NARS is one of those iconic makeup brands beloved by celebrities, beauty experts and makeup amateurs alike. The
Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl is the secret to Taylor Swift’s famous red pout, while the Orgasm Blush has given women a faux post-O glow since 1999. That’s all before we touch on the cult Radiant Creamy Concealer, which has a reputation for making dark circles disappear. Fans include Meghan Markle, Gigi Hadid and Kim Kardashian.
Do these products really stand up to the hype? As a beauty writer, I was intrigued to find out. For one, NARS isn’t the cheapest brand on the market; if you’re spending £33 on a
tinted moisturiser or £31 on bronzer, you want to know for sure that it’s worth it.
I brought together 24 of NARS’ bestsellers and put them to the test. Over several months, they saw me through heatwaves and cold spells, weekends away and trips around the country, all-day weddings and messy nights out. Monitoring everything from lasting power to pigmentation, here’s what I’d recommend.
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This is my favourite NARS product of all. It’s perfect for those days when you want a product lighter than foundation but something that will even out your complexion. The formula is super light and creamy. It’s not as milky in texture compared to my other cult fave tinted moisturiser, Glossier’s Perfecting Skin Tint, £20, but it applies sheer enough not to cover up my freckles and makes my skin look like skin — but better. It lends a really subtle, dewy glow. It’ll be living in my everyday makeup bag for sure.
NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturiser SPF 30/PA+++, $, available at John Lewis
Another lightweight formula, a small amount of this foundation goes a long way — something that took me a few goes to realise. I really like the small pump applicator — you can control the amount of product you’re squeezing out, which is key when you consider the price. Because of its light formula, this sinks into the skin rapidly and so needs to be blended quickly. The first time trying this, I used my fingers, but soon found that the areas I didn’t get to fast enough became patchy. Instead, I ended up using the BeautyBlender Sponge, £17, for an airbrushed effect. I described this to a pal as a “foundation hater’s best friend”. It’s light and breathable enough not to feel like you’re caked in product and can easily be layered on areas that need more coverage (acne-prone chins or redness around the nose). It doesn’t budge all day. Several day trips around London, on and off sweltering, packed Tubes taught me as much.
NARS Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation, $, available at John Lewis
As someone with skin on the drier end of the spectrum, I was really excited to try the Sheer Glow Foundation. Not only does it have a light, sheer and buildable consistency, but it’s also designed to hydrate your skin, protect it from environmental damage and make it radiant. I can confirm it definitely does make skin glow with a natural dewiness that earned me a number of compliments. My only gripe is the bottle design: it has an open screw top, meaning I worry that I’m shaking out too much product every time and wasting precious foundation. For £3 you can buy a Liquid Foundation Pump.
NARS Sheer Glow Foundation, $, available at John Lewis
This is the thickest texture of all NARS foundations. For those with oily skin, I imagine this would be a beauty saviour: it mattifies, balances excess sebum and keeps skin hydrated thanks to hyaluronic acid. Again, this dries quickly, so I found working in sections with a foundation brush best. Rather than blending in the usual circular motions, I’ve learned to stipple it into the skin, patting it out to blend it in fully.
NARS Soft Matte Complete Foundation, $, available at John Lewis
Packed with the kind of ingredients you might find in skincare (redness-reducing oat extract, a Japanese plant called lilyturf that helps strengthen the skin barrier, and peptides, among others), this foundation is supposed to brighten your skin from the inside out. I haven’t used it long enough to say whether it succeeds in that department but it has definitely earned me plenty of compliments, offering an airbrushing, smoothing effect that still looks natural.
John Lewis Light Reflecting Advanced Skincare Foundation, $, available at NARS
The Radiant Creamy Concealer was at the top of my ‘most excited to try’ list. It’s a cult classic and I’ve often seen it touted by fans on social media for its eye-brightening effect. This I can confirm as true — my dark circles were instantly camouflaged and even after a late night out, it made me look well-rested. As the name suggests, the formula is thick and buttery and best lightly patted into the skin with your fingertips. I was worried about the product creasing in the fine lines around my eyes but it stayed put, helped along by a layer of Soft Velvet Pressed Powder, £30. I will admit that during days out I found myself applying a small amount to refresh my face. But I’m still really impressed with its staying and brightening powers.
NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer, $, available at John Lewis
At first, I was dubious about how the Soft Matte Complete Concealer had earned such rave reviews. After applying it with the #11 Soft Matte Complete Concealer Brush, £21, though, I was convinced. A little of this matte cream goes a long way to brighten up eye bags, cover veins and discolouration, and blur fine lines (no product settling again). I didn’t need to reapply this throughout the day and that’s what sets the Soft Matte Concealer above its Radiant Creamy counterpart for me. The brush is also great. The short, packed bristles pick up a lot of product and blend the concealer effortlessly. Both have earned a top spot on this list.
NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer, $, available at John Lewis
This is NARS’ newest concealer and though it looks similar to the Soft Matte Complete, it’s lighter in texture, easier to blend (even with your fingers rather than the brush) and is visibly more illuminating. Ever since receiving, I’ve been reaching for this more — especially over the summer, when I want a lighter touch to my makeup. Top tip: apply to your brow bone and inner corner too for an even brighter, and ‘more awake’ look.
NARS Light Reflecting Eye Brightener, Golden Eye, $, available at John Lewis
Silky soft? Check. Light but buildable without looking cakey or powdery? Yep. Keeps oiliness at bay all day? You bet. This is everything you could want in a face powder. NARS’ ‘photochromic technology’ evens skin tone, blurs imperfections and pores and gives skin a natural luminosity that powders often diminish. For everyday makeup, I’ve enjoyed using just this and one of the concealers, only needing to touch up the powder occasionally after a long day out in the sun. I will note: I think oilier skin tones would benefit from a more mattifying powder ( Fenty Beauty’s Invisimatte Blotting Powder, £24, is an R29 favourite).
NARS Soft Velvet Pressed Powder, $, available at John Lewis
NARS’ Bronzing Powder in Laguna has become so iconic, many people will recognise the name straightaway. I can see why — it’s the perfect golden brown and gave my skin a truly realistic, sun-kissed glow (despite not seeing the sun in months. Cries in Great British Weather). Whichever shade you choose (there’s also the golden sand San Juan, mocha brown Casino and warm, brick-red-brown Punta Cana in the lineup), just know that this bronzer is incredibly pigmented. I made the mistake of loading my brush with too much product the first time. A light dusting and building up colour is the way to go for a naturally bronzed look.
NARS Bronzing Powder, $, available at John Lewis
Like Laguna, NARS’ Orgasm Blush — a peachy pink shade with a subtle golden shimmer — has a fanbase all of its own. So named because it gives that post-O, rosy glow, this is now officially my favourite blush. It’s a super natural-looking touch of colour that takes your beauty look up a notch. I’ve even found myself applying a little of this on no-makeup days, just to look more alive. Like the bronzer, this is very pigmented and you only need a little. I’ve been applying mine with the Yachiyo Brush, £44. Besides being the most expensive makeup brush I’ll probably ever own, it’s incredibly soft and tapered perfectly for applying blush up towards cheekbones for a lifted look.
NARS Blush, $, available at John Lewis
Ever on the hunt for the best highlighter (one that gives skin a truly natural-looking luminosity), I’m a big fan of The Multiple, not only because it’s super smooth, blendable and gives the loveliest, sheer wash of micro-glitter but because it really can be used everywhere. I’ve been swiping this on my cheekbones, the inner corners of my eyes, the centre of my nose, Cupid’s bow, shoulders and collarbones for a pearlised, pink glimmer (I chose the Copacabana shade). It’s an all-in-one product ideal for holiday packing or throwing in your day bag.
NARS The Multiple, $, available at John Lewis
Opening this up is a little odd as it looks less like a face powder and more like a luxe, pressed highlighter. The ‘invisible’ powder is packed tightly with miniature, microfine sparkles. This is NARS’ ‘photochromic technology’ which is designed to lock your makeup in place while making it look better, diffusing light for a seamless, radiant finish. Moisturising glycerin and vitamin E in the formula stop the powder from drying the skin out. After using this, my skin definitely had a noticeable glow and it didn’t feel like I was wearing anything at all. A perfect, lighter choice once summer returns with muggy weather.
NARS Light Reflecting Pressed Setting Powder, $, available at John Lewis
I don’t tend to wear eyeshadow but when I do, it creases. I’ve tried a few eyeshadow primers in my time so I know what I’m looking for: a smooth formula that doesn’t buckle over the top of concealer, keeps makeup locked in place and makes eyeshadow look brighter and more intense. This is really nice to use. It’s a soft, moisturiser-like product that did stop my eyeshadow creasing (I trialled it during an all-day wedding that turned into an all-nighter). The only thing I would change is the packaging. I feel as though I’m not making the most of the product because of its rigid tube applicator. I prefer soft tubes like Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion, £19.50, and NYX’s Pigment Primer, £8, for squeezing out every last drop.
NARS Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Base, $, available at John Lewis
If you buy only one eyeshadow palette this season, I think this should be it. Small and slim enough to slip into a handbag or travel makeup kit, it has every kind of nude shade you could want: three buttery soft mattes for the day, and three shimmering hues for evening looks and highlighting your eyes. The Copper palette — a beautiful mix of champagnes, browns, burnt oranges and rusty tones — is glamour epitomised. As a fan of smoky nude eyes, I’ve been using this for my entire look. Used wet on a thin, angled brush, Broome (the deep, matte brown) also makes for a really nice smoky eyeliner.
NARS Voyageur Eyeshadow Palette (Copper), $, available at Cult Beauty
Powerchrome Loose Eye Pigment, £22
Now this is how you do glitter: a loose microshimmer, densely packed with tiny metallic pieces that feels soft to the touch but blends out into a sheer wash of sparkle. Depending on the kind of look you want to create, you can easily control the shine, whether it’s a pop of glimmer on your inner eye or – as I’ve enjoyed doing for nights out – blending glitter across my collarbones and shoulders. Definitely stick to your fingertips when applying this. The loose formula sticks to skin better than a brush.
NARS Powerchrome Loose Eye Pigment, $, available at NARS
This eyeliner combines the best of both worlds: a gel-like texture in a pencil. It’s easy to control for a precise wing but blendable enough for a smoky look smudged along the lash line. I’ve been wearing mine in a half, slightly extended cat eye and have had no issues with smudging or product wearing away. The colour I chose ( Mambo) is a slightly reddish chocolate brown — far softer than my typical harsh black liner look and it picks out the green in my eyes, too. Alongside the Voyageur Palette in Copper and the Audacious Lipstick in Anita (later in the list), I have myself a gorgeous, soft-glam beauty look.
NARS High-Pigment Longwear Eyeliner, $, available at John Lewis
As a longtime devotee of NYX Professional Makeup Epic Ink Eye Liner — ever since 16-year-old me discovered how to do a cat eye and make it her signature look forever — it takes a lot to sway me in the eyeliner game. NARS comes close. Climax Liquid Eyeliner is really nice to use: it’s a thicker pen to hold but with a tapered brush that’s easy to manoeuvre into thin flicks. Plus, my wings lasted all day. However, when you compare the prices — NARS’ £24.50 to NYX’s £9 — there’s no competition.
NARS Climax Liquid Eyeliner, $, available at John Lewis
After getting used to the slim brush on Glossier’s Lash Slick, £14, the chunky brush on NARS’ Climax Mascara took a while to feel confident with. The formula is deeper and more pigmented than many other mascaras I’ve used, and it definitely amps up the volume clump-free. But it doesn’t do too much in the lengthening department. On a night out when I would usually opt for false lashes, this took away the fuss. I applied it to my lower lashes, too, but after just a few hours it had smudged. From now on, I might pull this out to boost my upper lashes for a special event (probably alongside a lengthening mascara) but day to day, I’ll be sticking to my trusty Lash Slick.
NARS Climax Mascara (Full Size), $, available at John Lewis
As a brow gel devotee ( benefit’s Gimme Brow+, £19.13, if you were wondering), it takes a lot to sway me from my usual brow routine. NARS’ Brow Perfector has done it, though. It’s a velvety, easy-to-use eye pencil and the spoolie brush helps me achieve the light, fluffy brow look I like. The very thin nib allows for drawing natural, hairlike strokes. I also love that the Brow Perfector is available in warm or cool shades, meaning that you can match the most natural-looking shade based on your hair colour. Another buy-again product.
NARS Brow Perfector, $, available at John Lewis
I don’t ever really use lip liner. I’m probably breaking the sacred makeup covenant or something but I am also incredibly lazy. However, I might just start. The colour payoff of this is great. It glides onto the skin really smoothly and without snagging and is easy to control. Trying this out (in the shade Mariachi, a deep brick red, with the Lipstick in Shanghai Express, £22) I have to say that my lips looked better, more crisp and precise. My lipstick didn’t bleed and lasted much longer.
NARS Precision Lip Liner, $, available at John Lewis
The Audacious Lipstick glides on and the pigment is intense. It lends lips an opaque dose of colour and though it’s moisturising, it dries down to a semi-matte or satin-like finish that lasts and doesn’t feel drying. Anita (the dusky pink shade I opted for) is a really nice, everyday choice.
NARS Audacious Lipstick, Anita, $, available at John Lewis
I love lipsticks that are so comfortable, you don’t feel as though you’re wearing anything. The Air Matte Lip Colour is perfect for this. It applies as a whipped liquid that quickly dries down and the result is a bold lip that doesn’t budge. I’ve found that I like tapping the product into my lips for a hazy, stained look. The key is to wipe off the excess product on the top of the bottle before applying. It’s also better to build up the intensity by layering. A touch of balm would not go amiss afterwards, as this did dry out my lips a little.
NARS Air Matte Lip Colour, $, available at John Lewis
As a Taylor Swift obsessive, I first bought the Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl way back in 2016 when I learned that it was her secret to perfect red lips. At the time, I was a broke student who had no place shelling out £22 on lipstick but it’s been my most complimented makeup look ever since. Packaged as a chubby lip pencil, it’s far easier to apply than some bullet lipsticks. It glides on smoothly and the finish is matte but moisturising. I do find it a little drying, though, so apply a layer of Glossier Balm Dotcom in Rose, £10, for extra hydration. Before buying, ensure you have a sharpener big enough to fit a pencil this chunky (like this one from NARS for £9).
NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil, $, available at John Lewis
I really wanted to love this one. On paper, it’s perfect: soft, matte, creamy, blendable and intense colour-wise. However, not too long after applying, it settled around the edges of my mouth, leaving an odd sort of gap in the middle. This has happened each time I’ve tried it. Rather than using it as a lipstick, I’ve been mixing it on my hand with a clear lip balm to achieve a lip tint.
NARS Powermatte Lipstick, $, available at John Lewis
Lip Gloss, Belize, £20
The colour of this gloss is gorgeous: pink mauve packed with flecks of gold for a more natural, reflective shine. It’s thick and feels really moisturising but isn’t sticky. I find that the doe foot applicator is a bit too hard and small, though. I like Fenty Beauty’s Gloss Bomb Universal Lip Luminizer, £17, for quick application on the go.
NARS Lip Gloss, $, available at NARS
The Afterglow Lip Balm in Dolce Vita is a really lovely colour: a sheer veil of dusky pink that achieves that covetable no-makeup makeup look and lends lips a glossy shine that isn’t tacky to the touch. It’s pricy for a lip balm, though. If you’re on a budget, I’d recommend Honest Beauty’s Tinted Lip Balm, £10 or Glossier’s Ultralip, £18. If it’s just a moisture boost you’re after, I would stick to a simple lip balm ( BIOSSANCE’s Squalane + Rose Vegan Lip Balm, £12, and Weleda’s Skin Food Lip Balm, £7.75, are R29 favourites).
NARS Afterglow Lip Balm, $, available at John Lewis
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