5 scents under $50 | Product closet excavation

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Five scents under $50

Let’s start this review off with a truth: I’m not a fan of celebrity fragrances. I’m like, really, really not. So, a lot of the time, I’ll receive one to review and it’ll just waste away in my product closet, waiting for its moment…

Today, that moment has finally come for these scents. Will I love them? Will I hate them? Only time (or simply skimming this review) will tell.

ck one shock for her him review

The couple’s duo: Calvin Klein CK One Shock EdT

Calvin Klein’s CK One Shock for Her is described as a “sensual floriental,” with notes like passion flower and poppy giving way to chocolate, blackberry, jasmine, and musk. It comes bottled in the iconic CK One flacon — but with an opaque white coating & the word “SHOCK” scribbled on in bright pink. (It’s meant to look like lipstick, which I think is silly — the guys get dripping spray paint!)

This design is echoed in the “bold oriental” for him version as well, which lists notes including clementine, cucumber, osmanthus, black pepper, tobacco, and patchouli. Both scents were created by Ann Gottleib and IFF, and retail for $45 CAD/50ml (100 ml bottles pictured here) at Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix locations across Canada.

These come with both caps and atomizers, which I love — I always get too much perfume with a single spritz, and caps store better, too. CK One Shock for Her is sweeter than I had expected, and kind of makes me think of a clothing store – soft, powdery kind of sweet. But CK One Shock for Him is the one to watch: it’s peppery and masculine with modern-oriental undertones, and gives an interesting “suggestion” of fruitiness despite not containing any fruity notes (probably due to the osmanthus).

Vera Wang Lovestruck review EdP

The big, big box: Vera Wang Lovestruck Floral Rush

My bottle of Floral Rush contains a mere 50 ml, but you’d never know it from the size of the box it came in. Lovestruck Floral Rush has a large plastic “bouquet” lid, and its box could easily contain four boxes of Heidi Klum Shine within its depths.

Created by Pascal Gaurin, Lovestruck Floral Rush is comprised of notes like champagne, apricot blossom, white freesia, and cashmere wood. It comes wrapped with a floral-print bow, which, well — it’s not a purple and green camouflage bandana, as I had originally thought.

A bright and shimmery “fizzy floral” (my words, not theirs), Floral Rush is a little sharp, but I think it’s more interesting than a lot of celebrity fragrances out there. It smells a bit too clean, which is really too bad, but I think it’s a good scent for its target demographic — there’s nothing aggressively sexy about this perfume, in its notes or in its advertising.

Vera Wang Lovestruck perfume review

The model moment: Heidi Klum Shine

Lauded by bloggers and perfume fanatics as one of the best budget scents at the drugstore, Shine lists fruity top notes of pear, mandarin, and pink peppercorn set against a floral heart and a sweet dry down. This is easily the one I was the most excited about, and it’s not bad — it’s not terribly unique, but it’s clean and very fruity, and I think it’s well-done for the small price tag.

Shine was created by Aurelien Guichard, Jean Guichard and Olivier Pescheux (Pescheux is the nose behind many of Diptyque’s scents, and Guichard is the man behind Issey Miyake’s Pleats fragrances and the Robert Piguet line), and is available for $35 CAD/30 ml.

Heidi Klum Shine perfume review

The Beyoncé effect: Beyoncé Pulse

I’m not a big Beyoncé fan, but I do love the way she’s created her image – while she’s far from perfect, you could do so much worse than telling young girls (and young minority girls in particular) that they can be both popular and powerful.

Her fragrances, though, are one area where I think she could do better. Pulse is described as a “citrus, floral gourmand” (which is cause for alarm on its own), with make-believe notes such as pear blossom, blue curaco, bluebird orchid, and midnight blooming jasmine. Created by Loc Dong, it’s available at Shopper’s and Sears for a rather alarming $59 CAD/50ml. (You didn’t hear it from me, but you can snap this one up easily for under $20 online.)

I think this is one of the better Beyoncé scents out there, but it’s still much too sweet for me. I’d recommend spritzing in-store if you’re a big fan of Queen B, and waiting to smell the drydown before buying — while I can definitely see why someone could fall in love with this, I think many will find it to be too pushy!

Beyonce Pulse review

Do you wear celebrity fragrances? And if so, what are your favourites? (Inquiring minds need to know!) 

L’Occitane Frisson de Verveine review, photos: Ice Gel & Shower Gel

Saturday, August 9, 2014

L'Occitane Frisson de Verveine review

The products: L’Occitane Frisson de Verveine Shower Gel & Cooling Foot Gel

It’s hard to find a good summer scent. Trust me; I know. The ones that are good never last, and the ones that last are always so heavy. And, ugh, don’t even get me started on how sticky-sweet and floral the summer heat can make feminine fragrances.

This summer, though, L’Occitane has solved the summer scent problem — in part. No one can make citrus and aquatic-family molecules linger for any longer, but this bright, genderless summer collection might be just what you need to get you through August. (I think it makes an especially appealing androgynous scent for women.)

L'Occitane shower gel review Frisson de Verveine

The scent: This stuff smells good. Like, so good that when my shower is over, I have a tendency to wander back into the bathroom (hot and humid as it is), just to stand by the shower and inhale for a moment. It smells like bright summer days, and like verbena, but it doesn’t have any of the hard edges that the original L’Occitane Verveine scent has — instead, it has soft edges with just the right amount of zest.

Frisson de Verveine reminds me of D&G Light Blue and Fresh Citron de Vigne, in feeling if not in its notes. An aptly-categorized unisex “aqueous citrus,” it’s light and very fresh, almost masculine and not at all “perfumey”. But, unlike Light Blue, it’s very unique — no one is going to sniff this on you and go, “oh yeah, I used to wear that in high school.”

L'Occitane Frisson de Verveine review Fresh Shower Gel

L'Occitane Frisson de Verveine Ice Gel review

The Ice Gel: I found the collection’s Fresh Shower Gel ($32 CAD) to be a little drying, despite its gorgeous scent (use with a shower puff for maximum fragrance release!), but the cool-cred in this collection totally goes to the Ice Gel for Legs & Feet ($24 CAD). It’s actually a liquid, and has the coolest method of application — you roll the ball onto your skin while gently squeezing the tube to get just the right amount of product.

This is the only product I’ve ever owned with this type of packaging, and I love it. It’s easy to use, weirdly fun, and amounts to zero drips or drops. And the product inside is really good, too — while it doesn’t feel cooling on my feet (it does on my hands; I think my feet just aren’t sensitive enough), it’s surprisingly hydrating, and dries down quickly.

And yes, okay? Yes, I will admit to dabbing some of this onto my wrists as well. It just smells so good, you guys. I couldn’t help myself.

L'Occitane Ice Gel verveine review

The verdict?

L’Occitane’s fragrances outside of La Collection de Grasse don’t always wow me, but wow – this one did. The perfect aquatic-citrus for both men and women, Frisson de Verveine is as bright and watery as you could wish for on a hot summer day. 

But I’m going to recommend you don’t buy these two products, because I love the scent so much. Instead, I’m going to point you toward the line’s gorgeously bottled Frisson de Verveine Eau de Toilette ($56 CAD) and aerosolized Verbena Refreshing Mist ($12 CAD). This is a scent that deserves to be enjoyed both in and out of the shower.

Availability: The Frisson de Verveine range is available for a limited time at L’Occitane boutiques & online beginning this month.

Keep reading! »

L’Occitane Vanille & Narcisse, Neroli & Orchidee, and Fleur d’Or & Acacia reviews, photos | La Collection de Grasse

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

L'Occitane Collection de Grasse

The products: L’Occitane en Provence La Collection de Grasse Eau de Toilettes in Vanille & Narcisse, Néroli & Orchidée, and Fleur d’Or & Acacia

Launched last May with just four scents, the L’Occitane La Collection de Grasse has since expanded to encompass eight beautiful scents for him & her. Packaged in the most exquisite glass flacons, each fragrance blends an ingredient from Grasse (a Mediterranean city in Provence) with one from afar.

L'Occitane La Collection de Grasse review

The nose of this collection is none other than parfumer Karine Dubreuil, who was born and raised in Grasse. I absolutely adore her work as the in-house perfumer at L’Occitane, as well as her approach to perfumery — she often describes her upbringing in Provence; a childhood surrounded by a garden of beautiful scents, her first spritz of cologne, and the memories that she now puts into olfactive form.

Fleur d’Or & Acacia Eau de Toilette ($75 CAD)

Perfume review - L'Occitane Fleur d'Or et Acacia

Described as “a sensual blend of floral notes,” Fleur d’Or et Acacia is my top pick for a spring scent this year. It’s bright, alluring, and sunny, drying down to a powdery finish without a hint of gourmand sweetness or floor-cleaner citrus in between.

I wish that this particular scent had better longevity and sillage, but it’s been my one big, unexpected love of the season. With top notes of lemon and bergamot, heart notes of mimosa and genet (a sweet-smelling shrub in the broom family), and base notes of white woods and musk, it encapsulates the feeling of spring without ever erring too mainstream or too obscure.

L'Occitane Fleur d'Or Acacia review

Fleur d’Or & Acacia takes La Collection de Grasse’s idea of “precious ingredients from France and afar” quite literally, with mimosa absolute from Grasse supported by Mediterranean acacia.

Though this scent was named (Fleur d’Or) for the yellow flowers of the broom and acacia plants, I also find it to be representative of the “yellow floral” scent family it belongs to — bright, springy perfumes; sometimes described as “sunshine in a bottle.” Fleur d’Or & Acacia is the only yellow floral I’ve ever owned and liked, but wow — do I ever like it a lot.

Vanille & Narcisse and Neroli & Orchidee »

Osmia Organics Juniper Fire Perfume Concentrate review, photos | Winter woodlands in a bottle

Monday, December 16, 2013

Osmia Organics Juniper Fire review

The product: Osmia Organics Juniper Fire Perfume Concentrate

2013 is turning out to be a great year for smoky scents. Between finding love in both Juniper Fire and Illume’s Woodfire candle, I’ve spent almost all of this month surrounded in deep, outdoorsy scents — and I couldn’t be more smitten with them.

Osmia’s perfumes are, perhaps, the most perfect portrayal of natural perfumery. The way Dr. Sarah Villafranco talks about her fragrances is so personal – each scent has a story, and each is made by hand in small batches. Blum, for instance, “may be a limited run, depending on [her] ability to procure more of the amazing honeysuckle absolute,” while Prima (“inspired by the smell of the dark, rich soil as it emerges from under the Colorado snow in the early spring,”) is blended with saffron oil that swirls its way into the fragrance like ink.

Osmia Juniper Fire perfume concentrate review Osmia Organics review

Juniper Fire is no exception to this rule. It was Sarah’s first perfume, and smells like an evergreen forest in the calm of winter. Beneath that, though, there is an undeniable warmth – almost as if you’re walking through these beautiful old trees, as tall as skyscrapers, but you can’t feel the chill at all.

A tribute to Sarah’s beloved Colorado, and created “after stepping outside our house on a breathlessly cold, blue-sky day with a fire burning in the fireplace,” she describes it as:

“Sweet, crisp, and comforting – somehow both chilly and incredibly warm.  A vanilla and sandalwood base with a hint of smoke, and the deeply wholesome smells of juniper and cedar – it’s like getting embraced by the mountains.”

Natural perfume review - Osmia Organics Juniper Fire

To me, Juniper Fire opens a little medicinal — but it’s not the kind of medicinal you’d find in a bottle of cold medicine. There’s this old Chinese remedy that my grandmother used to keep under the bathroom sink; a brown-coloured fluid in a red box that was meant to numb and heal bruises and sprains. A tincture of evergreen resin, safflower, and ginseng, it stained horribly, but she swore it took the pain away. Juniper Fire reminds me, at first, of that.

Past the first few minutes, though, Juniper Fire settles into something much more woodsy and close to the skin. It looses its medicinal edge and plummets straight for sexy — clean and unisex, but not department store unisex, you know? It’s sexless and genderless; a quiet, crackling campfire in the woods. 

The one thing about Juniper Fire that makes my heart break, however, is its longevity: a mere five hours, on my skin. That said, the scent is entirely unique, and only gets better with time: I merely like it for the first hour, but by the time I reach the third, my nose is literally pushed up to my skin. It’s beautiful – absolutely like nothing else you’ll ever find indoors. 

Osmia Organics perfume concentrate review Juniper Fire

Cedar Smoke, a similar Osmia scent, is no less gorgeous. It’s more subtle than Juniper Fire, and a little softer — though it does open with a touch of a (different) almost-medicinal note, just for a minute or two. Its cedar base leaves it smelling vaguely like a really sexy, dry sauna, and I would actually like it more than Juniper Fire if it packed a bigger punch. Osmia is very clear about the fact that their scents have only a 2-5 hour lifespan on the skin, and Cedar Smoke sits firmly at the two-hour end of that spectrum.

Cedar Smoke is more comforting than Juniper Fire, while Juniper Fire is more unique. I think anyone who loved one would at the very least like the other, but they are different enough that you need to sample both and pick your favourite!

Juniper Fire is a perfume concentrate, $150/0.48 oz in organic grape alcohol. Cedar Smoke is a perfume oil, $75/0.28 oz in organic jojoba and fractionated coconut oils. Both are packaged in glass with rollerball applicators.

Osmia Organics perfume concentrate review

The verdict?

I’m always hesitant to recommend products that come at a price like this, but in this case — I can’t not. Juniper Fire is beautifully composed: equally fitting on both men and women, it’s sexy in a very, very understated, down-to-earth way. To put it succinctly, Juniper Fire is the kind of winter scent that you’d never be able to find in a department store, and it’s all the better for it.

Like a breath of air in a snowy forest, it’s crisp, smokey, and wonderfully singular. At $150 USD, I’d really have liked to see better tenacity and sillage, but some ingredients (ingredients like cedar wood, pine needle, or juniper essential oils) just don’t have that — and I get it, I do. You can’t bend the boundaries of science, and Osmia is very upfront about their scents’ 2-5 hour, low-sillage wear.

For most of us, natural perfumes may seem overpriced: but if you have someone in your life who loves scents but can’t wear synthetic compounds (my sister, for instance, gets really pervasive headaches around them), or you’re trying to detox your personal care regimen, then they’re more than a worthwhile indulgence. 

Available: $150 USD/0.48 oz roll-on concentrate at Osmia Organics, or $2 for a sample (0.06 oz). International shipping available!

Additional photos & more »

Three gorgeous, out-of-the-box finds for the holiday season | The Gift Guide

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In a month that epitomizes opulence and indulgence, it isn’t hard to find lust-worthy items to gift for the holidays. Finding something just outside of the mainstream, however, is a different challenge entirely.

Here are three finds that any beauty lover would be pleasantly surprised to receive (but would never see coming).

For the skincare lover: STEAMCREAM ($20 USD)

STEAMCREAM original

STEAMCREAM first landed on my radar two years ago, when Lisa Eldridge declared it a “Lisa Loves” product. The brand is designed around what I find to be a really interesting concept: the cream itself never changes, but the tins are all limited edition (excluding Original and, in the UK, Freedom & Discipline). Steamcream is made to be both a skincare staple and a collector’s item — something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

Made with ingredients that are as fresh as possible, Steamcream uses a unique, steam-based process to fuse its ingredients together in a loose emulsion. The idea behind this is that, when applied, the product will sink deep into your skin almost immediately, making it lightweight enough for oily skintypes but hydrating enough for dry ones. (I haven’t yet figured out if this is true, but I’ll keep you updated!)

STEAMCREAM Light from Space - Nelly Makeeva

STEAMCREAM Light from Space & Silent Night

Steamcream can be used on the face, body, hands, and hair, and is handmade in the UK and Japan. It’s both vegan and cruelty-free, and if you see a tin that you love, or that someone you know might love — well, you might want to snap it up now, because there likely won’t ever be a second run. I’m smitten with the Light from Space and Silent Night tins, the latter of which has just the most charming design on its side!

Keep reading! »

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