After years of struggling to find base products that suited her skin tone, senior beauty writer Hanna Ibraheem came across Sleek Makeup in her 20s – a brand that properly introduced her to the world of cosmetics and one she still uses years later.
You may have experienced it before, too. After spending the week excitedly making plans with your friends, you all travel into your local high street for a Saturday at the shops. You stroll past the expensive department stores your teenage budget can’t stretch to and, instead, target your local Boots or Superdrug to stock up on some make-up – and that’s when it happens.
Some friends, who have fairer skin than you, pick up products and testers without a second thought while the rest of you quickly realise your options are limited because said products aren’t made for your skin tones.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a “nude” lipstick that makes it look like I’ve smothered my lips with concealer because it wasn’t dark enough. Or, how many pink blushers I bought that barely showed up when I applied them to my skin or didn’t look good against my yellow undertones. But still, in a bid to avoid… well, embarrassment, I guess, I spent my pocket money on products I couldn’t really use.
While make-up brands opened up its shade ranges (albeit, very slowly), base products were still difficult to find without spending a lot of money in Selfridges. But then, when I approached my mid-20s, I came across Sleek Makeup and that all changed.
At the time, contouring was blowing up as the biggest beauty trend but so many palettes gave a slightly muddy-looking finish. But sitting on the shelves of Boots was its (now bestselling) Face Contour Kit, £6.99, a duo powder compact with a rich contour shade on one side and a shimmer highlighter on the other. I picked up the shade Dark, went home and, for the first time, nailed a pretty good contour.
It was the start of a committed relationship and I began exploring the rest of the brand’s offering.
When Sleek launched in 1985 in east London, it was on a mission to serve women of colour who were under represented in the cosmetics industry. As well as ensuring its formulas were highly pigmented and suitable for all skin tones, its inclusive products were – and still are – priced affordably, too.
Discovering the brand felt like a huge relief. Every YouTuber at the time raved about the same products, particularly one concealer that didn’t have an extensive shade range (though, they have finally extended it in the last few years).
Sleek Lifeproof 12 Hour Wear Kohl Eyeliner
Sleek Matte Me Ultra Matte Lipstick
Then, there’s the eyeshadow palettes. I’ve already spoken about the inclusivity problem across many eyeshadow palettes but Sleek really pays attention to delivering pigmented formulas that show up on skin tones without single dud shade in sight – and they’re among some of the best I’ve used. Just look at its i-Divine Palette in Royal Flush, £6.66.
Sleek i-Divine Palette in Royal Flush
Over the years, Sleek has become a cult brand itself, with a huge community who turn to it for high quality at low price points. Its products are only improving, too. I can rummage through its shelves and pick up a new product without wondering if it has a shade that caters to me.
And I’ll always credit it as one of the first brands to open the doors for me and allow me to truly explore beauty products in my 20s.
Keen to get in on the action? Here, we round up its current bestsellers.
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Bestselling Sleek products
Sleek Micro-Fine Brow Pencil
The brand’s number one selling product from the last year, this brow pencil has an ultra-thin tip to create hair-like strokes. Its most popular shade is Dark Brown.
Sleek Highlighting Palette in Cleopatra’s Kiss
This multi-use palette is a brand seller. It contains two baked powders and two cream formulas that are all incredibly pigmented for a glowing finish.
Sleek Matte Me Ultra Matte Lipstick
“If you towered up all of the Sleek Matte Me Lipsticks sold in Boots in the last year, it would be equal to nine times the height of the Empire State Building,” Sleek tells us. “Two of those alone would be cult-favourite shade Birthday Suit.”
Sleek Highlighting Palette in Solstice
This bestselling palette comes in the same formulas as Cleopatra’s Kiss but its shades include a pink and purple.
Sleek Cream Contour Kit
“If you laid out all of the Sleek Cream Contour Kits bought from Boots in the last year, it would be as long as 22 average-sized football pitches,” Sleek tell us.
Main image: Sleek