The ardent beauty lover will no doubt have paid heed to the steady infiltration of Italian makeup favourite KIKO into UK beauty cabinets, shopping centres, and blog-posts during the past year. Since my first foray into the brand last summer, when their Regent Street store was the only UK outpost, seven more locations have since opened, bringing KIKO's charmingly chic and affordable products that little bit closer to the masses. Whilst Manchester remains as yet KIKO-less [Leeds is the only northern store], I was both excited and [I have to admit] a little dismayed to learn that a store has recently opened up in Oxford [where until last May I was resident for three years]. So to any Oxford gals reading this, get down to Cornmarket ASAP. What I love most about KIKO's stores is that you can browse to your hearts content, and without feeling obligated to purchase [swatching eyeshadows up to your elbow without a sales assistant breathing down your back is so underrated].

Price-wise KIKO are undeniably budget, a firm rival to the age-old brands we [and our mothers and grandmothers] grew up throwing our pocket money at. But quality-wise? I think the brands which really need to be keeping a competitive eye on KIKO are the likes of MAC, Illamasqua, Benefit, and Bobbi Brown; mid-priced luxury beauty brands which place emphasis upon quality, colour, and creativity. A first glance at KIKO's packaging and a visit to any one of their stores will have you instantly striking up comparisons with MAC [think : sleek black interiors, loud music, teens mobbing the lipstick stand, and MUA's armed to the teeth with blending brushes]. The likeness goes beyond the aesthetic, for despite the low price point, KIKO more than matches up in providing high-quality professional products, and yes, some darn good eyeshadows.

Radiant Touch Creamy Stick Highlighter in Gold* slightly less pigmented and marginally cooler version of Benefit's Watt's Up highlighter. It's ever so soft and creamy, and is the perfect size and shape to apply to the cheekbones and bridge of the nose. It glides effortlessly onto the skin, depositing a sheen of golden goodness which can easily be blended out for a more natural glow, and lasts all day long.

Skin Tone Corrector Primer in Green* There's something bizarre yet fun about applying green goo to your face; especially when really your aim is a flawless complexion and a bona fide glow-factor. As bizarre as it sounds, this alien hue soon fades, leaving any redness noticeably faded. I love using this on days when I'm opting for a light foundation or tinted moisturiser, so need something to give a little helping hand in cancelling out the blemish marks which plague my cheeks.

Mixing Solution* Wow wow wow, this unassuming bottle is without a doubt the unexpected hero of this selection. Mixed with a loose pigment or a dual-intensity style eyeshadow this effortlessly turns any inevitably disastrous attempts at a glittered lid into a work of art. Even the novice would be hard-pressed to mess up with this bottle in their artillery. A few drops is all that's required to apply a flawless layer of shadow to your lid - not a crease or clump in sight.

Water Eyeshadow in Sepia* It took me a long while to summon up the courage to dip my brush into this work of art [it looks almost edible?]. Sadly I was not as impressed as I was hoping to be. It's a gorgeous shade for certain, and works best when used with the above, but otherwise has a sadly gritty/sticky texture which renders it near impossible to use as a regular shadow.

Pigment Loose Shadow in Nude Beige* I had high hopes for this being a spot-on match for MAC's loose pigments, but sadly it's one of the few products in this selection which doesn't quite live up to the dupe. Its consistency is a little thicker, with a lot less shimmer, and is considerably harder to blend. Comparisons aside, it is a lovely product, and does look really pretty when blended lightly across the lid [there's a lot of fallout however so an eye primer is essential].

Eye Base Primer* Speaking of which! This is one of KIKO's bestsellers for a reason; just a tiny drop provides a smooth matte base and dries instantly, without leaving a trace of tackiness upon the lid. It locks even the loosest of pigments in place and will keep your glitter masterpieces intact all night long. Your excuse to go crazy with the shimmer.

Nail Lacquer in Tattoo Rose* Rumour has it these shades are loosely based upon Chanel's colour range. Ordering online, it was difficult to make any comparisons but I opted for this warm muted-rose. It's a really pretty shade [very true to that depicted on the website, which always helps] and is surprisingly pigmented for what is probably the cheapest nail polish I've bought in 5 years [blame the arrival of Essie in Boots].

Eyebrow Brush* As far as eyebrow brushes go this one is everything you could possible require. The bristles are firm but not too stiff, and do a surprisingly good job of combing brow hairs upwards or into place. The avid eyebrow connoisseur will find the angled end much appreciated.

Infinity Eyeshadow in Metallic Rose, Metallic Copper, and Satin Ebony* Okay here are the dupes to trump all dupes. I can't speak for just how well certain shades match up, but consistency-wise these high-pigment shadows are every bit as good as MAC's, and have one of the loveliest formulas I have ever used. Quite simply, they're foolproof. Providing you're armed with a decent brush [or two] blending will be effortless, and the finished look a work of art. Thanks to KIKO, gone are the days when creating a custom eyeshadow palette would cost you a small fortune. It's time to go wild, get creative, and play.

Long Lasting Stick Eyeshadow in Rosy Brown* and Golden Brown The grande finale; if you add just one item from this edit to your wishlist, let it be these. Without a doubt the best eyeshadow pencils I've ever used [the consistency, pay-off, and longevity surpasses even those of Laura Mercier's, Nars', and Charlotte Tilbury's offerings]. Whether concentrated across the lid, used to line the lower lashline, or blended out for an ombre-effect smokey eye, the effect is quite simply, dazzling.

What are your KIKO favourites?


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