Positano: 11 Things to Know

Positano Things To Know #1: It’s expensive.

We saved Positano for the end of our trip. Maybe that’s why we felt it so much financially. It was almost impossible to spend less than a few hundred euros a day between breakfast, lunch & dinner. If you are traveling on a budget, make sure to research the best affordable restaurants. We regretted not doing this and ended up splurging every single day. Painful!

Positano Things To Know #2: Lots of Stairs.

Our hotel was situated at the top of hills/roads because we wanted that quintessential Positano view. What we did not consider, however, was that we would have to walk up and down endless stairs to get to and from the beach or anywhere else. I recommend packing light and packing comfortable shoes. We had two very large suitcases because we were in Italy for sixteen days. We should’ve downsized our packing and probably would have had we known that we would be forever climbing stairs!

Positano Things To Know #3: Taxis are not worth it.

While in Positano, we walked absolutely everywhere – what better way to burn off all the pasta and pizza. We opted for a lot of public transportation for the first time during our travels. To get to Positano, we took a train from Naples and then a bus from Sorrento. The total cost for this entire journey was less than $20 or so – incredibly budget friendly. When we looked into taxis, the estimates we received were over 120 euros. There was local transportation in Positano itself as well – on our last day there, we took a bus down to the beach with our luggage rather than walking. Always research your options before splurging on a taxi!

Positano Things To Know #4: Incredibly packed.

While Positano was incredibly picture perfect, it was extremely packed with tourists. The locals told us that we were visiting during the off season (October), and we still thought it was so crowded. I could not imagine visiting Positano during peak season. There were lines at the more popular spots for food or drinks. If you visit during peak season, definitely make reservations everywhere you’re dying to go!

Positano Things To Know #5: Take advantage of the ferry.

We didn’t know how diverse the ferry destinations were until it was too late. We could have taken a ferry from Naples to Positano! We did take some advantage of it once we knew it was such an affordable and efficient option. We took a day trip to Capri from Positano, and it was incredible!

Positano Things To Know #6: Have lunch at a local deli.

We found a few delis in Positano that we LOVED. We would walk to the back of the shop where they made fresh sandwiches and salads. For two or three days, we got some amazing sandwiches with sun-dried tomatoes, cheese and Prosciutto. Not only was it incredibly cheap, it was delicious!

Positano things to know

Positano Things To Know #7: You don’t need more than a couple of days.

To be honest, there isn’t really much to do in Positano. Other than eat, sit on the beach, eat some more.. there isn’t too much going on. You could see most of Positano – or at least the areas you’re interested in – in a day. We spent five days in Positano, and we were bored. We took a day trip to Capri to escape the boredom – but then again, we are not very good relaxers and wanted some action. Unless you have a very specific agenda for Positano and have some day trips planned to other Amalfi Coast destinations, don’t plan on being there for more than a couple of days!

Positano Things To Know #8: No real culture.

Because Positano is so incredibly touristy, it’s difficult to get a feel for any sort of culture. We didn’t get many opportunities to mingle with locals – they were all too busy tending to tourists! Everywhere we went, we saw tons of Americans. It didn’t even feel like we were in Italy!

Positano Things To Know #9: Picture Perfect but…

Get ready to see tons of “influencers” and bloggers posing for photos absolutely everywhere. We sat on the beach and watched a bunch of Instagrammers posing with pizzas in bikinis – seriously, they had one slice of pizza and passed it around for an hour long photo shoot. It was very entertaining, and they laughed along with us at the ridiculousness.

Positano Things To Know #10: Stay near the beach.

As I mentioned, we stayed at the top of a hill above the main road so we could get those gorgeous views – but then we spent most of our time NOT in our hotel room! If you want to avoid very sore legs from endless stairs and cut down on the amount of time you spend getting to the action, stay close to the beach!

Positano Things To Know #11: Take the bus.

If you stay far away form the action, make sure you are near a bus stop! This will save you a lot of misery when you first arrive with your bags and when you leave. Our hotel happened to be right in front of a bus stop (so lucky!) and it was a lifesaver at the end of an exhausting trip!

How to Use Lightroom: Playing with Light & Creating a Preset

Adobe Lightroom. You’ve heard of it. You see all the bloggers on instagram using it and raving about it. You even managed to download the free Adobe Lightroom CC app. But then it quickly became overwhelming because W-T-F are all these crazy settings and options? 

To be honest, Lightroom can be overwhelming for a beginner. Not because it’s hard or complicated. It can be overwhelming if you don’t understand photography basics because each setting can dramatically alter a photo. 

The goal of this multi-part guide (be sure to subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss the other parts of this series!) will be to show you how easily you can transform a photo by tweaking just a couple of dials in Lightroom Mobile. That’s right – you can do it straight off of your phone. Let’s jump into playing with light in Lightroom CC!

How to Use Lightroom to Change your Image with Just the Light Settings

The first thing you want to do is understand how to import a photo into Lightroom. This one’s easy – you just click the blue square on the bottom right with the plus sign. This will take you to your camera roll so you can select the image you’d like to work with. Here is my sample image that I will be editing in this guide to demonstrate subtle changes you can make by turning some dials:

Unedited, raw file from my Canon Rebel T5i, imported into Adobe Lightroom CC
Unedited, raw file from my Canon Rebel T5i, imported into Adobe Lightroom CC

This photo was taken mid-morning, outdoors, on a Canon Rebel T5i. It was taken without a flash, just as all of my photos are. It’s ALWAYS best to opt out of using a flash because you can edit so much of the lighting in Lightroom anyway.

The first thing I want to do to this photo is brighten it up a bit. The option you want to click on in Lightroom to do this is “Light.” If your photo has lots of shadows and you are going for a very bright look, you can start with the exposure dial. I turned the exposure on this shot up to +1.62 and here is the result by ONLY changing exposure: 

lighroom tutorial
Changing just the exposure has a huge impact on the photo already!

Turning up the exposure essentially behaves like a flash without affecting the quality of your photo. All of the colors look brighter and the shadows become muted. If your only issue with your photo was darkness or shadows, just changing the exposure should be able to save the shot!

The next dial under the Light section will be contrast. By increasing the contrast, you will be increasing the difference between the light areas of the photo and the darker areas, put simply. I personally love playing with the contrast. The reason is that when you play with the contrast of an image, you are able to to make changes to it that give all of your images a more uniform appearance.

For Instagram, I like to turn the contrast down to accentuate the colors in the photos rather than the shadows and darkness. By accentuating the colors, I am able to get a similar or uniform look in my photos. If you want very basic edits without looking overly processed, just matching the contrast In your photos should give you a nice and uniform aesthetic. 

In this photo, I’ve turned the contrast down to -58. You can clearly see the difference that this change to the contrast has on the image:

Changing the contract has further brightened up the image.

The next setting under Light is called highlights. Think about what you are doing when you apply highlighter to your face – you are brightening up areas that you want to pop. You can think of highlights here in the same way – it’s all the whiteness/brightness in the photo.

In this specific shot, there is a lot of white. In fact, there is so much that you can’t see the mountains off in the distance. Turning the highlights dial is the perfect fix here. In this edit, I turned the highlights all the way down to -100. What this does is remove that brightness so the mountains are visible:

The mountains in the distance become much more visible by turning the highlights down to -100.

This is a great feature to use when the light in the photo is taking away from the beautiful details in the sky, such as the clouds or a sunset. By turning the highlights down, you can make those areas darker so the details don’t get lost in the light.

The next setting is shadows. You’ve probably seen bloggers on instagram with a very bright and flat aesthetic. You can achieve this by playing with the shadows. If you brighten all of the shadows, your image will become even more flat and uniform. Here is an example with shadows brightened up to +100 (I don’t normally aim for such a flat photo but because of the background and colors, I love the way it looks):

The next two settings are to add/take away the whites and blacks in the shot. I don’t mess with these for most photos, but sometimes you can play with them to see if they enhance your photo. In this particular shot, I’ve turned the whites up to +35 and left the blacks alone. In the end, the result is:

Final result by just altering lighting in Lightroom Mobile.

Adobe Lightroom Mobile: Creating Presets

The great thing about Lightroom is that once you have edited a photo, you can use those edits to make yourself a preset. You can use your preset in all similar lighting situations to give you a similar edit. Presents, however, do not work well when the lighting situation is drastically different so it’s wise to always create new presets as you go and try them on a new image before editing it from scratch. You can usually use the preset as a shortcut and then freehand any additional edits you need.

In order to create a preset with your edits, click on the three dots in the far upper right-hand corner. In the menu, you will see an option called “create preset.” Click on that option. Make sure that everything you want to be included in your preset is checked off. I usually check off everything on the list unless i’ve done a very specific edit. Next, name your preset. Once you save, Lightroom will inform you that your preset was successfully saved.

To access your preset, scroll to the far right of the editing bar at the bottom and click on presets. Scroll down until you find the one you created, and apply it to any future images.

If you understand these basic lighting principles in Lightroom, you should be able to transform your images like a pro and save images that you may have thought were hopeless due to bad lighting situations. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my post about all of the different apps that you can edit for perfection in! Stay tuned for the next part in the Lightroom series coming next week!

15 Amazon Beauty Must-Haves for $15 Reviewed by Thousands!

You deserve the best of the best, and you shouldn’t have to break the bank for it. I have compiled a list of fifteen Amazon beauty must-haves with over 4 star ratings and over 3,000 reviews. These products are incredibly affordable, credible and incredible!

Amazon Beauty Find #1: Wingliner Stamp $13.97

Rating: 4.6 Reviews: 3,115

I’m a big fan of Sephora and love high end makeup products. When it comes to eyeliner though, I’m a bit skeptical of spending $25+. I’ve tried so many eyeliners, and usually I can’t tell a big difference between something that was $30 and a good quality drug-store brand that costs $5-$10. While on the hunt for an affordable eyeliner with amazing reviews, this one from Amazon stopped me in my tracks. It has a STAMP for the perfect wing! I love a good winged liner, but I always struggle at getting both sides even. I end up spending 20 minutes on each eye only to realize they are far from perfect. This product is an absolute miracle!

Amazon Beauty Find #2: Brilliant Beauty Eyelash Curler ($9.99)

Rating: 4.3 Reviews: 5,422

I’ve never used lash curlers because I have naturally curly lashes, but ever since my lashes have thinned out due to lash extensions, this little little guy gives the lashes I have left a nice curl.

Amazon Beauty Find #3: Tweezer Guru ($9.97)

Rating: 4.3 Reviews: 7,351

Do you ever have that one pesky eyebrow hair that is out of place but you can’t pluck it out? With these tweezers, you can. It’s so precise and well-made that you will never struggle with stray hairs again.

Amazon Beauty Find #4: Flat Foundation Brush by Lamora Beauty ($9.95)

Ratings: 4.7 Reviews: 11,151

With 81% of the reviews for this brush being 5 stars, customers seem to agree with the brand’s self-proclaimed accolade as “one of the best foundation makeup brushes you will ever buy.” At under $10, this is a steal compared to higher end makeup brushes.

Amazon Beauty Find #5: Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe Herbs and Rosewater ($12.00)

Rating: 4.4 Reviews: 4,857

I love a good facial spray, especially in the summer. It’s a great way to hydrate your skin without piling on more moisturizer. This one has five key ingredients with key functions: Aloe vera: Delivers light, soothing hydration.

Bladderwrack: Softens and Nourishes.

Gardenia & Rose: Gives skin an antioxidant boost.

Thyme: Boasts natural clarifying properties.

This is not just for women either – it is also a favorite of many men based on the reviews!

Amazon Beauty Find #6: Elizabeth Mott Thank Me Later Eye Shadow Primer ($13.06).

Ratings: 4.5 Reviews: 2,696

Priming your eyes is so important for any makeup look especially if you love vibrant lids. It makes your eye shadow last longer, prevents creasing, and brightens everything up nicely. After using high end primers, I’ve realized that while some are amazing and worth the hype, there are cost effective alternatives that are just as good if not better. 79% of the reviewers for this one felt that it deserved 5 stars, and the customer photos provide further proof of how amazing this primer truly is.

Amazon Beauty Find #7: Aztec Secret – Indian Healing Clay ($10.95).

Rating: 4.4 Reviews: 16,267

This is the number one rated mask on Amazon. It has a cult following with over 16,000 reviews and a 4.4 star rating. Customer reviews go on and on for paragraphs about how this singular mask saved their skin. If you’re in the market for a new mask that is extremely affordable and absolutely loved by thousands, be sure to give this one a try!

Amazon Beauty Find #8: Beakey Makeup Sponge Set ($8.99).

Rating: Reviews: 2,594

I am obsessed with the Beauty Blender – who isn’t?! What if I told you that this is THE Beauty Blender Dupe that you’ve been waiting for? Almost 80% of the reviews for this five piece sponge set are a perfect five stars. The reviewers truly believe this is the next best thing to the original Beauty Blender if not as good. A lot of five also costs you less than one Beauty Blender!

Amazon Beauty Find #9: NYX Professional Makeup Setting Spray ($5.19).

Rating: 4.2 Reviews: 4,660

This is a #1 bestseller does it’s job well without costing you big bucks. If you don’t use a setting spray, I’ll tell you why you should. A setting spray basically makes all of your makeup come together nicely. I see it as hairspray for your face. On days I don’t use a setting spray, I can sometimes see harsh lines if I didn’t blend enough. Using a setting spray softens everything out and makes your makeup last much longer!

Amazon Beauty Find #10: BS-MALL Makeup Brushes ($9.99).

Rating: 4.5 Reviews: 4,146

Makeup brushes are expense. Very expensive. This makeup brush set is just under $10, and it is absolutely loved by thousands of happy customers. Before splurging on an expense makeup brush set, be sure to check this one out and save yourself some money.

Shop Amazon US.

Amazon Beauty Find #11: Hyaluronic Acid Serum for Skin ($15.00).

Ratings: 4.3 Reviews: 7,579

Do you feel that your moisturizer sometimes just sits on top of your skin? This cruelty-free serum will provide what your current moisturizer can’t: intense moisture and balance. Customer reviews go on and on about how skin became plumper, younger looking, smoother, etc. This serum ranks #3 on Amazon’s list of facial serums, and it has been reviewed far more than the #1 and #2 products (and its less expensive)!

Amazon Beauty Find #12: Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara ($4.99).

Amazon’s #1 rated mascara is only $4.99! I don’t think I need to say much about this one. The reviews, the price point and the customer images do all the talking here. Plus, it’s cruelty-free!

Amazon Beauty Find #13: Bed Head Curlipops Curling Wand for Loose Curls ($15.89)

Rating: 4.3 Reviews: 2,699

Okay, so this one is slightly over $15. But with thousands of happy customers and a stellar rating, it was worth a mention on this list! It’s also Amazon’s #1 curling wand! If you browse through the customer images, you can see the exact type of beach waves you can achieve from this wand. Effortless and beautiful!

Amazon Beauty Find #14: Sky Organics Castor Oil ($15.95).

Castor oil does wonders for hair growth. The Amazon reviews are flooded with people talking about their lash and brow growing experiences using this castor oil. Some of the customer images of people experiencing hair loss and saving their hair with this product are unbelievable.

Amazon Beauty Find #15: Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water ($6.59).

Rating: 4.4 Reviews: 3,446

Over 3,000 reviews aside, this stuff has personally saved my skin. If you’ve read my post about hard water, you know about my skin issues: redness, acne, etc. The issues were not always around. The quality of water I washed my face with really impacted my skin. After discovering this, I decided to experiment with JUST micellar water as a cleanser. I use a few cotton rounds, soak them in this magical stuff, and clean off all dirt, oil, makeup, etc. Where using face washes and water was drying out my skin causing irritation, this has kept my skin hydrated, healthy, and happy.

5 Best Instagram Apps

Gone are the days when instagram was instant. I still remember using the in-app camera to post photos when I first joined the platform way too many years ago. With a billion world-wide active users, there is some serious competition for space on your followers’ feeds. Perhaps that is why you stumbled across this post – to hunt for the best Instagram apps to differentiate your content.

While follower count and number of likes is not and should not be the priority, better content does increase both. Putting your best foot forward and creating content that will make you stand out should be your goal to run a successful account. This list of the five best instagram apps will do just that – help you create beautiful engagement-worthy content.

Preview: Best Instagram App For Planning Your Instagram Feed

I stumbled upon this app without even looking for it. I’ve been using it for over a year now and I can’t imagine guessing what my feed will look like anymore. When you are trying to stick to a color theme, it’s crucial to be able to see the images as an overarching whole. This app lets you drag and drop your photos, allowing you to rearrange them to suit your aesthetic taste. It also has an analytics section that could be helpful, although I never use it because I prefer Instagram insights.

Lightroom Mobile: Best Instagram App for Transforming your Photos

I know a lot of people prefer VSCO and Snapseed. Lightroom is daunting if you have no photo editing experience. People avoid it because it seems complicated. Apps like Snapseed and VSCO are great if you are trying to add a filter or lighten/darken specific parts of a photo. Lightroom, however, is much more transformational than tossing a filter onto something.

Lightroom let’s you change the actual colors in your photo using sliders. You can easily adjust exposure, brightness, contract, etc. You can transform an image from something you thought was not usable or “grammable” to something you couldn’t have even imagined. After seeing the magic of Lightroom and thoroughly understanding it’s features, I would never use anything else.

If you look at the carousel below, the before was extremely dark and unusable. This was an iPhone shot so the actual photo is not the best quality, but lightroom was able to transform even that. With raw images, lightroom can do anything.

Brief Lightroom Guide

PicsArt: Best Instagram App for Stretching Your Creativity

Sometimes you just want to post a fun photo with a cool background but can’t be bothered to leave your house. I’ve definitely been there.

PicsArt is a cool app that allows you to easily erase the background of your photo and replace it with something else. Some people are vehemently against photoshop or the concept of changing an image that much. I LOVE it. It lets you be creative and think outside the box. After all, a content creator should be creative, right?

The image below was altered with PicsArt. I loved everything about the shot except for the fact that we were driving through a tunnel, which wasn’t very pretty. Cue PicsArt – and viola! The photo becomes usable and pretty! One thing that is cool about this app is you can change the opacity of your background. This allows you to change the background or image in a window or glass but still maintain the reflection, giving it a realistic appearance.

PicsArt Review

FaceTune: Best Instagram App For Cleaning Things Up

This app gets a bad reputation because of the name. I don’t alter my face or body using this app, ever.

This app does two things really well that most others do not. 1. It’s whitening effect to brighten up white backgrounds or clothes is unparalleled. 2. The patch tool is one of the best I’ve seen for removing unwanted items from a photo.

I’ve used the patch tool to remove people from my photos for a more dramatic shot – especially since I can’t be bothered to wake up at 7am while on vacation to go shoot photos. The below shot is a great example. FaceTune makes everything so seamless.

Unfold: The Best Instagram App for Storytelling

There are a ton of these out there. Everyone wants their stories to look like a lot of effort was put into them. Most of these apps will give you nice background and story templates. Unfold does something extra that I haven’t seen in other apps. It allows you to actually tell a story. The templates allow you to add lots of text to your photos or videos in very neat and organized formats. I don’t use it much because I don’t post a lot of BTS or heavily curated stories, but when I do, Unfold is my favorite.

If you’re a blogger/insta-blogger, be sure to check out my Blogger Taxes post for some useful tips!

Going Blonde – 7 Things to Consider!

You’ve thought about it. You’ve gotten all the way from a dark brown or black hair color to a very light ash brown. Should you take the plunge into the blonde life? Do blondes have more fun? As someone who has gone from black-brown hair to the lightest ash blonde.. and then BACK to dark brown – i’ve got the insight to help you decide if you should go blonde!

Going Blonde: Should I do it? Things to Consider First.

1. Dry shampoo will become your best friend.

Before I went blonde, I was washing my hair at least three times a week. I know, it’s not healthy to wash your hair a lot anyway. When I had dark and amazingly healthy locks, I hated having dirty hair. It dulled the shine. I loved being able to run my fingers through my hair because it was just so smooth and silky. All of that changed after going blonde. Washing my hair became a chore. If I didn’t use heat to style my hair, I had a dry, knotty mess on my head – not cute. Dry shampoo became my absolute best friend.

I started washing my hair just once a week. At first, it was cringeworthy for me. I couldn’t run my fingers through my hair without catching knots or frizz (some of this due to hard water). I know this is very discouraging, especially if your hair is naturally beautiful and air dries beautifully straight.

The good news is that you DO get used to it, especially if you love your new look. A drastic color change from dark to blonde can have a transformational impact on you. The more it grows on you, the more you grow to live with the inconvenience of dry hair.

2. Olaplex becomes your second best friend.

If you haven’t heard of olaplex, I’m here to tell you that you need it in your life. I only learned about it after the extensive bleach damage, but I wish I knew it existed before going blonde. It’s a great way to prep your hair for the coming distress and can reduce the negative impact of bleach. I have olplaex in my hair as I write this, preparing to go back to blonde this week for summer!

3. Regular hair masks and leave-in conditioners can save your hair.

Before going blonde, I was terrified of bleach. I didn’t want to damage the health of my hair. After going blonde, I’ve realized it’s JUST hair! It will bounce back, it will grow back, and it will recover if you take care of it. Regular hair masks and leave-in conditioners go a long way in restoring the moisture levels of your hair.

4. You will spend a lot of time in hair salons.

My pre-blonde days consisted of a visit to the salon once in a blue moon. Box colors and touch-ups at home were my thing. The first time I attempted that with my blonde hair, my hair turned orange. Bright orange. I was mortified. I threw on a baseball cap, drove to the nearest Sally’s and bought more bleach and toner to fix the mess I’d created. Why spend hundreds of dollars when you can do it at home, right? WRONG!

Blonde hair is very fickle. Getting the right tone is an art and you have to know a lot about color theory. Reading a few blogs about color theory doesn’t cut it. To maintain your new blonde hair, you will spend a LOT of money so make sure that’s an investment you are prepared to take on.

5. You will learn that blonde isn’t blonde.

Before going blonde, I just thought you’re either blonde or brunette. I didn’t know that blonde itself was a whole universe of shades. Do you want to go warm or cool? Do you want ashy blonde or golden blonde? No two blondes are the same. If you take a photo to your hairdresser, chances are they won’t be able to get you to the exact blonde you want. Blonde is tricky and requires a lot of patience.

6. You will not go blonde right away.

My blonde color was a complete accident. I went in for a balayage and asked for a very light brown tone. Earlier that year, I had two other balayage appointments where the hairdressers turned my hair red. That is normal and very common. When your hair is very dark and you’re trying to achieve brown, your hair can turn red because it hasn’t been lifted enough to get rid of those red pigments.

My hair at that point was a red-brown, but I was ready for more. While talking to my hairdresser, I mentioned to him that one day I want to go blonde. Maybe he saw potential there, but he ended up lifting my hair so much that we ended up with a beautiful ashy blonde hair. I joked with him about how by “one day” I didn’t mean today! I couldn’t even be mad – I LOVED it! He was my go to hairdresser while I lived in Atlanta because I knew he just understood my hair. He was able to get it THAT light with minimal damage – quite an accomplishment.

7. You’ll have to ditch your favorite shampoo/conditioner combo.

Why, you ask? Because it’s probably not purple! That’s right, when you go blonde, you need a shampoo with a purple or blue tone depending on the shade of blonde you are going for. In between refreshing your color, you’ll want to use a purple shampoo to maintain the tone of your hair. Without that, your blonde will likely turn brassy and orange within just a few weeks. In the blonde world, brassy hair is completely taboo. It says something about your ability to be blonde as dramatic as that sounds.

If these considerations have not dissuaded you from pursing your dream hair color, congratulations for being so determined on your decision to go blonde! The next blog post in this blonde series will give you tips on how you can make sure to do everything right before going blonde!

Is Water Causing You to Breakout?

You have always been told that it is a taboo to go to bed without washing your face. Every skincare tip talks about a solid nighttime skincare routine, which of course begins with washing your face. But is water causing you to breakout?

If follow me on Instagram, you know that I’ve been living in London for some time now. What you didn’t know is that my skin has been struggling with breakouts for several months. At first, I thought it was a hormonal change that was triggered by the stress of the move. Then I thought I wasn’t using the right products. Then I shifted towards blaming my lack of water consumption on a daily basis. I’ve gone through a plethora of skincare routines and blamed everything for my constant breakouts. Little did I know, the culprit was hiding in plain sight – WATER!

When I first started my water intake experiment a month ago, I started noticing that my increasing my water intake, my skin was starting to glow and look a lot healthier, but my breakouts were not being contained. I started wondering if my skin was “purging” due to my lack of water consumption for basically my entire life. Doing some google searches lead me in a completely different direction. People on message board and part of the blogging community were trying to figure out if water itself was causing their skin problems. I quickly realized that for me, the culprit was water.

How can something that your body relies on for survival also be the source of your misery you ask? Simple. The quality of the water you are washing your face with.

What I didn’t know about London water is that it is extremely hard water. That basically means it consists of a high mineral content. Hard water is formed when water percolates through deposits of limestone and chalk. These deposits are largely made up of calcium and magnesium carbonates. In short, they are horrible for your skin if you are sensitive to them!

These mineral deposits not only dry out your skin and cause redness, they increase sebum production and also clog your pores. These clogged pores are what cause you to breakout. They case any face washes or soaps you are using to turn against you rather than work for you. They react with the soaps to create deposits in your pores, causing nasty breakouts and whiteheads.

Your skin is just the beginning. Hard water also impacts other parts of your beauty routine.

Is your hair dry, brittle or just extremely frizzy? I posted on Instagram about how my hair was shiner and healthier lately after changing ONE thing – many of you guessed diet or supplements. It was the water I was washing my hair with! Using distilled water every once in a while gets my hair thoroughly clean, and I noticed a major difference on the first wash.

Have you tried everything on the market to tame your hair but you just can’t figure out why your hair won’t cooperate? Are your nails weak and brittle? Do they fail to grow no matter how hard you try by using products and supplements that promise growth? These problems can all be attributed to hard water.

You are probably wondering at this point whether you have hard water where you live. There’s an easy way to find out. Look at your shower, bath and sink areas. Is there a white film or residue covering those areas? Do you find white spots on your glassware? These are all signs that you have hard water.

What is the solution to the water quality you’ve been dealt? There are a few things you can do:

  1. Water softening system. The cost of this solution can vary depending on where you live. By having a system installed that can soften your water by removing these minerals, you are helping your hair, skin and your nails.
  2. Water bottle method. This is my current solution. Because we are probably going to move house in the next six months, having an expensive water softening system isn’t worth our time or money. I’ve resorted to washing my face with water bottles until my water distiller arrives in the mail! In having washed my face for a few days with Evian (silly and costly, I know. But after realizing all the horrible things going on under the surface, I think my skin deserved the best). This post discusses results after washing face with bottled water for 7 days!
  3. Water Distiller. This is going to be my solution until we can have a softening system installed. Here is a link to the system I’ve purchased. I will be using distilled water to both wash my hair and face! This post walks you through one experimenter’s day by day progress using with the distilled water method. The results are astonishing!
  4. No water method. While researching this, I came across a lot of blog posts and message boards about cleansing your face without water. A majority of the bloggers who have written on this subject used micellar water, facial wipes and toners. When I first read this, I thought, “No. Way. I would never be able to go to bed without properly washing my face! THAT is what causes breakouts!” My fiancee even suggested this before I looked into other people who had done it. I thought he was being crazy. What I found, though, was shocking. Every article I found promised BETTER skin when avoiding water to cleanse facial skin, especially for those living in areas with hard water! This article talks all about micellar water as a great alternative. This post by Bustle talks about other alternatives that are helpful.
  5. Apple Cider Vinegar. This will do wonders for your hair if you cannot be bothered to actually wash your hair with distilled water. This will remove the mineral buildup in your hair that might be weighing it down. It will restore the bounce and shine in your hair. Mix 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar with 1 quart distilled water. Apply the mixture and rinse it off after a few seconds. Do this once a week and you will start noticing your hair bounce back to life. Free People talks about this here.
  6. Install a Shower Head Filter. These encourage pH balance and filter out unwanted chemicals. I have read mixed reviews on these, but they could be a cheaper alternative to a water softening system if you find the right filter!

Overall, if you’re anything like me and haven’t been able to pinpoint the source of your skin, hair or nail issues, I hope this post has helped you realize that your water may be the enemy. I will write a follow-up post in a few months to report progress on the distilled water method so check back if you are interested in fining out more!

Blogger Taxes – What Can I Deduct?

Hi everyone! A friend of mine in the blogging community came to me for tax advice recently about doing her taxes as a blogger/influencer (shoutout to @elovesluxury). While I am not an accountant, I have dabbled in tax law and strategy professionally and have worked as a freelancer. I wanted to put together a checklist for you guys since tax season is quickly approaching. This will help guide you when you are trying to determine what expenses you can deduct on your taxes.

What expenses can I deduct on my taxes?

  • Your website. All costs associating with hosting and maintaining your website should be included as an expense on your taxes.
  • Software. Any software you use to edit your photos or posts.
  • Stock Images. Any stock images you purchase as part of your brand.
  • Advertising and Marketing. Any marketing spend or ads – this includes facebook boosts, instagram ads, etc.
  • Any books or educational materials you need to purchase to further your blog or brand are deductible on your taxes.
  • Any equipment you have purchased to successfully run your business. This can include your camera, laptop, or any other gear that is strictly being used for your business. If you have the means and want to purchase a separate cell phone to dedicate just to work, this would be 100% deductible on your taxes as well.
  • A percentage of your phone bills. This will require you to do some match. You will have to figure out what percentage of your phone bill is strictly work/blog related and what percentage is personal. Example: If your phone bill is $100 a month and you determine that 40% of your bill should be billed to your business. This means $40 a month x 12 months = $480!
  • Any unpaid invoices. Has a brand ever promised to pay you and then your invoice fell through the cracks? These unpaid invoices are tax deductible!
  • Travel to events and tickets for the events. If you attend a blogger conference that costs $500, you can write this $500 off on your taxes. Additionally, you can deduct the travel cost whether that is miles or an airline ticket/accommodations. As long as your trip has a business purpose, you can deduct the cost on your taxes! Note: Keep meticulous records of your expenses and/or a mileage log if you will be writing these expenses off. You need to be able to prove that these events will make you money/are tied to your business purpose! Example 1: Your Sephora Haul on YouTube – will this make you money? No. Sure, it will get you views on YouTube but it won’t directly make you the kind of money that makes it a worthy investment and something you can write off on your taxes. Example 2: Blogger event where you will be exposed to brands and cultivate relationships that will lead to paid opportunities. Yes. You can absolutely write this off on your taxes because you are growing your business and your brand this way.
  • Meals. Meals and entertainment (within reason and directly related to your business purpose are 1/2 deductible. This includes your coffee meetings or meet-ups! If you spend $20 on a lunch, $10 of that would be deductible. Make sure to keep records, receipts, details of the business purpose and everyone who was present.

I hope this is a good starting point for in understanding how to do your taxes as a freelancer. If you would like to see a more in-depth post about taxes as a freelancer, make sure to comment below!

Bonus: Here is a great in-depth list (101 deductions!) that may help some of you find additional ways to save on your taxes!

The Ten Best Perfumes I’ve Ever Used!

I’m obsessed with perfumes. I love fresh and feminine scents, and I wear perfume every single day – even if I’m just working from home. I didn’t realize there were so many in my Instagram community who are equally obsessed with perfumes until my post from a little while ago! After realizing this, I had to do a blog post and share my all-time favorite perfumes. I love trying new scents all the time, but to me, these are the best perfumes. I always come back to and fall in love with them!

1. Narciso Rodriguez. I smelled this perfume for the first time on one of my friends while in undergrad. I immediately fell in love with it. I had to know what it was. She always smelled SO good. That was ten years ago. This is STILL one of my favorite perfumes of all-time. It smells feminine, fresh and flirty. It’s a soft and subtle scent that doesn’t overpower your presence. It supplements your presence, as an accessory should. If you have never smelled this one, you are missing out big-time! I would describe the scent as musky and floral. This one is available on here for around $66.

Top notes: sensual musk, orange & amber.

2. Chloe by Chloe. I struggle to pick my favorite between this one and Narciso. I go back and forth between the two. They’re both equally good perfumes! I discovered this one at Sephora seven years ago and it’s been part of my collection ever since. This one is light and fresh yet seductive. I would describe the scent as floral and rosy. This one is available on here for around $65.

Top notes: Peony, freesia, & litchi.

3. Love Story by Chloe. Inspired by Parisian romance and the love padlocks on on the bridge of the Ponts des Arts, this scent is truly romantic! As a relatively new discovery for me – probably three years ago – it became an instant favorite. After using up my Sephora sample within days, I ended up buying the biggest bottle they had and ran through it so quickly. Since then, it’s been a staple for me. Another floral composition, the scent is so clean and fresh. This one is available here for around $48.

Top notes: Neroli, orange blossom, jasmine.

4. Nomade by Chloe. Another floral composition by Chloe (I clearly have an addiction to their perfumes), this is the newest addition to my collection. I smelled it in a duty-free shop while traveling, and since I have always loved the other perfumes by Chloe, I decided to buy it. Although on the list of my all-time favorites, it is probably my least favorite of the three Chloe scents (speaks volumes about how great the other two are as this one is also incredible). I would describe the scent as woody and citrusy. It’s a pretty bold scent compared to the other Chloe perfumes. Available here for around $78.

Top note: mirabelle, bergamot, lemon & orange.

5. YSL Black Opium. I think this one is loved by all. I have had so many people DM me or drop a comment about how this one is their favorite – and for good reason! It smells divine. I have a few drops left in my bottle and am just waiting to use it for a special occasion. To me, this one is incredibly sweet though, and it wouldn’t make the best everyday scent. I would describe the smell as sweet and vanilla-y. Available here for around $92.

Top notes: pink pepper, orange blossom & pear.

6. Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue. This is probably the only scent that is not incredibly flowery. This is a bold scent. I used to wear this one to work and my male co-workers would always ask me what it was because they loved it and wanted to buy it for their significant others. I would describe the smell as citrusy and woody. Available here for $59 for a 3.3oz bottle.

Top notes: apple, cedar, bellflower, & Sicilian Lemon.

7. Daisy by Marc Jacobs. I discovered this one in a Sephora sampler box (side note – those are an amazing way to try out different perfumes and you get a full-sized bottle of your favorite scent from the box!). I loved the fresh scent and wearability of this one. I would describe the scent as soft, powdery and floral. Available here for around $62 for a 3.4oz bottle.

Top notes: violet leaf, blood grapefruit, strawberry.

8. Burberry Body. I’ve only bought this one once but I LOVED it. I got a great deal at an a Burberry Outlet Store in Atlanta, GA. It was a great everyday scent for when I worked in an office. It isn’t too strong to wear all the time, and it isn’t a distracting scent. It won’t overpower your presence. I would describe the scent as musky and powdery. It isn’t extremely floral like some of the other perfumes that I love. Available here for $88 for a 2.8oz bottle.

Top notes: fresh green absinthe, peach and freesia.

9. Gucci Envy Me. I think this was discontinued for a really long time. I used to be addicted to this perfume, and then for years was unable to find it anywhere. I know they’ve brought it back because I’ve seen it in so many duty-free shops while traveling. I need to get my hands on this again because it truly smells divine! This one is on the sweet side so if that isn’t your thing, this one might not be for you. I would describe the scent as fruity and fresh with a very rosy smell. Available here for around $60 for a 3.3oz bottle.

Top notes: pink peony & pink pepper, cassia, peach, mango.

10. Burberry Weekend. An oldie but a really good one! This was my favorite perfume for a really long time (until I discovered Narciso Rodriguez). It’s the perfect everyday scent. It’s not too overpowering, and it lasts on me for the whole day. I would describe the scent as floral and powdery. Available here for $95 for a 3.4oz bottle.

Top notes: sweet and zesty mandarine and aromatic grassy notes.

It’s always best to sample out perfumes. Everyone’s body chemistry is different. No perfume smells the same on any two people. My mom and I both love Narciso Rodriguez, but it smells really different on both of us. The best way to experiment with perfumes is the sampler box at Sephora (really popular and readily available in the stores around the holidays) or just by asking for a sample at Sephora. Wear it for a week. Does the scent last on you? Does it smell the way it did in the bottle? Once you find YOUR scent, it will smell incredible on you and become an accessory that you can’t live without!

Marrakech Travel Guide

Beautiful souks and markets, stunning architecture, and a very drunk driver. This was my recent experience in Marrakech. Having been to Morocco twice in the past year, I have gotten many questions about traveling to and staying in Marrakech. Instead of responding to each individual person with extensive details, I decided to put together a blog post giving you guys a complete travel guide for your next trip to stunning Morocco! 

Flying into Marrakech:

It was nearly 1AM when we landed in Marrakech. No cell phone service and no SIM card vendors in sight, we had to wing it. Something didn’t seem right about our taxi driver, but exhausted from a four hour flight without many other transportation options, we hopped in the taxi and asked him to take us to our Riad. 

“You speak english?” was the first thing he asked. Of course, we said yes. He followed up with a “Welcome to Marrakech!” How sweet. Except he said this four times. That was when we realized he completely intoxicated. My family nervously looked at each other and laughed it off. Thankfully, the Riad was only ten minutes away. 

First, he almost backed into the taxi parked immediately behind him. After a verbal altercation, the taxi driver behind us let us out of our parking space. What a start to our vacation! 

Binish’s Travel Tip #1: Always be smart when traveling and make sure to take a flight that will get you to your destination at a reasonable hour, whether Marrakech or anywhere else.  It is very difficult to coordinate transportation past midnight. You also don’t have the flexibility to be picky. Have the exact address of your hotel handy because most taxi drivers will not know where your hotel is from the name. 

Transportation around Marrakech:

Because our hotel was situated in the Medina, we walked almost everywhere we visited. It was the most convenient and reliant form of transportation. On occasion, we did take a touk touk when we were too tired to walk back. The touk touk was very cost effective and could travel up and down the tiny alleys so we were dropped off right at the door of our Riad.

If you’re staying near the markets or Medina, it might be difficult to flag down a taxi or they may just not fit into the small streets. 

Binish’s Travel Tip #2: It’s worth paying a bit more to be centrally located. You’ll make the money back when you’re not paying for cabs everyday, and you’ll be able to get some steps in while exploring the city on foot!

Trip Duration:

Both times I visited Marrakech, it was for about four days. This was more than enough time to visit all of the attractions and get some shopping done.

Binish’s Travel Tip #3: Unless you plan on visiting other cities or doing an overnight desert trip, you don’t need more than three or four days here.

If you do plan on leaving Marrakech to visit other sites, there are a lot of amazing organized tours you can book. A lot of companies are set up near Jemaa el-Fnaa and can offer you great discounts and advice. Remember to negotiate prices for everything – everything is ALWAYS negotiable!

Attractions and Things to do:

1. Jemaa el-Fnaa. This is the main square in Marrakech used by both locals and tourists. Charming and magical, you will be transported into a different time when you enter the square. You’ll see everything from snake charmers to dancers and henna artists setting up shop.

Binish’s Travel Tip #4: Unless you’re willing to pay for every interaction you have in this square, it’s best to keep to yourself in here.

We had some pretty interesting experiences here that we did not sign up for and ended up paying for anyway. The snake charmers wanted us to pay for watching as we walked by. A man placed two monkeys on my dad’s shoulders and then demanded that we pay him for photos even though we didn’t take any. These unsolicited interactions come at a price so beware unless you are genuinely interested in engaging. That includes asking for directions.. 

Binish’s Travel Tip #5: DON’T ask anyone for directions unless you are willing to pay them to show you the way.

Showing lost tourists the way was the number one way of making some extra money, according to a local we met. While there is nothing wrong with this, it does get frustrating when you DON’T need directions and people latch onto you, insisting that you are going the wrong way. We did pay a few locals when we were lost or cell phone service was patchy. If someone is going out of their way to help you, and you know they expect money in return, you should pay them. 

2. Souks. The edge of the square will lead you into the beautiful markets and shops where you can buy gorgeous trinkets and souvenirs. My favorite shops were the light and lantern shops with the amazing storefronts that you have probably seen all over instagram. 

Binish’s Travel Tip #6: Ask for permission when taking photos of the beautiful storefronts.

Some shop owners throw a fit when you take photos with their items or storefront. If you are going to take photos anyway, they prefer that you pay them. You can also buy something from the shop for photo privileges. I bought a beautiful tea set (I was going to buy one anyway) and got to take photos for free! And speaking of shopping.. 

Binish’s Travel Tip #7: Everything is negotiable! Never pay the first price you are given, or even the second or the third. I always tell them I can only afford half of what they initially quote me, sometimes even less than that. From there, the fun game of negotiating begins.

3. Le Jardin Majorelle. Beautiful and peaceful, you’ll find so many amazing bit of nature here. It’s so serene and you could probably spend hours here just walking around the garden in self-reflection.

Binish’s Travel Tip #8: If you plan on visiting Le Jardin Majorelle, go early in the morning otherwise you will not be able to enjoy all this place has to offer when its crawling with tourists.

 It was impossible for me to take even one decent photo here because there were so many people running around. It was also not very enjoyable to compete with the hundreds of tourists to find a place to sit down and soak in the beautiful surroundings.

Website: http://jardinmajorelle.com/ang/

Address: Rue Yves St Laurent By A-Maps? Marrakesh 40000, Morocco

Cost: 70 Dhs (~$7)

4. El Badi Palace. This was one of my favorite places to visit. It was so grand, beautiful and very peaceful. We went at 4pm (they close at 5pm) so we did not see many people there. There were so many beautiful corners to explore. It was any instagrammer’s dream location for that amazing shot.

Binish’s Travel Tip #9: Do not go downstairs to where the orange trees are. We didn’t see any signs there, but it is not allowed and you may get escorted out. 

Binish’s Travel Tip #10: DO explore all of the corners and areas of this place. It is a bit of a maze with lots of hidden beauty, you just have to spend the time to find it all!

Website: http://www.palais-el-badi.com/en/

Address: Ksibat Nhass, Marrakech 40000, Morocco

Cost: 10 Dhs (~$1)

5. Bahai Palace. Another beautiful location for photos, this one was extremely crowded when we visited. This was my least favorite place not just because of the crowds, but I just felt that it was a bit overrated. I think you can find similar beauty anywhere else in Marrakech. That being said, if you are going to visit, make sure to get there early enough to enjoy the beauty before the tourists rush in.

Website: http://www.palais-bahia.com/en/

Address: Avenue Imam El Ghazali, Marrakech 40000, Morocco

Cost: 10 Dhs (~$1)

6. Le Jardin Secret. If you are tight on schedule and can’t visit the two palaces listed above, I think Le Jardin Secret is a great alternative. It has beautiful Moroccon tiles throughout the garden. It is also incredibly peaceful for being in such a central location. They also have a small cafe where you can enjoy some mint tea and snacks while you soak in your beautiful surroundings.

Binish’s Travel Tip #11: Enjoy some mint tea and delicious french fries here! I have to get fries everywhere I go and the ones here were surprisingly delicious!

Website: https://www.lejardinsecretmarrakech.com/en/

Address: 121 Rue Mouassine, Marrakesh 40000, Morocco

Cost: 30 Dhs (~$3)

7. Koutoubia Mosque. This mosque is absolutely stunning, especially in the evening when the sky turns orange and pink. The call to prayer (azan) five times a day puts the whole city in awe and everyone is at peace. It is a MUST visit.

Binish’s Travel Tip #12: Across the road from the mosque, there are lots of cafes and ice cream shops with the perfect views of the sun setting behind the mosque. We sat there for hours and listened to the azan while munching on snacks. It was a perfect evening! 

Website: http://www.mosquee-koutoubia.com/en/

Address: Medina Jamaa El Fenna, Marrakech 40000, Morocco