Throughout all of his extensive international travels, Founder and Creative Director François Nars has always found Japanese culture to be a great source of inspiration, specifically the concept of Kabuki makeup. Years ago, after traveling to Japan, François brought back a small, porcelain pot with a red film of color– Kabuki makeup for the lips.
Debuting this holiday season after years of development is the NARS Bento Box Set – a limited edition set of two Kabuki cups that were hand-poured with a new exclusive-to-NARS lipstick formula in highly pigmented shades containing Vitamin E. Housed in a handmade bento box, the set also comes with a Kabuki lip brush, designed for precise application by dipping the brush into the cup and blending until desired coverage is achieved.
Fusing two inspirations together, François chose Daphne Guinness to once again be the face of NARS with her evocative portrayal of classic theatrical Kabuki makeup.
Only one thousand sets were created for sale in the United States and will retail for $125, and just over two thousand in total were created worldwide.
Availability: November 1st, 2010, but there is a notification list available at NARS.
In this price range, lipsticks tend to be more pigmented, have less synthetic scents, and wear an average of four hours. I’m not typically disappointed beyond belief with a lipstick formula in this price range. Brands from MAC to NARS to Smashbox fall into this price tier, while designer brands like Chanel, Dior, and YSL are in the next tier. There are really SO many brands and formulas to choose from in this category that I had to split this post into two parts!
PROS: Ridiculously large shade range, variety of finishes, wears from 3 to 6 hours (depends on finish/shade)
NEUTRAL: 0.10 oz., Depending on finish, shades range from sheer to opaque; similarly, more matte shades are drier while lustre shades are more moisturizing, vanilla-scented
CONS: If you’re not familiar with the MAC range and finishes, it can be overwhelming and difficult to choose the right shade; not all shades are great or consistent against other shades within a finish family
MY REC: I like MAC lipsticks quite a bit. I think they have some incredibly flattering shades as well as fun colors in their permanent line, but without having some MAC product knowledge, I can imagine it being daunting trying to figure out which shade is opaque, which is sheer, what finish might be best, and so on. There is a lot of variance between shades and even within finishes. Lustres and glazes tend to be sheerer, while amplified cremes and satins are creamier and more opaque. Mattes are on the drier side with some being exceptionally so (Ruby Woo, I’m talking to you).
PROS: Long-wearing (4 to 6 hours on average), moisturizing, creamy, good shade range
NEUTRAL: 0.12 oz., scent-free, some really sheer shades while others are opaque
CONS: Can smell waxy, lighter/sheerer shades fade in 1 to 3 hours
MY REC: Though NARS’ lipsticks are unscented, sometimes the waxiness of the lipstick itself comes through, and it’s not so pleasant. It’s a more moisturizing lipstick than your average lipstick, though if you have ultra dry lips, you may still want to prep lips with some balm. I’ve also found that their sheerer or lighter shades don’t last nearly as long as their medium to dark shades.
PROS: Creamy, glossy, moisturizing, semi-opaque to opaque colors, wears 3 to 4 hours
NEUTRAL: 0.12 oz., vanilla-scented
CONS: Limited shade range
MY REC: It’s a shame that Smashbox doesn’t expand their lipstick range, because I’ve liked several of the ones I’ve tried from it–but there just aren’t many colors available. These are moisturizing with a glossy finish and creamy texture. Similar to Laura Mercier Stick Gloss and Korres Mango Butters.
NEUTRAL: 0.13 oz., burnt sugar scent (“caramel” or “creme brulee”)
CONS: Sheer to opaque variances make it difficult to buy online or sight unseen, sometimes has an off-taste
MY REC: I know that one of the biggest drawbacks to Urban Decay is inconsistency in the scent and taste of their lipsticks. The more shimmery shades seem to have a stronger averse taste than creamier shades. I don’t notice the scent when I wear them, so it’s not a deal breaker for me.
The Lipstick Comparisons series is designed to provide a quick reference summary sheet for some of the many available lipstick formulas. It seems like most brands have at least a couple of formulas, if not half a dozen, and it can be difficult to find the formulas that will work best for your budget, coloring, style, or taste.
This is not necessarily a best of list, and it’s not exhaustive–it is based on actual lipsticks that I’ve tried; they are all, however, decent to excellent lipsticks. (And perhaps, some day, it will be an exhaustive list.) I have summarized my experience based on pros and cons, but also some “neutral” factors that may be pros or cons, depending on your preferences. I will update this series as I try new lipstick formulas.
King Kong, Mash, Zulu, Midnight Express, Full Metal Jacket
NARS Vintage Nail Polishes see the re-release of five coveted NARS shades. As of late last night, Zulu was back in stock, actually, though it was sold out for a time. These are all limited edition, and each shade retails for $16.
King Kong is a orange-toned molten copper bronze with copper shimmer threaded through the base color. This was the most pigmented shade out of the five; I used two coats. This applied evenly and smoothly, and it didn’t show brushstrokes too much for a metallic finish.
Mash is a darkened olive green base with green and gold shimmer that warm it up. This was my favorite color out of the bunch. You’ll definitely need three coats, and some brushstrokes ended up showing for me, so be patient.
Zulu is a deep, dark blackened green jelly. It’s very inky and solid and virtually black in low lighting. In the sunlight, the green of its base is more apparent. You’ll need at least three coats, if not four, to get full, opaque color. I’d also recommend slightly thicker coats, because those thinner coats seem to cause some streaking.
Midnight Express is a deep, dark blackened navy. Just like Zulu, this shade is mostly black in low light and brightens up to its bluer form in sunlight. I did three coats, but you may find four better. The application for this shade was exactly the same as Zulu for me.
Full Metal Jacket is a bluish silvered gray with silver shimmer. It is the most metallic of the five, and it is incredibly prone to showing brushstrokes. Patience is key with these kinds of metallics–you want to minimize the pressure and the number of times you brush the polish on the nails. Three coats.
The application issues make me wary of recommending these. Part of me wants to tell you to scoop up any shades that catch your eye before they’re sold out or gone for good, but the other part of me just wants to say, well, they don’t seem super-freaking-awesome as some shades have been hyped up to be. (Zulu, I’m looking at you!) It can be fun own a piece of history, as it were, though, and with some patience and a steady hand, all of these shades are workable. Mash and King Kong were good, while the rest were decent, so they kind of balance out. What also saves these polishes is that they’re not easy to dupe, which makes them even more covetable.
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Ease of Use: 3/5
RECOMMENDATION: If you don’t normally purchase $16 nail polish, these might not be the best ones to go for first. They’re not as easy to apply as your average nail polish. Also, if you can’t be fussed to be careful and wait between coats, you’ll probably have a poor experience with these.
Introducing the NARS Vintage Nail Polish Collection! Five shades, resurrected by popular demand, with NARS’ signature longwearing formula. Imparting an initial high gloss luster that is water and detergent resistant, these vintage polishes are being brought out from the archives for a limited time. With classic cinema as their common theme, below are the shades (with original launch dates), their descriptions and the movies that inspired them.
Mash (1996) Army green infused with gold
King Kong (1996) Copper brown infused with gold
Midnight Express (1996) Deep navy
Zulu (1996) Forest green
Full Metal Jacket (1998) Gunmetal grey
Availability: October 1st at narscosmetics.com, all shades are limited edition and retail for $16 each.
Back in July, I first tried out NARS Palladium Soft Touch Shadow Pencil ($24.00 for 0.14 oz.) in this look, and I really LOVED how everything came together, but of course, it was only a matter of time–fifteen minutes in fact–that this was creasing and melting into an eyeshadow catastrophe.
I was actually rather frustrated with it creasing so quickly, but I was angry with the product itself. Why? Because it was BEAUTIFUL! Palladium is a gorgeous shimmering aqua-teal with flashes of aqua-blue glitter strewn through. It even applied very smoothly to the lid, despite its grittier texture (from the glitter). I don’t like to be made to look like a fool, because I gave Aigle Noir a rather positive review (B, and while it creased without shadow on top, I had no issues using it underneath eyeshadow) [editor's note: revised grade to D- due to brand's marketing claims], and this shade creases like nothing else–alone, with shadow, over a base!
The only use I found for this product was as an eyeliner. Surprisingly, the staying power is ten-fold better on my lower lash line (I didn’t try it on the upper lash line), though it won’t last through twelve hours ofhumidity by any means. It stayed put for three to four hours before migrating and fading a bit, but it didn’t look terrible at the end of the day. However, since it’s such a thick pencil, it’s not very convenient to use it along the lower lash line, and the glittery bits mean it is rougher against the area, too.
Have you ever had a beauty product really anger you?
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NARS Angelique Lip Treament ($25.00 for 0.06 oz.) is an ultra sheer neutral rose that almost leans coral–it just brightens up my natural lip color a bit. It has a glossier finish than your average lipstick, but it feels very lightweight and is moisturizing if you have healthier lips. It’s not overly creamy, bit it glides on lips easily and doesn’t feel like you’re wearing enough, but this also means that it’s just as easy to over-apply the product. (And trust me, with the amount you get, you don’t want to do that.) It doesn’t keep my lips moisturized all day though, and I do find myself needing to reapply every three to four hours. It also carries a rating of SPF 15 (titanium dioxide).
So, this is a situation where I’m really bothered by the product’s price/quantity ratio. I’m willing to give all products a fair shake, and I recognize that there are brands at different price points with some brands trying to be more accessible and others remaining at arm’s length and obviously in the luxury category. I expect pricing to be in line with the brand’s image, similar products, etc., and I expect quantity to be around the average for that brand and/or direct competitors.
I don’t understand why NARS’ Lip Treatments are $25 (which is $1 more than their lipsticks and glosses) and HALF the size. This is not a product that packs a ton of pigment in a single swipe so you can put it up to using less, or it’s full of innovative, never-before-seen ingredients/technology. This is a product I’d easily use 3-4 times a day: two weeks of usage and it’s already over half gone.
And so many thought Fresh was a splurge at $22.50 (but for 0.15 oz.)… Dior (which tends to be pricier than NARS) has their Lip Glow ($28.00 for 0.12 oz.), Fusion Beauty has LipFusion Balm Lip Conditioning Stick ($22.00 for 0.17 oz.), and so on. If you want to go NARS, I’d suggest one of their lipsticks instead, which are quite moisturizing as far as lipsticks go (on average) with some colors on the sheer side, others more semi-opaque, but at least you’ll get twice as much product.
If you want to know more about how products are evaluated, read out Rating System FAQ!
Ease of Use: 4/5
RECOMMENDATION: I would pass, because they’re just way too pricey for what you get. There are plenty of other more moisturizing tinted lip balms (that come in stick-form) with twice as much product for about the same price. If NARS was just a little below the average, it wouldn’t be so bad, but they’re half as much and the size is half as much as their own lipsticks (which are fairly moisturizing!). If you have dry or peeling lips, this won’t be enough.