eyeliner on a cat

eyeliner on a cat
beauty, scent & style scrutinized for pleasure

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Favorite Fashion Moment of 2012 and its Perfume Pairing

One of my favorite fashion moments of 2012 was undoubtedly the emergence of Swedish style blogger and model Elin Kling (Style By Kling) into the mainstream fashion limelight. It seems that these days, bloggers can become famous pretty easily, and many of us are left wondering.. why? Elin Kling has proven to be an exception to that kind of exasperated plaintiveness. Her collaboration with Marciano for her collection of clothing and accessories is all aces. The ad campaign featuring Kling herself as the model is even more delicious, as she clearly gives us major vintage Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC.  Kling's collection is super-modern, super-wearable and when you see it all as a whole, you just want to be that girl. We all know that kind of cool can't be bought, so if you've got it, rock it.

Amazing bootie from the Elin Kling for Marciano accessories collection

My favorite shot. The way her body torques is just like Raquel's

Raquel Welch in One Million Years BC

Now, let's see. Elin's look that I love so much needs a great fragrance to pair with it. We're going to need something either genderless or something that leans masculine, and it can't have overpowering sillage. A few great picks would be:

CB I Hate Perfume 2nd (Alan) Cumming
A smoky, peaty, boozy masterpiece. Meant to represent Scotland in all the ways that count (except haggis).

Donna Karan Woman
Beautiful woody, musky concoction that's very light on florals and heavy on quiet sex appeal.

Commes des Garcon Wonderwood
A marvel of the synthetic woody overdose.

Tom Ford Oud Wood
Rich, nutty, warm and simple- more of a halo than a perfume.

Despite the above strong contenders, one fragrance stands out among all for this particular pairing, and that would be:
JUL ET MAD Amour de Palazzo. With patchouli, natural castoreum (!), a four-spice blend and leather, it has the aesthetic strength of modernism on its side with an impassioned, amber-toned soul beneath the surface. When I see Elin Kling wearing her collection for Marciano, I get exactly the same vibe.

Do you have any favorite fashion moments of 2012? Can you pair it with a particular fragrance?

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Best of 2012: Fragrance

2012 was a fabulous year for fragrance, and I didn't even get to try half of all the launches that I wanted to. I took great pains to create this list in order for it to reflect the scents that have made the biggest impact on me in various ways this past year. Some have become an indispensable part of my daily life, others so precious that I'll only break them out once in awhile, and a couple that I think are profoundly interesting but that I might not wear much myself. In any case, they are all noteworthy, and they are listed below in no particular order.

Neela Vermeire Trayee
Neela Vermeire Creations kicked off the year in perfume in a very attention-grabbing way with the launch of her initial trio: Trayee, Mohur and Bombay Bling. While all three are beautiful, for my tastes, Trayee is one of the best perfumes I have ever smelled and is in a class of its own. Intended to represent the Vedic era of ancient Indian history, it definitely inspires in me what could definitely be considered spiritual bliss. Green cardamom pods, milky, cinnamon-spiked rice and a ganja accord are just a few of the highlights which add up to the sum of this truly enchanting, wholly unique perfume.

Ramon Monegal Cuirelle
I have worn Cuirelle more than any other perfume in the past year due to its versatility and perfect, genderless beauty. Its bright, positively charged shock of Somalian incense, leather and traditional floral heart notes never fails to lift my spirits. Everyone I know who has tried it has been taken in by its inviting, spiced, cashmere-like warmth. This is one perfume I don't intend to ever go without if I can help it.

Phaedon Grisens
This fragrance brandishes its sandalwood in a very intoxicating way, combining it with incense notes (yes, more incense, and there's more to come). This is a divine perfume that is so wildly attractive, it borders on an addiction for me. If you are a true lover of sandalwood and lament its scarcity as I do, buy Grisens. I'm not certain whether the sandalwood is the result of aromachemicals or not, but I don't care, and you won't either. Trust me.

Maria Candida Gentile Lady Day
The impossible has happened. I've found a gardenia-based perfume that I love. Why has Lady Day broken through a wall where other gardenias have feared to merely approach? It's because of its fresh angle. What Sheldrake did for tuberose with Tuberose Criminelle is what Italian artisan perfumer Maria Candida Gentile has done for gardenia. It's not for those looking for a traditionally pretty floral perfume-- Lady Day's appeal lies in its camphorous growl and its sharp, leafy edge. Maria has taken certain fresh facets of the flower (still firmly planted in the ground) and exaggerated them to stunning effect. A beautiful tribute, just as unique as its namesake, Billie Holiday.

By Kilian Amber Oud
Amber Oud is the most recent addition to Kilian Hennessy's Arabian Nights Collection, and it stands out from the crowd. The words "Amber" and "oud" hardly begin to describe the transcendent nature of this perfume. It begs to be explained in Aramaic or Sanskrit, neither of which I can touch. It reminds me of  a beautiful, dark-haired man or woman of ancient royal lineage, resplendent in earth-toned silks and adorned with a diadem made of burnished gold, pale topaz and sapphires. Not of this world, yet somehow, perfectly representative of it. It's very much worth the hefty price tag, and more. Certainly one of Calice Becker's best compositions of all time.

Aftelier Sepia
Sepia is the perfect combination of all the things I love most about Mandy Aftel's body of work and perfumery style. High quality, substantial natural essences are combined in such a way as to remove the excess weight of them and push forward a decidedly ethereal, finely detailed aesthetic. Sepia was inspired by one of Aftel's obsessions- California ghost towns. As the more volatile (mostly fruity) components of the fragrance change and fade, the bones of the composition is exposed: honeyed resins, dry, dusky  woods and the breath of layer upon layer of warm, earthy delights- such as ambergris and oud. Sepia has claimed its stake as a superstar in Aftelier's already stellar lineup.

JUL ET MAD Stilettos on Lex
New French brand JUL ET MAD came onto the scene with a very refreshing combination of romance and reality, as well as a nicely edited concept for their collection. Their first three fragrances are a chronological and geographical charting of creators Julien and Madalina's real-life love story. Stilettos on Lex represents the initial phase of seduction, and once you experience this masterful tuberose-centered perfume, you'll understand why. It manages an impressive level of sophistication while unabashedly flaunting its sensuality-- just like a great pair of Louboutins. Stilettos is tart on top, coolly floral in the middle and has a smooth, rich base. The raw materials are of excellent quality and are blended with great skill.  My hope is that a light will now shine brightly on the talent of Robertet perfumer Dorothee Piot, who authored all three JUL ET MAD creations.

Thierry Mugler Taste of Fragrance: Alien
Mugler's Limited Edition Taste of Fragrance collection was overall, quite interesting. My favorite of the bunch is Alien. The original Alien doesn't do a whole lot for me, but it's pleasant enough. This iteration, however, feels extraordinary: sweet bitter almond scented poisoned buttercream, cherries macerated in Chartreuse liqueur, fine hides impregnated with violet and orange blossom and fashioned into saddles. Its an awfully strange perfume and stokes the imagination into creating wild narratives-- which is precisely the reason Mugler's fragrances and couture have stood the test of time.

Amouage Opus VI
Well, I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. My odd-numbered Opus fetish has ended. I was starting to think Numerology was behind it all, until VI came along and convinced me that you can't really put a number on what the heart wants, anyway. Opus VI from The Library Collection is a very appealing combination of peppery, anisic sweet warmth and a variety of resins, musks and woods that Amouage fans will recognize. What makes VI special in my eyes is the marriage of its nose-tickling, eyelash-curling jolt of pepper and the cool, sweet marzipan-- it's a real treat to enjoy them simultaneously. This is gold to the fragrance-obsessed.

April Aromatics Calling All Angels
Calling All Angels is the first (and only, thus far) in the Angel series of fragrances created by natural perfumer Tanja Bochnig. Yet another perfume on my list that is based around incense, this one is starkly different from the others. It has the power of evoking the very dry, sweet smoke of fine incense instead of just the materials that comprise the incense. Angels' warm, arid amber qualities inspire the feeling of being protected, and its aromatic leanings are immediately comforting.  If you are a lover of amber and/or incense fragrances, this is a must-try. If you don't care for natural perfumes, try it anyway. This will likely be the one to change your mind.

Please visit the year-end posts of the other members of this blogging group as well (as if you could resist):
Fragrant Moments
Olfactoria's Travels

Monday, December 24, 2012

Close encounters of 2012 + Happy Holidays!

This has been quite a year for me. There have been an obscene amount of new perfume releases that I've fallen hard for, so much gorgeous skin care and makeup, and an ever-deepening appreciation for all things organic and natural. If I had to sum up all of this year's affinities, discoveries, loves and lusts with just a couple of images, it would be these:

 [Green Cardamom Pods]

[Palo Santo, or Holy Wood]

Both worthy olfactory obsessions, fresh cardamom pods and the tantalizingly anisic quality of Palo Santo have got me reeling. Later this week, I will post my Best of Beauty and Best Fragrances of 2012 lists, and it's not proving to be a simple affair to whittle down my picks to a length that folks might actually read.

And with that, I wish all of my readers the happiest of holidays!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday 2012 Gift Guide: Fragrance

Giving the gift of scent can be tricky. You need to know the recipient pretty well. Ideally, you'd take their personality, lifestyle and taste into account and build on it a little bit-- perhaps suggesting something new for them. Sometimes, there is subtext involved in the act of giving. If you would like to convey a sentiment in a cool and rather exciting way, perfume is just the thing to bear the message. Perfume's allure is in part due to its fragility and the indulgence of wearing something that begins to disappear as soon as you let it out of the bottle. It's a phone number written on the palm of your hand at 3am, and at its best, a safe place for the soul to rest. The way I see it, perfume chosen thoughtfully and gifted is a compliment of the highest order.

By Kilian In the City of Sin EDP ($245) and Back to Black candle ($85)
Let's start off with a bang. If the price of the gifts you are shopping for doesn't really matter, you'd be hard-pressed to do better than By Kilian's offerings. Consider a bottle of In the City of Sin, my favorite from the new collection (In the Garden of Good and Evil), with its sleek white and gold minaudiere-style box, plus the universally loved tobacco-scented Back to Black candle. If you're going for visual impact, white and gold paired with black and silver is ultra-sexy.

In the City of Sin Eau de Parfum with case

Back to Black candle

Aftelier Wild Roses Eau de Parfum 30ml ($170)
Everyone knows someone who is crazy about rose, and yet even the biggest rose fanatics may not have had the opportunity to try a natural rose composition with the complex and masterful swagger of Wild Roses. This fragrance was inspired by a variety of roses, alive and growing, with the subtleties of each variety on display-- even the dirty ones. Add to that a touch of sweet honey and a dash of rich, aromatic bliss, and you've got Wild Roses-- a fascinating study in the cultivation of the senses.

Wild Roses Eau de Parfum

Ramon Monegal Perfumes Impossible Iris 50ml EDP ($185)
Every time I indulge in Impossible Iris (which is a lot), I always exclaim how shockingly wonderful it is. It lifts my spirits immediately, yet it has a grown-up sensuality to the blend. Orris paired with raspberry has turned out to be my OMG note-pairing of the year, all because I met Impossible Iris. It was named so because the iris is rather fleeting-- it wasn't meant to last. It was originally created by Ramon Monegal as an anniversary gift for his wife, somewhat of a fragrant "love poem", but luckily, he decided to share it with the rest of the world. If the orris is fairly fleeting, the longevity of the scent overall is excellent-- its pepperiness, tea-like timbre and sharp cedar base... and that raspberry accord that is anything but treacly. Don't call this a fruity floral, buy it for someone you dearly love and call it a day.

Impossible Iris

Le Labo Patchouli 24 Eau de Parfum 50ml ($145) and Anis 24 Classic Candle ($70)
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm obsessed with Le Labo, especially due to the likes of Patchouli 24, one of the most gorgeous, rich and smoky tobacco, birch tar overdosed, tea and tonka perfumes ever. It survived a reformulation intact- as near as I can tell, only the color of the juice has changed from rich amber to pale yellow. Men and women alike love it, and it is widely considered to be Le Labo's best (I say Oud 27 ties with Patch 24, easily). Le Labo's candles are beautifully scented and simply designed, and like almost all of their labels, can be personalized for gift-giving, or for you. If you're shopping for a foodie-type, they will love the Anis 24 candle.

Neela Vermeire Creations Discovery Set 10ml set of 3 fragrances: Trayee, Mohur and Bombay Bling 90 euros to US (about $116.75). Set is exclusive to NeelaVermeire.com.
Neela Vermeire's singular, millenia-sweeping vision of her native land, India, is simply striking. I've adopted Trayee as one of my highest-rotation fragrances this year, but to see the whole picture, one must experience all three. All should probably be worn sparingly, so each 10ml bottle will last quite awhile. Okay, confession: I overspray. I don't do it before I go out or anything, I just like the feeling of being overwhelmed by these fragrances. I've even dreamed of them: the perfumes changed form and morphed into music. I could see the musical notes floating in the air, and could hear the tabla in the background. A woman next to me sniffed at the passing musical notes and said to me, "Ah, Mohur!". It was an extraordinary dream. A gift, actually. Which brings us full circle.... the passion and emotion in these fragrances will make even the most wizened perfume-lover weak in the knees. Trust.

Trayee, Mohur, Bombay Bling

Maria Candida Gentile travel sizes: Exultat, Cinabre, Gershwin, Barry Lyndon, Hanbury, Sideris Reg. collection 25 euros (about $32.38) for each 15ml travel spray. Large sizes available in US at IndieScents and Parfum1. 
Italian niche perfumer Maria Candida Gentile's work emerged in the US earlier this year with her initial 6 offerings, and I had a moment. It was the kind of moment where I can't believe there's not a single fragrance I can say anything negative about. Each is inspired by interesting (and sometimes unexpected) people or places, and each has a story to tell. It is the scented narrative that MCG weaves into her compositions that I love to get lost in. The travel sizes are on sale, and are a steal at 25 euros each (additional 20 euros to ship to US). Order a set for someone who appreciates the truly independent niche creators, the unusual and the free-spirited, and especially the uber-talented. And order a second set for yourself.


Guerlain L’Heure Bleue Parfum 30ml $327 at Bergdorf Goodman
This little slice of perfection speaks for itself. I've always been partial to the vintage EDT, but the parfum version of L'HB is incredible. It teases you with warm, ripe apricot compote in the top notes and an even warmer, rounder rose in the heart. This notoriously ethereal perfume comes to life in a different way in parfum concentration. I wouldn't trade in my vintage EDT for anything, because that was the first perfume I remember picking out for myself as a teenager (oh, the Guerlain counter experience!), but if you were really quick about snatching it out of my hand and replacing it with the parfum, I would probably smile. A lot.

Guerlain L'Heure Bleue Parfum

Gorilla at LUSH Tuca Tuca 30ml bottle $29.95
Tuca Tuca is in my opinion, the best deal in fragrance at the moment. For a mere nickel under $30, you get a whole bottle of one the most sexy and distinctive perfumes I've ever tried and loved. It's the perfect black leather jacket fragrance-- it's all spicy incense, iris and violet, woods and tonka bean and it's thoroughly unisex. Gorilla at LUSH actually has about a half-dozen fragrances I think are wonderful on so many levels, but Tuca Tuca takes the cake. If you want to be funny, throw in a log of Pink LUSH Fun-- it smells very much like a sweeter version of Tuca Tuca.

Tuca Tuca Eau de Parfum

LUSH Fun- Pink (it's squishy soap!)

L’Artisan Mure et Musc Extreme scented gloves $480  
I feel an odd sense of gratitude towards L'Artisan for creating these leather gloves scented with Mure et Musc Extreme. It is a nice gesture to honor the rather humble beginnings of perfumery in Grasse, when the public demanded scented hides of all sorts. These gloves are beautiful and timeless-- the perfect spot of luxury for gifting someone extraordinary.

M. Micallef Ylang $245 for 100ml bottle at Luckyscent/ Scent Bar
I have been waiting for Ylang. Well, not Ylang specifically, but I have been holding out hope that a new Micallef creation would endear itself to me like Black Sea or Note Vanillee did a couple of years ago. Now that I think of it, it was really Martine Micallef's perfumes that kicked my niche perfume habit into high gear. The Sea collection is gone but not forgotten. Ylang is part delicate hothouse floral, part sugared coconut and aromatics-- but in the end, Ylang is simply super-feminine, definitely gourmand and absolutely delicious, and... take a moment and look at the Swarovski-ed out bottle below. Yes, this gift will look good on you no matter who you give it to. Me? This might be one I'll have to hoard in secrecy. This also comes as Ylang in Gold, which has a subtle golden shimmer added. 

M. Micallef Ylang

LeSnob : Perfume (about 6.79 GBP at Amazon.co.uk and 3rd party sellers via Amazon.com US)
Yes, I'm plugging this book again, because my friend Persolaise wrote it, and I have my very own page in it. Unfortunately it didn't even have much of a chance to get off the ground in the US, and was pulled from Amazon on the day it was due for release. The good news is that you can still buy it new at Amazon.co.uk, and it's a lovely little gift for admirers of fragrance of any ilk, and its rather upbeat and welcoming tone is refreshing.

Captain Blankenship Phosphorescent 5ml rollerball perfume ($30)
While I find the entire line of CB perfumes to be lovely, there's something about Phosphorescent...what is it? Reminiscent of the briny deep, living seaweed, deciduous needles from an unseen forest, citrus fruits and exotic flowers,  but mostly that toe-curling saltiness. This will be the fragrance I reach for in the dead of winter when my soul is crying out for warmth and/or I get my annual urge to act out scenes from H.P. Lovecraft stories. Brilliant and satisfying.

Captain Blankenship Phosphorescent

April Aromatics Deluxe Sample Set (US orders via Etsy- $128, Europe- order via AprilAromatics.com- 99 Euros)
In this deluxe sample kit, there are 9 X 2.5ml perfume sprays in a lovely boxed presentation. German perfumer Tanja Bochnig creates fragrances which are all-natural, organic or wild-crafted, cruelty and chemical/synthetics free. If you have someone in your life that is a Class A Bunny-Hugger like me, take my word for it-- this would be a particularly amazing gift. I'm admittedly very picky when it comes to naturals because I've been spoiled for awhile now. Suffice it to say that I'm impressed by the quality of these abstract watercolor washes of scent. Each one has its own charming qualities, but the real stand-outs for me are Jasmina (a perfectly bright and sunny narcotic jasmine), Nectar of Love (a strange and addictive dry, smoky tobacco Oriental), Liquid Dreams (summer fruits, delicate florals, green and fresh and cheerful), and Precious Woods (musky, woods with varying textures, animalic and intense). It's tough to walk the line between wearable and edgy, especially with natural materials, but Tanja seems very comfortable on that tight-rope.

April Aromatics Deluxe Sample Set

Are any of you planning to give the gift of perfume this holiday season? If so, please dish! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Ladies with an attitude... [a group blog]

Thankfully, I have been alive long enough to see each and every incarnation of Madonna's propensity and talent for reinvention, and I remember each one vividly. When has Madonna not been pretty much the coolest person in pop music? Even now, Lady Gaga with her hybridization of Marilyn Manson and Madonna, cannot hold a candle to the extremes Madonna has explored and conquered. Madonna is the Mother of Re-Invention, and she has flags planted in practically every arena-- including a bullfighting one.

So goes the theme of our group blog chosen this time around by Persolaise. Please take a few moments to check out the posts of my peers as well:

Candy Perfume Boy (our special guest)
Fragrant Moments

(Yep, just me and the boys this time-- just as Madge herself would have it)

I sort of thrive off of different arts coming together for any purpose, but music, fashion and perfume? That's the mother-lode. I'm going to share two of my favorite Madonna eras and pair them with what I consider to be the ideal perfume for that era.


Not many of us knew anything about the real Vogueing scene happening in NYC when this song and video came out, so Madonna's ultra-stylized version in her video gave us a taste of something new (to us, anyway). The best part about the statement that Vogue made at the time was Madonna's homage to the most fabulous women and men of the past, mostly in the Golden Age of Hollywood. When Madonna sings "Greta Garbo gave good face", no one could argue with that. Madonna shows love for those style mavens who came before her, and it's every bit as delicious as the dapper minimalist suits worn in the video.

All these classic references deserve a classic perfume, and to my mind, it must be a Guerlain-- more specifically, Mitsouko, an exemplary chypre created in 1919 by Jaques Guerlain.

The delicate but persistent anisic note in the classic Mousse de Saxe accord is my favorite part of the Mitsouko experience. Brightly aromatic and rich, spicy and overtly sexual, this is a fragrance for grown-ups. Even though the heart boasts a punch of peach, I think it suits men and women equally. If you're lucky enough to possess even a few drops of the vintage extrait, you understand the earthy power of natural oak moss. 


Like most people fond of Madonna's particular brand of pop, I have a soft spot for her early days. Desperately Seeking Susan first hit theaters in 1985, and as we all know, the plot leaves something to be desired, but Madonna's sexy urban nonchalance as Susan made a lot of sense to me. Everybody tried to dance like her, look like her, and display the level of confidence she innately had. She made even the most questionable wardrobe pieces seem like she was born to wear them, which leads me to the song...

Into the Groove

Nobody does a healthy combination of the sacred AND profane like Etat Libre d'Orange, and Antoine Maisondieu's Encens et Bubblegum is the perfect example. Even the perfumer's surname fits right in.

Okay, so I can't ever recall a time when Madonna projected innocence exactly, but her music heavily leaned towards bubblegum in the early days. The incense represents the consistent use of religious symbols (whether they are subtle or meant to be obvious) in practically everything she's ever done. I mean, nothing says "I'm a reformed Catholic!" quite like sugary-sweet, hot pink bubblegum paired with the intoxicating, ecclesiastical cool of frankincense, right?

Have any of you tried Madonna's perfume Truth Or Dare? I love the visual aesthetic of the bottle and graphic on it, but I've not sampled it yet. I'm tempted to, though. The power of pop compels me!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Holiday 2012 Gift Guide: Natural Beauty

This feeling of giddiness I'm experiencing at the moment could only mean one thing-- it's holiday gift guide time again! I have made many new discoveries over the past year and have found some beauty products that not only perform well, but are natural and/or organic, are pleasurable to use and have high quality ingredients. On this list you will find simply beautiful gifts for the discerning beauty junkies in your life. Without further ado, release the list!

[Gorgeous natural gift wrapping using burlap and organic cotton by The Ribbon Lady at May Arts: step-by-step instructions & free download-able tutorial  HERE]

Aroma M Camellia Hair and Face Oil Set $145
This beauty duo is inspired by the traditional formulas used by Japanese Geishas, and somehow it seems all the more luxurious for it. The hair oil delivers gorgeous shine and hydration and imparts the scent of tuberose with an earthy touch, while the face oil charms with a geranium-based floral blend. Best of all, camellia oil features prominently in both, which means  all types of skin and hair will benefit due to its versatility. A hardcore skin/hair care enthusiast's dream.

In Fiore Veloutee- $58
Veloutee is a gorgeous jasmine-scented natural balm for lips and under eyes that has an incredible number of anti-aging constituents, such as black current seed oil, calendula, carrot seed oil and marula. Loaded up with In Fiore's signature floral essence blend and housed in a chic metal compact, this is one sexy balm that will give anyone on your gift list a thrill.

ILIA Beauty Limited Edition Lips & Eyes
Inkpot Lipstick and These Days Tinted Lip Conditioner $24 each
Mascara in Asphalt Jungle $24
I am in love/lust with ILIA Beauty. Their colors range from everyday-wearable to wild and wonderful. Their newest limited edition collection is to die for. Inkpot Lipstick is richly pigmented and can be dabbed on as a purplish-berry stain or applied right from the tube for serious pop. They've recently launched a new mascara line that offers the same diversity that their lip products do. My favorite one is pictured below- Asphalt Jungle, a gorgeous charcoal grey for those who like to swim in the cool side of the pool. I love that ILIA's products are all organic, which is a huge comfort when faced with the statistic that a woman, on average, consumes about 2 pounds of lipstick/lip balm in their lifetime.

Holistic Silk eye mask with lavender $65
Holistic Silk makes these luxurious silk and velvet eye masks filled with organic lavender, and they come in a bunch of colors. Treat the frequent traveler on your list with one of these, and they'll be thanking you all year long.

Pai Sea Buckthorn Hand and Nail Collection $32
The gift sets that Pai has on offer this year are really amazing and well-priced. This hand and nail duo is the kind of thing you'd do well to buy a few of, because it will make everyone happy, including yourself. All organic, anti-aging and seriously moisturizing without greasiness, the Sea Buckthorm Hand Cream is the best and most effective hand cream I've used in some time. The Sea Buckthorn Cuticle Balm is exclusive to this gift set, and is a bedside-table must-have. Treat yourself every night before bed.

REN Trio Set for Men $85
This all-natural and organic trio for men contains Tamanu High-Glide Shaving Oil, High-Glide Cooling Shaving Cream and Multi-Tasking After Shave Balm. Once the man or men in your life try this once and realize that shaving doesn't have to be semi-painful drudgery, they will need no more convincing. Want to kick up your gift-giving prowess a few notches? Add a gorgeous silver Edwin Jagger shaving set for $125 (not pictured).

Kjaer Weis Beauty Reborn Gift Trio $140
Green make-up artist Kjaer Weis has created one of the most highly coveted lines of natural and organic cosmetics, complete with sexy, refillable metal packaging that lasts a lifetime. Each product even comes with a polishing cloth for the case, so it can double as a mirror. Spirit Beauty Lounge has a fabulous gift set available where you can choose your colors of Lip Tint (my fave is Bliss Full, shown below gift pic), Cream Blush and Eyeshadow. Weis has mastered the art of eco-luxe, and this stuff is just too good not to share.

Aftelier Ancient Resins body oil $40 for 50ml bottle
As you drink deeply from the sultry well of resins and spices present in Mandy Aftel's newest body oil, you soon realize that it's no small wonder that the ancient Egyptians would literally get high by enclosing themselves in spaces filled with frankincense smoke. It makes an ideal gift for anyone who loves intense, earthy fragrances, has chronically sore joints or muscles, or those who worship at the altar of Frankincense, one of the most perfect natural substances on Earth. The scent profile is rounded out by Balm of Gilead, benzoin, elemi and labdanum. This is the real deal, and it will blow your mind.

LUSH Emotional Brilliance Cosmetics: Liquid Lipstick in Perspective ($22.95), Liquid Eyeliner in Independent ($22.95), Eyes Right Mascara in Black (18.95), Liquid Eyeshadow in Intuitive ($22.95)
Makeup hasn't been this much fun in... well, ever. Whether you're in the store or online, you can spin a wheel with a different colored dots on the outside and the wheel will decree what mood you are in, and which colors you should be wearing. It is a gimmick, yes, but it's cute. Less corny are the cosmetics themselves. The liquid lipsticks are satiny and ultra-comfortable to wear, the liquid eyeliner comes in all kinds of fantasy colors and stays put indefinitely until removed, and the mascara is rich and gorgeous (and boasts a wheatgrass base). The colors I chose below are just a few of my faves, and at this time, the mascara only comes in black. The wide range of colors in the Emotional Brilliance line make it easy to customize your selections for the natural beauty-lovers on your list.

Vered Organic Botanicals Introductory Set $68
Vered Back is a master aesthetician and herbalist who makes a whole slew of wonderful face and body products. From her cult favorite, Le Chocolat Citrus Foaming Face Scrub (yes, it smells as gorgeous as it sounds) to my personal favorites, Therapeutic Balancing Face Oil and Herb Infused Toner, the array of trial sizes packed into this adorable kit are what I consider to be mandatory testing. If you buy this for someone on your holiday gift list, I highly suggest you do not pick through the contents prior to wrapping, or it will never reach its intended recipient. Or, you could just buy two.

This year, I feel I could have made my list three times as long as in prior years, there has just been so much brilliant beauty products that have hit the market in recent past. Oils are finally hitting the mainstream, thanks to tireless champions such as Nav Mundi, the woman behind Beauty Huile blog. Consumers are starting to realize that there are alternatives to what they've been using for so long-- ones that are healthier, natural, organic and in so many cases, far better than their synthetic counterparts.

This is why I love the small boutique lines. Some are made and bottled by hand by individuals and teams with vast amounts of knowledge and experience with botanicals, beauty and natural healing. They are in touch with their customer and possess a profound chicness that informs the ingenuity, integrity and quality of their products. My list represents beauty with brains and a lot of heart... I won't settle for less than that, and now that this sector of the beauty industry is steadily growing, I won't ever have to think of settling.