Off The Shoulder Jumpers: The Knitwear You Need For Spring

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Would you believe this soft white H&M number is the first off the shoulder jumper I've ever owned? I've been a fan of off the shoulder styles for ages, and have plenty of summer tops and dresses with this flattering feature. Off the shoulder knitwear, however, has always been something of a mystery to me. If it's cold enough for a jumper, then surely bare shoulders would be uncomfortable? (Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks like this!)

White off the shoulder jumper from H&M

Jumper, H&M (AD)

Having fallen in love with this particular jumper, however, I've been determined to make it work, and as it turns out, it's not as difficult as I thought. While knitwear that leaves your shoulders open to the elements might have you shivering in the depths of winter, it's perfectly comfortable during this milder, transitional phase, making it the ideal style to stock up on for early spring. Mine is a decent thickness and can be adjusted to reveal a lot of skin or only a hint, depending on your preference, but I also love the idea of the more lightweight versions, teamed with a denim mini skirt. 

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Off the shoulder jumpers on the high street

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Showing a sliver of shoulder now feels like the first indication of warmer days to come, and I for one have been enjoying embracing that! Are you a fan of this knitwear style?

Kate x
Testing Lola Makeup And A Super Easy Smoky Eye

This post contains gifted products, which are marked "AD". You can read my full disclaimer here.

Recently, I was contacted by a brand called Lola Makeup, who asked if I would like to test out some of their products and share my findings with you. The answer to this question is usually yes, particularly when the brand in question is affordable, British designed and cruelty free, and prides itself on creating high quality products with real women in mind. I was sent an automatic eye pencil, mascara and liquid lipstick, so I incorporated them into an evening makeup look featuring a super easy smoky eye.

Testing Lola Makeup And A Super Easy Smoky Eye

If you would like to see how I created the look, as well as hear my opinions on the Lola products, I filmed a tutorial and you can either watch it over on my YouTube channel or right here.

No time to watch right now? No worries! I've summarised my opinions on each of the three products below.

Automatic Eye Pencil (AD)

Lola Makeup Automatic Eye Pencil

Soft, creamy and deepest black, this is the perfect pencil for adding smoky, smudgy definition to your lash line. I wouldn't recommend it for precise lines but it's perfect to create that smoked out eye look. Even I can use it without too much difficulty, so it must be foolproof! The pencil can be twisted upwards to reveal more of the nib, but due to its soft texture you do need to be a little bit careful with it to prevent any of it from snapping off.

Volume Mascara (AD)

Lola Makeup Volume Mascara

A nice "all-rounder" type of mascara with a natural bristle wand as opposed to a plastic one. Affordable, and very good at coating each lash while also separating and defining them. While it is not the most impressive mascara I have ever tried in terms of delivering on length and volume, it is excellent at avoiding clumping and stuck together lashes.

Matte Liquid Lipstick (AD)

Lola Makeup Matte Liquid Lipstick in First Date

My favourite of the three products. I have the shade First Date, which is a beautiful mid-pink. The formula is creamy and gives a lovely matte finish without being in the least drying on the lips. It's highly pigmented, gives a perfectly even finish and will see you through dinner and drinks with barely the need for a touch up. Gorgeous!

Testing Lola Makeup And A Super Easy Smoky Eye

Left, Automatic Eye Pencil; Right, Matte Liquid Lipstick

Testing Lola Makeup And A Super Easy Smoky Eye

Have you ever tried anything from Lola Makeup? What's your go-to night out look?

Kate x
Instagram Fraud - Where Do We Draw The Line?

This post contains affiliate links, which are marked "AD". Read my full disclaimer here.

The topic of Instagram fraud seems to be popping up in the blogosphere more and more lately, not least earlier this month, when an explosive article was published (and subsequently began doing the rounds on Twitter), accusing several well known influencers of faking their following. The article produced Social Blade stats to support this claim, suggesting that the activity they illustrated was inorganic and indicated the use of aggressive follow/unfollow tactics, bot activity and the buying of followers and engagement. Just hours later, it was deleted, presumably due to legal concerns regarding the public naming and shaming. But lots of people had seen it and lots of people were talking about it, and we can be sure that it won't be the last we're going to hear on the subject. The ensuing discussions got me thinking about Instagram and my own activity on the platform, and I have to ask the question, where do we draw the line on Instagram fraud? Because - and this might be an unpopular opinion -  I think that line is actually pretty blurred.

The Importance of Instagram For Influencers

There is no question that Instagram is important if you want to earn money as an influencer. I have been told by more than one PR company that I do not deserve to get paid for blog posts because I have fewer than 10,000 Instagram followers. Yes, you read that right. Those PR companies were seeking actual blog posts (you know, to be published on my actual blog) and could not have cared less about my actual blog traffic. All they cared about was how many Instagram followers I had. This wasn't the case when I first started blogging, and I'll admit it sometimes makes me wonder if I should bother continuing to write here at all, and whether my energies would be better spent focussing on creating purely visual content for the social media platform. 

Beige outfit trend for 2019

So with brands and PRs placing increasing importance on Instagram, and with the algorithm seemingly trying to thwart us at every turn by prioritising posts from those who already have bigger followings, is it any wonder that so many of us are becoming frustrated with the whole thing? Is it any wonder that we're spending more and more time trying to figure out how on earth we can possibly grow on the platform? While I don't want to cheat, I do want to do everything I can to grow my Instagram following, and lots of other people feel the same.

What Constitutes Instagram Fraud?

In the aftermath of the above-mentioned drama, I got thinking about Instagram in general, my own experience of the platform and the experiences of my fellow bloggers (it is, after all, a subject we discuss a lot!) I also came across this article on influencer marketing fraud, which is well worth a read. Not only does it stress just how serious Instagram fraud is, it also suggests that fraud could include more than just bot activity and fake engagement. In fact, it even names an activity that I and many of my fellow bloggers regularly engage in on the platform as potentially fraudulent. Shocking, I know. I'll come to that in due course.

There is some behaviour on Instagram that is, without question, downright wrong, such as paying for fake profiles to be added to your follower count. The same goes for paying for fake likes and comments to make your posts appear more popular than they really are. One would like to think it's so obviously wrong that no one would have the barefaced cheek to actually do it. Although, as we all know, plenty of people do. 

Outfit with off the shoulder jumper

Then we have the issue of using bots to like, comment and follow/unfollow a bunch of other accounts, in the hope that the owners of said accounts will like what they see and choose to follow you as a result. Following someone only to unfollow them as soon as they have followed you back is, in my opinion, incredibly rude. I hate it when other people do it to me (happens all the time!) and it's not something I have ever considered. There is also nothing worse than seeing automated comments like "Ooh, love the outfit!" on someone's heartfelt post about their grandmother's death. 

But what about liking? I spend a lot of time liking posts on Instagram anyway, in the hope that it will draw people's attention to my account, so would it really make that much difference if I paid a bot to do it to save myself some time? Of course, a bot would be able to reach more accounts than a human being within a given period of time, so that is an unfair advantage, but if someone has more free time to spend manually liking photos on Instagram than I do, is that just my tough luck? If I can afford to promote a post (legitimate, because the money goes to Instagram) and someone else can't, is that not also an unfair advantage? 

Just to be clear, I have never used a bot and have no intention of ever doing so, (for one thing, third party activity is forbidden by Instagram so it is simply not worth the risk of getting caught), but I do think it could be argued that they only do what a lot of people are doing manually anyway. As for the scale on which they're doing it, we know that Instagram places limits on how many actions you can take within a certain period of time. So if that isn't exceeded, then what is the issue? 

Mid season coat

So we've established that I don't use bots. I am, however, a member of a comment pod. And  according to the article linked above, this too could be classed as fraud, because the engagement it generates has been prearranged and is therefore not genuine. Now, I have an issue with this. I can't speak for other pods, but the one I belong to has become a close-knit group. We are always chatting on Twitter and genuinely want to support each other. So by liking and commenting on each other's posts, are we not being authentic? There are other bloggers I have become close to who are not in the pod. I actively seek out their posts whenever I can to like and comment on because, again, I want to support them and they do the same for me. This is surely the case for everyone out there with an Instagram account. Isn't building a community part of influencing/blogging? We all, also, have varying numbers of friends and family members who like and comment on our content just because it's ours.  Who is to say where support ends and fraud begins?

Blurred Lines

In an ideal world we would all be able to focus on creating quality content for our Instagram feeds and get rewarded by a steady growth in followers and engagement, but the reality is very far from that. While I absolutely believe that no amount of cheating will result in a large genuine following unless your content is good, I also know from experience that a certain amount of hustling is necessary on Instagram in order to get anyone at all to actually see your posts. 

I mentioned before that I like and comment on a lot of pictures in order to drive people to my own account. If this is the reason I'm doing it, is it fraud? While I would never like a photo I really don't like, or leave a comment I really don't mean, would I do it as often as I do if I wasn't trying to promote my own account? Would I be following as many people? The honest answer is no. Before I started my blog I had a personal Instagram page, set to private. Do you want to know how many pictures I liked with that account? None. I just looked at those that interested me. My behaviour on Instagram as a blogger is vastly different to what it used to be as a consumer, and I'm sure I can't be the only one.

Instagram Fraud - Where Do We Draw The Line?

We all tend to think of Instagram as a place where our potential audience is just hanging around looking for influencers to follow. Well, they may be out there somewhere, probably with their accounts set to private, enjoying posts from the handful of influencers they have already decided they like. They aren't bothered about finding me and would probably rather I didn't thrust my content in their face. What Instagram is full of, however, is other people just like me who want me to follow them and consume their content. 

Something I hear a lot from fellow small bloggers is: "Well, my following  may be small, but at least they are all genuine followers who really love my content!" 

Are they? I wish I could say that all of my current 4,000 followers are 100% genuine, but I can't. I might not have bought them or lured them to my profile by means of an automated like, but I have my fair share of wannabe bikini models, hairdressers based in Tennessee and people selling Arbonne products who are blatantly not interested in my content and only following until they realise I haven't followed them back. I am also being followed by dozens of bloggers who may or may not like my content, but whose chief reason for following me is because I am following them. So if a brand or PR company were to be interested in working with me on a sponsored Instagram post (lol), would I really be justified in telling them that all of my following is genuinely interested in my content? Can any of us really say that?

Outfit with suede mini skirt

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Dog Eat Dog

I think a lot of people are sick to the back teeth of Instagram and the circus it's become. Every single day, I experience being followed and then immediately unfollowed by at least 2 to 3 people, being followed by people who are obviously not interested in my content and coming across accounts with poorer quality photos than mine who have upwards of 10,000 followers. It's absolutely maddening. But while it would be wonderful if there was some way of levelling the playing field, I don't think it's going to happen any time soon. The problem is a lot more complicated and runs a lot deeper than a few people cheating the system. It's a dog eat dog world on Instagram, and just by the very fact that so many of us are "trying" to grow a following there - in itself is a totally legitimate ambition - it makes the whole issue of what exactly constitutes Instagram fraud somewhat murky. 

What are your thoughts on Instagram fraud? Where do you think the line should be drawn?

Kate x
3 Ways To Style The Victoriana Blouse

In my last vlog, I did a little bit of shopping in London, and tried on this pretty Victoriana style blouse. There's something to be said for filming yourself trying on clothes, because as soon as I got home and reviewed the footage, I couldn't understand why I hadn't bought it! Needless to say I put the situation right the very next day.

Having acquired the blouse, it seemed like an excellent idea to use it as the subject of a styling video. I've put together three different looks based around it, all making use of clothes already in my wardrobe. Watch it over on YouTube if you want to check out any of the links, or right here if you prefer.

Have you been buying any new clothes for spring?

Kate x
Harness The Power Of Superfoods: Pomegranate Skincare From Dr Botanicals + Discount Code (AD)

This post contains gifted products and affiliate links, which are marked "AD". You can read my full disclaimer here.

As an impatient person by nature, I have always loved the idea of superfoods. Eat one thing and get a bucketload of health benefits all at once? Yes please! Even better if it's something I actually enjoy, like salmon, broccoli... or pomegranate. Admittedly, I don't eat this delicious fruit that often, but it is something I love the flavour of. I also love the scent of it, and so the idea of using skincare formulated from this anti-oxidant rich ingredient definitely appealed.

Dr Botanicals were kind enough to send me two products from their pomegranate range - the Brightening Eye Serum and the Regenerating Sleeping Mask. I've been trialling both over the last few weeks.

Brightening Eye Serum (AD)

Dr Botanicals Pomegranate Superfood Brightening Eye Serum

I have been using this twice daily since receiving it and I honestly can't remember the last time I was this excited about a product! Packaged in a glass jar with a handy pipette applicator, this product feels light but very nourishing on the skin and is a real pleasure to use. It doesn't overwhelm with fragrance, but there is a faint scent of pomegranate which I find very appealing. A little of the product goes a long way, and I simply dab it lightly along my orbital bone as I would do with an eye cream. At first, I was worried that a serum wouldn't feel "enough" when compared with a cream, but this is in fact the most effective daily eye product I have ever used. Fine lines look seriously smoothed out, my skin feels hydrated and the area beneath my eyes looks brighter and more even.

Incidentally, I had a facial just over a week ago and was told that my skin is more sensitive than I realise, and that it responds better to serums and gel type products than it does to creams. (I talked more about my experience in this video). This coupled with my very positive experience with the Brightening Eye Serum means I have found a new go-to - I don't see myself going back to regular eye creams any time soon.

Regenerating Sleeping Mask (AD)

Dr Botanicals Pomegranate Superfood Regenerating Sleeping Mask

With the same delicate pomegranate fragrance as the eye serum, this is another product that feels like a real treat to use. It is creamy in consistency, so following the advice of my facialist I have reduced my use of this to once a week. I don't want to stop using it altogether as I haven't noticed any adverse reaction and have had some lovely results from it - namely smoothed lines and plumped and radiant skin. A fine layer of this before bed is all you need to wake up looking like you've had a week's worth of sleep. It's a lovely product and will stay in my routine until I have finished it as I am sure as a once a week treat it won't do me any harm! And for those of you who have no problem with creamy products, I would definitely recommend checking it out if you are in the market for a new sleeping mask.

If you're interested in checking out these products or indeed any others from this lovely brand (I'm also a fan of the Moroccan Rose Facial Oil, reviewed here),  you should definitely have a browse of the Dr Botanicals website. And if you fancy trying anything, enter the discount code KATELOUISE at checkout for 20% off.

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Have you tried these products? And what's your favourite superfood?

Kate x
Spa Day And Come Shopping With Me In London

My sister treated me to a spa day at the Bvlgari Hotel in Knightsbridge, London, as a belated birthday treat. It was such a lovely day, so I thought I would share the experience with you in video form! I also did a little bit of shopping, so keep watching to find out what I bought!

You can watch the video on my YouTube channel or right here if you prefer, but you will find links to the clothing I tried on as well as to the spa we visited on YouTube. (Just to be totally transparent, the links to the clothing are affiliate links, but will not cost you any more should you choose to make a purchase through one. You can read my full disclaimer here.)

Are you a fan of spa treatments?

Kate x
L'Oreal Botanicals Fresh Care - The Range That's Helping To Protect My Coloured Hair

Regularly bleached, coloured and heat styled to within an inch of its life - it's fair to say that I put my hair through its paces. So when it comes to caring for it, it's of the utmost importance that I choose good quality products that will nourish and protect it as much as possible. I'm always looking for shampoos and conditioners that will put much needed moisture back into my hair without weighing it down, and when I discovered the L'Oreal Botanicals Fresh Care range, it sounded like exactly what I was looking for.

L'Oreal Botanicals Fresh Care Geranium Radiance Remedy Hair Care Range

If I'm honest, it was the packaging that first attracted me to this range. I would never have guessed it was L'Oreal, or indeed any drugstore brand, based on the way it looks. It really is quite sleek and beautiful - much more like a high end salon brand than something you can pick up in your local Boots. I was even more intrigued when I learned that the whole range is vegan, created from natural botanical ingredients and essential oils, and free from silicones, parabens and colourants.

There are several variations within the range: Lavender, for fine and fragile hair, Safflower, for dry hair, Camelina, for unruly hair... as my tresses could be described as any of the above, and since all the different shampoos and conditioners look and smell so delicious, it was hard to know which to choose! I started off with the Lavender masque - a lightweight yet nourishing deep conditioning treatment that I loved so much it found its way into my 2018 Beauty Favourites. However, I was keen to find something that would prolong the radiance of my freshly coloured hair between appointments, and perhaps add some shine back, so as much as I adore the scent of lavender, I decided to move on to the Geranium products.

L'Oreal Botanicals Fresh Care Geranium Radiance Remedy Shampoo

L'Oreal Botanicals Fresh Care Geranium Radiance Remedy Conditioner

Formulated from a blend of Geranium essential oil, Soya and Coconut oil, the Geranium Radiance Remedy products are specifically targeted to coloured hair, to hydrate, detangle and reveal shine. They are wonderful to use - the products feel creamy and yet light at the same time, and the floral fragrance that fills the shower when I wash my hair is simply glorious. When I've finished conditioning, my hair feels like silk and my Tangle Teezer glides through it effortlessly.

I have seen some very mixed reviews of these products, and my feeling is that the range is perhaps more suited to people who, like me, have fine hair. I love that it's left feeling soft, yet still has bounce and body to it. Anything richer might leave my hair weighed down and looking lank and lifeless, but perhaps if you have thicker hair, these products might not quite deliver the results you need.

L'Oreal Botanicals Fresh Care Geranium Radiance Remedy Hair Masque

Speaking for myself, I love how they make my hair look and feel. Anything that can breathe new life into my hair when it's overdue to be cut and coloured is a definite keeper in my book! I even think they have helped to restore a little shine, although my bleach treated hair is never going to excel in that department. All in all, I'm a huge fan, and will definitely be repurchasing the Geranium products as well as trying others in the range.

Have you tried the L'Oreal Botanicals Fresh Care range? What hair care products are you loving right now?

Kate x
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