Saturday, February 18, 2017

Return of the Lipstick Diaries #5: Glossier Jam and MAC Whirl

Man, it's starting to look like I go for themes when I do these posts. I really don't--I didn't realize Whirl was going to be so purple-y on me.

Speaking of purple: that's what Glossier Jam is, a sheer matte purple lipstick you can apply lightly over balm for an "I just ate a grape popsicle" look (as seen here), or that you can layer up for a deeper, plummier stain. I think Crush is a more flattering shade on me, to be honest, but for whatever reason, Jam remains my favorite Generation G. I assume it's because it's so flexible. And while I hesitate to recommend the Generation G lipsticks to most people for a variety of reasons, I have to admit that I do really enjoy them, especially since they've updated the formula and packaging. This stained look is my current go-to; I blame Kim Min-Hee's fantastic performance and watercolor-esque lipsticks in The Handmaiden:

MAC Whirl, on the other hand, was a complete let-down. I actually wasn't interested in this color much and only tried it because it came with a set of mini MAC lipsticks I got as a gift. (Yes, I know, Whirl is sort of an "it girl" color lately thanks to one of the Jenner sisters, but I'm horrible and I don't pay much attention to the Kardashians/Jenners.) I expected a matte brown, sort of a more neutral version of Besame Chocolate Kiss. What I got was as very cool-toned mix of brown, plum, and gray. I don't think it looks good on me in the slightest, and I removed it immediately after taking these pictures.

I'm starting to think I look better in, or at least tend to favor the look of, neutral and warm lipsticks over cool-toned lipsticks. What do we think?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Super Boring Skincare Tips from a Layman

Despite the fact that I am not a dermatologist and I do not, contrary to what some people think, have "perfect skin," I get asked a lot of questions about how I keep my face relatively clear. "What's the single most important product in your routine?" asked one person. "What can I use to get perfect skin like yours?" asked another. Weirdly enough, these are always the sort of questions I get: they're not about techniques or lifestyle habits, but rather, products. The belief that a tub of magical face cream or tube of expensive ointment can give you baby skin is still going strong. I blame hyperbolic marketing, "influencers" pimping products while neglecting to mention that they also receive regular facials, and--as mean as it sounds--general laziness.

I get it: skincare can be complicated. It would be so damn nice if there was just one product that could make everybody look like an airbrushed angel. Having dealt with random breakouts throughout my life and chronic hives for the last few years, I understand the temptation to pin all of your hopes on a wonder cream made from mermaid tears and unicorn piss. But the truth, at least for me, is that it you have to look beyond products and establish some good skincare habits to avoid intense reactions to new products.

Bear in mind that I am absolutely not an expert on skincare. I'm making this post because I've gotten so many questions about this topic over the past few years. I do not think these suggestions are revolutionary, and I do not have all of the answers. These are just responses I find myself giving constantly, so I figured I should write them down. With that said, my first suggestion is

1. The internet cannot replace experts.

If you're having a serious skin issue, please see a doctor or a dermatologist. I know it's expensive and can be very tedious, especially if you're dealing with an expert who won't listen to you. One of the reasons why I waited so long to see a doctor about my chronic hives was because I'd asked a dermatologist about the issue when it began, and I'd been brushed off. "Just take Benadryl," he said. "But what's causing it?" I asked. He just shrugged. "Take Benadryl. It'll go away."

Spoiler alert: it didn't go away. Two years later, I visited a different doctor, armed with a diary I'd kept chronicling my symptoms and an array of photos. She took me seriously, in part because she's not a douchebag, in part because I brought notes. We're still trying to figure out the root cause and to find the best course of treatment, but still: she gave me advice nobody on the internet could have.

2. That said, educate yourself.

A very dear friend of mine has gotten in to skincare this past year. Last weekend, he claimed that his skin was "freaking out" and he was going through a "major breakout." We were in a dark car, slash, he has Teflon skin and he panics when he gets so much as a clogged pore, so I didn't take him too seriously. But later, as we stood inside Sheetz at 3am waiting for our milkshakes and pizza, I noticed what he was talking about: there was a collection of tiny red bumps running down one side of his face.

"What have you been using?" I asked him. And he proceeded to read off a laundry list of products he'd been slapping on his face, masks and serums and lotions and potions loaded with physical and chemical exfoliants, potentially irritating essential oils, fragrance, and lord knows what else. "I'm going to try and clear it up with (insert the names of two or three masks)," he concluded. I told him that was probably a bad idea, because this looked like skin irritation, and he didn't he realize just how much he was exfoliating his face with this chemical and that one? Shouldn't he maybe try skipping the intense active ingredients for a night or two?

He just blinked at me.

As much as I love him, he is like many people who are new to skincare and have had generally good skin their entire life: he reads the little blurbs on the backs of the products describing what miracles it will bring, doesn't stop to think about the ingredients, and just slaps it on his face. This is something people really need to stop doing. Nobody is saying you've got to become an antioxidant encyclopedia, but before you put something on your face, please look up the ingredients. Figure out what they are, what they're supposed to do, and how they can interact with other ingredients or with your skin type.

3. So make Cosdna your best friend.

Cosdna is a skincare database that allows you to look up products or analyze ingredients lists to spot potential acne triggers or irritants. I often throw ingredients lists in to Cosdna because it puts everything in an easy-to-read list, provides clickable links for recognized ingredients so you can learn more, and helps me figure out what might be triggering any problems I'm facing.

Obviously, this is not a silver bullet that will instantly solve your skin problems. You have to put a bit of thought in to it. For instance: Cosdna lists "ethylhexyl palmitate" as a level 4 acne trigger, but my skin loves that ingredient; I know this because it's in so many of my staples. By contrast, capyrlic triglyceride doesn't have any numbers next to it, but I'm 95% sure that ingredient breaks me out because it's in so many products that have caused me issues. Still, it can help you figure out what ingredients might be causing you a problem, especially if you're new to skincare. And it's great for cross-referencing ingredients lists. Any time a new product breaks you out, compare the ingredients to your staples and other products that broke you out. Cosdna will make it easy to spot the potential cloggers that are blatantly absent from your staples.

Just a warning: Cosdna entries are supplied by its users, and sometimes, they mess up. When in doubt, click the "analyze cosmetics" link and copy and paste the ingredients list from the merchant's website.

Once you've picked out a few ingredients that pop up frequently in products that break you out, but are absent from your staples, you can very easily

4.  Keep track of your likely triggers.

Despite some of the snarking on forums and blogs, no, I do not avoid lavender oil in skincare because Paula told me so. I avoid it because, when I used a product containing lavender oil, I noticed a lot of itching while I wore it and obvious redness after I removed it. Hence, I no longer use products that contain lavender oil. Similarly, I avoid large amounts of drying alcohol (usually listed as "alcohol denat") and am cautious about anything containing squalane (since squalane comes from a variety of sources and sometimes breaks me out). Once you're 95% sure that an ingredient causes you a problem, you can cross a lot of products off of your to-try list.

I know that it kind of sucks when a product is getting mad hype and you notice it contains one of your problem ingredients. I understand the desire to say, "Fuck it, so-and-so loves it and their skin is gorgeous, so I'm trying it anyway." But if you know that an ingredient doesn't like your face, you have to skip that product. It's not worth the pain or the pimples.

5. Be patient.

Remember that friend I mentioned earlier? He'll gladly try five or six new products a week, applying them directly to his skin with no worries. And for the most part, this is fine for him: he rarely breaks out, his skin isn't sensitive, and the fact that he isn't extremely dry or super oily means that most products have a low performance threshold for him. Basically, they have to feel nice and make his skin soft and glowy. Bully for him and those with similar skin, and I mean that sincerely.

But if you're like me and you deal with any sort of skincare issue (acne, sensitivity, rosacea, etc.), you really have to be more cautious. For me, this means the aforementioned ingredient scouring as well as patch testing. "Patch testing" is just what it sounds like: you apply a dab of the product to a small area and observe how your skin reacts. My area of choice is back by my ear, since that skin is easy to cover up if I have a reaction. If you're extremely sensitive-skinned, you may want to start on the skin on the inside of your elbow.

And patch test for a while! It can take your skin a while to respond. I personally patch test for about a week--and even then, this method isn't perfect. I've absolutely used a few products that were fine when I patch tested them, but that caused a strong reaction or a major breakout after several weeks of applying them all over my face. But patch testing has definitely prevented me from using a slew of stuff that could've caused real problems.

6. Consider other factors that might be impacting your skin.

Any time I have a reaction or a breakout, there's somebody who says, "Well, it must be because you wear makeup." I respect that opinion: makeup can cause breakouts, especially if it's loaded with ingredients your skin hates or you aren't removing it properly. But when skipping makeup for a month and using the blandest skincare routine possible didn't alleviate my hives in the slightest, I started getting irritated by the people who insisted I'd be hunky-dory if I just put down my lipstick.

Sure enough, when I showed my doctor photos of my hives, and described how frequently and randomly they occurred, she agreed that it was likely something internal causing the problem. Your skin is an organ, and it will absolutely react to what's going on inside your body and in the world around you. Is your skin looking flakier than usual and seemingly sucking the moisture from your foundation? You might be experiencing low humidity. Are you breaking out on your chin and jaw, despite the fact that you're on birth control and your hormones are totally in check? It's possible you're intolerant to dairy, which causes those sorts of breakouts for some people. Is your skin usually totally clear, but you're suddenly noticing a patch of pimples in a weird spot? Stress can trigger acne. Is your skin unusually itchy? You might just be allergic to that new laundry detergent.

In my case, the hives seem to be caused by either an allergy that's worsened over the years and/or an extreme vitamin deficiency. No topical product would have changed that.

7. Learn to respect the boring shit.

Without a doubt, my number one skincare tip is "wear sunscreen when you're outside or near windows for a long period of time." This is almost always met with a sigh. "Yeah, yeah," people say to me, "I get it, but what else can I use to keep me looking twenty-four forever? What's the miracle product?"

I mean...nothing, really, but your best bet to prevent the signs of premature aging (including wrinkles and hyper-pigmentation) and, more importantly, skin cancer is sunscreen. I know it's boring. I know you don't see immediate results that magically erase every line on your face. I know it's tedious. But in many cases, it's the boring stuff that works the best in the long run. Preventing the damage in the first place is more effective than trying to fix a problem later on.

I think this is especially important for those who refuse to spend even five minutes on a skincare routine. I've had several friends and family members ask me, "How do I keep my face from feeling so dry?", and when I tell them to get in to the habit of using a moisturizer after their shower, they pull a face. They don't want to do it every night. They want a quick fix that they can do, say, once a month when it gets to be a real problem. But if you want your skin to be healthy and happy, it deserves consistent care, even if it's just taking two minutes every day to apply sunscreen in the morning and moisturizer at night. Think of it like food: it'd be nice if eating healthy once a month would keep us thin, but the reality is that we need to eat well consistently to reap the benefits.

(PS: Before you think I'm harping, I am not one of those people who thinks you should wear SPF50 every day and reapply it at 15 minute intervals even if you sit in a dark room most of the time. It takes me 30 minutes to get to work at the crack of dawn, and then I'm stuck in rooms with no windows until 3pm, so I don't wear sunscreen to work. But if drive an hour a day and the light hits you through your car window, yeah, sunscreen on your face, neck, and hands will be helpful. The sun isn't relegated to summer days at the beach.)

8. Be realistic.

I love Instagram and beauty blogging, but sweet fuck, the filtered world we live in makes me want to drive around with a megaphone, shouting "EVERYBODY'S SKIN HAS TEXTURE." That's why I love websites like Celebrity Close-Up--not because I delight in mocking celebrities, but because I'm so thrilled to have concrete proof that the rich and famous are human, too. Yes, they get pimples! Yes, they have pores! Yes, their makeup can look dry when you get within two inches of their faces!

There's no denying that some people have "better" skin than others; you may have more wrinkles than your best friend and they may have more post-inflammatory pigmentation. A person who deals with painful cystic acne obviously carries a different emotional burden from somebody with a few clogged pores. But my point is that nobody is a living Barbie. We all have pores. We all have wrinkles. We all have bumps. All too often I see people fussing because an exfoliant didn't remove every single bump from their face, or because they have even the tiniest bit of redness on their cheeks even after dedicating themselves to a vigorous skincare regimen. Accepting your normalcy is key.

I say this as somebody who used to panic over a single pimple and still struggles to accept the fact that she doesn't look as perfect as airbrushed Instagram photos suggest I should be. And I know why this bothers you, too: we live in an HD world that demands perfection while highlighting every pore and nose hair. But the sooner we come to accept that we will never look like plastic, the better.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sample Rundown #12

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably know that I'm trying to use up as many samples as possible in 2017, and I'm using my feed to document my progress. Unfortunately, I'm a bit of a dipstick, so I haven't been saving said samples for these posts. I'm trying to correct that now! Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in seven's Sample Rundown!

DevaCurl No-Poo Decadence -- I've had this sample for nearly a year, but I've only just now worked up the courage to try it. I'm old-fashioned when it comes to haircare; I like a sudsy shampoo and a rich conditioner. This product is very different: it does not lather and, according to many reviews, is meant to take the place of both shampoo and conditioner. This felt like a thick lotion to me, which was fine, but it was a little difficult for me to work it in to my hair. I also felt like I couldn't completely rinse it out, as if it were leaving behind a slight film. No-Poo Decadence left my hair feeling decently soft and not-too-frizzy, but honestly, I think it's a bit much for me. The Decadence line is probably best left to those with a much tighter curl pattern. Side note: these samples are super generous. I was able to wash my hair with this about three times before this review, and there was still a bunch of product in the packet.

Peter Thomas Roth Water Drench Hyaluronic Cloud Cream -- Like many skincare junkies, I was instantly drawn to this fragrance-free, alcohol-free, ceramide-and-hyaluronic-loaded moisturizer. It seems great in theory: 72 hours of hydration with a lightweight feel! Wow! In practice, though, this is hum-drum. A lot of the Sephora reviews rave about how this cream makes your skin "feel sooooo soft instantly!," but that immediate smooth feeling is actually from the large amount of silicone. I enjoyed the lightly-hydrating, non-sticky gel texture, and it worked well under makeup. That said, I'm not about spending $52 for a moisturizer that behaves more like a primer on my skin. If you're more normal-to-oily, you might love this as a day cream.

Perfekt Beauty Lash Perfection Gel -- I have a love-hate relationship with this mascara. On the one hand, it makes my lashes look AMAZING. It provides plenty of volume, some length, and the perfect amount of inky-black color. The flaking and smearing are very minimal; I mostly experienced these problems after 6+ hours of wear. On the other hand, applying this mascara is the shit of my nightmares. The formula isn't watery, but it still manages to be as messy and slow-drying as a mascara can be. I can only use this product if I'm not wearing eyeshadow because I have to completely wipe down my eyelids after application. I'll finish the tube, but I definitely won't repurchase it.

Giorgio Armani Lip Magnet #400 (Four Hundred For All) -- Despite their cool names, sleek packaging, and generally photogenic qualities, I can never seem to find an Armani lip product I love. These liquid lipsticks are no exception. Four Hundred For All really is a lovely neutral red that will likely flatter most people. The finish is a beautiful soft matte, and while the formula is very watery, it applies smoothly and without streaking. The doe foot applicator was easy to control. This doesn't dry down completely--you'll get some lipstick on your fingers if you pat your lips--but it isn't especially prone to smearing, either. I only seemed to have an issue when my niece made a sudden grab for my mouth (and received red-lipstick-coated fingers for her efforts). But while a lightweight, not-so-apolocalypse-proof formula usually means you have a less drying liquid lipstick, I found the Lip Magnet formula as drying as a lot of other brands. Is it the worst? Of course not! A little lip balm at the end of the day fixed all ills. But it's definitely lacking the unique quality I'd need to justify $38 for a single lipstick.

Friday, February 10, 2017

REVIEW: Milk Makeup Cheek Products

I rip on makeup brands and products in general because I am, admittedly, a crotchety old bitch. But I must confess that I'm rougher on Milk Makeup. I'd blame it on their trying-too-hard-to-be-quirky "tutorials" featuring naturally gorgeous hipsters and obnoxious editing techniques if there weren't more practical concerns. Namely, a lot of their products are housed in packaging that's more funky than functional, and while I'm a fan of "getting your money's worth," I know I'm not the only person who thinks an ounce of cream blush is absurd. Just half the amount of product and drop the price a little! Geez.

Cranking aside, I'm clearly a hypocrite, because I keep trying their stuff. Not only have they made a few products that are genuinely good, like the Gel Brow pencil I wore for these review photos, but they also create the sorts of quick-and-easy cream and liquid formulas I'm attracted to. That's why I decided to get sample sizes of their Lip + Cheek in Perk and their original highlighter in Lit. Thanks, eBay!

The full sizes of these babies contain a full ounce of product and retail for $24. While you're definitely getting your money's worth, I repeat that you're probably never going to finish a full ounce of cheek product, even if you use it every day for a year. The minis are 0.1 ounces each (so a tenth of a full size) and currently are only available in subscription boxes or kits like this one. I wish Milk would sell the minis separately; I think they'd go like gangbusters. The packaging is simple plastic twist-up tubes with clear lids that snap on tightly.

  Both of these products contain a host of potential cloggers, including (but not limited to) ethylhexyl palmitate, castor oil, coconut oil, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and some citrus oils and waxes. They're also fragranced, the highlighter with an actual perfume and the lip and cheek product with those citrus oils. Honestly, I'd recommend that those with acne-prone or sensitive skin give these a hard pass, even if you plan on patch testing.

The formulas for these sticks are not quite as creamy as many other cream-based cheek products; in fact, I find they're a little tacky and can feel rubbery during application. With that said, they glide across the skin with relative ease and are easy to blend out with a finger or a brush. I noticed that these did make my foundation move a bit if I applied too much pressure or swept them back and forth, so I just drag them across on my cheeks in a C-shape and blend out with my finger. They don't dry down completely, either, although it's nothing too extreme; your hair won't get stuck on your cheeks, for example.

While both of these products look okay on me, they have their issues. Lit is a bit more metallic and shimmery than I would like, but it does provide a lot of glow and reflect light very well. However, it seems to emphasize texture on my face. You can see this in the above photo: the rest of my face looks weirdly smooth compared to the spots where I've applied the highlighter. Perk isn't quite as pigmented as I expected it to be, and I had to apply two layers to get it to show up in real life and on camera. I can't imagine this shade showing up on anybody with medium to dark skin. I didn't care for it on my lips, either, because it had a vague "filmy" texture and didn't last long.

Here are the Milk products compared to two of my staples, the Glossier Haloscope in Quartz and the Becca Beach Tint in Dragonfruit. (The picture lies: this shade is Dragonfruit, not Lychee.) Quartz is lighter and more "natural" than Lit, with no real obvious shimmer. Dragonfruit is brighter than Perk, and it has a satin finish. I'd say these two alternatives are frankly superior to the Milk products, although I must admit that some will find Haloscope's persistent stickiness less appealing.

I'm glad I got the minis of these products for roughly $5 each, because they're small enough that I can finish them relatively quickly. Once they're gone, I won't repurchase them. They're just really "meh," and there's much better stuff available on the market.

RATING: 3 out of 5
You can purchase these products at Milk Makeup's website.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Return of the Lipstick Diaries #4: Glossier Crush and MAC Nouvelle Vogue

 I prefer to space these posts out, but I'm still fighting the final vestiges of that sinus infection, so I'm not yet ready to do photographs for my next review. (Hint: it's on some more Milk Makeup stuff.) Instead, I'm going through my RotLD archives and bumping this one up a few days.

These lipsticks look strangely similar in this picture, but they're very different in real life. Glossier Generation G in Crush is a sheer raspberry pink shade with a matte finish. I think this is my current favorite Generation G; it's very brightening and easy to wear. This photo shows about 2 layers of the product--you can apply a bit more if you want a more saturated shade. Glossier did update the packaging and formula of their Generation G range, so now the tubes are sturdier and the actual lipstick is a bit smoother. I currently keep Crush in my work bag.

MAC Nouvelle Vogue was not as much of a success for me. It looks a hair warmer in this photo than it actually is; in real life, it's a very cool-toned pink. For whatever reason, this sort of matte, mid-tone, blue-based pink washes me out and makes me look rather lifeless. I will say that the formula of the MAC matte lipsticks has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years, and Nouvelle Vogue is no exception. It applied very smoothly and didn't dry out my lips too much. Unfortunately, this shade just isn't for me.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

February 2017 Blogsale

I have attempted to show usage/condition via photos. Please Google swatches or ask for more information if you are curious about any of these products, the exact color, etc. Please be forewarned that the outer packaging may be banged up.

 Send requests to BadOutfitGreatLipstick at GMAIL. I will invoice you (no gift payments, please). Items are only  officially "yours" after you've paid. These prices are already extremely low and have shipping and PayPal fees factored in, so I do not haggle. $15 minimum purchase.

US ONLY SALE: I do not ship outside of the US because of issues with customs. I apologize for the inconvenience. Payment must clear before shipping. I use PayPal to ship, which comes with a built-in tracking system. :) I package as carefully as I possibly can, but I am not responsible for packages once they leave my hands. With that being said, if you receive your items and feel that you have been mislead about their condition/usage, please contact me and I'll see what I can do to rectify the situation. I'm a very honest person, and the last thing I want to do is appear dishonest!

 I clean my entire collection about once a month with an alcohol spritz. However, I will not sanitize these items before shipping them out unless you ask me to, because I know some people are very particular about how they sanitize their products. Be forewarned that some of the cream products may have very tiny brush hairs in them, as creams are wont to get, but again, I have kept them quite clean; I'm very, very fussy. If you ask me to sanitize items, I will sharpen pencils and spritz blushes, lipsticks, and foundations with alcohol. I always wipe down the outer packaging with alcohol before sending.

$2.50 each items

Madam C. J Walker Coconut Oil, BNIB
Aveda Be Curly Co-Wash, BN
Farmacy Skin Dew Hydrating Essence, BN
Lancome Energie de Vie, BNIB
Josie Maran Vibrancy Foundation in RG5 Dynamic, 1-2 pumps used

$5 each items

Clinique Moisture Surge Extended Thirst Relief, only a pea-sized amount used
Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Gel Mask, only a pea-sized amount used
Urban Decay Revolution Lipstick in Obsessed, lightly used
Bite Beauty High Pigment Pencil in Velvet, roughly half used
Besame lipstick in 1930 Noir Red, used 2x
Besame lipstick in 1935 Cherry Red, used 2x
MAC lipstick in Nouvelle Vogue, used 2x

$10 each items (at least 90% remains for all of these items)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso
MAC lipstick in Viva Glam Miley Cyrus I
NARS Multiple in Anguilla
Bobbi Brown Pot Rouge in Fresh Melon

$15 each items

Glossier Super Bounce Serum, at least 95% full
Lime Crime Velvetine in Utopia, used 2-3x
Lime Crime Velvetine in True Love, used 2-3x
Lime Crime Velvetine in Lulu, used 2x
Lime Crime Velvetine in Red Velvet, used 3-4x
NARS Audacious lipstick in Audrey, at least 95% full
Urban Decay 24/7 Waterline Eye Pencil in Legend (black), BNIB
Shu Uemura Hard 9 Formula Brow Pencil in 03 Brown, sharpened at least twice

Friday, February 3, 2017

Try This: Niche Pocket-and-Purse Sprays Under $30

My apologies for the late post; I've been whammied by a sinus infection this past week, so I've spent most of my time blowing my nose and falling asleep to Golden Girls re-runs. Pro tip for those who find themselves similarly congested: I rub Bag Balm around my nostrils and above my lip about a dozen times a day to prevent cracking and bleeding. Yes, it's for cows. Yes, it works.

Now that we're past that, let me tell you that one of the things I hate most about congestion is that it renders fragrances useless. I love fragrance, you guys. I'm one of those weirdos who gets super-excited to pick out her perfume every morning. I thumb through my full bottles, splits, samples, and decants and take my time finding the scent that best suits my outfit and mood. For me, it's the final step in getting ready for work or a night on the town, just as important as a swath of highlighter or the perfect shirt.

That said, fragrance is an expensive indulgence. It's one of the reasons why I have so many splits and decants: $150+ a bottle makes me cringe. But there are absolutely affordable options on the market, even if you're in to the more expensive real of niche perfumery. Here are a few of my favorites.

Dame Perfumery: Dark Horse, $10 for 5ml

 Let me just say that I think the entire Dame Artist Collection is 100% worth it. Black Flower Mexican Vanilla turns weirdly rubbery on me, alas, but it smells amazing on everybody else; it's the ideal grown-up vanilla. Desert Rose is simple but beautiful, a stately rose smell that's simultaneously fresh, flowery, and light. But for me, the real winner from the collection is Dark Horse. This is a Pennsylvania autumn day in a bottle: it opens slightly sweet, yet never cloying. I'm reminded of taking hikes in our local parks with my partner, the air crisp and filled with the sound of dry leaves and branches cracking. It develops in to a slightly spicy guaiac-and-vetiver shroud throughout the day. While it maintains a light quality a la most summer scents, I'd definitely say this is an ideal cold-weather fragrance, and it's delightfully unisex. As a side note, their customer service can't be beat: my original 5ml of Desert Rose arrived with a goofy nozzle, and they immediately sent me a new bottle, no charge, no return.

SIZES: $85 for 100ml, $35 for 10ml, $10 for 5ml
NOTES: bergamot, lemon, cinnamon, jasmine, carnation, rose, clove, guaiac wood, vetiver, vanilla, musk
PURCHASE AT: Dame Perfumery

 Etat Libre d'Orange: Remarkable People, $12 for 4.7ml

Alright, truth time: I'm not that wild about most of the Etat Libre d'Orange line. It's not that their fragrances are bad, per se. I just think that they come up with these risque names and intricate backstories, and then the actual perfumes are...rather run-of-the-mill. The same could be said for Remarkable People, which has hardly any staying power and a note list that looks rather benign. So why do I love it? Those top notes, guys, those top notes! Remarkable People opens with a tangy-yet-effervescent mix of champagne and grapefruit that just brightens my day and makes me, of all people, actually enjoy a citrus smell. The pop of cardamom adds a hint of smoothness. The top notes barely last an hour before fading in to a slightly sweet, relatively generic mixture of sandalwood and jasmine, but because this is a low sillage fragrance, you can keep layering it on. I keep this in my work bag because it's so happy and inoffensive.

SIZES: $149 for 100ml, $90 for 47ml, $52 for 30ml, $12 for 4.7ml
NOTES: grapefruit, champagne accord, cardamom, jasmine, curry je, black pepper, labdanum, sandalwood, lorenox

Juliette Has A Gun: Lady Vengeance, $28 for 7.4ml

This option definitely has the most luxe packaging on the list: the bottle is heavy glass rather than plastic, the spray is very fine, and it arrives with plush padding in a matte box. Of course, you pay for this fancy presentation, but I think Lady Vengeance is worth it. Despite the wicked name and the scary-for-some notes list, I (as a wearer of many heavy, thick fragrances) find Lady Vengeance very wearable. The rose is a partially powdery, partially sweet, and the vanilla keeps the patchouli from being too dark or sweaty-smelling. It's a crowd pleaser, too; my mom normally only likes perfumes that smell soapy and "clean," but she really loves this one on me. Overall, I think this is a textured rose fragrance that works in a variety of situations: one spray for work, two sprays for a date.

SIZES: $135 for 100ml, $100 for 50ml, $28 for 7.4ml
NOTES: bulgarian rose, patchouli, lavender, vanilla

PK Perfumes: Gold Leather, $20 for 5ml

I've tried almost every fragrance from Paul Kiler's eponymous brand, but Gold Leather remains my favorite. Despite the absolute laundry list of notes, I find that this is, at its heart, a pure leather fragrance. By that, I mean this smells like actual leather--it's probably the most realistic leather smell I've ever owned, and I've owned quite a few. This opens sunny and sweet, with a mixture of freshly squeezed citrus (the satsuma is especially prominent) and some clean white florals. After a few hours, the scent becomes a bit richer, with notes like amber and tobacco taking over. And always, there's that leather in the background: a freshly-treated but not overtly chemical sort of leather scent, a smell that actually reminds me of opening up a new pair of boots or putting on your favorite jacket. There are a number of lovely fragrances from this line, and almost all of them are available as 5ml purse sprays for $15 to $20, but Gold Leather is one of the few that tempts me to buy a full bottle.

SIZES: $165 for 60ml, $110 for 30ml, $75 for 15ml, $20 for 5ml
NOTES: gardenia, tuberose, ylang ylang, helichrysum, honeysuckle, lily, jasmine, cananga, genet, satsuma guava, red mandarin, bergamot, smoke tree, amberwood, tobacco, clary sage, patchouli, oakmoss, leathers, benzoin, tonka, styrax, fossilized amber, musks, civet