I’m starting to view my life in This is Us style flashbacks. Two years ago, I boarded an early flight to Minneapolis, filling out Drake-themed valentines on board for my friends. I was out of town for the weekend but was enjoying texting with a guy I’d yet to meet. Tonight, I expected to be home watching the Valentine’s Day episode of This is Us (and totally crying, because every week without question it happens) but my boyfriend has other plans. I have no idea where we are going but I suspect it might be the spot where we had dinner together for the first time almost two years ago. Life is crazy and love is wild and I’m getting swept up in the emotion of it all.
Today is special because we say it is. Not because it’s Valentine’s Day but also appreciating that this is the time of year our story began. Scent is the most powerful memory trigger so this week, I resurrected a favorite fragrance of mine that happens to be what I was wearing two years ago. I could not get enough of Diptyque Vetyverio – I wore it nonstop. I am certain I wore it exclusively the first six months of our relationship. I don’t hear enough about this fragrance and that’s actually fine by me. I like being different. You all can have your Santal 33 and Gypsy Water (j/k – I totally need some Byredo in my life) Vetyverio is the ultimate masculine meets feminine perfume with the earthy, woodsy vetiver and a burst of floral bouquets. I get a wave of rose and when it dries down, there’s a spice to it that clings to my skin. I feel sexy wearing this perfume. And every time I get a whiff, I remember so vividly falling in love. I don’t take that for granted.
One of the best beauty launches this year has definitely been Ouai – pronounced ‘way’ so there are just SO.MANY.FUN. puns. Ouai too many in fact. If you need further evidence of how much I love it, look no further than these less than half full bottles. I suspect Ouai will clean house in the ‘Best of Beauty’ accolades for 2016 because it is nothing short of incredible. It became a cult fav before it even launched I suspect. In part because it was developed by celeb stylist Jen Atkin – you know her even if you don’t because she is the woman behind the Kardashians, Hadids and Chrissy Teigen’s manes – and also because every product is inspired to help you get Atkin’s signature ‘undone chic’ look. Effortless is defining the time right now. I thought I’d weigh (OUAI!) in with my opinions on the line and my favorites.
“OUAI MEANS YES, IN THAT CASUAL, PARISIAN WAY. IT’S ABOUT SAYING YES TO REAL HAIR FOR REAL LIFE. AND TO LOOKING CHIC, NO MATTER HOW MANY FOLLOWERS YOU HAVE.”
Ouai is to hair the same way that Glossier is to makeup. It’s accessible and modern – no one way (OUAI!) to use but adaptable to your style.
It has a made for Instagram vibe with a minimal aesthetic I can’t get enough of. And it just gets better from there. The Ouai scent is like a really luxurious (read: expensive) perfume, inspired by Atkin’s childhood in Hawaii and love of “soft, expensive-smelling things.” The obvious question: will this be a perfume eventually? Answer: yes.
For now, the Hair Oil can double as a perfume. This is my favorite product in the line and the one that carries the Ouai scent the strongest. As someone with straight hair I struggle to find oils made for my hair texture. This is the solution. It’s so lightweight and makes my hair glossy and shiny. I use it mostly on damp hair and let it air dry. I find it is also a great reviver to ends after multiple days without washing. This is the antidote to thirsty hair. It’s the best hair oil I’ve ever used.
It took me a bit to get in my groove with the Wave Spray but now I can’t imagine doing my hair without. I was trying (and failing) to do a scrunch-and-go air dry with this but it wasn’t working. Now, I use it every morning on my dry bedhead and I comb it out and let it air dry. Then I have touchable texture that makes styling my hair so much easier.
The Texturizing Hair Spray is probably the most popular in the line and it’s a no-brainer. It’s the lovechild of Dry Shampoo and Hair Spray so it revives hair, absorbs oil and is the key to Atkin’s undone styles. I’ve gone through several bottles of this already so it’s becoming a pricey habit!
I never realized how much I needed a lotion for my hair until I tried the Finishing Crème. Most other hair smoothers I’ve used have made my hair greasy or heavy. This is made for fine to medium hair (thank you, Ouai!) and gives hair a shiny lived-in look. I use it to smooth flyaways and massage out my wand curls. It’s also great to use before heat styling.
The Matte Pomade is one of Ouai’s newer products and one I use daily now that I have chin length hair again. It’s a medium control paste to help you shape and separate hair for that piecey look. I usually take a small amount, massage it in my fingers and rub about one inch from the ends of my hair. Then I massage it out some more to really shape how I want my hair to be. The hold is flexible but lasting.
I’ve tried samples of the Shampoo and Conditioner and really liked them as well. I guess I’m saving my pennies to feed my addiction to the Texturizing Hair Spray, though. Have you tried the line at all?
It was three summers ago that I found myself squeezed in the James Corbett Salon in New York for a green beauty event. One of the many lovely women I met that night was creative soul and perfumer Anne Nelson Sanford. She was cheerfully introducing everyone to LURK, her line of perfume oils that she blends and pours by hand. I was immediately drawn to the beautiful petite glass bottles with gold ball-shaped caps. I took notice of how lavish, intricate and unique the scents were. I loved that LURK was so feminine in appearance but not necessarily in smell.
Anne continues to push the boundaries of fragrance. Her newest perfume, LURK OM 011 uses oudh oil distilled from an evergreen that grows in south Asia. It’s said to be aphrodisiac and can deeply affect emotions (bow chicka wow wow!) I’m always so curious to know how a perfumer thinks about scent so I asked Anne to tell us some stories. Naturally, she describes the connection and feelings tied to fragrance in a way that completely moved me. She also shared a pretty awesome foundation tip that I am going to try immediately. And, we should probably collectively admire Anne’s stellar shoe game.
Have you always had a curious sense of smell?
Yes, absolutely, I would also say that I also have a very acute sense of smell and that created a lot of curiosity for me at a young age. Early on I was profoundly impacted/moved by scent and very drawn to the evocative nature of fragrance. Scent obviously drives my creativity in almost every way and I am endlessly inspired by it. It doesn’t have to be classically beautiful, the odd or curious really opens up so much for me and that olfactory sense is incredibly primal. I think I am just incredibly reactive to it and I allow it to permeate my thought process. Scent is powerful and evocative, of all of our senses it is the most primal and I am very tuned in to that. Our sense of smell is also very tied in to our emotions and how we feel about those around us.
What are your strongest scent memories?
My strongest scent memories are of my grandmother and her beach house as well as of my mother’s closet. All of the incredible smells of the ocean, the surrounding plants and citrus trees always remind me of family and of love and of those that have passed away. It’s really beautiful. I also used to spend hours playing with my mother’s makeup, fragrances and clothes. We are polar opposites but I am incredibly inspired by her. Her style, her look, image, etc. All of those things play into emotion and our relationship and scent is a huge part of that.
What is the significance and meaning of LURK? I feel fragrance shouldn’t be broadcast and is something that should be “lying in wait” so to speak. That’s the very definition of LURK. Definitely not in a menacing way, it’s something unexpected that one finds or experiences as they get to know another person. Scent is intimate, powerful and evocative and is part of the journey we go on in life, getting to know people and experiencing our surroundings. I also have a pretty off center and slightly dark sense of humor so I find the nature of the word LURK to be funny and a bit entertaining. Scent creeps and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can also ambush us for sure. I mean this in a way that is fun, hilarious, sensual etc. Like when you have a crush on someone and you get close enough to experience how they smell and then you’re hooked, in love, can’t get enough or… the complete opposite. We attach so much emotion to scent in a way that we are not always conscious of, scent is evocative of feelings, memories, etc., and that is always lurking around in our subconscious, our memories and hearts. We remember what our friends smell like, our grandmothers, lovers etc. and when we catch a fragrance in the breeze we can instantaneously be reminded that person or of a specific time in our lives. I love that aspect of scent and fragrance. It’s always lying in wait to bring us joy, passion, comfort, sadness etc. There is so much stored up in those experiences of scent, it’s really beautiful and powerful and it definitely LURKs.
How do you decide when a perfume is complete – when it smells “good?”
When it’s reactive. What I mean by that is when the fragrance starts to create deeper reactions in whoever is wearing it. When we can’t stop smelling the fragrance because we want to see where it’s going to go next. When it really starts to move beyond the point of smelling good and starts to travel and become evocative, reactive and exciting. That complexity and living nature of a perfume is when I decide it’s complete.
How often do you switch up your perfume?
Constantly, I absolutely love perfume so I am always trying something new. I love wearing fragrances by other perfumers as well (especially if I know the person). To me – and I think most perfumers – fragrance is art so having the opportunity to experience beautiful creations is a gift and it adds so much to each and every experience.
The million dollar question: where should we be applying perfume on the body? Why?
Be sure to apply your perfume to “hot spots” or areas of the body that are the warmest. Don’t limit application to just the inside of the wrists and the neck, apply to the small of the back, the belly, the back of the neck, the back of the knees and the ankles. Areas that are warmest help to transmit the scent very gently and in a very intimate way. When we move or are close to someone our natural body heat will allow the scent to be perceptible.
Have you ever paid attention to your senses? How some are so acute and others don’t show up for work, ever. My vision is horrendous yet I have a dog-like sense of smell and hearing. I’m a picky eater, easily offended by vinegar and strong flavors. These innate differences most definitely shape our interests – how can they not? I’m the worst foodie in the world, just ask anyone who knows me well.
It’s all good, though, I’m satisfied with my bloodhound snout. I’m fascinated by the dynamics of smell and how it relates to memory and experience. Fun fact: our sense of smell is actually the first to operate when we are born and once we make a connection with a smell it is forever tied to that memory. Which is why Cool Water is forever the scent of 8th grade. And you? My memories are so vividly tied to scent – the good and the bad smells (mulch in the spring time haunts me in so many ways).
It begs the question: how can an unfamiliar scent challenge you and transport you to a new place? Introduce you to an energy and culture that you’ve never experienced? Somewhere not yet in your memory. Well, I’m not entirely sure, but wearing Kahina’s Fez Perfume takes me places. Everything about it is completely foreign but I love it for that reason. It’s not floral or “pretty” rather it’s spicy and earthy with a side of “let’s make out.” Yes, that’s a note, according to me. More official notes are rose, ylang ylang, orange blossom with a heavy dose of cumin, clove, vetivier, sandalwood and a bit of grapefruit.
Wearing Fez gives me a gritty energy that brings out an urge to discover. It activates my senses in a visceral way, more so than any other perfume I’ve worn. I have never been to Morocco and don’t know what it would be like to explore a bazaar, walk down the cobblestone streets or enjoy a ritual afternoon tea. But if I did, I have to imagine somewhere in that experience, the notes of Kahina’s Fez would piece together.
Undeniably, travel and going outside the bounds of what you know gives you perspective. But, perhaps, so can a perfume oil. How cool is that?