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Fragrance is a State of Mind

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.


Fragrance is a State of Mind

Fragrance is usually treated as a part of one’s wardrobe, but for me it is an extension of my state of mind. When I feel gross I still may put on trousers and a crisp button-down to go to work, but you can bet my perfume will be the equivalent of a cashmere hoodie and Uggs. I can live without some perfect wardrobe items, like an HermĂ©s Kelly bag or a pile of silk blouses, but I (have and) will structure my whole week around obtaining a bottle of Something Or Other if the mood strikes hard enough. A few things I always have on hand after years of self-discovery and playing the field:

Something cozy. I am often is a state of exhaustion, and it doesn’t help that my office is freezing. When I cannot climb into a pile of down comforters, a veil of Chanel No. 5 Eau Premier ($88.00) is the next best thing. I truly cannot live without this one. Its warm candied citrus, creamy sandalwood, and a bouquet of dreamy roses and jasmine are cozy but tailored. For me it’s the equivalent of wearing pearls with jeans; no shapeless sweatpants here.

Something fierce. There are days when I do not have the patience. Or someone needs to realize that I am kind of a big deal. Or I am just more fabulous than usual. I usually keep a rollerball of Robert Piguet Fracas ($95.00) in my purse for these days. If you need to make yourself loud and clear, Fracas is your girl–the queen tuberose, brazen but with a buttery smooth purr. If Fracas had a soundtrack it would be Bowie’s “Queen Bitch,” or “All That Jazz” from Chicago.

Something green. Spices and resins really shine in cold weather, but so do imperishably verdant notes. In winter, Estee Lauder Private Collection Jasmin White Moss ($80.00) is like wearing an aura of greenhouse. No matter how bleak the weather, this one makes it impossible to forget the bliss of warm mossy earth and flowers. If it’s too green, Balenciaga Paris ($95.00) is also exceptional, as is Cartier Baiser Vole ($100.00)-the first is like a potted violet, the second a vase full of lilies.

Something refreshing. I love summer; I do not love Virginia humidity. Anything that takes the steaminess down a notch, especially before bed, is crucial. My favorite is Estee Lauder Private Collection Tuberose Gardenia ($80.00), it’s like splashing on cool water with a bouquet of white flowers. Any body splash would do as well, though my pick would be the classic fresh-citrus-herbal 4711 ($38.25), which is a steal at fragrance discounters and on Amazon.

Something simple. Lately I have been prone to migraines, and when one strikes, most perfume becomes skeletal and synthetic in a way that I just cannot tolerate. Badger Headache Balm ($8.00) is my best friend during these times, a happy tin full of all-natural, icy, candy cane goodness that keeps the nausea at bay. And while I’m recovering, or when I need to relax, Lolablue Blackberry ($12.00) perfume oil takes me away to a lazy afternoon picking dusty sun-ripened berries. It’s the most effective aromatherapy I’ve found.

What are some of the scents you can’t live without? Other moods that strike often?

What We’re Wearing, Vol. 043

What We’re Wearing, Vol. 043

This was my Thanksgiving look, and since we were planning to snap some family photos for my family’s holiday cards, my boyfriend snapped a few of me outside in front of a pretty tree that was all pink and orange and pink-red.  I wore Giorgio Armani #14 Eyes to Kill Intense on the lid with Tarina Tarantino Fantastical Jewel Eyeshadow Palette (the darkest plum shade) in the crease with Burberry Trench to highlight.  On cheeks, I wore Korres Natural Blush on the apples and Laura Mercier’s Rose Rendezvous to highlight.  Lips were a mixture of Milani’s Modern Mauve with Bobbi Brown Bare Sparkle High Shimmer Lipgloss and Bobbi Brown Aubergine Lipgloss.

What was your favorite look you wore this week?

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NARS Damage Lipstick

NARS Damage Lipstick
NARS Damage Lipstick

NARS Damage Lipstick

NARS Damage Lipstick ($24.00 for 0.12 oz.) is described as a “sheer muted grape.” It’s a translucent raspberry pink with a subtle shine; it looks a bit like tinted lip balm than a lipstick, because it’s so weightless and merely tinted lips. The effect is very my-lips-but-better in the best way. There’s definitely a difference between my natural lip color and how they look with Damage on top, but it’s subtle and very natural. This would be an excellent every day shade as it is extremely wearable but it will also go well with many looks. MAC Laugh-a-lot is a bit less berry. MAC Capricious is a bit darker.

Damage is part of NARS’ Sheer Lipstick line-up, which is supposed to be sheer in color but long-lasting with shine and hydration. This shade wears three to four hours on me; it’s not the longest wearing lipstick on me, but it does outlast a lot of sheerer shades, as they often last two to three hours (and some even less). This lipstick was scent- and taste-free. I didn’t find it drying, and some NARS’ lipsticks can be, though this wasn’t particularly hydrating–kind of neutral.

See more photos & swatches!

Dolce & Gabbana Jewels (142) Eyeshadow Quad

Dolce & Gabbana Jewels (142) Eyeshadow Quad
Dolce & Gabbana Jewels (142) Eyeshadow Quad

Dolce & Gabbana Jewels (142) Eyeshadow Quad

Dolce & Gabbana Jewels (142) Eyeshadow Quad ($59.00 for 0.16 oz.) is part of the Precious Stones collection, just in time for the holidays. Everything is inspired by the “sumptuous shades and textures” of precious stones and gem colors. It’s not exactly the interpretation I would expect when one is looking at jewels and gems–I always think turquoise, sapphire, ruby, but there are certainly lighter, less dramatic stones, too.

The first shade in the palette is a pale pink-lilac with a soft, frosted finish that is just slightly sheer. theBalm Curtain Call is purpler. It’s actually very, very similar to MAC Seedy Pearl. Make Up For Ever #303 is pinker and frostier. Next to that is a softened orange–kind of like a peach shimmered pale orange with a frosted finish. Like the first shade, it’s a touch sheer. The hue is similar to theBalm Stubborn Eyeshadow.

On the bottom left, we have a frosted, cool-toned white. It’s just shy of being silver-tinted. The theme of the quad is definitely softer color, because this one was also a little sheer. theBalm Sassy is similar in color. MAC Forgery is also similar but has a chunkier texture. Inglot #453 is similar but more opaque and has a more metallic finish.  The last shade is medium-dark red-tinted brown with a champagne sheen. This was the most pigmented shade of the four. Bare Escentuals Vow is similar in color but has a satin finish, so it doesn’t look quite the same.

From Dolce & Gabbana’s press release on this collection, this quad is supposed to be a contrast between highlighting and shading, though I’m not sure where they’re getting “light jet” or “dark topaz.” I’m going to assume “light jet” is somehow the white shade. At some point in the press release, they describe the eyeshadow colors of the collection as “soft pearl hues to vibrant jewel shades.” Nothing about the Jewels quad is at all vibrant. They’re all very soft and muted. If you want intense color, look elsewhere, but if you like your eyeshadow soft and more natural, this should be right up your alley.

The confusion as to the pigmentation level aside, the texture of these was a bit powdery, with the peach-orange shade being the least powdery . It’s a very soft formulation, but it’s too soft, because it creates a lot of excess product without enough binder. I find I have to pack and pack and pack on the color to get a noticeable, even layer of color. They don’t just blend but disappear. You have to use a heavy hand to get enough color to show on the lid, but then you have to use the lightest hand to blend away any edges.  It’s marginally better when they’re used wet, but not by much, because the color still fades–there’s just a little less fall out.

I always find Dolce & Gabbana eyeshadows require more work and patience than an eyeshadow ought to.  I think these can work for someone who only sweeps on a single color and loves the idea of variety in color but really loves the idea of barely-there color on the lid (I have a friend just like this!) and is happy to see a visual difference in the pan but doesn’t mind the actual results.  They just don’t cooperate well when they’re used together.

Dolce & Gabbana Jewels (142) Eyeshadow Quad

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John’s Journey to Fight Acne

By John, Skincare Contributor

John describes himself as eccentric–you might find him having a conversation with himself or making “A Beautiful Mind”-like movements while doing so. He’s a stickler for accuracy, so you might find him correcting one thing or another! His goal is to answer questions and provide unbiased, meaningful, and insightful information.

At 21, he is an aspiring dermatologist and will return to school next fall to get those plans moving. John enjoys singing, playing piano, hitting volleyballs, playing video games, and chatting with friends. Some day, he’d love to try more adventurous activities, like skydiving and mountain climbing! Check out his blog, The Triple Helix Liaison!


2007 & 2008

John’s Journey to Fight Acne

I began following a regular skin care regimen about a year ago. At the time, I was experiencing quite resonating ideological and emotional shifts regarding school, my personal life, and relationships. They somewhat darkened my perspective and drove me to behave irrationally and impulsively, which lead of course to grave consequences and regrets. On top of all that, I had to handle my profusion of non-inflammatory and cystic acne. Consequently, I thought quite basely of myself.

The first photo was taken around 2007, when my acne was less cystic but still severe. The second photo was me in 12th grade (around 2008), when I started getting cystic acne. See how the right cheek and side of the nose folded as I winked? That’s because the cysts were so distended that they forced my skin to overlap. The camera’s flash does wash me out, so my condition appears better than it actually was.  To make an extremely long story short, three magical ingredients helped to rid my skin of acne. In order of discovery, they include:

  • Salicylic Acid:  I first encountered salicylic acid (SA), a lipid-soluble aromatic compound, in the form of Step 2 of the Clinique 3-Step system (skin type 4). I began with the Clinique 3-step because it was cost-effective, reputable among friends, and Blair Fowler loved it. The system helped somewhat, but after a few months, my skin worsened. From what I now know, repeated exposure of the alcohol content present in Step 2 had irritated my acne so intensely that it overshadowed the alleged effects of SA.
  • Benzoyl Peroxide:  I turned to other products to use in concurrence with the Clinique 3-step. First, I tried treatments from Neutrogena and Clean & Clear containing 10% benzoyl peroxide (BP), an antimicrobial ROS-generating compound, which should have improved my condition drastically, but due to the high amount of irritation involved, only improved my condition slightly. Since some studies suggest that lower concentrations of BP work just as effectively as higher ones, without the additional irritation, I next tried the Acne.org 2.5% BP product. Unfortunately, the reduced concentration had no positive effect on my skin.
  • Glycolic Acid: By this time, I was already familiar with Paula Begoun’s review website Beautypedia. However, I had never seriously considered using her products because one, the gaping conflict of interests was too impossible to ignore, and two, I hated that her products always received the highest rating possible. However, I was desperate. I purchased the 2% SA liquid treatment, as well as the 8% and 10% glycolic acid (GA) products.  Within two months, my acne had been reduced by at least 75%.

My postulations as to why the introduction of glycolic acid, which is typically better for dry and mature skin, worked so well for my adolescent and oily skin include the following:

  1. Due to the long-term damages of having severe cystic acne, my skin’s natural ability to exfoliate had been damaged,and therefore, functioned erroneously. This is evidenced by the daily buildup of gunk or sebum that would come off in thick layers when I gently scratched my face in the shower. I’d include a picture, but that would probably be gross. Its consistency is best described as a hybrid cream-wax that was sometimes bluish and other times yellowish.
  2. Partly due to its low molecular weight and water-soluble nature, GA is quite adept at exfoliating the surface of the skin. For my skin, this meant thinning of the statum corneum (SC), which had that excess “gunk,” which in turn allowed for the SA to actually penetrate into the pores and induce desquamation at those sites.
  3. Furthermore, the new Paula’s Choice (PC) SA product is a better formulation than the Clinique product mentioned above because of the vehicle and penetration enhancers used. The PC product employed methylpropanediol and butylene glycol to enhance penetration. The Clinique product employed denatured alcohol and butylene glycol. Although denatured alcohol is quite effective at enhancing penetration, it is too volatile, meaning that it evaporates quickly. Once the vehicle becomes volatile, SA becomes significantly less effective. Not to mention that in high amounts, denatured alcohol is irritating.
  4.  The GA, which reduced the excess sebum on the skin, also allowed for the BP to penetrate more deeply. As you can see, GA was the critical component necessary for effective treatment.

*Please note that though changes in stress level, diet, and exercise probably played major roles in the improvement of my condition, they are not addressed because they cannot be easily quantified and therefore, elucidated.

After my skin was basically clear, I set out to repair some of the damage done by my decade of untreated severe acne and lack of daily sunscreen use. There are two ingredients that have largely retextured, rebuilt, and refined my skin. In order of discovery, they are L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and retinol (vitamin A). Vitamin C stimulates collagen production while retinol, upon conversion to tretinoin—the active metabolite that the skin utilized, inhibits the expression of enzymes that break down collagen. So the therapy is two-folded. While these two fantastic ingredients exhibit several other beneficial properties, that’s for another time!

Check out John’s current skin care routine!