Aug 312010

I’ve noticed a tradition of some beauty bloggers, who do a month-end wrap of “10 Things I’m Loving Right Now,” to let readers know which products are getting the most use.  In some ways, I find those posts the most valuable because it helps me understand which products have taken center stage, and so worth checking out for myself.  As August nears its close, I thought that I’d give this format a try:

1.   Chanel Flat Powder Brush (European)— Reviewed here. Used with Caron powder, this brush gives me a perfect airbrush finish.  Amazing, soft feel and very natural application.  A great investment.  If you can’t get this one soon, perhaps look at the MAC equivalent–which I haven’t tried but which seems to be a similar shape.

2.  Edward Bess Daydream Bronzer— Reviewed here.  I love this on a train, I love this in the rain, I love this in a boat or when wearing a coat…you get the picture.  Always looks amazingly natural and beautiful.  The Perfect Bronzer.  Times ten.

3.  Chanel Rouge Allure Extrait de Gloss in Confidence—  Reviewed here.  Can you bottle confidence?  No, but you can put it in a heavy glass tube with a doe-foot applicator.  Always looks wonderful.  Here it is worn by January Jones at the 2010 Emmys:

4.  Burberry Foundation—  Love the finish and ease of using this foundation.  It lasts all day, although it is a very lightweight foundation.  This can be layered for extra coverage where needed.  Well worth investigating.  Swatches are here.

5. Butter London All Hail McQueen— reviewed here.  I’m the last person to ever expect to enjoy wearing a holographic polish.  But I’m going to have to buy a second one of these soon.  The color is so on-trend, it’s a very light taupe/griege.  Indoors, the holographic quality doesn’t show, it’s only when the nail is hit by light that it turns magical.  Easy, perfect application.

So tell us what you are loving right now?

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Book Review: The Allure of Chanel

 Chanel  Comments Off on Book Review: The Allure of Chanel
Aug 312010

It is one thing to say that The Allure of Chanel ($20) attributes authorship to Paul Morand, but is probably also true that is it written by Coco Chanel.  This book, deftly illustrated by Karl Lagerfeld, was the result of Coco Chanel’s invitation to  Morand to visit her in St. Moritz at the end of World War II.  He made notes of their conversation, which were brought to light only after Chanel’s death.  In this book, Chanel traces her life from her very lonely childhood, through her career and her relationships with some of the men in her life.

One of several beautiful sketches by Karl Lagerfeld

It is evident that Morand attempted to make himself invisible between the reader and Coco’s raw, sharply written accounts of her life.  Written in the first person as if transcribed from Chanel’s own words, I had a feeling that I was seeing Chanel’s world through her own eyes.

If you have read other accounts of Chanel’s life, or seen some of the films that depict it, you know that she was a woman who forged her way forward in business using talent and determination, and that her journey was not an easy one.  Rather, Chanel’s life was a process of revelation, a deep interest in uncovering the genuine, and in defining beauty as truth.  Nonetheless, Chanel seems to exhibit little patience for other woman–she had few female friends during her adult life, and some of her harshest words are reserved for her description of others of her gender.

Like many born and raised generations ago, readers are cautioned that some of Chanel’s writing evidences certain prejudices that are at times offensive.  Further, the controversial period of Chanel’s life during World War II is neither explained nor, as far as I could tell, addressed. The text is extremely well written, quite honest, and beautifully illustrated by Karl Lagerfeld.  To be completely honest, I would have bought the book for the illustrations alone.  This is not an easy read due to Chanel’s laser-beam perceptions, as some are quite scathing.  All in all, I found that most of the book provided a clear look inside the voice of Chanel from its originator, and so a worthy read for those interested in piecing together an understanding of Chanel.


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Aug 302010

In my quest for the perfect neutral palette, I investigated Giorgio Armani’s Eyes to Kill Palette in Steel Black ($59).  This palette was released some time ago, but I recently acquired it.  As we head toward Fall, I’m leaving my bronzer behind and investigating soft washes of dark eyeshadows.

This is my first (but not my last) eyeshadow palette in the concentric circle target “Eyes to Kill” format.  In fact, my last Armani eyeshadow palette purchases were an older formulation that was quite hard and required a very stiff brush to mine the pigment.

As with all Giorgio Armani powder products, Eyes to Kill in Steel Black comes in the delightfully sturdy and packable round palettes.  I’ve dropped these into every conceivable packaging situation, and they always come through perfectly.  These palettes don’t waste space on a brush that you’ll never use, instead they can be tucked virtually anywhere and withstand almost anything.

As a neutral basic for everyday (or travel), Steel Black offers the potential for a toned-downed professional look or an amped up evening look. The two outermost colors–the grey-taupe and cool cream–have shimmer bits.  The center is matte.  Unlike the old maestro quads, I was pleased to see that my standard eyeshadow brushes pulled pigment out of this palette.

  • The star of this show is the shimmery grey-taupe in the outer ring.  This works really beautifully as a lid wash.  Because this is my favorite of the three colors, I was happy that the palette includes the greatest amount of this color.
  • The cream color is a low-toned highlighter.  Unlike a bright white that might be found in many palettes, this highlighter is a deeper tone.  Although not as dark as a mid-toned highlighter, it applies deeper (and more golden) than Nars Abyssina.  Steel Gray’s highlighter has small glimmery-shimmery bits.  This cream shade was not as pigmented as the grey-taupe, application was sheer-to-medium.  A tapered blending brush (MAC 226 or equivalent) worked fine to cover my brownbone and inner corner.  This lighter tone applied far more smoothly on my eye than it did on an arm-swatch, so if you are looking at this at a counter, ask for a brush and a demo.
  • The center black is best used to smoke out the crease, or smudge into a liner or under-eye.  This black is not deep enough to wear alone as a liner color, even wet, so if you like a very black liner (like I do!), supplement this with a pencil, gel or liquid.

Here is a comparison of the Eyes to Kill Steel Black taupe, compared to MAC Satin Taupe, Shu Uemura Silver 945, Addiction Flashback and Chanel Safari.

Overall, I found Giorgio Armani’s taupe to be more glimmery, on the warm side and less plum than others in my collection. I am glad that I tried Steel Black.  I place a heavy emphasis on the quality of any line’s eyeshadows, and Armani’s eyeshadow line is certainly extensive.  I was impressed with the complexity and quality of Steel Black, which I’m sure that I’ll use extensively.  At the same time, Steel Black made me more interested in looking at the other eyeshadows in Giorgio Armani’s collection.

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Aug 272010

Was I the only one who ordered Deborah Lippmann’s Waking Up in Vegas ($16) after All Lacquered Up reported that this polish was used on Lady Gaga on September’s Vanity Fair cover?  Or that wondered whether “Greige”–the name used to described this color was “The New Taupe”?

Waking Up in Vegas–like the song that becomes an earworm stuck in my mind–is an easy, edgy, so-this-season polish that I’ll reach for again and again.  Application was very easy, coverage was nearly opaque in one coat and completely covered in two.  The color attracts enough attention, and is deliberately different enough from last winter’s taupes, to look fresh for Fall.  If you wear neutral grays, blacks and whites, it’s the easiest color in the world to integrate into your wardrobe.  Pair this with a nude (or a deep red) lip and you’ll be ready.

I’ve been wearing this over Creative Nail Design’s Stickey basecoat, topped with Poshe’s topcoat successfully.  I’m sure other base and topcoat (taupe-coat?) combinations would work equally well–this nail polish has a good formula with a medium-to-fast dry time.

Out of the bottle, Waking Up in Vegas is a gray with a touch of warm beige.  It’s light without being delicate and applies like a true creme in texture.  There is no shimmer, no frost, no fleck, no jelly.  Just straight, uncompromising color (which may be what gives the polish its edge).

The warmth of Lippmann’s Waking Up in Vegas is readily apparent after comparing it to a true gray, here Rescue Beauty Lounge’s Concrete Jungle.  Of course, Waking Up if Vegas is much lighter and softer than the comparatively brown Chanel Particuliere.

I looked for close duplicates in my stash, and the nearest shades were Essie’s Body Language (which is more pink) and Essie’s Playa de Platinum which is a bit lighter.  Because of its lightness, Playa de Platinum feels more summery to me, and it may be a little harder to integrate Playa de Platinum with Fall’s deeper colored clothing.

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Twinkle, Twinkle: Deborah Lippman Bring on the Bling

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Aug 272010

Deborah Lippmann has released Bring on the Bling ($20), a clear polish infused with “virgin diamond powder.”  So, when Rachel Zoe featured this as part of her “Right Now Nails” series, I wanted to give it a try.

When I opened the box from Lippmann, I put on my great big Rachel-Zoe-type sunglasses, because I was expecting out-of-control, over-the-top, blind-all-in-the-vicinity type of sparkle, sort of like this:

Yes, that is the cheesiest sparkly graphic I could come up with on short notice.  Anyway, what I found is that Lippmann’s Bring on the Bling is a clear nail polish embedded with small sparkle bits (presumably, the virgin diamond powder).

This is four coats, together with my attempt to use it over Chanel’s Jade Rose (which is so neutral it needs a little something to wake it up occassionally).    In real life with a single coat, it looks pretty close to a clear polish with the faintest touch of shimmer.

In all honesty, now that I own it I’ll probably use up Lippmann’s Bring on the Bling as a substitute for a clear polish using a single coat.  It’s not so obvious that way and it adds a little fun touch.  I would not leave the house with four coats unless going out for an evening, in which case it would be perfect.

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Aug 262010

NARS Fall 2010 release of the NARS Rajasthan Eyeshadow duo ($32), is a must have.  I’m not alone here.  If there is any possible way that you have missed bloggers, reviewers and me shouting from my rooftop, Rajasthan is an awesome eyeshadow duo.

This powder duo includes a medium toned greyed-down gold/bronze, together with a highly complex blue-grey-black.  Both shades have medium shimmer and excellent pigmentation.  The combination of the warm lighter shade with the deeper cool black is a perfect combination of warm-cool complexity that is both interesting and quite flattering.  Neutrals with an edge–just what I want this fall.

NARS Rajasthan is remarkably easy to use.  For the past few days, I’ve been using the lighter shade as a wash.  I then take my brush edge, and apply the darker color smudged over my eyeliner.  Done. Sometimes I use the darker shade to add some smoke to the outer edges of the lid, or a touch in the crease.  Literally, less than a minute with one brush.   Can it be used by those who love to spend hours crafting with several brushes?  Sure, but it’s easy for me to pull out when I do not have the time.

Despite some earlier conflicting reports and controversy, it now appears that Rajasthan is a permanent addition to NARS line.  Highly recommended.  You can compare Rajasthan to NARS Tzarine duo at this post, which has comparison swatches.

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Aug 262010

In addition to NARS beautiful and versatile Rajasthan duo, NARS brings us Tzarine ($32), a softer and less dramatic warm-cool eyeshadow combination.  Like Rajasthan, Tzarine is a “cannot miss” powder duo that makes application so effortless, with a beautiful result, that I strongly recommend considering it.  I ordered it immediately after Sabrina at The Beauty Look Book posted her review, an impulse purchase that was later confirmed as the right choice by Joeybunny’s review at The Pink Sith.  Both of them were absolutely right–Tzarine is so pretty and enhances one’s individual features.  I can imagine that this duo will look lovely on a wide variety of skintones.

My schedule has been out of control the past few weeks, and Tzarine has been my makeup BFF.  It’s so easy to sweep on the lighter shade as an all-over lid shade, from lashline to crease.  I think work the deeper grey into my crease, then adding another layer over the top of my black eyeliner.  Like Rajasthan, it’s one brush, one minute and I’m done.  The effect is simple, polished and very pretty.


Comparison between Rajasthan and Tzarine:

At a reader request, I add this last picture, which compares the grey of NARS Tzarine with a few other greys in my collection.

The shades are left-to-right MAC Swan Lake, MAC Smoke & Diamonds, NARS Tzarine, Chanel Silvery and Gunmetal from the Urban Decay Naked Palette.  Of these, Urban Decay in Gunmetal is closest in color.  However, the texture of the two shadows is quite different. Urban Decay Gunmetal applies quite heavily and with a metal sheen.  By contrast, Tzarine has a lighter, softer look and must be built up to reach full pigmentation–even then, the grey in Tzarine does not have the metal of Gunmetal.

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Aug 252010

Guerlain’s Fall 2010 collection includes Rouge G lipstick in Gilian (#14) ($46) fits well with the neutral grey, taupe and brown tones of the 68 Champs-Élysées collection.  When I was in Paris last month, I quickly stopped in the 2 Place Vendôme boutique.  The Fall 2010 display units had arrived that same morning, and Gilian was suggested to work well with my coloring.  After trying their newly-uppacked tester, I agreed.  Indeed, this neutral color is likely to work for a wide variety of skintones.

The packaging is gorgeous.  Every time I pick up one of those beautiful heavy metal cases, designed by jeweler Lorenz Bäumer of Paris’ Place Vendôme, the experience feels so elegant.

The engraving on the bottom:

The complex assembly operates magically, using a magnet mechanism, into a butterfly-shape that holds two mirrors perfect to ensure that your touch-up is applied as I intend.  Inside, Gilian is a soft neutral pink-nude:

The best description that I can offer is that Gilian gives the lips a highly moisturizing glow. I have a natural pink-mauve color to my lips, and it knocks out only some of my natural color.  The moisturizing texture softens any natural lines and becomes a “my lips but better” polish that looks natural with a beautiful luminosity.

Here is between Gilian and two other nudes in my collection, Chanel Rouge Allure lipsticks in Nude (#59) and Mythic (#69).

Here are the differences as I’ve experienced them:

  • Gilian applies as a semi-sheer pink nude;
  • Chanel Rouge Allure Nude applies as a golden nude;
  • Chanel Rouge Allure Mythic applies as a neutral nude.

Liz is wearing Guerlain Rouge G in Gilian here, over Chanel’s lipliner pencil in Beige.

The final effect, which shows the soft nude glow that Gilian imparts:

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Aug 242010

Recently, celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe reviewed several right-now nail polishes, including “Got My Groove Back” from Ginger + Liz ($12).  Because I love anyone that loves Chanel as much as Rachel Zoe, I had to try out the color.

Rachel Zoe during a "Chanel Heart Attack" with Ginger + Liz "Got My Groove Back" in the foreground

At the same time, I ordered “Swagger,” ($12) a pink-silver metal to give the range a proper try-out.

Both “Got My Groove Back” and “Swagger” have opaque coverage–one coat is nearly enough to get rid of visible nail lines, and certainly two erases them completely.   Dry time during my experiment was on the long side, but still manageable.  Both gave molten metal coverage with a very slight brushmark.

I did a comparison of the Ginger + Liz metallics with two Fall metallics that I reviewed last week– namely, OPI Glitzerland and China Glaze Swing Time.

Here are my thoughts:

  • Ginger + Liz’s are more pure metal, compared to the glass fleck that is visible in both Glitzerland and Swing Baby;
  • Both Glitzerland and Swing Baby are sheerer–they each needed 3 or more coats to get an opaque finish;  but the dry time between coats is quite short;
  • Both Swagger and Swing Baby are cool pink-silvers, but Swing Baby has a deeper bronze undertone that makes the overall color darker in tone;
  • Glitzerland is a cooler gold than Got My Groove Back

Overall, Ginger + Liz offers a fun flash for the nails, and they’ll work well for an over-the-top glitz.  As Rachel Zoe would say, these are “OOC” (out of control).   I’m sure that I went a little overboard getting four different metallics in the space of two weeks, so I’m certainly set for a while.

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Aug 232010

Estée Lauder is collaborating with Tom Pecheux, the prominent makeup artist and designer responsible for the introduction of  Estée Lauder’s new Pure Color Series.  If you have not been near your Estée Lauder counter recently,  you may be unaware that new eyeshadow singles, glosses and lipsticks are replacing vast former categories of the Estée Lauder line.  Tom Pecheux is credited as being responsible for those changes.

In June, I reviewed a few pieces from Tom Pecheux’s initial foray into Estée Lauder’s line, the Pure Color Night series.  You can see my reviews of two items–the Naughty Black eyeshadow trio and the Pure Color Luminous Powder–here on Café Makeup. As an aside, according to this source, thirty (30) sets of the Pure Color Night series–the eyeshadow, highlighter and lipgloss–will be sold in a set at Bergdorf Goodman on September 10th, to celebrate New York’s Fashion’s Night Out on a first come, first served basis.

Estée Lauder’s Blue Dahlia eyeshadow palette ($42) is part of the lines Fall 2010 and, thankfully, much more widely available than Pure Color Night.  This five-color eyeshadow palette is designed in a pinwheel-type pattern, in a slim gold palette packaged with two tiny brushes.  Three of the brushes have lightweight sponge applicators.  The top cover has a large, usable mirror.

The quality of the eyeshadows are excellent, I’m quite impressed with their pigmentation.  Although I found them difficult to finger-swatch, I found that they drenched my eyeshadow brushes easily in rich, pigmented color.

The colors, starting with the top left:

  • Rich, deep shimmery teal;
  • Warm-to-neutral shimmery taupe, ideal as an all-over lid color;
  • Deep blue/navy with shimmer;
  • Sheer sparkle overlay, infused with purple/pink and white microshimmer;
  • In the center, a well-pigmented black with microshimmers, suitable as a liner or to smoke the outer corner or outer crease.

One conspicuous aspect of this palette is the lack of any opaque highlighter shade.  The white pan applies extremely sheerly, giving a fairy sparkle rather than a solid highlighter base.  Once put on the browbone, the shade that appears white in the pan gives a light blue-purple-periwinkle sheer sheen, but not the typical skin-tone lightening opacity that many of us have grown used to.

Perhaps Tom Pecheux is asking us to re-think the concept of a browbone highlighter.  Always one for throwing out old rules, I have no reason but to wear this palette using the fairy-sparkle pan on the browbone for evening.  For day, I may rely on a matte light cream shade (Chanel Ivory is nice) or going without.

Just for fun, I tried using the fairy-sparkle shade over the blue shades which I applied wet on the swatches, below.  It came out delightfully vibrant, although my brush was barely damp:

This picture tells the whole story:

  • On the left, the white pressed powder becomes a sheer sparkle leaves only a nascent shimmer when applied;
  • The taupe is a pretty, light-toned color with a lovely shimmer;
  • The teal is a rich warm green-blue, that becomes quite intense when used with a damp brush and layered in sparkle (to the right of the black shade);
  • The deep navy is pretty, and hits a very deep, pigmented note when used wet with the sparkle overlay (swatch at the far right)
  • The center black has a slight sheen due to the light microsparkles.

Playing with this palette for a few days, I achieved a nice, everyday look using the taupe as my primary lid color.  I used the black as my liner, then added the deep blue/navy using a damp brush over the area above the black liner, smudged.  The teal color looked equally nice using this same technique.

Estee Lauder's Promotional Image for the Blue Dahlia Palette

Time will tell whether I would ever use the palette more dramatically, or whether  Estée Lauder’s promotional picture is only inspirational.

1946 film "Blue Dahlia," a dark and brooding film noir

This season is bringing may blues, purples and taupes– all traditional deep, rich colors for the fall season.  Of all of them, I’m glad to have picked up Blue Dahlia.  The quality of the eyeshadows is lovely.  This cool blue color palette is not something that I would traditionally buy, I was unable to resist something from Tom Pecheux based on my former favorable experiences with Pure Color Night.  Like Pure Color Night, Blue Dahlia is pushing me to re-think my traditional all-neutral look.  I am unable to wear acid greens or neon blues, I have neither the lifestyle, coloring or the inclination for bright reds on my lid.  Nonetheless, the teal and blue in Blue Dahlia seem appropriately rich and interesting, and when used with the warm taupe make Blue Dahlia a highly wearable palette.

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