How to Brighten Up Your Flatlays for $1


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Yes I am fully aware how clickbaity the title of this post is, but it's not total clickbait because I'm gonna deliver! Like the flatlay background that I shared on my Insta-stories the other day, this trick is stupidly easy... but hey, it works!

The $1 tool you'll need to brighten up your flatlays is a white foam poster board. That's it, folks. Make sure you get poster board and not poster paper as you will have some difficulty propping up the floppy poster paper.

Once you've got your poster board you need to figure out where to position it to maximize the light.

I'll be using this photo I posted on my Instagram a few days ago for my demo:
Day 12 of @peepingpomeranian's #abnewyearstashchallenge is oils! This is my one lone facial oil since oils and my skin don't tend to get along. Most oils either leave my skin greasy or break me out or both. @nuxe_us's huile prodigieuse multi-usage dry oil is the exception. It's a dry oil that sinks nicely into my skin. My favorite way to use it is to splash a few drops in my moisturizer. One thing to note is that it has a very strong fragrance. Personally I don't mind the scent which I would describe as: expensive 💰I also like that it can be used on my hair! It isn't my favorite hair oil but it gets the job done. If you're interested in it it's on sale for $25 at @ultabeauty at the moment. Also super random but yesterday I bought those arrow paper clips on clearance for $0.50 at @michaelsstores and I didn't realize they would make for perfect photo props 😅
A photo posted by Sharmili (@sharmtoaster) on

Now here are two behind the scenes photos:

As you can tell the addition of the white board brightened up a lot of the shadows. The key is positioning your board directly across from your light source.

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Of course you can also play around with the placement of your board. Placing it directly across from the light source will cause the most dramatic brightening effect but moving it around can create all sorts of different shadows and highlights.

You can even go wild and spend $2 and thus have 2 boards to bounce your light off of!

Side note: I was really tempted to use the words "blogger hacks" in the graphic but buzzfeed has ruined the word hack for me. I never wanna see another hack ever again!

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Sorry for the two super short posts in a row. To be honest I've been feeling a bit of a blogger burnout. At the same time I have so much content I'm excited to share... but I'm not necessarily in the mood to shoot, edit, write, & post. Hopefully I'll get out of my funk soon and get back into the blogging zone!

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that my burnout is partially thanks to my participation in two Instagram skincare challenges! If you're curious to find our more you can check out my Instagram (@sharmtoaster) 😉.

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Christmas In New York


It's become a bit of a tradition for my family to go into NYC on Christmas Day. We'll usually stop by to see the tree and sometimes grab dinner. This year we ended up having a large feast at home but we still went and saw the tree for about an hour.

While I love the holidays I can be a bit of a grinch when it comes to seeing the tree. As you can imagine it gets very, very crowded and the whole experience is made even worse by the low temperatures. Thankfully this year it wasn't all that cold so my grinch-ness was at a lower level than usual. I didn't even have to wear a proper coat!

My wardrobe is pretty monochromatic but I brought in a bit of the holiday spirit with this khaki green skort I bought this summer. I topped the look off with my favorite jacket of the moment. When I bought a year or two ago I assumed it would be a seasonal trendy item but it's got a lot of consistent wear! I initially bought it because it reminded me of a Mother jacket I had been lusting over. While Urban Outfitters hasn't brought back this jacket, Mother did bring back their original sherpa bomber jacket! It's funny how quick some trend cycles are becoming.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

sweater: COS; similar from Monki via ASOS, Loft
jacket: Urban Outfitters; similar from Mother, Anthropologie, American Eagle (in black)
skort: Ann Taylor
bag: random store in Italy
tights: Hue; similar from Urban Outfitters
boots: Zara; similar from River Island, New Look, Monki, ASOS

lipstick: Wet N' Wild Catsuit Lipstick in "Give Me Mocha" (review coming soon-ish!)
foundation: Lancôme Miracle Cushion Liquid Cushion Compact Foundation
mascara: Dior Diorshow Waterproof Mascara

P.s this is the last weekend to enter my end of Blogmas giveaway! You can find the full giveaway details on the original post and enter on the widget below. Good luck!

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New Year New Beauty | 5 Brands On My Radar


I really enjoyed reading Leanne's post about beauty brands to try in 2017, so I thought I would share my own take on the topic and share 5 brands I want to try more of in 2017! When I first started writing this post, I had about 15 brands on the list and could have easily kept going. There are literally dozens of brands out there that I can't wait to try in 2017. But these 5 are the ones that really made an impression on me in 2016 so much so that I'm eagerly awaiting my chances to try more of their products in the new year!

P.s. if there's a disconnect between the style of photos in this post it's because I shot them on two different days. Damn winter weather screwing up my shooting schedule 😩

1. Anastasia Beverly Hills
As 2016 was the year of overhyped, limited edition palettes and collabs, ABH really stood out as a chill brand. They weren't teasing about products 80 bajillion years before they were released nor were they releasing the smallest amount of palettes to drive up hype. They were so fuckin' chill about it all that they gained my respect. On top of that, they released a foundation line that actually caters to people of all skin tones! Imagine that!

Needless to say I've become a total Norvina fan girl and I can't wait to see what they come out with in 2017! They've already announced the launch of their new lip palette. While it isn't something I see myself buying, I think it's an innovative and useful product!

I still haven't used their existing lip glosses and lipsticks and foundation sticks so there's loads for me to still try🙈.

Items pictured: Moonchild Glow Kit, Modern Renaissance palette, brow wiz, clear brow gel, tinted brow gel, brow powder duo, & single eyeshadows
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2. CosRX
CosRX is without a doubt one of the it brands on the K-beauty blogosphere are the moment. The more I think about it, the more I realize they're basically like the Korean version of the Ordinary. Simple but effective formulas at very reasonable pricing all presented in clean, clinical looking packaging. Except since they've been around longer so have a larger range of products and in true Korean fashion, have the cutest fucking packaging possible.

Their mascot is some nerdy looking guy with hipster glasses and super suave hair. I don't get it but I love it!

And even with their large range of products, they still seem to always be releasing more. One of their newest releases are their moisture pads. It sounds weird to apply a moisturizer via a pad but that doesn't mean I don't want to try it out!

Items pictured: Blackhead power cream, blackhead power liquid, acne pimple master patch, aloe soothing sun cream spf 50 PA+++, & ultimate nourishing rice overnight spa mask (gifted from Mikaela Beauty-- a Canadian based Asian Beauty store!)
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3. Thank You Farmer
I was gifted the Thank You Farmer Miracle Age Repair Emulsion from Beautibi, and while I haven't tried it yet I'm so excited to after reading all about it!

My favorite thing about Thank You Farmer is their branding/ message. When so many brands are boasting about instant, overnight results it's nice to see a brand with more realistic goals. As per the Beautibi website "Thank You Farmer's promise is not about miracle, neither magic. Their honest promise is about being beautiful in slow, little and natural ways without giving any burden to the skin."

Of course they've also got awesome ingredients and formulations. The Miracle Age Repair Emulsion is chock full of niacinamide and various root extracts.

Also I totally dig their aesthetic. They manage to be bold and colorful while at the same time keeping things minimalistic and clean, not the easiest feat.

Even better news? Thank You Farmer is coming to Ulta this year so even more people can give it a try 🙌. They're also currently available at Beautibi, Urban Outfitters, and Free People.
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4. Farmacy Beauty
If you read my Buzz Box unboxing post then you already know I'm a major Farmacy Beauty fangirl despite the fact that I've only actually used two of their products so far.

The whole farm to table concept is pretty cool when it comes to food, but it's absolutely revolutionary when it comes to skincare. Farmacy Beauty grows their own ingredients in upstate New York aaaand they maintain their own beehives! I don't mind being splurgey when it comes to skincare products but I like knowing that there's a reason behind the higher price tag.

Items pictured: Skin dew hydrating essence mist & setting spray, invincible root cell anti-aging serum, sleep tight firming night balm, rise n' shine daily moisture lock moisturizer, & honey potion renewing antioxidant hydration mask
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5. Drunk Elephant
Bless all the holiday sales because I was finally able to get my hands on some Drunk Elephant goodies and I have not been disappointed by anything yet. It's not often that every single product from brand entices me. Even though Drunk Elephant doesn't have the largest lineup of products, every product they have is well formulated and effective. They also make their products in small batches so you know what you're receiving is fresh off the shelves-- literally!

Also their packaging is phenomenal. Not only to look at but in its effectiveness! Their Vitamin C serum is packaged in an airless pump, in a completely opaque bottle to prevent any sun damage to the product.

If you're looking to add some Drunk Elephant to your skincare wardrobe, they've got a ton of great gift sets out at the moment which I linked below! As you can tell from my abundance of minis, I've bought a set or two for myself 😉

Items pictured: B-hydra intensive hydration gel, t.l.c. framboos glycolic night serum, lala retro whipped cream, juju bar, umbra sheer physical defense, lippie, c-firma day serum
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Like I said it was a struggle to narrow it down to 5! There are so many brands that I loved in 2016 and want to try more of in 2017-- like Marc Jacobs, Dr. Jart+, and Sunday Riley. Then there are a whole host of brands that I've never tried before but would love to like Erborian, Herbivore, Blithe, Neogen, Tata Harper, Clarins, Jurlique, Klairs, and the list goes on and on!

What brands are you looking forward to using in 2017?

P.s there's less than a week to enter my international giveaway! Find the full details on the original post and enter on the widget below 😋
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My Beauty & Blog Resolutions for 2017


Hello and happy Saturday!

I've been reading a lot of New Year Resolution posts and posts about coming up with New Year Resolutions and posts about sticking to New Year Resolutions so naturally New Year Resolutions are on my mind. Here are the beauty and blog resolutions I whipped up for 2017. By actually writing them down and publishing them, I'll be publically accountable!

1. Stop touching my face all the time.
2. Remember to use eye cream.
3. Drink more water.
4. Exercise at least 3 days a week.
5. Be more active on my social media.
6. Be more prompt in responding to emails and comments.
7. Don't stress out over numbers.
8. Try to post at least twice a week.
9. Find a skincare routine for my body (aka remember to use body lotion!!)
10. Exfoliate my feet to keep them from turning into rocks.
11. Remember to use hand cream/ cuticle oil.
12. Stop biting my nails.
13. Diversify my photography style-- not everything has to be flatlayed on a marble slab.
14. Stop worrying about having a unified Instagram. YOLO!
15. Be proud of my blog and accept compliments instead of turning into an awkward mess.
16. Get back to posting more outfit photos.
17. Actually stick with all the series I want to start.
18. Publish more photography/ photoshop tips and tutorials.
19. Follow through on my plans to post reviews. If I say I'm gonna review it in the future, I will.
20. Don't stress myself about minor things when it comes to blogging. It's a fun hobby not a life or death situation!

2016 wasn't the best year but hopefully 2017 kicks 2016's ass 👊. What are your resolutions for the New Year?

P.s there's still about a week to enter my end of blogmas giveaway! Find the full details on the original post and you can enter on the widget below 😊

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