Thursday 30 December 2021

"The Lipstick Effect" in the time of Covid, plus my discontinued Burberry Nude Rose dupe merry-go-round

Readers will doubtless be familiar with the term "The Lipstick Effect", whereby in times of economic crisis consumers are drawn to self-comforting purchases of luxury goods, but trade down to smaller and cheaper options such as a niche scented candle or high end lipstick rather than fur coats or Louis Vuitton leather goods (to cite an extreme example). We've had nearly two years now of stop-start social isolation and travel restrictions, and as Christmas approached I found myself ineluctably compelled to buy myself all manner of affordable treats, from Blonde Chocolate Honeycomb pieces from Aldi to Turkish Delight from T K Maxx and fox-themed Fairisle socks from H & M. But beyond all that - and there were many more items than I care to disclose, some of which should perhaps be set aside till next year! - I also had a nagging urge to replace my go-to daytime lipstick, Burberry Nude Rose, which is as flat as a pancake now and which I have already re-bought several times.

A cursory squint on Google revealed that the price of Nude Rose (not the most recent lipstick of that name, which was a "Lip Velvet 405" and more of a definite pink, but rather the original Lip Cover No 25 version) had shot up to £28 since I last bought it, when I am sure it was more like £22, which I know is already quite steep for a lipstick. Yet I was bewitched by the haptic allure of the ruggedised Tartan bullet, and the easy-close magnetic cap, with its satisfying thunk...Anyway, my search also confirmed that the Nude Rose I had owned was discontinued, prompting another flurry of googling to hunt for any remaining stock knocking about in some remote corner of the Internet.

I quickly found an example of the correct Nude Rose for sale on a discount clothing site in the US for $30, which unfortunately necessitated a US address. I approached a friend in Portland - the driver on the West Coast leg of the Monochrome Set tour in 2019 - whom I knew to have plans to travel to Europe as soon as it was practicable. He was very happy to act as shipping address and onward mule once he was able to cross the pond again, should the postage (and/or customs charges) directly to the UK prove punitively expensive, as they may well have done.

As soon as I heard from my friend, I went back on the clothing site, but the lipstick was gone...This news in turn prompted a plummet down the rabbit hole of dupe identification, which swallowed up two entire evenings and drove me just shy of utterly exasperated and stir crazy.

First up, I found a YouTube video, where the reviewer, MrsTheDoll, presented a quintet of alternatives to my beloved Burberry:

L'Oreal Fairest Nude (800) / L'Oreal Balm Nourishing Nude (818)  / Maybelline Colour Sensational Nearly Bare (205) / MAC Hug Me / MAC Half 'n' Half 

Well, of course this triggered yet more googling to see if I could confirm these comparisons from other reviews, or even acquire "reverse dupe confirmation" eg by putting in "MAC Half 'n' Half dupe" and seeing if Nude Rose popped up in the other direction, as it were.

MAC Half 'n' Half ~ Source: Asos

What happened instead was that the "reverse dupe" tactic tended to throw up completely different lipsticks, which I dutifully proceeded to google and attempt to "dupify" in their own right, and so the trail went on and on and on...and on. Many of the lipsticks mentioned proved to be discontinued as well, though it might have taken me several hours of keen pursuit before this dawned on me(!); some of them were too sheen-y or too sheer or too matte or too expensive or too perfume-y (if the reviews were to believed), and thus I continued to shuttle from blog to blog and video to video like a ball bearing in a desperate game of bagatelle trying to align all the requisite attributes in a coherent pattern, including verifying the most important variable of all - colour.

In the end, I impulsively bought L'Oreal Beige a Nu for about six quid including postage - it had the twin advantage of being one of the few nudes I was considering that you could still actually buy anywhere(!), and it was cheap. And looked broadly in the right colourway. Okay, triple, not twin advantage. But it wasn't mentioned as a dupe for Nude Rose! Hmm, though I see it is cited as a dupe for Charlotte Tilbury's Pillow Talk, which looks very nice, haha. Beige a Nu isn't as creamy and moisturising in feel as the Burberry, not by a long chalk, but it is in the general ballpark, all things considered, and not too much money to waste on a punt - I will certainly wear it. 

L'Oreal Beige a Nu ~ Source: Luxplus

And then, on a whim, I re-googled Nude Rose on my phone (which uses a different browser and search engine from my net book, with a less American slant), and suddenly I saw a couple of stockists pop up, both purporting to sell the very article I had been hunting for all along! One was another discounted fashion outlet, the other a pharmacy. I bought one immediately (for just £15), then regretted I hadn't gone for two, in the spirit of always having a back up for discontinued items of great importance. So I placed an order with the other store and am still waiting for it to arrive. The pharmacy lipstick has come and is the real deal - you cannot believe how happy I was to be reunited with it. Having used Nude Rose consistently for so many years, and had so many happy times while wearing it - Undina knows how much I am wedded to the brand, as a fellow Burberry owner - it feels like a part of me more than a mere accessory, if that doesn't sound too grandiose. Oh look, I even wrote a post about Burberry's lipsticks back in 2012 before I bought my first one!

Note that I learnt in the course of my research that the term "nude" is a very broad church indeed, and includes my one quid bargain from Poundland (Choca Mocha No 4) for which I also have a back up. ;) So here is my current line up of "core" nude lipsticks, with the Burberry on the left, then the L'Oreal, and the Poundland on the right.

So, having wasted umpteen hours hunting down a substitute - only to end up buying the very thing I really wanted in the first place, in addition to the L'Oreal that I found, which wasn't even listed as a dupe for Nude Rose anywhere, but which just looked "about right" to my exhausted eye, haha - my advice would be to get the one you want when you see it, and don't mess about. For the principle of the "Lipstick Effect" allows for a pricey lipstick purchase in lieu of a much more extravagant outlay. With Louis Vuitton tote bags hovering around the £1000 mark - and arguably being a bit obvious and/or vulgar - a £15 luxury lipstick (or even two of them, hehe) seems like the epitome of self-restraint.

Oh I say, I just spotted another dupe of the Charlotte Tilbury I mentioned in that same link: Rimmel Rose Nude 45. It is "Nude Rose" reversed and only costs about a fiver. Or is it too pink for my warmer toned skin? Hmm, shall I "buy the bullet"....? Or will the next lipstick look exactly like the ones I already own, which as all wearers of lippie know, is the way it goes...

Have you driven yourself round the twist hunting for a much loved beauty item that is discontinued? Whether perfume, makeup or skincare? Did you win?!

Friday 17 December 2021

A random round up of perfume oddities

I am sorry that I have been gone my flimsy defence, I have been preoccupied with recurring bouts of eye eczema - unusually for this time of year, as the main triggers are pollens of every stripe. At first I blamed a conditioner high in natural ingredients, which can be as irritating if not more so than synthetic ones, only to experience another episode a couple of weeks later despite avoiding the offending hair product, leaving me none the wiser. These flare ups are now commoner than periods of "good skin", and I am even starting to wonder if I should believe in chemtrails after all, and that planes are spraying some irritating chemicals in the atmosphere that are landing on my face, haha. At this point in my bafflement and frustration I am open to any explanation, however off the wall.

Staying with the notion of "off the wall", this post will take the form of a compilation of odd things linked to perfume that have struck me lately.

The perfume bottle that isn't

Reprising the theme of a post in 2013 on "perfume related imagery", I have another example to add to the pot, namely a dish I bought in a charity shop for £3 (see above). Does that not look like a bottle of Estee Lauder Private Collection Amber Ylang Ylang to you? Okay, a bit squarer perhaps, and without the beaten gold top. And the top it does have admittedly resembles a wan and bloodied finger, and is on the skinny side. But a definite resemblance nonetheless, I would say. Through half-closed eyes the white streaks could even be seen as representations of sillage, hehe...

Source: Boots

The perfume reviews that weren't

I did originally think I would review the latest release from Papillon Perfumery, Spell 125, as I have a fondness for the house and have covered most of the perfumes in the Papillon stable. Not quite all of the line, mind - not Anubis - but most of them. And Spell 125 is a very fine composition like its fragrant forebears, even if it is not really "me". For I have a problematic relationship with pine, and found it difficult to connect with Spell 125 on a personal level. It struck me as more of a "foresty atmosphere" rather than something you would wear to accessorise an outfit - the olfactory equivalent of the musical sleep aids found in the deepest recesses of the Calm app, some of which go by the startling name of "dronescapes". Claire of Take One Thing Off makes this very point in her own stellar post on the scent, using the term "environmental", and later alluding to Spell 125's "ascetic, modern spaciness", though I promise I had the same reaction independently. ;) She does concede that Spell 125 would nicely accessorise a yoga outfit - and act as a kind of scented "om" mantra perhaps? So that would have been the angle I would have taken, but there was absolutely no need as Claire had eloquently mined the same metaphorical seam before me. Spell 125 also reminded me of a poem I wrote when I was 11, which was published in the school magazine, although I have no copy of that or the poem itself anymore. I know it was about a crypt, and evoked the dank musty, chilly feel of the sarcophagi in that underground space where no light could get in. I remember the first two lines and that is it:

"Alabaster icy cell / This is where the spirits dwell"

Sarcophagus in St Mary's, Ingestre

I do know the poem had a meditative, dronescapey quality to it, with bonus murmuring insects outside in the churchyard and a fair few mossy flagstones, but my memory is as fuzzy as I believe the atmosphere of the poem was. So that scuppered the review as well. And the third thing to do so was the fact that while I am aware of the significance of the name "Spell 125", every time I hear it I instantly think of "Bet 365", possibly because they are a local company - and major employer in the area! - in Stoke. And that was the final nail in the coffin of the review that wasn't, and is what qualifies it as an "oddity" for inclusion in this post.

Then there is another new perfume I am not going to review, because it would dispel the mystery readers may prefer to solve for themselves. As soon as I sniffed it, I immediately thought:

"Woody soapy iris".

My next impression (before consulting the note list) was of a muted and hazy, more high end take on Bourjois Soir de Paris, which was of course a huge hit in its day. 

Top notes: Violet, Peach, Apricot and Bergamot
Middle notes: Iris, Heliotrope, Rose, Ylang-Ylang, Jasmine and Lily-of-the-Valley
Base notes: Amber, Sandalwood, Vanilla and Musk.

Soir de Paris is noticeably fruity and sweet (due to the first three notes above), and "puts out more", whereas this new fragrance is a sophisticated, understated veil. Interestingly, 11 of the 14 notes in Soir de Paris are in the new scent, though it has many more besides. But that could well explain why I went straight to the Bourjois in my mind. Below is a photo of my vintage mini (featured here), which is sadly too irrevocably gunky to be used now.

My world is not JPG

Recently I have been progressively friended on Facebook by a bunch of perfumistas, who all seem to know one another and be from The Netherlands or Belgium. I accepted the friend requests and was soon hit up with the following invitation to join a group about Jean-Paul Gautier called "mijn wereld is JPG" - at 4.04am in the morning! So many assumptions involved here: that I speak Dutch/Flemish, that I like JPG enough to wish to join a group devoted to the brand, and (most improbably of all) that I am awake and raring to respond in the middle of the night! You may well ask why I don't turn my phone off to avoid such disturbances, and that is because I drift off to sleep listening to podcasts or meditations or one of the aforementioned dronescapes and my phone is therefore still on for the rest of the night.

"Hallo, ik heb deze groep op Facebook gemaakt waarin je mogelijk bent geïnteresserd - mijn wereld is JPG"

The perfumista alarm clock

I bought a travelling alarm clock on eBay the other day, as my trusty old folding leather one was in for repair and not expected to come out alive. Even if it did - as it has to my surprise - it must be "on its last hands", and it is always handy to have a back up against the time that nobody makes them anymore, on the assumption that we all now use our phones instead. If I have a very important early start - say if I am catching a train - I will often set two devices, not being a morning person. Anyway, the clock arrived yesterday - a dinky little thing with a cheery orange leather interior - and I was almost as excited by the design of the clock itself as I was by the tissue paper in which it was wrapped, which had Penhaligon's perfume bottles all over it. How very unexpected! And what an inadvertently apt choice on the part of the sender. ;)

The Alien perfume sample

I know Omicron is about to descend on us all shortly, and possibly precipitate another lockdown, but I have managed to get out and about a bit lately, and recently met up with a Japanese friend, who kindly donated a clutch of skincare and perfume samples she had acquired as GWPs when buying larger skincare products. The one that intrigued me most was the sample of Mugler's Alien, with which I am familiar already. It was the delivery mechanism of the sample that tickled me - you pulled a cardboard tab upwards to reveal a white plastic nozzle, and then pressed the image of the bottle to deliver a spray from it - which is the closest I have seen to a sample replicating the experience of using a tester. ;) Genius really, and guaranteed to appeal to my inner little kid. 

Do you have any perfume oddities to report? Let me know in the comments.