SLIDER

April Wish List

3.31.2017

Today's post was either going to be an anti-haul or a wish list...and I went with the latter. My reasoning was that if I pushed back the date of this post, I might try to get sneaky with myself and purchase some items not on this list.

I have no plans in purchasing every single item from this list because I'm not that crazy. The point in making this list is to streamline my purchases of the month and cut down on impulse purchases. I'm totally guilty of buying things simply because there's a sale or because it's new. If 80% of my purchases of the month come from this list, I'll be a happy camper.

With the upcoming Sephora sale, I'm particularly vulnerable at making impulse purchases. The other day I was looking at my Sephora purchase history and I've only bought three things so far this year for myself that I've ended up keeping-- the Tarte frxxxtion stick, the Hourglass girl lip stylo, and the Drunk Elephant Lippie gift set. Even though there is a sale this month, I'd like to keep with my trend of reasonable Sephora spending.





Dresser Diaries: Volume I | A Little Bit of Everything

3.28.2017

And here I start yet another series 🙈

Welcome to Dresser Diaries! My goal for this series is to share my first impressions (aka at 2 or 3 weeks of use) on some of the products I'm testing at the moment. I've really been enjoying sharing mini reviews on Instagram, so why not carry it over to le blog. While it would be cool to review every single product I ever use, I know that isn't feasible. Hopefully through this series I can chat about more products I'm excited about!

I'm currently in a blogging/ photography funk so I keep looking for ways to get my creative juices flowing again and this series is definitely helping 😉  One of my blog resolutions for 2017 is to stress less so I'm not going to overthink this.

I've been testing all the products I'm chatting about today for about 3 weeks.



On My Radar: 5 Up & Coming Green Skincare Brands

3.23.2017

Even though I guess I could call myself an influencer (as much as I roll my eyes at the term)... I'm also very easily influenced. And while I'm still addicted to all things K-beauty, I also have a growing fascination with the green beauty sphere thanks to Instagram. A large part of the skincare community on Instagram is focused on green, natural brands so naturally as the lemming I am, I've also started delving into the green beauty sphere.

The shopaholic in me wants to buy all the things (and I already have started buying an item or two from some of these brands...) but chatting about them in the meantime satisfies the itch.

Because 'green beauty' is such an ambiguous term open to interpretation, I won't be tackling what I think it means in this post. All the brands I'm chatting about today market themselves as green brands and many can be found at famous green beauty stores like Credo or CAP beauty.

And because I wanted to focus on up & coming brands, I didn't feature any of the big names in green beauty. Even the green beauty brands that I would consider to be mainstream in the skincare community (ie Farmacy, Drunk Elephant, Tata Harper, etc. ) aren't necessarily mainstream to everyone else, or even mainstream to the larger beauty community. Sometimes as bloggers/ skincare addicts/ enthusiasts of any topic, we form our little bubbles and forget about what's considered common knowledge in the outside world.



Kypris Beauty
I'm a pretty packaging obsessed nut so it's telling when I say that Kypris Beauty is one of the prettiest brands out there. And while their packaging is what pulled me into the brand, their ingredients are what made me stay interested.

While all their products have gorgeous packaging, their serums are the most eye-catching and what the brand is known for-- coincidentally they're the products that call to me the most!

I've already picked up the Moonlight Catalyst serum (which I mentioned in my Cult Beauty haul post) and I couldn't be more excited to give it a go. Kypris markets it as an herbal alternative to retinol. As I've mostly stayed away from retinol in fear of turning into Deadpool, I'm curious to see the results I get with this serum. It contains fermented pumpkin enzymes which Kypris claims is gentler yet more effective than AHAs. I love my AHAs so that's a pretty big claim to live up to.

In addition to their Moonlight Catalyst serum, they also have Antioxidant Dew which is for hydration and their Clearing Serum which is targeted towards oily, blemish prone skin.

If you're unsure about which serum to try, I would recommend checking out the Kypris sample sets at Alayka Beauty. They're a UK based store that offers free shipping, and the money you spend on the Kypris sample set can be counted as credit towards a future Kypris purchase from their store.

Otherwise you can find full sized Kypris products at Nordstrom, Anthropologie, Cult Beauty, and a whole host of smaller, green beauty stores (like Alayka!)


LXMI
Not going to lie, when I first saw the balm by this brand appear on the "new in" page at Sephora, I gave it a laugh and moved on. It had one ingredient in it and cost sixty two freakin' dollars.

But after I started seeing the brand pop up on Instagram, I ended up giving it a second look and realized I got the brand all wrong. Unlike brands like Farsali Oil and its unicorn poop, there's a legitimate reasoning behind the luxury price tag for LXMI's oil based products. The ingredients are ethically sourced and the harvesters are paid a fair, living wage according to the brand. That's exactly the kind of luxury brand I want to support!

Another reason I'm crushing on the brand is because of its founder: Leila Janah. Read her wiki page and you too will be instantly inspired! She's a fellow first generation American Indian (as in her parents are from India) and founded a successful non-profit business before she was 30!

Last week Ipsy was offering a LXMI set as a daily deal which I ended up buying. The package is set to arrive today so I guess I'll be trying out both their products sometime soon! The brand also offers samples through their site for free + the cost of shipping. You can also find their line at Sephora, like I mentioned up above.


Odacité
Shout out to Jenny over at Geeky Posh for introducing me to the brand through this post on her blog. Ever since then, I've been seeing their tiny bottles of serum all over the place.

The founder is a breast cancer survivor who changed her entire lifestyle after being diagnosed. She founded Odacité to be a mix between luxury French skincare and green California living (according to her bio on their site.)

While they do offer a larger range of products, it's their serums that caught my eye. They all come in tiny vials and each seem to contain two active ingredients. The active ingredients are supposed to target specific skincare concerns and I believe the serums can be mixed and matched. Basically, their whole line is customizable. Instead of buying one product that claims to do 10 different tasks, you can pick and choose a few of their serums to target specific concerns.

Personally I'm tired of brands boasting that their products accomplish 2498734 different tasks. Even products and brands I love are guilty of this! It's refreshing to see a brand focus on specific concerns. In this way, Odacité seems to be the green, luxury cousin to the Ordinary!

Retailers that carry Odacité include Nordstrom, Blue Mercury, Cult Beauty, and more!





Youth to the People
As far as I know Youth to the People is a very new brand hailing from California. Even though they've only got four products, I want all four! I would much rather a brand start of with 3 (their 4th product is newer), well-formulated products than a whole line of half-assed crap.

Their line includes a cleanser, a moisturizer, a serum, plus an eye cream and I have yet to read a legitimate negative review on any of them. All of their products are homegrown in California in small batches with 100% vegan ingredients and 100% recyclable packaging. The best part is they believe in the power of science! They've got a whole page on their site dedicated to the various ingredients found in their products-- vitamin c, green tea, hyaluronic acid-- all the good shit.

Typing up this post I've convinced myself that I need to run to Dermstore and place an order for one or three of their products during their 20% off sale (...which I ended up doing 🙈 .) You can also find their line at Sephora, Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom, and Anthropologie.



Herbivore Botanicals
This was the only brand that I was hesitant to name as an up and comer as opposed to a mainstream brand but the more I got to thinking, the more I decided to place it in the former category. They've been at Sephora for about half a year and according to this WWD article from September 2016-- they've been growing at a rate of 300% a year! That kinda growth is indicative of up and comer status.

One of the things that first attracted me to the brand is their price range. While their oils are definitely luxury priced ($70+) they also have more affordable masks, cleansers, and lip products under $25. I've shopped from their site once and found the shipping to be super fast and relatively affordable. I bought one item and the shipping was around $4.

In addition to offering an impressive lineup of products, they're also active and vocal in supporting various causes! If you look on their blog you'll see that within the past two months they've had two different events where they donate 30% off their proceeds to non-profits supporting women and human rights groups.

They're easily the most accessible brand on this list as they're available at Sephora, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Dermstore, the Stell, and dozens of other stores. They have a local stockist finder on their site which is quite handy!




And while I could keep this list going on forever, I'm going to cut myself off here. There are so many more brands that I'm excited to try and talk about! I'll definitely be publishing more "on my radar" posts throughout the months and sharing more green beauty brands that are tempting my wallet! I think I might also upload a K-beauty edition of "on my radar" sometime soon-ish 🤔

What brands are on your radar at the moment?


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Adventures in K-Beauty with BB Cosmetics

3.15.2017

If you're a regular reader of my blog, it's no surprise to hear that I'm a huge fan of K-beauty products. BB Cosmetics is a site I discovered last fall thanks to the Asian Beauty subreddit, and since then I've shopped there quite a bit. Earlier this year I also got the opportunity to work with them and test two of their most popular items! Because I never got around to sharing some of the products I bought myself, I thought I would do a collective BB Cosmetics mini review featuring the products I received complimentary (marked with an asterisk) as well as some of the products I bought.

First and foremost I should probably do a little intro on BB Cosmetics. They're a Korean e-tailer that sells, you guessed it, Korean beauty products. In addition to their Korean operation, they also have a warehouse in the US. The biggest reason I started shopping therein the first place is because they offer free international shipping! No minimum! For an extra $2.80 you can get a tracking number which I personally find to be a very reasonable cost. If you live in the US, the tracking info is free since they ship via USPS. As far as shipping times go, I've had variable experiences. When I placed my first order they had been running a huge 30% off sitewide promotion so their shipping was a bit delayed. Ultimately I think it took me about 3 weeks to receive my order after placing it. The other two times I shopped there I got my packages within a week and a half! If you're located outside of the US, you can check their shipping page here to see their estimated shipping times.

In addition you can also get 8% off on your order with my code "ND1K0G1ON2K3B" (this isn't an affiliate code so I don't gain anything if you use the code 😊.)




Glow Recipe NYC Pop-Up Tour & Haul | Beauty in the City

3.11.2017

If you're not a fan of K-beauty (how dare you) or you aren't American (#merica) then you might not have heard of Glow Recipe, an e-retailer and distributor that specializes in luxury Korean beauty products. After appearing on Shark Tank sometime in 2015, they shot to fame and have become a household name in the online K-beauty community.

On top of running their own store where they sell brands like Whamisa, Huxley, and Leejiham they also work as curators of Korean beauty products for other retailers. If you've ever browsed the K-beauty section at Sephora you may have noticed that some of the products are labeled as "Glow Recipe curations." For example all the way on the bottom of the product description of the Blithe green tea splash mask, Sephora offers this little blurb: "Curated by Glow Recipe, the go-to for the best Korean beauty innovations. Glow Recipe is at the forefront of the latest K-beauty trends, identifying and bringing only top quality products and skin care secrets stateside. Get your glow on!"

As you might have guessed from my fan-girly intro, I was ecstatic to hear they were opening up a pop-up in the city! I'm bummed I didn't make time to visit on opening day (which I'll briefly talk about later) but it was still exciting to go a week after opening! Here's my tour of the studio as well as a small-ish haul 😉


New Wet N' Wild MegaLast Liquid Catsuit Lipstick + Perfect Pout Gel Lip Liner Reviews | Aka That Lipstick Review I Meant to Publish in January

3.08.2017

I'm pretty sure I bought the Wet N' Wild megalast liquid catsuit lipsticks and perfect pout gel lip liners back in December, and I'm pretty sure I've been promising a review on them since January! But alas, it's better late than never right?

When it comes to drugstore brands, I tend to stick to the more affordable brands-- Wet N' Wild, E.L.F., and Jordana are my drugstore holy trinity. I figure if I'm spending $10+ on a drugstore product, I might as well buy it from a mid-range brand. It may not make sense but that's how my brain justifies it. So when one of the three brands come out with a new product, it's usually immediately on my radar.

Wet N' Wild has put out liquid lipsticks before, but I was never compelled to purchase them because they always got mixed reviews. These liquid lipsticks on the other hand, seem to be universally liked! I remember visiting Walgreens literally every other day or two for two weeks trying to find these lipsticks. When I finally found them I also spotted a display with their new gel lip liners which were selling for $3 a pop, I bought two colors for testing purposes. For the blog 😜.



10 Flatlay Backgrounds Under $10

3.02.2017

When I was first writing this post I was afraid it would be a bit too... obvious? Many of my flatlay backgrounds are various types of paper. I mean, who would have thought that a flat, solid material would make for a perfect flatlay background? But on the other hand, some of these items are so in-your-face obvious that you don't realize they're perfect flatlay backgrounds unless someone points them out to you. And I'm here to be that someone 😉

Also I realize that many of the photos I'm sharing as examples aren't actually flatlays, but the same principles apply so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


1. Poster Board/ Poster Paper
Poster board and poster paper are the two most obvious flatlay backgrounds so I figured I would get them out of the way first. Personally I like having both poster board and poster paper on hand as they can work in different ways.

I always have a white poster board on hand because it works as a great DIY reflector like I talked about in my tutorial here. I also like keeping floppier pieces of poster paper because they can be used to create a faux shadow box effect.

Here's a super sophisticated behind-the-scenes shot of my usual shooting spot. Brace yourself for the elegance of it all.

I used the poster paper to create a seamless finish and used one poster board to prop up the poster paper, and another one to work as a reflector.

Bonus: if you can't find poster paper or poster board in a color you fancy, you can always paint it! I wanted a sky blue background but for the life of me couldn't find any light blue poster paper. Instead of driving myself crazy looking for one, I bought some light blue paint and painted a white poster board. The available colors of paint are much more numerous than the available colors of poster paper.

Here's a shot I posted to Instagram using the light blue background:
A post shared by Sharmili (@sharmtoaster) on
2. Wrapping Paper
While you can go wild and use all sorts of patterned and colored wrapping paper, I'm boring and stick to the white roll I bought at the dollar store. Like the poster paper, wrapping paper can also be used to create a seamless background.

One thing to keep in mind when buying wrapping paper to use as a background is its finish. If you buy a glossy wrapping paper, there's a chance that you'll get some unwanted reflections in your photos. For that reason I tend to stick to matte or slightly glossy wrapping paper. Thankfully the cheap stuff usually isn't very glossy.

Here's a shot where I used wrapping paper to create a seamless background:
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3. Contact Paper
Now this is one material I have yet to master but I had to mention it because it's a blogger favorite. You can easily get a roll of marble contact paper off of Amazon for under $10, adhere it onto a piece of cardboard and bam, you have a marble background.

Once you buy the contact paper you'll get to recognize the pattern and see just how many bloggers use it! It's a beauty blogger staple 👍

Amelia from Amelia Says has the prettiest pictures using her marble contact paper-- here's one of my favorites from her feed:
A post shared by Amelia (@ameliaasays) on
4. Wooden Slabs/ Plaques/ Pallets/ Crates
Wooden slabs are another background I have yet to master... mostly because I've been to cheap to buy one I like. Depending on how large of a background you're looking for you can check your local art supply store or home improvement store. If you're based in the US, Michaels has a bunch of various wooden plaques and boards. You can browse their selection online here but I've seen even more in stores! Plus they're always offering 40-50% off coupons so you can get one for a steal and well under the $10 mark.

5. Magazines
Moar paper backgrounds!

I regularly use magazines as a photo prop, but they can also work as your flatlay's background. You can layer several magazines atop each other or do what I do which is pick a random, pretty looking page and squash the fuck out of it.

Here's a shot where I used a pretty spread from Vogue as my background; it took some time to lay the magazine out flat but I eventually got it *huzzah*
A post shared by Sharmili (@sharmtoaster) on
6. Faux Leaves, Flowers, Grass, etc.
Like magazines, faux leaves have become regular props in my photos but they can also work as backgrounds. You can layer them atop each other or you can buy 1 bigass one which will fit all your flatlaid items.

It's also the perfect time of the year to buy bigass faux leaves! As the weather is becoming warmer, art supply stores are releases more tropical faux plants + leaves and those are are usually the ones that are larger.

Alternatively I've also seen patches of faux flowers and faux grass which would make for perfect flatlay backgrounds! These are usually a bit pricier but if there's a sale or you use a coupon, you can still purchase them in the under $10 range.

7. Rugs/ Throws
When I first bought my faux-sherpa rug it was literally all I used to flatlay for about a month straight. It's so common it's become a blogger cliche.

The best part about using a textured material like a rug or throw is that your shit won't roll around. The fluffiness holds everything in place. While I've scaled back the sage of my own rug, it's still a frequent player on my instagram.

Here's my most recent shot featuring a faux-sherpa background flatlay:
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8. Sheets/ Bedding
On the days I wash my comforter cover, I like using my white comforter as a flatlay background. Of course a comforter runs well over $10 but I consider it a cost of $0 because I didn't buy it for the purpose of flatlay, it's something I already have and use. If you don't own any white bedding, you can always buy a cheap white flat sheet.

The great things about using bedding as a flatlay background is that they're so large area-wise. Even a twin sheet will provide more potential flatlaying space than the majority of poster boards and poster papers.

Here's a shot I took with my comforter as a background:
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9. Scrapbook Paper
To bounce on over to the other extreme, scrapbook paper is the smallest background in terms of area. But it compensates that for being ridiculously cheap! Even if you only have a dollar or two to spare for a background you can easily buy several pieces of scrapbook paper. If you wait, Michaels usually has a scrapbook paper sale every month or two. Usually the price drops down to 4 pieces for $1!

If you're like me and mostly like using plain solid colored backgrounds, it doesn't make sense to buy a huge sheet or poster paper of a fun color or pattern (also usually fancier patterns cost more moolah.) Scrapbook paper is the perfect affordable option for the occasional fun background photo.

Here's a shot I took with a piece of "rustic" blue scrapbook paper:
A post shared by Sharmili (@sharmtoaster) on

10. Marble Pastry Boards/ Cutting Boards/ Cheese Boards
And of course I had to share the best for last. My white and grey marble pastry boards are my two favorite flatlay backgrounds.

While I would love to own a fancy marble coffee table in the future, a marble cutting board is about as much marble as I can afford. Even so marble cutting boards can also be a bit pricey so I buy mine from places like TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Marshalls, etc.

And if your marble pastry board doesn't fill up your whole photo, don't sweat it. I've got a tutorial to for fixing that 😉

Here's the photo I used for the tutorial/ an example of a photo with a marble cutting board background:
A post shared by Sharmili (@sharmtoaster) on



Like I said in my intro, once you stretch your imagination a bit, you'll find that your potential flatlay backgrounds are endless. I've used sweaters, candle chargers, tissue paper, towels, newspaper, snow, grass and more as my flatlay backgrounds.

What's your favorite flatlay background to use?



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