Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Quick Sniff: Privet Bloom

It's been super warm lately (hot, even, for Alaska), so I dug into my perfume sample stash for a nice light, fresh scent. I came up with Hampton Sun Privet Bloom, which I've been wearing — and loving — for about a week now.

Describing fragrance can be tough, and the best way I can think of to characterize Privet Bloom is: It smells green. It's sort of a more floral version of my beloved and long-lost Gap Grass. The scent reminds me of that still-fresh-and-cool feeling you have at the very beginning of a hot, humid summer day (before you get all sweaty and sticky).  Sephora reviewers call it "fresh" and "summery."

Hampton Sun's own description:

A delicate scent that captures the purity and elegance of summer in the Hamptons, with a fresh and unique blend of lily of the valley, white hyacinth, sea spray, dune grass, blue plum and the captivating privet blossom.

I do wish Privet Bloom had a little more staying power. On my skin, at least, I find it fades quite a bit by the afternoon. Or maybe I'm just sweating it off in my office, which, like most buildings in Alaska, does not have A/C and basically became an oven the moment the thermometer crossed 80 degrees.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Sephora opens in Anchorage

Today was the day... when four mature, self-respecting professional women snuck out of their offices took an appropriately-timed and strictly work-related midmorning break to meet in at the Anchorage Fifth Avenue Mall to attend an event of significant cultural import: The grand opening of the northernmost Sephora in the United States!

This guy, who works in the olive oil store next door, clearly did not realize the import of the moment into which he had wandered.

There were a few people already gathered outside the store when we showed up, about 10 minutes before opening, and by the time the doors were unlocked there was a crowd of maybe two dozen people, including two men: the camera guy from "Good Morning Alaska" (a program I did not previously realize existed) and the mall rep taking photos for Twitter.

The staff actually brought out a giant red ribbon and did a cute little cheer about making Alaska more beautiful, and then they cut the ribbon and welcomed us all into the store.

The employees were clearly just as excited as the customers; as we walked in, they lined up on either side of the door and clapped in rhythm as they welcomed us. Once inside, you couldn't turn around without bumping into a smiling, bubbly Sephora team member trying to help you find something or offering to dish up samples. (Hi, Liz! Thanks for the Fresh mask tester... can't wait to try it.)

An energetic employee shows off Fresh Sugar lip treatments for this anonymous but very responsible  customer who was almost certainly not technically skipping out on work.

The store itself is a pretty typical Sephora, except that everything is new and shiny and untouched. And there are some features I haven't seen in other Sephora locations, like the interactive touch screen fragrance selector, which helps you search fragrances based on "impression" or take a quiz to determine your fragrance style. (I'm elegant, obvs.) 

Hands down, though, the single most exciting thing about today's event was the newness of the testers. There were literally testers that had not yet been opened and still had the seals on them. I actually tried on lip gloss on my lips (with a disposable wand, naturally) because I knew it didn't have a million other people's germs in it.

That's a tester of the Fresh Black Tea Age-Delay Cream (retail $95), completely untouched by human hand! Until a moment later, when I dug right in. First!

Smashbox Limitless 15 Hour Wear Cream Shadow tester with an unsullied surface!

The white whale.

The most impressive virgin sample? The Make Up For Ever 12 Flash Color Case, totally unmolested. Every single one of these I've seen in every Sephora I've ever visited has been smeared and dug into and glopped around to within an inch of its life. And here it was, perfectly intact. I had to fight hard against the urge to grab a handful of disposable applicators, sit right down on the floor and paint every square inch of my own exposed skin.

Despite going in with a strategy (I went straight for the nail polish display; Sephora stopped shipping most nail polish to Alaska a while back due to USPS hazardous materials restrictions, and I know the Nails Inc. leather and feather polishes will sell out quickly, at least in good colors), it didn't take me long to experience total sensory overload. My companions and I kept running into one another in front of random displays, dazed, like we'd been wandering in the desert for weeks and were suddenly ushered into the Wynn Buffet. After about a half hour of wide-eyed wandering, we lined up to make our purchases. I managed to walk out with just three nail polishes, an OCC Lip Tar, and the MUFE lip gloss whose tester I'd broken in. Our purchases were packed into vinyl Sephora totes (free while supplies last!), and in a happy coincidence, this purchase requalified my VIB status for next year – and now that we have a real Sephora, I'll actually get to use the free makeover that came with it.

I expect Alaska's new Sephora will be a madhouse starting tonight and lasting for, oh, six months or so (if you're not from here, you might be unfamiliar with the consumer hysteria that greets new arrivals on the retail-and-restaurant scene), but the opening was pleasantly uncrowded and friendly. And lucky me works within walking distance of the mall, so when I feel the need to pay my next visit, I'll just have to play hooky schedule that important work-related meeting on a quiet weekday morning before the teenagers and tourists wake up and hit the mall.

And in other good news, look at what's opening right next door...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

First blush: Josie Maran at Sephora

All of the products Sephora sent me to check out are new to me, including a large selection of Josie Maran products. I don't think I've ever used Josie Maran before, so I was eager to give the line a test drive. Here's a look at a couple of the products I've been using regularly since last week.

Josie Maran Argan Matchmaker Serum Foundation

I have combination skin, and I'm picky about foundation. These days, I'm also pretty lazy about foundation. Once upon a time I had the energy to get up early and carefully apply with brushes or sponges, but now I'm seven months pregnant and exhausted, and I'd rather stay in bed an extra 15 minutes, so I'm a big fan of foundations that go on easily with just my fingers. I was especially wary of the Argan Matchmaker Serum Foundation because — well, I have combination skin, and there's the name of an oil right there in the product name. 

This product has a consistency you'll find familiar if you've used the L'Oréal Studio Secrets Magic Liquid BB Cream or other liquid makeups that adjust to match your skin tone (like Almay Smart Shade): white liquid with tiny little granules of pigment. The directions recommend applying it with the Josie Maran Foundation Brush 001, but I just went in with my fingers. 

At first I was concerned that the coverage was a bit too sheer. It does have some buildability, though, and for about a week now I've been applying one pump all over my face, then following it with a second pump. It's still not what I would call a full-coverage foundation, but since it's summer (and since my skin is in pretty good condition these days; thank you, pregnancy hormones, for sparing me your acne), I'm OK with that. (I also really like that it feels like nothing on my face. Seriously, like I'm not wearing makeup.) I still need concealer in a few key spots (under my eyes, around my nose, and on a couple of fading acne marks), but in general, the makeup evens out my skin tone and still looks nice and natural. I get some freckles in the summer, and I like that they show through this foundation. (In fact, my husband commented on it appreciatively.)

Sephora sent me the Light/Medium shade, which is fine for summer, but if I continue using this product into the winter, I'll probably need to switch to Fair/Light. The "Chameleon Pigments" do a pretty good job of matching my skin tone, but I do notice I oxidize a tiny bit tan by the end of the day. The wear is great, though, and I'm not sure if it's the foundation or the new setting powder I'm using or my new skincare routine (more on that soon) or the combination of all these factors, but lately my T-zone has not been getting oily in the afternoon, and that's a big change for me. If you have very uneven skin tone and prefer a full-coverage foundation, this might not be for you. The price is also a bit steep at $42. On the other hand, if you don't like it, it's Sephora, so you can always just take it back.

Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelée

First of all, I didn't want to touch these blushes, for a couple of reasons: 

  1. Look at how beautiful and glossy the unmolested surface is! Like tiny little pots of Jell-O. It seemed like a shame to mess with them.
  2. I really just wanted to eat them. Like I said, they look like tiny little pots of Jell-O.

Eventually I managed to talk myself into touching them. And even though the surfaces are no longer shiny and perfect, it was worth it. This is another argan-infused product, but these also contain coconut water (so trendy), and they're supposed to feel like "a refreshing sip of coconut water for your skin." I don't know about that, but they do feel nice going on, and more important, they look natural, build and blend really well, and wear all day long. I've worn one every day for a week, along with the Josie Maran foundation, and I'd say the promised 14 hours of color is a conservative figure. 

Getaway Red is my favorite. It's a true red that, on my skin at least, gives a very natural-looking flush. It goes on sheer but is easy to build up.

I was honestly a little wary of Coral Oasis. As you can see from the photo, it looks — well, orange. And I was nervous about how it would look on my cool-toned, pale skin. But I went for it this morning, and I was actually quite pleased with the result. This will be a summer color for me, I think; it's too warm for me to pull off in the winter, but it goes nicely with the freckles that are currently showing through my foundation.

Now that I've tried Coral Oasis, I'm ready to jump in to Berry Bliss, which seemed intimidatingly dark at first:

But now that I've gotten the hang of the product and how it builds on my skin, I think I'm ready to go for it. (Still, I'll probably try it for the evening before I wear it to work.)

Below, today's makeup with the Argan Matchmaker Serum Foundation in Light/Medium and Coconut Water Cheek Gelée in Coral Oasis. It's not as made-up as I'm used to looking (you can definitely spot a blemish or four, and I played it kind of fast and loose with the concealer this morning), but for summer — and for my current state of low energy — I'm happy with it, and I like that it looks natural and lets my freckles show through. 

The lipstick is another Josie Maran product, and I'll have more on it (and why my full upper lip isn't done; there's a bit of a design flaw) coming up.

And tomorrow morning at 10 a.m., I'll be ready when Alaska's first Sephora opens its doors! Alaska Dispatch's AK Shopgirl has more details on the new location.

Products in this post were provided for review by Sephora. Opinions are my own.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Special deliveries

That was a nice long blog hiatus, wasn't it? It turned out to be a busier winter than I thought it would be, mostly because not too long after my last post, I got some exciting news: My husband and I are expecting a baby later this summer! So the time I might have spent posting I've mostly spent on morning sickness, sleeping, and doctor's appointments. I've been meaning to get back on a posting schedule for a while now, and today something happened that made me stop dragging my feet:

This box arrived.

On the outside, it looks like any old cardboard box. On the inside, though, it holds the promise of the one thing that is almost as exciting to me as the impending birth of my firstborn child...

Sephora is coming to Alaska!

OK, so technically we've had a Sephora presence in the AK for a while. First there was the mysterious (and now long gone) Sephora vending machine, and then we got a Sephora inside our JC Penney. But as of next Friday, we will finally have our very own stand-alone Sephora store. Complete with more than 5,500 square feet of prestige cosmetics brands.

You may be thinking: What's the big deal? Can't you just order from Sephora? Isn't the JC Penney location enough? 

Sure, I can order from Sephora online. Except that USPS shipping restrictions prevent them from sending certain things to Alaska. Like, oh, I don't know... nail polish. And in-store events (makeover nights, VIB shopping previews, etc.) usually aren't extended to JC Penney locations. And the JC Penney location (while perfectly nice) is small and has a limited selection compared to the store we're about to get. But above all, the most fun thing about shopping Sephora is getting the chance to try everything before you buy — which you can only do in person!

Speaking of which:

The folks at Sephora were kind enough to send me some products to try from Josie Maran, Marchesa, Bite Beauty and the Sephora collection, and I'm looking forward to sharing some reviews over the next week (which will give me something to do while I'm eagerly awaiting opening day).

They also sent these:

Pardon the dog in the background.
Yes, those are adorable Sephora-in-Alaska-themed sugar cookies from Eleni's. I'd say they're too cute to eat, but... well, you read the part where I said I was pregnant.

Sephora opens in the Anchorage Fifth Avenue Mall next Friday, June 14. More information below... see you there next week!

- SEPHORA Opens Its Doors On June 14th-

Calling all makeup mavens, fragrance fanatics, skincare enthusiasts and beauty addicts! SEPHORA is opening its doors at the Anchorage 5th Avenue Mall in Anchorage, AK on June 14th.

  • The new 5,553 square foot, free-standing SEPHORA store in Anchorage is a virtual paradise of endless beauty options with over 13,000 products from more than 200 brands, including SEPHORA’s own collection of makeup, skincare, tools and accessories.
o    Makeup lines such as Benefit, Hourglass, Josie Maran, Kat Von D, MAKE UP FOR EVER and NARS
o    Innovative skincare and smilecare lines like Algenist, Caudalie, GLO, NUDE Skincare and Ole Henriksen
o    Fragrance offerings from Fracas, Guerlain, Marc Jacobs, MARCHESA, Philosophy and Stella McCartney
o    Specialty hair care lines like Bumble and bumble, Living proof, Ojon and Phyto

The SEPHORA retail concept is rooted in aesthetics, presenting our clients with the most unique product assortment, store design and client services.  SEPHORA was the first beauty retailer to employ the unique open-sell philosophy, allowing clients to shop a myriad of brands and encouraging them to try, test and play with everything from lip glosses to blushes, skincare to fragrance.  At SEPHORA, discover a world where prestige cosmetics are showcased in gorgeous open displays for clients to have the freedom to explore and sample at leisure.

Here’s what’s hip and happening at SEPHORA Anchorage:

• Must-Have of the Moment – Just in time for summer, Sephora proudly unveils the seventh edition of its perennial summer must-have, the Sun Safety Kit. Featuring a collection of SPF must-haves and sunless tanning favorites, $20 of the $30 purchase price will benefit The Skin Cancer Foundation. While skin cancer is the most common type of cancer found in the United States, it is also one of the most preventable. Help others become aware of this growing presence of skin cancer while defending yourself against the sun’s harmful rays.

Transform your look in minutes. Come to SEPHORA Anchorage for a complimentary Express Service at the SEPHORA Beauty Studio, the place for one-on-one beauty sessions with our experts. Services offered include: Blush & Bronze, Flawless Foundation, Treat & Conceal, Beautiful Skin, Smoky Eye, Faux Lashes, Perfect Lips, Everyday Eye and Essential Eyeliner. With a Customized Makeup Application, get the look you want, for every day or a special event, custom-created in a private 60-minute makeup session with an expert artist. Plus, get tips and techniques to recreate it on your own. Minimum $50 purchase required.

Get privileged! Get rewarded!  Get personal!  Join Beauty Insider today to get behind the beauty velvet rope access to Insider-only products, exclusive samples, birthday gifts and an all-access pass to personalized beauty. Already a member?  Update your SEPHORA status and become part of the premium rewards program,Very Important Beauty Insider (VIB).  Not only will you receive all the fabulous BI perks, VIB status will also grant you additional benefits, from large in-store and online discounts to free VIB-only beauty bonuses and an invite to a private Holiday Shopping Party.

• It’s a birthday celebration for you and SEPHORA Anchorage! It may be SEPHORA’s birthday in Anchorage, but the celebration doesn’t stop at the store opening.  As a Beauty Insider or VIB, you’re also eligible to receive a special gift – Benefit Real Birthday Turn-Ons! Check your e-mail, mail or simply come back toSEPHORA Anchorage or any other SEPHORA location, within a few weeks of your birthday to pick up the special gift SEPHORA has waiting for you!