Smell It, Taste it: Mmmmm, Chocolate

I read a report today that Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld loves chocolate but does not eat it. (This immediately brought to mind the story of Peter, AKA No Coffee Guy, whom I met during a weekend at Fire Island. Before going out one night, Peter’s housemate was brewing a pot of coffee and Peter commented about how good it smelled. But when I suggested he grab a cup, he replied that he didn’t drink it. He loved the smell, he said, but didn’t drink it. Then he added that he had never tried it. Loved the smell but had never tasted it? He could not provide a reason why and I was puzzled. Not trying crack? I get that. But coffee? That was the first sign that Peter was going to be a drip. Yes, pun definitely intended!) Back to Mr. Lagerfeld. He is quoted in W magazine as saying that the smell of chocolate is enough for him, that he can eat chocolate with his nose. Puzzled again. Barring a serious health issue, how bad can chocolate be when consumed in moderation? Mmmm, rich, dark chocolate. I consume some every day and savor every bite, even if it’s only one tiny piece. Lagerfeld finished by saying he would love a perfume based on chocolate. Someone should send him Cacao, the beautiful perfume already made by Aftelier Perfumes. As with all of her other amazing scents, Mandy Aftel uses only natural ingredients (no synthetics), and this one has a base of chocolate and vanilla with citrus and jasmine sambac top and middle notes—all to make it absolutely intoxicating and, well, delicious.

Nature’s Inspiration: Pink Jasmine

The jasmine is blooming on the porch and I get to breathe in the rich and sweet blossoms before leaving for work in the morning and when coming home at the end of the day. I love the deep pink buds that hold the delicate white flowers. It’s like the pink of my don’t-leave-home-without-it lip gloss, Jane Iredale’s Cosmo PureGloss. So when I find myself having to refrain from gobbling up the flowers because they smell so good, I put on a little gloss and dab on some of Aftelier’s jasmine solid perfume, another makeup bag staple that comes with me wherever I go.

Breaking the Bottle: The Dangers of Perfume

Originally published on the Care2 website.

I’ve been a lover of perfume since I was a small child. I loved to examine my mom’s collection of pretty perfume bottles, neatly arranged on top of her dresser. Like the scarves in her closet, they were lovely and mysterious. When I was old enough, my mother would spritz my wrist with whatever scent she was wearing at the time. Then, like many girls of my generation, I got my very own perfume: Love’s Baby Soft. Oh, how I loved to spray myself with that sweet scent.

That was then. Today, I wouldn’t dare use any of those commercially made perfumes. You pick your poison and I’ve decided that perfume ain’t the one for me. One of the tougher lessons I’ve learned since becoming aware of the dangers of personal care products is that most perfumes contain chemical toxins I don’t want on or anywhere near my body. Worst of all: you don’t really know what those toxins are because of old laws protecting perfume-makers from revealing their trade secrets. And this applies to all products, not only perfumes. When you see the word “fragrance” on a label, you’re being hoodwinked. “Fragrance” can include numerous chemicals that are not good for you (or the environment).

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics just released a report on a study of the health risks of fragrance: “Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance.” Put simply: the news stinks. Perfume lovers who are unaware of what’s in their bottles will have a hard time with the findings–just as I was shocked and more than a little saddened when I consulted the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website a few years ago to learn about what’s found in personal care products. How bad can a little perfume be, right? Wrong–unless you’re okay with using chemicals classified as hormone disruptors that can increase your risk of cancer, or harm a developing fetus, or contribute to thyroid and other problems. It’s even worse when you consider how many other products we use regularly and how many other environmental toxins we’re exposed to. It’s black and white for me: if I know it could be bad for me, I’m not gonna use it.

After my enlightenment a few years ago–feeling like I was a graduate of the beauty school of hard knocks–I was faced with my own dresser of pretty perfume bottles I had collected over the years. They had to go. But what I discovered was more delightful than I could have imagined: there are pure and safe and stunningly beautiful perfumes being made that are far superior to the ones I had used. Now, I am a lover of perfumes made from pure essential oils–nothing artificial, nothing toxic. My dresser is now filled with small bottles of non-toxic oils and perfume blends I’ve found to satisfy my love of scent without sacrificing my well-being. You can begin your own search by finding a list of safe makers of perfume and other personal care products on the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics site and the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database.