Embracing Change; Ditching the Desert

Today’s post is going to be both a little more personal and also blog-centric, but rest assured next week we’ll be back with your regularly scheduled programming of reviews, nerdiness, and eye candy.  First, though, I have some updates to discuss.

This is a National Geographic image of the desert in which I live(d). Image credit National Geographic
This month will bring about some serious life changes and blog changes; a personal chapter in the life of my family is drawing to a close and a long-awaited new beginning is happening.  If you’ve ever checked out my Skin Type & History post, you will know that I moved from the temperate and verdant climate of Canada to the harsh and barren wilds of the US desert several years ago, and the resulting skin crisis was the catalyst for this blog.  

In the desert no more

It wasn’t just a skin crisis, either.  I’m not going to sugar-coat it; it’s been a tough almost-decade here and we’ve been biding our time for the slow grind of academia to release us from the yoke of graduate school, and it’s finally happened.  We are free.  

My husband has a newly minted Doctorate, a job in a far-away state, we’ve rented a beautiful little circa 1900 home, and we’re finally embarking on Life After Graduate School.  It’s a little mind-boggling.  It’s also a massive move; a little more than 1,100 miles away, in fact.  To a place that has trees that aren’t mesquite, and bushes that aren’t tumbleweed.  

115 years old, twice the size of our apartment, hardwood floors, and a 3 window room for blog photos.
To be completely honest, I am a little apprehensive about the change in identity; as silly as it may seem, the desert has ruled my skin care (and therefore my blog) for so many years that it’s hard to imagine starting over and re-learning my skincare needs anew.  Will it still be dehydrated when the air is no longer forcibly extracting the moisture from my skin layers?  Will my skin become balanced enough that a new skin type will emerge?  How drastic will the change be?

That being said, I am confident that my approach to skincare will allow me to smoothly adapt to the changes.  My products might change, but the safety net of a customized multi-step routine will get me through the considerably greener wilderness. 


What is, and is not, changing

As you may know if you are a long-time reader, blogging ethics is a subject I’m passionate about; I care so much about the integrity of the testing process that I have an automated testing schedule that is fully viewable to the public.

I care even more about transparency and honesty, which is why you will always find me openly discussing any products that were not directly purchased by me, including personal Christmas gifts- I am sure that is overkill, but I still like to be very clear about where any product that was not purchased by me came from.

It’s inevitable that as one develops a blogging voice and a catalogue of content, parties become interested in purchasing ad space, sponsored posts, providing product for review, paid reviews, etc.  With the exception of the ‘providing product for review’, I am not personally interested in any of the above, but I understand (too well!) the significant costs involved in running a blog and I don’t fault people for trying to find a way to make blogging self-sustaining.  Very few bloggers are in this for the money, unless they are a ‘huge’ blogger; most of us do this out of love.  There comes a point, though, where the costs become prohibitive and people are faced with either abandoning or severely scaling back their content, or looking for ways to offset the costs of running the blog.

I’ve reached that place myself, and the catalyst for me to make changes was press samples.  Press samples, simply put, are free products offered for the purpose of review, without a guarantee that a review will be forthcoming.  There is no pressure for a positive review either; so between the offer for honest review and the option to eschew reviewing it at all, if it’s something that you are genuinely interested in, it seems like a no-brainer, right?

But I’ve changed my mind.  I have accepted, to date, a grand total of two things for testing and review (and have reviewed only one), and declined all the other offers. However, I have come to the conclusion that even just two products provided for review were two products too many for me.  

What changed my mind were two things: one, I found myself judging the products too harshly, which was unfair.  It was as if I was deliberately looking for ways to ‘prove’ I was not being swayed by the siren song of free swag.  That troubled me; the integrity of the testing and review process is sacred to me and while I was erring on the side of being overly critical instead of blindly gushing about something because it was free, it was still compromising my objectivity about the product. 

Fairness is a balance, and it shouldn't be this hard.  Image credit spectator.org
Secondly, I read some very eloquent discussions in the Asian beauty product online community about how people perceived reviews of press samples; sure enough, people assumed that the reviews were compromised because the bloggers were unconsciously influenced by the ‘free’ product.  There’s no denying that lowered expectations/investment results in more positive perception of the product; I commented last week that I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the Tonymoly bunny gloss was because I was expecting them to be complete trash in a cute package. 

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that accepting free products for review is not ideal for either me or readers.  I am not saying I’ll never accept anything for review; if something comes along that is so compelling I can’t say no, I may agree to try it, but as always, it will be very openly discussed in the review.  It’s just not worth the extra difficulty.  I realized that if a seller or brand approached me with a product I was very interested in, quite frankly I would rather buy it outright than deal with the agonizing debate over whether I was being too harsh or not harsh enough.  Interestingly enough, I found that many people supported affiliate links that enabled the blogger to purchase items, preferring them over press samples, because the resulting reviews could be relied on to have zero bias.

Additionally, I have become more interested lately in the offerings of US-based K-Beauty vendors; as I mentioned in A Haul Before the Storm: Eye candy, Details, First Impressions, & some Mini Reviews:
While I love me the thrill and excitement of hunting and stalking my hard-to-source prey and don't mind waiting weeks on end to grope my goodies, some people just want the convenience of shopping from a verified vendor based out of the US.  I get that not everyone springs a nerdboner at the prospect of using a spreadsheet to calculate cost:benefit ratio, and so I wanted to dip a toe into calmer waters and provide more options to people.
I regularly get feedback from people who are frankly overwhelmed or intimidated by some of the more ‘difficult’ methods I have used to source my products ultra-cheaply from Korea (such as 11st and Avecko), and are looking for easier venues to purchase products; but the rate at which I purchase products for review is not sustainable if I am exploring US-based retailers, even if that’s what people are asking for.

No one wants to feel like things are out of their reach.  Image credit gmedia100.com
That brings us to the next change: effective immediately, I will be adding not only ‘easier’ sourcing options alongside my traditional low-cost-but-high-difficulty ones, I will be purchasing from the ‘easier’ venues more often and reviewing them, and I will be adding affiliate links to generate a small amount of revenue which will assist in the upkeep of this blog, and allow me to investigate wider options for people.  Learning Hangul just to shop is not for everyone; I get it, I promise.  

Affiliate links are links to retailers who will provide a commission (usually 1% to 8%, depending on the retailer) if you choose to purchase a product using that link.  The commission does not add to the cost for the customer; it is strictly from the retailer in question.

That does not mean that I will be actively seeking affiliate-linkable retailers; my goal is to provide a range of options regardless of their affiliate status.  Each page will contain individual disclosures, if applicable, for the convenience of the reader.  I want to emphasize again that this income is for sustaining the blog and my ability to continue to source new, risky, unknown services and products, as well as explore safer, more convenient alternatives.  There is no obligation to purchase from the links; blogging is a passion and a hobby but it is not meant to support me.  I only wish for the blog to support itself.  

Affiliate links will be the only source of revenue for this blog: I have never nor will I ever write a paid review, I will not be adding ads- not only are they only partially controllable but they add to the load time of a page, and I am not interested in sponsored posts. 

The next month is going to bring about a lot of changes all at once, and while they are a little overwhelming (and breeding moving boxes in my kitchen) I am looking forward to it.  I hope that the changes that are coming to the blog, the decisions I have made, and the reasoning behind making them are clear and easy to understand.  I am excited to explore finding new and interesting products, discovering and reviewing new ways to get your hands on them, and making things more accessible!

And this is less than half of what needs to be done.  I need fermented products; the kind you drink.
I’m looking forward to these new horizons on this skincare journey; what I’m not looking forward to is all this packing.  Who knew that a year’s worth of empties saved up for a massive empties post could take up so much space?!

All the best,

-Cat

14 comments

  1. Good luck with your move! And you're right: that Tonymoly bunny gloss is surprisingly awesome!

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    1. Thanks, I'll need it! I just found out tonight that our furniture, etc, will not be delivered until *after* I have to return back to work. I need some of that fermented Vitis vinifera, if you know what I mean.

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  2. First of all, good luck with moving! That is definitely quite the distance, but that looks like such a lovely house. Natural lighting!!!

    Also, thank you so much for being completely transparent with your reviewing process and the changes you want to make to the blog! I don't generally have a problem with people accepting press samples but that really tends to depend on the reviewer in question; I do fully support affiliate links, though. I hope this new chapter brings about more good things for you and your family (and the blog)! :D

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    1. Thank you, and natural lighting for the win!

      And thank you for the kind words; blogging ethics are a huge deal for me and I'd rather go overboard with disclosure than assume it won't matter to people. It matters to me as a reader as well. :)

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  3. I love your honesty about the blogging process and running a blog, etc. etc.

    Good luck with your move! Packing the absolute, most abysmal worst thing ever (probably even more than taxes). I hope you get your fermented drink, several of them in fact. And I hope you get through it quicker than I ever have.
    Cheers to a new place!! :D

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    1. Thanks! :D

      And I really need the luck, things are devolving into a logistical nightmare and I had to have a brief cry in my closet earlier today over how overwhelmed I feel trying to get everything packed and ready to go. I definitely need that fermented beverage for sure!

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    2. I was going to wish you even more luck, but I thought you might like this better?
      http://fhsart.tumblr.com/post/126667685231/i-am-a-wonder-of-self-discipline-and-planning

      But MORE LUCK TO YOU regardless. :)

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    3. Oh man, the bombs dropping- yes, yesssss!

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  4. I love your blog and appreciate your transparency! Best of luck with the move!

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    1. Thank you, and thank you- I'll need all that luck!

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  5. I love the look of your new place, Cat! You mentioned that it was bigger than the previous one, so I assume there would be more storage space when your haulzillas arrive one after another. :)

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    1. Oh yes, that front room is going to be my office and blogging playground; my 'graduation' gift for surviving all these years is a skincare fridge, which I am predictably very excited about, haha! :D

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  6. I'm so glad you're moving! Every time you wrote about life in the dessert, it felt so uncomfortable, so awful, that I usually wondered.. "why won't she move??" Anyways, congrats and happy moving!

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    1. Me too, and thank you! I'm so relieved; even with the identity crisis, it's such a big weight off our shoulders to be done, have a real job, and be able to leave.

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