Top Favorite Japanese PA++++ Sunscreens

“Apart from genes and healthy lifestyle, nothing will make as much difference in the way your skin looks as sun protection.” These words come from my mom’s dermatologist in Kyiv, a woman in her late seventies who had the most beautiful skin I’d seen. It had all the natural signs of age, but it was smooth, even toned and glowed like the inside of a seashell. At the time sun worship was a religion, so her advice seemed outlandish. Nevertheless, so impressed was I that I decided to follow it.

My mom’s friend would have loved visiting Japan, where the skincare wisdom is based on daily sun protection. Parasols on a sunny day outnumber umbrellas on a rainy afternoon. Unlike in the US or Europe, where a tube of sunscreen comes out only for seaside vacations, women (and men) use sun protection every day. Which means that the expectations from the skincare brands are high. Not only are the sunscreens more cosmetically elegant, with finishes that make skin look healthy and smooth, but they also offer excellent protection against UV radiation.

For the past few years, I’ve been spending more time in Japan, so it’s been fascinating to learn of new products and try many different cosmetics. My favorite Asian sunscreens still remain the ones formulated for the Japanese market. They tend to have soft, matte finishes and wonderful, light textures. Many products contain alcohol, since it not only makes for an easier formulation, but also because it gives a cooling effect on a sweltering Japanese summer day. I avoid it. My combination skin is prone to dehydration, and I avoid anything with alcohol. The only exception on my list is Shiseido SENKA Mineral Water UV Essence, because the alcohol in that formula doesn’t bother me.

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Yukio Mishima’s Spring Snow : Love and Essence

When I sat down to write about Yukio Mishima’s Spring Snow, I struggled to find the best way to describe it. A love story seemed too banal. An exploration of the fathers and sons dilemma too simple. An answer came to me as I was reading another book, Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. Spring Snow is an attempt to recapture a memory, a moment long gone, set into the frame of a tragic love story. And just as in Proust’s masterpiece, fragrance is a leitmotif for Mishima’s story.

Kiyoaki is the son of a nouveau riche family who has been raised in the aristocratic Ayakura household. His father, Marquise Matsugae, conscious of their provincial origins, desired for Kiyoaki to imbibe the manners and elegance of the nobility. But by the time Kiyoaki turns eighteen, he feels confused and torn between the two worlds, the old and the new. He has all of the hallmarks of an aristocrat with his refined aesthetic sensibilities and sophisticated manners, but he feels no respect for the emperor or the tradition. He is floating, unable to understand others and unable to make himself understood.

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L’Artisan Parfumeur Histoire d’Orangers : Perfume Review

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This review of Histoire d’Orangers, a fragrance created by perfumer Marie Salamagne for L’Artisan Parfumeur, continues both the Women in Perfumery and The Scents of Tea series.

Annick Goutal’s Néroli was one of my favorite orange blossom perfumes. I loved its graceful, lighter than sea-foam character paired with its robust lasting power, and it made me content. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a limited edition and the Cologne version that replaced it was pretty but flimsy. Until I discovered L’Artisan’s Histoire d’Orangers this summer, I’ve been rationing my last few drops of Néroli.

On the face of it, I shouldn’t have had trouble finding a replacement for a simple orange blossom cologne. They’re a dime a dozen. You can have a bottle for a couple of euros (Roger & Gallet Bois d’Orange) or for a couple of hundred (Tom Ford Néroli Portofino). But as my perfumery teacher Sophia Grojsman says, nothing is more difficult than a simple thing. Many orange blossom colognes smelled either too pale (Jo Malone Orange Blossom), too dry (Hermès Eau d’Orange Verte), too flashy (the aforementioned Tom Ford), or just not right (Houbigant Oranger en Fleurs). The beauty of Annick Goutal’s Néroli was that it captured all the facets of the real thing, like the honeyed softness, indolic tang, and green sharpness, but made them refined and velvety. Every time I picked up the bottle and pressed the nozzle, I imagined a shower of white petals brushing my skin.

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Reading Tea Leaves: Best Tea Perfumes in 10 Different Styles

The scent of tea leaves is created by hundreds of aroma-molecules, and each variety has its unique fragrance. Terroir plays a role as does the method of curing the tea leaves. For instance, steamed Japanese teas like sencha and matcha have grassy, spinach-like aromas thanks to hexenal, while mildly oxidized oolongs share aromatics with lilac blossoms, roses and jasmine (nerolidol, cis-jasmone, linalool). The smoky profiles of teas like lapsang souchong are created by molecules like pyrazines, longifolene and guaiacol. In an interesting twist, guaiacol, along with certain types of pyrazines, is what gives roasted coffee its distinctive scent, which is why smoky teas are recommended to coffee drinkers wanting to expand their horizons. With such a rich palette of aromas, the tea accord is a fascinating exercise for a perfumer.

In my recent article on the development of Bulgari’s Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert, I described how Jean-Claude Ellena discovered a novel accord and created a modern classic. Since Bulgari launched the perfume in 1992, it became the green tea of fragrance. However, tea accords aren’t limited to delicate green blends, and when I began researching my article, I realized how many fragrances successfully incorporate a tea effect, both light and dark. I decided to make a list of the most interesting examples, in 10 different styles.

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California Dreaming

Alyssa Harad is the author of Coming to My Senses and here is her contribution to the Women in Perfumery series. You can learn more about Alyssa’s work and read excerpts of her book at alyssaharad.com.

When Jessica, a.k.a. the Perfume Professor directed my attention to the July Allure article  on the “new frontier” of indie American perfumers—that is, perfumers who create and sell their own brand—and their “solitary, rugged, luminous,” distinctly American perfumes, I was struck by the absence of California as much as by the absence of women.* Few states better embody the fantasy of America (sit down, Texas). California is the eternal frontier, the last stop on the push from east to west. It’s also home to a well established indie perfume scene dominated by women who are deeply influenced by the culture and landscape of their home state. Here are a few of my longstanding favorites. This is by no means a complete list. If you have others please say so in the comments.

Natural perfumer Mandy Aftel has been creating her lush, complex natural perfumes for more than thirty years now. She surely deserves credit as an early pioneer of the American indie scene if not its progenitor. Aftel’s home studio is located in Berkeley, one block from Alice Waters’ famed Chez Panisse. Like Waters, Aftel’s innovative work marries French sophistication to a Berkeley obsession with eschewing the synthetic and highlighting the glory of natural materials. But while Waters could draw on a living tradition of French techniques, Aftel had to invent her own.

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