The Beauty of Scent, Scrutinized for Pleasure

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:

Persolaise
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.

Vogue




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. 



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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.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Aroma M Beauty Camellia Hair and Face Oils

I was so excited when Aroma M's Maria McElroy told me that she was going to start creating beauty products based on traditional ingredients and formulae used by the Kyoto Gion Geishas. What ended up in my hands was well worth the breathless wait. Her first two offerings, Camellia Hair Oil and Camellia Face Oil, both made a huge impression on me.

Camellia Hair Oil hits the ultimate sweet spot: a nourishing, shine-enhancing and strength-promoting oil that smells more delicious than any heaven I could conjure in my mind. There are few natural floral essences that never fail to excite me, and tuberose is at the top of the list. I think it's such a perfect fragrance for hair. This one eschews the more raunchy aspects of the flower for a sweeter, more balanced scent thanks to its marriage to rosemary essential oil. They reside happily together in a base of camellia, jojoba and argan oil, so you can bet on gorgeous, shiny hair. My hair is so long now that it's creeping dangerously close to the small of my back, so it goes without saying that my ends need extra attention, and Camellia Hair Oil fixes me right up while feeding my constant need to smell beautiful things. This is the hair oil to end all hair oils, and it's hand crafted and bottled by a talented nose who also, as we find out, has a serious knack for creating beauty products. Keep this in mind if you should find yourself in Barneys, holding a grotesquely expensive bottle of Frederic Malle Carnal Flower Hair Mist in your hand, which is pretty but won't do your hair many favors.


Camellia Face Oil is the sort of oil that immediately just slid right into its waiting slot in my skin care arsenal. Camellia oil is very soothing and wonderful for its immediate skin plumping powers and is quickly becoming ubiquitous in anti-aging preparations. This blend is packed with lots of other organic beauties: carrot seed, evening primrose, apricot kernel, vitamin e, golden jojoba and argan oil with essential oils of jasmine, neroli, geranium and frankincense. This is a great facial treatment for all skin types, including oily and blemish prone, due to its ability to help balance out sebum production. While your delicate skin is being treated with lots of antioxidants, deep hydration and healing, soothing ingredients, the complexion turns to satin. Fine lines are blurred and skin tone appears more even. I love a product that works hard and looks pretty while doing it.



I can't wait until Maria launches more Aroma M Beauty products. Her first two are extremely useful, results-driven oils combined with the aesthetics of an artist and perfumer, and her ability to offer us the unmistakable thrill of feeling like we were just let in on a secret or two.

[There is a set of these two oils available on aromam.com for $145, which saves you $5. Separately, the Camellia Hair Oil is $65 for 40ml and the Camellia Face Oil is $95 for 40ml. For the amount of product you're getting, I consider this a great deal]

Want to read another review of these lovely oils? Beauty Huile is the place to go.

Samples provided by Aroma M for my consideration.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Perfume Palate: A Matter of Taste [Hazel Walker]

Hazel Walker is the founder and owner of one of my very favorite places to shop online for natural and organic skin care products, fragrances and cosmetics-- NuboNau. I originally found the website while searching for somewhere to get my Pai Chamomile & Rosehip moisturizer, and they had a free shipping promotion on the brand at the time. I was instantly hooked by the thoughtful curation of the products, the friendly vibe you get while perusing the website, and later, I found that my affection for NuboNau naturally carried over to the owner herself.

There is a brick and mortar shop in San Diego, California that carries all of the products offered online, plus facial services using some of the best organic product lines. NuboNau has their own brand of gorgeous handmade aromatherapy candles (read my review HERE), argan oil and body soap bars-- all organic. Your package arrives in the prettiest, reusable containers and always with a personal thank you note and plenty of free samples. There are frequent sales, and they even have a loyalty points rewards program.

I was elated to see that NuboNau made In Style Magazine's "Best of the Web" list this month, and it just goes to show you that integrity, kindness and positive intention will go far in the business world as well as in customer service. Hazel is a very cool lady, and she definitely loves her natural fragrances, as you'll find out by reading below.

[Hazel Walker: she's got silky hair and she's not afraid to use it]


First of all, please state your name and occupation:

Hazel Walker
Founder of www.NuboNau.com-- an organic and natural boutique based in San Diego.

What is your favorite perfume at the moment?

Well... can I be cheeky and offer two? One is not really a perfume... but I'm in love with Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax (at night). The combination of Vetiver and Sandalwood sends me off into a deep and restful sleep - and I am, I have to say, a complete addict after 20 years of usage...

Secondly (and to answer your question properly), it must be the Jasmine Spirit Essence by Intelligent Nutrients. Raw, earthy, beautiful... I absolutely adore it. 

What is your favorite fragrance house or brand of perfume?

I admire and am in awe of the independents who deliver such wonderful, amazing creations. I am loving reading the interviews in this series-- it's a fabulous insight and learning experience for me.

How often do you wear perfume, and under what circumstances do you wear it?

Every day, everywhere!

Is it important to you to know who the perfumer or creator is behind the perfumes you wear?

I should ask myself how I would answer this question ten years ago, before we had NuboNau! Now, absolutely! I'm a nosey so-and-so and I want to know it all! Thorns, stems and all- I want to know what goes in that concoction and why! 

In the old days, before I became more aware of clean cosmetics and fragrance, I was seduced by the glamour of the larger fragrance houses. I still do admire the iconic imagery and dream-like positioning of so many of the institutional houses- but now prefer to look on from a distance. Choosing natural botanicals is a psychological must for me-- and I genuinely believe a better physical choice for me too.

I feel that the story behind the perfume does make a difference. I believe that the passion of an independent, boutique creator is tangible in their fragrance. 


Do you follow the work of certain perfumers, and if so, who?

On my voyage of discovery I prefer to follow the expert reviewers and bloggers (such as eyeliner on a cat). I would love to be able to 'taste' fragrance in such a way and deliver such eloquent descriptions! I do feel very privileged to be asked my opinion for this series. 

Think of an iconic perfume bottle design from the past. What is it?

I fondly remember breaking that black cord seal wrapped around the neck of the bottle on my first (and I should say tiny... no really, really tiny) bottle of Chanel no. 5 for my 16th birthday... I can still visualize that moment...and that bottle.

How many times a day do you estimate that you think about perfume?

Mostly when my friends say-...ooooo...you smell lovely!

Think of the last time you complimented someone on the fragrance they were wearing. Did you ask them what it was, and if so, did they tell you?

Yes, a client came into our boutique, she was Australian, on holiday- and wearing Grace by One Seed. It was so pretty (and she was so enthusiastic about her choice!) we sought the brand out- tried it, loved it, and we introduced the fragrance line in our boutique in June.

In just three words, describe your ideal fragrance:

Gentle, Aromatic, Natural

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Indie Brand Spotlight: Jiva Apoha

Jiva Apoha founder, blender and healer Angela Shore has something very unique going with her body and face oils. So much so that a few of them have insinuated themselves into my life and my husband's life-- and their therapeutic benefits have pretty much rendered these products unmatched and irreplaceable. However, that's not the limitation of what is interesting about this brand, and the woman behind it.

[The lovely Angela Shore]

Jiva Apoha is a serendipitous mix of ancient Indian Ayurveda and Native American Indian Shamanism, pulling inspiration from many directions to create an ideal springboard for healing, and for helping to teach people how to heal themselves. Each oil blend has a story to tell, and they do tell-- using scent and powerful healing properties of essential oils. Combined with the physical action of increasing circulation with massage while applying the oil, it is quite literally a recipe for wellness.

1967 Body Oil
sandalwood, ginger, patchouli, vetiver, cinnamon bark in a base of sunflower oil
I'm going to start at the top, which for me, is 1967. It's the oil I fell in love with first (yet another nod to my girl Nav), and it was a classic but quite unexpected Proust exercise at first sniff. The combination of real Indian sandalwood and spices took me back to a place and time when good sandalwood was plentiful, and I bathed in it. It's the quickest route to a feeling of well-being and happiness, and it's the ideal antidote for depression and lethargy due to its warming and uplifting elements. Music inspires much of what Angela creates, and 1967 is the perfect example of that. I've been stuck on The Doors my whole life, so I understand how powerful the influence of music on creativity can be.

["Rock Shaman" Patti Smith]

Parutka (Joints) Body Oil
turmeric, lemongrass, eucalyptus and marjoram in a base of sweet almond oil
This oil takes joint pain away, and I'm saying that from experience. My husband swears by it too. I can never get him to use the products I have no matter what I do, until I somehow convinced him that this oil is like medicine. He now uses it every night before bed to ease the horrible foot and leg pain he has after a long day at work, and I use it on sore, inflamed knees. The act of massaging the oil in is a key element here, but the components of the oil itself have all kinds of wonderful properties: anti-inflammatory and pain relief being the two major ones. I've used body oils for quite some time, but I've never had physical pain relief from any, until now.


Atman (Spirit) Body Oil
frankincense, sandalwood, tulsi (holy basil), palo santo (holy wood), neroli in a base of sesame and sunflower oils
Atman is a close second to 1967 for me-- this one is the most effective sleep-aid I've ever used. I have bouts of insomnia occasionally, and when I'm feeling particularly restless, using Atman is perfectly sedating, with a scent that is reminiscent of the coolness of anise and the comforting voluptuousness of frankincense. Simply put, it's gorgeous. A generous slathering puts me in the exact state of mind I need to drift off to sleep.

Kama (Love) Body Oil
water lily, lotus, ylang ylang, black musk in a base of sesame and sunflower oils
This oil has an ultra-feminine, clean fragrance that feels purifying down to the very seat of the soul. I usually go for more unisex fragrances, or even masculine, but there are always exceptions. Kama satisfies the part of me that loves it when people say I smell amazing. On days that I use it, no perfume is needed-- it's the most beautiful of double-threats: effective skin care that smells like heaven.


Amma (Mother) Body Oil
sandalwood, palmarosa and jasmine in a base of sesame and sunflower oils
Amma has a subtle floral and woody aroma and is wonderful for times when you don't necessarily need or want to fragrance yourself very much. While the fragrance that is present is very soft, it's also scary-good, relaxing and calming. I can definitely see women from all walks, pregnant or not, of ANY age becoming very attached to the feeling of peace it promotes within. There's also a Baby Jiva oil, and I'm sort of wishing I knew someone who is pregnant right now so I can gift them a pair of Mom and Baby travel sizes.

Sundara (Beauty) Face Oil
sandalwood, jasmine, lavender, chamomile, rose in a base of grapeseed, jojoba and Vitamin E oils
I love the way this medium-weight facial oil balances my skin and creates a perfectly even canvas for applying makeup. It takes care of the areas of my face that tend to dry out very quickly and it's not so heavy that it leaves the surface of the skin slick. It walks that tightrope for us while we get to enjoy the relaxing floral scent. I've also had great success mixing a few drops into moisturizer and also foundation/concealer. A great facial treatment oil for all skin types. There is also a Sundara (Handsome) Face Oil meant for men that contains lots of interesting things.

It's also worth mentioning that Angela does customized body oils that she creates based on how you answer a questionnaire at the time of purchase, and it only costs about $25-$45 more than the regular oil blends for an 8oz bottle.

Jiva Apoha's offerings are a thoughtfully conceived, well-edited and executed collection of healing oils. I'm impressed with how these oils make my skin feel and look even and calm, and how they do the same for my mood. Maybe part of it is that Angela is an accomplished holistic healer and that she imbues each bottle with positivity. Whatever it is that's making me feel like a million bucks, I want more of it.

[8oz bottles are priced between $105 and $140, with a custom-blended option for $165. 2oz travel sizes range from $45 to $53. Sundara face oils are $105. Samples provided by Jiva Apoha for my consideration.]

note: the 2oz travel size bottles last quite awhile