Makeup: 9 posts

Why I Love Japanese Magazines

I had originally planned something completely different for today, but having spent the past several days working on a grueling technical report, I devoted this weekend to my neglected pile of Japanese magazines. And so I bring you this.

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It wouldn’t surprise me if Japan produced more types of magazines than any other country. There are publications catering to all interests and lifestyles, no matter how obscure. A magazine about nothing but makeup? Sure! A digest that shows you how to turn yourself into a gothic Lolita? Why not!

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Pink, Perfume and Blush

I like pink. It’s one of the most intriguing and unpredictable colors–cheerful and aggressive, uplifting and alluring, delicate and tawdry. Pink in its pale, ballet slipper manifestations can seem precious and dainty, but saturate it–or contrast it–and the effect becomes much more subversive. Move anywhere outside central Europe, and pink’s reputation for girlishness and frivolity begins to appear less certain. Already in southern Spain and Italy the simple coquetry of this shade turns seductive and smoldering–in the hot pink of the matador’s cape and flamenco skirts, the Sicilian church frescoes and the intensity of bougainvillea against the chipped white stucco of Moorish palaces. Forget about pink being just for debutantes when in India; real Indian men wear pink. The intense tropical  sun bleaches pastels to nothingness, but pink holds its own, forcefully.

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The monochrome January palette needs an infusion of brightness, so my interest in things rose and fuchsia colored is correlated with the length of winter. This is probably why by the time spring arrives and the beauty magazines insist on pastels, I instead turn to greys and ambers. Pink can find its many expressions, in perfume, blush, lipstick, and it need not be only about roses.

Consider Frédéric Malle Geranium Pour Monsieur. The polished woods and musk would give it a sober air of an Oxford don, if it weren’t for a vivid geranium boutonniere. It’s bright and dramatic, an interplay between geranium’s green metallic and velvety floral notes. Pour Monsieur uses a particularly intense geranium essence, and I see it as shocking pink, nothing delicate about it.

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Lipsticks for Roses

Elisa on matching lips to rose perfumes.

Recently, my friend (and author of the perfume memoir Coming to My Senses) Alyssa Harad joked on Twitter, “I have accidentally matched my shirt to my lipstick and it’s bothering me so much I have to change.” A matchy-matchy outfit and lipstick combination may qualify as faux pas, but what about matching your lipstick to your scent? Since roses almost always smell like a shade of red or pink to me, I get a synesthetic pleasure out of wearing a color that “rhymes” with what I smell.

Here are some favorite match-ups from my rose and lip product collections.

Dark Roses & Matte Reds

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L – R: Maybelline Color Sensational Creamy Matte in Rich Ruby, NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream in Amsterdam, Sephora Nano Lip Liner in Real Red, Clinique Long Last Soft Matte in Matte Crimson

Dark roses are probably my favorite category of perfume, and they seem to call for drama. I don’t have the talent, patience, or eye shape for winged liquid liner, so when I want dramatic impact, I do a rich matte red lip. The Maybelline matte above (which I’ve heard is a pretty good dupe for MAC Ruby Woo) goes on super-smooth, and is a perfect match for the gorgeous, complex aged patchouli in Tom Ford Noir de Noir; it smells like red roses and bittersweet chocolate. The brighter, warmer lip pencil from Sephora is great with a classic rose chypre like Ungaro Diva or L’Arte di Gucci (try Lumiere Noir pour Femme by Maison Francis Kurkdjian if you can’t find the latter).

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Lips Like Rose Petals

I blame my current infatuation with color on taking up embroidery after a long hiatus. As I play with fabric and thread and search for the right kind of ivory to sparkle against white linen, I give more thought to the colors around me, sometimes even too much. “Wouldn’t that be a great pairing!” I think as I walk over a chocolate brown grate that my Brussels commune stamps with its lemon yellow seal. When I’m not admiring the exquisite detail of local plumbing, I indulge my color obsession via my makeup kit.

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Makeup is a natural way to explore color, because face products–lipstick, blush, eyeshadow, powders–allow for an infinite variation of shades and gradations of tones. Depending on the texture and transparency, the same hue can take a different cast, not to mention the effect provided by your own skin. Of course, it’s also an excuse for adding to my makeup wardrobe, because as I delve further into my embroidery and as the summer roses bloom with more abandon, my collection grows steadily. One pink is suddenly not enough. I want all of the roses on my lips.

But alas, roses proved to be a difficult case. While reds and berries suit my pale complexion well, roses and pinks can emphasize the yellowish cast of my skin and make me look as if I haven’t slept for days. The swatching exercise below was done chiefly to organize my stash. The result is a selection of mini-reviews. I prefer my cosmetics unscented, but some of my favorite formulas have a strong scent. I added short fragrance notes, in case you’re picky about this aspect of your lipstick.

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Makeup Bag Staple Kate Eyeliner

Metro rides in cities around the world are a fascinating anthropological experience. In New York, you quicky learn how not to invade people’s personal space, even when the subway car is stuffed like a can of sardines. In Paris you observe the artful way men cross their legs and tie their. In Kyiv, you can learn your neighbor’s whole life story before you reach your stop. In Tokyo, on the other hand, you pick up makeup tips. If you ride during the famous Tokyo rush hour, when you’re pressed against your neighbor in a manner more intimate than one might countenance otherwise, it becomes especially easy. Of course, do your observations without staring at people, which would be seen as inexcusably rude. (Also, don’t wear too much perfume either, another cultural taboo.)

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One aspect of Japanese makeup I’ve always loved is the perfect cat’s eye look. The eyeliner might be sharply drawn against the naturally colored lid or smudged with different colors for an elegant smoky effect. I’ve admired this look on so many women in the streets of Tokyo that I became determined to master the art of elegant calligraphy on my eyelids.

The quest turned out to be easier than I realized, and it involved a drugstore eyeliner from a brand called Kate. It’s sold widely in Asian makeup emporiums and 24 hour shops (the rest of us will need Ebay). One pen costs $5 to $15, depending on where you buy it, but even at the higher end of the price, Kate is worth every penny.

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