Benefit Fancy Pansy Eyeshadow

It has a silky smooth texture, and the powder is finely-milled. It’s not powdery but so soft that it makes blending a breeze. The powder feels dense and buttery, so it delivers good color payoff without having to pack it on. Compared to other shades in the range, this one is just a tiny bit under-pigmented but that’s being nit picky.  Velvet Eyeshadows wear well, too, without fading during the day and no fall out occurs.  Another nice thing about the range is that they’re twice the size of most eyeshadows.  Fancy Pansy pairs well with darker purples, whether blue or red-based, along with navy blues.

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Benefit Fancy Pansy Eyeshadow
Benefit Velvet Eyeshadow Fancy Pansy
A+
Product
10
Pigmentation
9.5
Texture
10
Longevity
10
Application
5
Total
99%

Scents for the Holidays

By Aleta, Fragrance Contributor

Aleta is the associate editor of a national history magazine (World War II), and an unapologetic fragrance nerd. Growing up on a farm west of Portland, Oregon, she spent many summer nights attempting to make perfume by soaking flowers in cups of water (if only her mother had let her use the vodka). Her most prized possessions include a bottle of French cologne brought home by an American GI after World War II (L’Ardent Nuit by Cotay), a signed copy of Perfume: The Guide, and a handwritten “enjoy your purchase” note from perfumer Mandy Aftel. Other obsessions include lipstick, Pellegrino, Adirondack chairs, and yoga. You can find her at worldwarII.com.


Scents for the Holidays

My first college holiday season was…brief. November and December went by in a blur of studying, social events (okay dorm parties), and finals. My dad and I had to stop at the grocery store after he picked me up for winter break, and I realized that the campus bubble had utterly shielded me from the season–the music, the decorations, the food. Lesson learned: when you leave the nest, you either get yourself in the holiday spirit or it will pass you by.

One of the easiest ways I’ve found to fell merry and bright this time of year is to–you guessed it–surrounding myself with nostalgic, festive fragrances. Bonus: the fragrance notes we often associate with the winter holidays are ones that play nicely with big family meals and intimate social gatherings, times when everyone would rather smell the turkey, fresh-baked gingerbread, or their glass of Riesling rather than someone’s boldfaced eau. Here are some of my favorite fragrances for the season, most of which are available as dry skin-soothing lotions, pick-me-up cleansers, and candles:

Years of making orange pomanders has left me with a serious citrus fixation every December. My favorite is Fresh Hesperides ($32.00) it balances the effervescence of grapefruit peel with a dose of sugar. Aftelier Candide ($45.00) is also gorgeous, tempering its zesty orange notes with a kick of pepper. Pacifica Blood Orange ($22.00) is perfect for purists, plus the brand is widely available and an absolute steal .

Evergreens feature prominently in Western holiday traditions; Yankee Candles fill in for the Douglass firs I grew up with, particularly Christmas Tree. Holiday Bayberry smells like the fresh-from-the-attic decorations did when I was growing up. It’s a hard note to wear on the skin, but Pacifica’s Avalon Juniper ($22.00) is beautiful. The resinous juniper is perfectly balanced with juicy grapefruit, simultaneously warm and fresh. Those who grew up in warmer climates may resonate more closely with Chanel Sycomore ($110.00), it’s a gorgeous balance between sap and smoke–meant for men, I think, but gorgeous on anyone, anytime.

Vanilla and spice abound during winter, and there are too many fragrance iterations to count. Personally, I like something just a touch inedible, like Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleu ($71.00). It has recently been reformulated, but I never smelled its previous iteration, so I am unabashedly smitten with the bottle I purchased this November. If you grew up with anise and almond extract in your holiday cookies, this one’s for you–especially if you went through a rebellious stage involving countless sticks of Nag Champa ($71.00) incense. Many also love Guerlain’s Shalimar ($55.00) and its many vanilla-spice offspring, though it’s not one that grabs me. You also can’t go wrong with Bath & Body Works Warm Vanilla Sugar ($5.00), a gorgeous vanilla bean tempered with Basmati rice water and cinnamon. Spice lovers: try Pacifica’s clove-laden Madagascar Spice ($22.00).

Sometimes the brightest holiday memories attach themselves to a non-holiday scent. For me, it’s Victor & Rolf Flowerbomb ($100.00). Each year my parents would skip the Macy’s line for Santa and take me to Nordstrom to see Father Christmas. And in my mind, nothing conjures Nordstrom like Flowerbomb.

What scents keep you warm during these darkest months of the year? And for those who grew up in a non-western culture, I’d love to hear about the scents that speak to you during November and December!

Illamasqua Force Nail Varnish

It’s opaque in two coats, and like many Illamasqua shades, the formula is excellent; the polish flows across the nail easily, doesn’t streak or bubble, and never feels too thick. Illamasqua is one of the longest wearing polishes on me; I can wear their formula for ten days or longer and only have minimal tip wear, which is just barely on the edges. When I travel, I often reach for an Illamasqua shade, because I know it will hold up to the vigors of traveling.

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Illamasqua Force Nail Varnish
Illamasqua Nail Varnish Force
A+
Product
10
Pigmentation
10
Texture
10
Longevity
10
Application
5
Total
100%

Guerlain Les Aquas Eyeshadow Palette

Guerlain Les Aquas Eyeshadow Palette ($59.00 for 0.25 oz.) is an upcoming new and permanent quad that features an “iridescent blue, matte navy, velvety turquoise, and glacier metallic blue.” This is one of the better eyeshadow quads I’ve tested from Guerlain since they reformulated and relaunched their eyeshadow range, so it was a welcome surprise. The pigmentation is good across the board, and it applies easily. I did find that without a primer, there was some fading after eight hours, but over a primer, it was fine.

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Guerlain Les Aquas Eyeshadow Palette

Guerlain Les Aquas Eyeshadow Palette

A-
Product
9
Pigmentation
9.5
Texture
9.5
Longevity
9
Application
4
Total
91%

Estee Lauder Cyber Lilac Pure Color Gelee Powder Eyeshadow

Estee Lauder Cyber Lilac Pure Color Gelee Powder Eyeshadow ($24.00 for 0.03 oz.) is a medium-dark red-toned purple with a silvered shimmer-sheen. It delivers good color payoff both wet and dry, and when it is applied wet, the metallic finish comes through more. Urban Decay Rockstar is less shimmered, so it looks darker. Bare Escentuals Encore is also similar.

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Estee Lauder Cyber Lilac Pure Color Gelee Powder Eyeshadow
Estee Lauder Pure Color Gelee Powder Eyeshadow Cyber Lilac
A-
Product
9
Pigmentation
10
Texture
9.5
Longevity
8.5
Application
4
Total
91%

Tarina Tarantino Feather Dollskin Cheek Blush

The powder is very soft and finely-milled, so when you touch your brush to it, you can pick up quite a bit of color in a single go. This means it is a little powdery, though, so you may want to use a light hand when picking up color. Luckily, though the blush is fairly true-to-pan with good color payoff, it blends out easily because of the overall softness of the powder. It has more of a shimmer-sheen finish, so it doesn’t look frosty or disco ball-like on the cheeks. I had a good experience while wearing it, because it lasted eight hours without migrating or looking faded.

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Tarina Tarantino Feather Dollskin Cheek Blush
Tarina Tarantino Dollskin Cheek Blush Feather
A-
Product
9
Pigmentation
10
Texture
9
Longevity
9
Application
4
Total
91%