Beauty: 86 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.

Summer Reflections

It’s almost the middle of July, and the pace with which summer is unfolding leaves me overwhelmed. I want to stop the moment and enjoy the late spring reminders that still linger despite the relentless winding down towards fall. The lindens around my house have finished blooming, but they still smell of incense and wilted jasmine. Along the sidewalks, lavender is filling the area with the summertime scent of Provence. Elsewhere, I already see asters and chrysanthemums, the first harbingers of autumn. Sometimes I forget what season it is.

This summer has been about searching for an equilibrium and balance. Even as time is flying quicker than I want, I’m still managing to carve out moments of stillness. Here are a few tips for those who are likewise struggling to get their bearings this summer.

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Favorite Scented Candles for Daydreaming

I have a weakness for scented candles and the autumn-winter season brings many temptations. L’Artisan Parfumeur’s collection, for instance, offers plenty of reverie-inspiring options from  jasmine (Souffle de Jasmin) to saffron (Voyage à Constantinople) and more. The candles burn cleanly, without smoke or soot, and the scent lingers for a few hours in the air. These days I’m lighting Brise de Mimosa whenever I crave sunshine and verve. This candle is redolent of mimosa branches, green leaves, and violet flowers. The aroma of mimosa is delicate and complex, but Brise de Mimosa captures it well; it only takes a few minutes to fill my room with the scent of Provence.

If not mimosa, then I choose to festoon my room with the garlands of violets by lighting Molton Brown’s Exquisite Vanilla & Violet Flower candle.  True to its name, it smells of violet bonbon and fresh flowers and green notes make it airy. The lavender-tinted glass makes it a charming decorative item.

Another elegant option is Midi Eternel from the niche perfume house of Sulékó. Based in Paris, Sulékó draws on the French perfume traditions and the Slavic heritage of its founder, Anastasia Sokolow. The perfume collection, for instance, was inspired by the Russian fairy tales, but the candle is a tribute to the south of France and its heady aromas. The main accent is green, with a touch of myrtle, rosemary, and pine needles for brightness. The salty nuance that becomes obvious the longer the candle burns evokes the scents of sea breeze and driftwood. Midi Eternel has a rejuvenating, crisp fragrance, perfect for those who prefer their room scents unsweetened.

Byredo’s Tree House candle is similarly polished. The main chord includes cedarwood, sandalwood, and hay, with allspice and myrrh adding darker, warmer layers. It was inspired by the creations of the Japanese wood master Takashi Kobayashi and his tree houses. Byredo’s idea captures the aromas of polished woods in a candle form. Even after the candle is snuffed out, the peppery, balsamic scent floats in the air, evoking glistening wood shavings in different shades of amber.

Pro tip: To make any candle release its scents evenly, burn it for no longer than two hours at the time and trim the wick on regular basis. It will delight you longer and keep its scent until the last drop of wax.

What are your favorite candles and home scents?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

Vietnamese Green Oil, DIY Colognes and Other Cool Delights

The second part of my refreshing scents series focuses on non-alcoholic and DIY options. Some people prefer to skip alcohol during hot days, and I’m often asked for inexpensive solutions. Experimenting with scents during summer is fun, but when the temperature rises above 35C, the idea of putting on perfume becomes unappealing.

I instead reach for oils from Vietnam or Thailand, especially Dầu Gió Xanh Eagle Brand Medicated Oil. This popular Vietnamese oil is used for headaches, muscle pains, etc, but I also find it effective on hot days when my head feels heavy. The scent is spicy and incense-like, but it’s unexpectedly refreshing. The oil was created in 1935 by a German chemist, Wilhelm Hauffman, for a Singaporean trading house J Lea & Co. Hauffman was perfecting the extraction of chlorophyll, which gave the oil its color, while the other main ingredients included menthol, methyl salicylate and eucalyptus oil

Green Oil became a household favorite in Vietnam once it was introduced in the 1960s. On the other hand, its Art Deco-styled bottle and vivid hue would be familiar not just to those who grew up in Vietnam and other Asian countries, but also the former Soviet ones. During my childhood in Ukraine, medicated oils and Cao Sao Vàng (Golden Star Balm) were considered as nothing short of panacea.

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The Simple Magic of a Soap Bar

For many people around the world soap is the only scented product they’d use. Fine fragrances are out of their reach. I remember my grandmother Dasha using strawberry-perfumed soap to scent her clothes and linens. Dasha was frugal, and she wouldn’t dream of spending money on anything but the most basic clothes and accessories. A fragrant soap bar, however, was her only indulgence.

When I began my perfumery training, soap projects attracted me because I imagined that my creations would delight someone like Dasha–a person reluctant to spend money but who enjoyed scents. Eventually I too became a soap lover and whenever I traveled, I first visited local pharmacies and markets to see what kind of detergents people used. These days I have a special soap basket loaded with soaps from around the world. They reflect local tastes and traditions, such as the birch tar soap from Siberia, rice and turmeric soap from Thailand or pomegranate scented soap from Iran. The little bars of fat, solidified by being treated with lye, delight me as much as fine perfumes.

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Crafts as Cure

In Ukraine, there is an old tradition of embroidering a rushnyk, a hand towel, during dark periods of one’s life. It matters less what’s embroidered than the process of doing so. Once the rushnyk is done, it’s tied to a tree branch and allowed to decay. This way, people say, one’s worries and dark thoughts become scattered.

I don’t know if my great-grandmother Asya followed this tradition consciously–at any rate, she was far too practical to hang perfectly good fabric in the garden, but she wove her own cloth and embroidered. Even the most ubiquitous items in the house like newspaper holders and bread bags were embellished. Her most beautiful embroideries, however, weren’t meant to be seen. They were her undergarments.

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