L’Oreal Miss Manga Mascara


L’Oreal Miss Manga mascara promises to give you lashes so lush, you’ll resemble an Asian cartoon character. Even the ads use adorable kawaii imagery. I’m a sucker for both mascara and kawaii, so I had to try this mascara.

The unique feature of this mascara is the wand, which is jointed to angle the brush – a trick women have been using for years by bending the mascara wand at an angle to get fuller lashes. While in theory this is a brilliant idea, the actual wand disappoints. When I adjust the wand to put the brush at an angle, the joint doesn’t stay put, so I end up using it with the brush head moving around too much. That being said, however, Miss Manga mascara does make my lashes very full. So full, in fact, that I need an eyelash comb to make my lashes neat and clump-free. But I like the volume I get with Miss Manga mascara.


REN Revisited


I first reviewed REN in my very first post for this blog, in 2007. I reviewed it again in 2008. Back then REN products were only carried in America by the now-defunct C.O. Bigelow chain of stores that were owned by Bath & Body Works (the original C.O. Bigelow in New York City doesn’t carry the line). Now REN is carried by Sephora stores nationwide, and are much more easily attainable.

When I reviewed REN products the first two times, I was using the Rose Centifolia Cleansing Gel for Normal Skin, and the Mayblossom Cleansing Gel for Combination Skin. I was suffering from chronic adult acne during those years, and both of these cleansers, while natural, were foaming cleansers. I’ve since realized that my skin, although acneic, was on the dry side, and I was drying out my skin by using foaming cleansers. Now my skin no longer breaks out, but it is dry and sensitive. I no longer use foaming cleansers. When I saw that REN made a cleansing balm, in the vein of Eve Lom and Josie Maran, I wanted to try it.

REN Rose Centifolia No. 1 Purity Cleansing Balm ($48 for 5.1 oz.) is a soft balm that comes in a tub. It also comes with a muslin cloth. I scoop out a little (about a fingerful – you don’t need much), spread it over my dry face, and massage it in to help emulsify dirt and makeup. Then I wet my fingers with warm water and massage my face again. One thing that really impresses me about this cleansing balm is that it emuslifies into a milky cleanser upon contact with water, much like a cleansing oil, and unlike other cleansing balms. I then remove it with the enclosed muslin cloth rinsed in warm water, and my skin is clean and soft. Because it emulsifies with water, it’s easy to remove and doesn’t feel like it leaves a film on my face like other cleansing balms can. And it smells divine, like essential oils. I was using the Josie Maran Cleansing Balm, but the REN Rose Centifolia No. 1 Purity Cleansing Balm is the same price as Josie Maran’s while giving you two ounces more cleansing balm. I haven’t tried Eve Lom’s cleansing balm because it’s very expensive (the 3.3 oz. size will set you back $80), and it contains mineral oil, a petrochemical. REN’s cleansing balm is like the all-natural version of Eve Lom’s balm, which was arguably the first cleansing balm and which has achieved a cult-like status. Ren’s Cleansing Balm, like all of their products, is clean, meaning it uses only natural ingredients, and, as they state on their website:

    REN is free from synthetic fragrance, mineral oil, petrolatum, sulfate detergents, synthetic colours, animal ingredients and parabens. In addition, REN products do not contain potential irritants including: glycols and diglycols (such as propylene glycol), PEG’s, PPGs, urea, D.E.A, T.E.A, PABA and other synthetic sunscreens, aliphatic alcohols/hydrocarbons, phthalates, fumarates, amines, alkanolamines, synthetic AHAs/BHAs, polyacrylamide, metacrylate, elastomer, poloxamer, styrene, vinyl, polyquaternium, synthetic chelating agents, nylon, nitriles, nitrates, nitrosamine releasers, bromates, fluor, aluminum and alumina et al.

I round out my REN regimen with the Evercalm Cleansing Milk (which I abosolutely adore – it makes my skin look glowing) in the morning and in the evenings when I’m not wearing sunblock or makeup, and I follow this or the Rose Centifolia Cleansing Balm with the Evercalm Global Protection Day Cream (both day and night).

I really enjoy using my REN products. I think I’ve found a regimen that finally works for my skin. I feel like I’m putting only good things on my skin, not nasty chemicals or synthetics that were possibly causing my skin to react badly and break out. I’m looking forward to trying more of REN’s products.

Feeling Pink (Or: In Search of the Perfect Foundation)


After trying the new BareSkin foundation by Bare Minerals and being underwhelmed, I was again in search of a new foundation. The Bareskin shade was the lightest shade they made, but it was yellow-toned, and I have pink undertones to my skin. I’ve had this problem with Bare Escentuals before, with their loose powder foundation. The lightest shades are always yellow-based. They don’t get into the pink tones until the medium shades, which are too dark for me. I have this problem with MAC too. I get confused as to whether they give pink-undertoned women the “C” range,for “cool”, or the “N” range, for “neutral.” Whenever I get color-matched at the MAC counter, they give me a neutral foundation, in order to counteract the pink in my skin. But when I get the foundation home and wear it, I can see that it makes my skin look too yellow, especially compared to my pink jawline and neck. And don’t get me started on Bobbi Brown. As much as I love her formulations, her claim to fame is that her foundations are yellow-based to counteract redness. But I have to wonder why some cosmetic companies feel it’s necessary to neutralize pink-toned skin? Doesn’t it make more sense to match a person’s skin tone, no matter what the color? This really makes me miss the Prescriptives counters. Prescriptives was famous for having hundreds of shades of foundation, and their method of Colorprinting to determine which of four skin tones matched yours: yellow/orange, red/orange, red, and blue-red. I was blue-red, and my shade was Camelia – a pale foundation with pink undertones. I had even gotten a custom foundation from them once, but it looked exactly like Camelia only it cost twice as much, so I went back to buying Camelia.

Matching the pink in my skin was the first “epiphany” I reached regarding what I was looking for in the perfect foundation. The second epiphany was that I no longer wanted to wear foundation all over my face. I’ve read in various magazines that women don’t need to put foundation all over their face, only where they need it, but I didn’t believe it. Now that I’m getting older I can see the point of this advice. Not that my skin is terrible, but I’m no longer a twenty-something woman with perfect skin (and even when I was twenty-something, I didn’t have perfect skin. I suffered from chronic adult acne, and wearing foundation all over my face didn’t help anyway). So what foundation would be perfect to just dab on over a few red spots and quickly blend in? I decided I was going to look for a foundation stick.

In the past I hadn’t had much luck with stick foundations. Despite my skin being acne-prone, it had a dry surface, and foundation sticks (and cakes – any cream foundation, really) just showed up tiny dry flakes on my skin. Perhaps I was drying my skin out with harsh, acne-fighting cleansers. And applying a foundation stick all over my face probably wasn’t a good idea. Now my skin is dry, but comfortable, and I don’t intend to put a foundation stick all over my face. I just want to use it as a concealer of sorts to even out my complexion.

Foundation sticks were all the rage in the 1990s. I tried Bobbi Brown’s (again, too yellow), and BeneFit’s Playsticks (now discontinued). But when I walked into Sephora and asked the associate to recommend a foundation stick, she told me they didn’t have any. I found success at Ulta, in the drugstore part, surprisingly, rather than the high-end departments. There I found the NYX Mineral Stick Foundation ($10). It comes in nine shades. I chose the lightest, Fair, because it looked cooler than the next shade that Ulta carried, Light. What’s odd, though, is that the NYX website’s description of the colors describes Fair as having a beige undertone. But when I tried it on, Fair blended so seamlessly into my skin tone that I thought for sure it was pink. I purchased it and haven’t regretted it. I swipe one stripe on each cheek, on my chin, the bridge of my nose, and my forehead, and blend with my fingertips. It blends in seamlessly and doesn’t show up any dry streaks, but that might be because I apply it directly after my cream cleanser, my Josie Maran Argan Oil, my moisturizer, and my sunscreen, so my face is a bit moist. Or maybe the fact that it’s a mineral foundation might have something to do with it. In any event, I love this foundation. And I’ve definitely learned the value of Less is More, as in foundation (I’m using less), in time (I can do my face in seconds), and in money (at $10, the NYX Mineral Foundation Stick is practically one-fourth the price of high-end foundation sticks like Bobbi Brown).

By the way, Prescriptives has since been relaunched as an online-only retailer. The selection of shades has been greatly downsized, but they still offer the four different skin tones. And they still make Camelia.

bareSkin by Bare Escentuals


bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation ($29) is the highly anticipated liquid mineral foundation from Bare Escentuals. Launched on QVC in late April, it was released nationally last week in all Bare Escentuals shops, as well as other retailers that carry the BE makeup line. I eagerly went to my local Bare Escentuals boutique to see the new foundation for myself.

For years I’ve wanted to like Bare Escentuals powder mineral foundation, but I just can’t wear it. It makes my face look chalky, and never settles into a natural look. I’ve tried both the loose powder foundation and the pressed powder foundation, but I can’t wear either. So I had high hopes for the bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation. bareSkin is a treatment foundation that is supposed to help your skin as it provides color. According to the Bare Escentuals website:

    Clinically proven tone-correcting mineral foundation and brightening serum in one. Created with exceptional purity in mind, this ultra-thin, skin-perfecting fluid provides seamless adjustable coverage, a natural finish and the look and feel of beautiful skin while delivering a noticeably brighter, more youthful appearance. Made with the bare minimum ingredients and formulated without oil, silicone, parabens or fragrance. It’s like nothing you’ve ever felt before.

The makeup artist who assisted me at the Bare Escentuals boutique color-matched my pale, pink-toned skin and chose the lightest shade, Bare Porcelain (01), for “the fairest porcelain skin with cool undertones.” To use bareSkin, you also need to buy the Perfecting Face Brush ($28).


The Perfecting Face Brush is a flat-edged brush with a well in the center of it. To apply the bareSkin foundation, you need to shake the bottle, and apply one or two drops into the well of the brush. According to the makeup artist who assisted me in the Bare Escentuals boutique, you need one to two drops of bareSkin foundation for each side of your face. After you put the foundation in the brush, you buff the foundation onto your face with the brush in circular motions, just as you would when applying the loose mineral foundation. Before putting the drops of foundation into the brush for the other half of your face, you need to shake the bottle again. Basically, you will need to shake the bottle every time you put drops of the foundation into the brush. You can build the coverage by adding more drops of foundation and going over your face again. So having worn this foundation for three days in a row, what do I think of it? In a word, meh.

The coverage is thin, which would be good for someone who wants a natural finish (and, again, you can add more foundation to build coverage), but I also find it to have sort of an eggshell finish to it, almost like a lacquer or varnish. The makeup artist who assisted me told me to apply the Bare Escentuals primer before applying bareSkin, and sweep Mineral Veil on top of it, in order to help it last longer than the 3 to 5 hours it would last without primer and powder (the bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation might last longer on drier skin types than oily or combination skin). But putting Mineral Veil on my face makes my face look chalky, dry, and powdery, which is why I opted for the bareSkin serum foundation in the first place. If I need to apply mineral powder on top of it, then it defeats the purpose of using the serum foundation. I also don’t like how the bareSkin serum foundation settles into my pores, especially on my nose. I tried blending it with a blender sponge, but in order to get it to blend in seamlessly, I feel like I’m actually taking off more foundation than I’m leaving on. Plus, primer, foundation, and powder turn a one-step makeup routine into three steps, and in the morning, I want to apply my makeup quickly so I can have more time to enjoy my coffee.

To its credit, the bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation has an SPF of 20. It also comes in twenty shades, with both pink, yellow, and neutral undertones, so there will be a shade for almost everybody. I’m not crazy about the bareSkin foundation, but I like the Face Perfecting Brush. I might try using it with a traditional liquid foundation and see what kind of coverage I get. Sadly, I just spent almost $60 on products that have been relegated to my makeup bag of unused products, after only three days.

Have you tried bareSkin Pure Brightening Serum Foundation? What do you think of it?

Orange Creme


The Mario Badescu salon has been a New York institution since it was founded in 1967. Many celebrities swear by their products, including Martha Stewart, Gwyneth Paltrow, Patti Hansen, and Jennifer Aniston. Yet when I lived and worked in New York, I never purchased any of their products. I never made the pilgrimage to the salon, though I would often peruse the Badescu counter at Henri Bendel’s. It wasn’t until I moved to Massachusetts that I decided to try their products. Ten years later, I have rediscovered how wonderful the Mario Badescu line is after a recent trip to Nordstrom’s. In my continuing quest for the perfect cleanser, the sales associate recommended the Orange Cleansing Soap from Mario Badescu for my dry skin type. For a mere $12 (and how often can one leave Nordstrom’s after only spending $12?) I decided to give it a go.

The Orange Cleansing Soap is a non-lathering cleanser, but it breaks down easily on a wet face so it’s more water-soluble than heavier cream or lotion cleansers. It bills itself as being mildly exfoliating, due to the orange extract, but I don’t see any evidence of much exfoliation when I use it. It is, however, a gentle but thorough cleanser that removes dirt and makeup well. And the best part is that it is completely non-drying. My face feels incredibly soft after I use it.

My skin has changed a lot since I first tried the Mario Badescu line ten years ago. Back then, I was battling chronic adult acne, and I tried a couple of different Badescu cleansers that, in hindsight, might have been too harsh for my skin. The Orange Cleansing Soap is not one of the “star” cleansers of the Badescu line, compared to the more highly touted Seaweed Cleansing Soap or Glycolic Foaming Cleanser, but it’s an unsung hero, and one of the hidden jewels of the line. This might possibly be my “holy grail” of cleansers.

Mario Badescu products are available online from www.mariobadescu.com and Nordstrom’s.

Lorde to Collaborate with MAC Cosmetics


MAC Cosmetics is renowned for collaborating with celebrities on limited-edition makeup collections. Past collaborators have included Beth Ditto, Iris Apfel, Dame Edna, and Miss Piggy. This week MAC announced that their latest collection will be a collaboration with Lorde, the seventeen-year-old New Zealand singer who won a Grammy for Best Pop Solo earlier this year for her debut single “Royals.” No word yet on what the makeup collection will consist of, but the collaboration between MAC and Lorde further attests to the popularity of the young singer, whose solo album Pure Heroine reached number three on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart, and charting within the top-ten in eight additional countries. Come to think of it, Pure Heroine would be a marvelous name for Lorde’s MAC collection.

Happy National Fragrance Day

Once again, National Fragrance Day is here. March 21st was designated the day to celebrate fragrance. By whom, or why, I don’t know. But on National Fragrance Day, my scent today is vintage Ma Griffe by Carven.

Ma Griffe, 2013 version

Ma Griffe, 2013 version

Ma Griffe was introduced in 1946 by the fashion house of Carven, led by Marie-Louise Carven-Grog, a.k.a.Carmen de Tommaso. Ma Griffe has top notes of aldehydes, clary sage, galbanum, and bergamot, with middle notes of gardenia, jasmin, ylang-ylang, and rose. It’s rounded off with the spicier bottom notes of cinnamon, tonka bean, and vetiver.

Ma Griffe - a young perfume

Ma Griffe – a young perfume

Ma Griffe was the epitome of French fragrance in the Forties, Fifties, and Sixties. It was the signature fragrance of Judy Garland and Yoko Ono. It was introduced as a “young” fragrance – the kid sister of headier French aldehyde-based fragrances like Chanel No. 5 or Shocking by Schiaparelli. While Chanel and Schiaparelli wanted to seduce you – and the opposite sex – Ma Griffe was fresh and innocent, but no less sophisticated. Sadly, it seems to have fallen out of favor in the past thirty years or so, perhaps overshadowed by celebrity fragrances, or perfumes that smell like vanilla or musk or cotton candy. It has undergone several formulations as ownership of Carven changed hands, and certain ingredients were substituted or eliminated altogether. My vintage bottle was given to me by my aunt, who bought it in the early Sixties. She was an independent single gal working in New York City. I’m sure Ma Griffe appealed to her as an incredibly chic and sophisticated fragrance – the perfect choice for a young woman with a job and her own apartment whose career trajectory could only go up.

A 1972 ad for Ma Griffe appeals to the Liberated Woman, and apologizes for landing her a husband.

A 1972 ad for Ma Griffe appeals to the Liberated Woman, and apologizes for landing her a husband.

Ma Griffe was reintroduced in 2013 following the revival of the House of Carven in 2010 under designer Guillaume Henry. Its notes closely match those of the original formulation so happily, the true Ma Griffe still with us. So is Madame Carven herself, at 104 years old!

Madame Carven, a.k.a. Carmen de Tommaso, in the early Seventies

Madame Carven, a.k.a. Carmen de Tommaso, in the early Seventies

What fragrance are you wearing for National Fragrance Day?