Wise uP: Some Words on Fragrance

31 07 2009

1.7 Vintage Perfume Bottles

The heat index in New York is up around 110 degrees right now. That practically doubles in the subway. Add a Friday morning hangover into the equation and you’re one miserable commuter. Toss in a sweaty woman wearing too much CK Stankbomb and you’re a goner.

Now I admit that I’m incredibly sensitive to smell and have been ever since I was a little kid. Back in the 80’s we had a Chevy Impala with no AC and plastic seats and I’d sit in the backseat praying to the vomit gods that I wouldn’t throw up from the smell of my mom’s Gloria Vanderbilt on long car trips. But being smell sensitive or not, I think it’s just mean to douse oneself in “fragrance” so early in the morning, especially in such closed quarters. I could still taste the fumes when I got to work.

Ladies, I am not telling you to get rid of your signature smells. I’m just begging you to wait until you get to the office before going crazy with the toilet water. It’s much easier to put up with in a well-ventilated area than in a 5-foot-wide subway car in the middle of July. Perhaps an even better suggestion would be trying out a “summer fragrance.” By summer fragrance, I mean something a little lighter than you would wear in the winter months, when the cold diffuses your Eternity by at least half.

Here are a few examples of lovely (and reasonably priced) summer smells that can carry over into those warm fall months:

1. “Baby Grace” by Philosophy- Smells like you just stepped out of a bubble bath.

2. “Musk by Alyssa Ashley”- I’ve worn this since I was 14 and the only place I know to buy it is the Walgreens in Garwood, NJ. For the record, every man I’ve ever dated has loved this perfume.

3. “L’eau Cheap and Chic” by Moschino- I’ve actually stopped people before to ask them what scent they were wearing. This is a lovely light smell that is like fresh laundry and Bonne Bell lip balm. Not to be confused with it’s heavy and suffocating sister, Cheap and Chic in the red/black bottle.  cheapchic

4. “Baby Bee Solid Perfume” by Burt’s Bees- My only wish is that this came in a spritz, but it’s got that familiar childhood aroma that makes you want to put on baby doll pj’s and have a slumber party.

5. “Coney Island” by Bond No. 9- My client Andrea turned me on to this scent. It reminds me of a lemon snow cone.

On the flip side, the perfume bandit from the subway made me so violently ill, I took a Facebook poll of the worst scents of all time. My girls came up with a great list including and in no particular order:

  • Poison- Hands down the most mentioned blacklist smell
  • White Diamonds (#2)
  • Obsession
  • Opium
  • Vanilla Fields
  • Exclamation!
  • Electric Youth by Debbie Gibson
  • Sunflower
  • Chantilly
  • Liz Claiborne in the triangle bottle
  • Any Lancome perfume
  • Vanilla Extract Smell (contributed by my husband)
  • Shalimar
  • Malibu Musk by Parfums de Coeur (thanks to Amy D for the funniest response)

The humidity is supposed to continue through to next week so when you’re getting ready in the morning, think twice about that second spritz of parfum. Your train neighbors will be happy you did.


Catch uP: Avenue Q

25 07 2009



When I heard last week that Avenue Q was closing, my immediate reaction was “WHAT?”

I am very particular in which Broadway shows I deem worthy of seeing. I don’t mean to sound snobbish, but having been involved in theater for more than half my life and constantly surrounding myself with actors and actresses,  if I shell out $100+ to see a show, it had better be good. If I actually pay to see it twice, that is really saying something.  To this day I have only seen three Broadway shows more than once: Fosse, because the great Ben Vereen and Ann Reinking closed the show, Jersey Boys, because my husband and I both took our parents on two separate occasions, and Avenue Q because it’s brilliant.

For those who write it off as “a pornographic puppet show,” perhaps you should spend your money on South Pacific or some other boring old classic.  Avenue Q is witty, tender and outrageously funny. Is it for kids under 13? Absolutely not! But with a soundtrack of hits including “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist,” “It Sucks to be Me” and “The Internet is for Porn,” it’s the most daring show on Broadway, not to mention the most resonant.

I urge you to support this wonderful little show that beat out the overplumped and underwhelming “Wicked” for the Tony award.  You’ve got ’til September 13 (my anniversary!) to be a part of pure Broadway magic.

Here’s a great clip from the Tony Awards:

Dress uP: Top 5 Fashion Mistakes

23 07 2009

I recently uncovered a shoebox of floppy disks containing the original Miss P. fashion tips. These were from back in the days where blogs were something of the distant future and the fashion word was spread via cut and paste email. Many of them are a little too early millennium to still be relevant, but this one rings true even today. Ladies, I give you:

Top 5 Fashion Mistakes Women Make:

 1) Bad Slogan Tees—Why do women wear T-shirts with innovative slogans such as “I Go from Zero to Bitch in 30 seconds,” or “I Like to Make Boys Cry,” or “FBI=Fabulous, Beautiful, Intelligent,” or “HOTTIE”?  I hate these stupid T-shirts.  You know the ones I’m talking about, too.  They’re usually found at Strawberry’s or other stores geared towards teenagers.  First of all, don’t insult teenagers by pushing this crap on them and second of all, don’t tempt those fashion-disabled women who don’t know any better.

So hilarious, they made it in black AND red

"Women who pay their own rent don't have to be nice!" So hilarious, they made it in black AND red

 2) High-waisted women and the matter of tucking—This is a very sensitive issue with me since I AM one of those women in question.  As a general rule, I try to avoid tucking completely since I don’t fancy that “waistband under the boobs” look.  By avoiding the tuck, you elongate your torso, therefore evening out your leg-to-torso ratio.  If you believe that a tuck spiffs up your look, I suggest Low-Rise pants.  They sit lower on the hip and really flatter the high waisted women.  Plus, they are much more comfortable than pants with a waistband above the navel.

3) Panty Lines—Good Lord, panty lines are the quickest way to draw attention (in a bad way) to your derriere.  If a thong is not an option for you, here are 3 other ideas:

            1.) Seamless undies

            2.) No undies- not for everyone, I know

            3.) Pants in the next size up

Admit it ladies…every time you see someone in a pair of GAP khakis with that telltale sausage roll in the caboose, you snicker. Admit it.  Avoid this situation for yourselves!

4) Bra situations—Women always seem to be complaining about people staring at their chests.  Although I don’t mock their complaints, it’s very hard NOT to stare at someone’s chest when they are wearing a bumpy lace bra under a T-shirt, or a black bra under a white shirt, or a bra that’s about 3 sizes too small underneath a tiny little tank top, creating the “double bubble.”  Before you beat someone with your shoe for staring at your rack on the subway, take a look at what’s poppin’ through first. Or better yet, go for a proper bra fitting. La Petite Coquette in Union Square does complimentary bra fittings and has beautiful bras in all price ranges. 

 5) Too-short pants—There are cropped cigarette pants.  There are capris.  And then there’s just too damn short.  Try the “regular” or “long” length there, puddle jumper.

So there you have it. Five simple rules to a smarter, more fashionable you.

Change it uP: Jer’s Manly Makeover

18 07 2009

Back in the beauty school days I couldn’t even pay my guy friends to let me give them a haircut.  Lucky for me, when everyone else denied me, I could always count on my dad (lovingly known as Jer) to practice on. Now anyone who knows Jer knows that he takes his hair VERY seriously and this was a humongous leap of faith to let some piddly beauty school student, nevermind the fact that it was his daughter, mess with his perfectly coiffed locks. But always being up for an adventure, Jer braved two hours in the chair getting a decent to mildly pathetic scissor over comb haircut.  Fast forward six years and I cut Jer’s hair every 4.5 weeks in about 35-40 minutes, depending on how much we chat.  

So when I needed a male model to demonstrate the awesomeness of gray blending for this blog, I turned to none other than Jer for a little assistance.

Before Pics:


The Silver Fox: 50% Salt, 50% Pepper

The Silver Fox: 50% Salt, 50% Pepper






I chose Wella Color Touch 4/0 with 1.9% developer to do a true gray blending on my dad. Neither of us wanted that black shoe polish, Grecian Formula look, so I left it on for 10 minutes to do a subtle blending. I also threw in a haircut and moustache trim because he was such a good sport.  I think the results are natural, subtle and above all else masculine. Most importantly, Jer loves it (my mom on the other hand, feels like she’s married to a younger man). Best thing about gray blending for men: it fades out gradually in 4-6 weeks, so there’s no telltale roots.  

Thanks to my dad for being such a brave model!

After Pics:


From Silver Fox to Jose Valentin

From Silver Fox to Jose Valentin




Hair perfectly coiffed using Alfaparf Semi Di Lino Illuminating Design Gel

Listen uP: 20 Greatest Movie Soundtracks

13 07 2009

This spring, I decided to start running. Over the past few months I’ve gone from five minutes to five miles and am now signing up for races. In the beginning I would make running mixes for my iPod but later discovered, quite by accident, that the best thing to listen to when I was pounding the pavement was the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack. Something about the drums and the Indian music propelled me along and got me thinking about the best movie soundtracks of all time. With a little help from some friends, I’ve compiled a list (in no particular order because my brain would probably explode if I tried to rate them too) of the top 20 movie soundtracks of all time.

1.) Reservoir Dogs– Tarantino is a soundtrack genius. Probably the most named of everyone who participated. Defining track: “Stuck in the Middle with You”

2.) Royal Tenenbaums– Anyone who can put the Ramones and Paul Simon together and make it work gets a huge thumbs up from me. Defining track: “Judy is a Punk”

3.) Romeo+Juliet–  A sentimental favorite of the ladies it seems, R+J soundtrack shaped my mid-college years. Defining track: “#1 Crush”

4.) Almost Famous– The only negative here is that “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” wasn’t included. Still not a deal breaker. Defining track: “Tiny Dancer”

5.) Stealing Beauty– A beautiful, little seen Liv Tyler movie set in Italy with a killer soundtrack. Defining track: “If 6 Was 9”

6.) Harold and Maude– I normally don’t like one artist dominating a soundtrack but this is Cat Stevens. And it’s Harold and Maude. Defining track: “Don’t Be Shy”

7.) O Brother, Where Art Thou?– T. Bone Burnett+The Coen brothers=movie soundtrack gold. Bluegrass never sounded so modern. Defining track: “Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby”

8.) Trainspotting– The first was so good they needed to release a second.  This soundtrack becomes one of the characters. Defining track: “Lust for Life”

9.) Dirty Dancing– I’ll put up with the ridiculous Kellermans’ theme for Solomon Burke any day of the week. Deflower her, Johnny Castle! Defining track: “Cry to Me”

10) Singles- 1992: Seattle grunge rock galore! And somewhere in Jersey, a 15-year old girl puts away the hair band tapes for good. Defining track: “Seasons”

11.) Pulp Fiction– Back to Tarantino country, where Dick Dale and Dusty Springfield blissfully coexist. Defining track: “Son of a Preacher Man”

12.) Grosse Pointe Blank– Best of the cool kids’ 80’s. The scene where Cusack has a moment with the baby is movie soundtrack perfection. Defining track: “Let My Love Open the Door”

13.) Rushmore– Classic British invasion tunes perfectly shade this twisted little movie. “I saved Latin. What did you ever do?”  Defining track: “Ooh La La”

14.) I’m Not There– 20+ artists doing solid Dylan covers? Sign me up! Defining track: “Mama You’ve Been on My Mind/A Fraction of Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie”

15) Grease– The only musical that made the list. Honestly, I was just afraid to go there. Defining track: “You’re the One that I Want”

16.) Juno– Quirky, silly and sentimental.  And it includes my wedding song. Defining track: “Sea of Love”

17.) Saturday Night Fever– I hate disco but I have a soft spot for the Bee Gees. Defining track: “Staying Alive”

18.) Purple Rain– 25 years later, Prince still packs the dance floor. Defining track: “Let’s Go Crazy”

19.) Garden State– Probably the most played soundtrack of all time in the salon and I still love it. Defining track: “Only Living Boy in New York”

20.) The Last Waltz– Though technically a documentary, Scorsese gives us a bird’s eye view of one of the greatest concerts ever filmed. Defining track: “Caravan”

Honorable Mentions: The Commitments, Good Will Hunting, Into the Wild, Dazed and Confused, Goodfellas

Wise uP: Color Support from the Kitchen?

10 07 2009

My medicine cabinet is an accident waiting to happen. It’s a good thing my husband doesn’t use it because it’s seriously one jar of Advil away from a product avalanche. And while I try to give it an overhaul every few months or so, I’m drawn to Sephora like a moth to a flame in search of great new products. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a stylist and a child of the 80’s and I will never hate on hair products, but I’ve started to think of how great it would be to simplify (and give my hair a rest from chemicals). With that, I’ve unleashed my inner hippie and turned to the kitchen for a little inspiration.

14oz Whole Milk small

Whole Milk– For all my platinum blondes, silver foxes or even blondes who have started to turn brassy, this is your new $2 best friend. Whenever I do a platinum blonde in the salon I make sure I have a cup of whole milk to pour on their head as soon as we rinse the color. The enzymes in the milk will not only cool your scalp but kick out the yellow, keeping your hair an icy blonde. Directions: Pour 1 cup of milk (more for thicker hair) over freshly washed hair.  Leave on for 5-10 minutes, rinse and condition. Twice a month should do it.

Chamomile Tea– Golden or strawberry blondes, this is for you. Many color support shampoos contain chamomile essence, which helps keep the gold in your locks. Adding 2 Tbsp lemon to the tea will also help bring out natural highlights in your hair. And if that wasn’t enough, chamomile is also a natural aromatherapy so breathe in that healthy goodness while it’s sitting on your head. Directions: Steep 2 organic chamomile tea bags in 2 cups of hot water for 5-10 minutes (lemon juice is optional). Apply to freshly shampooed hair and wrap in Cling Wrap for 20 minutes.  Rinse and condition. Once per month is plenty. 

Beet Juice– I know that dumping beet juice on your hair doesn’t sound particularly appealing my little gingers, but the juice from canned beets is an excellent pick-me-up for tired reds. Directions: Depending on the level and vibrancy of your red, you can dilute the juice with water. Start with 2 Tbsp beet juice to 1 cup of water and add more juice if needed. Apply directly to hair for 5-10 minutes, rinse well and condition. Adding 1-2 tablespoons of Beet juice to your shampoo is also a great way to enhance your color. Twice per month is recommended.

Guinness– It seems like such a waste to pour a perfectly good stout over brunette hair, but nothing beats a Guinness for superior shine and color enhancement on beautiful brownies. Directions: Pour a can of Guinness over freshly shampooed hair.  Allow to sit on the hair for 10-20 minutes,rinse, condition and share the remaining 5 beers with a friend.guinness-is-good-for-you

Olive Oil– Remember that old VO5 treatment we used to do in the 80’s and 90’s? Yeah, that’s basically just microwaved olive oil. For a wonderful, inexpensive deep conditioning scalp and hair treatment, pour 1/2 cup to 1 cup of olive oil into a microwave safe dish, cook for 20-30 seconds and massage into your scalp and hair. Wrap in plastic wrap or a shower cap for 10-30 minutes, shampoo and enjoy your silky tresses. For extra scalp stimulation, add a drop or two of rosemary oil to the mix and dream of focaccia bread while you’re marinating.

I always love to hear about natural remedies so please forward your favorites! 

P.S. I didn’t think it was necessary to say things like “use gloves to prevent beet juice manicures” or “let tea cool before scalding your face and scalp.” Common sense is the most useful tool in color and in life.

Dress uP: Women’s Mags are Getting LAZY!

8 07 2009


I’ve seen two magazines in two days that boast “The Best Jeans for Your Body EVER!”  Is it me or are women’s magazines getting really lazy with their cover features? 

I ignored the fact that this month’s Lucky--a magazine that I generally enjoy– features teenager Hayden Panettiere next to this lofty jeans claim; let’s face it, an 18 year old is going to look good in just about anything. I should have ignored the entire article because there wasn’t a single thing about what works best for MY body. Instead, there was a six-page spread of really cool, really expensive jeans that would be perfect for anyone size 2 and under. I did not see one pair of thighs touching, one short model or one body with a rump bigger than an apple. And to top it off, out of the 57 pairs of jeans that were featured, only 17 were under $100. Not good for my body, my ego or my budget.

Glamour’s cover feature did only marginally better. They were much more wallet friendly with their picks, but only featured four different body types, none of which my physique comfortably fit into. Kudos for including real women in your feature and not leftover Delia’s models, but if you’re going to brag about the best ever jeans guide, give us some variety!

Here are a few ruminations that I wish the ladies mags would consider addressing:

  • Why can’t women’s sizing be more like men’s? Here’s your waist size, here’s your inseam, thank you and good day! And why is it that Alloy, a teen clothing catalog, is the only place in the world that seems to realize this?
  • Maybe 2% of the people I know can wear designer jeans without shelling out an additional 20 bucks to get them hemmed. If I choose to pay that kind of loot for a pair of quality denim, please don’t add insult to injury with those 34″ inseams.
  • Enough of the super low rise already! Cracks are for sidewalks, not for public viewing.
  • Kate Moss is the only person in the world who looks good in high waisted jeans. Period.
  • An honest sales person is a rarity in this commission hungry world. The best jeans for your body are the ones that make you feel like a goddess in the dressing room. Never forget this.

Listen uP: Diane Birch

6 07 2009

I have a love/hate relationship with female singers. For every bad ass soul sister or indie rock goddess, there are two pop tarts dressed in half shirts and hot pants, singing about lumps and humps and whatever other idiotic topic can fit into a three minute dance mix. So this month, with a little guidance from clients and my good friend, Entertainment Weekly,  I’ve set out to find some chanteuses with a little meat on their bones.

If you were to take Stevie Nicks, Tapestry-era Carole King, the ladies from Heart and maybe Norah Jones and throw them in a blender with a little Cat Power added for flavor, the result would be the brilliantly talented Diane Birch. But instead of sounding like a mishmosh of her own influences, she still has a sound that’s all her own (deep throaty growl that lifts effortlessly into a pure soprano). I sampled a few of her tracks on iTunes and remember being impressed but it wasn’t until I was walking through the West Village, listening to her debut album Bible Belt in its entirety, that I was truly captured by it.

This is a cd about heartbreak but it remains optimistic. The first track, Fire Escape, brings me back to my Williamsburg days, drinking $8 bottles of Chianti with my roommate Jen on our (yes) fire escape, praying that our 30’s were going to be better than our 20’s (and yes, they are). Valentino, probably the most poppy, hook laden of the lot, is a sweet summer jam. Rewind, the power ballad, recalls a yearning 70’s tune of the Rumours genre, while Photograph aches with regret of a lost love (“I can’t erase the look on your face/Guess I’ll be spending the rest of my days/Waving tomorrow goodbye a tear in my eye/Nothing can bring back that feeling”). Despite one or two clunkers, the album flows seamlessly and ends with a glorious Magic View.

Faves: Fire Escape, Photograph

Skip: Don’t Wait Up

For more about Diane, go to http://www.dianebirch.com



Change it uP: Megan’s Red Hot Transformation

3 07 2009

From the time I was a young girl giving my Barbies haircuts, I’ve always loved a good makeover. So when I was approached to do color for the Dailymakeover.com staff, I jumped at the chance.

Megan is the type of client a stylist dreams about when it comes to a juicy makeover. She was game for anything and had (gasp!) virgin hair. We decided to lop off close to 10″ of hair and turn her into a pinup girl redhead. The look was finished off with high glamour makeup and Voila! A star was born. Thanks to Megan for being so brave. 

For more great staff makeovers go to:

Willkommen. Bienvenue. Welcome.

2 07 2009

I’m very pleased and somewhat relieved to present my new blog. As a senior colorist in a busy New York salon I meet hundreds of intriguing men and women every day. Do we talk about hair? Of course. But in between highlights and single processes we discuss, well, just about everything from what’s on our bookshelves to the hottest Off-Broadway plays to the first 45 records we ever owned. This blog aims to expand on those priceless conversations and make them available to anyone who wants to gain a little more insight.

With that, I invite you to discover what IS the pH.

Alyson Pemoulie Halter