Live and Breathe Beauty (L.A.B.²) Makeup Brushes *

LAB2 Beauty Makeup Brushes
I'm a strong believer that you can make even the cheapest of makeup work for you and look almost as good as the high end stuff, just as long as you have the right tools. There are exceptions of course - does anyone remember those black plastic makeup kits from Argos that had hundreds of eye shadows and pans of lipstick? No amount of makeup brushes could make those awful eyeshadows work! I do find though that if decent tools are used, MUA shadows can look just as good as their MAC and Urban Decay counterparts.
L.A.B.² is the elite line of professional-quality makeup tools from American makeup artist Brett Freedman, who has worked with all manner of A-list names. The aim of the range is to provide high quality yet affordable makeup brushes, allowing everyone from beauty novices to experts to create professional-quality looks. Brett himself talks of the range's 'brush anatomy', which means that all of the brushes consist of the following:

     • Cutting-edge synthetic fibre technology
     • Titanium-plated ferrule
     • Rubberised handle

The brushes came smartly packaged in a black and neon orange cardboard case with a display window, and plenty of useful information printed on it, which I thought was really effective. Unfortunately, after borrowing someone else's memory card to take the pictures they were inadvertently erased - oops! You'll have to take my word for it though, the packaging was good!
I particularly like the handles of these brushes, as they are a little heavier than most, making them much easier to handle and have control over. They have a rubberised coating, which although attracts dirt and smear-marks more than plastic handles, allows for a better grip. The titanium-plated ferrule (the metal bit joining the brush fibres to the handle!) has been double-crimped, preventing the bristles from coming loose, and I have certainly noticed the difference between the L.A.B.² brushes and some of my cheaper ones, which frequently shed bristles. The synthetic brush hairs have a 'micro-studded surface' whcih is said to mimic the exterior cuticle of natural hair, meaning that although synthetic, the bristles come as close to natural hair as they possibly can whilst being far more durable.
I love how the brushes have been individually labelled with their purpose, as being the beauty novice that I am, I tend to use whichever brush looks like the best fit, regardless of its purpose! The set and brush names are printed in capital letters at the end of each brush handle - I think the turquoise was a great choice against the matte black, so thumbs up from me there! 

There are two different brush sets available: the I'm Turning PRO Face Brush Set (£22.99), a set of four face brushes designed for flawless, high-definition makeup application; and this set, Strokes of Genius* (£18.99), which as you can see contains five brushes needed for eye makeup application. There are also a wide range of inidividual brushes, ranging in price from £5.99 for the lip or eyeliner brushes, and £11.99 for the powder and kabuki brushes.
Eyeshadow Brush - 'Distributes colour evenly onto the lids, crease and brow bone.' Thankfully this brush is super soft and does a sterling job - I've tried plenty that have been a little on the scratchy side and therefore not at all pleasant for running along your delicate eyelids.

Crease Brush - 'Accentuates the crease and blends colours seamlessly together to soften harsh lines.' I've gotten a lot of use out of this brush, because my makeup application technique tends to be to blend, blend, and blend some more, and it's the perfect size to do so. 

Brow & Lash Groomer - 'Grooms, combs and defines brows and lashes.' With a spoolie on one end and a brush and comb on the other, this is a handy brush for any makeup kit. The spoolie is great for softening colour once I've applied it to my brows.
Brow & Eyeliner Brush - 'Fills in brows and lines eyes for extra defintion.' I tried to use this with my brow products, and although it is a great size for precise application, I prefer something even smaller. For gel liner though, it is a lifesaver.
Pointed Eyeliner Brush - 'Delivers a precise, firm, even line.' This has become my go-to brush for application of brow products, as my brows are a bit of a funny shape in places and a slanted brush isn't always the most helpful! 
The L.A.B.² makeup brushes are available from larger Superdrug stores, and you can see more information and video tutorials at L.A.B.² online. 

Osmo Extreme Volume Haircare and Styling*

A couple of months ago I was sent this set of products By Osmo, a UK brand offering a collection of professional hair care and styling products, many of which are the product of choice in salons across the UK. They offer a pretty vast range of products, from those intended to treat and protect coloured hair, to those promising a range of different finishes. In my case, my biggest hair issue is the lack of volume that my thin and wispy hair offers, so the Extreme Volume products were my first choice - give me volume!
I particularly like that Osmo have given each different set of hair products a different colour, for instance Extreme Volume products are all blue, and Deep Moisture products are turquoise. Much easier for the bleary-eyed I've got shampoo in my hair fumble to find the matching conditioner!

There are four products in the Extreme Volume range - a shampoo and conditioner, a root lifter, and a thickening creme. The shampoo and conditioner are said to thicken and strengthen each strand of hair, giving a full and bouncy finish, and consist of extracts of sandalwood and bergamot. After using this duo for a good couple of weeks, I certainly noticed that my hair was less limp, however I can't say that I noticed any added volume, and certainly not the 'extreme' volume that is promised on the bottle. I will however settle for 'less limp' on a daily basis, as every little helps!

The root lifter on the other hand is a product to rave about. You spray a little bit of the product onto partially dried roots, and then continue with your blow-drying as usual. The product is sticky on the hair and you can really feel it making a difference; the effects lasted a couple of hours, and when my hair started to drop and become its usual lifeless self again, I simply scrunched my hair with my hands to get a bit more volume out of it. 

Finally, the thickening creme I did struggle with, as I hate the idea of adding anything to my hair that'll make it look greasy. I have to wash my hair every day to ensure it doesn't get greasy, so added products that may make my hair look wet are something I tend to avoid at all costs. However, in the name of blogging I gave it a go! I have found that rubbing a small amount through my hands and then distributing it evenly through the mid-lengths of my hair is the best way to go in order to avoid the grease monkey look. I didn't get dramatic results with oodles of volume from the thickening creme, but I'd put that down to my wariness to really go to town with it.

You can view the Osmo haircare range online here.


Barry M Sunset Daylight Curing Gel Nails

I have found Barry M as a brand for nail polish to be extremely hit and miss. In terms of their range of colours and dupes for high-end nail products, they're spot on. For quality though, you never quite know what you're going to get, and more often than not I've been left feeling disappointed. Back in the day when their range of colours was fairly limited, the quality of polish was much better. These days however, it seems that Barry M put all their efforts into churning out tens of new releases every couple of months and in doing so compromise on their quality. The gelly polishes in my opinion, are absolutely terrible. I've recently had to throw every single one of them out, despite some being fairly new, as they'd all gone ridiculously gloopy. I can handle gloopy polish, but this was gloopy to the extent I couldn't do anything with it - sort it out Barry!
Despite vowing to save my money for higher-end polishes, curiosity got the better of me when I saw that Barry M had released a range of gel polishes that could be cured using daylight - ACTUAL DAYLIGHT! As a girl who hates faff and will happily just do one hand of polish due to pure laziness, this seemed a very good option! You simply apply a coat of polish and let it dry - I find it's best done in the window so that you've actually got access to sunlight. You repeat with a second coat, and then again with a top coat.
I was actually very pleasantly surprised to get a good five days from the first manicure I did using the daylight curing polish, which I have never experienced from a high street polish. Application was also very quick and easy, as the coats dried nice and quickly. It's best to err on the side of caution though and give each coat a little longer to dry than you expect, to ensure the final result does not smudge. Removal of the polish, fortunately, is fine with standard nail polish remover. These polishes are pretty much the perfect compromise for me, as: A) I am too lazy to persevere with applying gel nails; B) I am too lazy to bother removing gel nails; C) I get bored of having the same gel colour for two weeks; and D) Application is super quick and easy!
Not long after taking these photos and trying out the polishes, I went straight back out and picked up I've Been Pinkin', a beautifully punchy pink which I've been wearing for much of the Summer. I'm looking forward to wearing Fuchsia Generation over the coming Autumn months, and am just hoping that these polishes last a bit longer without turning gloopy. 

You can find Barry M Daylight Curing Gel Nail Polishes online at Barry M, retailing at £4.99 a bottle.