NARS

NARS At-A-Glance

Strengths: Great range of foundation shades; the powder blush; lipsticks; some of the makeup brushes are excellent; tinted lip balm with broad spectrum sun protection.

Weaknesses: Expensive; jar packaging; drying cleansers and irritating toners and mask; no exfoliants; no sunscreens; ineffective skin-lightening products; average to poor pencils; the mascaras that are not impressive given their cost.

Frenchman Francois Nars has been painting the faces of New York's top models since arriving in the United States in 1984. Their images and his handiwork have been seen on the covers of countless fashion magazines, most notably Vogue and Elle. As the story often goes for the talented makeup artists who have become celebrities in their own right, Nars became frustrated with the state of available makeup and, surprise, another cosmetic line was born.

Beginning (as Bobbi Brown did) by launching a small collection of lipsticks in 1994, the clamor for the colors was incredible, and demand for more NARS products from the artist grew. Shortly thereafter an entire product line followed, gaining women's attention with sleek, tactile-enhanced packaging and risqué shade names.

As an overview, NARS makeup has many strengths, but just as many weaknesses. It reaches its zenith with blushes, foundation shades, brushes, and lipsticks, but falters when it comes to pencils, and mascaras. Still, the best of NARS are really spectacular, and include expanded color palettes.

Although much can be said about the makeup side of this cosmetics line, there is very little, if anything, to be said about the skin-care products other than "Why bother?" or better yet, "What were they thinking?" Most of the cleansers are drying, the toners are dated formulations of alcohol and other irritants, and the moisturizers are mundane, poorly conceived and dated formulations. A little grape juice and fennel won't save a mix of alcohol, film-forming agent, and waxes, especially not at these inflated prices. And sunscreen? Completely absent; it's not even discussed. The assembly of products is attractively presented at NARS counters, but don't be fooled!

For more information about NARS, owned by Shiseido, call (888) 788-6277 or visit www.narscosmetics.com.

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