I hope y’all had a great weekend! I just got back from spending a few days in Atlanta with my family and shooting a ton of looks with my love, Viva Lux Photography. I wish y’all could have seen us – we did TEN looks in Piedmont Park, carrying all of them with us, and I changed in a little pop-up tent that’s meant to pee in discretely when you’re camping. Bless. I have a PACKED week ahead and it’s the last race of the NASCAR season, which means the holiday season really is fast approaching.
Is anyone else planning their Thanksgiving looks? It’s NEXT WEEK, good lawd! We’ll be celebrating two Thanksgivings this year (PLUS a rehearsal dinner) so I have been brainstorming some cozy and comfortable looks for the occasions. I like to look pulled together but still want to wear something stretchy, so thank goodness for faux leather leggings. And what better to style them than by combining my two favorite trends of Fall – leopard and hot pink. I am so in love with this pink turtleneck sweater. It runs true to size, I’m wearing a size medium, and is currently 30% off with code GMJOY30.
If you change straight into PJs after Thanksgiving dinner, be sure to check out my first Holiday Gift Guide featuring the most adorable loungewear. I totally ordered that leopard fleece set and am also planning on getting that $32 Hermes blanket dupe from Amazon! Stay tuned for a ton more gift guides launching in the next week.
TGIF, loves! It’s the freakin’ weekend and no better way to celebrate than with a BIG ‘ol sale. That’s right, Sephora’s Beauty Insider Holiday Event opens to all VIB members today and that means that we’ll receive 20% off of products that rarely go on sale using code VIBBONUS. I have shared my beauty favorites with y’all in the past, so I wanted to mix it up by listing my WANTS and my NEEDS. Needs are my holy grail, can’t-live-without products and my Wants are the fun extras that I’m shopping in the sale. But the sale doesn’t last long – only through the weekend – so be sure to stock up soon.
I have never been so excited about a palette! I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect pinky nude palette that doesn’t have just warm tones and this is it. I’ve seriously watched every YouTube tutorial featuring this and can’t wait to get my hands on it today. What’s unique about this this palette is that it features a cream concealer base to prime your eyes or to cut your crease, plus 10 highly-pigmented matte shades, four shimmering pearl reflective shades, two glitters, and a pressed pearl. BUT for all this product, it has a hefty price tag of $65. That’s why I have waited until today to pull the trigger.
The Sephora Sale is the PERFECT opportunity to stock up on products I use daily and continuously repurchase. I use a ton of powder products on my face to set my makeup and All-Nighter not only melts these products into my skin for a natural finish, but it locks my makeup in for all-day wear. One bottle of this setting spray retails for $32, so the 2-pack, at $39 is already a good deal on its own. But with an additional 20% off, you’re getting a bottle for $15!
Anastasia Beverly Hills has gotten me SO excited that the cool-toned smokey eye is making a comeback! If you are looking for the perfect palette to achieve all of your blown-out holiday looks, this is for you. The Sultry Palette features seven mattes and seven unique metallics and has AMAZING reviews. Yes, there is some kickback to the shadows, but they provide so much pigment and are easy to blend.
This is without-a-doubt my favorite powder. There is no flashback, no white cast, and no cakey finish – just a soft, smooth, natural look to the skin. I apply this over my undereye concealer to bake and it performs so well on my dry skin. Most powders will enhance my fine lines and dry out the area, but Laura Mercier sets my makeup beautiful and gives me such a nice finish.
It took me far too long to try out Hourglass’ cult favorite Ambient Lighting Powders and Bronze Lights because of how unique and shimmery the products look in the pan. But once I caved and gave them a go, both have become vital steps in my makeup routine. The shimmer is so finely milled and soft that I wouldn’t even call it a shimmer. It really does make your skin look like there is a soft light on it. I even set my entire face with the Ambient Lighting Powder in Luminous Light and it just gives this buttery, dewy look to my skin. Since Hourglass products are pricey, I had to share this limited edition holiday kit because you will get THREE Ambient Lighting Powders, a Filter Bronze Light (your bronzer), and two blushes. This is the perfect kit to try out the whole line and likely fall in love with it.
I have raved about this foundation so many times in the past and with good reason – it’s that good. Don’t let the CC Cream name fool you, this is a FULL coverage product. A little goes a long way! Not only does this product lay nicely on the skin, but it has SPF 50 and is infused with an advanced anti-aging serum made of hydrolyzed collagen, peptides, and hyaluronic acid that bring moisture to the skin and help reduce wrinkles.
I rarely purchase an eye shadow single, but when they are this stunning and unique, I’ll make an exception. If you are looking for a bright, glitter shadow, you must pop in to Sephora and swatch these. These six shades are limited edition and so multi-dimensional. IT is a loose powder, so I would recommend laying down a glitter glue before applying, but the result is insane!
This eye pencil packs the perfect pigment (say that five times fast!) in a thin retractable pencil on one end and a convenient spoolie on the other. The slim tip is great for drawing in individual hairs for a more natural brow and the color lasts all day.
Another eyeshadow… go figure! But this is a littleeee different because it is more of an eye topper. I have been sharing some fun, drugstore glitter toppers on my Instagram Stories lately, but if you are in the market for something unique – this is it. These eye pigments are highly pigmented cream shadows that give a vivid, wet look to the eyelids. They come in 10 gorgeous shades that have a stunning sheen and dry down to 24-hour wear. I’ll be purchasing the bright, shimmery gold Hotel Lobby and the rose gold After Party shade.
Charlotte Tilbury can do no wrong! I could honestly list everything from her brand here as amazing suggestions, but the one product I use every single day is her contour & highlight palette. The contour shade is such a soft, cool-toned brown that creates a natural shadow and the highlight is gorgeous for days that I want a less aggressive glow to my skin. An added bonus is that the pan sizes are so large that one of these kits will last you for years.
Of course I wouldn’t skip out on sharing a warm palette with y’all! And Too Faced’s Gingerbread Spice Palette is perfect for the holiday season. Featuring 18 unique matte and metallic shades for under $50, there are so many looks you can achieve with this. Plus, it smells like yummy gingerbread!
Tatcha has released so many instant favorites since hitting the market and people went nuts over this primer. Not only does it diminish the look of pores, fines lines, and imperfections leaving a smooth canvas for flawless makeup application, but it has skin protecting, anti-pollution ingredients to keep pores from clogging and visibly reduces the look of wrinkles.
Let me know what your holy grail products are and what you’re shopping for in the comments below! I’m always looking for new cosmetics to try 🙂
I strive to make Cort in Session an upbeat, positive space, but lately I’ve felt like the influencer community is in a bit of a funk and I’m compelled to do a brain dump here to get these thoughts off my chest. It goes without saying that these are my own personal opinions. Everyone runs their business differently and this post isn’t meant to admonish anyone. I guess I’m just writing this to pull the curtain back on the industry and continue a conversation on how to improve it.
I’m also writing this as a lengthy answer to the girls who reach out to me for advice on starting and growing a blog. Many people assume that success in this field can be achieved quickly because that’s what they see splashed across their feeds. The truth is that I started this blog over five years ago, in September 2013, completely unaware that there was money to be made. I had a passion for graphic design, fashion, and photography and saw an opportunity to share those passions with like-minded individuals. I poured my heart and soul into this space for years before making a cent and I’m still learning and growing on a daily basis. There’s no guide book, y’all!
Unfortunately, though, I feel like many bloggers have it all backwards lately. Instead of investing in their photography or spending time creating unique content, their time and money is going to giveaways, comment bots, and engagement pods. Don’t get me wrong, time invested into search engine optimization and growing your email list is time well spent. But page views and genuine readership are much different and are vitally more valuable than your Instagram follower count. Remember – the only thing you have real control over is your website. Social media sites can change or even become obsolete.
I’m certainly not perfect… not even close! I have a LONG way to go in educating myself about my DSLR, photo editing software like Lightroom and Photoshop, photo composition and more. I I have also been guilty myself of neglecting this space in favor of focusing on my Instagram account. Those are the visible numbers and anyone at any place in their blogging journey can get hyper-focused and hung up on these stats.
Honestly, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to gauge whose following has been manipulated. And I wouldn’t take issue with bloggers padding their followings if it didn’t negatively affect those of us who don’t. I haven’t whined about Instagram’s algorithm in the past and I’m not about to start today; that won’t get us anywhere. But because of the algorithm, these accounts are rewarded with higher visibility and discoverability.
What sparked me to finally press publish on this post were a few things I’ve noticed over the last few months. Just the other day, I saw a blogger say on her stories that “giveaways are a way for us to give back to our followers”. I honestly laughed out loud. If you were wanting to give back to your followers, you wouldn’t require them to follow 50 accounts for a 1 in 10,000 shot to win a Starbucks gift card or a Neverfull. While I have never nor will ever participate in a loop or combined giveaway, I’m fully aware that they work. Bloggers can pay on average $30 and pick up about 1,000-5,000 followers. Though it’s a smidge annoying when my whole feed is the same photo posted by 30 influencers, I understand that the majority of the community uses them as a tool and I’m okay with that… as long as readers understand the motive.
Another thing that blew my mind was when I tabbed over to the feed on Instagram that shares the activity of those you follow. I was just casually scrolling through when I noticed a trend – many of the influencers I follow were almost exclusively liking posts from spam accounts. Now whether it was actually them doing the liking or they paid a bot to like these photos for them, the purpose is the same – getting those random accounts to like and follow them back.
I get it – it works. Your follower count grows, as does your engagement. But are these accounts converting? Are they purchasing the products you share and are they visiting your blog? Or are you just selling these inflated numbers to brands as “influence”? Influence and follower count are often vastly different. That’s where the rub is for me.
There are also the more traditional methods of manipulating your follower count like follow/unfollowing and purchasing followers/engagement. But luckily, there are now websites that track and plot these gains and losses on a chart to make any shadiness crystal clear. As for the other methods, there are a few emerging programs for gaining a better idea of someone’s legitimacy.
A great resource is Similar Web. This site allows you to compare your website’s traffic to other influencers. Simply type a blog into the search bar at the top of the page to see where it ranks globally, nationally, and within its niche. Then click “compare” and you can add another blog to see how your traffic measures up. This is an easy way for brands to gauge which bloggers will get more eyes on their product!
Secondly, and this applies specifically to fashion bloggers, you can now see how many followers a blogger has in the LikeToKnow.it app. Because it is impossible to alter this number, you can get a pretty good indication of how well their followers are converting to buyers. I hold out hope that this list of resources continues to grow so that brands can work more confidently with influencers and allocate their marketing budget wisely.
Phew! If you’ve made it this far – thanks for bearing with me as I share my feelings 🙂 The purpose of this post wasn’t to whine, complain, or stir the pot. I guess I’m just hoping that we can collectively steer the industry back to the content that built it. And to those of you who are kind enough to reach out for advice, the short answer is if you build it, they will come. Please, please, please don’t get caught up in the comparison game… especially when you have no way of knowing who is playing fair. If you have a passion for what you’re sharing, create quality content consistently, and remain unique and authentic, you should have no problem building a community.
When I started this blog five years ago, I wanted a little corner of the web to share my thoughts, my love of fashion and beauty, and travel diaries. So while I come to y’all with my highest highs, I also want to be able to share my lows as well. I sincerely appreciate you sticking with me for all these years and allowing me this creative platform to discuss my life and passions.