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Whilst at the Laura Mercier counter buying a bottle of One Step Cleanser, I couldn't help noticing her range of bath and body products mainly because of their beautiful packaging. However on opening up the tester jar of the Crème Brûlée Soufflé Body Crème, I was blown away by the amazing smell and had to try some for myself. Luckily the nice girl on the counter gave me a generous sample to try, and it's this sample I'm reviewing.
Laura Mercier is a French makeup artist who has developed a line of luxurious makeup and skincare products aimed at a buying audience with a fair bit of money. The Crème Brûlée Soufflé Body Crème is said to be "an ultra-whipped scented soufflé crème that provides luxurious all-day moisture protection without being heavy or greasy"; it's apparently part of the "Gourmande Collection" which features other foodie-scented products such as pistachio and coconut milk.
The blurb for the cream states that it contains vitamins A, C and E as well as shea butter, so it's fairly good for the skin although I wouldn't believe all the hype about these wonder ingredients. I for one wanted to try it simply because of the scent!
Although my Crème Brûlée Soufflé Body Crème sample was put in a small Laura Mercier branded jar for me, I got a good look at the jar in which the actual product is presented: it's a handsome square glass jobby with a silver screw top and an octagonal blue and silver Laura Mercier label. The glass is clear to reveal the pale peach coloured cream inside. All in all, it's a nicely presented product which will look great on a bathroom counter or dressing table, but it certainly is very heavy and bulky, so not particularly good for travelling.
The cream itself is, as I've said, a pale peach colour very much an actual crème brûlée. I'm not entirely sure what all the business about it being a souffle is, as it felt very much like a standard, reasonably thick cream to me - not very light or airy and certainly not "ultra whipped". It's certainly a nice texture and I'm not sure that being very light or whipped would add much to the overall effect.
The smell is what really got me hooked though. Basically, it smells uncannily like a warm vanilla crème brûlée: there's a hint of the burnt sugar and a load of vanilla, plus that really creamy, dairy, verging on too-sweet note that's honestly just like the dessert. If you hate sweet smells, then this isn't one for you, but personally I find it utterly moreish and have to keep smelling my arm to get another whiff of the scent!
The usual routine: dip finger in pot, spread on self, rub in. I don't really like the fact that it's in a pot, as it means that you've got to put your dirty fingers in and thus contaminate the whole pot. It might not be as attractive, but a squeezy tube would be more hygienic - or, I suppose, you could invest in a small spoon or something to get the cream out. If you didn't feel too stupid doing that, that is...
I put the crème all over my upper arms after exfoliation, and now they are smooth and gratifyingly free of those horrible little bumps I always seem to get. They also smell wonderful and definitely strongly of the scent - it's been at least 40 minutes since I applied it and I still smell as much of vanilla as ever. No complaints about the smell or the longevity here, just be aware that it's impossible to wear perfume as well as this. You have to really like the scent as it'll be hanging around for a good while.
What I will also say is that it is a touch on the greasy side. It's definitely a heavy moisturiser and it doesn't sink in all that quickly, so don't slather it on and then get dressed immediately, or try to do delicate jobs straight after getting it on your hands. On the plus side, you don't need all that much for it to work really well, but I am a little iffy about how greasy it feels on my hands.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
Here's the downside: the Crème Brûlée Soufflé Body Crème is a ridiculous £42 for a 300g jar. I'm struggling to justify buying it to myself as I want a full-size pot so badly!
I'd buy this for the wonderful foodie smell alone: I love how long-lasting the scent is and how yummy and moreish it smells. However, it's cripplingly expensive, a little too heavy for my liking (and therefore too greasy to use on my hands) and I'm not keen on the unhygienic pot setup. I'd like to see a tube instead, honestly. I'm going to dock a star for all these downsides and give it four Dooyoo stars, but nevertheless if anyone's feeling kind (and rich!) you know where to send a jar of this delicious stuff...
I like a good face mask and am a long-standing devotee of the mud mask from the Dead Sea Spa Magik range, but when I was handed four free samples of the Eve Lom Rescue Mask by the enthusiastically over-generous lady at the Eve Lom counter in Liberty (along with a whole host of other free goodies) I thought I could probably be persuaded to give it a try!
So who or what is Eve Lom? It's a skincare range developed by a woman called - surprise, surprise - Eve Lom, a Czech facialist who opened a salon in London in 1984 and has been the queen of skincare pretty much ever since developing her cult product, a wax cleanser which you scrub off with a hot cloth.
This product, the Rescue Mask, is much-lauded, part of the InStyle Hall of Fame (for beauty products I imagine) and is supposed to be the "ultimate deep cleansing treatment mask" (according, of course, to the Eve Lom website), as it "clears congested skin, enhances the overall skin condition and boost complexion". As with all beauty products and the surrounding marketing-speak, I always think it's worth taking all this guff with a pinch of salt.
Some of the ingredients in the Rescue Mask are quite nice, though: the base is kaolin clay, which has been used to absorb oil and treat skin for hundreds of years; it's got camphor to decongest and give a boost, plus almond extract and ground almonds to reduce redness and exfoliate. It's not totally good news, though - there are still plenty of chemicals in there too, a great long list of names such as "methylparaben, phenoxyethanol, butylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben" which frankly doesn't look all that nice or natural to me.
As I've said, I was given four sachets of the mask, but I saw both sizes of full-size product so can comment on both the freebies and the actual things. The sachets are standard sized and white with the gold Eve Lom name on the front: I'm a great fan of the packaging as they're so classy-looking. The 50ml tube is white, quite thin and with the Eve Lom name in gold horizontally down it; the 100ml jar is round, white with Eve Lom written around the side of the jar - it also comes with a spatula for more hygienic application. All look great and have clearly been designed to add a bit of gravitas to your bathroom counter.
If you have sachets, I recommend snipping them open rather than ripping them, as they're plastic lined and the mask is very thick, so it gets caught on the plastic and you lose some. The mask is matt white and speckled with little chunks of what looks like gravel and turns out to be almond meal. The overpowering smell is of camphor, and I must admit it's a bit strong on first whiff; it takes some time to get used to but once it's on it really is quite refreshing!
I squeezed out all the mask from the 4ml sachet (I'd kind of hoped to be able to save some for another go next week, but as it turned out 4ml was only just enough to cover my whole face) and spread it all over my face. It wasn't a generous coating but it was enough to cover up all my skin. I followed the instructions and left it for a good 20 minutes, during which time I felt it dry up completely - though I didn't notice any bits start to flake off as they sometimes do in other masks. Once it was dry and really tight-feeling, I did what it said on the packet and rubbed it off with a muslin cloth dipped in hot water. Eve Lom is really big on the muslin cloths, they're an essential part of the routine for removing the cleanser and I actually think they might be the best bit about it. Certainly they give a nice gentle exfoliation effect and got all the mask off effectively. Once I'd got all the mask off, I did as the packet said and splashed with cold water.
I can honestly say that Eve Lom Rescue Mask worked wonders on my tired, stressed and congested skin. I've just finished finals at uni and as such my skin looks awful: after rubbing the mask off I noticed a visible difference in brightness and how glowing my skin was. It also seemed to shrink some pesky lingering spots I've had for ages around my mouth, the next day they were visibly dryer and the day after that they were gone. It really was the most amazing results I've ever had with a face mask.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
A 50ml tube is a whopping £30, which the website states quite innocently as working out as £5.60 per 10ml. Should £30 seem too cheap to you, the Rescue Mask is also available in a monster 100ml jar for the princely sum of £70. You can buy this and all other Eve Lom products on the website (www.evelom.com) or at department stores with one of their counters - I know Selfridges and Liberty have Eve Lom products, as well as all Space NK stores. There's a full list on the Eve Lom website, just click on "Stores" and you can find out.
Well, it's a shame this is so expensive as I'd like to go out and buy the huge jar! It's got everything I like in a mask - it's zingy and refreshing, reassuringly rustic looking, smells very medicinal and above all works a treat on tired or slightly blemished skin. Admittedly my skin tends to be good, so I can't try it on real problem skin, but I can say that for mostly good skin which occasionally has off-days, this might be the wonder cure for those off days. However, it's prohibitively expensive and frankly out of most people's price range. Maybe I'd best wait till my birthday and see if someone lovely will buy me one!
Sometimes you just feel like treating yourself to a really pampering treat, and I'd had my eye on this Laura Mercier One Step Cleanser for a while, so last month I followed up the sample I'd had, indulged myself and bought a full-size bottle.
Laura Mercier is a French makeup artist who has developed a line of (very!) luxury makeup and skincare products aimed at the more moneyed audience. Her One Step Cleanser is marketed as "gliding over the skin to melt away all makeup (even eye makeup) without stripping the skin and leaves your skin soft and hydrated", which sounds pretty much perfect as I don't like fussy skincare routines and I also can't be bothered with spending loads of time on it.
Apparently, it's a very gentle, pH-balanced cleanser and toner in one product, which also contains vitamin E and witch hazel for skin health: these are great claims but they don't mention that the product also contains alcohol, which can be very drying, and ammonium laureth sulphate which can definitely cause eye and skin irritation. If you're keen on natural products, be aware that the One Step Cleanser contains chemicals like this.
The One Step Cleanser comes in a tall greyish white bottle, very chic, with a pump dispenser. Once you've squirted out some of the product into your hand, you can see that it's a pearly, peachy kind of colour, quite thick and opaque looking. It's definitely not oily and it's also not a cream - I suppose it's closest to a gel but that doesn't quite cover it either. It doesn't really smell of anything, which is reassuring as I don't like putting highly perfumed things on my face. It stays the same peachy colour even when you wash it off, so if you wear a lot of foundation, you might find yourself confusing it with the cleanser itself!
The Laura Mercier One Step Cleanser is a 'balm' cleanser, which means you rub it on your face then wipe it off with something. I get my face wet with warm water, use about three pumps to get enough to spread all over my face - not too generously as it's damned expensive, but I do want enough to actually do the job! Laura Mercier recommends using twenty (yes, that's 20) pumps to remove makeup and cleanse thoroughly, but either she's anticipating women wearing makeup six feet thick or she's keen for us to use up her products in approximately a week. So, three pumps it is for me.
Once I've got the cleanser well and truly all over my face, I tend to rub it in circular motions to really get it working on my skin, then leave it for 30 seconds or so and then get it all off with a flannel or muslin cloth. I do enjoy a good muslin cloth and in many ways I think it's the cloth having the good effect on your skin - it's very exfoliating and makes you feel very clean, which is always a plus point in my book.
My face is always lovely and squeaky clean after I've used this: I can't fault its cleaning powers, especially combined with a cloth. My skin tends to be good and not very spotty, but I haven't had any breakouts while I've been using this - I'm loath to put it entirely down to the cleanser, but it certainly hasn't GIVEN me any spots. My face doesn't feel tight or dry after using this, even in the morning, and I don't feel any need to use moisturiser.
I don't wear foundation or really any makeup except mascara and eyeliner about once a year, so I can't comment on how well it removes foundation, but I do find that it's not always good at getting all the last traces of mascara off, so I use a separate eye makeup remover as well. This kind of defeats the point of having a ONE-step cleanser as it's then automatically two steps and more time consuming. It's not even that I wear tough waterproof mascara, as I only ever stick to the usual stuff; I think this just might not be up to the job without having to use loads of it (which I'm not going to do).
Another point I'd like to mention is that the pump dispenser is really, really annoying. After a few uses it clogs and starts spitting out those hard little lumps of solidified cleanser when you press it down to dispense some product - I'm aware of how expensive the product is and am kind of annoyed that it wastes some like that.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
I bought my bottle from House of Fraser, priced at £29 for 200ml. Laura Mercier products are available from a lot of big department stores - I know John Lewis, Selfridges and Harrods definitely stock them. Frankly, £29 is a lot of money for a cleanser and I'm not sure if I'll be repurchasing when my trusty Avene cleanser is only £8 and seems to do as good as, if not a better, job.
A lovely cleanser let down a bit by the packaging and marketing claims. It's not a one-step product for me as I have to use eye makeup remover as well, plus the clogging factor is a bit of an issue. The results I've had with this have been great but, as I've said, not better than with my Avene cleanser, so although I've enjoyed my dalliance with Laura Mercier, I think this will be my last bottle.
Before I start I'd better warn everybody that this review contains information of a sexual nature. I'll try to spare my blushes by not going overboard with the salubrious details, but if you think you'll be uncomfortable please exercise your discretion and don't carry on reading!
I'm a fan of lubricant, even if it's not strictly necessary, as it can be so much fun! Lots of people seem to think that lubricant is only for vaginal dryness, but it's actually a nice way of adding bit of variety and spice to your sex life without having to go out and buy a huge threatening sex toy to terrorise your other half with! Durex Play Sensations might be the ideal way to get people started on lubricant, actually - it's a variety packet of ten 5ml sachets of lubricant, perfect for trying out all sorts of different flavours and sensations without having to commit to buying the full-size bottle.
In each box are two sachets of Durex's various flavours of lube, which are aloe vera, warming, tingle, very cherry and pina colada. The box states that each variety is suitable for use with oral, vaginal and anal sex and can be used with any Durex condom. As they're all water based lubricants, they're suitable for use with all condoms but clever old Durex have clearly realised that there's a marketing opportunity for them right there. There is a well-placed warning that none of the lubes can be used as contraception, and that you can go online for extra information at www.durex.com.
Now, I'll discuss each flavour/sensation individually to give you a better idea of what you might be letting yourself in for...
This comes in a bright green sachet and is probably the most basic of all the lubricants, described as "soothing". Like all Durex lubes it's colourless and water-based so it's not sticky, but I would definitely describe it as slimy. It doesn't really smell of anything other than a very mind plant-like scent, and it's not overly appealing, but in the interests of experimentation I did try it for oral sex - the flavour is kind of nasty (soapy) so I definitely won't be doing that again.
What it IS good for, however, is being very soothing and cooling. For straightforward vaginal sex it works brilliantly: it's thick enough to stay put where you want it and slippy enough to do its job very well; it lives up to its soothing name beautifully. Perhaps not the most exciting of lubricants, but it's definitely got a place in this variety pack.
This one is in a blue sachet and is supposed to give a tingling sensation on your bits or indeed anywhere else you might choose to put it! It's colourless but with a very strong minty smell; as soon as you put it on it really does start to tingle. Like all the other lubricants, it's slimy without being overly sticky or gloopy, so texture-wise it's great, but if I'm honest I'm not sure I actually like it all that much - it makes me feel kind of numb and I'm not convinced it increases my pleasure. Taste-wise, it kind of numbed my mouth as well, so I'm not exactly sure what flavour it is...
As with Tingle, I'm not all that sure I like Warming. The consistency is good, it's colourless, non-staining and not too sticky, but there's something about the warming sensation that in my opinion kind of detracts from the sex. That said, I'm not always a huge fan of warm things (hot water bottles and those microwave rice pack things can sometimes be too much for me) so it might just be my personal preference. It's suitable for all kinds of sex.
As you might expect, this one is in a reddish-purple packet and smells and tastes of - you guessed! - cherry. It's colourless and water-based, but I did find it a bit sticky once it had dried up a little, so a shower is definitely required. The flavour is nice if you like very sweet tastes: it puts me in mind of those cherry drop sweets rather than anything to do with actual cherries.
Despite all the sweetness, it's sugar free so is suitable for vaginal sex (putting sugar anywhere near the vagina increases your risk of thrush, so best not to use that bottle of ice cream syrup you were considering...!) I haven't used this for vaginal sex as I prefer the straightforward aloe vera lubricant, but you could if you wanted to.
My favourite flavoured lubricant in this variety pack: it smells and tastes very strongly of sweet pineapple/tropical fruit, once again not really fruity but more like the candy version. It's clear and the same texture as the other lubes, like Very Cherry it's a bit sticky once it's dried off a bit so you might want to plan a shower soon after. Again, it's sugar-free and suitable for vaginal sex.
Each sachet is tough enough to hold up to being shoved in a pocket, purse or bag (I've never known one to burst or even open and splat a bit) but easy enough to open without needing to interrupt everything to go get a pair of scissors. Neither myself nor my partner have experienced any discomfort or irritation whilst using any of these lubricants, so even though I wasn't overly keen on Tingle and Warming, they didn't actually irritate.
Overall, the Durex Play Sensations packet is great for lubricant newbies or anyone who wants to test out some new sensations and flavours without committing to buying a full bottle of something they might not actually like all that much. It's available for £4.07 at Boots.
Everyone thinks of ice cream for the couple of days each year that we have a glorious British summer, but I must admit that it's one of my favourite desserts all the time - even in winter with the central heating on. The only problem is that I like some very weird flavours (lavender and honey, anyone?) which aren't always available in the shops, so last year I decided to treat myself to an ice cream maker so I could recreate these old favourites and try out weird and wonderful new recipes. Following a bit of research I opted for the Cuisinart ICE30, which isn't the cheapest on the market but certainly isn't the most expensive - perfect for the light to medium use it gets in my house. According to the instructions you can make ice cream, frozen yoghurt, sorbets and frozen drinks, but I've only ever tested ice cream and sorbets so I can't comment on the others.
I'll list the basic features of the Cuisinart ICE30 here for ease of reference:
2 litre bowl
25 watt motor
30cm x 22.5cm x 240cm (height x weight x depth)
5 year warranty
This is a snazzy looking ice cream maker: it's an upright, brushed steel canister with a removable bowl and a knob for turning it on and off on the front. You pour the mixture in at the top. It's definitely classy-looking and nice enough to leave out on the worktop.
The Cuisinart ICE30 is the more basic model of ice cream maker: you place the freezing bowl into the freezer the night before you want to use it, and then once it's cold you fit it back into the machine and it freezes the ice cream mixture there. The bowl itself is gel filled and very thickly insulated, so the time it takes to freeze and warm up is slow - if you know you're going to need it, definitely stick it in the freezer the night before as it's impossible to get it cold enough in a shorter time. Also, bear in mind that at 2 litre capacity it's a pretty big bowl, so if you have a tiny freezer it might not be that good. I have to put mine in the bottom drawer of the big freezer to get it to fit.
Once the bowl is frozen, you can stick it back on the machine, pour in the mixture and turn it on. The bowl itself turns and the blade/mixing device stays where it is - not sure if this is an asset or just a quirk of the machine, but it seems to work fine. I will say that it is quite noisy, so if you're working in the kitchen alongside it it might drive you bonkers; on the other hand it doesn't take very long to make the ice cream so you might not mind too much. You could always put it in the garage or the utility room while it's going if it's driving you insane!
If you want to add extra items to the mixture while it's freezing (some last-minute chocolate chips or pistachios maybe!) the hole in the lid is very large and easy to aim through. The main unit is quite large, too, so if you want to keep it out on the surface then you'll need a lot of room. I've also found that the lid can't be properly clipped on so if you're moving it about it might drop off - mine has cracked a bit from being dropped on the tiled floor. The machine as a whole is quite bulky and heavy, so bear that in mind if you prefer something manoeuvrable and lightweight.
Although the instructions say that it takes 20-25 minutes to freeze a batch of ice cream, this is optimistic: you need to leave more like 40 minutes to get it all frozen nicely. I also make sure I chill everything (including additions like chocolate chips) thoroughly before I put it in the bowl. That said, it's never totally frozen solid once the 40 minutes are up, so I always scrape it out and put it in the freezer. If you like the runnier Mr Whippy style ice cream then you might like it straight from the bowl.
Cleaning is reasonably easy, it's got a detachable mixing paddle, lid and freezer bowl for "easy cleaning" which in practice is fine, but you'll find yourself taking ages cleaning off splashed ice cream from the main unit. (Unless of course I'm just a very messy cook.) Ice cream also seems to love to adhere to the sides of the bowl so scraping it off and washing it can be a bit of a hassle.
For all the little niggles, the Cuisinart ICE30 makes really lovely ice cream - smooth and creamy and I've never had any ice crystals form in any of the batches I've made. The ice cream around the sides will be harder than the stuff in the middle; don't worry about having different textures in the finished product as it all seems to even out once it's been folded together and stuck in the freezer for a bit. I've tried ice cream and sorbet of all varieties and they've all worked brilliantly.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
I bought my Cuisinart ICE30 for about £65 online last year, but it's currently available for £62.99 on Amazon. It's not the cheapest ice cream maker - Kenwood and Philips definitely do cheaper ones - but it's nowhere near as expensive as an integrated machine where you don't need to freeze the bowl. For this price it's been great.
I'd definitely highlight the problems it's got: it's noisy, the lid is fragile and it's very big and heavy - but despite all this I wouldn't be without this machine now. For the price it's performed brilliantly and I've had so much excellent ice cream from it, I'm willing to overlook its faults! I'll leave you with one of my favourite recipes:
TURKISH DELIGHT ICE CREAM
450ml full cream milk
50ml rose water
400ml clotted cream
6 egg yolks
150g caster sugar
200g Turkish Delight, chopped
Boil the milk and take it off the heat. While the milk is boiling, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together, then pour the milk on and continue whisking. Return the mixture to the pan and cook for 5 minutes until it's thickened (like custard). Take it off the heat again, stir in the clotted cream and rose water. Chill and transfer to the ice cream maker. Sprinkle in the turkish delight and leave to churn. Yum!
As a redhead with woefully blonde eyelashes, mascara is without a doubt my absolute essential make-up product. I never wear eyeshadow or foundation and only occasionally wear lipstick, but am rarely caught without my mascara on as I much prefer my eyes to look more defined and open. My eyelashes themselves are very long and I'd say reasonably curled, it's just that I can't see them - so I don't particularly look for a lengthening effect, just something to give lots of volume and colour them in so you can actually tell they're there! I'm also a contact lens wearer so ideally I like a product that won't disintegrate into loads of tiny flakes which then get stuck under the lens and cause ultimate pain all day.
I've recently been going through a phase of testing various mascaras and Estée Lauder Sumptuous Lifting Bold Volume Mascara was one of those I tried out. Estée Lauder is an American high-end makeup and cosmetics company which can be found just about everywhere - it's been going since 1946 and now sell their products all over the world in most major department stores.
PROMISES AND PACKAGING
I had high hopes for this one: it won Best Mascara in Cosmopolitan Beauty Awards 2009 and I've quite liked other Estée Lauder mascaras in the past, so I was eager to try it. It's marketed being able to "lift each lash with big, bold, weightless volume", which of course is a load of marketing speak, but still, I liked the sound of big and bold volume! Apparently, the formula has "ultra light, lash-thickening fibres" which also sounds good - I'm not a fan of heavy, clogging mascaras which feel like you've got dead weights on each lash.
So what does it look like? It comes in Estée Lauder's fairly traditional packaging: a long gold tube containing a wand brush, with the logo and the name of the mascara in black writing on the side of the tube. It's all packaged in a navy cardboard tube. The whole effect looks nice enough but isn't particularly modern, innovative or interesting; I've always had an impression of Estée Lauder as a traditional, somewhat "older person's" company and the packaging does nothing to dispel that. Certainly this mascara feels like a higher-end product and the overall effect is luxurious, but perhaps a little staid and unexciting.
Well, according to Estée Lauder, Sumptuous Lifting Bold Volume Mascara features a BrushComber which "thickens like a brush and defines like a comb". I thought it was actually a pretty bog-standard mascara brush, if I'm honest. It's tapered and much fatter towards the base and thinner towards the end, which is a very nice touch as it makes it easier to coat the little lashes at the corners of my eyes; it dunks in the tube well and doesn't lose all the mascara when it's pulled out, plus it doesn't seem to grab as much product on the end as some other brushes, but apart from that it's not so innovative compared to every other mascara brush I've used. It definitely doesn't feel anything like a comb and I certainly didn't think my lashes looked particularly separated.
It's pretty easy to use and I like the thinner brush which doesn't deposit great chunks of mascara onto my upper eyelids. I don't know whether I have particularly mascara-friendly eyelids or whether it's my technique, but it always seems to happen and I hate it! I like to get the brush to the base of my lashes and wiggle it through to the end; the fact that the brush is reasonably thin means I can do this without risking getting mascara everywhere. The product itself doesn't smell of anything except that usual mascara smell, and it's a nice deep black, but perhaps not as sooty and true-black as I'd ideally like. Compared to the colour of, say, Benefit Bad Gal Lash, it's actually kind of weedy...
I'm not sure about the claims of weightlessness, either. It's very easy to get too much of this on just with one application, which has left my eyes looking a bit, well, spidery at times. Far from acting like a comb and a brush, I've thought more than once that I could really do with an eyelash comb to separate some of the blobs and give my lashes a little less gunkiness, so be aware that dipping the brush into the tube more than once may result in real old-lady spidery lashes!
Sumptuous Lifting Bold Volume Mascara more than fulfils my requirements of giving my lashes colour and defining them more than they already are, but frankly, anything with pigment in would do that as my lashes are naturally so blonde. I suspect that if your lashes are naturally dark then this might not do all that much for you - I don't reckon my lashes looked wider, thicker or that much more volumised; if anything, the blobbiness and tendency to deposit a little too much mascara with each brushstroke meant they felt a bit weighed down and spidery.
This mascara lasts well all day and into the evening. It does flake a little, not much, but it's worth mentioning that I did notice a couple of bits under my eyes at the end of the day. I used the non-waterproof one as I absolutely hate waterproof mascaras, but it still took a fair bit of scrubbing with hot water and some remover to get all traces of it off. When it wipes off onto a cotton pad you can see that there actually are "lash-thickening fibres" - it comes off weirdly in strands.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
Sumptuous Lifting Bold Volume Mascara is £19 and can be bought at Boots and other places which have an Estee Lauder counter. It's definitely a higher-end purchase so it might be worth first getting hold of some samples on Ebay or something if you can - I won't be repurchasing and it seems a shame to waste money on something so expensive without doing a test.
I'm not overly impressed with this one, to be honest. It wasn't a bad offering and it didn't irritate my eyes or all slide off at the end of the day; it was just a bit underwhelming and too spidery for my liking. I shouldn't need to want to comb my lashes through with something else to get the excess off - I think I'll give it a miss next time.
As a poor student, I'm used to basics products and toiletries from the pound shop, so whenever I find myself on a day out in London, I like to treat myself to free samples from high-end beauty counters in the big department stores. On my last samples collecting trip I was lucky enough to be given a couple of weeks' supply of this Sisley Hydra-Global Intense Anti-Aging Hydration, which is essentially an anti-ageing moisturiser given an extremely fancy name. I was keen to try it as I'd heard so much about Sisley being a fantastic skincare brand - not to mention being intrigued as to whether the extortionate prices actually meant the products work better!
Sisley is a French cosmetics, skincare and perfume company, reputedly one of the best in the world. It was started in 1976 by Hubert d'Ornano, who, according to their website, "understood very early on that the plant world offers an extensive field of research" and was one of the first people to pioneer the concept of "botanical active ingredients and essential oils" in beauty products. Basically, they market themselves on using plants and technology to offer the most cutting-edge cosmetics.
I was given four 4ml sachets of Hydra-Global moisturiser, beautifully designed in silver and with a picture of the bottle of product on the front (as with so many of these high-end brands I do think you spend a lot on the packaging). The full-size product comes in a tall pump-action dispenser, pale blue in colour and with the Sisley fleur-de-lys logo and the name of the product in French and English.
On the back of the sachets is a list of ingredients and a step by step promise as to what the product is going to do: it says that it will "plump up the hydro cushion", whatever that means, "activates water circulation in the epidermis" and "keeps water in the stratum corneum". Sounds like pseudo-scientific guff to me, if I'm honest! According to the website, the cream contains a number of active botanical ingredients, which I'll list here so you can see the extent of the pseudo-science and just how big the company's claims are:
Chestnut: activates cell renewal, regulates barrier function of epidermis
Lavender: purifies, soothes
Malachite: reinforces the skin's defences against free radicals
Padina Pavonica: stimulates the production of glycoaminoglycans
Wild Pansy: boosts the synthesis of aquaporines
Sunflower: nourishes, softens, revitalizes.
I'm going to admit it, after all these claims I was expecting this cream to give me a new face. Maybe even Angelina Jolie's face, who knows?
THE PRODUCT ITSELF
Sisley Hydra-Global itself is off-white and fairly thin, more like a serum or runny cleanser texture than a thick moisturiser. It smells vaguely plant-like and a little bit medicinal, not particularly unpleasant but not all that special. It rubs in easily and sinks in quickly without leaving a greasy residue which is my absolute number one turn-off when it comes to moisturiser. I put it on my face before bed and also on my hands, which are the driest part of my body and as such are a good litmus test for the efficiency of creams and such.
Well, my face is reasonably moisturised but I don't notice much difference to my hands at all. I haven't come out in spots or become particularly greasy but at the same time it hasn't made much impact on me at all really. I gave this a fair trial and used it for about two weeks until all the samples ran out, but seriously, I haven't noticed any significant improvement in my skin. Perhaps it has magic anti-ageing properties that I'm just not going to be able to see at 22; but then again, call me suspicious but I suspect not. I'm also not keen on the fact that although it doesn't leave a greasy residue, it does kind of 'seal' your skin with a definite layer of something - it's a bit unpleasant and for that reason I'd be wary about using this on my face before I went out.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
Here's the really insulting bit: Sisley Hydra-Global is £126 for 40ml. Yes, you read that correctly. ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY SIX POUNDS. And it didn't even give me Angelina Jolie's face.
If you're still keen, Sisley products are available anywhere with a concession, such as Selfridges, Harrods and other big department stores. You can also order online with Selfridges. I'd recommend trying to get some samples before you take the plunge - Sisley counters are usually very good about giving out samples so get hold of a few and see if this works for you.
Frankly, I've had better results from my trusted Simple light face cream. I was prepared to give this a try, but I must admit that I'm always going to be suspicious of something which costs this much and promises such over-inflated claims. Also, while it markets itself as being full of botanical ingredients, I'm not happy about some of the OTHER ingredients that aren't publicised so loudly: it contains mineral oil, which is basically a paraffin by-product and is really not great for your skin, plus it's also got silicones in it, which act to seal the skin and everything under it - these can cause spots and irritated skin.
It was a perfectly nice moisturiser to use at night, but I wouldn't use it in the day and I'm not keen on the sealant aspect of this product. There's no way you'd catch me shelling out £126 for a bottle of this - I can only conclude that they're banking on people having more money than sense! Two stars.
Although I'm usually a good sleeper (we're talking head hits the pillow and out like a light, then sleep like a log until morning, then have difficulty waking up and getting on with the day) I've been stressed, overworked and over-tired recently - which has had the unforeseen effect of giving me insomnia and really restless nights. As I'm a great believer in the powers of herbal tea, even if it's only as a placebo, I thought that before I reached for the Kalms or something more heavy-duty, I'd try some of my favourite brand of herbal tea, Clipper's Sleep Easy teabags.
Clipper aren't just known to me: founded in 1984, they're now a pretty well-known brand in the tea world - they were the brand behind the launch of the world's first Fairtrade tea in 1994. Worthy stuff, and a move which happily set quite a precedent for all the other companies following suit. Now they're known for making all kinds of fairtrade, organic teas from English Breakfast to more exotic teas such as jasmine and speciality blends, and also herbal teas such as lemon and ginger, red berries or liquorice. Sleep Easy is their house insomnia blend which rivals other sleep aids such as Dr Stuart's Valerian Plus or Kalms.
So what is Sleep Easy? They're a blend of organic cinnamon, chamomile, rooibos, lemon balm, valerian root and natural orange flavouring: chamomile is known to relax and calm the mind, while valerian root has been used as a natural anti-anxiety remedy for many years. The back of the box states that this tea is "naturally caffeine free" (I should hope so, if it's going to get you to sleep!) and that it "contains natural herbal ingredients that can help promote and maintain healthy sleep in conjunction with a balanced, varied diet and a healthy lifestyle." Basically, you're not going to become addicted to these, but it's also a bit hit and miss as to whether they're really going to work for you as we're not all able to have the stress-free healthy lifestyle that promotes good sleep.
The tea comes in a 40g packet with 20 bags, in an average-sized cardboard box which is grey and light blue coloured, with Clipper's standard design: a black cup of tea with white writing, and above that a picture of a moon and stars annotated with the words "organic sleep easy". The packaging is very well designed, kind of rustic yet chic at the same time, and I really like the economical and elegant design of the box itself - to get into the packet you tear a strip off the top, which creates a little flap that you can reseal the box with. Inside is a foil bag containing all the teabags; they're not individually wrapped but if you're careful not to tear the foil bag, and take care to wrap them up again well, they stay fresh for ages. The bags come in 2s that you have to tear off, but as the bags are strong there's no chance of ripping it open unless you really go for it.
Clipper are very proud of the fact that their teabags are made with unbleached cotton - sounds good in principle, but I'm not sure what that means in practice. It does mean that the bags aren't that bright white that say, PG Tips are, they're more of a buff colour and they do feel a little rough. The packet says that the best way to brew this tea is to pour fresh water over the bag while it's still boiling, then leave for two to five minutes before drinking.
You can sweeten the tea with sugar or honey, but I don't like the taste of sweet herbal tea so I don't ever do that, particularly when tea tastes as good as this one! It smells very delicate, not particularly strong or potent, which is a mercy as it does contain valerian and that usually has a very pungent "wet dog" smell. The taste is dominated by the orange and the lemon balm, making it a light, delicate and very zesty kind of drink with a small kick of the stronger and more insinuating valerian underneath, but nothing awful. Basically, it's a very drinkable cuppa with a lovely fresh, zesty thing going on.
But does it work, I hear you ask. I must admit that I didn't try the tea by itself: the night I tried it first, I did a lot of things to help me relax - I had a bath, went to bed early, didn't play on the computer in bed etc etc. And I slept very well! I think the tea at least helped me relax whilst in bed, but that might well have been the calming effect of simply drinking a warm drink...it's hard to know, but seeing as I like the taste of these and I don't think it'll hurt to have them regularly, I'm going to finish the box and probably get some more afterwards.
I bought mine in Holland & Barrett for £1.19 per pack of 20 bags, which means I'm looking at 6p per cup. Not bad and certainly not the end of the world if you find they don't actually work for you or you don't like them at all. I'm sure I've seen these in Sainsburys too, and certainly in local health food shops, so you could look around in your area or just go to Holland & Barrett, which definitely stocks them.
Overall, these are recommended and certainly worth a try if you're having some problems sleeping, although if you have real insomnia then I doubt they're going to do much one way or the other.
I'm a big fan of the Dead Sea Spa Magik range, so when I saw that I could fill in a questionnaire on the leaflet that came in my box of face mask and receive a "free product" in exchange, I was pretty excited! I was even more excited when the free product turned out to be four miniature trial size tubes, one of which was 50ml of Conditioning Scalp Mud. I don't ever use conditioner, but I do like to do a hair mask from time to time and I also hate dandruff and itchy scalps with a passion, so this was the first product that I tried.
With a name like Dead Sea Spa Magik, you just know the products mean business. This is a relatively niche brand which has a range of skin, hair and body care products, from shampoo to black mud soap (really!) and silky body lotion. What's special about these products is that they're all formulated with water from the Dead Sea, which borders both Israel and Jordan and is full of minerals as well as being incredibly salty: 33.7% of the whole sea is salt, which means it's 8.6 times saltier than any other ocean. People have believed in the power of minerals for hundreds of years (just ask the Romans who set up the spa at Bath), and because the Dead Sea water has so many minerals such as magnesium, sodium, potassium and calcium, it's thought to be excellent for skin and general well-being. Another big part of the Dead Sea range is that many products also include the mud and salts found in and around the Dead Sea, which are also incredibly rich in minerals and are therefore supposed to be excellent for cleansing.
The Dead Sea Spa Magik Conditioning Scalp Mud is a hair and scalp conditioning treatment made with mud from the Dead Sea, which promises to sort out dandruff and itchiness as well as making your hair shiny and soft. The packaging says that the treatment is "a deeply hydrating conditioner to soothe a dry, flaky or itchy scalp and leave hair healthy and shiny"; sounds good to me! On the list of ingredients "harmonised water" is first, which is apparently water plus sea salt; reassuringly, the actual Dead Sea mud is listed as the fourth ingredient on the list - which means there is plenty of it. The other ingredients are also natural - there's Matricaria Flower Extract, Linden Blossom Flower Extract, Lemon Balm Leaf Extract and Rooibos Leaf Extract, none of which I know much about but I'm choosing to assume they all do good things for your head.
Although my product just came as a loose tube in a Jiffy bag, I've seen the actual product in the shops and it comes packaged in a small cardboard box with a plastic tube inside. The design of all the Dead Sea range is white with blue watery detailing, very healthy-looking and perhaps a bit medicinal or 'treatment'-style rather than luxurious or indulgent. The tubes are white with a blue screw-top lid, which looks good but is a bit irritating in the shower as the lid tends to fall off and need careful putting back on. All products in this range come with an information leaflet inside the box.
So now for the product itself - once it's squeezed out of the tube it's reasonably thick and a greyish-beige colour. Not particularly attractive, but you can definitely see that it's made with mud as there are tiny darker bits in it. It doesn't smell of anything at all really except a faint seaweed/mineral tang. The instructions say that you should apply Conditioning Scalp Mud after shampooing, massage into your scalp and leave for several minutes "to allow mineral hydration of hair and scalp" before washing with warm water. I turned the shower fully off while I rubbed this into my head, to make sure I didn't wash it all off accidentally, then turned it carefully back on again and tried to keep my head out of the way while it worked its magic! I have long, wavy mid-back length hair, so instead of trying to get the product all over it I concentrated just on the roots and scalp - you do need to use quite a lot of this to get an even coverage and if I'd tried to do all my hair I reckon I'd have used the whole tube.
It felt quite nice on my head, not oily or sticky but rather silky in fact. Once the three minutes were up I turned the shower on my head and felt my hair instantly becoming silky, manageable and unusually for my unruly hair, absolutely knot and tangle free. Miracle! Once out of the shower I combed it through with absolutely no problems whatsoever and let it dry naturally - still no knots and it still felt amazingly soft and shiny. Dead Sea Spa Magik recommend using the conditioning mask two or three times per week; I've used it twice in about two weeks and feel that that's more than enough to keep my hair and head in good condition. I haven't had dandruff since I've been using this (could be a coincidence, might not be) and my head isn't itchy or tight feeling.
As I've explained, I was sent a trial size tube of Conditioning Scalp Mud, but it's widely available in a number of shops. I've seen it in my local department store in Oxford, as well as Lloyd's, Debenhams, Holland & Barrett and John Lewis, as well as in a few independent pharmacies. You can also order it online from Amazon, where an 150ml tube will cost you £8.95 - certainly not the cheapest scalp treatment but it works well as an occasional treat. I'd like to point out again that this doesn't represent particularly good value for money as I needed to use a lot of product to cover my rather small female head, so if you're not sold on the dead sea aspect, you might want to try something a little more pocket-friendly...despite this, in terms of results I recommend it wholeheartedly and will probably buy myself a full sized tube once I've used up my trial size.
If you're curious, you can visit http://www.findershealth.co.uk for more details about the Conditioning Scalp Mud and other products as well as a list of ingredients. It's a good, comprehensive website, but be warned - you might be tempted to buy a load of other products!
I'm not much of a coffee or straight tea fan, but I do like something hot to drink in the morning, before bed and, well, at most hours of the day when I'm working! I'm a great believer in the health benefits, as well as the general well-being benefits, of herbal tea, so was intrigued when I saw a box of Dr Stuart Detox Tea in Holland & Barrett. As I've got finals coming up and I'm generally stressed and eating a bit badly at the moment, I like the idea of detoxing at least a bit and trying to improve my skin - so I bought them and got ready to give them a try. The fact that the ingredients sounded absolutely delicious was the clincher for me.
If he's going to put his name on the box, you'd better have a little bit of the back story about Dr Stuart himself, right? There is a real Dr Malcolm Stuart who is apparently "a man of enormous creative energy" and "one of the first highly qualified scientists in recent times to widely support and promote the many beneficial values of the plant kingdom", if we are to believe what his website tells us. It also states, rather suspiciously, that "his worldwide contributions to the subject of 'herbs' have led to him being described as 'the Father of Modern Herbalism'", and apparently he's also involved with making organic tea for the Duchy of Cornwall. So far, so guffy, but what does Dr Stuart actually make? Basically it's a range of tea which does all sorts of different things, from Skin Purify to Throat Relief or Tranquility. He also offers a range of herbal teas, green teas and fruit teas.
So why choose Dr Stuart's Detox Tea? It's supposed to be good for cleansing and refreshing your system and giving you a kick-start; it's a rather heady, not to mention complex, blend of dandelion and burdock, corn silk, milk thistle, bearberry leaves, liquorice, sage, ginger, peppermint, galangal leaves, artichoke leaves and spearmint. Each box contains 20 bags and has some of the best packaging I've ever seen - it's a white square-ish box with "Dr Stuart" and the recurring logo of a pointing hand down one side and with a clever, well-drawn picture of a woman whose skirt opens up like a tea caddy. The effect of the packaging is funky and modern, definitely not what you'd associate with herbal tea!
Getting into the packet is a problem, though, as you have to tear a strip away and it's very difficult to do so without ripping the whole packet. Inside, the teabags are individually sealed in white, Dr Stuart-stamped packets: I'm not sure what I think about this as on the one hand, this is a nice touch and it does mean that you can pop a couple of bags in your bag if you're going out, on the other, what a waste of packaging! I think I'm coming down on the side of convenience, as it has also just occurred to me that it definitely keeps the bags fresher without having to seal them away or be really careful about light getting to them.
The bags themselves are equally well presented, normal bag-sized with a string and a Dr Stuart tag with the pointing hand logo. The bits and pieces inside are clearly visible and gratifyingly, it's possible to spot a good few chunks of this and that, indicating that the ingredients are probably good quality. The back of the box recommends that you brew this tea with fresh water poured over the bag, and then leave it to infuse for 2-5 minutes; it also suggests that you use two bags if you're having it in a mug rather than a cup. Well, I always have mine in a big mug, and if you leave it to really infuse for the full 5 minutes there's no problem with strength of flavour - seems to me that Dr Stuart might like us to use up his tea a bit faster and buy some more!
The smell of this is weird, kind of vegetal yet herby. It's difficult to put your finger on exactly what it does smell of, but it's not particularly nice - kind of dark and not very appetising. I've also noticed that it always, always has an oily kind of scum on the top, no matter how fresh the water, how clean the mug or how long I leave it, so I can only conclude that something in the tea is making a really oily mess on the top. It doesn't taste bad but it does look bad, so be aware. The taste is actually the best thing about it; it's rich and generically herby at first, with a definite dandelion and burdock aniseedy quality, then has a tang of really fresh mint before developing a really rich, round and full aftertaste of liquorice. As a die hard aniseed and liquorice fan, this was like heaven!
And how does it perform in the detox stakes? Actually, it's very good stuff if you drink enough of it - two cups a day for three days and my skin looked much, much better, not just a bit better but noticeably smoother, fewer spots and generally healthier.
They're also not overly expensive - I bought mine for £1.99 in my local Holland & Barrett, which works out at just under 10p per cup. Cheaper than a cup of tea in a cafe and better for you too! I've also seen them in independent health food shops but unfortunately not in any large supermarkets - though this might just be my area so keep an eye out.
Overall, recommended for their fantastic detox ability and strangely moreish taste. Just try to get past the oiliness and the vaguely unpleasant smell - oh, and if you're a liquorice hater, steer clear!
Having gone into Selfridges to get some perfume samples, I came across the Diptyque counter and was immediately drawn to the beautiful spare, elegant packaging I saw there. I was dimly aware of Diptyque as a brand before (it was founded in Paris in 1961 as a shop selling printed fabrics, but soon instead became a success selling scented candles and now additionally sells home fragrances and eau de toilette perfumes) but it's only now that I'm really starting to become really interested in their perfumes. The intriguingly named Philosykos means "fig tree" in Greek, and that's exactly what this perfume is all about - figs. Made by Olivia Giacobetti, whose notable other creations are Dzing! by L'Artisan Perfumeur and En Passant by Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle, Philosykos is a very green perfume based around the fragrance of figs. It's also unisex, apparently.
All perfumes by Diptyque are packaged very simply, elegantly and perhaps a little old-fashionedly: they come in square, clear glass bottles with a round label featuring a line drawing printed entirely in black and white, and with a black lid. The boxes are similar, white with a round black design on the front and featuring really beautiful lettering running around the edge of the circle, saying "34 Boulevard Saint Germain", which is the address of Diptyque's flagship store in Paris. The label for Philosykos has the same writing with a delicate shaded line-drawing of three figs, the left of which overlaps the border ever so slightly - it's spare, delicate and very attractive; not all that feminine but then, on a unisex fragrance, perhaps that's a positive thing!
THE PERFUME ITSELF
Philosykos opens with a fantastic combination of green and creaminess which makes it very much like smelling a real, fresh fig: a very rounded, real scent which borders on the tactile. The greenness is very, very green, almost astringent and definitely grassy; there's a hint of bark and stem in there too which does really call to mind the leafiness of a fig tree. Although this is a perfume based on figs, it's important to note that it's not fruity at all and certainly nothing like dried figs - what the top notes convey is the fig alongside the whole tree! If you're keen on fruity perfumes, I'd be careful about this one unless you also like your scents green and zippy, as Philosykos doesn't offer much sweetness or roundness, particularly in its top notes.
After about 20 minutes the middle notes start to develop, although Philosykos is rather linear and doesn't change all that much (this linear quality is a common aspect to many Diptyque perfumes). I noticed that the creaminess, which is weirdly dry-creamy at first, becomes rounder and more enveloping, taking the edge off the greenness and stalkiness to make the overall accord much softer; the green still remains but it's not as invigorating and fresh as at first. I also find that the overall accord becomes quite dry at this point, like a very arid wind going through a tree. The sillage (how much you can smell the perfume around you) isn't huge, but nor is it particularly close to the skin; it'll probably be detectable to people nearby but not really all that strongly.
Unfortunately, this perfume really doesn't last all that well at all on me - the base notes come out after about an hour and the whole thing is gone in an hour and a half. The base notes are basically muted versions of what have gone before, but combined with a slightly woody tang, not dark but rather a light wood such as cedar. If wood can shimmer in a perfume, it manages to do that briefly here before disappearing: Philoskyos is all about the light layers and there's no exception in the base notes.
Philosykos is also available as a solid perfume, which I haven't tried but, based on the fact that it's waxy/creamy, might well be an altogether greasier or heavier affair. I'd be interested to know how the sharp greenness of the opening fares against a more solid base - this is definitely something for me to try next time I'm in Libertys!
Philosykos may be based on fig, but don't get it wrong: fans of gourmands or fruity perfumes won't find much to like here. Instead of a sweet fruity fragrance, what this one offers is the bracing green astringency of the whole tree and the bizarre dry-creaminess of fig sap and juice. It's reasonably light in terms of not containing heavy vanilla, spices or dark woods, and I like perfumes with some guts and punch (not really a fan of aquatics or light perfumes) but this has definitely got enough strength and power to keep me interested - I like the strange dry-creamy accord and the sharp green.
It's not particularly comforting, more of an invigorating kind of scent: I reckon Philosykos would be perfect for everyday wear, perhaps best suited for summer when the freshness mixed with aridity would work really well in hot air. I can't imagine it working all that well in humidity as it might be a little cloying, but its freshness might also work well with rain. I'm a student and I've worn it generally out and about, in the library and for lectures as well as in the evening (although really it's a morning kind of perfume). I'm fine with the fact that it's rather linear, but my main gripe is the lack of longevity, as it's gone in an hour and a half.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
Diptyque products are available either from their London shops (Westbourne Grove, Marylebone, or Brook Street), Space NK, or their concessions in Liberty, Selfridges, Harrods, John Lewis and Fenwick. Check out www.diptyqueparis.com/store-locator/ to find out if there's one near you. Philosykos is on sale for £48 for 50ml eau de toilette and £28 for a small solid perfume.
Madame Rochas is a real grande dame of perfume which has, like many classic scents, gone through two editions: the original 1960 formulation came first, commissioned by Helène Rochas (the actual Madame Rochas!) and created by Guy Robert. There was also the second 1989 edition, which is widely available now and the one I am reviewing here. The new edition was created by perfumers Jean-Louis Sieuzac (creator of YSL's Opium in 1977) and Jacques Fraysse, and it's technically classified as a floral-aldehyde scent.
Unlike some modern bottles and boxes which look as if they've been designed in five minutes as an afterthought, there's really a lot of history behind the packaging of Madame Rochas. The box is nice enough, plain white with "Madame Rochas" in red writing, but it's the bottle that's has all the history to it - designed by Pierre Dinand, it was based on an 18th century Cristalleries de Baccarat crystal bottle in Helène Rochas's collection. It's columnar, fluted and tapers to a smaller base, topped with a gold cap concealing a spray, while the label is thin, white and goes around the top of the bottle. Overall it's not a flashy or showy kind of bottle - in fact, it's deliberately archaic and understated. It's not really sexy at all (it doesn't look as if the kind of perfume you'd get in it would be young or feisty) but it does have a certain class and charm of its own.
THE PERFUME ITSELF
Madame Rochas opens with strong aldehydes and a definite kick of citrus, but it's oily bergamot rather than zingy lemon. It's got a lot in common with the opening of Chanel No 5, if only because of the aldehydes giving the whole thing an almost soapy edge which quickly takes the edge off the citrus and turns it into a much softer freshness altogether. The top notes are quite a clean smell overall, not heady or rich but very "well-scrubbed" and elegant in a streamlined kind of way. Perhaps because of the aldehydes, the whole thing is cool and very clear.
Things start to change after about half an hour when the middle notes begin to appear. The citrus gives way to a much headier combination of very pronounced rose and jasmine - Madame Rochas turns very floral all of a sudden, losing the initial freshness and gaining a bit more depth. The jasmine isn't heavy or oriental, nor is the rose overly sweet or cloying; in fact, the effect is a little powdery. After a while, some lighter floral notes start to show through the heavier rose/jasmine base, something like lily-of-the-valley or perhaps freesia which lightens and brightens it a bit. Apparently, there's tuberose in the mix too, which I find difficult to pick out, as to my nose there isn't anything artificial-smelling or rubbery about the middle notes (the smells I tend to get with tuberose) - just a clean, flowery accord.
The base notes start coming out after a good 4 or 5 hours, making this a very long-lasting offering, especially in the EDP formulation. Madame Rochas loses a little of its cleanness at this stage, developing a lovely sweet warmth from tonka beans and a kick of dry, resinous cedar. There's sandalwood in the mix somewhere, which to my mind always smells a little bit, well, unclean, but coming after so many clean scents it just adds a little depth rather than making the perfume as oriental or musky as it can sometimes do. The base notes linger for about an hour and a half before becoming almost undetectable and vanishing away altogether.
There's a lot to like about Madame Rochas. It's classy and clean, a well-groomed kind of perfume with a huge amount of history behind it. It certainly doesn't smell cheap or run-of-the-mill pink vanilla sweetness; it's complex and develops well with definite stages which hold your interest. Its downsides are certainly that it's not the most inventive scent out there; it does what it does well, but perhaps can't compete with some more modern perfumes just on intrigue value.
So really, I can appreciate how beautiful Madame Rochas is, but it's too old for me. It's got a lot of similar notes to Chanel No 5 and also to Lanvin's Arpege, but I'd put it in the same category as the latter rather than the former - it's comforting, classy and elegant, but perhaps also a little staid and old-fashioned with it. I can see why people associate it with older women or perhaps a comforting older relative, which is definitely no bad thing. For me, however, it doesn't have enough zing, pizazz or intrigue factor to make me want to wear it.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
I've seen this everywhere, but actually your best bet is to try discount shops like TJ Hughes, or smaller chemists. It's usually about £11 for 30ml EDT and £40 for 100ml EDP, so not a bank-breaking scent.
Parisienne is a fairly new (2009) perfume by Yves St Laurent, created by perfumer Sophia Grojsman - the woman who also created YSL Paris back in 1983. This is definitely one for a younger audience, with its not unattractive pastel bottle and clear liquid: technically, Parisienne is in the floral perfume category, but like many modern perfumes it's very sweet and also has definite aspects of sugar and candy. The main reason I tried this is because it was marketed as having a "vinyl accord" (a plastic, completely artificial note in it) and I was eager to see what that would be like from a mainstream perfume company.
The packaging is nice enough, if not that special: a pale mauve box with "YSL" in large purple letters and "Parisienne" in, er, slightly tacky gold lettering over the top. There's a black band around the bottom of the box with "Yves St Laurent" written on it. The bottle is reasonably good but not very inventive - a round, clear glass offering which looks just a little bit like a grenade! The juice inside is the palest mauve, there's a black sticker on the front with "YSL" written on it and the top is gold, concealing a spray.
THE PERFUME ITSELF
Parisienne is all about violets for me. It starts with a lot of alcohol which takes a good 30 seconds to calm down, then once that's cleared, a strong yet watery violet note comes to the forefront - it's not really fresh violet, though, more like artificial Parma Violets, but without any of their powderiness. Imagine that someone has dissolved some Parma Violet sweets in a glass of water, and that's approaching the effect of this perfume at first. The single note continues for a very long time (which is unusual and not all that interesting) before being joined by some sweet fruity berries which smell like blackcurrants. What with the artificial violet going on, the berries don't smell natural either; they're transformed into their sweet or candy forms.
The top notes start to give way to the middle notes after about an hour, and something which might or might not be the "vinyl accord" appears - a sort of faint plastic tang briefly replaces the berries underneath the violet, then is just as quickly gone. If I'm honest, the middle notes are underwhelming, just sitting there without doing much or developing, just doing the same artificial violet thing that was happening in the top notes. Plus, the middle notes seem to go on forever - the base notes don't appear for another 2 hours.
When they do come, however, Parisienne livens up a little bit with some white florals appearing and finally taking over from the violet which, if I'm honest, is starting to get really quite sickly. The white florals don't give it any depth, nor does the hint of vanilla which appears at this point; it just stays watery and liquid right up till the end. Overall, the scent probably lasts for about 5 hours, and the sillage isn't bad (I kept getting wafts of it as I moved around, but it wasn't choking or overpowering).
I really like violets, and I'm intrigued by scents which have plasticky, artificial or otherwise weird notes - although I don't like it per se, I am fascinated by Bandit and I'm keen on Bulgari Black, so I'm open to invention and experimentation in perfume. So, given all that, I'm forced to conclude that the problem with Parisienne is that there wasn't any experimentation - the vinyl note, if there was one, was so fleeting that one could argue it lacked the courage to stick around! Not only this, but it was such a disappointingly one-note perfume that I just couldn't bring myself to wear it and get bored all over again, and as I've said, I'm speaking as a fan of violet scents.
It's definitely one for younger women - probably teenagers, actually, as it's incredibly light and a bit flat. It never develops into anything dark or complex, so it might be good for a warmer day. My pet hate in perfume is sweetness turning into soft vanilla, and it certainly doesn't do that, so I suppose it has taken a slightly different direction to most modern perfumes; it's also not cheap smelling or specifically nasty...just uninspired and irritatingly uncomplicated. I wouldn't be averse to smelling it on someone else, nor do I think it's horrible, but if you're going to give it a try then I advise that you make sure you and everyone else around you really, really like violets before you commit to five hours smelling like the Parma Violets factory!
Also, I don't know what this has got to do with Paris. But then, the adverts featuring Kate Moss writhing around in the back of a taxi weren't all that Parisian either - but you can't call a perfume "Blackpool" and expect it to sell, can you? Frankly, both the ad campaign and this perfume are just not classy, angular, intriguing or sexy enough to be really Parisian. Sorry, YSL. Better luck next time.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
Parisienne is still relatively new, so it's easy to find in most places: anywhere with a YSL concession, airport duty-free is a good bet or there's always trusty Boots, which stocks three sizes: £69.45 for 90ml EDP, £49.02 for 50ml EDP and £35.75 for 30ml EDP.
Eau Duelle is my first foray into Diptyque's extensive perfume range, and indeed into Diptyque as a brand. Founded in Paris in 1961 and originally selling printed fabrics, the brand soon became a success selling scented candles and then eventually home fragrances and eau de toilette perfumes. I'd known about the brand for a while but it wasn't until I got some perfume samples from the counter in Selfridges that I actually tried any of their perfumes. Eau Duelle ("dual water" in English, but that doesn't sound half as sexy of course) is their newest fragrance, formulated to be unisex and supposedly in the "spicy" family, but I'd put it more as a vanilla-based oriental. It was made by Fabrice Pellegrin, whose most recent other creation is Thierry Mugler's "Womanity".
Diptyque's packaging is beautiful, really simple and elegant. All their perfumes come in square, clear glass bottles with a round label printed entirely in black and white, and with a black top. The boxes are similar, white with a round black design on the front and featuring really beautiful lettering running around the edge of the circle, saying "34 Boulevard Saint Germain", which is the address of Diptyque's flagship store in Paris. The label for Eau Duelle has the same writing with a delicate line-drawing of an eastern-looking palace and some rolling fields. All in all, very modern yet timeless, clean, delicate and absolutely lovely to look at.
THE PERFUME ITSELF
Eau Duelle is billed, rather romantically, as "a journey through shadows and light", and although I wouldn't go that far, it does have two contrasting sides to its character that makes its name quite appropriate. It starts with vanilla, sweet, creamy and soft yet not particularly edible-smelling (this isn't a gourmand fragrance at all) tempered with a definite hit of spicy pepper. The pepper isn't sneezy or overwhelming, in fact it's quite warm and spicy, just a small jolt to cut through the creamy vanilla. There's also something else in the mix too that I can't quite put my finger on: it's something spicy, like cardamom or cinnamon, again, inedible but very warm and very soothing.
The top notes last for about an hour, after which point the middle notes start to appear. If I'm honest, they're not so different from the top notes: the vanilla stays put and the pepper is replaced by a smokier, darker scent - something exotic-smelling, like frankincense. The smoke is backed up by a definite scent of lapsang souchong tea; woody, liquidy smoke which overlays the vanilla to make the whole effect a little bit like smelling a cup of chai. None of this is overpowering, by the way - the effect remains soothing and I'd even call it muted. Nothing blasts at you or is strident, making this an excellent perfume for work or when you just don't want to smell too strongly.
The base notes and drydown are predictably muted - all I really get is vanilla at this point, a little musky perhaps, a little amber in there as well, but really just warm, sweet and silky vanilla. For such a soothing perfume, the staying power is excellent: about six hours in all, and I sprayed only one squirt of eau de toilette from the tester bottle. You won't smell strongly, or leave a wake of perfume behind you, but Eau Duelle is intimate and lovely when you smell it yourself. I'm struggling to imagine this on a man, though - I know it's billed as unisex but there's something very feminine about the smoke and the vanilla which would make me uneasy about smelling this on a man!
Eau Duelle is also available as a solid perfume, which I haven't tried yet but would imagine is a slightly stronger, perhaps oilier scent.
I'm surprised at how much I love this perfume. I tend to like strong, dominant perfumes with wood, bitterness and serious guts, so I didn't expect to like this soft, intimate and muted offering as much as I do. I like the two sides to it, the smoke overlaying the sweetness which changes the vanilla and makes it altogether different, like smelling it through something else; I also really like the roundedness of it and the way it doesn't change all that much. All of these qualities, of course, being things I would really, really dislike in another perfume, so there must be something good about it!
This isn't one for a hot date or any time you need a boost, but rather one for work or just everyday. I spend a lot of time in libraries and for some reason it seems to work really well with the smell of old books all around me - something about the soft vanilla and smoke working with slightly musty paper, perhaps. I think it would also be lovely if you wear perfumes in bed - it's so soft and comforting that I can see it being perfect for drifting off to sleep to. I'm going to finish my tester and then in all probability buy a full-size bottle.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
Diptyque products are available either from their London shops (Westbourne Grove, Marylebone, or Brook Street), Space NK, or their concessions in Liberty, Selfridges, Harrods, John Lewis and Fenwick. Check out www.diptyqueparis.com/store-locator/ to find out if there's one near you. Eau Duelle is on sale for £48 for 50ml eau de toilette and £28 for a small solid perfume.
Although Cinéma came out in 2004 and I'd seen the adverts - loads of cat-eyed women surrounded by the requisite adoring men, shot in glamorous shades ofgold - I'd never smelt it until recently. And boy, did it surprise me. Created by Jacques Cavallier (who's responsible for other recent offerings such as Lancôme Magnifique, YSL Elle, Stella McCartney Stella), YSL's Cinéma is anything but the sharp, sultry old-school perfume I'd been expecting, given its name and the traditional imagery in the ads: it's actually a really sweet floral.
See, this is why I had such a shock when Cinéma turned out to be a dish of candy and not a woody oriental or an astringent green. The box is a very traditional, rectangular offering in a glam shade of gold with Art Deco-style bordering, with "Cinéma" written very simply in black at the top and "Yves Saint Laurent" at the bottom, again in just black. It's not pink, it's not pastel, it's not girly in any way - in fact, it's unashamedly grownup and elegant, a real return to 1930s and 40s glamour in the golden age of cinema. The bottle, too, is classically elegant and a million miles away from the young and girlish designs usually found on sweet perfumes: it's square, tall and slim, clear to display the amber-coloured liquid inside, with a repeated design of "YSL" in tiny rows horizontally across the bottle. It's very beautiful, actually, and with a definite hint of the orient or at least the exotic; the lid is a large gold cap which sets the whole thing off perfectly.
THE PERFUME ITSELF
Once the alcohol dies down (it's actually very pronounced in this fragrance, I needed to give it at least 30 seconds to dissipate properly) Cinéma opens with a confused melee of scents - floral, fruity, sweet - which take a minute to layer out into definite scents. The first note I could identify was a really fruity, light and sparkling note of clementine - sweeter and rounder than actual orange, it's nevertheless unashamedly citrus. The freshness is quite welcome because it slides very quickly into the second note, some kind of blossom which I find overwhelmingly cloying and too sweet.
The thing about Cinéma, like many other light fragrances, is that it doesn't hang around for long: the middle notes begin appearing after about 20 minutes, which isn't much time at all. Once it reaches this stage, the sparkle and the fruit dies down and becomes much softer; the blossom turns into the much heavier scent of jasmine and another more floral scent appears. According to Basenotes, this other scent is peony, but I don't know that I'd recognise it as that - I'd describe it as being very sweet, as heavy as jasmine but not as exotic. The middle notes are very nebulous, not particularly one thing or another, a bit of a cloud of scent which tends towards the sweet and the floral without being strong. It's not exactly weak but it doesn't project very far, so there's no chance you'll smell overwhelming; in fact, you can definitely get away with a couple of sprays of this without knocking everyone out around you!
After about 3 hours or so, the drydown begins, and the main note I get at this point is vanilla. Loads of vanilla - not gourmand, edible-smelling vanilla, but that very inedible, slightly removed yet still warm type. Having gone from fruit to flowers, it's now incredibly creamy and warm, from time to time I even get hints of benzoin (a resin-like substance) which backs up the vanilla even more and adds a tiny hit of something resembling incense, although it's anything but smoky or oriental. It's easy to wash this perfume off, so be careful about washing your hands too vigorously if you want to preserve the scent; it's also quite fleeting and all traces of it are gone after 6 or so hours.
Well, I must admit I'm disappointed. I know I'm biased because I'm not keen on sweetness or too much fruit in a perfume, but Cinéma was boring, and all the more disappointingly so because of its frankly beautiful packaging and overall image. The progression of fruit-sweet floral-vanilla is overdone, kind of trite and not particularly original; I can think of at least a couple of other perfumes which follow this trend (Chanel's Coco Mademoiselle probably does it the best as it's got a couple of more interesting oriental notes going on there, plus it's less heavy-handed on the fruit, but it's definitely a pattern I've smelt in Dior's Miss Dior Cherie as well and I have mistaken these two for each other during the heart note stages).
Fundamentally, there's nothing wrong with Cinéma, and it's a perfectly wearable, everyday fragrance. It's not going to offend anyone in the office, nor is it going to gas people on the tube, so if you're after a light, friendly and approachable kind of scent, this might well be an option (although as I've said, for a similar but slightly more individual effect, try Coco Mademoiselle). It also doesn't smell cheap or at all like cleaning-products, which is a mercy, but on the other hand, it's not very original or noteworthy; it's not particularly compelling, interesting or memorable. I think I'm just really disappointed about the massive disconnect between the incredibly glam bottle and the kind of pedestrian pinkness IN the bottle - I wanted Brief Encounter, but unfortunately I got Clueless!
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
As it's new and seems to sell well, Cinéma is available pretty much everywhere - I've seen it in Boots, priced at £39 for 35ml of EDP. At that price it's not exactly cheap, and as it's on the weak side you might end up having to spray a little more of it, but as it is a quality perfume perhaps the price is right.