Beauty: 81 posts

Scented products other than perfume: candles, creams, incense, oils, soap and much more. I also include skincare tips, favorite makeup discoveries, DIY ideas and beauty rituals incorporating scents.

Chanel No 5 Body Cream : Between Silk Sheets with Marilyn Monroe

“I know what we need. We need a bed, and we need white silk sheets – they must be silk. Frank Sinatra records, and Dom Pérignon champagne.” When the young photographer Douglas Kirkland arrived to photograph Marilyn Monroe for Look Magazine, he had no idea what to expect when meeting a mega star. Least of all did he expect silk sheets and champagne. In his book, With Marilyn: An Evening/1961, he described the photo shoot and shares the images he took. I can’t think of another photographer who captured better Monroe’s vulnerability and sensuality. It’s almost paradoxical. Even in the moments when she looks surrendered, she’s in control.

Monroe was known to say that she wore to bed nothing but a few drops of Chanel No 5. Although I’ve known this for a long time, I always found it hard to associate No 5 and Monroe. No 5, though elegant and beautiful, struck me as uptight and austere. Monroe, with her voluptuous beauty, fragility and intensity, somehow seemed to belong to another universe.

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Why Is The Scent of Lipstick So Nostalgic?

Do you remember the scent of your mother’s lipstick? Do you enjoy the aroma of Nivea cream? Have you ever wished to have the fragrance of your favorite sunscreen as a perfume? The November 2019 issue of Financial Times’s HTSI Magazine includes my article about the scent of lipstick and other cosmetics. I explore the nostalgia behind these aromas and explain why these scents, though subtle and discrete, can have a powerful effect.

I don’t remember the colour of my first lipstick, but I recall its scent. I was passing through the local department store in Chicago, aged 15, when an array of shiny, black tubes at the Chanel counter drew my attention. They promised the glamour and sophistication that I desperately craved. I was making swatches of the different tones of pinks and reds on the back of my hand when, suddenly, I became aware of the fragrance of roses.

The wave that swept over me was so intense that my eyes welled with tears. The scent reminded me of my great-grandmother, Asya, who adored rose essence; its sweetness enveloped her and always left a rich sillage in her wake. Even her lipstick smelled of roses. When Asya wasn’t around, I furtively sniffed her rouge compact, its fragrance evoking her soft cheeks and melodious laughter.

Update: The article is now available online, The Nostalgic Allure of Lipstick, November 2019.

As always, I’d love to know what scents transport you? Do you have favorite scented lipsticks or other cosmetics?

My Name is Red : Chanel Rouge Allure Ink and Guerlain Nahema

“I’m so fortunate to be red! I’m fiery. I’m strong. I know men take notice of me and that I cannot be resisted… Wherever I’m spread, I see eyes shine, passions increase, eyebrows rise and heartbeats quicken. Behold how wonderful it is to live! Behold how wonderful to see. I am everywhere. Life begins with and returns to me.” Orhan Pamuk’s description of my favorite color in My Name is Red has stayed with me ever since I first read the book, and I often think of it whenever I see another red that draws my attention–fabric, autumnal leaves, lipstick, the lacquer of Japanese bowls or perfume. Yes, perfume can also be red.

The impression of red in fragrance is subjective the way synesthesia tends to be, but Guerlain Nahema is a perfume that makes me feel as if I’m enveloped in layers of crimson silk. The effect comes from the combination of rose essence and the damascones, aroma-materials with the aroma of rose jam and stewed apples. This accord alone has a lipstick red hue, but paradoxically it comes across as even more saturated against the background of green citrus and hyacinth. Reds often stand out best against contrasting colors, and this is the case with Nahema.

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Vetiver Mist

Forest Essentials is an Indian beauty brand inspired by Ayurvedic treatments. It has a collection of skincare, creams, lotions, soaps, body mists and perfumes. I can’t comment on the Ayurvedic authenticity of its formulations, but the scents–jasmine, sandalwood and rose, turmeric, vetiver, narcissus–are beautiful. I like that they are based on the Indian perfume palette, and using these products is one of those small pleasures that make a day better.

One of my favorites from Forest Essentials is its simplest–Vetiver Spring Water, which is a vetiver hydrosol. It can be used as a facial toner, body mist or even a middle-of-the-day, pick-me-up spritz. Vetiver is soothing for the skin, and while it can be used on all skin types, it’s especially beneficial for oily skin. It’s also known for its regenerative properties, which is why vetiver extracts are often used in formulations designed to treat scars and acne.

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On the Japanese Incense Trail with a Paris Detour

I’m sitting in front of smoldering joss sticks trying to determine whether they smell of the milky sweetness of sandalwood or the raspy sharpness of cedar. A young woman with a glossy black bob lights one stick after another, blowing each out with a gentle wave of her hand. I’m unused to kneeling for so long, and I feel the crunch of tatami mats through my thin wool trousers. The back of my head throbs slightly from jet lag, and I am being overwhelmed by the size of Tokyo and the strain of trying to remember Japanese covered by layers of other languages I’ve learned since my university days. I also feel anxious that I may not be able to guess the scents correctly, but then I remember my perfumery teacher’s words “don’t think, just smell,” and I let myself go.

I’m inside a Shoyeido incense store hidden in the elegant Aoyama district of Tokyo. Nearby are the glittering avenues of Harajuku, lined with fashion boutiques and populated by some of the most stylish people on the planet, but inside the earth toned store, there is only serenity and incense.

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