Beauty Review: Naruko Rose & Botanic HA Aqua Cubic Hydrating Mask

NB: This product was provided to me for review, but all thoughts are my own.

When I was emailing with Rachel from Naruko, it came up that I was unlikely to test the magnolia masks she sent me before my wedding because they contain an ingredient to which I sometimes react poorly. Now, it’s the sort of thing that usually takes prolonged exposure, but I didn’t want to take any risks before the wedding. In her infinite generosity, she suggested sending me a few of their Rose & Botanic HA Aqua Cubic Hydrating Masks to try in the meantime. Being a lover of all things floral, I leapt at the offer.


I first tried this mask on a night when I’d had a fight with someone over the phone and was in a foul mood. I’d been crying a little and was just generally feeling terrible. I must say, the delightful rose scent of this mask lifted my spirits and helped me feel just a little better.

That said, I found that the scent was the only thing this mask had to recommend it. I was a bit worried, since the mask does contain a drying alcohol, but I thought that perhaps the multitude of hydrating ingredients would offset that. Unfortunately, while I didn’t find that the mask dried out or irritated my skin, it didn’t really do much to improve it either.

I did find that the mask calmed down my skin, but no more than just laying a cool, damp cloth over it. I was disappointed, given how lovely it smells, but I just didn’t find anything to really love about this mask. I wouldn’t buy it again.

If you’re looking for a nice rose-scented mask that isn’t overwhelming, and has a nice hydrating and brightening effect, I really like the LoveMore Rosa Hybrida mask. And hopefully the next mask I try from Naruko will be another winner.

A Floral Treat for Dry Skin: The Mamonde Flower Essence Rose Moisturizing Mask

This is just going to be a little review of a mask I tried last night and loved. As those who read my blog know, I’m a sucker for florals, especially roses. My signature perfume is rose, I have roses on my desk, and I wear rose earrings. And I love any kind of rose-scented skin care. Sadly, I’ve recently switched from my lovely Andalou 1,000 Roses day cream to CeraVe PM as a moisturizer, so I don’t get my daily dose of rosy loveliness. And Sephora seems to be phasing out my favorite rose sheet masks (which are overpriced anyway). So I was excited to get some recommendations for rose sheet masks from Asia.

I decided to order a 5-pack of the Mamonde Flower Essence Rose Moisturizing masks from Amazon, which came last week. The package immediately appealed, with a simple picture of softly pastel pink roses and simple writing. Mamonde seems like a company that melds well with my own personal aesthetic, in addition to having some widely-liked flower-based products. Last night, I decided to do a full facial routine, so I settled in for an hour and a half of real pampering. I double cleansed and then applied my salicylic acid serum, which I let sit for 20 minutes. Then, I did a clay mask. I just used a little hydrated Redmond clay. This I washed off after 15 minutes, then toned with some alcohol-free witch hazel. Then, the rose mask.

Immediately upon opening the packet, I noticed that the essence was thick and creamy and smelled lightly of roses. It was not a heavy or cloying scent. It smelled like walking past a cluster of rose bushes on a spring day. As I put the mask on my face, I noticed it was a nice, thick material, but not so thick it slid off under its own weight. Perhaps the thick lotion that soaked the mask helped it adhere. I found myself utterly relaxed. I sometimes have trouble with boredom while masking and generally leave a mask on only 20 minutes sometimes. This mask left me so blissful, I found 30 minutes had passed before I realized it. I checked and the mask was still quite moist, but I had to get to bed, so I removed it. The leftover lotion was almost sticky, like a thick moisturizer rather than an essence. I didn’t feel the need to do most of my routine after that, so I just applied my facial oil to lock in all the hydration.

The real surprise came this morning as I walked down the stairs to go running. As I turned on the light to find my shoes, I caught a look in the mirror and was amazed. The few residual spots leftover from a monthly breakout were completely gone and my skin had a bit of a glow, rather than the sheen of leftover oil and nightly sweat. All in all, this is a lovely mask.

On Finding a Signature Scent

Signature scents are one of those things about which American beauty writers love to write. There’s this mysterious allure of wearing the same fragrance for the whole of one’s life that appeals to those of us struggling against a culture of novelty and trends. We see it as a very European thing; it almost always comes up in discussions of so-called “French girl” beauty. But the fact is that, as with makeup, new fragrances come along all the time. And we are always tempted by the new.

I’ve spoken briefly in the past about my problems with fragrance and body products. I had a catastrophic reaction to a scented body product that left me shy of anything with any added fragrance for a long time. While I’d started looking into natural personal care items before then, that was the incident that really tipped me over the edge into true hippydom. Lately, I’ve somewhat returned and realized that not all synthetic ingredients are bad. In fact, I’ve come to realize that it was likely an irritating essential oil that caused my original reaction.

Which is lovely as I’ve always loved fragrance. I have a particularly keen sense of smell and have associated scents with memories for the most odd events. I remember the oddly floral cologne that the first boy I ever slow-danced with wore. He had blond, floppy hair and was very cute and I was amazed that a boy even noticed me at the dance where I’d become separated from my friend group. I don’t remember ever seeing him again at a dance.

My mother wore Muguet des Bois by Coty, an appropriate beginning to my lifelong affinity for old-fashioned perfumed. Muguet was launched in the 30s and was based on the scent of the lily of the valley, my mother’s favorite flower. She had a small patch of muguet on the side of the house, but my grandmother had an even bigger patch in her garden. When they were in bloom, we would have them in vases around the house, and I would bring a bouquet to my French teacher. The very first upscale perfume I ever bought was Gucci Envy, which has a strong lily of the valley note to it. I bought it at Sephora to console myself after a breakup. I ended up wearing Envy for the rest of high school until I suddenly developed migraine headaches from the scent.

As I went away to college, I decided to reinvent myself with fragrance as well. I bought a bottle of Issey Miyake’s Eau d’Issey, which I kept on a shelf in my freshman dorm room. I honestly can’t remember any other personal care product I used (although I know shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and deodorant were present), but I remember that bottle of Issey with it’s conical bottle. It was a lighter, more modern floral. I also remember that my roommate’s boyfriend was oddly attracted to the fragrance.

After Issey came a period of time when I experimented with old classics. I wanted so badly to love Shalimar but discovered that I could not stand perfumes based with vanilla. So I found that Guerlain’s Mitsouko was similar, without the vanilla. It’s a lovely heady chypre with just enough floral to keep me interested. I felt so sexy wearing that fragrance… until a boy I was mad for mentioned that it reminded him of his sister!

From there, I abandoned high-end perfume for a while. I used Bath and Body Works Night-Blooming Jasmine, which was my first introduction to the sensuality that is jasmine. I lived across the street from a shopping center with a BBW and would layer the scent mercilessly, particularly on the weekends when I would take a bubble bath, followed by body lotion. I would emerge from the bathroom pink-cheeked, very soft, and trailing a cloud of floral. A friend and occasional lover commented that I should always smell of jasmine. Sadly, BBW discontinued the scent.

As I went away to graduate school and tried to grow up, I dabbled with designer perfumes: Fendi and Tocca. But never really found something that resonated. And then I reacted and banned fragrance from my life for months. I smelled of unscented soap and the vinegar I used to rebalance my hair after washing with soap.

Thankfully, somewhere along the way, I discovered Pacifica. Pacifica is a brand that started as a fragrance company. Similar to BBW, but with the goal of using natural ingredients, they have ranges of scents, such as California Star Jasmine or Malibu Lemon Blossom. The scents are mostly inspired by sunny, warm, and exotic locations, and tend towards fruitiness. But they have a scent called Persian Rose that is my favorite scent. I’ve been wearing it pretty consistently for a few years now and I love it. It is a balanced rose scent, based around Bulgarian Rose, but lifted with fruit and anchored with violet and myrrh. It is beautiful and complex but still definitively rosy. While some may think that rose is an old-lady scent, this is anything but geriatric.

After I shower in the mornings, I apply a very lightly scented body moisturizer and then dab on Persian Rose solid perfume. I may occasionally use the end of a bottle of eau de toilette to spritz, but I generally prefer the solid perfume. It warms and deepens on my skin in a more natural way. It doesn’t spread out from me as much, but I can always bring my wrist to my nose and remind myself of the scent, which makes me so happy and relaxed.

I think that the fragrance is a manifestation of my own personal style evolution. It is not expensive or designer, but it comes from a company that tries to source the best ingredients. It is blended and well-thought-out, but not pretentious. And it blends a traditional fragrance in a modern way. I love the way it makes me feel old-fashioned without feeling frumpy, much the way much of my wardrobe does. And in a way, fragrance is the first layer of my wardrobe.

Drink Your Valentine’s Flowers

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, which means roses, lots of roses. While I love the look and scent of roses, I’ve never been one to insist on a bouquet for any occasion. In fact, the impact on the Earth from the conventional growing of flowers has always mildly horrified me, so I’m content to have rose-scented beauty and rose-printed fabrics, and even rose-shaped earrings, but I don’t generally get a Valentine’s bouquet. We shall see if Boyfriend makes me a liar tomorrow.

But because I love roses, I thought it would be appropriate to offer a rose-themed post today. At the store last weekend, I eyed a bottle of elderflower-rose sparkling lemonade. It was lightly pink, with an elegant handmade label, and a decadent price tag, for a non-alcoholic beverage. It was just so lovely and tempting and I almost bought it. Until I thought better and decided there was no reason to buy rose soda when I had sugar and rosewater and lemon juice at home. I needed only a bottle of sparkling water, which was much more reasonably priced.

I chilled my bottle of sparkling water and then set about making my soda syrup. I decided on lime and rosewater. I mixed sugar and water to make a rich simple syrup, and then added rosewater and lime juice to taste. Be cautious, however, as tasting hot sugar syrup is a tricky and dangerous business! When I was finished, I had just over a half a cup of delicately scented syrup that I drizzled into a tall glass of iced sparkling water. While it lacked the rose hue, it was fragrant, sweet, and the perfect end to my day. And it would be a perfect accompaniment to a romantic brunch or picnic, should your weather be nicer than mine promises to be.

I can forsee this syrup having future iterations. I would like to make it again without the lime juice in order to sweeten lemonade, perhaps made with syrup, lemon juice, and sparkling water. And a sprig of lavender or thyme would go nicely with all the other flavors.

Rose-Lime Syrup

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
2-4 Tbsp. rose water (food-grade, please!)
2 Tbsp. lime juice

Mix the sugar and water and heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the rosewater, starting with 2 tablespoons and continuing to your taste, and add the lime juice. Stir. Add by the tablespoon to a tall glass of sparkling water to your desired sweetness. Makes 4-6 fluid ounces of syrup. Store in a jar or bottle in the refrigerator for a couple weeks.

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine, Part 2: Body

The second part in my series on my beauty routine is my body care routine. My body routine is actually quite minimal, but I use natural products that smell and feel luxurious, so my shower every day is like a mini spa getaway.


My body care routine is minimal because I try to make sure my lifestyle is conducive to beauty. I eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of water. I find that eating enough fat is key to having soft skin and shiny hair. It’s a trick I learned in high school when I worked for a chocolatier.

I also keep active. This is an important beauty trick, as I find my skin is clearer when I’m active, in addition to my body looking and feeling better. Brisk walks (especially when it’s chilly!) leave me with a renewed sense of energy and a rosy glow. I try to take one nice walk each weekend, and get in bits of walking where I can during the week. I also perform my yoga and dance stretches several times a week to keep my limbs limber. It helps me carry my body more easily.

You see, a lot of beauty, especially vintage beauty, focuses on comportment as much as lotions and potions. Victorian women had their corsets to help them maintain erect posture, but I’ve cultivated it on my own. Over the summer, I was cast in a play where I played a character from 1905, and was able to get away without being corseted because my posture was sufficient to give the illusion of corseting.

But of course, most people read “beauty” and want to know about the lotions and potions. So I’ll go through my daily body beauty routine.

First, I drink a glass of water upon rising. This really should have gone in the skincare post because it’s made all the difference in the world with my complexion. I don’t add anything to it, just a glass of room-temperature water (I keep it by my bedside table all night so I don’t even have to go to the kitchen to get it). After that, I might get up and do some light stretches. Boyfriend takes the first shower most mornings, so I can plan my day, perhaps write a little, and choose my wardrobe. Then, I’m in the shower.

My shower is quite short. I will cover hair care in a later post. For my body, I wash with a cotton washcloth and some naturally-made soap with lots of lovely oils, and a light rose scent. Right now I’m using Good Soap from Whole Foods, but I’ve often used Mystic Water Soaps in the past. Most of my body care products are either rose or citrus scented. At the end, I turn the hot water down and rinse off with the coldest water I can stand. Then, I leap out and towel off.

I use my rose soap to shave my armpits when they need it, and I use either my soap or a bit of hair conditioner to shave my legs, about once a week. I shave my legs a bit more frequently when the weather and my schedule is conducive to showing a bit more leg, and less frequently in the dead of winter when my legs never see the light of day.

When I get out of the shower, I deodorize with a spritz of rosewater and a swipe from a crystal deodorant. I’m sometimes a little funky by the end of the day, but very few things will prevent that for me. So I stick with the natural stuff and try to change clothes or wash a bit if I feel myself getting stinky. Then, I apply lotion to my legs. I usually rub any excess into my elbows and hands. It was a trick to find a good body lotion because I have certain sensitivities, but this Acure lotion is my current favorite. Duly scrubbed and lotioned, I can head to the bedroom to dress!

In the bedroom, I finish off the one last step of my body care routine: fragrance. I had a bad skin reaction to some fragrance a few years back, so I’ve become very very careful about what I put on my skin. But I was fortunate to find Pacifica Beauty. All of their fragrances are derived naturally and have never caused a reaction, and their Persian Rose is a lovely pure rose scent, with just a hint of the warm undertone of myrrh to ground it. I dab it on at my pulse points. I also have a small vial of jasmine oil that I use for special evenings with Boyfriend. Every man I’ve ever met goes wild for the smell of jasmine.

Once in a while, maybe a couple times a month, I’ll give myself a real scrub-down with a pair of exfoliating gloves. I rinse with cold water, and apply rose-scented apricot kernel oil to my body. It leaves me smooth and glowing and just a little pink. This is particularly nice in conjunction with my weekly mask. I can apply my mask, and rinse it off under the warm showerhead. The steam helps soften the clay a bit before rinsing, so I don’t have to scrub my face too hard.

But for the most part, my body care ritual is simple and focuses first on best practices, and then on just a few good-quality ingredients. It’s just enough to keep me feeling feminine and clean without overdoing it.