re missing your lipliner then I’ve one last tip for you. Enhance the cupid’s mound (the slightly plumper fine area lining your cupid’s bow and whole upper lip) with some shimmer. This enhances the plumpness of that area which is a sign of youth and as such sends an erotic signal. You need to be very discreet and careful when doing this however. For daytime I suggest carefully lining just outside your lips with a very fine layer of pearly-white lip-balm and then proceeding with the application of your lipstick (Labello’s Pearl & Shine works well, as do many of the white pearl conditioning lipsticks sold by many of the major cosmetics brands). If you are going to be indoors or in the afternoon and evening you can use something slightly more daring. Take a fine lip-brush (I like Shu Uemura’s 6M Sable), and dip it in a pearly-white shadow. Then carefully draw a very fine line outside your upper lip. The most pigment should be applied on the center and above the cupid’s bow, simply drawing out into a fading thinner line outwards. Finish may be cream or powder. Do not draw into your actual lips at all, as this will make them smaller instead of bigger!

Images:, (Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images),

Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy International Women’s Day

“Take a good look around you” the professor’s voice boomed in the cavernous amphitheater, awash with 700 faces expectantly looking back at him. “No, look around you”, he persisted. Hesitantly we looked at each other, not knowing what to expect. “Most of you are women”, he continued. “Psychology is a study favored by women. And yet, when the time comes for a PhD, statistics will be against you. Based on your numbers, most PhD positions should be acquired by women. But when the time comes, they will be given to your few fellow male students remaining.” The professor was not trying to crush our dreams and hopes; he was just talking numbers.

Today we celebrate women’s day. But what have we really achieved? For this topic, so close to my heart, I wish I could write a thoughtful article to express all that I want today. Yet with a deadline for yet another draft for my thesis looming for tomorrow, all I can do is to offer a few short thoughts, or rather pleas, lacking in eloquence but heartfelt nonetheless.

Please remember today, that even though we have achieved a spot in the workplace, we’ve only managed to climb only as high as middle-management while upper middle-management and high management positions are still dominated by men. The glass ceiling is still there, as impenetrable as ever. Please remember, that even though we’ve managed to narrow the pay gap, we haven’t even come close to bridging it, with pay differences ranging from 10 to more than 40 percent. And yes, these statistics refer to Western societies. Please remember that when a woman does manage to attain a managerial position, she will often be demonized and hated, not only by her male but also her female colleagues. Inciting hatred, she will be labeled anything from “Dragon” to “Iron-Lady”. Please remember that women are still passed over for promotions and partnerships, even when they have equal or better skills and work history than men.

Lastly, perhaps most importantly, please remember to be kind. Be kind to the woman next to you. If we continue to be divided, we’ll always be conquered. I am proud to be studying under the team of researchers who showed, in 2004, that in our struggle to stand out, in our desperate fight to claim a better future for ourselves as individuals, we tend to try to dissociate and differentiate ourselves so much from our fellow women that we actually end up stereotyping and encumbering our fellow women even more than men do. Don’t let this be yet another weapon that will be used against us. If you take anything from this rushed, yet heartfelt post of mine, please take this with you: Be kind to your fellow woman. Help her achieve her goals. Please remember, that true change is yet to come. We’ve got to achieve it together.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Kabuki by Tokyo Milk : Perfume Review

Tokyo Milk, just like Bloom Essentials Archive and Lollia is a line created by Margot Elena Wells. Although Lollia, with its romantic feminine appeal already found considerable success (it made it twice in the list of Oprah’s favorite things and was claimed to be one of her favorite gift ideas), it was with her latest line, Tokyo Milk, that Margot Elena piqued the interest and won the hearts of perfume lovers. And that’s no surprise: unlike the dainty, accessible image of Lolia and its focus on floral and fruity notes, Tokyo Milk’s image is edgy and esoteric, a niche curiosity. The scents too have turned quirkier, with notes such as tobacco, woods, teas and spices enhancing the modern blends with an idiosyncratic charm that’s most definitely hard to resist for those of us always on the lookout for something new and fresh to smell.

I’ve smelled about half of the line’s fragrances and they have all, without exception, been extremely gregarious and brash, bringing their message across at full steam. Subtlety and balance is clearly not something that is being aimed for with this line, but while this might sound like harsh critique, it is actually not meant that way: Tokyo Milk’s perfumes have a particular kind of charm and these characteristics seem intended, an attitude that seems to say “I don’t take myself too seriously, but I am terribly charming, aren’t I? Go on then, buy me for a bit of fun, won’t you?”. Given their character, their image and their cheeky charisma, I get the feeling that while many of these have the potential to be hits with older perfume lovers as well (e.g., Poe’s Tobacco for tobacco lovers/collectors), the line will, as a general rule, be more popular with the younger crowd.

Unfortunately, while these are relatively cheap in the USA (either in boutiques where they are sold or via e-tailers), they are quite hard to find here in Europe and more extravagantly priced to boot. I was lucky enough to come across a big sale while in London this past summer, where all of the brand’s perfumes were being sold for about 7 GBP instead of the usual 35 (!! - about 53 USD). The line features many gourmands and since I was at the peak of my vanilla love-affair at the time I had great fun playing around trying to choose one. In the end I went for Kabuki, an exceptionally unique, playful and (perhaps too) youthful scent. The longevity isn’t great (about 3 hours) but the scent makes up for it with its upbeat personality. Kabuki is a rather linear scent featuring a soft, velvety vanilla backdrop full of innocence upon which the other notes seemingly explode. The opening is very citrusy, smelling like an overdose of crunchy white sugar drenched with lemon juice and decorated with the aromatic shavings of the rind. It might seem bizarre that I list the white sugar as a note and even more so that I call it ‘crunchy’ of all things, but yes, Kabuki does smell like sugar and manages to translate the texture as well. Having been a mischievous child who used to cut a lemon in half, dip it in sugar and suck on it until my lips were puckered and red to my parents’ amusement, I feel justified to attest to the realism of this interpretation! Cutting down the sugary-sweet feel of the scent, the addition of bitter grapefruit notes bring a modicum of balance, as well as bringing a sense of maturity to the otherwise playful appeal of the perfume. While I can’t quite make out the purported jasmine notes, Kabuki truly has a very pronounced lychee note and an extremely realistic one at that. I can’t help but think of spring when I smell this scent, perhaps because its happy, exuberant personality is so efficient in bringing across that ‘not a care in the world’ feel the optimistic air of spring always brings in my heart. While this is completely unsuitable for those that don’t like sweet scents (it is very sugary) those that enjoy gourmands should definitely give it a try. While it is undoubtedly sweet in the most toothsome manner, it is quite light and not heavy or overbearing. Wear without fear, even when the weather is warm.

Images: and

Monday, March 1, 2010

Perfumed Quotes: Christopher Ash

"It always reminds me of a cool English wood in spring, and the scent you smell when you tear up the moss to uncover the dark soil underneath."

-Christopher Ash, Whaler's Eye. (Referring to the scent of ambergris)