Monday, February 29, 2016

Annick Goutal Rose Pompon eau de toilette review

Annick Goutal has a number of rose-centered fragrances in their line, each one different but somehow designed to be "contemporary" to its time. This year's Rose Pompon is the fourth, and arguably the most flirty, sparkly one.

Rose Absolue in 1984 was an absolute rose bomb of a scent. If you fancy yourself quite the classic rose lover, you might like this blend of Rose de Mai, Turkish rose, Bulgarian rose, Rose Damascene, Egyptian rose, and Moroccan rose. This is possibly the most luxurious and opulent rose scent from AG. But you better love your roses.

Ce Soir ou Jamais was launched in 1999, and is the most exotic and enigmatic of the four; Turkish rose with a touch of hibiscus, warm amber, and a musky ambrette. This is the "warmest" of the four rose fragrances in the line, and leans a bit closer to the Oriental category of perfumes.

When Annick's daughter Camille took over after her mother's passing, she launched Rose Splendide in 2010. If Rose Absolue is a bouquet, this is like a single stem of rose; simple, pure and romantic, with a trace of freshness from a silvery, almost minty pear note and fading to a soft sensual skin-like musk. (A bit like towel-dried skin after you showered with rose-scented soap.)

Rose Pompon launched this year in 2016, is a different animal. It is extremely contemporary, in the sense that it is what I call a "pink lady" scent. Like other mainstream bestsellers of today, it starts fruity, fresh and sparkly, has peony to add transparency and lightness to the central floral accord, and a shower-fresh base of woods and white musk. And just as with Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet, Burberry Brit Sheer, Versace Bright Crystal, Jo Malone Peony & Blush Suede, or the crisper Chanel Chance, it not only has a similar odor profile but is also dressed in girly pink. I bet if you like those, you will like the fluted ombre pink bottle, and the juice of Rose Pompon equally.

Top notes: pink pepper, blackcurrant, raspberry
Heart notes: rose centifolia, Bulgarian rose, Taïf rose, peony
Base notes: cedar, patchouli, white musk.

Probably the best thing about it is the tart juiciness that lasts throughout. It might be the blackcurrant and something about the pink pepper that gives an almost citrus facet to it. And it's linear in a good way; the scent doesn't dissolve into a watery indistinct floral after the first hour. The zesty fruitiness lingers and continues to add a bit of needed dimension and playfulness to the fragrance.

Very unique it is probably not. But pretty, bubbly, accessible and likable it definitely is. And I kinda suspect that was what the brand was aiming for anyway. If you love the mass market premium florals like Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet or Bright Crystal, but want to step it up just a tiny bit this year, Rose Pompon might be one to sniff out and add to your collection.

The main con I can say about it is the projection is not stellar on me. I do have dry skin that does not hang on to fresh scents, and this maybe throws about 1 hour on me before it becomes a light skin scent. I was actually surprised to still smell it lingering on my skin 4 hours later because it was so soft I assumed it was long gone by then. So the lasting power turned out quite decent for an eau de toilette - but it won't be noticeable unless you brush past someone.

Still, it's nice for Spring and warm weather - or those who are ready to try their first rose but don't want something overly heady, strong or sweet.

I personally favor the dreamy, elegant Rose Splendide over this for myself, but then again it might just be that I already own and smelt too many "pink ladies" in the past few years. I do expect Rose Pompon, the new kid on the block, to out-sell Rose Splendide - probably all the Goutal roses - for a while. The life of the party always gets noticed first. (Especially when she wears the prettiest dress as well!)

Rose Pompon comes in an eau de toilette concentration, and is available in 50ml (SGD$179) and 100ml ($235) sizes at Escentials boutiques and counters.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

L'oreal True Match Genius 4-in-1 Foundation

L'oreal's launched its new True Match Genius 4-in-1 cream to powder foundation (SGD$32.90), which promises to do 4 things:
1. Smooth like a primer
2. Unify and even out skin tone like a foundation
3. Correct flaws like a concealer
4. Finish and set like a powder for 12 hour wear

Sounds perfect, but I have to admit I am always skeptical about products that claim to"do it all".They tend not to do any one thing particularly well.

Well first off, cream to powders are always incredibly convenient to use, because they go on quickly no matter what tool you use for application; they are portable and travel well unlike bottles of liquid foundation, and on their own they don't look as matte and heavy as compact powder foundations.

Revlon just launched their new Colorstay 2-in-1 foundation compact which I have very mixed feelings about because it's not very long-wearing despite the "Colorstay" name, the shade options are extremely limited, and the concealer formula just isn't that great in my opinion.

So I was interested to see how the L'oreal True Match Genius measured up in comparison.

Presentation and Packaging

You get a very slim, flat compact with a mirror and a thin sponge for application. Standard-issue, no-frills. I did feel there seemed to be VERY little product in the thin, thin pan for what you pay. You get just 7g of product. (Revlon Colorstay has 12.3g.) So if you like to really pack on the foundation or use a buffing brush with this, just be aware that you will hit pan and run out in no time.

The sponge itself is not hard to use but also nothing special. It does the job. I prefer using my fingers to pat the product on personally but the sponge works fine. One small issue is the base of the compact is transparent, so from the back it looks a bit gross to show everyone your stained cakey sponge if you bring it out for touch-ups. You could get around the issue by placing the sponge with the used side up, but that's just an extra inconvenience.

1 - Priming

This is one area I feel the product does excel. I've tried it for several days and never used a primer with it. I do feel L'oreal's "ultra-gliding" formula manages to go on very smoothly and makes skin look more refined and pores a bit smaller.

It also does last and stay pretty fresh-looking for hours in our humid heat without running or caking up, even after sweating and blotting.

2 - Evening out the skin

The product goes on sheerer than I expected. If you rub it on, it almost feels like there is barely any coverage at all, compared to typical cream foundations. That's a bit misleading though - because even though it feels like the product is sheer, I don't really feel like I need a ton more concealer on top to cover my dark circles and marks.

Plus, you can dab on a bit more (I advise using fingers for building up extra coverage) where you need. It's still not full coverage - this will not cover acne and obvious scars. But it does even out mild discolorations and reduce the need for concealer despite being quite lightweight.

3 Conceal and correct

I can't say this can replace your concealer unless you have very minor flaws. It can conceal redness around the nose, small veins, mild discolorations etc. But if you need brightening under the eyes or by the sides of your mouth, or correction of very red or dark spots you will need a separate concealer with different undertones and higher opacity.

I will use this as concealer only in an absolute pinch.

4 - Set and finish like a powder

While this product does set semi-matte and does not stay tacky or creamy, it does not really look like when you set foundation with powder. Also, these days a lot of us use color-correcting or brightening powders that may not be the same shade as our foundation, so True Match Genius cannot be expected to do that.

That doesn't make this a bad thing though. I actually really like the demi-matte finish. It doesn't look flat - as you can see in the pic above, it actually looks pretty undetectable if you find the right shade match. Great for "no-makeup makeup" days.

I don't think I've worn this 12 hours yet but I've done 10 or so without problems. The coverage fades but it doesn't break down like some foundations can. And I didn't get too many problems with obvious oxidation.

But this brings me to one major con; color options.

I was picking on Revlon for bringing so few shades in, and L'oreal has even fewer. There is N1, which I am using - this matches about a MAC N2/NW20/NC25. The only pink-toned shade R1 is actually not very pale. If you are quite fair, you won't be able to find a good match in this entire range. 

The 2 deeper shades are G2 and G4. I had expected that as an NC25, G2 would be my perfect match, but it's more suited to NC30-35 skin tones. Much deeper than I expected. G4 does look like a good fit for NC42 etc medium-tan skins. If you have caramel to deep skin tones, you won't find an option. 

(Why do I feel like I repeat this every single time I review drugstore foundations in Asia? There is an entire segment of the market that is being completely ignored.)

The shades do swatch a tad lighter than they look in the pan, but not as much as Revlon's. And I've always been a bit confused about True Match's marketing angle about "perfectly matching" your skin. It's not like one shade adjusts to match a whole range of skin tones. 

I've tried applying G2 to see if maybe it would be forgiving and just blend in, but it's still visible that it's a bit too deep. Make sure you swatch these to see if you can find a shade that melts into your skin. You are responsible for finding your right shade - just like any other foundation.

 Aside from this, I do actually genuinely feel this is a great formula. If you have combination skin or need something portable and quick for hot humid weather, I find this a much better option than Revlon Colorstay's alternative, although the cost is on the high side for the amount of product you get.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Guerlain Shalimar parfum extrait - and how to unseal a Guerlain parfum bottle without destroying the barbichage entirely

I'm a huge fan of Shalimar. The grand dame of Oriental perfumes has been described as powdery and old-fashioned, but I have the sort of weird chemistry that makes heavy ambers and vanillas smell lighter than they usually are. (I cannot wear many musk-dominant scents on the other hand, but that's a story for another day.)

Chopard Casmir, an infamously thick powdery and sugary scent that many people cannot stand, smells like a whisper of fruity tonka and powdered milk on me. Shalimar's sillage on me is that of a luminous vanilla-bergamot; low on sugar and incense, high in flavor. I get compliments all the time and many people are surprised when I say it is Shalimar.
Top: lemon and bergamot,  
Heart: jasmine, Rose de Mai 
Base: opoponax, tonka bean, vanilla, iris, Peru balsam and gray amber
If you're not familiar with it, Shalimar is not really floral; you can't pick out the flowers but there's enough jasmine and rose in there to keep the scent from becoming straight up sugary vanilla bergamot milk shake. In fact, it's thick and rich, but not a cupcake and cookies vanilla. It's a dark, smoky, almost bitter vanilla. The thing is this can smell a bit weird out of bottle. When I smell it freshly-sprayed every note mashes together and it always reminds me of mothballs and certain brands of bug spray.

But after a while on the skin, it slowly unfurls itself and comes apart in layers. Sometimes I catch a comforting smoky silky vanilla, sometimes an exotic leathery powdery opopanax (sweet myrrh). But it's always most beautiful when I get that whiff of elegant, refined bergamot backed by a subtle resiny amber in the background. This for me is a scent I never spray on my neck as that would be too "in my face". It smells best sniffed from a distance; either as a soft trail behind you, or wafting across your path occasionally when you move, so I spray on the backs of my hands, or across my torso.

Over the years, I've bought a couple of eau de parfum versions, besides Eau de Shalimar (once called Shalimar Legere before it was repackaged in the white bottles), and more recently, the Ode a la Vanille edition which I actually love more than the regular eau de parfum, but use very sparingly since it cannot be repurchased anymore. The Parfum Initial editions on the other hand are not really like Shalimar at all to me. They're ok, but a bit forgettable in the face of the hundred and one other fruity-sweet patchoulis around these days.

 What I find they lack is that sense of mystery and a certain regal depth in the original Shalimar.

So it was probably inevitable that I would one day invest in the 1 oz parfum extrait. For the benefit of those who may be new to perfumes and perfumery, parfum extrait has the highest concentration of fragrance, followed by the eau de parfum, eau de toilette, and eau de cologne.

If you didn't know, in fine perfumery, each concentration has a different formula. It's not simply about diluting the same fragrance oils with different quantities of alcohol to make the eau de parfum and eau de toilette. That's why fans of Chanel No 5 in the parfum form may not necessarily like it in the eau de parfum bottle, and vice versa. Most will have the same "soul" but sometimes contain different notes and proportions of ingredients.

So of course I had to check the parfum out for myself eventually.

And I can say it is glorious. Shalimar parfum still comes in the old-style fluted flacon - not the smoother, more minimalist Jade Jagger bottle the rest of the Shalimars now come in. The scent itself is beautifully balanced. The eau de parfum can smell a little like lemon dishwashing liquid right at the start; the lemon and leathery notes clash a bit, and it takes awhile before the warm ambery vanilla comes through and acts as a peace-keeper between the other notes.

Ode a la Vanille skips the clashy bit and jumps straight into the part where the scent blossoms and becomes luscious and yummy. Plus it lasts forever and a day. Which explains my love for that formula.

Parfum is more complex than Ode a la Vanille. The bergamot is more apparent, as are the resins in the base, but it's not as loud and jarring at the start. The leathery musky base is also more subtle, not as abrasive and harsh. It's not as strong as the other two, which is not surprising to me. 

The higher concentration of alcohol in eau de parfum and eau de toilette often makes them top heavy and bottom light. They come out very strong at the start when the alcohol vaporizes all the scent molecules quickly, then die down and become skin scents soon after. Parfum extraits have more consistent performance over a longer period of time. They don't come out as strong at the start, but they also don't die down as quickly.

Strangely, Ode a la Vanille remains the longest-lasting Shalimar on me - although all my Shalimars last the whole day. But since it's not available for sale, there's probably no point going on and on about it. I do prefer the smell of the parfum to the eau de parfum by far, which is a bit sad since it's so prohibitively expensive.

Now - Barbichage

Premium perfume houses will seal their perfume bottles with a thin membrane in a process called baudruchage, and then use silk string to tie elaborate knots around the stopper (barbichage) before sealing it with a wax seal . If you happen to own any Chanels, you would have seen it. In most cases you can cut just the part of the string that binds the stopper, and use tweezers to pick the baudruchage off without removing the cute logo-ed wax seal entirely.

Guerlain's is quite a bit different. My bottle of parfum did not come with the membrane so there was no picking for me to do. But the barbichage is a good deal more complex than Chanel's, and for awhile it looked like there was no way to unseal the bottle without cutting the gold and navy silk string. 

Now if that's all too much work for you, you can simply cut the string and enjoy your parfum au naturale, like below.

I'm just a bit too much of a geek not to try and preserve some of the beauty of the barbichage.

If you're like me - fear not. You might not have noticed it but the gold "seal" with Guerlain's logo is actually a metal clasp that is easily pried with a pin, pen-knife or tweezers.

One you lift off the metal clasp, it's a matter of gently loosening the intricate knots. I again used my good ol' Tweezerman tweezers to loosen the knots and pull the string loose. After that, it was a matter of tying the silk thread back around the neck in a way that did not interfere with the stopper, slipping the clasp back, knotting the string under it, and closing the clasp again.


Not quite as pretty as the unsealed version, because no matter how I tried, I couldn't fluff out the ends of the string the way the pros do, so I just trimmed the ends a bit and left it alone. Not half bad at all, by my standards!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Urban Decay x Gwen Stefani Blush Palette and Lipsticks

To round out the UD x Gwen collaboration and complete your Gwen "look", we now have a gorgeous blush palette, a line of lipsticks, brow box and matching lip liners. This second batch of products will hit shelves in Singapore on 3 March 2016.

I do have to say I'm more excited about the blush palette in particular, because there aren't that many high-end blush palettes out, and I just love how handy they are in general.

UD x Gwen Stefani blush palette exterior
UD x Gwen Stefani blush palette interior
 You get 6 x 2.8g of product for SG$78, and these are all rather soft shades curated by/for Gwen, so you can expect that these would mostly work better on light-skinned girls. You rarely see her with strong bright blush, so these are designed to be flattering and subtle and complementary to a smoky eye or a strong lip.

There are 4 blush shades in a good variety of warm to cool tones, as well as a nice neutral highlight shade called Angel, and a skin-warming bronzer called Lo-Fi, created to mimic the Instagram filter of the same name.

I can already tell you outright that even if you have medium-tan skin some of these shades will not show up well on you. Cherry would be slightly ashy, and OC and Hush would blend right in. Lo-Fi is a nice bronzing shade only on the fair.

Angel (highlighter) and Easy (plum rose) are the two shades that would work well on a wider range of skin tones.

I do personally love this palette because the shades are all extremely fine and silky - not chalky and flaky at all. However I have to say in terms of versatility it's a bit lacking due to how soft most of the colors are. With soft shades like OC and Hush, there really is a limit to how much you can build them up. (As opposed to soft beige-y tones from NYX and Tarte which look pale but actually come out quite strong when layered a few times.) 

Then again - this is the first (and currently only) blush palette Gwen and UD have come up with together, based on what she herself would wear, so obviously it wouldn't contain 28 shades of blush from peach to dark magenta.

All in all, worth a look if you have pale to medium-light skin!

As for the lipsticks, these cost SG$33 each and I've swatched them below for your reference.

UD x Gwen Stefani lipstick swatches
They come in a variety of finishes - from sheer to cream to soft matte, and mega-matte.

I do like all of the colors - they are very beautiful and wearable, if quite strong mostly. Ex-girlfriend is the only shade which might be appropriate in a more conservative work or school environment. It's not my favorite in terms of pigmentation because it's not particularly even in application, but that's saved by the fact that it is a warm beige-tone so the unevenness is not going to show up.

Firebird is a glorious magenta with a blue-pearl. Very fun but remember if you like over-drawing your lips like Gwen does sometimes, you might want to use a matching toned lip liner and avoid applying the pearlescent lip color over the areas where you have overdrawn, because the extra shine will make the "fake lipline" much more obvious.

For me, the pièce de résistance are the 4 red-toned shades. Spiderweb is a glorious cool-toned ruby similar to Russian Red but in a creamier format. Wonderland is a skin-brightening fuchsia-red; a nice mix of fun and classy. Rocksteady is a vampy deep wine red for evenings, and 714 is the only Mega Matte, and your first chance to check out the new Mega Matte lip formula from UD which will come out later this year.

714 versus other classic MAC matte reds
We all know Gwen was reputed as a hardcore fan of Viva Glam I in her 90s years, so I felt compelled to swatch 714 beside some of the classic celeb-faves from MAC so you can have an idea of how it looks and whether you should check it out if you already own those shades. 

Honestly it doesn't look exactly like any of them. The closest might be Ruby Woo, but 714 has a tiny hint of pink undertones compared to Ruby Woo and isn't quite "as red". The matte finish is very similar in appearance, but the 714 formula is superior in the sense that it's one of those new-generation mattes which is very lightweight and smoother to apply. You can pretty much get this look with one firm stroke, versus about 2-3 strokes to build up Ruby Woo because it is so dry and dense.

As for Russian Red and Viva Glam I, these are darker, and also have a bit more of a shine in comparison. A lot of people prefer these to Ruby Woo because they are a little less drying on the lips, and 714 has a similar feel and application, although it doesn't have the shine. So if you like the look of Ruby Woo but hate the texture on the lips, 714 might be your best bet.

I personally feel the UD Mega Mattes would be very worth waiting for - if the other shades have a consistent texture with 714.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

YSL Le Cushion Encre de Peau - Fusion Ink Cushion Foundation

Luxe cushion foundation fans in Singapore can rejoice - YSL has launched their new cushion foundation Le Cushion Encre de Peau yesterday in Singapore, and will follow with launches in other markets globally.

[UPDATE] Made an error on my mobile app and accidentally deleted this post - so I had to redo the entire thing; apologize if the content is not 100% the same - I can't memorize what I wrote but my opinion stays the same!

You know my take on cushion foundations in general: I tend to like them more when they come in bottles and tubes (i.e. I don't love the format at all LOL) because I never touch up liquid foundation on top of existing makeup so I don't need a compact. There is also the hygiene factor, value for money and the fact that most of them cannot "set" fully on the skin since they are designed to remain fluid for months in an exposed sponge pad. Might be alright in cooler drier climates, but usually a disaster in humid tropical weather.

They do give a beautiful look if you like a lot of sheen but many of us feel compelled to set them with powder for lasting power anyway. And even then they don't tend to last as well as most regular foundations. 

So needless to say - I was excited when YSL launched its new Le Cushion Encre de Peau Fusion Ink Foundation, which promises semi-matte all-day flawless coverage. Finally a cushion for slightly oilier skins or more hot and humid weather? Yes please. 

Le Cushion Encre de Peau retails at SG$88 for the case and a single sponge, and subsequent refills can be purchased at $58. 


The packaging is a beauty. Glossy lacquered black and gold to match YSL's glamorous aesthetic, and with a little weight so it doesn't feel cheap and flimsy. You can say it doesn't matter but when you pay this much for a cushion foundation that you presumably will bring out for use, you should expect it to look good.

Inside you get a standard sponge pad filled with foundation, and a black and beige applicator puff which is quite soft and easy to work with. (If you've tried many of the traditional or cheaper cushion ranges, the puffs tend to come extremely stiff and rubbery.)


YSL Le Cushion Encre de Peau is available in 6 neutral tones in Singapore (B10 to 60), which is great compared to most other cushions. However this only seems to cater only up to around NC42 or so when I swatched the darkest shade here.

We can only cross our fingers that this is only the case for Asia and that they will add more shades soon. I also need a BD (beige dore) which is golden toned but I am not holding out for yellow toned shades anytime soon as most Western brands don't bother to launch a full range of shades for foundations that are not part of their "core lines".

Do bear in mind that the shades do oxidize. I am MAC NC25 and tend to be between 20 and 30 in YSL shades (BD 15 for Le Teint Encre de Peau which runs a bit deeper) so don't just go with your standard color without testing it on your face first. I went with a B30 the evening I first tried this, and by the time I got home later that night it was looking a little dark.


Le Cushion has pretty good medium-ish coverage. In fact similar to the original Le Teint Encre de Peau foundation. Enough for light discolorations but not for full coverage of larger blemishes.

Of course using a puff will never give you maximum coverage compared to fingers. As with all cushions I will use the puff for a first layer all over and then use my fingers to pat on more product where I want coverage.


While it is definitely not as shiny and tacky as other cushions I can't say this really looks and stays demi-matte on the skin for long. Also, the more you pat on the dewier and less matte it gets.

It will take on whatever skin texture you have beneath. So if you use a matte primer it will look more matte. If you use a thick lotion it will be dewy. There just aren't the absorbent fillers like talc, clay, silica etc, needed to absorb moisture and change the texture of your skin significantly and keep it matte for hours. I tested it againt the original Le Teint Encre de Peau Fusion Ink foundation in the squared bottle, which I also patted on using the same puff on one side of my face. It was noticeably more matte than the cushion.

With the cushion I find within about 20-30mins this goes to a dewier finish for me. Which I personally don't mind. But if you expect the shine free wear as stated on the box you might be disappointed. 

Lasting Power:

Here's the thing - it doesn't stay demi-matte but it lasts pretty well for me. 

I was sweating up a storm both days I wore this and while it got shinier, the foundation did stay looking even and fresh underneath. No streaking, caking or congealing around pores for me. When I sweat the beads of water don't "lift off" my foundation, and I can gently press the moisture away without messing up my base.

The formula contains acrylate copolymers (the stuff found in setting sprays, sealing liquids and some long wear foundations) - which explains its ability to adhere to the skin and remain flexible without looking or being powdery. 


This isn't a god-send for oily skinned folks, especially if you have a lot of contoured blemishes to hide. You would need a lot of powder to matte down the shine and hide skin texture, so I find cushions in general are a waste of time for these skin types.
I find this better for combination to slightly dry skins. There are emollients and the formula is not 100% oil free, which makes it surprisingly comfortable even on my slightly dry skin, but if you cannot have ANY oil in your products, then this won't be for you.

The other thing is not a huge deal but I would obviously wear a separate sunblock; SPF23 PA++ isn't really sufficient unless you have dark skin, which ironically - this line doesn't yet cater to. 

All in all though, this IS the least dewy cushion I've tried so far and YSL wins lots of points for at least trying to cater to a different market and focusing on a formula that is more lasting. For me lasting power (how long it stays looking even and fresh on the skin) is more important than how long it can stay matte. I can blot the shine away; I can't fix patchy cakey makeup without removing it.

When I am in the mood for something that is a it more semi-matte I am just personally more inclined to stick with the original Le Teint Encre de Peau because you get the same lightweight feel with a bit more of a true semi-matte finish.

You always get more product in tubes and bottles than in cushions – let’s not pretend – and with just one refill per pack, this makes YSL Le Cushion Encre de Peau one of the higher-priced cushions on the market. But it’s definitely not “just another cushion” in the sense that there is enough differentiation from the others to be worth a look if you happen to be a luxe cushion fan.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Current Favorite Spring Fragrances: Feb 2016

Spring is the time brands stereo-typically throw out shower-fresh scents that remind us of all sorts of "clean". This year however, there is only two new releases that caught my attention so far, and the rest in my rotation have been old classics.

Which is quite strange for me because these sorts of scents are a minority in my very sizable collection. I'm a little bit of a fresh-scent snob in that I find 90% of them smell like one another, and will typically contain citrus and/or pome fruits (pear, apple, quince etc), along with delicate soft flowers like freesia, lotus, hyacinth, honeysuckle or peony, and a laundry-fresh musk note.

Not only do they have very similar odor profiles but half the time it seems they come in pale pastel pink juice because so often people gravitate towards a scent based on how it appears in the bottle. (Looks nicer on the dressing table, or on Instagram.) And after that, all it takes is for the scent to be pleasant and inoffensive, nothing too adventurous, to close the sale.

The top sellers in Asia ALL have extremely similar odour profiles. Versace Bright Crystal, Miss Dior Blooming Bouquet, Chanel Chance Eau Tendre, Marc Jacobs Daisy Eau so Fresh are what I call the "Pink Ladies". Most of them contain peony or hyacinth, some citrus fruit, and a clean musk/water note.

Well - I'm not bashing them; I do own a couple of these. But if like me, you don't necessarily want to smell like every other girl on the train, or you've just finished your 4th bottle of Bright Crystal and are ready for a change, here are some nice alternatives to change things up a little. (Do bear in mind that fragrance smells different on different skins depending on body chemistry, so always try them on your skin before buying.)

Moschino Fresh Couture - wins for coolest bottle. The juice inside actually isn't all that unique. It's a pink lady in a funky blue dress. You've got the requisite peony and mandarin, but the addition of lime and raspberry gives it a more pronounced fruity, sweet 'n' tart hit, which is quite lovely.

Penhaligon Lothair - I have a full post on this scent. It's a mysterious but luminous tea-based scent that balances smokiness with crisp, cool cleanliness. There is enough freshness (lavender and bergamot) to make it perfect for Spring, but there's a depth and intelligence to it. Wear this if you absolutely do NOT want another Pink Lady scent.

Jo Malone Blackberry and Sage - simply, but so faceted and non-generic. This masterpiece is worthy of the Jo Malone price-tag in my opinion. It's got the tartness of blackberries but more herbal and woody-clean than fruity. If you want a fruity scent that is more aromatic than sweet, shimmy over to this one.

Elie Saab Le Parfum Rose Couture - looks like a Pink Lady, but it's not. This is the only scent in this list that is on the slightly sweeter headier side. It's more a Valentines' scent than a Spring scent. Rose is the star, and rose scents can be a bit old-fashioned and too syrupy and heady sometimes. But the peony lightens it and gives it a translucency, without stealing the show. This is a very modern take on rose, and something I would recommend to those who have mostly avoided rose fragrances because of the reasons above.

Chanel Gardenia - ahhh, the grand dame of soliflores (single-flower fragrances). Gardenia is a classic that is almost 100 years old. And I love it. I don't always love Gardenia scents - they can give me a headache, but this one is like a velvet petal. It's got presence but it's not loud or overly-simplistic, and it just smells so posh and ladylike.

Thierry Mugler Innocent - originally Angel Innocent, this was renamed to Innocent because it really doesn't resemble the original Angel that much, and has its own fiercely-loyal fan base. If Angel is a rich syrupy fruit cake studded with dried plums and raisins and drizzled with cocoa, this is a bowl of tart blackcurrants and red berries with a thin shell of crispy meringue on top. It's flirtier, fresher, not so sticky and rich, and much easier to get along with.

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Flora Rosa - red berries and a soft musk makes this rose very delicate and girly. Nothing heavy and old-fashioned about this one. I pick this one to mention but honestly any one of the Aqua Allegorias makes a fantastic spring fragrance. They are simple, fresh, good quality, and those bottles are to die for.

Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte - compared to all its more famous sisters, most people probably don't even know of Cristalle Eau Verte. Well I'm telling you to give it a sniff if you like super-fresh citrus scents that have some complexity. I.e. it smells like a proper perfume, not like you drizzled a cut lime on yourself. This is a super-refreshing lemon and lime duet that is completely non-sugary. There is a bit of orange blossom in there to add a hint of sweetness, and some clean musk to give some depth and prevent it from smelling like a sorbet.

Fresh Sugar Lychee - this is an old fave of mine, and I've turned quite a few readers on to it over the past couple of years. This contains lemon, lotus and lychee. It's a great perk-up on sunny days, and a bit different from the typical fruity scents because of the prominent lychee note. Fine fragrance it is not, but fresh, super-wearable, super-likable? Yes.

Typically these are fragrances that are top-loaded - meaning they smell great in the first 30 mins to an hour, and then die down to a skin scent and disappear right after that. In my opinion they are meant to be sprayed liberally and touched-up throughout the day, and I have not met many that have stuck around for more than 3-4 hours with the exception of the Penhaligon's and Thierry Mugler.

NARS Velvet Matte Skin Tint

I really enjoy NARS' regular Skin Tint as a daily sheer base, so when I heard they were launching a Velvet Matte version that was really exciting for me.

With this release NARS promises:
  • effortless application
  • soft matte soft-focus finish
  • soft-touch feel
  • antioxidant defense
  • shine and pore control

 I've worn it on and off for over a month, and I'll say:
  • effortless application - yes, this does glide on and blend out beautifully. I always use fingers to test new foundations (it's the one universal tool most of us have), and this takes minimal effort to smooth out
  • soft matte soft-focus finish - if by that you mean satin and non-greasy looking but not a flat powdery matte, then yes; this does leave the exact amount of sheen I like, and creates a very smooth and youthful glow without emphasizing pores, but I would class it as a satin rather than full-on matte finish. It might simply be due to the fact I live in the tropics, but a matte foundation isn't really matte if it only looks matte in dry climates, ya?
  • soft-touch feel - yes, once it sets this leaves skin feeling velvety smooth, non-tacky, and does not transfer to your fingers when patted
  • antioxidant defense - this contains vitamins C, and E, which is great for providing a bit of extra daily protection. The SPF30 PA+++ also helps if you live in a non-tropical climate without a lot of direct sun.
  • shine and pore control - this does a fairly good job for dry and normal skins in hot weather, and I expect it will be pretty good on combination skins in cooler, drier climates as well. However if you are very oily AND live in a hot place, you will probably get some oil break-through in a few hours. Fair enough, because I always recommend you blot it away than try to find a product that absorbs 6-8 hours worth of oil, and leave it all sitting on top of your skin.
With this skin tint, it does respond to what you use beneath so if you wear a matte primer it will take on a slightly more matte finish. And if you use a dewy product it will take on some sheen. Unlike some really matte formulas it will nor take down shine and change the finish of your skin dramatically. 

The coverage is medium-light, meaning you definitely cover a lot more than typical tinted moisturizers which barely even the skin out. It will even out mild discolorations. However if you want more coverage, you CAN build it up to almost a medium coverage by tapping on a bit more product where you need coverage. This is where I would suggest using fingers rather than a brush or sponge, which will just lift a lot of the product away.

I am using Alaska (I'm MAC NC25) and didn't notice any oxidation or darkening over the day. However I do have to say I tend not to experience much oxidation in general so I would try out a sample if your skin chemistry tends to oxidize many foundations.

Bare skin
NARS Velvet Matte Skin Tint with no concealer or powder

I don't have the full box in my review kit, and I couldn't find the ingredients list online yet, but I didn't detect any fragrance. If it's there at all, it's extremely mild. I have semi-sensitive skin and this did not give me any breakouts or sensitivities with use. It DOES condition and smooth my skin a little - and while it can't really hide flakiness, it doesn't emphasize them overly either. 

Overall, I do really like this for everyday wear. You get enough coverage to look and feel like you spent time on your skin, and it leaves that polished "expensive skin" glow around the high points of your face, which I prefer to a fully matte powdery foundation. It looks like more perfected, clean, moisturized skin. Not makeup. However this means it's not really "matte" matte, so if you have bumpy, uneven and blemished skin, you will need a lot of matte powder to hide the texture if you want to use this. It probably will not provide enough oil-control for very oily girls either. 

Lasting power is fairly good if you're in air-conditioned environments or a fairly cool place for the most part. But I do find it can break down a bit if you are running about in the heat. This is not one I would personally pick for a full day of running about in Summer or tropical heat. Then again - most foundations can't hold up under those conditions.

The one thing I find a bit lacking is sun protection.
While SPF30 PA+++ is alright for those in cooler climates or with tan to darker skins, it really isn't enough protection for Summer, lighter skins, or anyone living in tropical areas. That's fine for me because I usually wear a separate sunblock (the amount of foundation we apply usually does not give us the maximum sun protection listed on the packaging anyway), but don't assume SPF30 PA+++ is enough. 

If you have light skin, SPF30 only gives you 60-90 mins of protection. That's 1.5 - 2 hours. Enough for a quick run to the grocery store. And PA+++ is adequate but PA++++ is required for optimal UVA (anti-aging) protection.

Still, this one thing is not a big enough point to say don't try this foundation. I think it's a great product for combination, normal and slightly-dry skins, and as long as you exercise basic skin wisdom and wear a separate sun screen or avoid too much sun exposure, it's great.

Launches in Singapore in March 2016.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Diorsnow "Bloom Perfect" Perfect Moist Cushion - A First Look!

Dior brings out new Diorsnow products around Spring of each year, and for 2016 it's their own interpretation of the eponymous Cushion Foundation which has started invading all the Western brand line-ups after several years in Asia.

Like Chanel's Le Blanc, Diorsnow is a "whitening"/brightening line created originally just for the East Asian market, where there is an eternal obsession with luminous, unblemished skin with no trace of sun damage. Many people around the world are only just learning about how bad sun exposure and photo-damage actually is on the skin, but it's always been a big deal in East Asia, and good formulas are expected to do double-duty - treat existing damage and prevent future damage.
I will go out on a limb and say that good whitening skincare IS often great skincare for treating first signs of aging. I feel the separation of the two lines is more about marketing and selling more products to consumers. Most of the soothing, repairing, and protecting extracts and ingredients in whitening skincare - like stabilized Vitamin C, Licorice extract, or Edelweiss extract which is used in the Diorsnow range - also can protect against collagen and DNA damage.
Dior's put their skincare ingredients into their latest foundation - the Bloom Perfect Perfect-Moist Cushion - which is an ultra-hydrating, protecting, and brightening foundation which promises to both treat as well as protect. If you've used and gotten good results with other skincare products in the Diorsnow range, you will be happy to know they also have two new skin priming products -  the Bloom Perfect Brightening Effect Skin Creator, and the Brightening Makeup Base, which I'll review separately.

I was sent shade 020 in the cushion foundation for review, and it is available in Singapore in only 3 shades with neutral undertones (005, 010, 020,m). It costs SGD$105, comes in a box with two cushions (one in the case, one in a sealed pouch), and the standard issue application puff. I usually dislike all puffs aside from the new Shu Uemura flocked one which is ultra soft and doesn't soak up a ton of product. The Dior is slightly softer and more plush than the average Korean-style puffs, but it's still mostly the same and I still don't love it.

On application, you get a light coverage, but as with most cushion foundations you can pat a bit more on over the first layer to build up slightly. I did find that the Dior does not build up to the level of coverage you get with most classic Korean cushions. The most you will get is light-medium at 2-3 coats. If you need to apply more than 2-3 coats of a foundation to get the coverage you want, you are using the wrong product.

You can see in the before after below that it does even out my skin considerably. I am slightly paler on the brow bones and in the lower parts of my cheeks, and I have some uneven darkness around the mouth and chin, eyes, nostrils, etc which (aside from making it look like I permanently wear brown shadow) can make my face look slightly deeper than my neck. I usually use 021 (medium-light yellow) in Dior foundations and 020 is slightly more neutral/pink than my skin

It does give enough coverage to cover broken veins and old marks from spots, but I had to tap my finger in the product and pat it gently on specific areas where I want more coverage. Brushes, sponges, and puffs will always take some product off. For max coverage, fingers are the best.

(And before you cringe, remember it's a hundred times easier to ensure your finger is sanitized, than a used brush or sponge.)


  • A good strong dewy glow
  • A light feel
  • Very fine texture on the skin; doesn't look heavy or unnatural
  • Good SPF
  • Skincare ingredients
  • Puff is a bit softer and easier to work with than many other puffs around


  • Too dewy for girls with bumpy, uneven skin or large open pores
  • Only gives light-ish coverage
  • Will not lock on and stay on in humidity or on oily skin - this will rub off and transfer quite easily
  • Not enough PA (UVA) protection - I feel on principle every product that has SPF50 should have PA++++, because many people get a false sense of security from using a "50" and think they can skip sunblock, when in reality they are not getting maximum protection against aging UVA rays
  • Not enough shades for deeper skin tones - 020 is around N2 for MAC. Diorsnow is a line created primarily for fair-skinned Asian consumers (Japan is a major market)
  • Heavily fragranced

So - same story with pretty much every other cushion foundation I tried - they will not really set and lock on and stay intact the entire day if you are oily, or running about in humidity and sweating a lot. Don't even think of using this if you have oily, blemished skin because it makes my semi-dry/normal skin look a bit greasy after 30 mins even with setting powder. You can apply a ton of powder to try and make it last longer but I don't see why you would get a dewy foundation if you are just going to matte it down. Wear it if you have relatively smooth skin, small pores, and just want something to add a youthful glow, hydration, and to even out the skin for a couple of hours. 

My biggest beef with this product is the lack of lasting power. I let it sit for a couple of minutes and then pressed a sheet of tissue very, very gently onto my skin. It came off with a LOT of product.

That's not to say I hate this product. It's exactly what I expect of a cushion foundation, honestly. This is a very fine formula, smells lovely, feels luxurious going on, and has some sun protection and skincare. I just don't love cushions in tropical climates to begin with. If you need something that stays intact all day and can withstand heat and grease or hide large pores, you might want to try the regular Diorsnow foundation, which has amazing coverage, similar sun protection, and a semi-matte finish that will last a lot better.

The Bloom Perfect Brightening Effect Skin Creator on the other hand, is a silky pre-makeup salve which feels lovely and imparts a subtle smooth glow to the skin. I am very excited about, and will post more info after a bit more testing.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

S/S 2016 Makeup Trends and A Chat with MAC Cosmetics Senior Artist Louise Zizzo

Louise Zizzo, M.A.C. Cosmetics' Senior Artist was in Singapore recently to showcase the Spring/Summer 2016 Makeup trends, and along with taking a look at the runway looks of the season (plus some face-chart fun), I was lucky enough to score a quick interview with her.

M.A.C. Senior Artist Louise Zizzo applying lashes on a model

How would you sum up the key looks for S/S16 in one sentence?
Louise: The key looks for SS16 are deliberate, decisive, playful and have a modern sophistication to them.

What are some of the key trends that you expect to extend throughout the whole of 2016, beyond SS?
Louise: The bold lip trend and no-makeup makeup.

Desigual's S/S16 modern retro look with matte orange-red lips, clean skin and black liner

I often feel a lot of modern makeup we see on social media today is actually 50's makeup transposed onto a different color palette. Strong, defined arched brows, overdrawn lips, strobing and sculpting... as a fan of glamorous retro makeup yourself, why do you think these trends keep coming back?
Louise: You are quite right the makeup we see on social media today is based on old school techniques but I think because it is such a process - it gives a feeling of glamour and it can transform you into a completely different looking person. It's playing dress up but for the face!

What are some of the strongest makeup influences/inspirations for you?
1920's, 70's, 80's decades (especially the 80's - that's when my love affair with makeup really began as a teenager).

Colored winged liner at Moschino S/S16

You said once that makeup should be approached with "intention rather than habit". I love that - but for the benefit of the readers, could you elaborate on it?
Louise: We are creatures of habit by nature and it is very easy to apply let's say highlighter because it's trendy and everyone is doing it or someone told us to do it, but our face tells its own story and we know it best, so ask yourself why am I applying this highlighter, where do I actually need it and what is it doing for my features? Another example is concealer, just apply it where you need it - which isn't necessarily all under the eye - perhaps you just need a little in the corners.

What is in your makeup bag right now?
Louise: Plushglass in "Fulfilled" - my fave! Mineralize Skinfinish Natural and Lip Conditioner.

If you were not a makeup artist you would be.... 
Louise: An interior designer.

Thank you Louise!

M.A.C. Spring/Summer 2016 Face Charts

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

ZOEVA Rose Golden Eyeshadow Palette Swatches and Review

As a fan of ZOEVA brushes, I admit I haven't been all that curious to try out their makeup. Until the Rose Golden palette that is.

This is a 10-shade palette filled with mostly warm metal tones from copper, peach, rose, soft wine, and 3 very functional matte shades which are nicely chosen to provide a little bit of definition and contrast where you maybe don't want shimmer. Namely the socket line, brow bone, and lash line.

The pigmentation of most of the shades are buttery smooth and very soft, but the surprising thing is you don't get a ton of fall-out. These are not exceedingly powdery, which many affordable shadow lines that also give good payoff (e.g. Wet n Wild) tend to be. These shadows are formulated quite similarly to higher-end shadows - true to color, and neither too unpigmented, nor overly soft and intense. You get medium payoff, good blendability, and the option to build up intensity if you need.

Most manufacturers - cheap or expensive - tend to get the metallics right. But I was especially impressed by the mattes in the Rose Golden palette. I will say that a couple of the darker shades here are less pigmented than the others, but that might be a good thing for beginners who are afraid to load on too much dark color too quickly.

Luster, the medium beige matte shade is great as a brow bone shade and even just to clean up around the edges of your eye look as a final touch before mascara. 
Reflective Elegance is a soft warm peach-pink champagne with incredible pigmentation. 
Copper is King is to me THE shade that draws the eye in this palette. It's a true copper with wine undertones, and looks like it would be extremely red and intense, but actually goes on soft. 
Shining Bright is a mauvey metallic brown that is beautiful all over the lids. 
Rusty Petals is a chocolate-y deep bronze which is not as pigmented as I'd expected. This has more of a tendency than the other metallic shades to go on slightly patchy.

Foil is a coppery brown which sometimes look a little rosy in the pan, but goes on more bronze and warm. 
Just a Rose is a quintessential duochrome rose gold with a rosy undertone and coppery-gold highlights. 
Golden Rule is straight-up gold - I love this color; it has enough neutral beige tones in it to not look overly yellow and harsh on the skin. 
Harmony is a taupe matte shade which is great as a transition color in the socket. It's a bit on the cool side, but that only brings out the warm metallic shades more. Dark haired girls can also use this in their brows. 
Wonder Full is a dark matte cocoa, and as with the metallic dark brown in the palette, this is also slightly patchy and not as easy to control and blend compared to the other shades. It still works fine - it's just not as easy to work with as Luster or Harmony.

The quality is fair to great but definitely not consistent across the different colors, and with some of these shades, you do need to spend some time packing on the color for intensity. If you are expecting a super-vibrant molten metal look with this palette, you might be disappointed. I've seen some very intense and vibrant looks done with this palette online, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say you can't get that effect using just this palette - without a primer or cream shadow to grab and intensify the pigments, or foiling the shades with some water.

Applying it on clean lids with standard dry brushes will give you this sort of intensity below. (I'm wearing brown pencil along the lashes as well. The dark shades will not give you this intensity on their own.)


This is an affordable, good quality palette I actually recommend for beginners or those who want a nice daily palette with beautiful warm tones. It's also a palette girls with blue or grey eyes can use to maximize contrast with their eyes, although honestly speaking, I'm not a big fan of restricting your eye looks by eye color. (You are more than your eye color - your hair, skin, lip and cheek shades, outfit also affect how shades look on you.)

So this is good for anyone unless you want maximum color intensity and payoff from the get-go. I find these comparable to maybe MAC or Too Faced shadows in general. Smoother and less powdery than Wet n Wild, less pigmented than Urban Decay and Make Up For Ever.

I do feel this is a palette lacks 1-2 pale shades for paler girls to use as highlight colors. If you are MAC NC25 and paler, none of the shades will really be pale enough to act as highlights. Not even the soft yellow-gold shade will be bright or light enough to add a strong pop on paler skins. Just something to be aware of. If you want a single palette with a whole spectrum of light to dark tones and don't want to have to add in paler ivory or champagne shades from elsewhere, this might not be for you.

I purchased my ZOEVA Rose Golden palette from for SG$32.99.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Penhaligon's Lothair - my new poison

Penhaligon's Lothair eau de toilette is my first major fragrance crush - and major scent investment - for the start of 2016. This unisex composition by Bertrand Duchaufour is based around smoky black tea, which I love.

Aside from this one thing, it's actually pretty darned hard to describe because it is made up of so many contrasting facets. It is bright and luminous in the top, with an almost antiseptic "lavender and greens" men's cologne opening. Then it quickly goes from clean and dapper to something decidedly more exotic and dark as the smoky black tea blooms. 
Top notes - juniper, cardamom, bergamot, grapefruit, fig leaf and red berries   
Heart notes - fig tree, lavender, magnolia, geranium and black tea  
Base notes - vanilla, musk, cedar, ambergris, oakmoss and wood

In cool environments, I find the tea and lavender are the most prominent and stay a long time, tinged slightly by geranium and a mossy woody base. My preference is wearing it in warmer, balmier weather, because that's when the citrus, tea, juniper and oakmoss is quickly balanced and rounded out by a soft sweetness from the combination of florals, fig, and a hint of ambery vanilla, which reminds me of a divine Earl Grey Lavender ice-cream float I once had. A perfect swirl of freshness, fragrance, restrained bitterness, creaminess, and just a hint of sweetness on the tongue.

Even when the warmer notes come through, the scent never crosses the line into outright girliness. What I love best is that it has traits of both typical masculine and feminine scents, but it's not a bland androgynous sexless mush. It's actually seriously sexy - I would love it on either a man or a woman, although as a woman wearing it, I tend to think of statuesque Eva Green in a structured pant suit; angles and curves - introverted, mysterious, and slightly aloof. 

Ironically, I find the official reference to old colonial English Tea Clipper ships a bit blah and uninspiring. I mean - it's a perfect representation of exotic tea leaves and spices being transported over the sea in wooden ships - but that's just not a visual I find nearly as fascinating as the scent itself. 

Even though it lends itself to both casual and formal settings well, I somehow feel like I shouldn't wear cheap clothes with it. It's sharp, stylish and refined. Something to wear with that Saint Laurent jacket and spike heels.
Lasting power: 4-6 hours, very good for an EDT on my dry skin
Throw: low - after the initial blast of lavender and juniper, this is a scent that mostly wraps around you like a soft throw
Sillage: moderate - this leaves a soft trail for a short distance as you pass