Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Which High End Candle Should You Buy?

Most of my vices are relatively cheap. I love wine, but I have no problem drinking it from a box or a $10 bottle. Lipstick is practically an addiction, yet spending more than $25 a tube is a rarity for me, mostly because there's so much good stuff for $20 or less. And while I admit to being a nerd, I have a hard time swallowing the $60 price tag for most new video games.

But candles? I don't know what it is, but I can spend on a candle without blinking. If I had to guess why, I'd point to how much I love fragrance and relaxation. Few things are more soothing than lowering the lights, picking a book to read, and lighting a candle.

That said, not all candles are worth the money. This is true even if you're like me and you go for the smaller, cheaper votive candles--they're still pricey at this level! Hence, I'm going to compare four high-end or luxury brand candles I've been trying over the past year or so.


My initial experience with Diptyque was not particularly pleasant and, admittedly, soured me on the brand a bit. That said, I finished three of their votive candles--Baies, Roses, and Figuier--and ended up enjoying the actual scents of the candles. They're surprisingly simple, given how many raves this line gets; Roses, for instance, is a beautiful fresh rose scent...but that's it. It's not an especially complex or unusual smell. Still, it's a very genuine fragrance, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

The throw is decent; these candles filled my bedroom with a light fragrance that lingered for about an hour after burning. Also, nobody can deny that these have some damn pretty jars. I don't care if  it's a beauty blogger stereotype: the empty jars I fill with perfume samples and drop on my shelves look lovely. The jars get more comments than the fragrances, in fact; none of my friends gave their opinion on these candles until I specifically asked how they liked the smell. The general consensus? "It's nice."

Jo Malone

The Jo Malone candles were received far more enthusiastically by my friends, which kind of surprised me due to their very basic fragrances and relatively light throw. Really, though: Blackberry and Bay barely perfumed the air in my room, even after two hours of burning, but my friend crossed the threshold and immediately said, "Ooooh, what smells good?" I think because Jo Malone scents tend to be rather light and basic, they're crowd pleasers. There's next to nobody who will be offended by Blackberry and Bay's slightly sweet, vaguely herbaceous, after-the-rain-but-not-musty smell.

The packaging for the actual candles is just "okay." They're not as plain as the NEST candles, but they don't have Instagram-worthy labels like Diptyque. That said, Jo Malone sends their products in attractive, ribbon-tied boxes stuffed with black tissue paper, and I give them points for that. (Mostly because I suck at gift wrapping and they're doing the job for me, BUT ANYWAY.)


I've been snitty about Byredo in the past, but I gotta say, they've got the candle game down. Bibliotheque is my current favorite candle, a rich, luxurious mix of peach, vanilla, leather, and patchouli with a dash of powdery florals for texture. And I'm damn picky about peach fragrances, so coming from me, that's saying something! This is also a powerhouse of a candle, even if you only get the 2.4oz votive; barely a half hour in to burning, my bedroom or bathroom is thick with this scent.

The packaging is lovely, too. The wax, jar, and wick are all black, though the jar is actually translucent, which allows you to see the warm light from the candle when you burn it. (I have to point out, though, that the "all black" look makes it a tad difficult to see the wick and trim it properly.) There are also a few "special edition" candles in other colors, like deep purple. Overall, it's a candle that feels expensive.

Unfortunately, Byredo candles seem to be made more for the candle connoisseur. My friends said it was "okay, but a bit much." My mom complained that it "smelt like paper." (The few perfumes she enjoys tend to be simple, bright florals; anything even remotely textured, earthy, or smoky grosses her out.) Also, it looks like they're phasing out the cheaper votive sizes; I can only find a few of the votives on Lucky Scent these days.


Like Diptyque, NEST was a brand that started on my bad side. I purchased a full-sized Hearth candle during a Sephora sale several years ago, and I was pretty pissed when it had absolutely no throw. Several people assured me that this was a fluke and NEST candles were actually quite nice, so I gave them another shot. I'm glad I did: the Moroccan Amber votive fills the room with that warm, rich, amber-and-vanilla smell I love in the winter. The fragrance isn't quite as strong or long-lasting as Byredo's, but it's still damn good.

I will point out that while NEST candles smell good, the actual variety in the range is kind of "meh." Creamier, vaguely gourmand smells in their range, like Sahara Spice and the aforementioned Moroccan Amber, are well-rounded and pleasant. Their attempts at crisper or fresher smells, however, tend to read a little screechy and synthetic to me. I'm also not wild about their packaging, which consists of a clear jar with some frosted stripes. At $16, you're getting a nicely-fragranced candle, but not an especially pretty one.

Final Thoughts

Behold the handy-dandy reference chart! I ranked each candle from 1 to 4, 1 being the best and 4 being the worst, on a variety of scales. Just in case you're having trouble figuring it out:

Packaging -- How aesthetically pleasing is the candle?
Scent Complexity -- Are the fragrances unique and special, or relatively linear/mundane?
Throw -- How strong is the fragrance during and after burning?
Popularity -- Did other people enjoy this candle?

Based on this chart alone, you might assume that there are clear winners and losers. NEST, for instance, didn't receive a single 1, and Byredo got the most 1s. However, I think the chart actually demonstrates that these candles all serve a different sort of customer and purpose. With that in mind, I'd recommend Byredo for people who are interested in unique scents and a luxe experience. If you want something that will be a general crowd pleaser, something that's unlikely to offend guests, go for Jo Malone. Those on a budget will likely prefer NEST, since the drop in price does not seem to coincide with an extreme drop in quality. And if you want a well-balanced, pretty candle, try Diptyque.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Inspiration: Mughal-e-Azam

I'm honestly a little shocked that it took me so long to get to writing this post, considering how iconic Mughal-e-Azam is and how much I love it. Or rather, how much I love the music, because the movie itself doesn't impress the way the soundtrack does.

You see, Mughal-e-Azam centers around Anarkali, a mythical figure whose social status and adventures will vary drastically depending on which legend you're reading. In the film, she's a court dancer who falls in love with a fictionalized version of Prince Mirza Nur-ud-din Beig Mohammad Khan Salim (say that 12 times fast), much to the displeasure of Emperor Akbar. Akbar is so pissed about the romance, in fact, that he keeps tossing Anarkali in to dungeons between dance numbers. His son starts a rebellion to defend their love (which is totally not the reason the real Salim started a rebellion, but hey, romance!), there's eventually a truce, Anarkali spends some more time in a dungeon...it's kind of a long-winded mess. And I say that as somebody who generally loves historical epics of all sorts.

But guys, it's so damn pretty to look at, and the soundtrack will never leave my top 10 list. Mughal-e-Azam was also my introduction to the beloved Madhubala, who died tragically at the age of 36. I admit I was initially more drawn to the villainness Bahaar, played by Nigar Sultana, a less popular actress I nevertheless fell madly in love with. Like, hardcore love. I bought every movie I could find with her name in the credits. But Madhubala eventually grew on me.

So let's start with Bahaar! Here's her introduction in the film, showing her surreptitiously wearing a crown while she talks about her plan to become empress. God, I love this bitch. Also, take a close look at her eyes: the eyeliner in this film tends to be very stealthy, drawn close to the lashes and flicked out just a tad.

And is that warm pink lipstick the actual color she wore? We'll probably never know: only four reels were shot in color. If you saw Mughal-e-Azam when it was first released, you saw a movie that was almost entirely black-and-white with just a few scenes in Technicolor. The pictures you're about to see come from a re-colorized version of the film, meaning a company was big bucks to effectively paint the black and white scenes. (This information will be important later, I promise.)

Early in the film, Bahaar isn't a villain, just a pretty woman. Her makeup is less obvious, and she's shown in brighter, lighter clothing. This changes, though, when she encounters her rival for the prince's affections. Compare the picture on the left to the picture in the bottom right.

PS: Keep an eye out for this carefully-styled sideburns on other actors! Such a nice touch.

Here we see the more obvious eye makeup Bahaar rocks for the rest of the film. They also painted her lips a deeper plum shade in a number of scenes. And that beautiful powder blue ensemble she's wearing on the right is pretty much the only lightly-colored thing I can recall her wearing in the movie; for the rest of the film, she wears plenty of black and some deeper, more saturated colors.

I love the brow shape they used on all of the women in this movie: very soft, smooth, and round, with just a slight taper at the end.

Here's Bahaar in the film's final song sequence, gloating over the inevitable sad fate of our star-crossed lovers. I adore this last outfit of hers, a heavily-beaded, all-black number covered with jewelry. I also like that they painted her lips red to match the henna on her fingers and toes. I think, by the way, that this is one of the surviving scenes originally shot in technicolor--again, that'll be important later, I promise.

Let's move on to our Anarkali, played by Madhubala. Honestly, it took me a while to get the hype; I actually thought she was less pretty than Nigar Sultana the first time I saw the film. I think the difference is that Nigar has a very striking face with dramatic features, whereas Madhubala's face is a little more "open" and uniform. It takes a while to grow on you. I can now see that the perfect symmetry of her face, the natural rosebud shape of her lips, and the sparkle in her eyes made her one of the great Bollywood beauties.

Also, if you've ever seen any Bollywood images or gifs, you're probably recognizing this sequence. The image of Anarkali lifting her veil and giving us the first clear view of her face is especially famous:

A close-up of Anarkali's makeup in this scene--I can't remember any other scene where she's very clearly wearing eyeliner. Here she's got a bit of shadow smoked on her lids (also visible in the black and white version, though of course you can't tell what color it is) and some winged eyeliner. I get the impression they didn't use false lashes or even much mascara in this scene, but that definitely changes later. Her eyebrows also seem thinner and more arched.

Here's a more hazy sort of makeup: brown shades have been used to add definition to her eyes, her lips are glossy, and her brows are now less arched.

Oh, hey, and let's talk about the other girl in that second picture for a second!

That's Sheila Dalaya playing Anarkali's sister Suraiyya. She's a little firecracker of a character, with beautiful eyes and a smile that lights up the screen. I wish she got more screen time.

Alright, back to Madhubala.

Mughal-e-Azam's rendition of natural makeup on the top left, the day after on the right and bottom left. Sometimes you'll notice this glossy texture on the lids, and I'm wondering what they used to do it. I'd actually love to duplicate that look nowadays, but I hate the feeling of lipgloss on the lids and I can't seem to find a face gloss I like. If anybody has a recommendation, hook a sister up.

Black-and-white films used to use glitter or even gold dust on actress' skin to create a luminous effect. You can see it a bit on Madhubala's forehead here, and if you actually watch the film, you'll see her face glittering at a few points. While the reflect looks outright glittery in color, it's not as visible if you watch the same scenes in black and white. Case in point:

Somebody who is more science-y needs to explain this to me. Is it because the fewer colors in the black and white version creates a blurred effect? Do we just notice light more when it's "colorful?" Heeeelp!

There are definitely some false eye lashes on the bottom left.

One of the things I find very interesting is how clear Madhubala's acne is under her makeup in some scenes. I don't say that to be nasty: I'm honestly glad that a great beauty didn't have to have skin like porcelain to be considered lovely.

The pictures of Anarkali wearing that stunning red and blue outfit come from the song sequence for "Pyar Kiya To Darna Kiya." It's the film's most popular song, one of the most famous scenes, and one of the sequences filmed in Technicolor. It's an absolutely stunning piece of cinematography with great music, so please consider giving it a watch. I really enjoy the makeup, too; the red lipstick and blush read very 50s to me. Oh, and fun fact: that style of clothing is actually called an anarkali.

Okay, so...here's what the whole "what is the original Technicolor and what was recolored?" thing gets screwy. In these scene, Anarkali leaves the room wearing a warm pink lipstick, the same color the colorization company painted on half of the women for most of the film. Then she enters another room for the final music sequence, the veil comes off...and she's wearing a rich red. Did they screw up the recoloring process? Or was that song sequence filmed in Technicolor, and that red is the appropriate color? I think it was the latter, based on how the entire scene looks. So why recolor her lips peach instead of red? I dunno, I'm probably overreacting, but it drives me batty.

More gratuitous pretty! The jewelry is very carefully colored to match the wearer's clothing--such a nice touch. Also, I dig dudes who wear pastels and pink.

When Salim first sees Anarkali, he actually thinks she's a statue. A sculptor hasn't been able to finish his work, so he's covered Anarkali in gray paint and asked her to stand in the statue's place. It's actually kind of cool.

Let's show some love for yellow in this movie. I look like garbage in yellow, but it works well in Mughal-e-Azam.

These bitches have a "melodic debate" about love with background singers in matching outfits. I just can't, you guys; it's too good. You may find the singing grating if you aren't used to the back-of-the-throat, up-in-the-nose sort of vocals so prevalent in classical Indian music, but I love it.

Fair warning: newer copies of this film usually include the digitally remastered version of the music, which is clearer and less grainy. But this was the only decent version of "Teri Mehfil Mein Kismat Azmakar" I could find with English subtitles. My apologies for the sound quality. If you like the lyrics, definitely check out the remastered version.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Prepping for the Next Q&A!

I've gotten a few random, interesting questions over Instagram Stories and Twitter, so I figured it was time for another Q&A post/video! Feel free to leave your questions here or on my other social media. I'll gather them up and film a video...some time. XD

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Anti-Haul (aka, "What I'm Not Going To Buy"), Sixth Edition

I can't believe I'm already posting another anti-haul, but here we are, listing off products and ranting about why they aren't worth the money! In all fairness, I understand the appeal of each of the products I'm about to mention. I'm even waffling on one of them despite my better judgment. But at the end of the day, I can't, in good conscience, recommend that you buy these products, and I'm gonna tell you why.

As always, these posts are not meant to make you feel bad for liking a product or spending your money; I'm just trying to think carefully about my own consumerism and maybe encourage you to think carefully about yours. Once again, mad props to Kimberly Clark for popularizing and promoting the Anti-Haul movement!

1.Urban Decay Basquiat Collection, $17-39 each -- Oh, man. Okay. This is one of those rare instances where I could go off the deep end talking about freaking makeup. As it stands, I'll point you to several "Talk Me Out Of It" threads that popped up on Reddit's Makeup Rehab sub (1, 2, 3) and explain my feelings as professionally as possible. For starters, this collection goes against everything Basquiat stood for as an artist. A lot of his artwork protested rampant consumerism and capitalist greed, so slapping it on an eyeshadow palette feels outright disrespectful. Yeah, art makes for pretty makeup packaging...so why not work with a living artist who is not so anti-capitalism instead? Another prominent theme in Basquiat's art was black identity, yet Urban Decay used a white model (Ruby Rose) in their advertisements. Lastly, the names of the shades are so unfeeling, they actually left me gobsmacked. Just look at the eyeshadow palette in the header image for some examples. They not only used a piece of art with the words "PER CAPITA" written all over it, they also had the gall to make a shade called "Not For Sale." There's a shade called "Influence," and while some may argue that this refers to "artistic influences," we know Urban Decay loves drug culture names. Basquiat died from a heroin overdose. I could go on and on, but suffice to say that I think this entire collection was in poor taste and should not be purchased by anyone.

2. Murad Supplements, $50-57 each -- I understand that some people are way more in to supplementation that I am, and I get it. But I can't get behind designer supplements like this. I think part of the reason why the Murad supplements stuck out to so much is because, by coincidence, I'd been browsing the vitamin aisles at Target before I stumbled on these"beauty nutrient" bottles at Sephora. Hence, I immediately recognized that the Murad supplements aren't worth the inflated cost. Seriously, several lines of vitamins at Target were focused entirely on "beautifying ingredients" and were $15 a bottle or less, a fraction of Murad's prices. Bottles of glucosamine and hyaluronic acid pills marketed at joint pain sufferers are far cheaper than this Hydro-Glow Supplement. Honestly, even if you take a regular multi-vitamin, you'll be getting most of what the Youth Builder provides. Yes, the amounts are smaller, but I think the average person with a healthy diet will do just as well with 100% DV versus 200%. Don't believe me? Compare Murad's Youth Builder with One-a-Day Women's.

3. Glossier Invisible Shield Daily Sunscreen SPF35, $34 -- This is the product I'm still waffling on, despite the fact that Glossier was kind enough to send me the ingredients list almost 2 full weeks before the launch and I've had plenty of time to yell "NO!" in my head. The ingredient that immediately caught my eye was the orange essential oil, included to give the sunscreen a "pleasant scent." Now, citrus oil doesn't seem to automatically eat my face the way lavender oil usually does, but it can be sensitizing. Some people have also wondered whether this is a phototoxic oil that will impact the sunscreen's effectiveness. (Any chemists in the house who can weigh in?) Furthermore, I'm 95% sure I should skip this because they chose avobenzone as their sunscreen filter; this filter is notorious for being unstable and sensitizing. And while this product may have a lovely texture--the one thing that's still tempting me to try it, since I've had an awful time finding a face sunscreen that works for me--there's nothing about it that's particularly unique. I know the US is woefully behind other nations when it comes to sunscreen technology, but as some wiser people on skincare forums have pointed out, there are certainly newer, more stable filters they could've chosen. If you can tolerate alcohol denat and you still want great sun protection with a lightweight, serum-y texture, consider browsing the many offerings coming out of Japan and Korea; Ratzilla is a great source for reviews and ingredients lists.

4. Sephora Lash Stash to Go, $28 -- Some of my dissatisfaction with Sephora's Lash Stash series is entirely personal: I'm at the point where I've tried most of the mascaras they include. The only one I haven't tried in this current set, for instance, is the Bobbi Brown Eye Opening Mascara. However, there's a bigger issue, which is that the voucher they include for a free full-size tube of your favorite is a pain in the ass. This current Lash Stash, for example, says that you cannot use your voucher online or at a Sephora in JC Penny's; you have to go a full, free-standing to Sephora to use it. Other kits include vouchers that only work at SiJCP, which is what I have from a stash I bought last year. Why haven't I turned in my voucher and gotten a full tube, you may ask? Well, it turns out the mascara has to be in the store for them to redeem the voucher--they can't order it online for you. Because the only mascara I loved out of that Lash Stash was the Milk Makeup Ubame mascara, and none of my local Sephoras stock it, I'm left with a voucher I can't use. I recommend getting samples when they're available as 100 point perks or coupon code products instead.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Return of the Lipstick Diaries #9: Lime Crime Cupid and Saddle

I decided to use two more Lime Crime Velvetines for this round: one that I'm not drawn to, even though it's relatively flattering, and one that I always want to pull out of the drawer, even though it looks "meh" oh me.

The first shade is Cupid, a warm pink. Wearing it that day and looking at in these pictures, I have to admit that I think the color is absolutely beautiful, and I think it brightens up my complexion. The formula is also a Velvetine standard: smooth, easy to apply, and long-wearing. So why don't I grab this shade more? Honestly, I think it's because I'm not naturally attracted to warm pinks for...some reason. Also, it's not soft enough to work in a "nude lip" look, but it's not as bright as the other "bold lip" shades I tend to reach for. It's in a weird slot in my collection, if that makes sense.

Saddle is a slightly different story. I think this color radiates autumn, which is My Thing. But you know what? I'm not sure about it. Don't get me wrong: if I crop this photo in to a disembodied lip swatch, I can totally appreciate how delightful this vampy red-brown is on its own. But Saddle just doesn't seem to work on my face. I enjoy wearing it, yet I admit that it doesn't look as flattering as Besame Chocolate Kiss, which is a bit lighter and more red. I'm thinking of holding on to it until this fall rolls around, then re-assessing how I feel.

Monday, May 8, 2017

VIDEO: Spring 2017 Empties

(NOTE: To watch full-screen, start playing, then click the YouTube button at the bottom right.)


0:35 - body care

2:30 - fragrance

5:50 - hair

7:10 - skincare

12:30 makeup

Thursday, May 4, 2017

I Gave This "Bath" Stuff Another Try

My brother mastered the perfect relaxing bath years ago. Several times a week, he finishes off a long work day with a tub full of hot water, several burning candles, and one of his favorite TV shows playing on his phone. He'll stay in the tub for an hour, occasionally turning on the spigot to heat up the water, but otherwise doing as little as possible. He is, essentially, a Bath Master.

Me? Not so much. The last time I tried taking a "relaxing bath," I made the water in the hotel bath tub way too hot and damn near boiled myself. (Actually, I just got really faint and light-headed, but you get the idea.) I can't wear my glasses in the tub, so watching a TV show or reading a book is out of the question. I don't like shampooing my hair under the faucet while I avoid dipping my face in the bubble bath-laden water below. I fidget. Really, a nightly shower, followed by my skincare routine, is just a better fit for me.

But because so many people extol the virtues of a hot bath, I figured I'd give it another shot. And because I'm a cheap bitch, I got my supplies at the drugstore.

First, we have the staples: my favorite dry shampoo, the Unscented Not Your Mother's Clean Freak, and my Glossier headband. I knew if I skipped washing my hair, I could fuss less. Then I went to the store and picked up epsom salts, since I've heard about them for years, but have never actually tried them; the Dr. Teal's Ultra Moisturizing Mineral Soak seemed like the best fit for my lizard skin. I also purchased the St. Ives Oatmeal and Shea Butter Body Lotion, which I've always enjoyed because of its lightweight texture and soft scent. Last, but not least, I grabbed the 7th Heaven Finger Masques I'd received free from Influenster to keep my hands occupied.

The one not-so-cheap item I utilized in this spa night was my beloved Byredo Bibliotheque candle. I'm still a bit bummed that they're seemingly discontinuing these smaller-sized candles, but I eventually decided that I loved it enough to spend $80 + tax on the big mama size. Bibliotheque is a rich mixture of peach, vanilla, vaguely powdery florals, and musk with some patchouli for texture. It's worth it.

Also, notice the soft orange glow in the room? I wish I could say I had fancy spa low lights, but really, I'd taken my desk lamp in to the bathroom and set it on the floor so I could see. My brother says he often takes his baths in near total darkness, with only the candles to light his way, but I'm too freaked out by the dark to do that. (Please tell me I'm not the only adult who can't do the dark.)

Finally, I needed a beverage and some entertainment. Somehow, my family managed to run out of wine, my most recent batch of iced coffee isn't done brewing yet, and I wasn't in the mood for iced tea. So I went with lemon water instead. For +5 Basic Bitch points, I drank it out of a mason jar. Then I found a podcast that interested me and kept my phone next to a clean hand towel, just in case.

I was ready.

I started the bath with the epsom salts. As instructed, I emptied about half of the bag in to the tub while the water ran. To prevent my previous Cooking My Undoubtedly Tasty Self disaster, I switched between very warm and tepid water until the bath was filled. I stepped in to the tub and was immediately impressed by how soft the water felt...

...but I was not too thrilled to feel some of the epsom salt granules under my feet. They eventually evaporated when I got in the tub and moved the water around a bit, but ergh. We weren't off to a good start. And sure enough, it took me a few minutes to get truly comfortable; my tub is an inch or so too short for me to stretch out my legs entirely, and getting the finger masks on was a bit more fiddly than I expected.

Within ten minutes, though, I was definitely relaxing. I was soaking in souped-up water, moisturizing my neglected cuticles, and listening to Megan Phelps-Roper's account of growing up in the Westboro Baptist Church. The bathroom smelled of Byredo Bibliotheque, and I was only a little anxious about the possibility of the candle falling off of the sink, rolling across the bathroom still-lit, and catching my hair on fire, because that's the sort of stupid nightmare scenario I often dream up.  Really, it was...nice. I ended up soaking for most of the podcast, only vaguely aware of time passing me by.

The clean-up, I admit, was not my favorite. As Sam Harris finished his conversation with Roper, I fished finger masks out of the draining bath water and took a full three minutes moving the warm candle so the wax wouldn't spill. I loved rubbing lotion in to my epsom-soaked skin, though--that's something I'd highly recommend. And while I definitely think a wine buzz would've improved the experience tenfold, I still felt soothed.

Am I ever going to become a bath master like my brother? Doubtful. My bag of epsom salts is still half full, and it'll probably stay that way for a couple of weeks. Frankly, I'm just too lazy to do all of that set-up on a regular basis; I'd rather take my five minute shower and crawl in to bed with a book. But am I going to enjoy an occasional bath from here on out? Definitely. And when damn near everything you need to take a nice bath costs $5? Yeah, I'm worth it.