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The Blog

Approachable inspiration for a stylish life. 

 

The Drugstore Polish That *Actually* Lasts a Full Week

Kristen Berry

I’ve never been the kind of girl who can wear a standard, self-applied, drugstore polish manicure for more than a day or two before it becomes hopelessly, embarrassingly chipped.

Maybe it’s because my nails are dry and brittle and flaky. Maybe it’s because I’m always rummaging blindly in my purse for my keys or my lipgloss. Whatever the reason, I can’t be bothered to paint my nails these days if there isn’t a special occasion involved – not because I like the look of my nude, aforementioned dry/brittle/flaky nails, but because I can’t stand repainting them every couple of days.

When I heard that Essie – my go-to nail polish brand – released a line of lacquer that lasts up to 14 days, without requiring a UV lamp to set it or harsh chemicals to remove it, I had to put it to the test.

Essie Gel Couture Polish in Touch Up, $11.50 at Target.com; Essie Gel Couture Top Coat, $11.50 at Target.com.

Essie Gel Couture Polish in Touch Up, $11.50 at Target.com; Essie Gel Couture Top Coat, $11.50 at Target.com.

I purchased a bottle of the new Essie Gel Couture polish line in “Touch Up,” a beautiful, neutral, pinky mauve shade, as well as bottle of the corresponding top coat. I painted my nails using my typical routine: one layer of a standard clear base coat, followed by two coats of the Gel Couture color polish, followed by a layer of the Gel Couture top coat, with 2-5 minutes between coats.

I painted my nails on a Wednesday night. And they remained perfect through Thursday. And Friday. And Saturday. And Sunday....

I was dumbfounded. I treated my nails exactly the same as always, doing dishes, rooting through my purse, etc. And even when I closely examined my my nails four full days later, I found zero chips or dings or imperfections of any kind. The only other time I’ve experienced this is when I’ve sprung for a pricey shellac manicure at a salon – but they’re not great for your nails, and require soaking your nails in harsh acetone to remove the varnish.

I didn’t spot any blemishes until Monday – one noticeable chip on my right pinkie, and the polish was beginning to grow out slightly from the cuticle under close inspection. By Tuesday, I noticed small micro chips at the tips of some of my nails, though thanks to the neutral color I selected, it wasn’t very noticeable. By Wednesday, I noticed more visible peeling from the cuticle, and additional small chips at the tips of my nails. But this was day 8 – day 8 of my mani with the Essie Gel Couture line looked like day 4 with my standard drugstore polish.

Bottom line – I’m in love. Sure, the range didn’t last a full 14 days on my nails before I was ready to remove it, but the same goes for my shellac manicures. By day 10 my shellac polish is so incredibly grown out that I can’t stand it any more. And when I remove the Gel Couture product, my nails feel just as healthy as when I remove a standard polish – when I remove a shellac manicure, my nails always feel stripped, rough and ultra-dry.

If you’re looking for a long-lasting nail polish at a drugstore price, I highly recommend the Essie Gel Couture system. I’m running out to buy a handful of new shades right now.

– Kristen

Blog for Love, Not for Likes

Kristen Berry

Trying to earn my blogger self-sufficiency badge by managing my own photo shoot, thanks to a tripod and a camera with a self-timer.

Trying to earn my blogger self-sufficiency badge by managing my own photo shoot, thanks to a tripod and a camera with a self-timer.

People frequently ask me what my goals are for my blog. On it’s face, it’s a perfectly innocent question. However, I get a bit annoyed when asked. I mean, no one would ask what my goals are for playing on a weekend basketball league, or taking a Tuesday night pottery class.  What’s wrong with simply blogging as a hobby, purely because it’s something I love?

Of course, this question wouldn’t get under my skin if it weren’t a sore spot of mine. I’m a naturally competitive, goal-oriented, metrics-driven person. And when you’re a blogger, your metrics are your unique visitors, your page views, and, perhaps unfortunately, the number and engagement level of your Instagram followers.

It can feel incredibly narcissistic to care too much about how many people follow you on Instagram, but in the world of blogging, it’s naive to think that those digits don’t matter. Most brands won’t think of collaborating with you unless you hit a certain number of followers. And it can be difficult not to compare your stats with those of countless other seemingly similar bloggers with an astronomical following.

However, there’s a thin, gray line between working to grow your following and becoming obsessed with it. After all, I don’t think any of us aspire to become an Instagram girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse (see Instagram Husband; it ain’t pretty). When I find myself going down a social media rabbit hole, a web analytics shame spiral, or the beginning stages of an existential blogger crisis, here’s what I do/tell myself/ask myself to snap out of it.

Remember Why You Started Blogging in the First Place

I didn’t start a blog to become Internet famous, and I didn’t have any dreams of becoming an Instagram star. I started a blog as a fun creative outlet, an opportunity to take a break from the tech world I work in and revel in my passion for fashion and makeup. I started a blog to share the advice my friends and family often come to me for with a broader audience of people who might find it helpful, or fun, or interesting. And I started a blog to keep learning – to pick up a few skills in web design, photography, video editing, and social media.

When I feel the fog of doubt begin to roll in, I ask myself if I’m still having fun. If I still enjoy playing with makeup and clothes, and writing/taking pictures/making videos about it. And I ask myself if I’m still learning. If the answer to these questions is “yes,” I keep going. And I allow that to be my barometer for success.

I Probably Won’t be the Next Cupcakes and Cashmere – And I’m O.K. With That.

Emily Schuman, the beautiful brains behind the highly successful blog Cupcakes and Cashmere, and her two fantastic books.

Emily Schuman, the beautiful brains behind the highly successful blog Cupcakes and Cashmere, and her two fantastic books.

I’m a definite believer that with hard work, dedication and a dash of luck, anything is possible. But I’m also a realist, and I know that there’s a slim chance that I’ll be packing it all in to travel the world on my blogger money. Acknowledging and embracing this helps me keep a healthy perspective on how important it is that I get a perfect shot of my new Zara purchase, or that I engage with my followers each and every day.

Don’t Believe the Hype

Four incredibly talented beauty bloggers/vloggers who have amassed impressive Instagram followings, and have shared their social media tips.

Four incredibly talented beauty bloggers/vloggers who have amassed impressive Instagram followings, and have shared their social media tips.

There are countless talented bloggers and Instagrammers who have worked incredibly hard for years to organically grow their followings. And many offer tips that you can apply to yours as well (see Teni Panosian, Shayla Mitchell, Karen Sarahi Gonzalez and Marianna Hewitt’s advice). However, not everyone’s methods are worth replicating.

It’s well known that many people buy their Instagram followers, or boost their followings with fake accounts (even Justin Bieber’s social media team was caught making this ‘Gram gaffe). Numerous others follow you on Instagram, just to unfollow you once you follow them back – a notorious method used to keep their followings-to-followers ratio low. Gross, I know. It’s also been frequently stated that the quickest way to boost your following/likes is with a little nudity. And I have no interest in going down that road.

Again, this isn’t to say that anyone with a strong following employs these shady tactics – it’s just a good reminder to take all of those numbers with a sizeable grain of salt.

Apply the Marie Kondo Method to Your Social Media Feeds

I have to admit, I haven’t yet read Kondo’s best-selling book “'The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” But I’ve heard enough about it to know that the core of her process is to only keep belongings that “spark joy,” and (lovingly, respectfully) get rid of things that don’t.

I’ll occasionally take this same approach to clean up my social media feeds. Is there someone I follow on Instagram just because I think I should as a dutiful fashion/beauty blogger, but whose posts only irritate me? Buh-bye. Am I still following someone who did the whole follow-back bait-and-switch thing mentioned above? Poof, gone (Iconosquare is a great tool you can use to keep an eye on who has unfollowed you, among other helpful Instagram analytics). Now, when I scroll through my feed, I only see pictures from people I care about, or who inspire me, or who, you know, spark joy.

Set Goals That Have Nothing to Do With Numbers

If you, like me, blog in part for the learning experiences it offers, set a goal for yourself that’s tied to learning something new rather than a specific metric. Maybe it’s tackling a more ambitious or personal project. Maybe it’s recording and editing your first video. Maybe it’s mastering PhotoShop, or Final Cut Pro. Maybe it’s learning to do a bit of your own coding. Or perhaps it’s getting over your fear of taking your own photos, and going out alone with your tripod, a camera with a self-timer and a confident smile (like I self-consciously did to capture the photos accompanying this post).

Achieving goals that aren’t tied to a certain number of readers or followers or likes will not only provide an incredible sense of accomplishment – it will also reignite the passions that led you to blog in the first place.

Stick to an Analytics Schedule – And Leverage Tools to Use Your Time Effectively

Of course, I’m not telling you to ignore your numbers completely, or that you should let your social media presence(s) languish. Instead of endlessly and obsessively checking your metrics, set a schedule for when you review them, and use tools to learn the most from the numbers.

For example, I only allow myself to log onto Iconosquare twice each week. In addition to evaluating the folks I’m following, I can also see what time of day it’s most effective for me to post, which hashtags resonate best, and what types of photos generate the most engagement. This way, instead of simply stressing about my numbers, I can use this intel to use Instagram even more effectively in the days to come.

One of the many, many reasons why I decided to host Faux Fancy on Squarespace is their incredibly useful analytics dashboards. However, I only allow myself to visit this page once a month. Similar to Iconosquare, I can use this data to determine the types of content my readers enjoy most, where they’re discovering the posts (Facebook, Twitter, direct visits, etc.), which keywords are driving visitors to my site, and more. I can use this to decide how to prioritize the type of content I develop moving forward, and where/how I promote it. 

Additionally, I don’t allow myself to check my social media during certain hours. There was a point when the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did at night was obsessively like, comment, and follow folks on Instagram. Now that I force myself to leave the ‘Gram alone by a certain hour, and don’t allow myself to check my feed before a certain time, I’m sleeping much better, and starting my day much more mindfully.

There are so many areas in our lives where we’re tied to expectations and success metrics set by others, where we have to be constantly serious and results-oriented and stringent in our pursuit of greatness. If you’re lucky enough to have a blog as a side project, something you do for fun, then let it be fun. Obsessing won’t lead to success – it will only lead you to hate the thing you once loved. Taking the approach of blogging for the love of it, instead of for likes, will improve the way you feel about it. Which can inspire you to create even better content. Which, funny enough, might just lead to more likes.

Dress: Xhilaration. No longer available, but numerous other cute, affordable options can be found at Target, here. Location: the beautiful San Jose Municipal Rose Garden.

Dress: Xhilaration. No longer available, but numerous other cute, affordable options can be found at Target, here. Location: the beautiful San Jose Municipal Rose Garden.

- Kristen

New for Summer ‘16: Ready for the Weekend Try-On Haul

Kristen Berry

It recently occurred to me that most of my casual summer weekend clothes are old. Painfully old. Like, pre-2014 old.

I didn't really notice it when hanging out in the notoriously casual Silicon Valley. But I've been spending a lot of time in LA lately, and I’ve frequently found myself pining for the cool, easy chic that so many SoCal girls possess.

While I typically buy a couple of pieces here and there over time, I instead went on a bit of a wardrobe overhaul these past few weeks, stocking up on carefree, warm weather weekend pieces in vibrant prints and versatile neutrals. Even though I purchased a number of new items, I did so while fully respecting my bank account, thanks to Forever21, Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack and Target. The priciest item I bought rang in at $60, and most pieces came in at less than half of that.

Check out the video for the full try-on haul – product details below!

Forever21:

Nordstrom:

  • Chuck Taylor® All Star® 'Ox' Metallic Low Top Sneaker in Gunmetal, $60 at Nordstrom.com.

Nordstrom Rack:

  • Denim cutoff shorts, Joe’s Jeans. Not available online, snagged in store for $30 (reg. Price, $148).

  • Braided leather belt in Black Silver, Fashion Focus Accessories, $22 at NordstromRack.com

  • Flat tan sandals, BRAND. No longer available online, but several similar options can be found here.

Target:

  • Dress, Xhilaration. No longer available, but numerous other cute, affordable options can be found here.

  • Romper, Xhilaration. No longer available, but numerous other cute, affordable options can be found here.

What are your go-to summer wardrobe pieces?

- Kristen

Work It, Girl

Kristen Berry

Nothing is simpler than the single-item outfit that is the dress. However, the sleeveless summery dresses I adore aren’t exactly practical thanks to the always-in-overdrive office AC.

Lightweight, long-sleeved shirtdresses like this little Zara number are the perfect compromise for the outdoor heat and indoor chill. The bold, retro-inspired print and color scheme are the ideal counterpoint to the simple, classic cut.

Neutral accessories in warm shades of tan and gold add polished balance to the look.

And a slim side braid adds a bit of oomph to a simple half-pony.

  • Dress: Zara Contrast-Print Tunic, now on sale in select sizes for $30 at Zara.com.
  • Bag: Street Level Reversible Faux Leather Tote & Wristlet in Cognac/Coral, now on sale for $32 at Nordstrom.com.
  • Shoes: Michael by Michael Kors, no longer available.

What are your go-to summer office pieces?

- Kristen

Fun Flat Sandals Under $50

Kristen Berry

I’m not the type of person who typically buys a bunch of new things at the very beginning of a season. I have to get back into the swing of things, revisit my current clothes, wear them a bit in the new weather, and see what really needs replacing.

At the top of my summer replacement list are my beloved flat silver gladiators. They’ve seen me through many warm weather days, numerous vacations, and countless blog posts. But they finally fully disintegrated during my recent camping retreat, and it’s time to find a new pair of comfortable, versatile, stylish sandals.

Here are 10 options I have my eye on, all under $50, that prove that “versatile” does not have to equal “boring.”

ASOS Fuerta Lace Up Leather Sandals, $36 at ASOS.com.

ASOS Fuerta Lace Up Leather Sandals, $36 at ASOS.com.

Topshop 'Daily' Ghillie Sandal in Coral, $48 at Nordstrom.com (also available in black and tan).

Topshop 'Daily' Ghillie Sandal in Coral, $48 at Nordstrom.com (also available in black and tan).

BCBGeneration Baldwyn Flat Sandal, $49.95 at DSW.com.

BCBGeneration Baldwyn Flat Sandal, $49.95 at DSW.com.

Zara Flat Metallic Leather Sandals, $29.90 at Zara.com.

Zara Flat Metallic Leather Sandals, $29.90 at Zara.com.

H&M Strappy Sandals in Silver, $8 at HM.com (also available in black and brown).

H&M Strappy Sandals in Silver, $8 at HM.com (also available in black and brown).

Boohoo Boutique Lace Up Suede Espadrille, $32 at ASOS.com.

Boohoo Boutique Lace Up Suede Espadrille, $32 at ASOS.com.

Zara Flat Sandals with Shiny Details, $49.90 at Zara.com.

Zara Flat Sandals with Shiny Details, $49.90 at Zara.com.

Mix No. 6 Scaglia Metallic Gladiator Sandal, $24.95 at DSW.com.

Mix No. 6 Scaglia Metallic Gladiator Sandal, $24.95 at DSW.com.

ASOS Falon Leather Flat Sandals, $33 at ASOS.com.

ASOS Falon Leather Flat Sandals, $33 at ASOS.com.

Topshop “Hot Stud” Ankle Strap Sandal, $48 at Nordstrom.com.

Topshop “Hot Stud” Ankle Strap Sandal, $48 at Nordstrom.com.

What are you updating in your summer wardrobe?

– Kriste