there’s a fungus among us : biologique recherche masque vivant

Okay. I so badly wanted to find an image of the devil or some monster covered in snot or slime to start this post. While I am amused by the fact that Googling “Satan” returns images of Obama in a red robe, I am dismayed by the lack of realistic yet gory devil pictures. I then Googled “mucus”, but was inundated with colonoscopy photos of mucus-y poop riding in a colon. My last shot was “fungus ball”, which is a highly unfortunate medical condition in which an aggregate of mold grows within a body cavity. The resulting goopy mix of fungus and mucus is said to resemble, appetizingly, peanut butter. (Doctors, and especially pathologists, are notorious for ruining appetites with creative terms such as “chocolate cysts”, “nutmeg liver”, and “cottage cheese discharge”. Add peanut butter to the list. Go, team!) The fungus ball images are so vile I can’t even begin to comprehend using one in a blog post voluntarily. (If you’re feeling masochistic or need to kill your appetite, be my guest.)

So why the need to find said image? Because today I want to talk about Biologique Recherché Masque Vivant, the “balancing mask par excellence”, which purportedly “Purifies, Brightens, Tones, and Refreshes the complexion”, benefiting those unfortunate souls with “oily, combination, dull and/or less toned skin”. The Internet is bursting forth with love and appreciation for this product as well as its sidekick P50 1970. So if the P50 1970 smells like pickled biology class frogs, this smells (and looks) like a fungus ball. How ironic, SINCE IT’S GOT YEAST SHIT IN IT.

I’d read the descriptions online. Someone thinks it smells like that funky spread Vegemite that I avoided all over Europe. It certainly looks just like it. Someone else said it smells like trash. Here I was, innocently thinking yeast? So, it smells like bread dough? Like a brewery? How bad can it be?



Hence my need to locate an image of the devil covered in snot. Because if Satan himself had a horrible fungus ball removed from his maxillary paranasal sinus, THIS IS WHAT IT WOULD LOOK AND SMELL LIKE.

It’s thick, viscous, and sticky, close to the color of poop or bloody mucus. The odor has a disturbing peanut butter side to it, but otherwise smells rank and organic and fascinating in the most vile way. Not in a farmer’s market way, but in a compost-heap-in-summer way. Have you ever smelled something decomposing? That scent hits you in the most primitive part of your brain that is on high alert and screams GET AWAY NOW because the instinct to avoid things that you make you sick is why you’re alive today. I’m not going to go so far as to say this product smells like a rotting corpse, but it does make those primitive instincts twinge just a tiny bit. When I put it on, I literally cannot wait to wash it off, until I remember that getting it wet reinvigorates the odor — it mercifully diminishes as the mask dries. I let the cats smell it, thinking they’d be skeeved out; one of them ignored me and the other one tried to lick it right off my face. I, bravely, let my SO smell it. He has a shitty sense of smell so it was no surprise when he sniffed and said, “Mmmmmm…… Chocolate?”

So, yeah. I consider this purchase as taking one for the team. I’ve tried it straight up, I’ve tried it mixed with a little baking soda as some suggest. Adding the baking soda adds a new dimension, because now you have not just a smelly sticky disgusting product, you have a FROTHING smelly sticky disgusting product. I actually prefer it with the baking soda and just a couple drops of water — it thins the whole mess out. This is preferable because a) it is expensive; anything to make it go further helps; and b) I would probably pass out if I gooped it on full strength. (My SO now can look at me through the window as he gets home from work and recognize instantly if I have it on based on my facial expression.)

The stoic face of a brave soldier.

By now you’re all wondering why the fuck I’m not talking about its effects, and here I am worried that I’ll need to turn in my skincare whore card if I admit anything less than elation. To be fair, I’ve only been using it for a couple weeks since I got my BR haul in from Rescue Spa. I’ve been using it at night, after removing makeup with the Lait VIP O2 cleanser and a nice burning swipe of P50. Its immediate effects (besides total relief from being able to wash it off) are similar to the Sunday Riley mask made of Good Genes + Ceramic Slip. You do get glowy, smooth, and radiant skin, minus the skin-burning-off sensation and tears of pain, with a few more dollars left over in your wallet (at $64, Masque Vivant is a bargain, comparatively) and a nice dose of the smug satisfaction that typically accompanies the use of cult products.

 said BR haul

The “good” news is that, thankfully, the smell is less of a punch in the face over time. It still doesn’t smell good, but now after a few weeks I can use it without being overtly grossed out. I’m going to commit to using this 3-4 times a week until that entire 3.4 oz of sticky poop is gone; updates to follow.

scratch that itch and save

Citrine Beauty Bar, which is just down the street from me, carries a bunch of all-natural, organic this, green smoothie that skincare products and makeup, including May Lindstrom, Tata Harper, Jane Iredale, RMS, and so on. I just got an email saying they are having a sale online as well as in store Saturday 7/25 and Sunday 7/26: 15% off $125+ (code: summer15) or 20% off $250+ (code: summer20). So in case you weren’t totally turned off by my reviews, you can now pick up a couple products for a little less cash. Just don’t use your nice white washcloths, for the love of God!

my dalliance with may lindstrom (round three)

 After sampling, sniffing, and dabbling with May Lindstrom’s product line (here and here), it’s time to chat about the oils. I, for one, am happy this is the last post about her; how many times have I typed her name and the MacBook tries to change it to May Windstorm. I am sick of clicking the little “x” to tell it no, because it’s not learning anyway.

To recap, I recently ordered five ML samples from Eco Diva Beauty. I think it is fabulous that a company is willing to sample these products, given that they are quite pricey and not widely distributed. Many kudos to them, although it backfired in my case because I won’t be ordering any of the full size products. The Problem Solver powder-to-mousse mask, The Clean Dirt powder-to-mousse cleanser, and The Honey Mud creme cleanser are remarkably similar to me. They all smell wonderful. They all contain clay. They all managed to irreparably stain white washcloths. They all left my skin dry, tight, and slightly irritated. Given that I have super oily, fairly hardy skin, this was quite a feat.

My last two samples were of The Youth Dew, $120/20 ml and The Good Stuff, $110/100 ml. The Good Stuff is described as a body oil that may by itself cause orgasm when applied. At least, that’s what one might take away from the description (“This total-body elixir will recharge your relationship with your skin. A rich and decadent marriage of cocoa, rose, lavender and ylang-ylang tantalizes your senses while enveloping your every inch in luxurious hydration. Pairing exquisite nourishment from a succulent blend of plant oils with an infusion of translucent golden minerals to release skin from years of dullness and reset your natural vitality for an unprecedented dewy glow.” This person should not be allowed to write.). Basically, it reminds me of really nice cocoa butter oil with a little shimmer in it (which comes from tiny particles of mica). The fragrance is lovely but doesn’t last. The oil itself is midweight, reminding me of almond oil or cocoa butter oil. It gets somewhat absorbed, but slowly — I can’t imagine what it would be like to try to apply a full pump or two, considering I was trying drops at a time. The shimmer is very fine, best visualized in the clear dropper vial the sample came in; I couldn’t discern any shimmer on the skin. Meh.

The Youth Dew, on the other hand, is the only product I would consider purchasing from the entire line. This is a product designed for the face, and is described as a “serum”, which I find wholly misleading given that its ingredient list is a complex mix of oils with some CoQ10 thrown in. Fucked up description aside, this is a lovely product. As in keeping with the rest of the line, it smells fantastic, although, for once, not like food. Its texture is a WIN. I am eternally picky about face oils; I use them only on my cheeks to moisturize and add a little luster, but the texture has to be just so. The product needs to absorb, not just lay there; it needs to add a glow without looking truly oily; it needs to last. For instance, Josie Maran’s argan oil is like motor oil, it’s so thick and sticky. There is no way that is going on my face. Rodin Olio Lusso is heralded as the end-all, be-all of face oils, which I kind of don’t understand. Don’t get me wrong, it literally smells like God, but I feel like it disappears soon after application, but without leaving the residual glow and moisture you’d expect. My very favorite oil is the original Sunday Riley Juno Transformative Lipid Serum— again with the “serum” thing, what gives. (I see they have also released something called Juno Hydroactive Cellular Face Oil, which is different.) Regardless, the original Juno (strangely described as a “dry oil”) is rich and easily absorbed, while leaving the perfect glow behind — no residue, no stickiness. Despite its icky pizza grease smell, it is a HG must have product for me. ML The Youth Dew most closely approximates Juno in texture and appearance on the skin, and gets bonus points for actually smelling good. Juno will run you $125 for 30 ml, or $4.17 per ml. ML The Youth Dew, coming out to $6.00 per ml, remains the pricier option, but is a viable alternative for those wanting to avoid smelling like a pizza street stand.

With that, I saved $460 by spending $10 on samples and not falling prey to the internet hype and seductive claims for the ML line. See? Genius. (I could say I would put that in the G wagon fund, but let’s get real. I just ordered a bunch of Biologique Recherché crap and then the Nordie’s Anniversary Sale happened. Sorry, UPS man.)

My dalliance with May lindstrom (round two)


So, as discussed recently, May Lindstrom’s much hyped powder-to-mousse-just-add-water the Clean Dirt cleanser and the Problem Solver mask will basically wreak havoc on your diet, if you are on one. They smell divine, like baking cinnamon rolls*, and I guarantee any basic bitch worth her salt would go pumpkin-spice-latte nuts over them. They literally made me crave anything combining the holy trinity of sugar, fat, and carbs. The fragrance is so potent, you are very cognizant of it the whole time the product is on your face, which means the entire time you will be mentally rifling your kitchen cabinets for anything that might scratch the itch. It’s basically torture.** Thankfully (?), I found them irritating as well as grossly and exorbitantly overpriced, in addition to being eerily similar to one another, so I feel no compulsion to purchase either one. Once these samples are gone, no más.

Enter the next co-conspirator: the Honey Mud Cleansing Silk, $80. Have you ever had Mexican hot chocolate? It’s a rich blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cayenne against a creamy chocolate base, and it’s basically crack cocaine in a mug. The Honey Mud looks AND smells like Mexican hot chocolate pudding (if there is such a thing) made with sugar and gluten and full-fat dairy products as God would want it. It feels like smearing it on your face is wrong, and maybe there’s something to that. This is a very thick formula that is very aptly named; it’s densely creamy and only slightly sticky — it vaguely reminds me of Eve Lom cleanser in texture.

I have oily skin that is slathered both day and night with an array of layers of product, some of which are also oily and/or occlusive. When I wash my face, I need that shit to come off in one round. I know some people advocate a two-step cleansing process, but SIGH. I just cannot commit to that twice a day, every day. I like to use the Eve Lom cleanser as an adjunct when my skin is irritated, but never as a standalone cleanser — it feels lovely but doesn’t leave one particularly clean feeling. The Honey Mud is, again, similar. It’s luxurious and decadent and may be lovely as a mask in winter when you’re dry, but as an everyday item, it doesn’t meet my needs. Those with dry skin may find it delightful, but Exxon Valdez over here needs something with a little more oomph.

Voilà! I just saved $80 more. Woot, woot!

*I worked at Cinnabon for three months in college. No, I never got sick of the smell. Yes, I got fat. Yes, I still love them. Constantly having to clean mold out of the Mochalatta Chill dispenser weaned me off those pretty quick though.

**I don’t know if I’m PMSing or something because I am hungry enough to gnaw off my own foot today, hence the near panic-level obsession with food. Somehow, I have made it the entire day so far without lying to myfitnesspal, go me! Probably not a good time to discuss products that smell like baked goods and make me drool.

my dalliance with may lindstrom (round one)

So, as I recently mentioned, in a moment of weakness I ordered samples of much of May Lindstrom’s exorbitantly expensive skincare line from They’ll sell you samples of each for $2, but with a catch: you’re limited to five samples.

Decisions, decisions! I opted for the Honey Mud cleanser, the Clean Dirt cleanser, the Problem Solver mask, the Youth Dew serum, and the Good Stuff multipurpose oil. The Blue Cocoon description sounds suspiciously like glorified Aquaphor to me, so I took a pass despite its high marks on the web.

Your first challenge is to navigate the absurd product descriptions online, resplendent with phrases like “cool serenity”, “intoxicating”, “gently whimsical”, “exquisite nourishment”, “power packed bouquet”, “magic dust”, and “superstar”. Are we talking about chakra crystals? Shots of Jagermeister? A Pinterest project involving baking soda and essential oils? A Yankee candle? Really. This is a facial cleanser, not a twelve-day Thai spiritual retreat. My soul will not levitate over my body and find God while my face mask is drying.

Okay. I’m a lumper, not a splitter. My colleagues will spend fifteen minutes debating over the most appropriate diagnostic nomenclature for a benign tumor or condition, whereas I am (in)famous for walking in, looking at the case, and saying, “Who cares?” If the possible diagnostic options all have an identical net effect on the patient — no further treatment, no horrible prognosis, no otherwise sinister implications — then any unnecessary debate about the most precise nomenclature is just mental masturbation. I am all about E-F-F-I-C-I-E-N-C-Y, and crafting a ridiculous diagnosis describing some daffy variant of a blah-blah-blah, which means ZERO POINT ZERO to the doctor treating the patient, is plain old silly. In fact, if you use some crazy terminology in a report which forces the doctor to Google it to find out what the fuck you are talking about, then you are wasting their time.

Ahem. So. Yes, I’m a lumper. This is why I view the Clean Dirt and the Problem Solver in somewhat similar veins. They are both gritty powders that you mix with water. They both look like poop once mixed. They both smell INCREDIBLE, like pumpkin spice bread. They will both indelibly stain white washcloths and will require enthusiastic scrubbing off white surfaces.

The first round with the Problem Solver. Did I make it too watery? Does it look like I smeared diarrhea all over my face?

Round 2. Less water. Where’s the beef? Why does it feel like my face is going to crack? Why do I look so filthy? What’s happening?

I tried the Problem Solver a couple times, making sure to leave it on for at least 45 minutes per recommendation. It itched. It cracked. I was afraid to make any facial movement for fear shards of aromatic clay would shoot off my face and stab the cat. I was so excited to be able to scrub it off, despite the permeating aroma of freshly-baked autumnal treats. (Frankly, it was making me hungry. And sad that fall is still months away.) Once all was said and done, my skin looked… okay. I mean, it looked nice, but no nicer than after any of the other tried-and-true tricks up my sleeve.

The Clean Dirt, in my humble and uneducated opinion, seems really similar to the Problem Solver. It’s gritty, smells yummy, and makes a fucking mess. I can see how the Clean Dirt would be particularly satisfying if you had a real face full of heavy makeup you needed to sandblast off, but for everyday purposes I couldn’t justify the cost or the mess. Furthermore, the texture is fairly coarse — I can’t imagine those with sensitive skin wouldn’t have some issues with either product. In fact, Problem Solver has left me with small scaly patches of mild irritant dermatitis each time I’ve used it. Nothing horrible, and it’s gone in a couple hours, but STILL.

In sum? I will pass. And I am SO RELIEVED that, for once, I am not irresistibly compelled by a grossly overpriced skincare product. $200 that can go into my G-wagon fund. Heh.

instant gratification

Since I clearly am in a no-nonsense mood, let’s not beat around the bush here. In a world where skin care products may take months to see an effect, sometimes you just don’t want to fuck around. Maybe you have a job interview, or a hot date, or maybe you have your period, feel like a bloated hemorrhaging pig, and want a little pick-me-up that doesn’t involve a bowl of brownie batter. Sometimes you just need a quick scrub or mask that you can count on — one that WORKS.

I have three no-fail options in my arsenal that I can rely on. All three result in baby-butt-smooth, soft, and glowing skin, and for once, all price points are represented. Let’s start at the top and work our way down.

Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment, $105 + SR Ceramic Slip cleanser, $45 – Sunday Riley recommends 3 pumps of GG + 2 pumps of CS left on for 5-10 minutes as an impromptu mask. That’s a lot of product; I do 1-2 pumps of GG + 1 pump CS. I probably do this the most, because it’s fastest and easiest at end of a long day.

philosophy the microdelivery peel, $40 – don’t be thrown by the “peel” in the name; there is no physical peeling involved, of skin or product. This is a two-step process, starting with the granular Vitamin C scrub, followed by the lactic and salicylic acid activating gel, which results in some satisfying foaming action.

aspirin powder, $6 + honey – the aspirin comes in suspect little folded paper packets. I use one packet plus enough honey to make a paste and a little water to make it spreadable. Then I scrub this sticky goopy mess all over my face, adding extra layers to any zits or inflamed areas. Because this is concentrated anti-inflammatory goodness, I gravitate towards this concoction when I’m breaking out. (See: hemorrhaging menstrual pig and brownie batter, above.) You could do this with just water, but as it dries, the powder won’t stick very well — you’ve got to anchor it with some goopy base.

Now you tell me! What products or routines would you trust your first born with?

live and learn

I thought it might be fun to write about the things I’ve always wanted to try but won’t because of fear of addiction/debt/gross impracticality. Well, that backfired; I test drove the G wagon over the weekend and am obsessed, and ordered samples of pretty much the entire line of May Lindstrom products. They are sitting in my bathroom right now waiting for me. I’m a little frightened. If you don’t hear from me, you’ll know what happened*.

*I’ll be sitting nude in a G wagon rubbing grossly overpriced boutique oils all over my body.