I Tried A Full NARS Makeup Routine — Here’s What’s Worth Your Money

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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 (now amped up to the max, thanks to the brand’s new High Intensity version), while Orgasm Blush has granted thousands of women the perfect faux post-O glow since 1999. And that's all before we touch on Radiant Creamy Concealer, which has a cult-like following for its miraculous ability to make the darkest of dark circles disappear.
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 £39 on a foundation or £34 on a bronzer, you want to know for sure that it's worth it. And so I called in 20 of NARS' bestsellers and put them to the test. Monitoring everything from lasting power to pigmentation, here's what I'd recommend.
This is my favourite NARS product of all. It's perfect for those days when you want something lighter than foundation while still evening out your complexion. The formula is super light and creamy, and it melts into the skin without settling in fine lines (I prefer applying it with my fingers). It's not as milky in texture as my other favourite tinted moisturiser, Glossier’s Perfecting Skin Tint, £26, but it applies sheer enough to not cover up my freckles and makes my skin look like skin — but better. It lends a really subtle, dewy glow, though does need setting with a light dust of powder to last all day.
Whilst I have dry skin and need the extra glow-boost, I imagine that left alone, this tinted moisturiser could cause those with oily complexions to look too shiny. Again, setting powder is your best friend in this. When I say this stuff is lightweight, I mean it. If you’re aiming to cover up more significant acne or scarring, you’ll need to double up with concealer (alternatively, I say foundation is your best bet).
In all though, this will definitely be living in my everyday makeup bag for sure. I can see myself getting the most use out of it as we head into the summer months, and I naturally take a lighter hand with my makeup (it’s a benefit that this is also SPF 30).
NARS Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation is another super-lightweight formula, even more on the liquid side than NARS’ tinted moisturiser. 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 a sponge (the OG BeautyBlender Sponge, £17) for an airbrushed effect.
I described Radiant Longwear to a friend 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 also doesn't budge all day. Several post-work drinks without the time to touch up prior and Londoners’ inability to not squeeze onto already-packed Tubes taught me as much.
NARS Sheer Glow Foundation is very similar in formula. It also has a light, buildable consistency, but in comparison, it is (not surprisingly) even more sheer in finish. I was excited to try as it promises to hydrate your skin, protect it from environmental damage and make it radiant. Whilst I can’t attest to its skin-care-like boasts, I can confirm it definitely does make skin glow with a natural dewiness that earned me a number of compliments (beware though, if you’re naturally oily, this could just exacerbate that and make you look overly greasy).
When asked which NARS foundation I prefer, it really is a tossup between NARS Sheer Glow Foundation and Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation. It depends on how my skin feels that day, what the weather is doing, my time of the month (my skin can sometimes feel drier and more sensitive during the first days of my period), what I’m up to and whether I want to feel ‘more made up’ or to go for something fresher and lighter. If I need some extra coverage and a face that lasts all day and on into the night, I’ll turn to the Longwear Foundation. If my skin is feeling drier and more sensitive, my complexion is dull and needs brightening, or it’s a hot day, it’s Sheer Glow.
My main gripe with Sheer Glow (that just knocks it down a peg) is the bottle design: It has an open screw top, meaning I worry that I'm shaking out and wasting precious foundation too much product every time. For £3, you can buy a Liquid Foundation Pump, but I still don’t understand why Radiant Longwear already comes equipped with this. (Dear NARS, pretty please add pumps to all your foundation bottles. Sincerely, clumsy people everywhere.)
This has the thickest texture of all NARS foundations. For those with oily skin, I imagine this would be a beauty saviour: It mattifies, balancing excess sebum, but still keeps skin hydrated, thanks to hyaluronic acid. I was pleasantly surprised: Unlike other matte foundations, I didn’t feel dried out by this and actually found myself pulling this out over the summer. It stood up to our last heatwave and did a pretty good job of not making me look like a puddle of sweat 24/7. (It’s a different story in the winter though when my skin is flake-central. I’ll be keeping this on the bench until the mercury rises past 20°).
Again like all NARS complexion products, this foundation dries quickly (the quickest of all), 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.
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. 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’ve also got to shout NARS out for its stellar shade options. I used the shade Vanilla, which isn’t too pink or too yellow — perfect for my fair, cool-neutral complexion.
After testing and comparing this with NARS’s other bestselling concealer (Soft Matte Complete Concealer in the same shade), I’ve come to the conclusion that they’re both better suited to different tasks. For example, NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer has become my go-to for concealing my undereyes, largely because its formula melts pretty seamlessly into the skin and doesn’t settle into fine lines and because it's designed to brighten dullness. Whereas I would reach for Soft Matte (a potted cream formula) for covering redness, veins, discolouration and blemishes. This is because — as the name suggests — Soft Matte doesn’t add unnecessary sheen to the areas you are trying to conceal. Rather, it has a really nice blurring effect.
Both concealers work well when worked in with the fingers, which is my favourite mode of application (I like how my body heat helps the product melt into the skin for a natural finish and also I’m lazy when it comes to beauty tools). However, as a cream concealer, Soft Matte works really, really well with a small brush. Sticking within the brand’s family tree, I like NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer Brush, £23. The short, packed bristles pick up a lot of product and blend the concealer effortlessly.
Silky soft? Check. Light but buildable without looking cakey or powdery? Yep. Keeps oiliness at bay all day? Almost (long days out and about call for touch-ups, especially when out in the sun). This is everything you could want in a face powder — it’s not quite knocked my treasured favourite, Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Powder, £38, off its pedestal, but it's a worthy opponent. Why? NARS’s powder uses something called 'photochromic technology' which, in simple terms, just means that it doesn’t just set makeup but also evens skin tone, blurs imperfections and pores, and gives skin a natural luminosity that powder often diminishes. For everyday makeup, I've enjoyed using just this and the concealers. 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).
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' at play again, 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, but I felt like it was lacking in the setting department. In fact, I’ve not reached for this again since testing out — far preferring the Soft Velvet Pressed Powder.
NARS’ Bronzing Powder in the shade Laguna has become so iconic, many people will recognise the name straightaway. I can see why — it's such a universally flattering shade of golden brown that gives 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 with a large fluffy brush is the way to go for a naturally bronzed look.If, like me, you have a pale complexion, you might find Laguna too warm for the winter months, which is a shame since Laguna is NARS lightest shade, and I really do love how this powder looks on the skin. In this case, I would suggest a cool-toned bronzer like Benefit’s Hoopla Matte Bronzer in Hoola Lite, £30.

NARS Blush in Orgasm, £30.50 £24.40

Like Laguna, NARS's Orgasm Blush — a peachy-pink shade with a subtle golden shimmer — has a fanbase of its own. So named because it gives that post-O, rosy glow, it is a super-natural-looking touch of colour that takes your beauty look up a notch. And because it’s so natural looking, it’s officially become my favourite blush. I've even found myself reaching for this on my no-makeup days just to look more alive. (I swear, this is the only product saving my hungover self from looking too zombified).
I have to admit though, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’m liking both Laguna and Orgasm. Powdered bronzers and blushes have always felt a little dated to me — reminiscent of the OTT makeup of the early 2000s, especially compared to light, dewy cream products. Though NARS are proving me wrong, I have to stress that both need the lightest of light hands (go too heavy and you can end up too clown-like). I've been applying Orgasm with NARS Yachiyo Brush, £48.50. 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. It’s better to start with a little colour and build it up gradually. 
Luckily, both the Laguna Bronzer and Orgasm Blush along with NARS’ setting powders sit very happily on top of NARS liquid and cream products; they don’t strip these off or cause pilling, but blend seamlessly in together with one another. Just to be sure, I’ve tested Laguna and Orgasm over my other favourite products, including my Saie Glowy Super Gel primer and Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Light Wands. Again, no issues here.
Ironically, it's one of NARS’s own cream products that you have to be careful applying — just be gentle so as not to shift foundation underneath. Saying this, I love this product enough for that not to be an issue. I’m ever on the hunt for the best highlighter (one that gives skin a truly natural-looking luminosity), and The Multiple is up there, 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 (there are seven other shades). It's an all-in-one product ideal for holiday packing or throwing in your day bag. And there’s just so much product here. I can see one stick lasting me ages.
This is so, so close to being the perfect eyeliner — and I should know, I’ve used it on-and-off long before writing this review. It combines the best of both worlds: a creamy, gel-like texture in pencil form so it's easy to control for a graphic line but can still be blended out for a smoky finish (the formula doesn’t dry straight away so you don’t have to be perfect straight off). It has a powerful, highly pigmented finish and Mambo is the most beautiful shade of reddish chocolate brown that brings out my green eyes (so much softer than a stark black). What breaks my eyeliner-loving heart is that it’s not totally smudge-proof, shifting the most when worn in the waterline and on the bottom lashline. Saying this, I still reach for it when I want to nail the perfectly undone, Indie Sleaze smoky eye.
What really grinds my gears about this eyeliner is the packaging. It used to be an automatic pencil with a twist base where you could twist up more product. Now though you have to sharpen the pencil — I find myself needing to sharpen every time I use this eyeliner and it often breaks off which is such a waste of product.
As a longtime devotee of NYX Professional Makeup Epic Ink — 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. Though NARS tried, they weren’t successful. I admit the tapered calligraphy brush is cool. It’s easy to manoeuvre into thin flicks, and the thicker barrel helps with the control, but I was disappointed with the lack of pigment and staying power. I ended up having to overline for an intense, solid line and even then I found the liner fading and flaking after just a few hours. I’ll be sticking with NYX.
After getting used to the slim brush on Glossier’s Lash Slick, £20, over the last few years, 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, but it doesn't do much in the lengthening department. After just a few hours after applying, it had smudged pretty badly as well. This will be a miss for me in the future (for a similar boost of volume that doesn’t smudge, I prefer Rare Beauty’s Perfect Strokes Universal Volumizing Mascara, £21).
As a brow gel devotee, 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.
I love lipsticks that are so comfortable, you don't feel as though you're wearing anything. The Air Matte Lip Colour is almost there. It is applied as a whipped liquid that quickly dries down and the result is a bold lip that doesn't budge (or at least lasts a few hours before needing a touch up). 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 which also helps with the lasting power. A lot of lip balm does not go amiss afterward, however, as this did dry out my lips a lot.
As a long time Swiftie, I first bought NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl way back in 2016 when I learned that it was Taylor Swift’s 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 cream-to-matte but moisturising. I do find it a little drying though, but not as much as the NARS Liquid Lip Colour — nothing that a light swipe of lip balm can’t fix. Before buying, ensure you have a sharpener big enough to fit a pencil this chunky (like this one from MAC for £5).
 How does the OG Velvet Matte Lip Pencil compare the brand new Powermatte High Intensity Lip Pencil? The latter is definitely softer and creamier in formula and, as such, feels far more comfortable to wear (aka less drying). In fact, because it's so creamy, it's even easier to apply, to precisely line the lips (despite its chunky shape) and fill them in (all thanksto the chunky shape). Both have brilliant lasting power. The new Powermatte pencil boasts a 12-hour wear. I got to about seven or eight hours before seeing any significant fading (in the centre of the lips only). And this was after eating, drinking and lots of drunken kisses on NYE so I am pretty impressed.
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 (rather than waste the whole product).
The Afterglow Lip Balm in Dolce Vita lends lips a glossy shine that isn't tacky to the touch and a soft wash of pink colour. At this price though, I would say save your money — for essentially a fancy lip balm, you can achieve the same effect with a £2.99 tube of tinted Nivea Cherry Shine Caring Lip Balm.

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