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making faces :: my date with nars

as i mentioned last week, i took advantage of an event at one of my local nars cosmetics counters to have someone else do something with my face for a change. the deal was that, with the purchase of two products, you could have a free makeup session with one of their artists. i've only done this kind of thing twice before- once at makeup forever before a friend's wedding and once when mac cosmetics was having a similar deal. the results in the first case were interesting, but not really a look i'd do for myself (plus i now avoid mufe completely, since they're pretty snaky about saying whether they do or do not use animal testing). my mac appointment was a better match for me, but it was almost too good a match... it was done with very nice rose/ plum colours that are pretty much what i use a lot on my own. so sure, it looked nice, but it also looked a little too familiar.

i figured that, with this appointment, the experience would be different. i wasn't getting a look done for any particular function and, unlike with mac, i have relatively little experience with nars, so there was already more chance of coming out with a distinctive look.


i'm not really sure how nars slipped through the cracks with me. i remember several friends of mine telling me how good they were, but i guess i was always such a mac loyalist that i didn't bother to check them out. once i did have a look at what they have to offer, i was quite charmed. they're somewhat similar to mac, in that there's a certain cheekiness to their marketing, a playfulness that you don't find as much with established high end brands (not that i mind the classy image of chanel or guerlain) and it's more clever than what you see with mass brands. (i'll get to what i mean by that later.) so in a way, this is a company after my own heart, something a little "haute edgy". (i think i'm going to start describing myself that way in job interviews.)

the lovely emily lajoie bourassa was my artist for the day and the only direction that i gave her was that she shouldn't worry about being too dramatic with the look she did. me likey the bold statement. (if you want to see a nars makeover done with a more restrained approach, you can check the one that beauty blogger karla sugar had done.) emily decided to go with what she described as a "dark green smoky look with bronze". intriguing.

the embarrassment of "morning face"
i can't say as i gave her a very good base to start from. i have good days and bad days with my under eye area and this was definitely not a good day. nonetheless, she cleaned me off with a softening milk cleanser and applied a few prep products- hydrating freshening lotion, aqua gel and nourishing eye cream around the problem area and primer and makeup base on eyes and face respectively. obviously, there are good reasons for applying makeup to clean skin- you don't want to go trapping dirt in there all day- but prep products are something that a lot of people are ambivalent about. a decade ago, you didn't even hear about makeup bases outside of fashion shows, but now most major brands have them. what i've discovered is that they're not 100% necessary, but they do tend to make products go on more evenly and make it last longer on your face. also, if you want something to give your face a more even appearance even when going au naturel, these do the trick. so myself, i lean towards using them.

the first thing emily worked on was giving me a solid, even base coat, as it were. the eye primer neutralised the colour of my lids (no small task) and on my face, she used sheer glow foundation in mont blanc, their palest shade with a slight pink undertone to match the cool undertone in my skin. their selection of colours in foundation is excellent- each colour level has cooler, warmer and neutral options, so you can usually find something that is a pretty dead-on match. (this one was as close to perfect as i've seen one get on me and i've tried a lot of foundations.)

for the eyes, she used the "tokyo" eye shadow duo (many of their products are geographically named) to give, as she put it "structure". what this means when you're talknig makeup is that it gives a bit of a highlight and some depth to the bones by having a light wash of colour over the brow and a slightly deeper colour in the crease. just on its own, this makes eyes stand out. but we were just getting started. the "main event" on the eyes was a wash of the single eye shadow "night porter".

this brings me to what i meant by the cleverness of the nars brand. to many, "night porter" is just a name, but to movie buffs like me, it's the name of liliana cavani's 1974 psycho-sexual drama about a holocaust survivor's relationship with an ss prison guard. and don't think it's a coincidence. if you want less subtle, they have a well-known blush called deep throat. there are also classic hollywood references, particularly to marlene dietrich ("lola lola", "lilli marlene", "scarlet empress", "blonde venus", shanghai express", "morocco", "hot voodoo") and audrey hepburn ("funny face", "roman holiday"). other product names contain references to blondie, louise brooks, fellini, john waters, david bowie and more. and while it's not a pop culture reference, you have to admire that their best-known product is a blush called "orgasm". (i prefer "deep throat" myself, for what it's worth.)

so for those of us who like to troll various levels of culture, there is an extra layer of playful enjoyment to their products- you feel like an insider, because you're in on the joke. the culture geek in me finds this fun. the marketing person in me thinks it's a great tactic.

but back to what was happening with my face. to finish off my eyes, emily added a highlight in the inner corner of the pale green half of the "iceland" eye shadow duo and applied hollywoodland soft touch shadow pencil (sort of like nars' version of the mac greasepaint sticks i raved about in my post about smoky eyes) along my water line. as she explained, having a little hint of light close to the eye and a darker layer around it makes the eyes look bigger, which is what you want when they are the focus of the look.

on my cheeks, she used "laguna" bronzer. now, i've already dealt with bronzed versus pale looks, but the idea here wasn't so much to make me look tanned as it was to give me a healthy glow and emphasise my bones. so rather than just using it as a straight blush, she applied it in what i'll call and "figure 3"- lightly around the brows and temples, stronger along the cheekbones and lightly around the contour of the jaw. the fact that this does show off the facial bones means that the dark eye has an anchor- so i don't end up looking like a pair of eyes floating in tapioca pudding.

goodness! i have cheekbones!
in order not to overwhelm things, she kept a very neutral lip, using "tashkent" pure matte lipstick (felt like velvet) and "greek holiday". the effect was indeed striking, but also not like anything i've tried myself (particularly because of the way she used "laguna").

the final look proved strangely difficult to photograph either at the counter or afterward. let me assure you, the photos don't do it justice. i can go on about how impressed i was, but i think that the real compliment is that women from the other makeup counters at the bay- guerlain in particular- kept commenting on how incredible my eyes looked. hey, they're the experts, not me.

at the end of things, of course, i got to pick out my goodies. seeing as i was running low on my beloved mac prolongwear (nc15 if you're looking for a shade comparison), i decided to grab the "sheer glow" foundation. i also couldn't help but get "night porter", since a super-dark green is something that i lack and this had the bonus of being sparkling without leaving tons of fallout over my face. i could have stopped at two, but i also got sucked in by a lovely lipstick called transeurope express. how the heck am i supposed to resist a dark red lipstick named after a kraftwerk song, i ask you?

i'll be posting reviews of my purchases shortly, but to close this thread, i'll say that it moved me from curious about the brand to a real fan. one thing that pleased me in particular was that emily gave me an actual face chart with the different products she used, to make it easy to recreate. i believe that there are nars counters conducting events like this throughout the first part of march (i know the one at holt renfrew in montreal is doing one this week), so avail yourself of the opportunity. cool products, cool people and a chance to get a fresh perspective on new faces to make.

all the products used are available directly from nars online if you're in the united states. elsewhere, you can go to one of their counters or stores (there's a store locator on the web site). in canada, nars have counters at sephora, the bay, murale, mills brothers and holt renfrew locations.


Ali said…
Great review! Couldn't agree more!
Kim said…
wonderful review! i dont think i have every had a better makeover then my Nars makeovers! they do such an amazing job!
prettypackages said…
prettypackages said…
Katred, this look is beautiful. STUNNING!
Kate MacDonald said…
Thanks very much! I'm glad that you enjoyed it. I do find that this has become a look that I like to recreate and Night Porter has become my favourite deep green. It's spawned a terrible addiction, though.

Interestingly, the artist who did this makeover now works at Makeup Forever in the Sephora in downtown Montreal.

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