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Thursday, 18 January 2018

2018 - 50 Books Reading Challenge

2018 50 Books Reading Challenge

This year, I've decided to set myself the challenge of reading 50 books - that's 1.04 a week, every week for the entire year.

But, why not 52? As a self-confessed perfectionist, I put a lot of pressure on myself to reach my goals and trying to read a book a week sounds tough. I just know I'd get behind, worry, rush through novels and try and pick the slimmest books on my shelf just to meet the big 52, which is not what I want this challenge to be about. Reading just two books less gives me some breathing room. See, 2018 is going to be a great year, I'm already growing as a person...

Why am I doing this? As it teenager, it was rare for me to be without permanent possession of a paperback. But, since graduating university I've gradually read less and less physical books and turned to audiobooks and podcasts for my literary fix. Of late I seem to be stuck in the same routine of my weekly dose of My Favorite Murder and Dear Hank and John - the two podcasts I listen to on their release date without exception - plus a good helping of that month's Audible purchase. I don't branch out and rarely pick up new paperbacks because, as far as my brain is concerned I've already checked the box next to my monthly reading duties. Sound familiar?

By starting this reading challenge, I'm actively encouraging myself to learn new things, visit new places and indulge in works from authours that would have taken me years to discover. My first step in my is to consolidate the number of books I'm reading - some started in late 2017 - into just two:

Books I'm currently reading:
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying - Marie Kondo
Breaking Mad - Anna Williamson
The Crime Book - DK Publishing
How to Stop Time - Matt Haig
Ghostly Tales (An Audible Christmas Gift) - Various
Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig (re-read)

As you can see, it's an eclectic mix of crime, psychology, mystery and self-help. Throw in some YA and you've got all my favourites. Not forgetting those I have already read this year:

Books I've finished:
1. The Little Book of Lykke - Meik Wiking
2. The Life-Changing Magic of not giving a Fuck - Sarah Knight (re-read)
3. Lost at Sea - Jon Ronson

... I'll make sure to add to this list throughout 2018 so you can check my progress!

What books will you be reading in 2018? Are you doing a reading challenge too? I certainly need some book recommendations in the comments!

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Recreating the Brandon Woelfel look with A Colour Story

Brandon Woelfel Fairy Lights Colour Dark Light Instagram Tutorial Panasonic 3
Brandon Woelfel Fairy Lights Colour Dark Light Instagram Tutorial Panasonic 1Brandon Woelfel Fairy Lights Colour Dark Light Instagram Tutorial Panasonic 2
Brandon Woelfel Fairy Lights Colour Dark Light Instagram Tutorial Panasonic 3
This post features sponsored content from Panasonic.

Lately, I’ve been spotting no end of Tumblr-esque fairy-light portraits on Instagram. You know the ones I’m talking about with the effortless, messy hair, hipster glasses and a neon sign or two. One of my favourite Instagram photographers has this set-up down to a fine art. His name is Brandon Woelfel and I began to follow him after seeing whimsical shots of larger Youtubers started popping up on my Instagram feed.

So, I set myself a challenge to recreate these almost-magical scenes without a photographer or budget to splurge on props, using my DSLR, tripod, remote and string of copper fairy lights from the pound shop - I actually ended up using mason-light jars, hence the gold lid.

After a little trial and error, the best method I found when shooting this alone was to set my camera up as normal in a dimly lit room, get the lights into position and then tape them to the camera before shooting using a high shutter speed, or night setting. As you can see above, with a little tweaking the photo turned out fairly well, considering the low level of light.

Thankfully the rest of the magic here lies in the editing; for which I forwent my go-to Lightroom and Photoshop in favour of something more accessible. Having already completed basic lighting and colour tweaks on the photo so my features were nicely visible, I started to play around with the filters on one of my favourite photo editing apps, A Colour Story. On the dark background, I found the ‘Flare 8’ and ‘Flare 9’ effects from the Flare & Bokeh Effects pack were the most effective at creating colourful bursts. There are plenty of different lighting effects to choose from.

All in all, the entire process took around an hour which, I would argue, is far too long for me to spend for the sake of an Instagram post. However, shooting in such low light was a good learning experience for me and, I had a lot of fun playing around with the lighting effects too!

Panasonic* also have some great ideas on how to spice up your photos with bursts of light and colour with this incredible steel wool spinning technique by Visual Matrix. Please leave this one to the professionals and stay safe!


What creative techniques and photo editors do you use to liven up your Instagram photos?

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Hygge Christmas Gift Guide: 2017

Do you still need to purchase a few last-minute holiday gifts? Me too! In racking my brain for what final gifts to buy for friends and family I've come up with the perfect hygge-inspired gift guide for Christmas 2017. So sit back, relax and let me help you out.

Hygge Christmas Gift Guide 2017
This post features sponsored content by Loccitane.

A Good Coffee Table Book

This year, I've picked up far too many books to mention - admittedly most on Audible, another great gift suggestion. I'll leave you with a few dip-in-dip out recommendations, perfect to skim whilst you're stealing 15 minutes to yourself:
  • Humans of New York
  • The Princess Saves Herself in this One
  • Read this if you want to take great Photographs
  • The Little Book of Hygge
  • The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy
  • Harry Potter: A History of Magic

Noozie Bottle Review, Noozie Hot Water Bottle Red, Electric Hot Water Bottle Review, Rechargeable Hot Water Bottle Review

Make 'em Toasty

Red Noozie Bottle*
If someone presented me with a Noozie electronic hot water bottle this Christmas, I'd be overjoyed. Because then I'd have two and maybe, just maybe, I could make it one evening without it being commandeered by my boyfriend... It takes just 10 minutes to fully charge the bottle - whilst you hide under the duvet - and it stays toasty for anywhere between two and four hours. When I took it with me on my snowy commute it's at the lower end of the scale but when I was cuddled up with a Bailey's hot chocolate and a blanket it's at the upper end.

The Noozie Bottle* is great for spoonies, gym buffs and elderly relatives too! As it's the perfect size to pop on sore muscles without being weighty. I've used mine across various areas of my back and neck to help with my fibro pain and sore muscles from a round of trigger point injections. I don't think you can go wrong with buying someone a Noozie Bottle* for Christmas!

Noozie Pebble Review, Noozie Pebble Review Pink, Noozie Electronic Handwarmer Review, Electronic Handwarmer Review


Give the Gift of Extra Battery, with a Twist

Pink Noozie Pebble*
I was also lucky enough to get to try out the Noozie Pebble* which doubles as a handwarmer/3500mah phone charger. To give you an idea of how strong that is, a fully charged Noozie Pebblewould charge my iPhone 7 Plus 1.2 times. As someone who is still getting used to their phone not dying throughout the day - RIP iPhone 6 - I usually carry my bulky 5000mah bank with me. So it's nice to opt for something smaller and sleeker with a dual functionality as a hand warmer. I was pleasantly surprised at just how quickly the Noozie Pebble* heated up and just how warm it got! I've used it on my walk to work, in the car tucked into my coat, in the office on a frosty Monday morning and slipped between my back and chair as a low-key pain reliever, it's just so versatile!


Himalayan Salt Lamp

Like most women my age, I purchased a Himalayan salt lamp because it looked hella trendy on the Urban Outfitters Instagram page. Since then I've shifted it from my bedroom to my office and use it to create a warm, calming and hygge environment and negating the need for harsh light before bedtime. It's not quite bright enough to read by but makes the great accompaniment to a cup of sleepy tea and a good podcast. Here are a few recommended podcasts to download.

Hygge Christmas Gift Guide 2017 2


Essence Scented Candles

Continuing the hygge theme, these Essence Scented Candles from B&M would make the perfect stocking-stuffer. Honoured in the UK as Bath and Body Works dupes, these stylish candles smell great and last forever. This year I picked up Pumpkin Waffle and Marshmallow Fireside after I burnt through Maple Leaf last winter.


Pamper Power

Everyone needs a bit of a pamper, especially in the harsh, colder months and L'occitane have plenty of Christmas gift ideas for women to suit all budgets. My picks would be the Handy Shea Tin for secret santa and The Best of L'occitane Collection, for someone you'd like to spoil. Plus, they're currently giving away a free gift with every purchase over £35 on their website.


Make sure to leave you gift recommendations in the comments below!


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Wednesday, 6 December 2017

How to never miss a PR request on Twitter

How to never miss a PR request on Twitter, Blogger Request, Journo Request, Working with PRs, Blogging, Blogger


Never miss out on a pr requests again with this simple 15-minute trick.

I've just made it easier for myself to keep tabs on over 100 PR and communications agencies I know work regularly with bloggers. Are you ready to find out how I did it?

If you're already following the accounts you'd like to keep track of, which I'm guessing most of you will be, I recommend starting by using a Twitter follower tool like Statusbrew to search the account you follow for the terms 'pr' or 'journo'. Most free Twitter search tools aren't sophisticated enough to exclude terms, so you'll pull through a few 'PR friendly' bloggers in the process. But, chances are, it'll be far less tedious than scrolling through your everyone you're following...

And, in case you don't follow any PRs, here are some hashtags to get you started:

HashtagTweetsRetweetsViews
#prrequest12595,383
#bloggerswanted4430,154
#bloggersrequired402,179
Stats correct as of 6th December 2016.

Let me know in the comments if you know of anymore and I'll add them to the list!

Once you've got your list in front of you, you're going to need to create a Twitter list of the account which you can do by visiting your profile page > lists > create new list on either desktop or mobile. Add each account by visiting their profile, clicking the three dots next to their username and selecting 'add to list'. Easy, right?

You can then add your newly created Twitter list to TweetDeck, scroll through it on your phone or, my personal favourite, use the find function on Chrome to search for the term 'bloggers' to pull up any requests from PRs and journalists. If you'd like to get a little fancier, tools like IFTTT can also add these tweets to a Google spreadsheet or your perusal or notify you when users on the list use certain terms.

Are you going to set up your own PR Twitter list?

For more blogging hacks, visit my #BloggingHacks page.

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Monday, 9 October 2017

How I Take and Edit my Blog Photos

How I Take and Edit my Blog Photos
*This post features sponsored content by Panasonic.

Since I started my blog in 2013, using a combination of my smartphone camera and my beloved bridge by Fuji, cameras have come a long way. The world has gone from 'revolutionary' HD video to shooting 4k from the palm of your hand on cameras like the Panasonic CSC Camera*.

This, paired with the the rise of insta-fame, seems to put a lot of pressure on us bloggers to get things right. I see so many tweets with bloggers beating themselves up about their photography or even refusing to take photos because they've 'only got smartphone'. Do you know how powerful any camera can be when used in the right way?

Today I'm talking you through how I take photos for my blog. It's evolved quite a lot in my 4 years blogging and I'm hoping to pass on a few of the tips and trick I've learnt along the way. For more blogging and photography tips, please visit my Blogging Hacks page.


Step 1: Planning

It's a good idea to have a general idea of your shot before you set up to take it. Do you have all the products you want to showcase? If you're taking lots of photographs using soft boxes or ring lights, things can get very cramped - and very messy - very quickly! Planning ahead means you can focus on whats important: the shoot, rather than wondering where you hid your marble tray!

What about props? Blog photography props don't have to be expensive. I don't think I've ever bought a 'prop' just because it will look great on camera. I much prefer using objects I genuinely enjoy and have purchased for my home, like baskets, blankets, trays, candles and other makeup. Alternatively, you can opt for a cleaner, more minimalist set up like I did briefly below. It's entirely up to you! Your styling can switch from post to post. Variety is encouraged.

'Bare it All' with 'Rock Solid' Nails by Leighton Denny

Once I've looking through my lens (an important step!) and made the necessary adjustments making sure all product labels and colours can be seen clearly, I'll start snapping away. I'll take 20-30 photos with minimal changes before changing up the shot in front of me by changing my perspective or switching around objects. Typically, the last few shots I take of a particular set up are going to be the best, so I've started honing in on them on Lightroom first.


Step 2: Getting the lighting right

Lighting is so, so, so important when it comes to photography. Many bloggers I know strive for daylight and batch photograph in front of a large window on weekends, during the darker nights. If you're serious about your photography, or low on time, you can also look into purchasing a ring light.

What you're aiming for here is nice, bright white light that fills the space your photographing. That's not to say that beautiful fashion shots can't be achieved during the golden hour or crisp autumnal snaps using candles and fairy lights - it's just a general rule of thumb for product shots.

Camera Lenses

Step 3: Editing

I like to edit my photos before I begin my post, where possible. I use Adobe Lightroom to do this but, in the past have used: Photoshop, Gimp, Polarr, Canva, PicMonkey and Picasa, to name but a few! The main things I check for are the focus - is the main object nice and crisp? - and the temperature - is it too green or too yellow? I shoot in my office and know my magnolia walls tend to tinge everything a little warm and a little green. It's this learning that allows me to quickly and efficiently go in and make quick changes to the photos before the real editing begins.

Before I knew how to properly use programs like Lightroom, I used to just play around, make changes and undo things if they weren't what I was looking for. It's how I learn my way around and I highly recommend you to do the same!

Beauty and Makeup Haul, Barry M, Makeup Revolution, L'Oreal Makeup Forever


My Photography Journey

When I was growing up, it was the height of the disposable 35mm camera. They were expensive, time-consuming and a perfectionist's worst nightmare. So, it wasn't until digital cameras came in that I began to fall in love with photography. I borrowed the family camera before purchasing a few brick-like point and shoots in my early teens, trading up to a bridge camera, snapping shots for Instagram on my Galaxy S3 and, eventually, purchasing my DSLR. I've used everything from Paint to Lightroom to edit my photos and many of the tools I started to learn on aren't even available anymore! I've spent weeks agonising over the slightest changes and trying new techniques - even if, looking back, I cringe at the final product!

I'm not declaring myself an expert here, just expressing a keen interest in a hobby of mine and passing on the wisdom that these things rarely happen overnight. So, if you're a new blogger, agonising over the photos you see on your Instagram feed, remember we all had to start somewhere and I hope these tips help guide you into finding a style of photography that suits you.

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Thursday, 13 July 2017

When's the Best Time to Tweet?

When's the Best Time to Tweet - Blogger Help, Small Biz Help, Twitter Help

In this post, I talk you through how to find the best time to tweet on your social channels, including how to stay on top of it for free in a matter of minutes.

So, when is the best time to tweet? It's a question I'm used to seeing all the time on social media and am asked frequently in my role as a Social Media Executive. Here's the honest truth: the there is no best time. It depends on a lot of variables including your following, their hobbies, demographic and living situation, even popular television shows like Love Island can create a spike in when your followers are most likely to be online. Consequently, when the optimum time is for you, is likely to vary ever so slightly week upon week.

But why is tweeting at the right time so important? Firstly, because it's when more of your followers are online and therefore you get more exposure for your 140 characters and secondly, because of this algorithm your best chance is to hit people when they're online, and not compete into thir 'what you missed' box.

How do you find it this magical information? We're going to use Followerwonk. Followerwonk is a fabulous social media analysis tool by Moz. I use it in my job as a Social Media Executive to figure out my posting schedule each week, use snippets for reporting on monthly performance and run regular, basic competitor analysis. What makes it even better is that, as a blogger or small biz with a limited marketing budget, you can do all this for free if you spread out your research over a few days to avoid reaching their daily cap of 2 search queries.

To find your best time to tweet, head over to Followerwonk and click on the Analyze tab. Or, if you're lazy, click right here. Alternatively, if you've already granted Followerwonk access to your Buffer or Twitter account an account you can visit followerwonk.com/analyze/charleylucy and swap out you username to view an instant report. Or, have a cheeky peek at how your competitors are doing.

On the Analyze tab, you'll need to type in your username and select the 'analyse their followers' option from the dropdown. This is important as you want to make sure your schedule fits best to your followers and not who you're following. Though, this is valuable information to know too! Click the 'Do it' button and watch in awe as your Followerwonk report is generated. Go on, have a play around! This blog post will still be here when you get back.

The third section down: 'Most active times for your Twitter followers' is what we'll be using to create your own schedule. If you're on Buffer you'll notice there's an automatic scheduler under the graph, simply select the number of times you'd to post on Twitter per day and Followerwonk will overwrite your existing Buffer schedule with a series of optimum times.

When's the best time to tweet, Followerwonk, Charleylucy

If you're not on Buffer - why not? It's fabulous! - you still can use the data from the graph to collate a social media schedule. As you can see, the majority of my followers are night owls, but I also make sure to include slots in the early morning, lunchtime and after work to make sure I reach a wider audience. In an ideal world, I'd revisit this tool every week, but I don't always have the time, so aim to revisit and rejig my social schedule once a month to keep my exposure at its peak.

There you have it, you now know the best time to tweet. For me, it's between 8-9pm so I've adjusted my blog post schedule accordingly and automated my new post social too as an added bonus. I'd be interested in reading yours in the comments below!

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Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Car Boot Haul: Cameras Lenses, Alex Drawers & Gel Polish

Ever since I was little, I have loved going to a good car boot. They were a Sunday morning ritual at my house, even if I did tend to moan about the lack of lie-in! From getting secondhand kids toys to a library's worth of books, clothes and home ware for my student house. I have always loved hunting for a hidden gem.

Though, since I move to Hull I have yet to find another car boot quite as good as the ones that surround my hometown. So am always grateful, when visiting my parents, of the 6:30am start and it looks like I'm not the only one from the amount of you who liked my tweet!


Here's what I bought this past week.

Car Boot Haul - Camera Lenses, Manual Focus Secondhand Lenses, AF Canon Lens

Camera Lenses

Over the past five or so years, I've amassed quite the collection of manual lenses, usually from film cameras, collected from the car boot. Buying good quality second-hand lenses is a great money-saving hack when it comes to photography as you can often cheat the look of a much more expensive auto-focus lens by using it's analogue counterpart and an adaptor. Top tip: If you can't get to a car boot, there's always a selection on eBay, but beware of bidding wars with camera nerds like myself.

In this particular haul I picked up two film lenses and two dated AF Canon-compatible lenses to add to my collection:

  • Front left - Super Paragon F2.8 28mm Macro Lens (£1.50)
  • Front right - Canon EOS Zoom AF Lens 55mm F4.5-56 II (£5)
  • Back left - Quantary AF 77mm F3.5-4.5 Lens (£5)
  • Back right - Hanimex Tele-auto F3.5 135mm Lens (£2)

I've yet to play around with them properly but can say the auto-focus on the old digital lenses just about works on my - only slightly less dated - Canon 600D, though I occasionally need to switch to manual before taking shot. I'll be taking each of them out for a proper whirl next week, follow my Instagram to see the results.


Elite 99 Gel Nail Polish

Elite 99 Gel Nail Polish

As I talked about here, I've recently purchased a gel nail kit and am loving the non-smudge effortless nails that last two weeks. When rummaging in one of the beauty bins at the car boot - I'm nosy okay? - I saw a handful of Elite 99 gel nail polishes and purchased a bundle of mattes, shimmers and glitter top coats for £3. It might not be the bargain of the century, but I doubt I'm going to be able to pick up another for 30 pence anytime soon. It's just the find I needed to expand my small gel nail polish collection.


IKEA Alex Drawers on Castors

Photo credit: IKEA

IKEA Alex Drawers on Castors

Admittedly, I picked up the IKEA Alex Drawers en route home from the car boot after I spotted them in the window of a local BHF Furniture shop on clearance for £30. They were in in such good condition, bar a little crayon. I couldn't just leave them, so plan to purchase new set of wheels and place them next to my clothing rail, making a flexible dressing room space in my small, L-shaped office and doubling as a blogging flatlay set up that gets great light from the nearby window. I'll be sure to take a snap on my Instagram once they're in place.

With the added value of the drawers, my total spend was £46.50, which is more than my typical week but less than half of the IKEA price tag alone. So, I'm pretty chuffed. Let me know what your best secondhand car boot and charity shop buys have been in the comment below!

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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

'Bare it All' with 'Rock Solid' Nails by Leighton Denny

'Bare it All' with 'Rock Solid' Nails by Leighton Denny

No, I'm not talking about that brand new summer bod. I'm talking about expert nail brand Leighton Denny's line of nail-enhancing polishes that are all about the base. Promising to strengthen, perfect and repair your nails.

Rock Solid Strengthening Treatment & Base Coat by Leighton Denny*

Rock Solid Strengthening Treatment & Base Coat* promised just that: rock solid nails. Which, as an ex-nail-biter, is very much appreciated. It's a clear, one coat strengthening treatment for all nail types that can be built up over time or applied underneath polish. I did the latter and finished off my at-home manicure with a couple of coats of Bare it All CC Base Coat in Beige*. But before I began to cover it up I noticed just how damn good my nails looked. My ridges appeared reduced and the glossy finish was just so classy.

Though I unfortunately just had the time for the one treatment before my at-home gel nail kit arrived, further fueling my current nail obsession, I only had one minor nail breakage that week, which is a win in my book. This is definitely one of those subtle polishes I'd recommend to those of who are still in school or who are unable to wear brightly coloured nail polish to work.

Bare it All CC Base Coat in Beige by Leighton Denny*

After reading that this nail polish was perfect for concealing discolouration, I'd expected the finish would be sheerer, so was impressed when the coverage of this cc base coat packed a punch when it came to pigmentation. The formula is one of my favourites in a nude - I generally find them too gloopy, too watery or unable to dry? - as it leaves you with a smooth, high gloss, a salon-worthy result that lasts a good few days without a chipping. On my fair skin, the tone sits a few shades darker than the colour of my nails but wouldn't look amiss as a lighter nude on a deeper tone.

The secret ingredient behind all this is allegedly Marula Oil which locks in moisture and smoothes the surface of the nail for an almost gel-like finish. Note to self: buy more Marula Oil-based polishes.

Let me know in the comments below that nail varnishes you've been loving recently, especially if they're gel!

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Travel-Friendly Summer Skincare - whatever the Weather!


We Brits know that summertime doesn't always equal sunshine and with the ever-changing forecast, it's difficult to know what skincare products to pack for a summer getaway. Do I need a higher SPF? Can I handle foundation in this heat? What is my skin doing in this weather?!

In this post I talk you through three travel-friendly skincare products that I've been using in a rotation with the weather to keep my skin feeling moisturised, looking radiant and, most importantly, protected from the sun this summer.


Nivea Daily Essentials Tinted Moisturising Day Cream in Natural

During my teenage years, I was obsessed with the Nivea Young range's tinted moisturiser, that saved me from precious months of Dream Matte Mouse cakeyness. Back then I was blessed with almost acne-free skin and my basic makeup routine went something like: moisturiser, a dab of concealer, powder to set and a flick of mascara. It was a simpler time.

During the UK's recent heatwave, I couldn't stand the thought of wearing a heavy foundation but wanted a no-fuss product to help cover up any unevenness, so nipped into Boots to see if they still made it. Now repackaged as part of their Daily Essential line, Nivea's Tinted Moisturising Day Cream with SPF 15 is my favourite sunny day skincare solution, leaving my skin looking radiant and healthy and feeling moisturised. If you're jetting off on holiday this summer, I'd highly recommend taking their travel-friendly 50ml in your makeup bag for those no-makeup-makeup days sitting by the pool.


Piz Buin Ultra Light Dry Touch Face Fluid*

The Piz Buin Ultra Light Dry Touch Face Fluid* does exactly what it says on the tin. The formula is impressively matte and quick drying without leaving a white cast to the skin. Making it ideal for wearing underneath some light, summer makeup and, at 50ml, very beach-bag friendly. Plus, it doesn't hurt that the scent reminds me of summer. If I shut my eyes, I can almost imagine the sand beneath my toes...


Caudalie Vine Active 3-in-1 Moisturiser*

After raving about the Caudalie Overnight Detox Oil* a few weeks ago, I tested out the anti-pollution Caudalie's Vine Active 3-in-1 Moisturiser* from the same line. Designed for all skin types, this summer skincare product is a great all-rounder that works on normal to combination skin as it's lightly moisturising, sinks in fact and doesn't oxidise or move my makeup. However, I would advise those with dry skin to supplement it with a rich and nourishing night cream and I've experienced a few areas of flakiness. TMI?

What summer skincare would you recommend? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

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