Like I needed a perfume to tell me I’m an Alien, not an Angel. Same as its predecessor, this is a love-it-or-hate-it situation; in the notorious French designer’s world, anything worth doing is worth doing brash. Angel? Hate. With a black passion. Not to digress, but Angel’s battle royale of clashing fragrance notes strikes me as both hostile and disturbingly weird: it has this “Goodbye Horses” vibe that actually gives me the willies. Meaning, it’s not a stretch to picture someone smelling like that as they don a wig made from a human scalp and paint their face over a vanity littered with black market surgical equipment before asking the mirror if it would f[bleep] them. That’s just my opinion. Alien? Love at first breath. My praise for it is practically evangelical. For starters, Alien is composed with much more grace and deliberation than Angel, and has a lot more character in the bargain; its notes—jasmine, woody cashmeran, amber, solar accord—meld into an assertive but effective harmony that tries for (and nails with flying colours) stunning instead of shocking. (What was it Jack Nicholson said in The Witches of Eastwick? That passion without precision = chaos. This, to me, encapsulates why Alien wins and Angel fails.) But the best part is, it smells INSANE on me—insanely divine, that is. More confrontational than what I usually go for, but I’ve noticed that stronger, more complex scents do just fine on me if they’re relieved by a certain creaminess; Versace’s Crystal Noir is another example of this. I haven’t yet purchased, as it’s a splurge beyond my means for the time being, but I frequently hit up the testers, and every time I do, I’m a changed woman: fierce, fearless, exotic, mean, bring-them-to-their-knees sexy. Compliments fly at me from all directions; I even had a salesgirl at Ulta follow me around huffing like a glue fiend until she mustered the courage to ask what I was wearing. “Alien, baby! ‘Cause I’m all out of this world and stuff.” This is, and will likely always be, my HG fragrance, and it will be mine…oh, yes, it will be mine.
[BATH & BODY WORKS SERIES #4] First thing I had to do was short-circuit my negative image of the word “country”. This isn’t Redneckapalooza country; think lush green hills, farm stands, gingham tablecloths, and breezy late-spring afternoons. For me, it really is like drinking fresh lemonade out of a real glass in a field of wildflowers, and the best type of contradiction: a grown-up scent that evokes childhood. In fact, this is the scent I’d most likely recommend to B&BW novices, since it’s playful, agreeable (not cloying or musked within an inch of its life), and, in a way, it distills the company’s humble began-on-an-Ohio-farm roots into a bottle. At press time, I’ve only owned the trifecta of miniatures—fragrance mist, lotion, and shower gel—which I may repurchase come springtime. Because although I like the fragrance, it’s not a mindset I represent very often. Still, my primary complaint has nothing to do with the product itself: if I hear one more person call it “Country CHICK”, I’m going to sentence them to a remedial reading class in a very harsh and memorable way.
This is your nose: [sniff, sniff] This is your nose on Angel: “Raid?!” [Ka-BOOM!] Any questions?
[BATH & BODY WORKS SERIES #3] Common problem: you like a scent, but it doesn’t like you back. It would thrill me to no end if I had the DNA to pull this off, because it’s rich and deep and sultry, ie. a nice change-up from the softer, cleaner scents I favour. But I layered it on in the store, using the testers, and…ewwwww. Straight away my skin was giving attitude, rotting the fruit, then pushing everything but that and the raw, medicinal musk into the background. I gave it about four hours to pull itself together, then broke down and took a shower. What annoys me more than anything is the wasted potential: some people turn Twilight Woods into an olfactory work of art. If your courage and chemistry are compatible with intense, spicy gourmands like Thierry Mugler’s Angel--which, to me, smells like somebody with dirty armpits smoked a blunt and knocked over a candy store, but there you go--this could be up your street. If you’re more of a Pure DKNY chick, as I am, you might want to proceed with caution.
Lip Gloss -L'Oreal - Colour Caresse Shine Stain / Shine Caresse
CorelliaCalling 1/1/2013 6:51:00 PM
UPDATE: I've bought a second shade, Berry Persistent--cheesy, cheesy, cheesy name; I so wish that people would allow "very" and "berry" to be two entirely different, non-interchangeable words--and I have to add a warning. Do NOT rub your lips together after this stuff sets, because then you're asking for a mess (#learnedthehardway). The good news is, once I'd reapplied, it comfortably withstood a shift at work with all the colour and most of the gloss intact, and it barely transferred onto the straw of my iced coffee. So even with that glitch, it still gets a HUGE thumbs up from me. So far I’ve bought only one shade—Stubborn Plum, which is in fact a sheer, mid-bright orchid colour –but is it weird that I’m considering a drugstore/ high street product for my wedding this year? (Having already set aside a Lancome eye palette, a MAC blush and a Victoria’s Secret highlighting powder.) I suppose I could go all out and look up the YSL number it’s based on, but…why? Really, why? I can’t imagine it being much more in the zone than the contents of this gorgeous gold vessel. I have to say, L’Oreal has almost all the cheaper brands beat in terms of packaging, and some from the big dogs, too. Whatever you do, don’t get discouraged when this liquid stain spreads over your lips almost clear; give the pigments a minute to blossom, or develop, or whatever you want to call it. The gloss part is so fine and subtle that it looks more like a rich, clear balm than a sheet of vinyl stuck over your lips, which is what made me think that one of the more muted shades might be perfect for a bridal look. On a day where convention calls for you to make out with someone, you want to choose your lip products carefully…so even if I don’t end up going with one of these bad girls, let the record show that it was, at the very least, a contender.
Moisturizers -Philosophy - Hope in a Jar - for all skin types
CorelliaCalling 1/1/2013 11:56:00 AM
Haters gonna hate. This is part of why I have such a beef with charging extortionate prices for beauty products—not everything is going to work for everyone. To me, clearing twenty-five bucks for even a prestige moisturiser, thirty for a serum, while marketing them as universal miracle workers, is pure and simple company hubris, and nothing gets smacked down harder or faster than smug overconfidence, especially in the consumer world. That said, I have combination skin that actively resents the weather, leading to an expanding oily T-zone in the summer, and a bit of flaking on either side of my nose come winter, both of which need to be addressed. Hope in a Jar seems determined not to fail me as it has a lot of reviewers, though there were moments of WTF? during my initial trial: after ripping off the protective seal, I actually recoiled a little from the smell—to settle the debate, I caught the lavender on top, but I also caught the burnt-chemistry-set part underneath, neither of which hung around at full strength long beyond application—and when I put it on, it stung the hell out of my eyes. But the texture of this stuff beats any moisturiser I’ve used to date, at any price you can name: at a glance, you’d think it was thicker than commercial cake icing, but surprise, it’s…well…imagine a mousse, only less airy. Truly luxurious. I barely skim a finger over the product and come back with enough to treat my face and neck, so it (somewhat) justifies its cost by being economical. And unlike a lot of sticky, greasy creams that just sit on top of the skin, performing a Jedi mind trick that only feels like hydration, Hope in a Jar doesn’t take the lazy way out. In the morning, after I’ve rinsed with cool water, my face still feels satiny and supple, so I’d say it’s earning its keep. It’s even preventing the red, crusty nose I get as a side effect from having a cold (with a little help from C.O. Bigelow Rose Salve, but trust me, the latter couldn’t do it on its own). Several people have accused it of causing breakouts. This is not an issue with me, but then, the only thing that breaks me out is my menstrual cycle: if it’s the right time of month, a slab of Crisco won’t wrangle a zit out of my face, just as the most airtight acne regimen in the world won’t hold them off at the wrong time. All in all, I’d say that those who sample before purchasing (or not purchasing) have the right idea…but that’s my mantra for anything on the market.
UPDATE: it does apply better with hands, especially if they're slightly damp--which is not the same as sopping wet, ya bunch of zealots. The finish is dewy, but in a flattering way that's still suitable for most skin types; just dust translucent powder sparingly through the T-zone and under the eyes if you're on the oily/ combo side. And it stands its ground through a reasonably active eight hours, needing only the occasional oil-blot, so that's encouraging. The shade and undertone range need to be expanded, I keep saying this, so what else is new? My last test will be to take a flash photo and see how much interference you get from the SPF. In the interest of full disclosure, I have good skin. Great skin, not to put too fine a point on it…while by no means flawless, because there’s no such thing, it is smooth and clear enough to receive excessive compliments. Since I’m of the thoughtschool that believes you should use the smallest amount of base you can get away with, I’m typically drawn to sheer formulas, my favourite being Estee Lauder Invisible Fluid (2CN1). But on my budget, I can’t always swing a prestige brand. Nearly Naked couldn't be arsed to come up with an ideal counterpart to my limbo-between-fair-and-light, chilly pink complexion, but I managed to rock Ivory without the descrepancy being too obvious. I used it for the first time tonight, and I was for the most part impressed…not blown away, but satisfied. It is easy to blend and build, and it does feel tolerably fresh on your skin, but the coverage is still a little heavier than I bargained for. Maybe this isn’t the best foundation to apply with a brush (I used a Real Techniques buffing brush, which is the total boss of the Colorstay Whipped Crème formula); maybe, like Invisible Fluid, it’s more compatible with your hands. I’ll give that a go tomorrow or the day after and see how it pans out. Another sore point is the packaging—I appreciate utilitarianism and white as a welcome break from black or nearly so, but putting such a JUICY foundation in a bottle you have to upend was a really bad idea. I had to catch a spill off the back of my hand, in midair, then scoop even more excess back into the bottle, using the lip of the opening. However…I had two people, strangers, rave about my skin earlier, and I’ve been sparring with a killer cold since Friday night. So the pair of us, Nearly Naked and I, aren’t doing too badly, considering what we’ve both had to work with.
Blush -Too Faced - Cocoa Rose Full Blooom Powder Blush
CorelliaCalling 12/31/2012 9:56:00 PM
Wow, wow, and just so we’re clear, WOW. Previously I was all about MAC Cubic (I'm Mont Blanc, according to Nars foundation lingo), but when I hit pan there, I decided to explore my options before repurchasing my tried-and-true. Good call on my part. Cocoa Rose is a soft matte pinky-nude that…how can I put this and still make sense? The pigment is sheer, but there’s a lot of it. You can flick on a light stroke to perk up your skin and keep it from looking monodimensional, or you can build up a more noticeable, but (hopefully) not excessive, flush…and still get away with a strong eye or lip. Tonight, for dinner—I have a vicious cold, so no NYE throwdown for me—I mixed Cocoa Rose with a bit of Victoria’s Secret Illuminating Powder in Impassioned, and got the word “radiant” thrown at me, not once, but twice. I repeat: I'm SICK. Sold. Cubic, we need to talk…we had a good run, but now it’s time to go our separate ways…it’s not you, it’s me…blah blah blah, moving on. Also, concerning the lack of reviews on this product, and none scoring fewer than five lippies...what do I have to do, stand in the middle of Ulta barking "COCOA ROSE" through a bullhorn?
Just the fact that I own this lipstick blows my mind a little bit, because MAC has a habit of re-issuing Candy Yum-Yum at 6AM and being sold out of it by noon. I’d forced myself to dismiss the idea of ever getting my hands on a tube, but it appears that for once, MAC has put supplying the demand over flaunting it--either that, or they're fed up with Ebay sellers getting all their money. I bought it for the standard $15 at the Asheville Mall, two or three days after Christmas, no may-the-odds-be-ever-in-your-favour involved. So, okay, the acquisition itself may have been a little anticlimactic, but the product…DAMN. If you’ve ever wanted your lips to have the same effect as a jagged-edged comic book bubble that reads WHAM! or POW!, look no further. This is pink at its most shocking, nothing Barbie or baby about it, opaque and pigmented enough to assert itself against virtually any skin tone, from PPP (my end of the spectrum) to rich ebony. No lipliner required, which is just as well—I can’t stand the stuff. Its matte formula seems more at home on my lips than that of Ruby Woo or Russian Red, but that could be a psychosomatic thing, in that red lipsticks, much as I adore them, are a staple in every makeup company, whereas bold neon pinks are a rarity, if not a novelty. This is going to be a makeup no-brainer on days when I want to show my guts, but don’t feel up to the time consumption of sculpted gel liner or the severity of a coal-dark eye. Thank you, MAC, for coming to your senses on this one; please maintain the present course.
[BATH & BODY WORKS SERIES #2] Dark Kiss…argh, hrm, what to say about it? Other than it’s being discontinued. On one hand that’s a shame, because I love when Bath & Body Works steps out of the fruity-girly pigeonhole it’s fallen into lately, but they’ve gotten it a hell of a lot right-er than this. Orange Sapphire comes to mind: a fragrance that explored innovative territory and accomplished a rare type of fresh, clean sophistication to show for it. With Dark Kiss, one word describes the beautifully-packaged blend of saccharine and smoky: OBNOXIOUS. My visual style is edgy, edgy, edgy, but as far as scents go, I’m kind of conservative; I don’t want people to smell me before they see me, and I don’t want something that tries too hard, as Dark Kiss does. Then again, I do have a mild case of sensory defensiveness—misinterpreting ordinary stimulus as threatening signals—so for all I know, that could hold as much blame as personal preference. Hopefully, the hole B&BW is opening in their Signature Collection can be filled with something that offers a dusky, sultry, grown-up persona that isn’t strong enough to get up and walk on its own. I recommend they spend some quality time with Versace Crystal Noir or Armani Code, and take lots and lots of notes.
[BATH & BODY WORKS SERIES #1] Since the fall of Butterfly Flower, this is my favourite B&BW Signature Scent, and my everyday go-to: lotion and/ or fragrance mist for running errands, eau de toilette for something more socially interactive. It’s unapologetically feminine, which I like, but has the wherewithal to pump the brakes before it lays the girly sweetness on too thick—must be the pink champagne—which I like even better. Overall, it’s a fun, flirty little tease of a fragrance, sexy in a “Who, me?” kind of way that doesn’t take itself too seriously...the personality I’d probably have if I weren’t such a five-star dork. The Eiffel Tower-emblazoned packaging peps up whatever surface I leave it on in my morning stupor, be it my makeshift vanity, my computer desk, or the toilet tank, and even my father seems to approve of the scent, which is the real test because the old man has the olfactory cavity of a turkey vulture and tends to lose his mellow at anything stronger than clean dog hair. Long as the company makes it, I’ll proudly buy and rock it.
HG mascara, at last we meet. (I wish "HELL, YES", capslock included, was an option for the would-you-repurchase question.) Though honestly, this product isn’t for everyone. I personally swear by drugstore/ high street mascara—I can do that, because I’ve been all over the price range continuum—of which I have only two requirements: it has to give me hella volume (my lashes are a respectable length, but fairly skimpy, like the rest of my hair; there’s a reason I call myself a “Scottish Hairless”), and it has to be blacker than a Tea Party lobbyist’s soul. Maybelline’s Blackest Black pigments check off the second box, and their Volum’Express collection has had more hits (The Falsies Black Drama) than misses (The Colossal Cat Eyes), so I’m really not surprised to find my match here. Two coats gave me results way beyond what I was hoping for, and while the wand design may not be ideal for bottom lashes, it wasn’t a fraction of the struggle I had with, say, Rimmel’s ScandalEyes. The brush head is similar to CoverGirl Lash Blast, another one I like, in design and circumference, but what makes The Rocket superior to me is that the bristles feel sturdier somehow, and the opening of the tube allows them to collect more of the luscious formula—which is what could make it a nightmare for someone who’d rather whack on their mascara and be done with it. You kinda have to finesse around with this stuff, and while I enjoy the process of getting into my makeup enough to see the fun and the Zen in that, others are just going to get ill. It depends on your patience level, really, and applying makeup is where mine tends to peak.
Merry Christmas to me. My fiance', determined to maintain his status as the most phenomenal member of the human race, included the Smoked palette with his many gifts, and between it and my Real Techniques brush sets, I couldn't be flying much higher. (To be fair, he did go on his sister's suggestion, so she gets props, too.) I've had a chance to rock three looks--Cat Eye, Sculpted, and Midnight, from the enclosed booklet--and they were all winners, even on my puffy, cold-ridden, sleep-deprived eyes: dramatic, but not so deranged that I risked becoming the next Person of Wal-Mart. The collection features two base colours plus an octet of neutrals and blackened brights, each with a somewhat muted quality that renders even the intimidating choices (Rockstar, Evidence, and Loaded) gentler and more flattering than they have any business being. Both the mattes and the shimmers have a buttery texture that responds beautifully to most application and blending techniques, and though Asphalt, Mushroom, and Evidence did show a few signs of wear after six to eight hours of whatever I was doing, I have the oiliest eyelids ever so I didn't get too busted up about it. The included pencil, Perversion, is neck and neck with the majorly cheap Essence I <3 Rock gloss pencil as my HG black liner, so I was pleased to welcome another to my makeup drawer. In fact, if you were to cop one thing from this whole kit, I'd reccommend the pencil; it delivers a line as black as deep space in a single, unforced stroke, and inks out the waterline with little more effort. Overall, I can't say that I look forward to my future with Smoked as much as I do my future with Paul, but I forsee us having loads and loads of fun together.
The story behind the colour is more interesting than the colour itself. In 1990, Madonna commissioned a red lipstick for her Truth or Dare tour, and throughout the shows, the film, any picture you see of her from that era, Russian Red is what she's wearing...in some cases, it's pretty much all she's wearing. This is, in fact, where MAC really started to take off: in just a few short years, you were hard-pressed to find a celebrity who wasn’t representing at least one product, and the colour shorthand for their foundation became a universal code for skin tones (me = somewhere between NW15 and NW20). All well and good, but it doesn’t change the fact that I just don’t care for their pivotal lipstick. I bought it when I was living in Massachusetts--in the limited edition Wonder Woman tube, no less--and tried really hard to be impressed, but I never could get there. The texture was no more or less off-putting than any other matte formula, and I didn't absolutely detest the colour; it just wasn’t the intense, dark, smile-brightening blue red the hype machine promised. But I have seen it look stellar on other people, even other palefolk like me, so I guess I either got a bad tube or it’s just not “my” red. Oh, well. I'd rate it a "Judge for Yourself" on a scale of "Run--Don't Walk--to the Counter" and "Keep Back 100ft."
Here we have the beauty industry's biggest overachiever: it works too well for its own good. On a whim, I sampled it in Dillard's--just yesterday afternoon, in fact. After approximately thirty-five seconds, it felt like I'd slathered on hydrochloric acid, and I legitimately looked like I'd been sucker-punched in the mouth (a lush pout is fine, but I'd rather it didn't occupy the entire face). And evidently it's the gift that keeps on giving, because my lips have itched like a madman all morning long. Too Faced has some explaining to do; otherwise, if you're not put off by this review, my advice is to keep thinking masochistic thoughts and proceed. But don't say you weren't warned.