Tag Archives: skin care












The other day I was browsing used perfumes in a Yokohama recycling store. Should I buy  heavily discounted bottle of The Essence Of Central Park by Carthusia? Or a refill 93ml edt of Guerlain Jicky? How about Lily Of The Valley by Penhaligons? (such a beautifully coloured box). Or one of the l’eaus by Diptyque (always very appealing bottles). And do I want that Caron Le 3ème Homme?





The thing is, I can very easily live without all of these smells. I just wanted them in my collection. For sheer avarice. Just to look at and gloat. I get a great deal of pleasure from surveying the goods, of seeing my cabinets and shelves replete with flacons, some boxed, some not (depending on whether I like them or not visually), but always a deluge of scent at the ready for my delectation.





As I looked at the lower priced perfumes on the bottom of the glass case in the store that sells second hand designer clothes (old Chanel coats and Dior handbags, Yohji Yamamoto pants for more freedealing Japanese locals) I saw a very boring-looking thing called L’OrBio by a brand called Melvita.  Dulled by its visuals, I almost passed it over thinking that it couldn’t be worth trying.















(would you bother with something like this?)













(the oil strikes me as something less aesthetically unappealing). 






In the interest of all options closed, I decided to try it anyway. And was immediately in love.  I had, though, already picked out the perfume I was going to be buying (a big bottle of Geoffrey Beene’s Grey Flannel, partly because I love the label on the green flacon and it reminds me of my first ever summer in Greece), and we left the store with me saying I might have to come back for this one; smell this, D – wow what a perfect tiare scent! 



It really is. This leaves thick, overarching wannabes like Montale’s Tiare Intense in the dust: so many tropical summer perfumes go overboard in the sweetness and vanilla coconut to the point you get furred lips. This : L’OrBio, is gentle and takes its time in unfolding; an almost clovey beginning – fig leaf, cedar and bergamot creating a taut and crisp contrast with the delicious tiare, vanilla and benzoin in the base (Catherine, if you are reading YOU NEED THIS). Soft, radiant and effortlessly beachy, by the time we had got to the end of the sweltering street and gone for ice coffees on the other side of the station I was saying oh my god D I think I might have to go back and get this one. I can’t live without it. Ultimately, knees and heat exhaustion prevented us from doing so, meaning that instead of buying a perfume I would drink up greedily and wear all the time when I get into mentalita tropicalia, I bought a scent that I will only put on once in a blue moon, meaning I am stupid and pretentious. Had this been packaged in a beautiful bottle and housed in a flawlessly embossed box, I would be raving all over this one (I am anyway, but in a different way). Inarticulate dross and chemical vats of nuclear level amberwoods get marketed with illiterate copy (honestly, some of the crap I have read recently  – back to school, bitches!) and is put in a ‘tasteful’ container and a marketing ploy and the hipster brainwashed just lap it up, placing the perfume carefully in the corner of their exquisitely appointed ‘condo’, when it actually smells like shit and numbs all those who come into contact with it. THIS, delicious, voluptuous, like a beautiful creature from the Seychelles, gets ignored, left behind (by me, too, supposedly a scent connoisseur), because of its slightly prosaic packaging. There is a lesson in this.
















L’OrBio can’t help reminding me of course of Nuxe Paris’ legendary Huile Prodigieuse, a product I ‘cannot be without’. The Black Narcissus is not a beauty blog (how could it be?), but I do try to look after my skin, and this oily, sweet tropical magnificence is perfect when I have turned into a knackered, eyeballed hag with sallow, desiccated complexion like a hounddog. I am very intuitive about what or what not to put on my face: most of the time my skin says no thank you and I just wash my face with water. It is enough. Cleansers, exfoliators, toners and particularly ‘masques’ do not suit me (rash inducing; too harsh) ; I don’t need them  – too much chemical interference.  I just need moisturiser, and the full list of the products I use is this: organic virgin coconut oil (nothing is better for eye bags); Huile Prodigieuse (bring on that glow and health look); and Kiehl’s products for men such as the macho sounding Facial Fuel energising moisture lotion and the Age Defender cream, both of which I use in emergencies for their tingling, minty, refreshing aspects that are different from the replenishing grease of the aforementioned naturals. Sometimes I get it wrong and end up too oily, but on the whole, these products  – which last me half a year – save me from looking totally like the back end of a bus, particularly after a eucalyptus bath. When I first went back to work after the initial lockdown after shaving I was quite horrified by what I saw in the mirror, almost to the point of thinking that is not my face : a trip to Kiehl’s in Yokohama soon brought quantifiable results.






The eau de toilette of L’OrBio is so lovely I might have to now look into the oil as well as a skin moisturiser (and I am definitely going to go back to get the perfume or get it from the local Melvita stockist near the station). Huile Prodigieuse is a touch on the hysterically sweet tip, sometimes, like a full orchestra of Hawaiian ukuleles ; it can make me feel a bit sick in the morning when I am not in the mood.  As I sat smelling the back of my hand where I had smelled L’OrBio, I sank into its mellow, natural effortlessness. I was enjoying it so much. Because really, after all, perfume love should be about the smell. 










Filed under Flowers











I will admit that I am somewhat vain.




Though I virtually never go clothes shopping, don’t ‘work out’, and usually cut my hair myself, one thing I do care about, aside how I smell, obviously, is skin.



Though middle age may be encroaching (or has already encroached), and I can accept the realities of ‘ageing’ to a large degree  (and I have to say that being 43 is way more enjoyable than I ever would have possibly imagined), I nevertheless see no reason why I should dry up like a crinkled, Clint Eastwood husk if I can help it, at least not yet; and like the Egyptians, and their rituals of mummification, I will continue to try to preserve this doomed,  disintegrating epidermis as long as is humanly possible.




I have always been one of those morbidly attracted to moisture. In fact, I am a confirmed dehydrophobe (Duncan has even suggested hypnotherapy), but I won’t go into too much of that now, suffice it to say that there is a lot of water and herb tea (rooibos or lemongrass) by my bed at night, and that when the earthquake hit two years ago, and I clung to the walls, I thanked the heavens that I happened to be clutching a bottle of iced Japanese green tea in my hand: being trapped under rubble without water and slowly drying to a parched death is genuinely far more terrifying to me than pain or the more simple loss of my life).





Moisturizing creams are essential. And by and large, I prefer to (semi) make my own, because, in essence, they are better. Using a cheapish, generic unscented skin milk by Shiseido, I add small amounts of quality essential oils, depending on my mood (palmarosa, geranium, ylang ylang, lavender, frankincense or myrrh being some of the essences that suit my skin best), though the crown of skin-loving oils, by far the most effective and most naturally luxuriant, will always go to neroli.




Ah…..neroli. Just that word…





Brian Eno even once made a whole album about this essence, ‘Neroli’, the most relaxing ambient soundtrack I know, somnolent to the point of coma : perhaps this is why I don’t seem to review neroli or orange blossom perfumes so often, because much as I love the scent of orange blossom flowers in the flesh (one of nature’s headiest, most erotic savours), for me the extracted essence is more a medicine, a face ointment, not a perfume; a cooling, soothing nerve tonic and rejuvenating skin-cell balm that worn at night has an immediately dream-like, sedative effect – the next day I usually wake up more bright-skinned, refreshed. The stuff is gorgeous, and over the years friends that have stayed at the house have often taken a shine to ‘my neroli’: as a result I have often ended up shipping bottles of the stuff to various people at their request (but don’t get any ideas…) It isn’t cheap: essential oils are very expensive here in Japan for some reason (about three times the cost of those in England, which is why I always really stock up when I go back), and a 1ml tiny bottle of pure neroli will usually set you back about 3000-5000 yen (fifty dollars).





The Black Narcissus is primarily a perfume-worshipping oasis, but as those perfumes, at least in theory, are comprised mainly of essential oils, I would like today to take a look at one single, high quality, essential oil just for a change.




Can essential oils be reviewed? I never have before, but I do know that the quality, timbre, and sensation of aromatherapeutic essential oils, not to mention the smell, vary greatly from company to company, depending on the source, the ethos, the harvest of any particular year, how mass produced (ie adulterated) they are, and the essential integrity of the aromatherapy house in question.





The more you use essential oils- in my case, at least twenty years –  the deeper you go, know which company’s oils are purest and most effective. You find your favourites. My own most used oil would probably have to be marjoram, but only, onlyonly Maggie Tisserand’s, a sweet marjoram from Spain that is like my missing link and I find healing and invigorating simultaneously. There is simply nothing else like it.




For invigoration and morning zest I sometimes use rosemary, geranium, ylang ylang, black pepper or cardamom in the bath (instantaneous results guaranteed), but at night, Maggie Tisserand’s sweet Spanish marjoram is the only thing I can be sure will take me from my overstimulated state (from teaching til late or writing posts on here), to sleep – it is basically my sleeping drug, a haven; herbaceous, strong, but warming, almost balsamic, and I absolutely cannot live without it.




As for Eden Botanicals, some samples of which were sent me by the lovely Brie of Fragrant Man and Australian Perfume Junkies, who makes her own bespoke perfumes using essential oils – you should smell the tobacco amber she has done for Birgit from Olfactoria – all I can say is wow. And express my deep frustration that I have no access to these natural beauties on a regular basis.




The lime ( I love a good lime) is by miles the best lime I have ever smelled, and in a blink of an eye it went straight into a bottle of Harry Lehmann Laguna cologne, which, nice though it is, had a slightly dissatisfying top note – a problem rectified exquisitely by this zinging citron vert; the orange so dazzlingly gorgeous that I would buy it by the litre if I could and just spray it all over the house for the sheer hell of it; unfortunately I was testing Atelier Cologne’s Orange Sanguine on the other hand at the time, and the Eden blasted it instantly into a banal nothingness of uppity New York musk; the orange I was experiencing on my other wrist so vivacious, so alive that my interest in the other wilted immediately.





In contrast, Petitgrain Sur Fleurs (is that not the most beautiful name?) smelled wrong, horribly, on the skin at first as it is just too unrectified, too brutally real, as if the entire spirit of the bitter orange tree – the petitgrain leaf oil, the twigs, and the orange blossom flowers had not been ‘extracted’ or distilled or hexaned or coldpressed, but lifted directly, the soul of the tree intact, a diffusion, or transfusion even, and in concentration on the skin all was too heady, nature’s chemicals colliding, evaporating all over the shop ( I was never a huge fan of petitgrain oil anyway – it is one of the oils that give me headaches, along with basil, cinnamon leaf and aniseed).




This is no ordinary petitgrain oil however, and it wasn’t intended for direct use as a perfume on the skin anyway. Here, there is none of that sharpness, that needle-in-eye citricity, of certain petitgrains; no, this is the tree, as I said, petitgrain sur fleurs, as its name suggests, a beautiful expression of freshly opening neroli with a slightly harsher backdrop of bark, and leafy, verdant chlorophyll, and suspended, as it was last night, in a bottle of Shiseido’s simple skin milk; diluted, or rather allowed to breathe and reshuffle itself into its new surroundings it bloomed, beautifully, and is definitely the best bitter orange tree oil I have ever experienced.





I wouldn’t put this on every night ( I have strange intuitions about essential oils – I always know, somehow, which ones are right to use, which ones aren’t, and at what time), but last night, exhausted from work, I felt like Puck in Midsummer Night’s Dream; assuaged, alone in nature and coroneted in green-leaved orange flowers.

















I have to say I didn’t look so bad this morning, either….










Filed under Flowers