The Art of Memory-Making with the Darling Clandestine Halloween Suite

Oversized sweaters, drapey scarves, leather jackets, pumpkin-spiced everything–these are just a few of my favourite things about Fall. When October hits, I can count on cheesy horror movies every night, spicy lattes, and going flat broke on spooky clothing, dark makeup, and limited seasonal perfumes. When I look back on Autumns past, I remember flashes of orange and red beneath my Docs, the scent of pumpkins and pie spice wafting through the sleeves of my faux jacket as I lug my portfolio out of my car. I remember thick, ambered chocolate and sticky-sweet Halloween candies drifting up as I fill pages in my sketchbook at the cafe.


But this Autumn has been different. It’s been mossy forest trails and dusky rose gardens, cold darkroom chemistry and silver emulsions. This autumn needed a new olfactory soundtrack. Enter the Darling Clandestine Halloween Four-Scent Suite. There’s a reason DarlingClandestine is one of my favourite perfumeries: nothing can be expected, except quality and creativity. Presented in dropper-topped glass bottles, they appear every bit the mad alchemical product that perfume really is. The sleek, clean lines add an elegance to them, and they have an air of quack medical serums and elixirs when displayed together with my other DarlingClandestine bottles. But rather than claiming to soothe a colicky child or cure a woman’s ills, the labels are a series of breathtaking, beautifully-composed photographs by Leif Johnson. Each image depicts an almost eerily-calm landscape inhabited by a lone figure, like a snapshot from a long-ago memory, or a glimpse into a dream where the beach is our rational mind and the water is our emotional state. From the outside, it seems these were made for a season of darkroom sorcery and adventures behind the lens.

Like any scent, though, the real magic comes out on the skin. I was immediately drawn to Squander, with its crisp apple and creamy sandalwood, the ghost of cloves and spices like trails of exotic cigarillo smoke in brisk evening air. It’s everything I ever really look for in a Fall scent, replete with memories but hungry for more. Wither, too, pulled me in at first sniff: immediately leather boots and cool mists, it springs to life as a juicy berry and foliage scent when it hits my skin. It’s blue and green, purple and black, algid and zoetic. Spurn, by contrast, is a warm, tart red, like pomegranate wine aged in sweet oak barrels. It has a distinctly dry, leafy quality underneath the initial spike of fruit that makes it a distinctly cold-weather scent, to be paired with fire-lit gatherings and brisk evening excursions. It was Falter that shocked me, totally unlike anything I would have expected from a Fall seasonal perfume. All sweet grasses and green herbs, it’s a swirling, misty haze of a scent. It’s the foggy Reservation trails I’ve followed, the small, tender greens that spring up between layers of leaves fallen years before. There’s something rich and buttery like squash or smashed white pumpkin beneath it all, giving it a hint of not-unpleasant decay–life returning to its base elements in order to feed the new generation.


When I wear a Darling Clandestine perfume, I’m not just wearing a series of notes, I’m wearing a mood. It sets the pace for the moments I will live and the memories I will create that day, it helps to set my frame of mind. Safe to say, these are not saccharine moods set by sweet, hard candies or pumpkin pie–there’s a time and a place for those things, but this Fall hasn’t seen many of them. My Fall has been rich with adventure, the intoxicating burn of creativity, and I need moods that will turn my days into works of art. There is no doubt in my mind that these perfumes will be a unique part of the memories I create this season, tinging them with a sweetness all their own.

Reviews, Vapours

Vapours: Darling Clandestine Limerence Perfume Oil, a Review


Limerence: that obsessive, all-consuming infatuation that drives us towards another human being. Some call it love, come call it a crush, but chances are good that you know the exact feeling. At this time of year especially, limerence pervades. Whether you have your Valentine’s Dream Date with your new Mr. Wonderful or will find yourself pining for a person who seems not to know you exist, you’ll probably find yourself in its throws.


…but if you feel like your romance has gone stale or you’ve simply fallen out of love with love, you’re in luck! Indie perfumer Darling Clandestine has bottled this beautiful affliction. Part of the brand’s signature Calliope Crash line, it’s everything you would expect from one of their scents: complex, rich, and layered. You simply can’t sniff this straight from the bottle–it needs time to develop on your skin, blossoming with your own heat and chemistry into its true beauty. I think it’s particularly appropriate considering its namesake. That pressing, obsessive love conjures up images of exotic bouquets in oriental vases, displayed on crisp, almost snowy lace doilies. The wanting, needing pervades your every thought like the delicate fragrance wafting off those white petals.


It makes perfect sense that at the forefront of this compulsive love story is the Casablanca lily. One of my favourite notes, this lily is an unblemished white both in the colour of its ruffled petals and its distinctive scent. It’s warm and wet, cooled by a bundle of green herbs. Sea salt and earth-derived mitti attar ground the blend, giving the whole thing an incredibly organic feeling, as if it could have grown from the earth in this exact way. This is not a delicate, airy floral but not an oppressive, heavy one either. Limerence reminds me of the scent of a greenhouse, herbaceous and slightly steamy, beginning as a strong new presence in your consciousness and fading slowly to a whisper in the back of your mind. Much like the beautiful obsession that is falling in love.

If this is the sort of love story that speaks to your soul (or if you simply love a lily perfume), Limerence might be the perfect olfactory backdrop for your infatuation. It’s available as a skin-loving oil and a long-lasting solid, as is most of Darling Clandestine‘s olfactive poetry.

Reviews, Vapours

Vapours: Lollia In Love Shea Butter Handcreme, a Review


For years, I thought the sexiest fragrances were dark, smoldering concoctions of oriental woods and resins, the kind I imagined wafting off the collar of a 1940’s Femme Fatale. While I love the idea of smelling like incense and lust, I’ve come to find that wearing such heavy, deep fragrances leave me feeling less dangerous and desirable and more nauseated and dizzy. Now, I’ve traded spices and smoke for petals and buds. These days, I’m perpetually on the hunt for the ultimate ethereal, feminine floral.


It was pure serendipity when I first discovered Lollia‘s whimsical fragrances. Their delicate packaging caught my eye instantly, but I fell head-over-heels for their names: each Lollia fragrance is named not after a person, or a dominating note, or a kitschy “hook,” but a mood. It’s not necessarily aromatherapy, but Lollia links each of their scent blends to a particular human condition, like an olfactory soundtrack to life, which I absolutely adore. No one can guarantee, of course, that spritzing on some Wish will have stars shooting across the sky and deepest desires coming true, but it certainly can’t hurt.


Lollia’s “In Love” is a little different from the rest of the line: while it is, at its heart, a lush floral, there’s a distinctly fruity quality that rises above the other notes. According to Lollia, In Love consists of “Classic petals…delicate infusions of Apple Blossom kissed sweetly by Jasmine, floating upon the breath of truest Living Rose.” The tartness of apples is the first thing that hits me upon applying. Not juicy, ripe apples, nothing to suggest the wetness of fresh fruit, but a clean tartness like green apple skin. Beneath that is the bright rose, every bit as lively and vivacious as the description suggests. It’s not the deep, musky rose used in a lot of perfumes–this rose is fresh, light, crisp. In fact, if not for the mellow sweetness of the jasmine at the base of this blend, the whole blend might be too crisp. I love jasmine and like for it to be the star of any particular fragrance, but in this scent it rightfully takes Best Supporting Role.


Whenever possible, I buy fragrances in lotion form–it’s usually more affordable and the scent lasts much longer for me when it’s absorbed by my skin. Each Lollia fragrance is available in their Shea Butter Handcreme, a formula that boasts macadamia and avocado oils as well as aloe and shea. It’s rich enough to moisturize my notoriously dry skin but absorbs quickly without leaving any greasy residue. However, it packs a fragrant punch–the scent lingers for a very long time, which I’m not particularly fond of in a hand cream. I tend to use this on my arms and décolletage, where I’d traditionally wear a perfume.

If you’re looking for a delicate floral with slightly fruity leanings, I would suggest looking into In Love. It’s every bit as classically romantic as the name would suggest–maybe a dab this Valentine’s Day is just what it takes to send you into the sweet, swirling mists of falling In Love.


Dewlap Valentine: a Reptilian Love Story

I was raised by animals. Don’t get me wrong, I had great parents, but for as long as I can remember I’ve been surrounded by animals of all kinds: cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, hamsters, frogs, turtles… My family and I have worked in rescue for years and opened our hearts and home to countless animal companions, some of whom have left for forever homes and some of whom have made their forever homes within our walls. I’ve learned something from each of them and loved every one.

Bob hugs in the hospital

Bob hugs in the hospital

Bob came to me as a baby barely longer than my little finger. His eyes were eager, his feet quick, and his scales impossibly green. He had a calcium deficiency that required a sweet-smelling syrup spoon-fed to him with each leafy meal for the first two years of his life and left him a little more sluggish than most iguanas his age, but it gave us even more quality time together. As he grew, he would sit on my shoulder while I watched television or surfed the internet; we sat together on the back porch in the hot summers; he even maintained a live journal in his younger days–many of the entries read “alkjdskllllllllllllll,” but he still acquired more friends than he had long, spindly toes.

Bob loves dinner

Bob with a favourite meal

We knew each other well: Bob knew when I got home from school or work, crawling off his Throne of Rocks to wait by the food bowl while I chopped up leafy greens–collard, mustard, dandelions–along with a finely-chopped strawberry or melon, all sprinkled with vitamin and mineral powders. His golden eyes would go wide, ringed pupils dilating as he stared down the bowl before his sticky pink tongue would dart out to taste the day’s offering. His preferences were red and yellow foods: berries, yams, squash, but above all bananas. Simply seeing a banana on the counter beyond his enclosure could send him into a fit, shaking his head, paddling at the tank, trying to lunge open-mouthed on it despite the glass between them. Yellow shopping bags, purses, flowers, and knick-knacks had the same effect.

Bob's insides and a bladder stone

Bob’s x-ray and removed bladder stone

It was the day before Easter when I noticed something was wrong. He was drinking excessively, moving as little as possible, drooling. My family vet had never seen anything like the x-ray image we took and we were referred to an emergency specialist who instantly identified it as the largest bladder stone he had ever seen. He went into surgery the next morning and had the stone successfully removed. A few weeks later, however, he suffered some complications of his condition and passed away at the emergency vet. I was fortunate enough to visit with him the night before he passed away, and I know he received nothing but love and care from the wonderful staff. I was heartbroken. He had fought so hard and come so far and even the doctor had expected him to fully recover. At that time, I was working towards my state board exams and graduation and I felt as if Bob had set the ultimate example for me: he just kept going.

Bob makes a swan friend

Bob makes a swan friend in the hospital

I wanted to hang on Bob and his determined survival instinct desperately. While he will forever live on in my heart, I needed a physical memento. Enter Darling Clandestine. Owner Evonne knows what it means to love a lizard or two, and she worked tirelessly with me to create a blend I know Bob would have loved, appropriately named Dewlap Valentine. In its glimmering green bottle, it smells like ripe, fresh strawberries and yellow banana tossed with dark leafy greens. It’s bright, it’s fresh, it’s delicious. But applied to the skin, Dewlap Valentine comes to life. The greens grow darker, the fruit goes riper, and something beautifully animal comes through. It becomes musky, salty, organic-smelling, like bright green noses and spiny toes and stripy bellies, all smeared with fresh fruits and leaves. It is one of the most complex scents I’ve ever smelled.

Dewlap Valentine by Darling Clandestine

photo from Darling Clandestine

They say scent is one of the most powerful triggers of memory, and Dewlap Valentine is all of Bob’s scent-memories bottled. I know he would be proud to have inspired this scent–he’s even smiling on the bottle. I can’t thank Evonne enough for creating this wonderful scent and making it available to her customers. It touches my heart to think that people might wear this perfume and look at the little green bottle bearing Bob’s grin and smile themselves, imagining all the love and warmth that this cold-blooded companion contributed during his lifetime. I know I do every time I put it on.


(originally published on Bella Cantarella)

Aesthetics, Cosmetics, Reviews

Metamorphosis 109.0 – Fear Itself, a look at Cocoa Pink’s Halloween Phobias

There are scents for all season, but in my opinion Autumn is in an olfactory league of its own. Gone are the powdery florals of Spring, the sparkling fruits of Summer. Autumn brings a much-needed warmth and comfort before we’re hit with the barren ozone and frosty evergreens of Winter. Fall is the season that drains the contents of my wallet into bottles of perfume.

The first of my scented indulgences this year comes from Cocoa Pink. In addition to their new fall scent catalogue, they released a collection of Halloween fragrances inspired by phobias.

I picked out some of my favourite formulas to try out these new scents. I’ve posted about Cocoa Pink’s hair products before, but I need to say it again: if you’re looking for a great Indie company to make your hair look and smell amazing, Cocoa Pink has a formula for you.

Princess Poo is an SLS and Paraben Free gentle cleansing shampoo. If you’ve never used an SLS-free shampoo, you probably equate lather with clean. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This low-lather cleanser cleans away dirt and product residue without stripping colour or healthy oils from hair, giving bounce and shine without feeling “squeaky clean.” When your hair is as dry and damaged as mine, this is important. If you’re worried that this will leave your hair too greasy, fear not: my teenage sister uses this same formula as a daily cleanser on her oily, colour-treated hair with the same fabulous results.

Shine + is protein and silicone free to moisturize hair without weighing it down. I learned long ago that silicones are not my friends: my skin hates them, my hair hates them, and as a result, I hate them. Sure they help detangle hair and create that luxurious slippery feeling in all water types, but it keeps my skin from breathing and weighs down my fine hair. The butters and oils used in this conditioner leave my hair silky and bouncy like nothing else ever has. For those who like shiny hair, this is for you–despite my high-lift colour, this still imparts a healthy shine to my mane.

But the real beauty here is in the scent: Cocoa Pink will scent their products with any fragrance from their current catalogue. This season, I chose Fear of Cemeteries from their Halloween Phobia collection. I’ll admit, it was the description that sold me:

Cool damp graveyard dirt with a single white carnation placed cautiously against an old granite headstone, covered by dying crimson and yellow autumn leaves with a soft whisper of wood smoke carried in a crisp breeze. 

This is the perfect Fall incarnation of the grassy green scents I loved all Summer: this is rich, loamy earth beneath piles of wet leaves and cut flowers. There’s a note of ozone to the background and just a hint of bonfire as well as minerals. It’s rainy and wet and chilly and green, which is exactly what I wanted this to be. I have a sneaking suspicion that a large size of this will be making its way to my doorstep before the season is over.

If you’re really worried about product buildup or have an excess of oils in your hair, Squeaky might be the s’poo for you. This clarifying shampoo is still gentle enough for use on coloured hair while getting the job done. I’ll alternate this into my routine once every couple weeks to get rid of any styling products that might be hiding in my hair. I do feel like it’s a little much for me, but anyone who has a bit of extra oil or loves their hairspray will definitely go for the formula–it definitely delivers a “Squeaky” clean!

This was a sample included in my order, scented with Fear of Witches:

Warm baked bread fresh from the oven, gentle wisps of bonfire smoke drifting through the frigid autumn air and smooth buttery caramel sprinkled with coarse black sea salt is your best bet in keeping them at bay.

I had no idea how to imagine this scent in my head. Anyone who has ever baked bread knows the scent: yeasty, warm, a little dusty… I think the “bread” in the formula here is more of a sweet. While there is a crustiness, this gives the distinct impression of baked goods, pastries, sweet things in ovens. The combination of salt and caramel is distinct, and it’s all rounded off with woody smoke.

I really don’t buy scrubs often, but not because I don’t like them. I simply don’t go through them as quickly as other bath products. This was another sample with my order, and the first time I’ve tried the Soft Bubbles Foaming Sugar Scrubs. I’ve used CP scrubs in the past, but not since the grand reopening under the new owner–the old formulas were often thick, rich, and full of moisturizing ingredients with a texture like cookie dough. The Soft Bubbles formula claims to be a light and fluffy lathering scrub, textured like buttercream. It does foam softly with water, but I find the texture a bit harder–maybe like buttercream that’s sat in the fridge for a while.

This was scented in Fear of Ghosts:

Glowing marshmallow orbs and smoky vanilla spectral mists swirl aimlessly around an old bonfire in the Crisp October night air – Fresh vanilla puffed marshmallows, toasted marshmallows, hints of bonfire smoke among scattered sharp grains of white rice to ward unwelcome spirits away

I love this scent. If you’ve never smelled a Cocoa Pink fragrance before, start with their marshmallows. This is a perfect toasted-marshmallow scent, rich with wood smoke and sweet vanilla. It’s a toasty Autumn version of Vanilla Bean Noel, with a healthy dose of marshmallow on top. I definitely need to order this scent before the collection is retired–I just need to figure out which way to wear it!

Cocoa Pink’s linen spray is a fairly new addition to the line, so I was excited to try it. Because of the gentle formula, it has a variety of uses: not only can it be used to scent bed linens and clothes, it’s also safe for use on the hair and body as well as a general atmospheric spray. I’ve been using this on my clothes, spritzing it into my dresser drawers to keep my things smelling beautiful. I ordered in Fear of Spiders:

Dragon’s blood resin, the memorable scent of fine pipe tobacco, chopped bundles of firewood, fragrant sprigs of wormwood and bright scarlet apples.

The unifying theme in this collection is definitely smoke. The wood smoke is definitely present here, but there is also pipe smoke and incense. This is a rich, resinous scent polished off with tart apples and bitter herbs. It’s incredibly sophisticated and mysterious and I will definitely be ordering a larger size of the linen spray so my clothes can smell like this year round.

I am incredibly pleased with the Autumn offerings from Cocoa Pink, and I know I need to try the rest of the Phobias collection before they disappear. Whether you’re looking for sweet, confectionary fragrances or deep, mysterious perfumes, Cocoa Pink has something for you this season in products your hair and body will love.

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

Aesthetics, Reviews

Metamorphosis 84.0 – the Stuff of Life: a review of Blood Concept fragrances

I am convinced that someday, I will find myself a signature scent. I will buy countless bottles of it and bathe myself in it so that when I walk by, it will waft in the breeze and everyone who smells it will know I’m around. I’ll wear it every day and when I die, everyone will remember exactly what I smelled like–it will be an elegant, mysterious, beautiful scent and it will be very me.

…Okay, that will probably never happen. But it doesn’t stop me from reading up on every last perfume available to man. One of my favourite hobbies is pulling up the Sephora site and reading fragrance descriptions for hours. And I was doing just that when I stumbled across Blood Concept. Sephora’s blog had written up a brief (and heavily illustrated!) post on strange perfumes–the infamous Bacon perfume among them–and mentioned an Italian brand releasing a series of perfumes based on human bloodtypes. The general consensus seemed to be “oh how gross” but I was instantly struck by an overwhelming need to find these perfumes. Whether or not blood was actually a note didn’t matter: the concept was so bizarre, so grotesque, so romantic that I needed to own a piece.

The website is quite simple and contained no more information than Sephora had given me, except for a list of notes on each fragrance type. There was no option to buy, no list of stores that carried the line, no date it might become available. It did, however, contain a link to the company’s Facebook page. It was there that I found the information that nearly crushed my spirit forever: it was not available. At least not yet. The entire line still seems to be in the pre-production, conceptual stage. However, press packets and sampler sets were available on a limited basis. I immediately posted a note on the wall asking to be updated on the line’s progression–my life might actually end if I didn’t get my hands on this fabulous line. Not an hour later, I received a request for my mailing address for a packet to be sent out.

Fast forward several months: I found a strange-looking envelope on my desk marked only with my name, address, and an odd postal stamp I’d never seen before. It wasn’t until I realized it was priced in Euros that my heart leaped into my throat. I thought they had forgotten me, or maybe seen my blog and deemed it not worth the waste of a press packet, or any number of other self-deprecating things that sometimes go through my head. Inside was a neat white pamphlet roughly resembling a CD sleeve.

Once the seal was broken, it unfolded to reveal concept art for each fragrance, instructions on how to access the fragrances themselves, and four scented cards.

Basically, the samples are scratch-and-sniff cards. I understand, however, why they don’t call them such since that would cheapen them significantly. They actually seem to be some sort of micro-capsule: scratching them releases a sort of oily residue on the cards, allowing you to smell each layer of the fairly complex scents. It actually transferred to my skin if I scratched and then rubbed immediately over my wrist. Obviously, my curiosity drove me immediately towards my own bloodtype, A.

Each bloodtype is illustrated with key notes in the blend, A being heavy with ripe tomato, green grasses, and seeds. The back of each white card contains fragrance notes and details on the type of perfume.

I really like A, but I tend to like green aromatics. I rather imagine it smells like a scythe or a gardening knife that has been used to harvest herbs: there’s a distinct metallic note to it, but it doesn’t make the blend any less earthy and green. The star anise almost adds a boozey note, but that could be the association I have between anise and absinthe.

B’s concept art is a little different: there’s a hot air balloon floating over a sea of licorice, and a giant pomegranate-sun casting cherry-shadows onto the world. Aside from those gargantuan fruits, I’m not even sure how this relates to the blend. Despite all fragrances in this series being unisex, this is distinctly masculine to me–possibly because it reminds me of the Burberry London cologne my boyfriend wears. Also odd, it shares absolutely zero fragrance notes with London, either. This is dominantly wood notes to my nose, with a hint of sweetness that borders medicinal, probably thanks to the pomegranate. I think the tea note might cause it to go dusty on the wrong person (me).

They claim that O is the oldest bloodtype, so Blood Concept ran with that idea. The art for O depicts cracked skin, presumably leather, with silhouetted spears and a dark red fault running down the page. The back says it’s a leather based scent, but honestly I get more herb. The eucalyptus and cypress stand off the strongest, sweetened by the scents of thyme and raspberry (more leaf than berry, I think). The leather is definitely there, ever-present in the base, but it’s the herbs that get me.

Finally, there’s AB: a cityscape in snowfall under  a diamond moon, the shadow of a gun hanging in the sky…according to Blood Concept, AB is the newest bloodtype and their cool, hyper-metallic scent reflects that. This is another unisex that strikes me as masculine, but likely because my father wore so many aldehyde-heavy colognes when I was young. This is a lot like my memory of Polo Sport, highly aquatic in a less-mermaid-more-manly way. It’s all air and water, with that metallic tinge that underlies all Blood Concept fragrances.

I honestly can’t wait until these come out. There’s no information available on their release, but I’ve signed up for their mailing list and their Facebook page updates regularly, so I’ll keep everyone updated. Personally, I’ll be springing for a bottle of A, and possibly O as well. Leave it to Italy, birthplace of giallo, to bring us such an intriguing set of dark and romantic perfumes.

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

Impressions, Reviews

Metamorphosis 78.0 – June Birchbox

I was honestly a bit shocked to see an email in my inbox yesterday saying my June Birchbox had shipped. For some reason, I expected to be prompted for a payment first. This morning, the bright pink box was on my doorstep waiting. I’ll admit to snooping the website yesterday, trying to predict what I’d be sent and hoping I’d receive some products over others and a little anxious over what I really would find–one of the online products was a self-tanner and my heart sank a bit.

I dug into the card first: the theme this month was wanderlust–travel-friendly products for pampering on the go. Best of all, the card said nothing about a self-tanner!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love the bright pink packaging. At first glance, I did think this box was a little lighter than the last but after reviewing the contents I honestly think I’m happier with this month’s haul.

Outside the smaller packaging sat the Weleda Wild Rose Smoothing Facial Lotion and Sircuit Cosmeceuticals Molecular Mist. I’ve been meaning to try this lotion for a while now after seeing it on every trip to any store ever, but at $25 it’s a bit of a commitment. That’s not to say I haven’t purchased moisturizers for considerably more money sight-unseen. But this was the first product I ripped open and dug into. It’s a thick cream and a little goes a very long way. It leaves behind a strong, rosy scent and takes a bit to seep in as it’s quite heavy but my dry, chemically-burned skin ate it up. I’m two weeks into a new retinol treatment that’s been wreaking havoc on my skin so this burned a little bit, but so does everything else these days. The Molecular Mist I’m not too sure about. I’m not terribly keen on sprays, and this one smells a little weird–like coconuts and plastic–but it felt nice on my face. I can’t say it did anything for my super-dry skin, but it was refreshing.

The inner package contained samples of Kate Spade Twirl perfume, Deborah Lippman Stripper to Go Nail Lacquer Removers, and a full-sized Laura Geller Baked Blush n’ Brighten. I wore Twirl today and while it didn’t give me a headache, I didn’t really like it. It’s fruity but not bright, and while it’s fun it just doesn’t have the wow factor that I’d like in a high-end perfume. If I’m going to dish out $65 for 1.7oz, I want to be blown away. I really wanted to love it–inside the envelope housing the vial in whimsical pink letters it says, “she had a cocktail in hand and confetti in her hair“…who doesn’t want to be that girl? Unfortunately after a few hours of wear, it sort of reminded me of Play-Doh.

I was excited to see Deborah Lippman on the Birchbox page as I’ve been dying to try her lacquers, but I appreciate the portable polish removers. I don’t travel often, but when I do I usually find myself in need of nail repair. Supposedly, these are “mitts” soaked in polish which lends me a rather strange mental image. I haven’t tried these yet, but will report back as soon as I do.

The Laura Geller blush was quite a pleasant surprise. As you well know, I’ve never been a blush girl but found myself obsessed this past year so I don’t have a wide range of shades. I received a light golden-beige shade called Honey-Dipped which applies more like a bronzer on my way-too-pale-for-summer skin. It’s not “shimmery” or “glittery” but the veins of soft gold running through this baked mineral blush gives it a very definite glow. The Birchbox website recommends Honey-Dipped for fair complexions, Apricot Berry (a coral-bronze) for olive tones, and Pink Grapefruit (a peachy gold) for medium tones. Oddly, I feel either of the two other colours might have worked better with my colouring (technically, I’m a very pale olive). It’s still pretty, but I get the feeling I won’t have much use for it after summer is over.

With this installment, I can confidently say I’ll be keeping my subscription for next month. I’m really happy with the products in this month’s box and I’m eager to see what everyone else gets and how they like it. I might even purchase some of the full-sized products once I come off my no-buy!

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

Aesthetics, Reviews

Metamorphosis 77.0 – Untouchably Delicious: a review of CocoaPink’s Black Chocolate

I’ve been a very bad blogger this week. My camera died and I had myself convinced I couldn’t post anything without swatch photos or FotD shots. It’s still dead, but I realize now there are other things I can post on without requiring pictures. Like scent reviews!

Every once in a while, I come across a scent I’ve had in my collection forever and simply forgot about. In this case, it’s been a very long time… Cocoa Pink was one of the first indie brands I ever purchased from, and definitely the first indie brand I trusted with my hair. Owner Ilona was making SLS-free shampoos and bath products long before the sulfate-free trend hit drugstore hair care brands, and I loved the idea of feeding my hair with nutrients it craved rather than stripping oils out of it and leaving it “squeaky clean” and damaged. I really credit Cocoa Pink for turning the kinky, frizzy waves of my adolescence into living silk. And I was devastated when she closed the shop.

Luckily for me and countless other hopeless devotees, a fan bought the brand, learned the formulas, and reopened the website. Bev has really gone above and beyond when it comes to delivering the service and quality we’ve come to associate with Cocoa Pink and even improving the formulas and the amazing customer service.

But as great as the products are, it’s the scents that really keep me coming back. Bev has kept a lot of Cocoa Pink classics (like CP White and Harajuku Bananas) and also formulated new and beautiful blends of her own (like English Cathedral). But one scent that kept me buying year after year was Black Chocolate.


I first sniffed this delicious blend years ago when Ilona first produced her Lolita Giftsets. There were four different varieties: Gothic Lolita with dusty musks and dark fruits, Eastern Lolita with bright citruses and green teas, Classic Lolita with white florals and elegant greenery, and Sweet Lolita with sugary cakes and deep, rich chocolate. The girls on the forum went crazy over the re-release of one of their longtime favourites, Black Chocolate.

Naturally, I had to figure out what all the fuss was about. I generally like gourmand scents, and chocolate is no exception. But the interesting thing about Black Chocolate is that it’s mixed with healthy doses of amber. Cocoa Pink’s signature “Black” scents are all paired with a blend of different ambers. Normally, I despise amber in my perfumes. It’s dusty, too perfumey, and an instant headache. But at the time I first ordered Black Chocolate, I did not know this.

Upon first sniff, Black Chocolate is a dark, bittersweet chocolate bar. It’s pure, rich, designer chocolate, a perfect blend of bitter cocoa liquor and heavy cocoa butters, sweetened ever-so-slightly with true, exotic vanilla and pure cane sugar. But there’s something else to it, more and more noticeable as it wears. It’s earthy, organic, and it keeps the chocolate from smelling too young–like real gold leafing on an elegantly moulded chocolate, it makes it too beautiful to touch.

But even better, this scent can last for hours–an entire day–without morphing into something dusty or sour, as many chocolate and amber perfumes do on my skin. Perhaps it has to do with the way Cocoa Pink blends their scents: up until fairly recently, EDPs were not offered. Scents were blended into a variety of body creams and hair products–I honestly did not wear perfume for a year or two. The creams absorb easily into my dry skin and my hair eats up the conditioning spray, Ends with Benefits. Any time the air got humid or my hair got wet, I would get a new burst of fragrance even if I hadn’t washed my hair in a week.


I do have to admit, Black Chocolate was a little too much for me to handle as a shampoo or conditioner scent. With the humidity of the shower amplifying the perfume, the ambers really came out and did their usual number on my poor resin-sensitive brain. It’s a long-time favourite of mine in lotion and leave-in form, but I just can’t do it in the shower.

Black Chocolate is always available at Cocoa Pink in hair-care, body lotions, and EDP form. In fact, I’ve got a bottle of EDP queued up in my cart as we speak!

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

Aesthetics, Reviews

Metamorphosis 71.0 – Nothing’s Everlasting: a review of TokyoMilk Dark’s Everything&Nothing

If you’re in need of an unusual, slightly-offbeat fragrance–whether it’s fruity, floral, woody, or gourmand–TokyoMilk has something to offer. The slightly eccentric sister of Lollia and Love+Toast, TokyoMilk’s aesthetic is not that of your typical perfumerie: everything from the notes used to the packaging is just a little…different.

Poking around on their site, however, I realized I had missed something very unique amongst TokyoMilk’s offerings: a new line, TokyoMilk Dark. Everything from the packaging to the names and notes are appropriately…well, dark. I felt it clear that TokyoMilk tapped into my subconscious perfume-desires while creating this line: I could vividly picture these bottles on my dresser.

After a bit of back-and-forth with Customer Service over a site glitch, I placed an order for a bundle scented in No. 10, Everything & Nothing. Notes were listed as Sweet Orange, Pressed Petals, Desert Moss, and Tea Leaves. I do have to be honest, though: the deciding factor was all in the name. I could hear David Sylvian singing in my head as I placed the order. It promised all the lyrical grace and dark mystery of his album in a bottle, and with just a click, I could smell like all of it. I was sold.

At first sniff, still warm from the long journey from Colorado, Everything & Nothing was just that: beautifully magical and understated all at the same time. The first, most evident note is definitely the sweet orange–and they don’t lie. It is sweet. Not juicy, fresh, dripping orange, or even zesty, ripe orange peels, but like orange wedges coated in sugar. I wouldn’t call it an artificial orange, not like jelly orange slices, but like off-season oranges, winter oranges, dipped in sugar to make up for what they lack in natural sweetness.

In fact, this is almost cloyingly sweet for a while. About half an hour after applying, however, it starts to dry down to a sweet tea scent. I’m always disappointed by tea notes. I used to work in a tea shop and really, I wanted to bottle some of our blends. Nothing really compares to the scent of a perfectly roasted Chinese oolong or a bright darjeeling. …especially not tea notes in perfume. No matter what they do, tea-based perfumes smell sort of like dust. And I get the theory–if you’re inhaling a box of tea bags, it does smell sort of dusty. But real, leafy tea smells much more lively. And that’s what I expect when it comes to tea scents. Unfortunately, I’m disappointed again.

I do have to give Everything & Nothing the benefit of the doubt, however: pressed petals and desert moss gives the impression that there would be a dustiness present here even without tea notes. It’s a pretty scent–a sweet, dusty tea smell–but not quite what I was expecting. It can also be quite overpowering: just a spritz fades within an hour, but more than that gives me quite a headache and lingers painfully long. I can’t seem to find a happy medium.

All in all, yes I like this scent. But it’s not the perfect everyday scent I was looking for. I love the packaging and the imagery it evokes, but I’m going to keep looking for my Holy Grail perfume–though I’m beginning to wonder, is there one?

Next up on my list from TokyoMilk–Arsenic. Of course.

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

Aesthetics, Reviews

Metamorphosis 64.0 – A Curious Cocktail: Tokyo Milk’s Bon Bon Shea Butter lotion in Gin & Rosewater

I’m a perfume addict. We’ve covered this all ready, don’t act like this is a shock. I have a scent for every season (and then some!) and usually an equal or greater number of corresponding bath and body products.

So when one of my favourite perfumers advertises a sale, I jump. In this case, it was Lollia–a brand I have loved from afar for ages. Their scents are usually light, dazzling florals, romantic and heartbreaking, available in EDP forms as well as handcremes, bubble baths, and scented body powders. While browsing their page, I found a link to sister companies including Love + Toast and–surprise, surprise!–Tokyo Milk.

Tokyo Milk has been one of my favourite sources for unusual personal scents for a while. Their packaging has a sort of chic, vintage feel to it, full of elements pieced-together like tiny collages.

Unfortunately, their scents really are hit or miss with me. I love the ideas of them, and the combination of notes always sound ingenious and heavenly–but some of them just don’t like me. For example, I was certain No. 10 Honey and the Moon was destined to be my signature fragrance–with notes like sugared violet, jasmine, and sandalwood (coupled of course with the name), I thought there was no possible way I could avoid it. …Until I encountered it in Anthropologie and realized it gave me an absolutely excruciating headache.

It was during that same trip, however, that I picked up Tokyo Milk’s Bon Bon Shea Butter Lotion in No. 12 Gin & Rosewater. Admittedly, I picked this up entirely based on the name. At that time, Anthropologie did not stock the corresponding EDP, so there was really nothing to open and sniff. But gin is my choicest poison, and I’ve always loved smelling like a cocktail. So for $18 (the same price listed on the Tokyo Milk site), it was mine.

The packaging is a little like a box-within-a-box. The sturdier cardboard box is housed within a cardboard sleeve printed with the scent’s corresponding image, both embossed with gold foiled lettering. The inner box is only three-sided, exposing the lotion. The back of the inner box is printed with product information including ingredients and usage, as well as the website and hotline number. I don’t believe this is vegan after reading the ingredients, though sister-company Love + Toast boasts vegan products.

The Tokyo Milk Bon Bon Shea Butter Lotions come packaged like toothpaste. It sort of blew my mind at first because I’ve only ever seen toothpastes and anti-bacterial creams packaged in this manner. But with the foil seal in place and un-punctured, I was quite certain I was the first person to use my new lotion. Comforting as that is, I’m not sure I like the tube. I’m not really a true fan of pump packaging, either–my favourite means of packaging lotion is definitely the tub. I feel like I’m positive I get every last drop that way, whereas there is always some unusable bit left in tubs and pumps. But the Tokyo Milk tubes are foil and crimp rather tightly in on themselves so I’d like to think this gets you extra mileage product-wise.

The formula is fairly thick, being heavily shea butter-based and containing oils like safflower and avocado. Honestly, I feel like it’s better suited to a hand creme than a body moisturizer due to the thickness of it–if you shop the website, you can find this product listed both as a handcreme and a “body luxury” so it may have been intended for this purpose originally. Placing a dab on my hand and smoothing it into a fairly thick coating, however, it absorbs quickly. My drier skin obviously loves these ingredients.

But what makes this product remarkable is definitely the fragrance. We all know, I often buy things for the name–and this is exactly what happened here. According to the website, notes include citrus zest, rosewood, mimosa, and mandarin. Nowhere does it say “gin” or for that matter “rosewater”–but it does smell remarkably like a gin and tonic. Or perhaps more like zesty tonic water and lime garnish. Upon smoothing this onto skin, your nose gets a burst of citrus rind, fresh and a little earthy. I can’t say I detect the rosewood in there at all, but there is a bit of mellow floral in the drydown which I suspect is the mimosa. It has an almost fizzy quality to it, which also reminds me of my beloved beverage.

Sounds like a perfect Summer fragrance, right? Wrong. Despite all the bright, bubbly notes in this fragrance, something about it is very heavy. When applied to my chest and shoulders (where I typically apply scented lotions), it mingles with my body heat to produce a sort of suffocating effect. I am horribly sensitive to fragrance, so I might be the only weirdo in the world with this issue. For a lotion, it is quite heavily scented, so I don’t really want it all over my hands either. Luckily, the few times I have tested it as a hand creme, it absorbs quickly enough that the scent fades to a light whisper within minutes.

All in all, I like the scent and would likely invest in a bottle of the EDP. I like the formula of the lotion on my hands, but feel it’s a bit too heavily scented to be used exclusively as a hand creme. I don’t necessarily like this formula as a body lotion. Was it worth the $18 I spent? Hard to say. A lot of people would probably love the rich texture and luxe scent for a relatively inexpensive price. But I’m not sure my unstable sniffer will find enough uses for it. Would I buy from Tokyo Milk again? Absolutely.

In fact, I’m helplessly eying up their new Dark series–particularly Everything & Nothing, which shares a name (of course!) with one of my favourite David Sylvian albums. The new EDPs and lotions are a bit pricier than their standard series, but are also larger and have higher fill weights, so it all seems to even out. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on my further adventures in Tokyo Milk. But for now, the Hunt for the Great Summer Fragrance continues…

Love you to the Moon and Back,

Luna Valentine

PS: If you like the sound of this scent, Tokyo Milk is offering a Gin & Rosewater bundle for Mum’s Day at a decent discount! Their Bliss in Bloom giftset includes Gin & Rosewater EDP and lotion, a matching cosmetics bag, and a candle so your entire house can smell like a fresh, boozy cocktail.