What do you buy a beauty junkie who has everything? Answer: It's a trick question, they always need more. Luckily, one of our favourite high street make-up brands Sleek have a Christmas gift set to suit all budgets this year - all available at Boots - and we were lucky enough to try some of them out.
First of all we tested The Creator Kit; a set of six brushes for £20 including four face brushes and two eye brushes. I've always maintained that brushes are the most crucial part of any make-up kit, but unfortunately decent affordable brushes are hard to come by. I've generally found that it's not worth being stingy when it comes to buying brushes, largely because they can often be coarse and have an annoying habit of moulting. There is nothing worse than having to pluck stray bristles off your foundation-covered face or perfectly shadowed lids with tweezers, only to miss a few and have them tickle your face all day long.
So first thing's first: The Pluck Test. With every brush I buy, I gently tug at the bristles to see if any easily slide out. I wasn't able to pluck any bristles out of these brushes so top marks for a diligent gluing process. They were also remarkably soft and the face brushes worked as well as any I've tried in the past. Unfortunately, the eyeshadow brushes fell short of my standards. The bristles were too rigid and densely packed to pick up eyeshadow well and they were actually quite uncomfortable to brush along the eyelid because they simply weren't fluffy enough. Still, four out of six ain't bad.
On to the Amp Up The Glow highlighter kit at £18. My eyes were instantly drawn to the Lightspeed highlighting palette; four glorious shades that will instantly level up your make-up game. These are all-year-round colours and probably all you'll ever need for most looks. There's also the Highlighting Elixir Illuminating Drops in Poppin' Bottles; this is for face and body because Christmas is a time to be sparkly from head to toe. It's non-sticky and nicely buildable, which means you've got the option of going subtle or all out glow queen.
The Loose Pigment in Trance is a warm coppery gold tone that looks great on its own for uber glitzy eyes or as a topper for your highlight shade and in the centre of the lid for a more intense glow. Trance is a very versatile shade and if you want to gift it to a special person this Christmas, it comes packaged on its own as the Layer Up Bauble which you can hang on the Christmas tree for just £5.
Another Loose Pigment is featured in the Get The Look: Metallic Eyes set which, at £16, also contains the Black Uptopia Volumising Mascara and the i-Art Precision Liquid Eye Colour in Fauvism. Dazed is a slightly pinker take on the Trance pigment and is much subtler. The Liquid Eye Colour is bolder and very pigmented, but if you've never been a fan of liquid shadow, it's probably not going to convert you. It stays on well enough but doesn't dry super quick so you need to wait a little while to apply eyeliner or risk smudging your look. Personally, I don't have the time to wait for my eyelids to dry, but the colour is admittedly stunning.
The mascara, I have to say, was a pleasant surprise. When it comes to lashes, I'm a single layer kind of woman and I never wear falsies. Naturally I'm brand loyal, but I nonetheless thought it would be a good idea to compare Black Utopia to my usual pick - and it's safe to say I was instantly converted. At first, I was smug that the first layer wasn't blowing me away, but I relented to going against my usual routine and applied a second coat (something I never normally do because a have a phobia of spidery lashes). That's the moment my smug smile was wiped off my face. There were no clumps on the lashes at all and they were in the best shape they've been in years. Maybe bristle brushes really are better than silicone ones despite my adamant insistences on the contrary over the years.
The mascara was also included in the £12.50 Amp Up My Eye set alongside the i-Divine Eyeshadow Palette in 3AM. While this actually looks like the palette of my dreams (brown and burgundy tones are my favourites, and I love a mixture of mattes and shimmers), the colours strangely aren't as well pigmented as some of the other i-Divine palettes I've tried. This isn't too much of a problem though, they just require a little more time and patience to apply.
Finally, the Switch Up Your Lip set (£6) contained three fabulous Matte Me Lip Creams in two matte shades (Shabby Chic and Velvet Slipper), and one metallic shade (Electroplated Nude). As a long time Sleek liquid lipstick fan, I can't fault these at all. The dark and rich Velvet Slipper is already a beloved part of my collection and Shabby Chic is the kind of colour that goes with any make-up look because it's such a solid nude shade. It has to be said though, I only ever wear matte lipsticks so I was a little hesitant about Electroplated Nude. I needn't have been though; I loved the sparkle and the sparkle loved me.
Sleek represents that there is still competition between the high street and the high end when it comes to beauty. They are an example of why, even though most of us might prefer a high end product, we will never be able to totally dismiss affordable brands. You'd be a fool not to opt for Sleek dupes of your favourite designer lip colour when the quality is second to none at a fraction of the price.