Cosmetics

Maison Francis Kurkdjian’s Ciel de Gum

The French are correct—a woman’s fragrance collection changes with age. As some of you recall, I started looking for an alternative to Estee Lauder’s Beautiful about 3 years ago. Well, two days ago, I found it.

Don’t get me wrong; Beautiful is still—beautiful. It’s what my husband and children know. I’ve worn it since age 16. Beautiful is what I gravitate towards when I seek comfort or when I’m under the weather. It’s home. Which is why I’m not getting rid of it.

Ciel de Gum (CDG) is just what I’ve been looking for these past couple years—again, not necessarily as a replacement to Beautiful, but an alternative to keep.

This is what I imagine Joan Collins must have smelled like on “Dynasty”—fiercely feminine and SPICY. This is the spicy floral that I have been looking for. Contrary to many reviews, it does not smell like red hots. On me, it smells like the mother of all spicy florals (it’s what all in the category aspire to be). It has a bit of vanilla (which I’m usually not a fan of). But it is quiet; cinnamon, floral, and amber take center stage. As a voluptuous floral, Beautiful is beautiful and feminine. CDG is just as feminine but has spice and bite. It so fits me at this stage in my life. This isn’t a scent for girls (who often prefer sweet smells); it’s for women. There’s an innocence in Beautiful that isn’t there in CDG.

The fact that it’s not popular is a bonus (the fragrance is exclusive to Maison Francis Kurkdjian boutiques and the GUM Department Store in Moscow). There are currently no matching body products (soaps, lotions, etc.) and part of the reason I am posting this review is a selfish one—I am hoping that the parfum will become popular enough (but not too popular 😉) for MFK to develop matching body products. In the US at this time, CDG can only be purchased at the MFK boutique in Miami (the only MFK store in the US) and on the brand’s website.

La Crème by Cle de Peau

It goes without saying that nothing is more effective for your skin than what your dermatologist recommends for it.  With that said, it’s been my experience that one can have a very good skincare regimen using a combination of both prescribed products/methods and over-the-counter (OTC) items.  Allow me to present La Crème by Cle de Peau.

For those unfamiliar with the brand, Cle de Peau is Shiseido’s higher end line of skincare and cosmetics.  The Japanese brand and this particular product has a cult following and for good reason–the results are almost immediate.  The reason for this is because the primary active ingredient in La Crème is retinol ACE (in layman’s terms, it’s a lower dose of retinol plus vitamins and boosters to increase the speed of cell turnover).  Although prescription strength retinol is great for many people, for some (such as myself), it can be a bit strong and cause inflammation (and as another side effect, some hyperpigmentation).  This is why for some, OTC-strength is the way to go for including retinol in one’s skincare routine.

In terms of OTC anti-aging creams, Cle de Peau’s La Crème is the gold standard.  I have yet to experience a cream that performs as well as this one.  (Many of you know that I’m also a huge fan of La Mer’s Creme and I still am–but strictly as a moisturizing cream and something that I use to mix with my foundation when wearing makeup, not as a wrinkle cream.)  After a few hours of applying Le Crème, my skin is noticeably softer, clearer, and brighter.  I have been using this product for three months and it has become a permanent part of my skincare routine.  For those who are skeptical and aren’t willing to take the plunge for the full-size jar, Cle de Peau’s website sells the (limited edition) travel size.  You can also ask someone from the line’s counter at your local Nordstrom, Saks, or Neiman’s to give you a week’s sample.

Now, on to the good stuff (recommendations from my personal experience).  If you have normal to dry skin, use the product as directed–at night only (slather it on, go to sleep, and wake up to soft and bright skin).  If you have oily to combination skin, use it at nighttime and, maybe–assuming you are able to go without makeup and shield yourself from the sun, also use a small to moderate amount during the daytime for 2-3 days during the week.  Do not use it on the area around your eyes (even though it’s OTC, a lower dose of retinol can still irritate sensitive areas).  It also helps to properly prep your skin before application–I wash my face with a mild cleanser and use a NON-EXFOLIATING/NON-MEDICATED toner before applying La Crème (for those who don’t use toners, you can skip the second step).  This is important because you don’t want anything to undermine and/or interfere with the efficacy of the active ingredients in the cream.  You want the product to work by itself (preferably, without any allergic reactions and/or interference).

All women over the age of 30 need to allocate a portion of their budgets to skincare/maintenance.  It’s not a frivolous matter–it’s a necessity as one gets older.  Many department store products get a bad rap for being expensive but as someone who is a product fiend, I can confirm that there are some items that are worth their sticker prices and that a little bit of product can go a long way (depending on how much you use, a jar of La Crème can last you between 6 months to 1 year).  And, as I like to tell my husband, “It’s less expensive than plastic surgery.”

(FYI, I was not paid and/or compensated in any way for this review.)

Chanel Le Blanc Exfoliating Pre-Lotion

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You know the feeling of anticipation and excitement when you’re going on a first date with someone you’ve had a crush on for a while?  I get this feeling every time I try a much-raved about skincare product.  In the US, Chanel is known for its clothes, bags, and makeup.  But, in Asia, the company holds its own in the skincare arena.

If you’re over the age of 35, you know that exfoliation is a key part of maintaining a healthy complexion.  Most of us exfoliate in the shower or at the sink, moisturize, and call it a day.  Enter the Le Blanc Pre-Lotion Exfoliation Douce.  This continues the exfoliation process all day or all night (direction says to apply once per day) and is life-changing.  It has officially been added to my holy grail beauty lineup.  Unfortunately, it’s currently only sold in Asia so for those who live elsewhere, lobby your Chanel counters and get it stocked there!  (It would also be nice for me to be able to buy it in the States once we move back!)

Now, let’s get to the nitty-gritty.  Consistency is very watery but gel-like (I know that sounds like an oxymoron but bear with me)–think of an extremely fine/thin and runny gel-liquid.  Because it’s a “pre-lotion”, you’re supposed to apply this right before your toner–it’s the toner for your toner.  But since my skin is very sensitive and temperamental, I use it as a toner-alternative at night.  I use two liberal applications–first one with a wiping motion and the second one with a patting motion.  The first night impressed me.  Keep in mind that my skin is awful–I have lines, freckles, AND acne (what kind of sick joke is this, right?).  And although the product didn’t lighten my freckles and sun spots after the first night (nor did I expect it to), it did significantly soften my skin and give me a nice glow.  Not earth-shattering but I’ll take it.  After the second night, my face felt like a baby’s butt AND it glowed.  Getting one product to soften my bumpy skin is no easy task and this pre-lotion performs.  FYI, I also use the Le Blanc Healthy Light Creator Serum (not at the same time but during the day when I’m at home; I use the serum with a regular toner, which changes depending on my mood as there are several in my medicine cabinet).  So, there you have it–in a nutshell, I’m very happy with this product and every day my skin gets better from using it!

REVIEW: Behnaz Pure Rose Fragrance

Just received something I’ve been wanting to try for awhile–Behnaz Pure Rose Fragrance.  This water-based perfume (with no alcohol) is perfect for those who are looking for cleaner and non-toxic alternatives to traditional perfumes (especially mothers of small children).  Don’t get me wrong–I’m still a fan of traditional fragrances but, at this time (given the fact that my children are still so young), I would prefer to wear something less strong.

The Pure Rose is made primarily of distilled water and roses.  Because of this, you should not expect this fragrance to be strongly-scented, long-lasting or leave a “trail”.  Only you and someone in cuddle proximity will be able to smell this perfume.  I love that it’s made of real roses with no synthetic imitations–what has turned me off about ordinary rose perfumes is that they generally smell syrupy sweet or too citrus-y.  On my skin, it initially smelled a little powdery but then settled into a true rose scent.  Also, the texture is very watery but that is to be expected given its composition.  Another thing that I like about this perfume is that the packaging has the bottled date (expiration is six months).  This underscores the freshness and authenticity of the product.

The market has been long overdue for this type of product and moms of small children looking for cleaner and non-toxic fragrance options can rejoice!

Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening Cleansing Foam

This is now officially my holy grail cleanser.  My skin is oily (T-zone) and combination and I’m prone to freckles and blackheads.  Those with acne-prone skin know how difficult it can be to find a cleanser that cleans, brightens, and doesn’t overdry.  Here are my observations:

(1) Low pH–A low pH cleanser is crucial to keeping bacteria at bay and is especially important for those with acne-prone skin.  Many cleansers (especially those for oily skin) have too high of a pH (the feeling of squeaky clean skin may be enticing but you pay for it afterwards because the skin then overproduces oil to compensate for the amount washed away in the cleansing process).  

(2) Foam–Foaming cleansers are generally prescribed for oil and combination skin and they’re abundant in the marketplace.  The problem with most low pH cleansers on the market is they don’t foam.  And the ones that do foam are often high pH formulas.  However, a cleanser that has both low pH and foaming action is a rarity and considered a unicorn in the skincare world.  

(3) Ginseng–As with most products in Sulwhasoo’s line, this cleanser has a medicinal scent due to its Chinese herb ingredient list with ginseng being the start ingredient.  Ginseng can brighten and even out skin tone, among other things.  

When I use this in the shower at night, I leave it on my face for at least five minutes before washing it off.  Although my freckles remain the same, the rest of my face is visually brighter.  The product cleanses thoroughly without drying out my skin and is suitable for most skin types.  

The last time I checked (about three months ago), this cleanser was unavailable in the US via department stores such as Nordstrom, Neiman’s, and Saks (even though the stores all carry the Sulwhasoo line).  Amazon and eBay sell it but a good rule of thumb is to avoid such sites for skincare due to numerous incidents of counterfeit and expired products.  For those in the US who wish to purchase this product, my advise would be to lobby the Sulwhasoo counter at your local department store, make a phone call to a major Korean department store and attempt to order it and have it shipped to you, or stock up (or get a friend to) on your next visit to Asia (as far as I know, this cleanser is widely available at all Sulwhasoo counters in department stores across Asia).  

Sulwhasoo Snowise Brightening Spot Treatment

Those familiar with the Sulwhasoo line know that its products are chock full of Chinese herbs with ginseng being the star ingredient.  The line is primarily aimed at those with dry and/or mature skin but a few of its products appeared to have my name on them.  Lets start with the Brightening Spot Treatment.

While it works wonderfully with acne scars, it does very little for freckles (which was my main motivation was buying this).  The product also doubles as a lightweight moisturizer and smells like ginseng and herbs (as with many Sulwhasoo products).  

Tony Moly Tea Tree Cleansing Water

Many of us are familiar with the benefits and convenience of using micellar water, especially for those who live in areas with hard tap water.  Now, a version with tea tree oil!  Although I still like to use a traditional foaming cleanser to wash my face in the morning and at night, I use this as a mid-day refresher (I only wear makeup on special occasions now so a few quick sweeps of this no-wash cleanser with a cotton pad does the trick).  The result is soft, clean, and refreshed skin that smells faintly of tea tree oil.  

Dr. G SOS Sunscreen

On bad acne days when I’m going out, I opt to wear Dr. G’s A-Clear Sensi-AC Sunscreen.  This the only lightweight sunscreen with salicylic acid that I have been able to find on the market.  It feels heavier than the Innisfree Blueberry Sun Cream but it treats acne while protecting your face from the sun.  Also, fragrance free and no white cast.

SK-II Cotton Pads

You can’t buy these (as they come with your purchase of the large-sized SK-II Treatment Essence at the brand’s counters in Seoul) but these are the best facial cotton pads on the market.  Soft, lightweight, and anti-pilling–I never thought I’d rave about cotton pads.  In addition, unlike using cotton balls, there is very little waste of product.  And, rather than using them with quick swipes (as you would with cotton balls), you “pad across” your face using the pads, which can help prep your skin for the next product (i.e, serum, moisturizer, etc.).  Don’t use SK-II products?  Get a friend who does and offer to pay for the pads–they’re worth it!

Chantecaille


I’ve been a huge fan of aromatherapy since my first pregnancy.  These days, I can’t seem to get enough of rose and eucalyptus scents.  Since our master bathroom has been transformed into my spa at home, the skincare fiend in me has been trying a whirlwind of products.  Here are my current favorites (and, yes, Chantecaille’s the key word here):

(1). Chantecaille Rose de Mai Oil–What I love about this face oil is that it’s a dry oil.  It moisturizes without clogging pores and/or leaving your face sticky.  Rose oil also has antiseptic properties (which is good news for those prone to acne).

(2). Chantecaille Rose de Mai Cream–The scent is delicious.  Again, with similar properties as the oil, it’s worked beautifully with my acne-prone and combination skin.  I layer this on top of the oil during daytime for extra nourishment

(3). Chantecaille Vital Essence with Arbutin–One of the reasons why I love this line so much is because, unlike many of the other brands, I see results with this one.  This serum is fantastic.  As with all Chantecaille products, its base is rose water.  I love the retinol and arbutin combo to exfoliate and brighten skintone.  After the age of 30, (forget diamonds,) retinol is a girl’s best friend!

(4). Chantecaille Gardenia Emulsion–I layer this lightweight brightening lotion on top of the arbutin serum at night and the two have yielded great results for me. What I like best about this emulsion is that it’s lightweight and non-sticky.

(5). Chantecaille Rose, Rentinol & Vitamin C Hand Cream–This hand treatment yielded INSTANT results.  Since I’m rather OCD about washing my hands (having two small children will do that do you), I have stocked up on this miracle worker.  This item was my entree into the Chantecaille line and it was only because of this cream that I decided to give the rest of the line a try.  And what a pleasant surprise!

(6). Phyto Clarifying Detox Shampoo–For some reason, I tend to associate the smell of eucalyptus with spas.  I love a good clarifying shampoo and have tried several.  This is as good as any but I am absolutely in love with the scent!