Say Hello to the NARS MothershipI’ve pretty much convinced myself that this is a palette I am better off avoiding. Plus, I’ve read more than enough reviews that swayed in this direction so it wasn’t exactly an “omg must buy because of the hype” product. BUT. The temptation of having 15 NARS shades all in one palette was too strong and debilitating that I inevitably gave in. Especially since I knew I could get it for cheaper in Nordstrom through GCASH-AMEX Virtual Pay* as compared to buying it locally. It’s definitely $$$ cheaper than buying NARS shadows in duos or singles despite their size and most probably inferior quality. I’ve two other NARS palettes – Fairy’s Kiss and Voulez Vous – that were so-so (more so bad than so good) that should’ve further deterred me but then, where’s the fun in that? Haha! I’ve had this for quite some time now but wanted to fully test its capabilities to be able to give my final verdict and not just a measly ‘first impressions’ post. This’ll be a long one soooo, are you ready?
The LowdownThe long and short of it? I can’t proclaim just yet. To be honest, I’m still deciding as I type this entry. Having experienced the other NARS palettes in my stash, I knew better than to swatch this unprimed. On the fingertips, they seemed relatively pigmented. Deceivingly okay actually. But I was sure that if I applied it sans primer on the arm or on the lids (which I did just to compare), the true beauty of the shades won’t at all shine through. So all the swatches you’ll see below are swiped over the NYX HD Primer (a reasonably okay primer that’s not too shabby yet not the best either). The matte shades are the weakest link in this palette. As expected – since I really don’t get on with almost all the NARS mattes I’ve tried. Seriously. I can’t understand how a large and well-known brand that executes most of their satins and shimmers almost perfectly can screw up their mattes? Please explain. Are they really meant to be stiff and dry? If they are, then maybe I’m just using it wrongly and/or haven’t found the proper way to apply them (no sarcasm here, just simply confused).
ShadesMoving on, the shade selection varies from soft highlights, classic NARS satin slash shimmers along with their signature smokey darks. I think they did a great job mixing in cool and warm-toned shades as well as in balancing out the matte and the shimmer textures. Well, technically not balanced or proportioned – as there are only 5 mattes with the rest being shimmers. I do however favor it as is because like I said above, the mattes could use some reformulation (or explanation as to how to use them!!). I would have preferred all the shades to be the beautiful satin shimmers but that wouldn’t be a balanced palette now, would it?
Highlight ShadesMadrague I. A matte cream with a slight yellow undertone. Similar to Urban Decay Foxy which has more yellow. Slightly creamier and not as poorly pigmented as its duo counterpart, Madrague II. It’s one of the better light mattes. All About Eve. A flesh-toned neutral in satin texture. Again, dismal pigmentation. Although when packed on the lids shows up… eventually yet not at all effortlessly. Bellissima. A speck-filled ivory. More like specks that are just waiting to fall as they float on a super sheer white base. Similar to MAC Nylon. Madrague II. Matte caramel. POORLY pigmented. It took like 4-5 layers to actually get it to show up well both on my arms and on my lids.
Not-so-Neutral NeutralsFirst five are my top picks in this palette. Nepal. A soft sheer rose with a slight golden reflect. Almost close to rose gold in some angles. Good pigmentation and isn’t too dry. I believe I don’t have a shade quite like it yet it in my stash. Lhasa. A lavender grey. This is one of NARS’ cult classics which I actually have it in my Voulez Vous palette. Although a beautiful shade, is quite sheer and not as pigmented as I would have liked. I did have to pack it on a few layers to get it to the pigmentation above. Fez. A velvety cocoa. Absolutely the best shade in the palette. Boldly pigmented, nearly buttery, smooth texture, easily blendable a.k.a the only shade representative of NARS quality. If you can make this kind of beauty, why not apply it to all the shades, NARS? I don’t get it!! Easily my favorite shade and the one I’m sure I’ll get the most use out of. Ashes to Ashes. A shimmery violet-based brown that looks like a pale purple taupe. Not the best in terms of pigmentation because it took a few swipes to get it to the opacity as shown above. A nice shade, but takes too much work to get it to show up. Bad Behavior. A deep pewter. Quite pigmented compared to most in the batch but applies quite patchily. Also, it loses its shifting gray dimension when applied on the lids. Bali. A dark mushroom brown. Mediocre pigmentation and just plain stiff and dry. This becomes MUD when applied on my lids. Like I just did some gardening and smeared on soil on my face.
Smoke Up ShadesSo I’m missing two more in these swatches, Brouse II and Dogon which you can just refer to below. To be honest, these dark smokey shades look so alike that I wouldn’t be able to differentiate them at all. Coconut Grove and Mekong are infused with flecks but… apparently, they tend to disappear when swatched. I’ll give these dark shades another dry by applying them damp and ‘foiling’ them in the hopes of unraveling their true potential. Coconut Grove. A deep brown infused with reflects that don’t translate on the swatches. Like Bali, this just turns into a muddy mess when I apply it on my lids. Patchy with mediocre pigmentation. Mekong. An espresso infused with gold. What? Where is the gold? This looked so gorgeous in pan, I was sure to love it, but when I applied on my lids – the dimensionality it seductively depicted failed to deliver. Same with Coconut Grove, patchy with poor pigmentation. Pandora. Matte black. This doesn’t look as bad as it swatches, to be honest. It’s not the blackest of black but it is buildable and not as patchy as the previous mentioned. I use this for eyeliner and it’s perfect. Not long-lasting, though as it disappears after a good 4-5 hours. Brousse II. A shimmery blackened violet metallic. Somehow, this appears a deep brown in some lighting and in others, the plum shade it’s meant to be. Better pigmented than most of the shades although still not as I would have wanted it to be. Dogon. A charcoal black with green undertones. Same dryness yet less stiff and better pigmented than most of the matte shades. On my lids, this has a tendency to look like a dark gray sky has just fallen upon me.
And finally, a swatch of ALL TEH shades! The first one is under indirect sunlight while the next two are under direct sunlight. Most of these are layered on 4-5 times on average (some even 6!) save for Fez. While they don’t look too bad in these swatches, it took a lot of effort to get them to show up like this. Also, on the eyelids, some shades lose their dimensionality and just translate to a muddy shade.
FINAL THOUGHTS!So while I am completely smitten with Fez, I can’t overlook the mediocre textures of most of the shades. I’ve been convincing myself that it’s not such a bad palette but then there you go – I have to convince myself that it isn’t such a bad palette. Maybe I’ve just been spoiled rotten by the beautiful textures of Burberry, Rouge Bunny Rouge, Laura Mercier even Urban Decay and LORAC! Maybe it’s not such a sucky palette. And it’s just more challenging and a bit taxing as compared to other more effortless formulas (heck, even the Wet n Wild eyeshadows are easier to work with than most of the shades here). The mattes are patchy and not easily blendable, but with some perseverance and borderline-numb fingers from all the windshield-wiping and swirling, they can be workable. I wish they hadn’t included as much almost-identical-when-applied-on-the-lids dark shades because… exactly that. Some of the dark shades also translate to MUD when applied so I’m not genuinely thrilled with that fact either. The lighter shades, on the other hand, are so sheer and if not sheer, patchy – that they do take some work to show up decently too. And when they do, they all look quite the same anyway.
The LookI mainly used Fez for this look, with Madrague II on the inner lid and a bit of Mekong for the outer-V. Blending was tedious. It took a good 20-30 minutes to finish both eyes and they’re not even as well-blended as I’d like them to look. I kinda just gave up and applied some falsies to make up for it, hah! So yes, this palette isn’t entirely crappy. It will deliver results — if you work hard enough for it. As I said, it’s not an effortless ‘swipe-and-go’ kind of palette. But once you put some effort (and enough time!) as well as a bit of patience, you may even like/love the Narsissist palette (especially if you’re into smokey eyes!).
Okay, final final thoughts!So, okay – I think it’s pretty obvious with the overall tone of this review – I’m disappointed. While many people recommend this to those who haven’t experienced any NARS shadows yet, I can’t go with their recommendations. I think this palette is not at all representative of NARS quality. For $80, I would recommend to just buy two of their best duos (or three of their singles) – those with the outstanding quality I believe NARS is truly capable of. I love 2 (Fez and Nepal), like another 2 (Lhasa, Ashes to Ashes) and find 1 okay (Pandora) making it 5 out of the 15 shades. Sure, you’ll be “saving” as compared to buying the NARS shadows in singles or duos, but most of the shades in this “value-for-money” palette are just disappointing that I don’t think you’ll be getting your money’s worth anyway. I actually know of drugstore shadows that perform better than most of the shades here. There, I said it. Maybe the palette is okay and the real problem is my amateur blending skills hindering me from unlocking this palette’s real potential. Who knows! For $80 though, I expected more in terms of quality and not just a whole lot of quantity – which sadly is this palette’s strongest selling point and nothing more.
*I bought this palette on my own using the GCASH-AMEX Virtual Pay service by Globe. GCASH-Amex is an online debit card tied up with My Shopping Box which allows you to shop anywhere abroad and have items delivered straight to your doorstep. Sign up here. **No affiliate links