This time in Paris, I had an epiphany. A huge one: All these years, I have been wearing a false Chanel No. 5. Not fake, just false. That’s because what we know as Chanel No. 5 Eau de Parfum is not really the legendary fragrance created by Ernest Beaux for Mademoiselle Chanel in 1921.
It is, in fact, Beaux’s parfum, as re-imagined for a more contemporary audience by Chanel nose Jacques Polge in 1986. And the difference, contrary to common belief, lies not just in the concentration of oils. In fact if, like me, you are only familiar with Chanel No 5 EDT or EDP, discovering the parfum will be like finding a completely different fragrance.
Isn’t it just about the proportion of oils to alcohol?
No, it’s not. Definitely and absolutely not. As you go up the fragrance ladder, it’s not just the concentration that changes but also the materials and their quality. The EDP and Parfum versions might, in fact, have additional notes that are left out of the EDT altogether because of their price and “heaviness” (EDTs are typically fresher and lighter).
For example, it’s believed that only the Chanel No. 5 parfum contains jasmine from Grasse – the EDP is crafted with flowers from other, lesser sources. Impossible to say for sure but when you smell the two simultaneously, the parfum does deliver a fresher, more rounded jasmine story.
The second thing you notice is that Polge has underlined the original’s bright citrusy top notes and made the vanilla drydown much warmer in order to create a modern twist. The creamy notes of peach that lace the rose, lily of the valley and jasmine heart are also more prominent, while the amplified voluptuousness of sandalwood and the darkness of leather and incense replace the plush, rich muskiness of the original.
The EDP sillage itself is beautiful and long lasting but definitely less powerful. I would say that if the parfum is haute couture, the EDP is the Little Black Dress – both are thrilling in their own right but the former is definitely more majestic.
While I use Chanel No. 5 as an example, the same story runs across all perfume houses, from Dior to Van Cleef & Arpels.
And that’s why, price matters…
Chanel Parfum: $260.00 per ounce
Eau de Parfum: $33.82 per ounce
Eau de Toilette: $26.47 per ounce
Body Spray: $13.10 per ounce
What’s you take? Do you wear Chanel No. 5? Which one? And would you rather buy a Parfum, an EDP or an EDT?
Feeling low? You are not alone. According to research, this is the most depressing time of the year. It’s cold, it’s grey and those holier-than-thou resolutions are laughing in our face. So, we could really use something to beat the blues right now.
So, come with me and let the smiling begin!
Try the “happiness molecule”
Euphoryl – a molecule developed by Laboratoires Sérobiologiques – has the beauty world abuzz with its mood boosting promises. It is said to stimulate the production of dopamine and endorphins, which promote happiness, energy and sex appeal. An easy way to get your fix? The Physician’s Formula Happy Booster Blush ($10). Forget the science bit – the pretty pink hearts have us feeling more cheerful already.
Take a decadent dip
Bubble baths will warm you up mentally and physically. Especially when coupled with Champagne and some cozy tunes. No time for the tub? Fill a bowl with warm water and a squirt of bath gel. Soak hands only, palms up, while you feel the stress slipping away from your whole body.
Armed with aromatherapy
One of the best beauty cures for winter blues lies in the world of aromatherapy. Fruity scents – such as lemon and watermelon – are usually associated with the happiest, most carefree times in our lives, like summertime and vacations. Plus, the scent of fruit sends your body a message to release certain chemicals that create a state of blissful relaxation. So, create your own blend of cheery scents with a mix of essential oils or try a pre-blended product: use a citrus body cleanser or face wash like Soap & Glory’s Sugar Crush Sweet Lime Body Wash ($12) or stash a lusciously scented body lotion in your desk drawer.
It’s said the right colour can turn a frown upside down so opt for bright hues. Result: an instant jolt of energy. The easiest switch is a red lipstick, whose association with fun and sexy times is full of positive energy.
The taste test
Something as simple as a new lip gloss in a flavour you love can bring out the cheerful! Citrus ones get bonus points for their uplifting aroma.
Show some massage love
A stress-busting massage sends messages to your brain, triggering the release of feel good chemicals that produce a sense of relaxation and well being. And that’s not all: massage also improves blood circulation, steps up lymphatic drainage, relaxes the muscles and boosts the immune system.
Sometimes, there is nothing more depressing as having to pile on layers and layers of heavy woollens to keep the cold at bay. Imagine how much time would be saved if we could skip the whole put-on-thermal-and-pullover-and-tights-and-coat and then take-off-thermal-and-pullover-and-tights-and-coat and then put-on-thermal-and-pullover-and-tights-and-coat-all-over-again four times a day? And what when that cute cocktail dress really, REALLY demands bare legs? When it’s freezing outside?
Then you turn to embrocation creams – the stuff those cute spandex-shorts-clad cyclists use to trick their legs into thinking its 30 degrees warmer outside. Embrocation creams call upon blends of circulation-boosting ingredients like clove, capsica, peppermint and menthol to create a long lasting sensation of warmth that means bare legs can take the streets even in the dead of winter. Added bonus: the shea butter base hydrates winter-worn skin and gives it a super-sexy gleam. Happiness much? Look for DZnuts In-Heat Embrocation ($19.10) or Chamois Butt’r Hot Embrocation ($16.80).
Your hair products go a long way in deciding how you are feeling. That’s because skin absorbs upto 60% of what we put on it, and the scalp has some of the most fragile skin anywhere on the body. So, choose your ingredients carefully and sail through the day cocooned in bliss. Mint and menthol-spiked hair products offer the perfect wakeup call, and will leave you refreshed. Seeking comfort? Lemongrass and tea tree oil create a slightly warming sensation, which combines with their aromatherapy qualities to relax the scalp muscles and make you feel calmer.
Love winter? Loathe winter? How do YOU cope with winter?
You know the best part about travelling? About being a “gypsy” – beauty or otherwise? The friendships you develop with people from across the world. Unshakable, everlasting friendships. Because midnight conversations deep in the lush rainforests of Amazon and bone chilling treks up the fjords of Alaska have a way of forging bonds that withstand geographies and calendars.
And they pay the most beautiful dividends. Like the time Anna Csaszar, my pálinka-drinking-soul-baring-limbs-freezing buddy from Hungary introduced me to her country’s cult Queen of Hungary’s Water. I’ve often seen this beauty tonic in various forms on the shelves, from brands as varied as Omorovicza, Caudalie and Lush. But somehow, despite the “gypsy” antecedents, had never really investigated it. My bad.
Turns out Queen of Hungary’s Water (or Hungary water, as it’s known in short) was the world’s first distillable perfume – predating Eau de Cologne by almost five centuries.
And it wasn’t just a perfume either. Nope! Rather, it was a cure-all beauty tonic, bestowed with near-magical properties: the early recipes advise the user to drink the tonic, rub it on skin, bathe in it and inhale it in order to receive the most benefit. In fact, according to legend, it was so effective at reversing the old queen’s appearance that 25-year-old Grand Duke of Lithuania asked for her hand in marriage when she was 70!
Whether that’s true or not, fact is that the herbal composition of Hungary water is a wonderful astringent for all skin types. It gently tones, tightens pores, soothes itchy or acne-prone skin, normalizes the skin’s pH, smoothens the skin texture and protects it from bacteria and other infections.
The potent blend of volatile oils, flavonoids and phenolic acids, which are antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, also make it a superb hair rinse.
But Hungary water may also be one of the most controversial beauty products in history. Claims about its origins range from the perfume-tonic having been given to Queen Elizabeth of Hungary (1305-1380), either by a monk, a court alchemist, or a band of roaming gypsies.
It’s believed that the recipe for Hungary water remains written by the queen’s own hand, in golden alphabet, in the Imperial Library at Vienna. And that’s what the people of Hungary, who call upon this tonic water for everything from acne and eczema to headaches and indigestion, base this easy home brew upon. Anna gave me my first bottle and since then, I’ve always had one sitting on my side table.
Thankfully, given the number of bottles I go through (it’s addictive in what it does to your skin!) Hungary water is easy to make and you can get the ingredients just about everywhere.
And even if you can’t find everything in this list, just use what you have (except for rosemary – that’s crucial). Also, you can opt for either dry or fresh herbs. Though I’ve found that the fresh ones tend to make the mixture a little more cloudy. Personally, I stick to dry herbs – making sure they are organic, though.
You will need
6 tablespoons lemon balm
1 tablespoon rosemary
4 tablespoons rose petals
3 tablespoons calendula or marigold
3 tablespoons mint
1 tablespoon lemon peel
1 tablespoon sage
4 tablespoons chamomile (optional)
Cider vinegar to cover (preferably organic)
Rose water or witch hazel
Essential oil of lavender or rose (optional)
How to make Queen of Hungary’s Water
1. Pour all the herbs into a widemouthed glass jar
2. Add enough vinegar that it rises about two inches above the herbs; close the jar tight and let it sit in a warm or sunny spot for 2-3 weeks
3. Strain out the herbs with a fine mesh – try and get all the bits out as any fragments may turn rancid over time
4. Add either rose water or witch hazel in a ratio of 1:1 to the remaining liquid
5. Add the essential oils, if you so desire
6. Rebottle the mixture and store in a cool, dry place
Have you ever come across the Queen of Hungary’s Water? Tried it? Liked it?
To me, there is nothing more beautiful than the first rain showers of the season. There is something so magical about the rain – especially as you sit on the edge of the seas, watching the sparkling raindrops fall from the distant skies above onto the sheets of water below, the breeze picking up and swirling away all the summer dust.
I love how everything seems so fresh and clean and sparkly – there is quite nothing like the smell of fresh rain on the summer-scorched earth and the sight of stately trees turning green again. As for the jagged flashes of lightning that cut through stormy night skies – neither nature, nor humans have yet to recreate better theatre.
This is the time to sit on an open terrace, drinking jasmine tea (or a turmeric latte) and eating onion fritters. Or maybe sipping a tall flute of chilled Prosecco and feasting on olives and parmesan as nature plays out its most amazing spectacle.
Touching and feeling the raindrops on your skin, hearing the wind and thunder swirling around in abandon and seeing a bright summer afternoon transform into a dark and shadowy twilight zone. This is the time to be on your own, with your own thoughts – not amidst the clamour of crowds. It’s the time to reflect, to clear your mind, to resolve the past and plan the future. It’s the time to let the rain showers clear away those innermost cobwebs just as they are wiping the slate clean for nature’s panorama.
It’s definitely not the time to worry about your clothes getting wet. Or your mascara flowing away. Or even your hair frizzing to double its size. There are enough days in the year when we need to worry about our style quotient… let monsoon be the time out when you can just be yourself. When you want to dance through the rains as they soak right through to the skin. When you laugh with abandon and experience the pure, unadulterated joy of being one with nature and not having a care in the world.
Unfortunately, those blissful days are still a while away and we still need to get through the scorching summer in the meantime. Which I am going to do by drenching myself in a rain-inspired perfume… if I can’t have the storms and the thunder, at least I can envelop myself in a fragrant cocoon that blocks out the heat.
Marc Jacobs Rain Splash
For Rain Splash, Marc Jacobs was inspired by the smell of a city after it rains. With notes of wet grass, clementine, dewy cypress, sparkling wild strawberry, white orchid, beech amber, tree moss, musk, teakwood and a rain accord, the perfume seems both green and humid with just enough sweetness to keep it fresh.
Kiehl’s Forest Rain
This spicy, woody perfume takes us to a mountain forest covered in rain with its combination of bitter citruses, lily of the valley, vetiver, cypress and musk. It’s cool, breezy, earthy and sensual – just like the ground surrounding a forest of leafy coniferous trees that’s just been washed by the rains after a long summer.
Hermès Un Jardin Après la Mousson
Un Jardin Après La Mousson (“Garden After Monsoon”) is Hermès’ in-house perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena’s love song to Kerala, one of India’s most lushly gorgeous regions. A delicate, soaring arrangements in cool shades, the sheer, almost-ethereal fragrance opens up on the coolness of cardamom and the crisp fruitiness of watermelon. Then emerge the floral-woody notes of pepper, ginger, ginger flower and vetiver accord, creating an overall impression of a delicately spiced citrus – to visualise, picture a large bowl of sliced watermelons, then add fresh mint, lime juice, freshly powdered cardamom and small slivers of crystallized ginger. Pure bliss!
Demeter is one of those boutique brands that take a bit of hunting to discover but once you do try it out, you will be hooked for life. Thunderstorm is extraordinarily evocative in its ability to call up a rain storm, complete with the sparkling across-the-sky lightning and humidity hanging heavy in the air. Then comes the aromas that surround you after the storm has passed: Wet leaves, water-soaked earth and a sense of rain drying on a hot pavement. Sometimes life is that simple!
Guerlain Apres l’Ondee
Apres l’Onde (French for “After the Rain Shower”) is a Belle Époque creation, dating back to 1906. The passage of more than a century has done nothing to dull the composition’s graceful symphony, which marries the era’s sparkling joie de vivre with it’s equally signature undertones of brooding darkness. An opulent composition that radiates with notes of violet, iris, hawthorn, vanilla, anise and carnation, it speaks of a fresh, sparkling new world that’s been recently swept clean by a rain storm. Beautiful.
La Prairie Silver Rain
The perfectly sculpted raindrop form holds a fragrance that’s redolent with rare roots, herbs and flowers from across the world, including Thai anise seed, crushed Moroccan coriander, Moroccan red rose petal, Chinese star magnolia, night blooming Indian jasmine, Indonesian patchouli leaves, red sandalwood, Venezuelan tonka bean, rare agar wood, rich musks and warm vanilla. The result? A fragrance inspired by a phenomenon that takes place in the Swiss Alps, where falling rain transforms into ice crystals (“the silver rain”).