A Few Italian Favorites

By Stefania, Italy Contributor

Born in a Southern Italian region on a clear morning of the Spring Equinox of 21 years ago, she lived your average middle class life there, up until she had to move to Naples at the young age of eight; in such a both infamous and famous city, she spent her adolescence, attending a Scientific High school, wisely and completely disregarding her disposition for words rather than Maths or Physics. After having graduated with flying colours in spite of adversity, with a choice just as sharp as the previous one, she then decided to study Modern Literature at University, granting herself a certain future of precarious, hard to find, low paid–if at all paid–jobs, which, for the sake of being politically correct, are usually referred to as ‘flexible’. Currently, about to graduate only to have at least two more years of classes to go through, writing is one of her few attempts at having a life on the side and keeping her sanity- or what’s left of it, rather.

Roma, Italy

A Few Italian Favorites

All good relationships are based on mutual knowledge and the ones that revolve around make up are no exception; it is exactly for this reason that today I am going to share with you all {or everyone who’s willing to go through my less than linear ramblings, rather} my favourite local beauty products. Keep on reading if you’d like to have a taste of me and Italy both, spending only what was given free to us and yet is the most precious gift of all: time. Without further ado, let the countdown begin!

My very first beauty crush, which actually turned out to be a serious relationship, since it has lasted for years, are Pupa Beauty Kits ($20 to $35.00). When I first became interested in makeup—back in middle school—they were my favourite Christmas gifts. They were colourful with fun shapes (angels, candy bags, Matryoshka dolls), and had an endless array of eyeshadows, glosses, blushes, and powders inside. Today, they’re still fun, creative gifts for anyone just starting out with makeup. The can be a bit of an indulgence for makeup connoisseurs rather than a necessity, but I wanted to mention them as an important item of the Italian market.

Picture every colour and texture you could possibly want in a nail polish and you’ll have the Essence nail polish ($0.99) range. All right, perhaps that was a hyperbole, but it serves to introduce you to one of the loves of my make up life. Small enough to throw in a purse for a weekend away, big enough to last you for a long time! They’re chip free for a week or so with crazy colours as well as office appropriate ones in an array of finishes: cream, metallic, shimmer, glitter. They also have a good, wide brush and come with an affordable price tag. What’s not to adore?

Usually, I am not one for tame things. I like for my metaphorical coffee to be strong, metaphorical heels to be high, and my literal lipgloss to be opaque. As always, there is one exception to the rule, which, in this case, happens to be the Collistar Supergloss (€15,50). They’re similar to your regular lipgloss in a squeeze tube with a slanted applicator and a medium to sheer color pay off; nothing new under the sun, right? Maybe but still I can’t help but stare at my lips every time I wear one of these for the incredible shine, volume, and fullness they provide. They also have amazing lasting power. Be warned though: these may hydrate your lips as much as applying honey would, but they’re almost as thick feeling. Yummy, if you ask me!

Deborah Eye Pencils (€5,90) are large, creamy pencils that can be used on the eye, though I strongly recommend applying a crease-proof eyeshadow base underneath them. The creamy consisistency makes for no tugging on the delicate skin around the eyey and easy blending, but they can crease without a proper base. They are similar in concept and performance to NYX Jumbo Eyeshadow Pencils.

Seasons may change from winter to spring, but my feelings for this mascara are built to last, aere perennius. It’s the Collistar Supermascara Tridimensionale (€21,50), which provides great volume and fullness to the lashes as well as medium length and decent definition. It’s not a product for the faint of heart, as it is really noticeable when applied; the aim here is definitely not a natural makeup look, but if you’re looking for a complete mascara and you have access to the brand, I’d strongly recommend this. No fancy applicator or extravagant formula; just a good, dramatic, and reliable mascara. And that’s no easy task to accomplish, in my book!

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Oh, what’s your opinion about KIKO? They have been opening some stores in my country, and I love their nail polish but haven’t tried anything else.

I’m Italian so I have tried many products kiko.
The most interesting are:
Lip-base primer (better than erase past mac)
Full-coverage concealer (dupe studio finish mac)
Blush 103 (dupe Coralista benefit)
All-over light
Long-Lasting Eyeshadow Stick (like shadow glide-on pencil urban decay)
every Top-coat mascara
brow pencil
every nail polish

also lipsticks and eyeshadow are very interesting 😉

kiko isn’t cruelty free(maybe for some ingredients, i don’t know) but kiko products aren’t tested on animals.

Thank you very much for your help!
I think i’m going to try the brow pencil and the blush, first. I love their nail polishes, they’re fantastic.
And it’s great that they don’t test on animals, it was one of the reasons that made me want to try their products.

A good friend of mine really loves the Long lasting eyeshadow sticks as well, I’m definitely going to have to try those out as soon as possible.

The All over light definitely sounds intriguing as well.

I don’t have a retailer near me, so I have to place orders online and have only got a few items.

So far, I was really impressed with their nailpolish range/quality too; I’m still testing out a few other products from them and I do plan on making a trip to the nearest store to test everything in person as soon as my evil exams will allow me too.

I am from Croatia, and since Croatia is close to Italy, Collistar is available in Croatia. Collistar is comparable to any other high-end brand such as Chanel, Dior, Guerlain … Collistar mascaras, glosses, concealers, powders, foundations, skin care, shampoos, eyeshadows are great but liquid eyeliners are better than any other out there. They just stay on eyes like forever without smudging or fading.

Chanel is my favorite but Collistar is great, but still not well respected.

I feel the same way too- I’ve never been disappointed with any of the products I’ve tried and even the packaging is really chic and high end looking. I really think it should get more respect/be more well known for how good it is.

Ciao Stefania!

Do you use makeup from Kiko? What do you think about it? If you use it, what would you recommend? And do you know if there is any way I can get it internationally? Thanks!



So far, I have tried only a few Kiko products, since there’s no shop close to me. I can say I really love their nailpolishes, as I find both the range and quality to be really good overall, and great for the price.

I’m planning on going to one of their retailers in person as soon as I have the time to test everything in person- since there seems to be quite a lot of interest surrounding Kiko, I think I’ll write a post about it too when I have more in deep experience.

As far as I know, Kiko has stores in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and UK, so if you do live in one of these countries, you should be able to get them or get the products shipped to you through the site. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

LOVE the essence nailpolishes! Good quality, great price and tons of colours… enough to make me a very happy person.
I’ve also tried KIKO and I think the nailpolishes are good, the lip pencils are decent but the eyeshadows are kinda crappy. I haven’t tried any other products from them though.

You tell me about it- I fear I’ll just end up collecting all those Essence nailpolishes someday, even if I do try to limit myself for the sake of my wallet.

Which of their eyeshadows have you tried? The regular ones?

I bought one of the colour spheres, they look like mac mineralize eyeshadows… they’re just a pain to work with, intense fall out (even with a sticky base)plus the colour payoff isn’t that great. I swatched quite a few of the regular eyeshadows on my arm while I was at the store and most of them were quite dry and looked patchy. I’ll definetly buy more of their nailpolishes but I’ll pass on the eyeshadows.

In my vacationsto Italy I had the oportunity to try and buy some KIKO makeup, and I really liked it is very afordable and of good quality spacially their lipsticks I wish I would bought more and also the glitter eyeshados were so cool! And as for Pupa is another good brand with fun qualitty products the only thing that I don’t like is that they put a strong sent to all products even eyeshadows and in Mexico the brand is kind of expensive compared to mac

Pupa products are definitely on the fun and carefree side- I feel like they’ve tried to appeal the teen side of the audience for a very long time and are now trying to prove there’s more to them than that. And is it that expensive, really? They are average priced here, I’d say, definitely not more than MAC. Such a shame…

Wait, no KIKO? I think they have some really awesome products! My latest discovery: the shadows that come in a stick (similar in packaging to MAC shadesticks). Once they dry, which is pretty quickly, they don’t move/budge/crease! And I have pretty oily eyelids so to me it’s pretty amazing. Plus, the colors are beautiful. The nailpolish are also great. I have only 3 but they are opaque and last a long time (with base & top coat they last 2 weeks on me).

A post focused solely on Kiko products as soon as I try enough of them is a given at this point. I’d have never thought it’d be such a popular brand even abroad, you guys are definitely proving me wrong!

I keep hearing such good things about their shadow sticks, I’m so going to try them out. Also, definitely agree on the nailpolishes {the only Kiko products I have tested enough so far}

About the palettes- I think it really depends on which one you go for. I have had a few I absolutely loved {the red heart one, the the moon/sun one, the rectangular LOVE one} and some others with less than thrilling products. As I said, I mostly mentioned because they were my first make up love, are peculiar to our market, fun and creative.

Of course I know Essence isn’t Italian- though I wish it was, to be honest- but German; Christine and I simply agreed I was able to cover European brands as well.

Kiko wise, I haven’t had the chance yet to test enough of their products to talk about the brand – I am going to do it soon, though, as soon as I will have the time to test enough items out properly. I’d rather take my time before giving my opinion, be it negative or positive.

to me every single palette I tried from Pupa was a disappontment… and if you tried a decent cheap palette, like a Sleek one, you will be able to compare them and see why I can’t include them in a list like this one.

I admit I can’t understand why labelling a post as “Italian” brands if you choose to cover European brands instead ^^

I suggest you to try Kiko, Madina, Neve Make Up and Layla at least… those are great Italian brands, you’ll have a lot to think about make up after playing with their products 😀

What? Pupa Kit and Deborah pencil? LoL….the worst Italian cosmetics in this list! In the pupa kits there are only inferior products and Deborah pencils are absolutely not pigmented and write badly. In addition, the Essence is not Italian!
Then I do not understand why you have not mentioned the Kiko, which is really very interesting as the ratio quality – price

I’ve always found the pencils to work well for me, even pigmentation wise, the only trouble I experienced, as I said, was creasing after a number of hours due to their creamy nature, which I fixed wearing a primer underneath- which colours do you have?

Yes, Essence is not Italian, it was agreed I’d be able to write about European brands as well.

And again, about the Pupa kits- it depends on which ones you bought in my opinion. I did also specify they’re among my favourites for their sentimental value, creativity and array.

Kiko isn’t mentioned not to single out low budget brands- as you can see, I did feature Essence- but simply because I couldn’t include here a brand I don’t know much about, due to the fact there’s no store of theirs near me. I will write a post about it as soon as I will gather more info though.

Essence is not Italian, though, ’cause it’s made by Cosnova which is a German company. In fact, at the beginning it was sold only in Schlecker which is a German chain of stores, and it had became popular here in Italy since a year or so.
Deborah’s average quality is not so good, I mean quite good prices but quality’s not the best: Pupa makes better products (but they cost more), even though the Beauty Kits Stefania wrote about are their worst products. I had four or five of them, as they are a very popular Christmas present for young girls. Besides the fact the kits are fancy, but not solid built, the general quality of products inside is lame. But other Pupa products, from eyeshadows to lipsticks, are good and they are improving costantly the line.
Good Italian brands who deserve real attention are the Kiko products, which have became better year after year and which seriously offer a good and cheaper alternative to high end cosmetics (sometimes, also to MAC!); Madina Milano, which products are made by the large cosmetic factory Intercos (they work mainly for US and French brands) and whose prices goes from middle (Madina Revolution Line) to very cheap (you pay 1,5 euro for an eyeshadow refill!). And last but not least, we have two mineral companies, Minerale Puro and Neve Make Up. This last one in particular mix great quality with a lovely packaging and also an eye to trends, and most important thing is also sold in few physical stores. I like them a lot, also because they make seasonal collections and also a little skincare line.

I forgot to mention two brands used mainly by esthetician but which have attracted the regular make-up customers: Cinecittà Make up and Layla, who recently opened a store in Milan. Layla make very good quality products, from glitter eyeliners to a wide range of durable nail varnishes. In the last 18 months they created innovative formulas such as crackle (soon imitated by many brands) and Magnetic nail varnishes. And prices are reasonable (here in Italy OPI nail products cost 15 euro. Layla’s ’round 7).

Indeed it’s not- European games are fair game for me as well. The bit of background history about it is interesting though.

I think both brands -Deborah and Pupa- are trying to improve and emancipate themselves from their past images. I’ve tried a couple new products from Deborah lately {namely their newish nailpolishes} and I was favourably impressed. As far as Pupa is concerned, I wanted to feature them exactly for the reasons I stated- how creative and peculiar they are and how dear to me they are because they’re the first make up items I had. Quality wise, they vary from kit to kit imo- some good to really good {I’ve been trying for a long time to find a dupe for an eyeshadow in one of their palettes, for instance}, others mostly just cute.

Kiko unfortunately I’m not well acquainted with enough to write about them yet, which I plan on fixing as soon as I have the time.

I’ve been intrigued with Neve make up for a while and I’m waiting for a package from them. Anything you’d suggest for future orders?

Frankly, my experience with Layla nailpolishes has been less than thrilling- the ones I have troublesome formulas which just keeps on denting. I’ve looked into their magnetic nailpolish because the trend fascinates me, but ended up getting one from Pupa instead.

Regardless of disagreements, thanks for your insight. It’s also why I wanted to write here too- to compare opinions and find out about new products and points of view. =]

I’m Spanish, and I thoroughly recomend Deborah’s Definitive Volume & Curl mascara. It gives a good amount of volume and curles my lashes very nicely. It doesn’t irritate my eyes, and on me it lasts all day long.

KIKO’s nail polishes are great, very inexpensive but the formula is very covering and it lasts for ages.

I will look into that one when I run out of my Collistar one then, thanks for the suggestion.

And very true- I only have a few and I do plan to try out more colours.

I’m sorry, the article is nice, but -please- that ‘infamous city’ referred to Naples is something I can not stand for. Naples is one of the most beautiful, elegant, luminous city in the world, and is something that make me feel proud of being Italian. Please remove it.


I love this post too, I live in Rome for two and a half months this past spring and this would have helped me out so much as I was really wanting to get my hands on some brands in Italy that we don’t have here. A couple other girls that were in my study abroad class bought Kiko products and loved them, especially the nail polishes and items. They were a reasonable price compared to some of to some of the other drugstore brands we saw in some of the stores. And with the exchange rate were great prices for students on a budget. It was nice to see the Kiko in Rome and in Florence when we traveled. Although I wanted to buy some MAC products over there and I never did find out where the MAC store was in Rome, I did come across it in Florence but never got the chance to stop in.

Another thing that was an issue for us was sunscreen! It was a little difficult trying to decide which sunscreen to buy and it was really expensive, as well as aloe. The heat came down on us pretty hard in April and we got burnt and didn’t know what to buy to sooth our burnt skin beside regular lotion. Thank you so much for this post, I miss Italy like no other so when I saw this picture I was so happy, I miss walking the streets of Rome and Trastevere everyday.

MAC in Rome is in several places… the most important of them is the Pro Store in via del Babuino, it’s 1 minute from Piazza di Spagna. But they also sell MAC in some Coin corners like the one you saw in Florence.

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