The Wild, Wonderful Complexity of DSH Perfumes

This meme made the rounds in my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, and while it poses some interesting philosophical questions, it also got me thinking about ... fragrances.

There's a reason we should always test perfumes before we wear them - everyone's skin chemistry is different, and what smells good on one person might not work for another.

It's also true that our noses are different, and how you interpret a smell - on yourself or someone else - is probably going to be different than how someone else interprets it.

The moral of the story? When it comes to fragrance, don't try to please anyone but yourself - your experience with a fragrance is the only one you have any control over anyway.

All of this brings me to a set of samples I've been working through lately.

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is an artisan perfumer with a wonderfully wild imagination. Her company, DSH Perfumes, operates out of Boulder, Colorado, where I'm sure there's no shortage of natural inspiration.

My favorite of her scents is Wasabi Shiso, a perfume so green it reminds me of having a picnic on a freshly cut field in the Irish countryside, wearing a dress made of banana leaves, dripping in jade and emeralds, while eating a salad made with seaweed and bell peppers and clover.

A few weeks ago I got this new batch of samples from DSH and I've been working through them, testing one every couple of days. She uses some interesting notes in her fragrance designs - and that's exactly what I like about her work. When I interpret those notes through the filter of my own experience, my own nose, I got some even more strange results (strange in a good way - even when I don't love a DSH scent, I always find them interesting to wear).

Without further ado, here are my observations:

  • Beach Roses
    The first sniff out of the bottle: My very first impression after uncorking the bottle was that of a good-quality sour beer, like a craft brew, which is absolutely not one of the notes in this fragrance. See what I mean about interpretations being subjective?
    Initial impression on skin: Ah, there are the roses, but that little bit of bitterness is still there, like the flowers are dying in a vase in a room where someone is burning Nag Champa incense.
    Drydown: After an hour or so, the scent of soft, fresh roses were all that was left, and I wonder if the saltiness that was supposed to be in the top notes were what translated as 'sour' to my nose.
  • Ultramarine Blue
    Sniff: This is supposed to be an aquatic, but my first impression was of a light floral with a hint of forest greenery.
    On skin: On my skin, the earthiness of this fragrance came out a little more - it was almost musky, but the subtle sweetness of a floral I couldn't identify - maybe orange blossom? - lingered in the background.
    Drydown: By the end almost all I could smell was moss, but there was a hint of ocean water, so I think that whatever makes this one an aquatic was mostly lost in my skin chemistry.
  • En Vacances
    Sniff: The geranium in this is so strong from the outset, but there's also a hint of something lemony that had me really intrigued.
    On skin: The citrus got a lot stronger, mingling with the floral to create the impression of something like lemon candy, and something about the combination also hinted at gasoline.
    Drydown: This stuff is a carnival! Lemon candy, cherry sours, the oil and grease from the old wooden roller coaster. It's so much fun, and really has some staying power - I'll definitely be picking up a bottle.
  • La Plage
    Sniff: La Plage is another one that's supposed to be all about sand and surf, but I got fresh cut grass right out of the gate.
    On skin: This fragrance smelled almost exactly the same once it hit my skin, something that almost never happens. The only addition was a hint of rubber, like new car tires.
    Drydown: The hard rubber scent was even stronger in the finish. Maybe there's bergamot that's not playing nicely with the greener notes in this one?
  • Je Suis La Lune VdP
    Sniff: It was hard to get a read on this one at first. Out of the bottle, the fragrance was faint - cinnamon? cardamom? I definitely got the impression of spice, maybe just a hint of vanilla, but the floral was just a suggestion at this point.
    On skin: On my skin I definitely picked up on the deeper florals - I got magnolia, jasmine, maybe gardenia. It was a nice mix, but verging on being a little too much.
    Drydown: This might have ended up being really pleasant if I'd been able to leave it on for another 30 minutes, but the florals were just so stiflingly heavy, I had to wash it off.
    If you really love tropical florals but want something that demands to be taken seriously, this might be the perfume for you. Tread lightly, get a sample first, and don't use too much - this fragrance has such strong sillage, you'll be announcing your arrival minutes ahead of time if you do more than dab it on.
  • Il Marinaio da Capri VdP
    Sniff: This one was also hard to smell out of the bottle - for as much as its composition purports to be very complex, all I got were some mild floral notes - a little rose, maybe some orange blossom - on my first sniff.
    On skin: On my skin, it was still subtle, but I finally got the sense of an aquatic, the little bit of salt and seaweed that comes with an ocean breeze.
    Drydown: The drydown was interesting. I don't normally love patchouli, but that in combination with the oakmoss and honeysuckle turned into something magical. Anything aquatic completely disappeared in favor of the smell of fresh soap. I really love this one, but it's so subtle, I'm not sure if I'll buy a full bottle (luckily DSH offers every scent in a variety of sizes, so maybe a 10ml roller?).
  • Paper White EdP
    Sniff: This one does open very green, not in an earthy way, but like the leafy foliage in a vase of flowers.
    On skin: There's still some green here, but a light white floral starts to appear. There are so many floral notes - narcissus, jonquil, jasmine, iris - that all mingle in a way that ensures no one of them will be distinctive enough to identify. What stands out clearly, though, is the scent of actual paper.
    Drydown: Eventually the green and floral notes disappear and leave behind the clear scent of paper. You know that satisfying feeling when you crack open a fresh blank paper notebook? This is that, but in fragrance form. Well, maybe if that notebook had also had a flower pressed in between its leaves.

Paper White is the fragrance I really wanted to try, but it just didn't seem right to place an order for just one small sample vial, which is why I ended up with all these other lovely, complex scents to experiment with. The writer in me is particularly happy with it - I'll almost certainly buy a full bottle - but En Vacances and Il Marinaio are also destined to take up some space on my perfume shelf.

Favorite Eye Makeup Removers

On Friday I posted a link to a news item about a woman who had not properly removed her eye makeup for years and sustained some terrible long-term eye injury as a result. I'm not going to re-post the link here - the photos are a little graphic - but the upshot is that over a period of a few decades, bits of left-behind mascara and eyeliner embedded themselves on the underside of this woman's eyelids, where they scratched her corneas and caused irritation and vision problems.

So, yeah, if you weren't already motivated to remove your makeup every night, maybe that story will do the trick?

I've been meaning to talk about eye makeup removal for a while, so I guess this is good timing. A few months ago, a work friend confessed to me that she'd been using micellar water to remove her mascara. I'm not sure that's the worst thing you could do - better to remove it somehow than to not remove it at all - but I suspect the surfactants in micellar water might be a little harsh. Wouldn't that sting if it actually got into your eyes?

Anyway, here, in order from least to most favorite, are my recommendations for eye makeup removal products.

All three of these products are great. They all remove even tough waterproof makeup with very little effort; that is, they dissolve the mascara so you don't have to tug and pull on your eyelashes. Some work faster than others, but the biggest difference between all three is probably the price point.

Use these with cotton rounds, not cotton balls (I find that cotton balls are more likely to leave behind stray fibers that can irritate your eyes; rounds, especially better quality ones, have dense surfaces that won't get caught on your lashes). Just wet the cotton round and gently wipe across your lashes:

Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover
This oil free remover is composed of glycerin and eye-safe surfactants that have to be mixed before use. It does what it says on the tin - removes even tough waterproof makeup with little effort - but I've found that this product stings sometimes, so I wouldn't recommend it for sensitive eyes.

Clinique Take The Day Off Makeup Remover For Lids, Lashes & Lips
This is a good mid-range product. I like that it's gentle enough to be multi-purpose, and I've never had any irritation when using it on my eyes. I think Clinique is one of those brands that's earned a lot of trust in the skincare, but if you want to try before investing in a larger bottle, they often include this cleanser in mini packs, samples, or special offers, so just check the Clinique web site every once in a while.

Lancome Bi-Facil Double-Action Eye Makeup Remover
This is my HG remover. I don't always use it because it's a little spendier than the other brands, but it's so worth it. If you have sensitive eyes, if you've had trouble finding a makeup remover that doesn't hurt to use, this is the one for you. It's a powerful cleanser, but so mild, and it leaves your lashes gently conditioned.

Wipes for travel

I travel a lot, and when I do I rarely want to bring along a full bottle of this kind of cleansing product. Instead, I usually pack wipes - they're not the most thorough solution, but they'll do if you just want something quick and convenient. Remember, some cleansing is better than nothing at all:

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