When I purchased the Nars Basic Instincts Cheek Quad II at the end of July 2021 and two single blushes on Black Friday, it was because I wanted to get a good sense of what Nars blushes could do. I wanted to experience them for the first time. As I went through my blush drawer to prepare for this post, I realized I had several more blushes from Nars that I completely forgot about (and I bought one more product after I was supposed to be finished with this review)! Despite owning their blushes as far back as 2016, I still had no sense of how I felt about them beyond the experience being positive. It was high time that I analyzed all of these further to officially decide where I rate Nars blushes within my own collection.
Nars Basic Instincts II Cheek Quad
This palette was a limited edition Ulta exclusive (now only available at the Nars website), that came in two different versions comprising of Nars’ bestselling shades. The biggest selling point for me was getting my hands on Taj Mahal, one of the beauty industry’s most famous orange blushes, and Exhibit A which I completely forgot I already owned. Ulta was offering a free 3-piece gift with $30 Nars purchase at the time, and I had a 20% off code as well, so I was able to get everything in the top left photo for just $33 (tax included). I felt this was an amazing deal, considering each pan is nearly the size of a full size blush and Nars blushes cost $30 each. I just needed to like one blush for this purchase to be worth it.
I should preface that I currently like shimmer blushes thanks to formulations from MAC which showed me that they could be done in a way that don’t look like I used a colored highlighter or shimmery eyeshadow as blush on my cheeks. They could add a beautiful luminosity to the skin without making too much of a statement. Prior to this lesson, I hated shimmer blushes. Unfortunately, some of the shades in this quad brought me right back to that feeling of remembering why I steered clear of shimmery blushes for so long.
Taj Mahal is a gorgeous color in the pan, but I don’t think it suits me. It may as well be an orange highlighter, and that was quite disappointing to discover because of how much Charlotte Holdcroft raved about how it’s supposed to look bronze-orange on the skin or “tan skin with a touch of orange.” To be fair, it did look that way on her. On me, whatever brown tones are in this are camouflaged against my skin tone and all I get is the golden orange shimmer on my cheek. It doesn’t matter what brush I use, the photo above depicts the result I get every time.
It looks slightly nicer if I carry my bronzer higher up so that it’s partly on my cheeks as well, and not just in the 3-shape on my face, but the shimmer is still too metallic and reflective when it’s in direct light. Blush has always been something that I want to look natural, like I’m actually blushing, but that type of shimmer is a dead giveaway.
This is my same issue with the shade Savage, although I really like the tones of that one. It’s like a warm brownish red or dark copper similar to Kiss of Rose from bareMinerals. It would be perfect if the shimmer wasn’t so metallic looking. It’s at least not as bad as the blush shades of Coloured Raine’s Glowlighters, but still not my preference. Even when I’ve used this as a blush topper, it’s too much like a highlighter for my taste. If I want to wear a shade like this, I’ll put on Kiss of Rose or Faux Sure from MAC.
Torrid surprised me in the best way. For starters, it’s just like MAC blushes where they look far lighter in the pan, but when they’re applied to the skin it looks deeper and actually works for me. I do have to build Torrid up in order for it to be seen, but the shimmer level in this one is far less than Savage and Taj Mahal. I love how this one looks.
As for Exhibit A, it looks a bit rough in the photo, but that’s because I forgot to reapply my foundation between wiping off the previous shade and applying this new one. It’s very pretty. Although it looks extremely intimidating in the pan, it can be sheered out to give a light flush to the skin. While it’s true that the other Exhibit A in my collection is very old, which should make having this one a good thing, I feel that I already have my go-to statement red blush out of the Hindash Beautopsy Palette. The shade Kills gives me Exhibit A vibes and is very similar, though it’s a slightly stronger red. Exhibit A leans a touch on the orange side, but considering the Love shade from Beautopsy also leans orange, I feel I have my bases covered in being able to absolutely dupe out Exhibit A. So it’s still a redundant shade for me to have in this Nars blush quad.
Had I known then what I know now, even at my great deal, I would have skipped out on getting this quad. Since I have it, I do want to continue using the shade Torrid, but I am notoriously bad at reaching for blushes that are in any form other than singles, so we will see how well that goes. Or, perhaps, I will find a new home for this quad. It’s definitely not a bad product in terms of quality, but one has to like statement blushes as well as this type of shimmer at this level of intensity.
Additionally, part of my biggest issue with the shimmer in Nars blushes is that some of them emphasize texture. Any bumps I have on my skin become a lot more noticeable. I would semi expect that from a highlighter, but I definitely don’t want that quality in my blushes.
Nars Narsissist Unfiltered I Cheek Palette in Watch Me, Me First, Takeover, Out There, Chic, and Exhibit A
This palette, along with the lighter Unfiltered II version, was released at the end of 2016, though it was intended to be a Spring 2017 launch. I recall reading online that some people were able to get the palette before launch if they went in-store and asked for it specifically. It was also around the time that Sephora used to have X amount of dollars off a $50 purchase, so I was lucky enough to have paid after tax like $38 for this (I think it was $25 off for Rouge).
The first three shades on the top row are all highlighter shades for me. At the time, Watch Me was even too light for me to use, or at least I was into more subtle highlighters closer to my skin tone. For that reason, I mostly stuck to using Takeover as a highlighter or mixing it with Watch Me if I didn’t reach for a different highlighter altogether. As for Me First, I didn’t use it more than once.
I admittedly hardly used Chic or Exhibit A. Chic was similar to Out There, which I loved, but it was cooler toned so I never reached for it over Out There. As for Exhibit A, I’m pretty sure I was searching for the right brush to give me a sheer enough application for my tastes back then (which was very much about no-makeup makeup) but I stopped using the palette altogether by the time I eventually got brushes to work with it.
By right, this palette is so old that it should be part of my retired makeup shelf, but I decided to go ahead and demonstrate what Out There looks like on my cheeks. This shade used to be what I considered my perfect and favorite blush color. I wanted to try it again for nostalgia reasons as I wholeheartedly regret that I didn’t get more use out of this palette. As much as I loved that shade, at some point I reorganized my collection and this palette became physically hard to reach, and the outer mirrored lid on top made me not want to move it around as much for fear of breaking it. It eventually got buried under other blushes and forgotten about completely. Part of me still wants to make up for lost time, but I have brand new Nars blushes to dig into, so I won’t.
Nars Blushes in Liberté, Amour, Orgasm X, and Goulue
I have Liberte and Amour in the full sizes, purchased during a $19 per blush Black Friday Deal on Nars’ website. I purchased the mini of Orgasm X in April 2021 during the VIB sale. As for Goulue, the shade was originally released in 2013, but became a Sephora exclusive shade in 2016. This particular mini was the Sephora 2016 Rouge gift, so it’s “only” between five and six years old. I decided to demonstrate this shade as well, since I always assumed it wouldn’t work for me so I didn’t do anything with it other than swatching. It does faintly show up, like the shade Plum Foolery from MAC. I wish I had given it more of a chance in the past, but at least I have a newer dupe, so this will be decluttered.
I owned at least three free gift with purchase minis of the original Orgasm blush, but I always give them away because it’s essentially a highlighter shade for my skin tone. Orgasm X doesn’t show the strongest on me either, but I can at least wear it as a blush if I want. My first few uses with this mini had a very shimmery top layer, so I did not like how it looked on my cheeks. Using it now still shows as shimmery on my cheeks, but it’s on that borderline of me liking it and having it be too much. Despite taking it on my trip with me in order to use it more and figure it out, I still haven’t decided how I feel about it. Not being able to decide is kind of a decision in itself because if it’s not a blush I can quickly say I like, then I know I won’t use it.
And unfortunately, another blush I probably won’t be using is Amour. It looked much deeper in product photos. While it does go on my skin darker than it looks inside the compact, it’s still a touch too light for me. It’s a shame because it’s one of the few matte formulas from Nars that I have, but I’d rather give my attention to Liberte.
Liberte was my saving grace for this post, prior to me buying the High Profile Cheek Palette, because it’s not too old in my collection nor too shimmery. Nars lists this as part of their “Sheer” formula, but I get a decent amount of pigment from this. I do consider it still buildable though. There are visible shimmer particles in the compact, but it does not look shimmery on the skin.
Nars High Profile Cheek Palette
Out of all the blushes that are still usable in my Nars collection, Torrid and Liberte are my favorites. My inner makeup goblin wanted me to look into the other non-shimmer Nars blushes, but as nice as they appear, I still prefer my MAC blushes over these. So, I said to myself that unless Nars releases a palette of some kind that has mostly matte blushes, I should be all set and will be able to stop buying them. Then I saw a deal on Mercari for the High Profile palette which was a limited edition release for Holiday 2021 that had only been swatched and I just couldn’t pass it up. I originally wanted that palette when it was first released, but reviews about the shades being nearly identical on the cheeks deterred me. However, I bought it for only slightly more than the price of a single blush, so I figured that was worth looking into, especially since I wasn’t satisfied with how uncertain I felt about Nars Blushes by the time I thought I had finished this review.
The blushes in this palette are gel-powder, which I was curious to try from Nars, with a satin-luminous finish. This type of sheen is more my style than the shimmer formula. The only issue is that I can’t use most of my favorite blush brushes with this because of this kind of formula which requires a more resilient bristle in order to pick up the product. So, my favorite with this particular formula is the Chikuhodo FO-2 because it fits well with the size dimensions of the pans and picks up a decent amount of product that allows me to still control in building up the color. For instance, Hit It Off is a little more sheer than the others and Showdown is quite light, so I need multiple swirls in the pan to have the opacity level I want of them on my cheeks. However, Just Lust is very pigmented and I just need 1 or 2 taps to get enough product of that per cheek with this brush. So, I can apply these quickly and smoothly enough without feeling the need to swap to a different brush for each different shade.
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The batch of photos I took wearing Spin Off didn’t turn out well and that shade is too subtle for my camera anyway as it’s barely noticeable on my cheeks in person. There’s a bit too much brown in that shade for my skin tone but I’m sure it would look pretty on others.
I could have built up High Demand, Showdown, and Just Lust even more, but I liked their levels in the photo. Despite High Demand looking to be the same depth as the very pigmented Just Lust, it’s not as intense of a blush color. They look similar in swatches, but High Demand is a brown-red whereas Just Lust is more of a berry shade. Showdown is more apparent on the skin in person, but I do like to mix it (mainly on the apples) with Hit it Off (mainly towards the back) to get a little more depth from that deep pink-coral with a brighter coral pop towards the front.
Nude Revue is more sparkly than my taste in highlighter, but the tone fits me so well that I could still picture myself using it occasionally. I’m very pleased that technically all these blushes work for me! Everything I said earlier still holds true though. I prefer MAC’s blush formulas overs Nars’. From within their own brand, I prefer Nars’ mattes over their satins but I like satins more than the shimmers. I’m going to steer clear of the shimmers, but if Nars releases another blush palette of mostly mattes and/or satins, I could be tempted to buy them, especially if the packaging is pretty. However, I would like this to be where my exploration of Nars blushes and highlighters end. I will try my best to get use out of what I currently have, and everything else from Nars I’m still interested in because they usually make products that work really well on my face!
That’s all for today!