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NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil Review, Photos, Swatches

NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil
NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil

NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil

NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil ($24.00 for 0.09 oz.) is described as a “shimmering plum.” It’s a dark burgundy plum with softer plum shimmer. Bare Escentuals Passion is slightly redder, less frosted. Le Metier de Beaute Fig is very similar, perhaps a little warmer. Guerlain Boulevard de Montparnasse is plummier. Tarina Tarantino Fantastical is purpler.

I have to emphasize how NARS markets the formula: “easy, portable, long-wearing application,” “functionality to shade the lid, line, or highlight the eye,” “an ideal base for layering with a powder shadow for increased color intensity,” “smooth, creamy, long-wearing formula.” Then, from the press release for this collection and specific shade, “This versatile, shimmering plum Soft Touch Shadow Pencil is the ideal complement for color on lids. Named for the region south of Naples, at the “toe” of the Italian Peninsula—it can be worn solo, as a base for powder shadows, or as a liner.”

The reason why this pencil can’t make it past five minutes (let alone an hour) without creasing is that it never dries down. It remains glossy and creamy for as long as I wear it–after three hours, I removed it and tried using it as a base with powder eyeshadows over it, but it creased horribly after an hour. The areas where the product has creased and accumulated are very slick, while the color on the lid will transfer onto my finger even with the slightest tough. There’s always a fine line between too quick and too slow when it comes to a cream eyeshadow/base product, but this one takes “too slow” to new lengths. I used it as an eyeliner and set it with eyeshadow, but it was entirely smudged after two hours and I had to remove it. The consistency is very, very creamy, which means it doesn’t tug or pull on the lid or lash line when it’s used, but it has a tendency to apply unevenly as it slides around the lid.

I am often asked why do I keep reviewing this formula only to give it a bad rating:  would (or should) I stop reviewing new shades of a good product? I don’t think so.  My policy is to review as many products as I can, whether or not they are good, bad, or just so-so.  Aside from the idea that all shades are individual and may perform better/worse than other shades in the same formula, there’s still value in reviewing a product, even if it’s consistently good or bad.  There’s opportunity to confirm that it is or isn’t consistent, how it may differ, the color, better alternatives on the market, and the like.  I wouldn’t seek this product out, but if NARS keeps making them and sending them to Temptalia for review, I’ll keep letting you know how they perform.

If you’ve been able to work these, I’d love to hear your thoughts! A review is always bolstered by reader comments – shared experience is what creates a fuller picture of how a product does and doesn’t perform.

NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil
NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil

NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil
NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil

NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil
NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil

NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil
NARS Calabria Soft Touch Shadow Pencil (2 Minutes, 10 Minutes, 1 Hour)


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Carrie Avatar

When I saw the link on Twitter I wondered with morbid curiosity if it’d be another fail – and it was. It just boggles my mind that a company as good as NARS just can’t quite manage to figure this stuff out! Shame too, it’s a lovely color!

Chynna Avatar

Or suck it up and reformulate. I wonder what results their MU artists are getting with these. Do they only do 10 minute wear tests? I don’t get it.

alisha Avatar

it’s best if you apply this product in layers, or use it as a base (blended out) for an eye shadow. slapping it on like that will cause creasing, not because it’s a bad product, but because you’re not applying it properly.

Christine Avatar

Hi Alisha,

I can’t get it to apply in layers because it never dries down – so if you go back to add more product, all it does it slide what you already applied around, making it appear even more uneven. I’ve also used it as a base for an eyeshadow (also mentioned this in the review) as you suggested – it creased after an hour. NARS says it can be used alone or as an eyeshadow base, so I’m not sure how I’m doing it wrong 🙂 I’ve tried this product by itself, as a base (with powder eyeshadow on top), over a primer, and as an eyeliner.

... Avatar

LOL at people saying youre applying it wrong. You’re Christine from Temptalia I think you know how to test out, apply etc products :’)
Honesly don’t understand why they’re still making this product or not reformulating them atleast!

Abra Avatar

‘You’re Christine from Temptalia’

And still very much a human being, not some supernatural creature, so it’s quite possible that she is making a mistake and someone was pointing that out to her.

Christine Avatar

I’m happy she pointed it out – except that I had already tried to do the things she suggested, which I did make sure to mention in the review 🙂 I’m well-aware that I’m not a supernatural creature. I’m not sure what I did to offend you, as I merely responded to her comment explaining what I already did based on what she suggested.

Abra Avatar

Sorry for the confusion, you didn’t offend me at all, nor does this review. My comment was in reply to the one from ‘…’ who acted like it was impossible for you to have made an error because you run a beauty blog.

Donna Avatar

That isn’t what she was saying anyway. Christine has reviewed a bajillion eye pencils, creme shadows, bases, etc. If anyone can make this work it’s her. This isn’t just any beauty blog, she’s been doing this for years. I’m 48 and have been wearing makeup since I was 14 and yet, I come to Christine to show me better ways of using products. She knows what she is doing for heaven’s sake!

Sharlie Gugel Avatar

It shouldnt take hour after hour to find “The Method” of using these. The mere fact that its a shadow pencil means that it’s should be easier, not harder, in my opinion. Thank you for saving me on these!!

Ann Avatar

Agreed! A product should not have to come with an instruction manual. It should work whether it is for a novice or an expert. I’m ‘late’ getting to the beauty game (only a couple of years now) and I would have quit if this would have been one of my first products!

Dizzy Avatar

As a person who has had one of these sticks for a few months and even applied sheerly it slips, slides and creases, it’s truly a mediocre product and I can back up Christine on this.

The NYX sticks are even better and stay on far longer for me. The NARS ones, even used in different ways, is essentially too slick and watery for its own good. The formula needs to be a little drier for it to be remotely worth it.

Quinctia Avatar

But you can slap on an UD pencil like that and it will stay. Heck, if I prime first, I can slap on a $4 Nyx pencil and it will stay. It’s totally reasonable to expect to apply a shadow pencil to full pigmentation.

They need to remarket this as an eyegloss or something silly and stop pretending it works as eyeshadow.

Bellachique Avatar

Aaaw, another bad pencil review! Such a shame though, because the shade is really pretty, but the creasing looks horrible! I never tried the pencils before, but I heard more bad reviews about them, and I think I’ll pass on these :).

Marina Avatar

Yick. Thank goodness for your reviews or I would probably have bought one of these, Christine! Nars comes up with some pretty colors, but they don’t always get the quality right.

Abby Avatar

This is so sad! A couple flops for this NARS Collection so far… I hope your review of “Moscow” turns out better than the grades for this and the Marie-Galante eyeshadow duo.

HeatherSA Avatar

LOL I don’t know why NARS or whoever the PR is keeps sending you these pencils. Seems like a bad idea considering you are honest, and will say they aren’t good.

Oh, well! LOL

Miss J Avatar

Ick. I’ve never tried these. How have you tried applying them? I’m sure you’ve tried multiple methods with no luck. I find that these kind of products are ones I have to smudge in with my fingers or a brush to eliminate some of the creasing element, but I bet that still doesn’t do much with these, huh? Maybe they work for someone with really dry lids, lol, but these would be a total nightmare on mine for sure!

As always, the review is much appreciated! I’m just hoping the blush from this collection is good, so not too disappointed.

Christine Avatar

Alone, as a base (so with powder eyeshadow on top to set it), over a base, over a base + eyeshadow on top (not this particular pencil, but others, which were just as bad), as an eyeliner. The best tends to be as a highlighter (assuming it’s a highlighter-like hue), since it doesn’t have a place to crease. The formula stays perpetually wet on me – even in the sheerest areas (where the product has since migrated elsewhere), the faintest tap of the finger against it will result in half the remaining product on your finger.

Miss J Avatar

A pretty pricy highlighter it would make! It would be a different thing if these just took extra work to apply because at least then people could decided if they thought the product was worth it enough for them to do a little extra work with in application, but it’s just so frustrating when no matter what you do…NOTHING. Kind of makes you want to go crazy. They should stop making them, or at least reformulate. I don’t even know how these would work for a photo shoot if they crease within mere moments.

Catherine Avatar

NARS, NARS, NARS, stop trying with those shadow pencils NARS if one has a certain creasy formula and it’s bad, guaranteed that if you use the same formula the rest will be bad. I’m saving for UD shadow pencils, heck I might even settle for nyx shadow pencils.

Kafka Avatar

I agree. Btw, UD’s 24/7 shadow pencils are on sale on their website in a set of 5 travel-sized pencils (that don’t look so travel-sized mini to me). $9 instead of $34!!!

Quinctia Avatar

FYI, I definitely found that set worth its full price (as the pencils are like $20 a pop), and don’t regret paying it…they are a ridiculous steal if you can get them now on sale like that!

amy Avatar

I wonder, though, how this would work as a crease color? There *has* to be a way to make these pencils work. NARS has been making them for a while, and reviews I’ve read have been consistently bad; why would a brand continue to make these, and how do they continue to sell, if they have such a notoriously bad reputation (the pencils, not NARS)? I probably will end up getting this, as it seems like a great challenge to get it to work!

Christine Avatar

I would imagine it would crease as a crease color? If you don’t have any lines on your lid, it might work better there, or, if you wanted a burgundy highlighter, perhaps there. I tried as an eyeliner, but it didn’t pan out for me, unfortunately.

Not everybody actually reads reviews – there is still a ton of foot traffic and people who have never heard of read a beauty blog! I’ve seen good reviews for them, too, and some more lukewarm ones – they say they crease but they don’t seem as bothered by it, I guess?

amy Avatar

Yeah, I guess. I don’t get too bothered by a bit of creasing (I check my makeup throughout the day), but this one seems extreme. All the retail outlets that I know of that carry NARS have such liberal return policies, though, so it would seem that these pencils would get returned often, and wouldn’t the buyers for these retailers stop ordering them? I don’t know, but it seems there must be some secret to the application only a select few know, LOL.

Didi Avatar

I actually used one of these on a client (she insisted because she just bought it she wanted to try it out)and I patted some translucent powder on top before applying shadow and it didn’t actually turn out too bad. She wore the look out that night and never told me she had any creasing issues or anything. I still wouldn’t use it for my personal use though.

Tatyana G Avatar

It really is a pretty color but what it does on the lids is pretty bad. I’ve seen some people just draw these pencils on a bit and then smudge it with a finger just to sheer that out. Would that dry it up a bit? Just curious.

Malia Avatar

I really dont mean this in a rude way but its a shame you have to keep reviewing these shi**y things- cause this isn’t the first time I’ve read the same thing over (was Palladium the first one?)- they suck and they really need to do something about it!!

Mairyn Avatar

..I wonder why NARS keep sending these shadow pencils to you, Christine. It’s obvious from all the shades you’ve reviewed that the pencils do absolutely nothing for you haha!
You’d think they’d work out that they’re not going to get any profit from it (i.e. you’re not going to say how great it is and inspire a hundred people to buy it, based on your reviews)

Kafka Avatar

I’m curious if NARS ever responds in any way to these bad reviews. Christine, have they ever said anything, even indirectly, either after one or before sending you the next batch of shadow pencils?

Christine Avatar

I’d love your suggestions! I’ve applied these pencils as sheer as possible, as a base, alone, as a wash, over a base, over a base and then eyeshadow on top, as an eyeliner, and as a highlighter. I’ve tried nearly every single one that NARS makes – literally have spent hours trying to find ways to make the formula work!

Jessi M Avatar

I like how people assume it’s something YOU’RE doing wrong. Haha, I don’t even know you Christine, but I get weirdly defensive of you. I guess because I recognize how hard you work! And greatly appreciate it. 🙂

Evelyn Avatar

I agree. If you’re going to comment that Christine isn’t doing it correctly then you need to tell Christine and the rest of us how exactly to use a certain thing so we can solve the problem. Otherwise there’s no point to the comment other than being not so nice.

Kay Avatar

Another “agree” – enough of “it’s not the product; it’s YOU”. Tell us how you’re making this work. How long it’s lasting on you. Do you EVEN have the product and have given it a go. Otherwise, it’s indeed a pointless and ignorant comment.

Donna Avatar

I think it’s because it’s NARS. It really is hard to believe that they could not only make a product so bad, and not discontinue or reformulate, but continue to make the same bad product again and again. It makes no sense! It would be easier to believe if it was drugstore, or an up and coming line that hasn’t tried making this type of product before. But NARS???

Kafka Avatar

Christine, you’re incredibly polite and beautifully well-mannered. Methinks you should consider a career in the diplomatic corps if you ever lose your passion for makeup or the law.

Nica Avatar

I don’t get the snark towards NARS as a brand from commenters on this site. While I agree that the soft touch pencils aren’t filled with awesome, I don’t hold Christine’s opinion as the end all, be all. I don’t even get why she would swatch the product all over the eyelid (as done with Celebrate, Dark Rite, etc.) knowing the same outcome. I use my soft touch pencils over eyeshadow to intensify whatever look I’m trying to achieve. Because I have oily lids, I know that using them alone won’t work unless I use them only on the eyelid and not in the crease (which is evident in your pics).

Christine Avatar

Hi Nica,

I use products the way the brand markets them 🙂 I’ve used it not only by itself on the lid but over eyeshadow, over a primer (both with and without eyeshadow on top), as an eyeliner, as a highlighter, just on the lid, etc. etc. I don’t have oily lids – I have normal-to-dry lids and most things don’t crease instantly on me. You can totally use it however you want and however works for you (especially that!), but in order to make reviews straight-forward and easy-to-understand, I test, review, and rate products based on what the company says the product is supposed to do. If you read the description by NARS (which I included in the review), I think you’d understand why I tested it the way I did!

Reviews are inherently subjective, but I try to find ways to make them objective where and when I can, such as using a brand’s claims for a product. For instance, if NARS marketed this as a glossy, creasing pencil, it would have resulted in a much different grade.

I don’t think there is snark against NARS at all – I think people are understandably confused as to why a brand keeps putting out a product like this OR at the very least doesn’t change the way they market the product. Just as people have told me I don’t know how to apply these, there are others who have had similar experiences to mine – I don’t think there’s any snark intended. It’s really no different than when MAC has a big flop and people leave comments saying they can see how badly it performs. Giving a brand criticism isn’t snark 🙂

Amanda Avatar

I admit I always read your reviews for the Soft Touch Shadow Pencils with a morbid curiosity. As I click through the Read More link I think to myself “ooh! I wonder how much it will suck THIS time!” Lol. Even if they can’t be used for anything else, at least these pencils give me a good giggle every time you review one. And I’m always hopeful that someday I’ll click through and see that NARS has stepped up their game and made a good one. You never know…. it COULD happen!

Jessica Avatar

Hey lady maybe I can help out. I work for Sephora and actually asked our Nars rep why these are so awful alone and she told me that these pencils are meant to be layered with powder shadows. Nars is big big big on layering formulas for interesting finishes and much longer lasting results.

EmmyJean Avatar

This reminds me of a video showing how to use OCC lip tars as eyeshadows…it just doesn’t seem worth all that effort, especially since better (and cheaper!) products exist. Thanks for the honest review!

Sunny Avatar

Haha I remembered you tweeting about how it’s a good thing if something is consistently bad, and I more or less knew this would be it! NARS really has to improve the formula of their shadow pencil! With the good ones Urban Decay has, MUFE is coming up with a whole bunch too, this has to try a lot harder to be competitive!

Kris Avatar

Hi Christine, I was wondering: do these pencils do that over the NARS Smudgeproof eyeshadow primer too? It’s a pretty drying primer, I find (my lids are extremely oily, and it is the only primer that makes my eyeshadow (cream or powder) last throughout the day). By ‘never dries’, Do you mean that they continuously smear and slide around? That’s nuts 🙁 Does it also do that if you have a swatch of it on your hand?

I’ve avoided these like the plague because of your reviews. I find you’re almost never wrong with eyeshadows and blushes!

I was also wondering if you had ever reviewed Chanel Vitalumiere foundation, or any of the Chanel foundations?

Christine Avatar

Hi Kris,

I tried Calabria over NARS’ Smudgeproof Eyeshadow Primer — that’s what the second column of photos is! For me, they never seem to fully set. There is a TON of transfer even after 3-4 hours later – like a truly long-wearing product will have no transfer or very, very minimal transfer and usually takes more than the merest pat against the lid to do so, but featherlight touch against the lids and there’s half the product on my fingertip and a big ol’ fingerprint mark on the lid! I’ve never left a swatch on long enough to tell, to be honest.

Haven’t reviewed any Chanel foundations I don’t think!

Brittany Avatar

Why do companies even bother to make creme eye shadows/pencils? Cremes do not work with the skin, its like butter- it will just melt cause of the heat of our skin or just crease. Even if this did work i wouldnt care to purchase it, doesnt really catch my attention.

amy Avatar

It’s strange, how one product can be so amazing for one person, but be totally useless for another. I have had terrible experiences with the UD pencils, whereas so many absolutely love them. I wish they worked for me, because they have so many incredible colors. My eyelids are actually on the drier side of normal, yet they don’t hold up on me.

I was in line at Sephora today, and there were 2 of these pencils in the bin for $10 each, Tall Tale & Aigle Noir. I figured at the price, I’d give them a chance. So far the Aigle Noir has held up, alone, for a couple of hours. I plan to try both out together tomorrow, one on each eye, since I plan to stay in.

Mary Avatar

Thanks Christine for continuously reviewing these, I always hope they will improve and always want to buy more, but you always save me from spending money (that I could be spending on other great NARS products) and being disappointed. I seriously don’t know why NARS keeps making these or why they won’t at least improve the formulation. I bought one like almost 2 years ago in the color Skorpios and never really use it because it would completely crease on me as soon as I would apply it to my lid. However, I just pulled mine back out of the depth of my makeup stash, and used it, it doesn’t seem to be creasing but I think it is in part due to the fact that it is almost 2 years old and has dried out some (and I mean only slightly, it is still very creamy when I apply it full on to the back of my hand), so I guess if there is some way that the product can be dried out before application then that would be helpful. By the way I applied it with no base in sheer layers, blending the shadow pencil with my fingers and building up the intensity. I have applied MAC Twinks in the crease and All That Glitters to the lid to hopefully set the product. But I must say even though it has been like 25 minutes I think that as soon as I go out into the sweltering heat this will probably melt off of my eyelids and drip onto my lashes (this product is just that potentially bad). I really am admiring this new color but I don’t think I will have as much luck with another one as I am having with this one to day, this working today, seriously is a once in a blue moon kind of thing. Plus, the time spent applying this should be easy to use shadow pencil is totally not worth the money again.

Christine Avatar

Just as you were saying how you pulled it out after a couple of years, I was like, “I wonder if it dried out a bit and was better!”

I bet it definitely is better after two years because it’s dried out a bit, since that seems to be the problem I keep encountering – it’s just too creamy and doesn’t seem to set in place. It’s like the frostier shades in the range are a little less terrible than the creamy ones (like Celebrate), because the frost dries out the texture a little bit.

Keep us posted, though! I’m so curious to see if it does hold up for you 🙂

Mary Avatar

You are so right about the frostier shades that makes so much sense! 🙂 I suppose the drying out helped a bit as well, I got about two hours of wear out of it today (as opposed to the usual 1 minute) before it started to fade significantly instead of creasing. Not a total fail, but I don’t think I will ever buy another one, as I kind of want it to a last a wee bit longer.

Hannah Avatar

Not another one that creases. You would think NARS would pick up on this and change the formula. It’s a shame because it’s such a lovely colour. I do a lot of fun makeup looks and I applied this product (think it was one of the older colours) to my face, around the cheeks and it stayed on there all night and didn’t budge. Unfortunately I can’t wear any of these pencils on my eyes without creasing either. I asked the sales assistant in store about the last colour and he was so positive it is long wearing.

Hannah Avatar

NARS are holding a master class here in the UK next week, i’ve got myself a ticket so I will ask some of the make up artists there and see what they say.

Carolina Rutz Avatar

If it was a lip pencil, I’d buy it. The shade would be perfect for that. As for me, I will have to pass as my lids are oily. I have not tried UD’s formula, but I should as they got a 5-pack on sale for 9 bux.

I’m hoping to head to Columbus and get Le Metier de Beaute Fig instead. Thanks for giving me an incentive for a road trip.

Skyler Avatar

Ick! They have some nerve charging $24 for that nonsense! :\ I just wanted to say, Christine, that your “timed” make-up tests are VERY helpful. There are tons of products that look great when you first put them on, but even after ten minutes, they can turn horrible. I really appreciate that you do these tests for us because it will immediately turn me off of a product and save me money if I see it creases like that. I get that soft, creamy products for eyes can be hard to create and have staying power – but look, if it turns out like this, don’t even bother! A company like NARS should have more tact than to even bother releasing a product like this. Very disappointing.

Mattie Avatar

I find that if you press a shadow directly into the shadow pencil after it is applied I have no problems with it movie at all. As far as wearing it on its own… you are right its going to melt everywhere.

Jamie Avatar

I saw a great tutorial on the Nars website. They have “how to” artistry sessions. The artist in the film used the soft touch in Dark Rite. She drew a line along the lash line, blinked a few times, and then used a smudge brush to spread out the color. Then she applied dry shadow on top. The model looked really pretty and it was a great “eye focused” look.

lafemmetopaz Avatar

I believe these products are not made for those with oily lids, period. The prominent ingredients in this product are oil, waxes and silicone products the slows the loss of water in skin, i.e the ingredients used are used best to retain moisture in skin.

Unless the products say “water proof” or “water resistant” those with oily skin should be aware the product may and probably will crease or not last that long on your skin.

I have the same issue with “oil free” products. I have dry skin and stay away from most “oil free” products. Why, because even with a moisturizer and primer underneath, my dry skin feels tight and drier after a few hours of wear with oil free products.

Temptalia Avatar

Britt Chapman I feel you – when they came out with Celebrate, I was sooo sad, because I LOVE LOVE LOVE chartreuse but couldn’t find a way to make it work well!

Ann-Marie Farris Avatar

Ms. Christine, I love your reviews. I have to say I’m disappointed in Nars. That is such a beautiful color. PS.. all the people that were saying “Your doing it wrong” made me shake my head. Your make-up style is flawless. Thank you!

Lilly Nguyen Avatar

I like that you keep reviewing these because I use it to judge the reliability of other bloggers. Anyone who rates this product well I know not to trust.

Screamer77 Avatar

I unfortunately made the mistake of buying this before reading the reviews (which I usually read carefully before purchasing anything)…. I still like the color, and I use it as a liner, so it’s not a total waste. :/

tess Avatar

You just saved me sooo much money. I was all set to buy about 3 of these, all of which you reviewed. I literally muttered out loud, “oh my god, the horror.” I’m so glad I searched here first! (Something I do before buying pretty much anything these days.) I have plenty of good fat pencils so, “whew!” I may end up with Aigle Noir anyway, as it’s part of a well-priced set I may use a coupon on later this week. (Even without the pencil, the set is a good price and I already use and like the other items in it.)

divinem (Melissa) Avatar

I wonder how many dings your “it SUCKED” meter would get on YouTube? ROFL That is just NASTY!

Come on, NARS. Pull it together. You can’t send crap out to Christine and hope for a good review with such horrible formulas! O_o

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