"The most beautiful makeup for a woman is passion, but cosmetics are easier to buy."
                                                                                              —Yves Saint Laurent

If you're new to this blog, then read our guides to the basics: Skin (Part I), Skin (Part II), The Supernatural, Color Theory I, Color Theory II, Eyes, and Brushes.

Also, check out the blogsale.

· Hit List: Perfume 2010
· Hit List: Tools 2010
· Hit List: Eyes 2010
· Hit List: Rouge 2010
· Hit List: Base 2010
· Hit List: Hair 2010
· Hit List: Skin 2010
· Beauty Notes: Shanghai Express
· Fashion Notes: Rebel Yell
· The Beauty Primer: Bronzing and Whitening
· Culture Notes: Barefoot Contessa

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Hit List: Perfume 2010
by Dain


eau fraîche   Cartier Déclaration
However deceptively simple in its appeal, Déclaration is rather more salubrious than Ellena's latterday cerebalism. Its translucent layers of tart citrus, candied woods, and bitter herbs shimmer like hologram over the wearer's skin.

fresh flowers   Parfum d'Empire Eau Suave
In spite of Coco Chanel's quip that women should not smell of flowers (surely in view of her own bestseller), nothing could be more difficult to capture than the pure, vegetative ecstasy of a meticulously cultivated rose garden. Eau Suave smells of fresh roses, but goes well beyond dilute extract, picking up on cool breezes, birdsong, and afternoon sunshine.

crisp and verdant   Guerlain Vetiver Pour Elle
Some days—in summer's oppressive heat, the ugly backend of winter, modern life in the metropolis scrounging for your bread—are just not kind. Like a dose of sanity, a good vetiver, and Guerlain's is among the most cordial, throws sunshine on the most profound enervation of the human spirit. Via a gossamer veil of jasmine and honeysuckle petals, Pour Elle is an update on the now attenuated classic.

squeaky clean   Chanel No. 5 Eau Première
Never in the history of perfume has a juice descended to us with as much baggage as Eau Première—not so much an update, as a nod to its legendary parent's ubiquitous, if dumbed down, presence in the soaps and shampoos of our daily lives, now at last, perfected with a Gallic sneer.

optimistic leather   Balmain Jolie Madame
Once the cheerier little sister of Bandit, a fruity violet on a tarry leather background, the reformulation is a leafy violet pastille, the leather lightened to blond.


luscious gourmand   Anne Pliska
As the distinction between cuisine and perfume grows ever hazier, vanilla, the starch of the olfactory world, in its simple, popular appeal, is much abused. From Shalimar to Pink Sugar, the kinship between creamy vanilla and rich amber endures, but Anne Pliska adds a delicate little savors—mandarin, jasmine, patchouli, and geranium—a simple sauce, but just the right degree of enhancement.

tropical blooms   Les Nez Manoumalia
Some aromatics are inextricable from their glamour, and heady white florals, whether jasmine or ylang ylang, glow like naked flesh in the night, purring blandishments. Stripped of perfumery's artifices, Manoumalia is a revelation: just the kind of a gorgeous monstrosity to make a man in the jungle feel small.

fiery spices   Caron Poivre
Who would imagine that the oft snubbed carnation would hide in its humble petals such searing intensity? The first assault of cloves, exaggerated to keeningly sharp heights, settles on a dusty, sweet background of dried and pressed flower petals, with just a lingering tickle of pepper, almost as if to provoke a real sneeze.

parfum fourrure   Guerlain Vol de Nuit
Darkness incarnate as smell. A bright initial burst leads into a sequence of herbs, coordinated like players in a concerto, but the black dissonance of galbanum absolute eventually dominates the scent, leaping off the skin to become a multi-dimensional being in its own right.

fertile earth   Chanel Coromandel
Before the raw, bitter, medicinal, mineral-rich earth smell of patchouli became the olfactory emblem of the hippie movement, it enjoyed a mania among the well heeled of the 19th century (Madame Bovary, for one). The ornately resinous Coromandel is a return to those gilded origins, when the leaves were still used to preserve precious silks from the east.


strange fruit   Guerlain Mitsouko
The best perfume ever. The end.

dying garden   Frédéric Malle Une Fleur de Cassie
Though more overtly modeled on the almondine L'Heure Bleue, Une Fleur de Cassie, as a warm, powdery jasmine unfolds on the skin, resembles another classic, No. 5—florals arrested, not at the height of freshness, but overblown and about the drop their petals, with wet autumn leaves crushed beneath feet.

garçonne   BVLGARI Black
As if leathers weren't queer enough, Black goes for the full-on perversity of tarry, rubbery pleather, though attenuated to the weightlessness of smoke, with an oddly comforting, silken vanillic core to temper Menardo's tastefully orchestrated dissonance.

technicolor   Balmain Vent Vert
Like a Surrealist trick, Vent Vert exploits an image comfortable and familiar—a pristine forest, heavy with verdure—and aggressively oversaturates the green (galbanum) to uncomfortable intensity, just to remind us that no reality exists beyond the canvas, before subsiding into a more mellow, but still crystalline, floral heart.

fougère from space   Vero Profumo Kiki
In a sly reworking of the great masculine genre, Kiki is built around lavender, but with the caramellic edges, normally lurking behind the note's established herbaceousness, amplified by the bitter, not-quite-edible synthetic sweetener of maltol.

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1/31/2010 [2]

Hit List: Tools 2010
by Dain

blush brush
For such an expense, the NARS Yachiyo ($50) could definitely be softer (try a little conditioner next time you wash it), but the instant, perfectly blended edges it creates, even with the most highly pigmented blush, cannot be denied. The size fits perfectly on the apple of the cheek, and can be tilted to sweep over and under cheekbones.

point concealer
The fine point of the Kevyn Aucoin Concealer Brush ($24) places concealer exactly where you want it: on the blemish, not the surrounding skin.

powder sponge
Instead of a brush, we prefer the control of a finely flocked sponge like Shiseido Square Sponge Puff for Compact ($6), to apply loose, translucent powder as a finishing touch.

A high-maintenance girl's existence—which includes groomed, well shaped brows—would just not be the same without Tweezerman Slant Tweezers ($20).

eyelash curler
It's hard to imagine mascara without Shu Uemura's oft-quoted Eye Lash Curler ($19): the crimp is rounded, and it gets around to most every lash.

liner/brow brush
For a while, we toyed with the idea of advocating multiple liners for multiple purposes, which, given the diversity of the products with which they interact, would in practice be distinct from each other. But if you're just building your brush collection, perhaps the best place to start is MAC's versatile 266 Small Angle Brush ($19.50): stiff enough to fill in brows, yet fine enough for tightlining, as well as regular lining in between. It is especially well suited for gel eyeliners.

detail brush
A great tool, whether concealer brush or tweezers, is set apart from all others by its precision. Soft, tapered, fluffy first-cut natural hair brushes diffuse pigment—application is itself blending—while dense, flat, synthetic brushes yield crisp edges and lines. Get every lash, manipulate every particle of pigment, smooth to the thinnest, most even layer every dollop of foundation, all to dull the sensitivity of the human eye to infinitesimal shifts in the human face. You can't get brushes more precise than Shu Uemura's, and those with small lids will never regret the expense: Shu Uemura Kolinsky 5R ($58).

wash/crease brush
Though a trifle oversized for some eyes, if you've got larger lids and like to do fancy creasework, the Shu Uemura Natural Brush 10DF ($45) can't be beat for sheer versatility: washes, highlight, blending, crease, and even intensifying pigment.

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1/30/2010 [0]

Hit List: Eyes 2010
by Dain

powder shadow
Between the silky, easily blendable finish, the intense pigmentation, and offerings ranging from the perfect neutral highlight to acid greens and blues, NARS Duos ($32) remains the gold standard among powder shadows. Application is intuitive—they nearly blend on their own—and the depth and complexity of the shades ensures a distinctive impact.

cream shadow
Bobbi Brown ($22) offers cream shadows that dry down to a locktight finish. Once these are on, it's imperative to use makeup remover to get them off. Color selection is excellent, ranging from the standard medium browns and taupes to the more esoteric deep blue-black and silver shimmer. Crease-resistant, these shadows can work well on their own or make an excellent base for powder shadows.

MAC's myriad pencil formulations ($14.50) have deservedly achieved legendary status among makeup artists and amateurs alike for their smooth application, blendability, and broad color spectrum. We can fully attest to the long-lasting vibrancy of MAC's liners, in complex, unique colors that cannot be duplicated in other lines.

The last thing you want to do is scrape away at the delicate skin around the eyes, especially the waterline. Shu Uemura Painting Liner ($24) is so pigmented, especially the matte shades (the metallics are rather less pigmented), a single dab will create a substantive line, and the slightly creamier texture makes it more manipulable before it sets into iron-like wear.

milky pink matte
Perhaps Laura Mercier Morning Dew ($22) is rather too utilitarian for the expense, in the pan and on, but sometimes you want to smooth the lid just a little, and add a little brightness to tired eyes, without the sparkle that other highlights deploy to secure the attention of shoppers. The shadow goes on dry, but silky, and wears well all day.

beige, fleshy shimmers
You wouldn't imagine it, looking at NARS All About Eve ($32), how these are perhaps some of the best eyeshadows on the market. One side is a slightly peachy beige satin, a friendly and versatile shade that cooperates with the most cantankerous and overparticular shades. The other is a silvered beige frost, with a complex of shimmers—green, lilac, silver, gold, pink, champagne—that mimics the effect of light itself.

golden pearl
A highly pigmented, opaque, buttery highlighter, MAC Ricepaper ($14.50) brightens up the eyes without calling attention to itself. Its pale hue attracts light to the eyes while the subtle frost finish adds dimension, melting into the skin to add brightness without an overt color or shimmer.

silvered frost
If subtlety is not your favored idiom, and "highlight", to you, signifies sparkle and shine, then silver has a more alien presence on the skin than gold, especially around the inner corner of the eye, for extra dimension to eye looks both simple and complex. Warmed by a taupey undertone, Stila Cloud ($18) is amiable to most complexions.

polished taupe
MAC Omega ($14.50) is a true, neutral taupe, providing just the right amount of definition and contour without overwhelming the lid with color. Omega acts as both the ideal crease shade that lets other colors pop and subtle shadow wash that just brings out the contours of your eye shape.

brocade plum
Though on first glance MAC Trax ($14.50) is a plum flecked with gold sparkle, Trax is really several colors in one: gold, plum, lavender, rose, all over a smoky base. The more Trax is blended, the more complexity is revealed, lending extra dimension to an infinite variety of techniques.

molten amber
An coppery gold, MAC Amber Lights ($14.50) has the ability to pop blue, hazel, and brown eyes as a simple wash or crease, or even a metallic highlight against dark shades. This is the secret behind Amber Lights: as bright as it looks in the pan, its molten metallic finish allows it to melt into warm complexions.

smoky pewter
Silvers are not so kind to human complexions as golds, but there's an olivine undertone that gives Lancôme Erika F rather more flavour, and the smokiness is broken up by such complex shimmers and sparkles that, even on small eyelids, the effect is quite delicate and makes the perfect bridge for smoky eyes.

antique bronze
Stila Golightly ($18) is darkest, richest incarnation of tarnished old gold, without a hint of red, with a fine shimmer that counteracts its smoky, olive-tinged depths.

rich chocolate
MAC Teddy Eye Kohl ($14.50) is not your run-of-the-mill brown, but rather, one with banked depths lit by sunset tones of plum and copper. A simple swatch on the back of the hand will immediately show the difference.

refined navy
One wonders how a matte navy, like Laura Mercier Deep Night ($22), surely a standard offering, could claim so much attention over all others in its lineup. Like most Laura Mercier shades, Deep Night fares rather better on cool complexions, where it pops eyes more naturally than any brown or black liner. As the name implies, it skirts the depths of black, for smoky intensity as liner, with just a graceful infusion of blue to keep it from looking harsh.

inky black
For the most opaque, intense matte black, Shu Uemura M Black Painting Liner ($24) applies without skipping, tugging, or struggle of any kind. The creamy formula is easy to blend. Highly pigmented, very little of it goes a long way.

acid chartreuse / electric blue
If bright, ass-kicking color intensity is your thing, look no further than NARS Rated R ($32). The chartreuse has a fine infusion of gold pearl, the blue shimmers in a lighter pool blue. We suggest you acquire it, not for any utilitarian pretense of course, but to remind yourself: this is makeup, the risk will wash off.

royal violet
Purples have a tendency, once applied, to lose vibrancy and pigmentation, diminishing into undertones instead of a presence of their own. Shu Uemura ME Purple Painting Liner ($24) neatly avoids this trap, maintaining its vibrancy through blue and, if sheered enough, light pink undertones. The creamy, easily blendable formulation is versatile both as a light wash or intense pigmentation around the eyes.

spring green
Soft yellow-greens provide an especially gorgeous contrast to brown and blue eyes, but are often too sheer to create the necessary drama. Enter Stila Kalo ($18): a tender apple green shot through with delicate golden shimmer, but creamy, pigmented powder packs a wallop.

summery French blue
Any painter will quickly inform you, that rich azure of a cloudless sky, though seemingly uniform, is one of the most difficult natural phenomena to duplicate through pigment. Shiseido Fresco Luminizing Satin Eye Color ($25) captures that exact sunny blue, in all its dimensional glory, through a complex of silver and gold shimmers.

peacock blue
Though a vivid bright blue, MAC Auto-de-Blu's ($14.50) warm undertones contrast with the eyes, not the skin. The Technakohl formulation ensures smooth application without tugging, for brightness that lasts through the day.

mint steel / smoky eggplant
At first glance, NARS Habanera ($32) seems an unwieldy, mismatched combination—a wintry, industrialist metallic frost with heavy tones of glacial green and blue, and a whisper of smoke, a plummy charcoal swarming with prismatic glitter—yet when worn together on the eyelid, or alone, the effect is ethereal.

candied orchid
We will not deny the appeal of lilacs and lavenders, but we have a difficult time convincing them to show up on the skin, unless it's Shiseido Provence Luminizing Satin Eye Color ($25). This is no sundry pale purple, but warmer than most, and so, not restricted to the cool alone, with a complex of pink, peach, and gold shimmers for extra dazzle.

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1/28/2010 [10]

Hit List: Rouge 2010
by Dain


powder blush
For quality, pigmentation, and sheer variety of colors, blushes from NARS ($25) will serve you well till the bitter end.

cream blush
The Becca Crème Blush ($30) is rightly revered. The shades, though to the browsing eye they resemble every other lineup of blushes, are surprisingly complex—they come alive, rather than lying flat, on the skin. Though pigmented enough to show on dark or high-contrast complexions, a little dab blends effortlessly and seamlessly into the skin. Then, to top it off, it's a cream blush that lasts.

Available in Cream, Pearl, Transparent, and Matte formulations, Make Up For Ever ($19) lipsticks are creamy, smooth, highly pigmented, long-wearing—in short, easy. These lipsticks maintain their vibrancy well into wear, which suits the many fashion shades the line offers. The line also offers a very extensive selection of neutrals for all skin tones.

Available in both self-sharpening and regular pencil form, MAC's liners ($13-14.50) are creamy, comfortable enough to wear alone, yet long-lasting. Colors range from neutrals for a range of skin-tone-friendly shades to corrective colors for specific lip concerns to fashion colors.

None of us are gloss girls, but we like the way that NARS Lip Gloss ($24) hits a comfortable texture between too slippery and too tacky—just right. In that array of colors, there's something for everyone, from sparkly sheer nudes to sumptuous berries.
NARS Laguna ($30) performs a rare feat for bronzers, offering truly buildable, easily blendable coverage in a believable, natural tone. Free of the red and orange tones found in other brands, Laguna is simply a sheer light brown that can provide light bronzing for the fair or be layered for deeper, more pigmented coverage. Though it features a fine glitter overspray, this is merely for show. There's nothing glittery, shimmery, or overt about Laguna.

The genius of Benefit Moon Beam/High Beam ($24), adjustable highlighters that can be mixed with foundation for an allover glow or applied selectively to specific areas, is their ability to concentrate light on the high points of the face, almost to the point of eliminating the need for a separate contour shade. The lighter, pinkish-hued High Beam is more appropriate to light skins; the yellow-based Moon Beam contains red tones ideal for deeper skin.

soft, neutral blush
MAC Tenderling ($18.50), appropriately in a formula named Sheertone, is a virtually goofproof veil of beiged-down pink that subtly flushes and warms up even the palest skin.

vibrant, neutral blush
In the pan, NARS Sin ($25) looks like a scary—even bruised—mauve, attacked by a hoar of gold glitter. However, on the right skintone (especially on olive skin, which swallows up the purple), it morphs into a dusky rose glow. The glitter isn't apparent on application, only lending an extra sheen that seems akin to that of skin itself.

everyday neutral lipcolor
We don't like the term, "universal", but Chanel Attitude #10 Rouge Allure ($30), a soft sunset red, does seem to manage everyone's coloring, though like all one-size-fits-all shades, it does not flatter all to the same degree: on some, it is somewhat ruddy, on others, quite dark, and yet still, a touch too warm. As a compromise, however, it is the best we've found. Plus, you've got to appreciate the clever packaging.

soft neutral lipcolor
The perfect (largely universal) nude, like the perfect red, is difficult to source, but NARS Chelsea Girls ($24), a pigmented, low-shine gloss, has tones of peach and pink to lend substance and depth to so much passive-aggressive drama.

dramatic neutral lipcolor
There are no finer matte reds than Julie Hewett's Noir lipsticks ($22.50), richly pigmented and yet comfortably creamy, and Coco Noir, its intensity tempered by just enough rose, is a red palatable on a startling breadth of complexions.

warm blush
If the traffic-stopping vermilion brightness of NARS Exhibit A overpowers you, the foolishly named Stila Blush ($18) colour fits the bill: a cheeky coral, sheer yet buildable, with not a hint of beige.

everyday warm lipcolor
Like most shades in the Lipstick Queen line, Berry ($18) is surprisingly flattering to warm complexions. In the sheer Saint formula, it subtly enhances the lips with a clovey, chocolate-raspberry stain that never hints at fuchsia.

soft warm lipcolor
NARS Barbarella ($24) is the softest take on coral, an innocent, peachy nude that's just bright enough not to wash out warm complexions.

dramatic warm lipcolor
In the superbly long-lasting Velvet Matte pencil formula, NARS Forbidden Red ($24) is a rich, deep red, warmed with just enough orange to echo a warm complexion.

cool blush
NARS Desire ($25), an intense, bright pink—nay, fuschia—perks up cool complexions marvelously, so pigmented that one pan lasts forever.

everyday cool lipcolor
There's nothing like a berry for sophistication. Though a little strong, the balm-like Shiseido Gilded Wine Perfect Rouge ($25) sheers easily, like all deceptively complex shades, never looks flat, wearing a little differently on everyone: on some, it's a deep, purple-toned raspberry, on others, more a burgundy.

soft cool lipcolor
Benefit Posietint ($28), a lightweight, long-wear stain, provides a sheer, natural pink for lips without the purple and red tones common to lip stains. Essentially, it creates the definition and color of outlined, "done" lips without the upkeep. Apply a light layer for a natural light pink. Layer product for a bolder, brighter hot pink.

dramatic cool lipcolor
A deep, gothic berry is no easy feat to pull off; in a drier, pigmented formula, more appropriate for the crisp definition necessary at such intensity, Besamé Noir Red ($15), with complex, well balanced undertones, is just the product to channel your inner vamp.

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1/26/2010 [1]

Hit List: Base 2010
by Dain

undereye concealer
Highly pigmented, Laura Mercier Secret Concealer ($22) offers full coverage for the undereye area. The salmon-based shade offers color correction even for the worst undereye circles in a formulation that's both creamy enough to apply and spread and tacky enough to stay in place. This product acts as an excellent base for your favorite flesh-toned concealer, ensuring long-lasting, even coverage. The effect is your skin without discoloration or darkness.

shine blotter
For setting makeup or shine control without coverage, MAC Blot ($21) is our favourite product. Available in only five shades, it is virtually transparent, providing a fine, matte finish that lasts for hours and never oxidizes nor turns cakey with reapplication.

sheer overall coverage
With so many excellent, naturalistic sheer foundations overwhelming the market, it almost seems arbitrary to select just one, especially one tailored to drier skin types (it should be noted that though not all of us are dry-skinned, none of us are oily). What makes Kanebo Lunasol Skinfusing Powder Foundation ($55) so compelling is its ability to mimic the appearance of real skin, which, contrary to common performance, grows ever more convincing as the day wears on (unless you're prone to serious grease). Unlike a liquid formula, this powder wears more comfortably, as if it's not even there, which, if you consider it, is the virtue of a sheer foundation in the first place.

moderate overall coverage
High-coverage foundations can rarely place any claim to naturalism, but Shu Uemura Face Architect Flawless Cream Foundation ($45), delivers on its ambitious name. Nothing so thorough can be entirely natural, but it photographs beautifully, and its creaminess, unless you have dry skin, is best set with powder for longevity. For everyday, apply selectively, like a concealer.

heavy-duty spot coverage
If you need a troublesome spot, a pimple or a scar, covered, then Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage ($28), though technique-intensive, will supply its powers: two ultra-pigmented shades to blend for a perfect match, and a totally matte, oil-free formula that sticks to the desired blemish.

setting powder
Truly, there is no equal to Caron Poudre Peau Fine ($45), down to its demure, old-fashioned rose scent. Without actual shimmers, it imparts an almost imperceptible, diffused radiance to the complexion, whilst creating unparalleled texture. For full-throttle retro glamour, add one of their extravagant swan-down puffs.

Though we question of the necessity of two shades (consistently offered by every reputable brow product), we nonetheless appreciate the meticulous calibration of the Laura Mercier Brow Duo ($24), with its dry texture and appropriately drab colors; with brows, precision is the most critical factor.

Those who want the false-eyelash look should look elsewhere. While other mascaras may be more dramatic (or simply more gimmicky),Lancome Définicils ($24.50) is all about subtle enhancement: it lengthens, it separates, thickens while yet managing to look feathery, and does not smear or smudge.

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1/25/2010 [2]

Hit List: Hair 2010
by Dain

clarifying shampoo
Even for fine or oily hair, it's best to choose a shampoo that doesn't strip, a gentle, sulfate-free formula like the refreshing Avalon Organics Lemon Clarifying Shampoo ($8), especially if you color your hair.

light conditioner
Applied to the ends, Avalon Organics Lemon Clarifying Conditioner ($8) detangles, softens, and helps tame flyaways on fine or oily hair, without the excess buildup of the average conditioner, marketed at dry, damaged hair.

gentle shampoo
Perhaps the best thing for maintaining the condition of hair is its own oils—hair models are loathe to wash their hair too frequently—but it's hardly practicable to walk around with greasy hair. Some will find PHYTO Phytonectar ($24) disagreeably low on foam and far too nourishing (a texture like egg yolks); it is best paired with very dry, thick, long hair for which oils do not distribute sufficiently, as opposed to the typical moisturizing shampoo that really designed to gloss over damage. Plus, it makes your shower smells of blooming orange blossoms.

rich conditioner
Bumble & Bumble Super Rich ($22) falls somewhere between a rich daily conditioner and deep conditioner to provide intense moisturization for moderately-to-very dry hair types. As such, it's appropriate for both daily conditioning and a weekly deep conditioning, depending on dryness. A dense, creamy formula applies easily and stays on hair without turning gloppy or creating a mess. The fragrance, though delicate and appealing, is light enough for those with sensitivities. It also comes in a convenient travel-size of two ounces, as well as a full liter, if you go through conditioner faster than water.

Most hair creams are designed to "finish" the hair, taming flyaways and adding a little sheen, post-styling. In this capacity, as a light styling product creating subtle separation, definition, and hold without adding grease, PHYTO 7 ($26) will serve, but it is better viewed as a nourishing leave-in treatment along the lines of face cream, rather than styling product; with repeated use, it genuinely improves the condition of the hair, though we're not claiming miraculous turnarounds.

Unlike silicones which simply coat the hair, we favor the penetrating nourishment and the damage protection of an oil such as REN Moroccan Rose Body Oil ($65) and unlike silicones, the hair improves with continued use. A little goes a long way, however; when massaged into damp hair, it's not as greasy as might be expected, and even subtly enhances the natural texture of the hair, for bouncy, crisp natural curls or loose, abundant waves when thrown into a careless bun.

Jonathan Dirt Texturizing Paste ($26) manages to achieve that rare, delicate balance necessary for texturizers, emulsifying easily while providing lasting definition and hold. Though this paste initially feels hard, almost like a clay, in the hands it emulsifies into a creamy, slighty tacky consistency that easily grabs and defines hair. The hold lasts all day, looking even more natural and defined throughout the day, as it absorbs into the hair.

Though we remain skeptical that any product can be 100% frizz-proof, No Frizz ($24 for four ounces) impresses us with its abilities to straighten hair and resist frizz. It's straightening abilities are particularly impressive, relaxing hair on its own and creating a formidable barrier against frizz that protects the desired sleekness when when combined with heat. We are especially pleased that the product is offered in three formulations, which target the needs particular to fine-to-medium, medium-to-thick, and thick-to-coarse hair types.

Bumble & Bumble Spray de Mode ($25) offers flexible hold that can be brushed through, deconstructed, and molded again without creating stiffness or damaging the hair. This product is truly multi-faceted—it can be used as a texturizer, volumizer, or simply as a hair spray with a buildable amount of hold—everything you could need.,

hair dryer
Heat is one of the enemies of good haircare, but if you must blowdry frequently, for heat is unfortunately an ally of good styling, then invest in a Bespoke Labs T3 Tourmaline Overnight ($130), which dries hair quickly and thoroughly, to limit exposure to damage.

Yes, we know the expense is insane. Yes, we know there's a far cheaper Sonia-Kashuk dupe. But it's just not the same. The original Mason Pearson Boar Bristle & Nylon Handy Brush ($108) is a dream—massaging and stimulating the scalp, then distributing oils evenly down the hair shaft—it feels exactly like the luxury it is.

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1/23/2010 [0]

Hit List: Skin 2010
by Dain

makeup remover
For the second year, DHC Deep Cleansing Oil ($25) tops our list. It looks and smells like extra virgin olive oil with a touch of rosemary, and like oil, easily dissolves most makeup with dirt and excess oils, but unlike olive oil, it rinses off cleanly with water. One or two pumps will manage the average face, and a 200ml bottle lasts the better part of a year. On its own, DHC Deep Cleansing Oil works well on normal-to-dry skin; those with oilier skins may like to follow up with a foaming cleanser if the residue lingers over their minds.

cleanser, for oilier skin types
Free of fragrance, harsh chemicals, exfoliants, and acids, Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser ($7) effectively cleanses oily skin without the stripping and irritating effects common to cleansers aimed at this skin type. A single pump is all that is required to both cleanse and remove makeup. Readily available and inexpensive, it's the one thing we all want—quality skincare without pain or hassle.

cleanser, for drier skin types
Lotion cleansers are fast becoming a dying breed, as contemporary tastes overwhelmingly favor clean-rinsing suds over the slimy film lotion cleansers leave behind, and their claim to gently, thoroughly melt through makeup, when fulfilled, is now overmatched by cleansing oils. A good one is hard to source; for dry, fragile, and easily irritated skins, Clarins Cleansing Milk with Alpine Herbs ($29.50) cushions and comforts the skin, instead of stripping precious sebum away.

weightless, purely penetrative hydrator
Saturated with humectants like sodium hyaluronate, amino acids, and seaweed extracts, Malin + Goetz Replenishing Face Serum ($68) introduces high levels of moisture into the skin without occlusive emollients, ideal on its own for dehydrated but oily skin. Drier skin will love it as a hydrating serum beneath their regular moisturizer; the humectants improve the efficacy of even the most expensively calibrated creams.

light, middleweight emulsion
Moisturizers with SPF should properly be worn daily, although we all fall a little short in that department. While there are myriad products on the market promising both moisture and UV protection, many suffocate the skin as a thick, rubbery barrier, are excessively fragranced, or cost so much that one skimps on the necessary application. In the sensitive skin formulation, Olay Complete ($15) is scent-free, moisturizes discernibly without being excessively greasy, and is inexpensive enough to apply liberally, every day.

rich, heavy-duty protective cream
What makes Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrée ($25), almost sixty years old and a composite of rather humble ingredients, so remarkable is its ability to protect and soothe raw, parched skin, and yet absorb rapidly for a beautiful finish under makeup. When thinned out, it does not smother dehydrated skin, and yet is rich enough to substitute eye cream. Compared to drugstore moisturizers, it's worth the extra trouble of sourcing, while it laughs in the face of those affected, posh labels.

Broad-spectrum, effective, heavy-duty protection from a sunblock is never a very glamorous thing, but Shiseido's (~$30, several formulations) are almost reasonable to wear; they feel less like a choking layer on the skin than others. It's waterproof, so you may require a cleansing oil for removal; we suggest Olay for daily use. For targeted protection on the lips, a whitish paste is sometimes the best one can hope for. Banana Boat Sport Performance SPF 50 Lip Balm ($2.99) defies the odds by offering broad-spectrum protection in a user-friendly formula with no taste, no sunscreen smell, no whitish cast, and the same amount of moisturization you'd expect from your favorite Chapstick.

Although there are many physical exfoliants on the market—most consisting of particles suspended in gel—we haven't encountered any easier to control, more thorough, or better priced than the reusable Salux cloth ($0.99). Rub gently if your skin is sensitive.

lip balm
Once we acquired the large 4.9 oz tin of L'Occitane Shea Butter and friends from all around, for they were all (independently) fans of the handsomely packaged mini as a lip balm ($9), gathered for refills. One day, we awoke to find that curious fingers had scooped out nearly half the tin's contents. A little goes a long way; pure shea butter is highly reparative and protective on chapped skin anywhere on the body. For extra softening while you sleep, try layering it over a rich eye cream; it's the best remedy for chapped lips we've found.

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1/22/2010 [0]

Beauty Notes: Shanghai Express
by Dain

We are all quite obsessed with pixiwoo/Fashionface.tv tutorials (The Kindly One turned us onto them). Personally, what I love about these tutorials is how they start out slightly haggard and quite average looking, and lo and behold, there is Marlene Dietrich staring at you. And this woman, she looks absolutely nothing like Dietrich. These videos demonstrate a discernible difference between amateur and professional tutorials: the emphasis on brows as the linchpin of a face (she shifts the line ever so infinitesimally from her natural arch so it properly channels Dietrich) and how the brushes are almost more important than the products themselves.

Plus, I love a woman who demands a moment of silence for a great red lip.

Here is the original:

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1/12/2010 [3]

Fashion Notes: Rebel Yell
by The Kindly One


While flipping through a preview of Harper's Bazaar Fabulous at Every Age recently, I ran across an interesting point. Under the section for evening dressing, there was a picture of Lou Doillon as above, dressed for the Costume Institute Gala in 2008. Doillon's picture was used as an example of "rebel" dressing, and the accompanying soundbite urged readers to stay true to their style, even when dressing for night. This rang true for me. I know what it's like to try to dress for evening when all the styles for sale are ultra-feminine, super-girly, or just sexy-unto-skanky. It is hell. There is very little out there that is suitable for someone who doesn't want to dress like a cookie cutter image of a starlet, a porn star, or even a style blogger. Unlike regular people, who take their style inspirations from Sex and the City, starlets, and their morals and who only look upon Balenciaga and Givenchy as freaky aspirational wear (you know, the sane), I don't have the option of running to the store and finding something to wear. In order to stay true to my own look, I have to improvise and come up with something that is entirely my own. Though the eccentrics are small in number, we are not alone. Here are a few evening looks that I consider ideal.


I have loved this outfit on Daria Werbowy since I saw first saw it two or three years ago. She could have easily tarted up this Versace dress (it is not exactly quiet or modest). It's the addition of the jacket and the tights that take this from tacky to wearable, at least as defined by my scale of relativity. It's these personal touches that also transform this from a showstopper dress into an outfit. This outfit is an example of what can be done with evening wear and clothing in general - make it your own, add your own touch of what you think is right, and you look like an original, and it's this original approach that makes Daria stand out more in this dress than would JLo, Beyonce, and whoever else would place their more literal stamp on it.


This is another outfit burned into my brain. Worn to the 2000 Oscars, I was totally and completely taken with this Jean-Paul Gaultier look worn by Cate Blanchett. This is the ideal evening look for me: dramatic, minimal (just a plain black dress with a train), with jewelry acting as integral accessories to the look rather than show pieces in themselves. This look offers the showstopping, look-at-me qualities seen in other red carpet looks without the swagger of, say, a more blinged-out Versace number (see above). Despite the drama, the dress doesn't scream at you, and with the front kept plain, it still draws attention to the wearer rather than itself. I secretly hope to have an opportunity to wear this someday.


I can see how this Mary-Kate Olsen ensemble (front) could be considered obnoxious, but I get this on a very deep level. Nothing about this outfit goes together, not the black belt with the brown fur, not the transparency of the dress with the formality, and certainly not the hose with the wedge heel sandals. Somehow, though, where this would fall apart under other hands, these combinations seem to work together and flow under Mary-Kate's supervision. This is her specific vision of what she likes and how she thinks things go together, and it can be equally applied to both day and night. This is what separates the individual and particular from the merely pretty or conventional.

What I love most about this outfit, even more than the synthesis of its disparate Gothic elements, are the hose with the shoes. This is such a singularly eccentric element and looks so much like something I would wear myself.

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1/11/2010 [1]

The Beauty Primer: Bronzing and Whitening
by Dain

Bobbi Brown's Fall 2009 Nude Collection

Both swept onto the cheeks, blush and bronzer are frequently aligned, and in use, overlap considerably. On the very fair, for whom a rich, baked bronze is hardly credible, it is a dusty mauve blush, such as NARS Malibu, not a true bronzer, that best effects a sunkissed look. A bit of bronzer adds contour, a bit of blush a healthy flush: no reason on earth why you cannot take advantage of both. You can wear bronzer alone, but an honest tan from the sun brings out a ruddy glow in your complexion, so bronzer does feel more complete with a blush working in tandem. Judiciously applied, there is nothing tawdry about bronzer. Dust lightly with a skunk brush wherever the light naturally hits your face—the flat planes of the forehead, cheekbone, browbone, bridge of nose, and chin, plus the ears and neck for continuity—as if you've just spent a weekend on holiday. When swept in a C-shape (Laura Mercier's Angled Cheek Contour Brush makes it easy), angled up along the cheekbone, through the temple, and fading into the forehead, with a pop of peachy blush, as shown above, the effect is more sculpted.

But when bronzer is abused, its true partner in crime is revealed. Superficially, over-whitening (more skincare than makeup), most endemic to Asia, where pristine, pale, crystal-colorless skin is the ideal, does not seem to share common characteristics with over-tanning. But like all extremes, they're merely flip sides of the same coin: a desire to emulate a naturally occurring complexion, whether it's the glowing health of Adriana Lima or the glowing purity of Jun Ji Hyun.
Skin as beautiful as this, with an inner radiance that's quite impossible to fake (hydration helps), is rare. And even they take advantage of makeup's powers of enhancement. Nature, whether it's hyperbolic mascara or silicone implants, proves resistant to counterfeits, but that does not stop people from trying.

Since professional makeup artists generally know better, and can take advantage of photoshop, their excesses don't quite reach the catastrophic levels of what you see on the street: girls who slap on makeup, not expecting exactly to look like Adriana or Ji Hyun, but thinking they must conform to the image so idolized (mostly by men). So for purposes of illustration, I decided to replicate it myself:
I had tremendous fun doing this, using cheap makeup from the Korean brand Etude House, though limited by the fact that my coloring is obviously closer to one extreme. I took some care to give these two looks parallel treatments, all the same: similar angles in the position (not quite perfectly aligned, but I'm no model nor photographer), with heavy, heavy makeup in neutrals, and the contrast with the real skin tone of my neck.

The parodic bronzed complexion was easier to effect. Since I had no intention of visiting a tanning salon, I had to resort to makeup. The base was built incrementally, using my standard foundation as a base, so that the bronzer (sheer, matte, and not orange-toned) could be built up with a minimum of streakiness. There's a touch of ruddy blush (lipstick, actually), but even then it doesn't have the rich timbre of Adriana's skin. The rest is the conventional nude-lips-and-smoky-eyes combination, exaggerated by a particularly sickly mauve and matte black and taupe shimmer applied in total disregard for the true proportions of my eyelids. Finally, the expression: "Guys tell me I'm superHOT and should be a Victoria's Secret model".

The whitened base I had to attempt twice, partly because I've been exposed to it less and partly because, as it turns out, I've come by the proper complexion—not so much pale but lacking in strong undertones—naturally. When darker, yellow skin is bleached out and coated with brightening BB creams, what I frequently encounter is this blanched, corpse-like face with false eyelashes and a mini skirt. To get this base, I had to resort to a lilac base, with a tiny amount of foundation blended in, to cancel out all the yellow in my skin, before patting in copious amounts of "radiance powder". Since Asian women are conscious of their small eyes, overapplication is iterated in thick, rubbery liner augmented by false lashes (I generally loop my eyeliner under my bottom lashes, but you can tell I've erased it for the sake of authenticity). For lips, I've applied pale gold gloss, cut with a small amount of foundation. The expression: "I'm so sweet and wide-eyed and innocent and squeaky clean, so buy me presents and a wedding ring!"

For reference's sake, this is my natural skin tone, with only tinted moisturizer:
The makeup isn't much here, only more colorful (neutrals don't flatter me): Chanel Lavande and Rose Taffetas, with my usual NARS Desire as blush.

The object lesson? Use bronzing and whitening in moderation; don't try to wear someone else's skin.

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1/07/2010 [2]

Culture Notes: Barefoot Contessa
by The Kindly One


Barefoot Contessa speaks to that part of me that, in college, was enamored with all things American upper-middle class. At the time, I wanted to live expensively and well in Manhattan in what would essentially be an extended episode of the now-defunct The Isaac Mizrahi Show. Though not set in Manhattan, it is this rarefied experience of life that is explored in Barefoot Contessa, which follows Ina Garten as she pares down French cuisine and the best of American upper-middle class fare into recipes that can easily be reproduced at home. Set in the East Hamptons and Paris, this show follows the Food Network formula of luscious cinematagraphy, an easy, engaging pace, and friendly, informative host to invite viewers into the world of culinary arts. Barefoot Contessa is among my favorites of the Food Network lineup because Ina consistently features vegetarian dishes, truly pares down recipes to make them as simple and efficient as possible, and is a very warm, low-key host. She seems the type of person that, were you to attend her party, you'd leave feeling relaxed, warm, and well-fed.

Here's the thing about Barefoot Contessa: it can be really, really boring. The same things that make the show so comforting - Ina's laidback demeanor, the unhurried pace, the general lack of pretention - can also make it move at a glacial speed when Ina's preparing uninteresting dishes. So why keep watching? Because ultimately, the comfort the show offers doesn't come so much from the host or the food or the enjoyment of the show itself, but from it's secret subtext: money. This show is all about money, even moreso than most other Food Network offerings. Money is everywhere, from the fact that Ina owns residences in two exceedingly expensive locations to the warm, soft lighting to the expensively understated kitchen to the offerings themselves. As likeable as the show is, the best part of it is how its money smooths everything over. Ina's garden always looks immaculate, her guests have refined tastes, and everything runs smoothly and on time, therefore, no worries. It's really this idea of a world where money can buy time, peace, and a hassle-free existence that has me hooked on this show, just as when I previously wanted to live life as a guest on Isaac Mizrahi's show. Obviously, money cannot buy happiness or love, but it can make life considerably simpler. Having the money to afford the time and materials to invest in your hobbies, as well as in materials that consistently work well, must eliminate at least some of the hassles in life. Likewise, not having to worry about money and instead spending your time doing the things you want to do in life seems like a pretty fulfilling way to live. Of course, I couldn't tell you if that's how Ina Garten actually lives, and I am pretty sure Isaac Mizrahi doesn't get to enjoy that existence all the time. Still, it's nice to watch the illusion of it, and so I continue to watch Barefoot Contessa and wish I was in her kitchen, surrounded by gadgets I'd never use but still enjoy just for knowing that everything - in that kitchen, in that house, at my disposal - was there to make my life easier and more pleasureable.

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1/05/2010 [1]

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