May 022010

L’Occitane’s Peony Collection includes Etoile des Neiges (Snow Star) Peony Illuminating Face Powder ($28 for .35 oz.) and Jolie Thérèse Eyeshadow Duo ($16, called the Jolie Thérèse Peony Face Color Powder Duo for .12 oz.).  As with the Peony Lip Balm, these are packaged in sealed paper bags which ensure that the product that you receive has not been tested and tried by others and has a nice side-effect of being very gift-able.  Each is very well-priced, neither approaches the high end price point that I’m used to paying for a finely-milled quality product.  However, these press powders are placed in paper containers without mirror, brush or the sturdy, packable qualities of high end lines.   Have you ever had a liquid inexplicably explode in your suitcase?  If you ever have, you learn two things–first, you tape the lids of your liquids and sometimes even then accidents happen.  Second, don’t pack any makeup packaged in paper.

The Etoile des Neige face powder is an absolutely gorgeous product.  It is smaller in diameter than a standard MAC compact, but contains the same amount of product by weight as a MAC beauty powder.  The diameter is roughly larger than a typical MAC blush.  The L’Occitane bag includes a little cultural touch of the story behind the product (click to enlarge):

The pretty lid design, the black-brown accents all make me want to move to the French countryside even more than I usually do.  There is a satin and velour puff in the bag (hygienically sealed in plastic), which can be stored in the compact once opened.

The powder is a shimmer light veil that adds a nice subtle sheen:

The effect was too subtle to photograph in a swatch. If it helps, I found this similar to Chanel’s Poudre Douce’s in effect.  You should note that this product has a slight Peony scent, which I found pleasant but those who are scent-sensitive might not enjoy.

My expectations for the eyeshadow duo were not high.  I chose Jolie Thérèse, which is an almost-white shimmery pink and a shimmery burgundy.  Note that this is called a “facecolor powder” on the packaging, so I suppose that the larger pink area can be used as a highlighter.  It’s not practical to use the burgundy for a blush, because the pan area is so small that getting a brush in there is going to be a challenge.

Another story:

Here are some swatches (dry, no base):

Here are some swatches using the product wet:

A review of L’Occitane’s Peony Lip Balm from this collection is here.

Note:  L’Occitane’s U.S. website has free shipping for purchases over $25 through tomorrow 5/3/10.

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May 022010

L’Occitane is currently selling a limited edition makeup line based on a Peony theme, which I must admit looks absolutely fresh, spring-like and a nice addition to their luxurious bath, body and home line.  Sold in their some of their U.S. boutiques and online, the products come packaged in sealed paper bags that are embossed with Peony photographs.

I like that these products arrived sealed.  As you know, L’Occitane’s boutiques are self-service, where people play all day on their shelves and in the bins.  Of course, makeup is used directly on the skin and lips.  The bags are both attractive and promise that no one has played with the product before you receive them.  One point for cleanliness, one point for pretty.  Hint, hint–these arrive just in time for Mother’s Day (at least in the U.S.) and the bags look like a cute “little something” that you can bring to brunch or add to a gift basket.  The Peony line is not expensive–certainly less than most department store lines.

When the Peony Lip Balm ($12 for .5 oz.) arrived, I could barely wait to photograph it before I put it on.  Because L’Occitane’s moisturizers and other skin care products are so well-loved, I had high hopes for the lip-pampering quality that the line could bring to lip products.  The balm is in a soft-plastic tube with a slant-tip applicator and plastic cap.  It had a surprisingly strong peony scent, which faded within about thirty minutes (although the balm kept going longer), which leaves an impression that it has a very faint flower-perfume taste.  It doesn’t bother me, but if you are scent-sensitive you may wish to try this in person before committing.

Typical of L’Occitane which attempts to merge products and culture, the bags come with background story about the product:

Charming, right?

Now, on to the product review.  The Peony Lip Balm is a nearly-sheer, highly moisturizing product.  There is a light pink tone (barely visible) and soft micro-shimmers for appearance.  This has virtually no opacity–in fact, because it is so moisturizing, it actually left my lips looking darker because of the emollience.  It leaves a nice sheen and lasts well for a balm.  It feels heavier and more moisturizing that a typical gloss.

Overall, the product performed as one might expect from L’Occitane–heavy on the lovely moisturizing feel, barely pigmented and a nice natural scent.  I recommend this as a prettier alternative to Aquaphor.

Reviews of the L’Occitane Etoiles des Neiges face powder and the Jolie Therese eyeshadow duo are here.

Note:  L’Occitane’s U.S. website has free shipping for purchases over $25 through tomorrow 5/3/10.

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May 022010

I try to wash my brushes every Sunday to keep them ready to use when the week begins.  Emphasis on “try”–some I do more frequently, especially if I have used the brush with a dark shadow or pigmented blush.  For some reason, I need to wash my foundation brush almost every time I use it.  Others go for weeks without attention.  And, let’s face it, sometimes the weekends can be too busy to think and sometimes I fall behind.

Bobbi Brown recommends letting brushes air dry hanging off the side of the counter to avoid contamination.  Not a bad idea-I usually place mine on a hand towel.  I’m giving Bobbi’s trick a try this week.

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Apr 302010

The weather is slowly turning from spring to summer on the West Coast.  To get us all in the mood for summer, here’s a look at two drugstore bronzer items that I’ve been playing with for the past few weeks.

First, Physician’s Formula has a line of Bronze Booster Powder Bronzers ($10 to 15) that I found difficult to resist based on the packaging.  The tortoise shell coloring and gold lettering seemed to evoke the Guerlain Terracotta line.  The box promises a “glow activator” and I really like Physician’s Formula’s baked bronzers so I thought that I would give the Light-Medium one a try.  For reference, my skin tone is NC15/ Chanel Cameo (Intensity .5 or 1.0 depending on the foundation).

You really cannot get a more convenient, all-in-one for this price.  This has a multi-layered package with a built-in mirror and a pretty decent brush is pretty usable.   That makes this a real value.  Plus, if you do travel in rough conditions, this would be a great bronzer to throw into a bag.   Sand or squirt of sunscreen, plus some juice spilled all over?  No worries, the price point makes the bronzer relatively replaceable.

After some experimentation, I found the following:

  • Near-matte finish (if you are looking for a sheen or shimmer finish, try Physician’s Formula Baked Bronzers)
  • Adds some coverage–you will not need as much foundation in areas where you apply this bronzer
  • Seemed to last well throughout the day
  • I did not notice any skincare benefits from using the product. However,  this did not cause any breakouts or adverse skin reaction either.

Tip:  Buy the right shade for your coloring. When I tried to build up more coverage to get a darker look, I got a decidedly orange color begin to show.

Bottom line: Not my favorite bronzer and I will probably donate this to a friend.  This will work well if you are looking for an almost-matte bronzer that you will use lightly applied.  I find it worrisome that this turned a bit orange on my skin, and it didn’t seem as flattering as some of the other bronzers that I use.

The other product that I tried was Physician’s Formula Shimmer Strips in Malibu Strip/Pink Sand Bronzer ($11).  Of all of the choices on the pegboard, this one had the rosiest tones and so I thought this had the least chance of turning orange on my warm skintone.

This product resembles the Bobbi Brown Shimmer Bricks in many respects.  However, the packaging is clear and minimal.  On the upside, this clear acrylic seems significantly stronger than the average Shu Uemura package.  This is a BYOB (“bring your own brush”) product, but so is Bobbi’s.

This is really pretty…

I found Physician’s Formula’s Shimmer Strips excellent for the price.  I had a very difficult time telling much of a difference between the texture of the Physician’s Formula Shimmer Strip from the Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick when applied–with one important exception.  To my eye, the Physician’s Formula seemed warmer–more gold and in some light slightly more orange–than the Bobbi Brown Nude Shimmer Brick that I used as a my primary point of comparison.

Physician’s Formula’s packaging advertises the Shimmer Strips as capable of being used on the eye.  I’m reading this as saying that the product is eye-safe.  Do you want to wear this as an eyeshadow?  Because this is designed as a highlighter, you will find that using the product on the eye will give you a very shimmery look.  Also, I found that the lightest shade didn’t seem to have very rich pigmentation for a highlighter shade.  Here are some swatches of the individual bars.  I loaded up the lightest shade for the swatch with several layers:

Bottom line: Despite the warm cast, I liked the product and will keep this in my stash.  I found the performance impressive for the price point.  The package seems like it will travel well, it’s slimmer than Bobbi’s Shimmer Bricks.  I like that I can use it as an eyeshadow in an emergency.  The texture and look was very nice for the price.

Here are swatches of the Bronze Booster and Shimmer Strip side-by-side:

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Apr 292010

I’m going to try a new feature—to post some ideas for how some of the makeup can be worn together.  For a first start, I’m going to try this bronzy-neutral look that I’ve been loving lately.  For this, I’m using Guerlain’s Brun Mordore Eyeshadow Quad ($59, on together with Guerlain’s Terracotta Pearly Bronzer in Orient Sun, which was a limited edition product that acts as both a bronzer and a blush.

I’ve been combining these with a deep matte brown eyeliner, here Bobbi Brown’s Espresso Ink Gel Eyeliner ($21).  In addition, I’ve been using Chanel’s Aqualumiere lipstick in Bondi ($28.50), topped with Chanel’s Aqualumiere Gloss in Bondi Beach ($27).

Here’s are some closer swatches:

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