Nars Duo Eyeshadow in Isolde - review and swatches


This is one of four Nars duos I own and it's the only one I'm yet to review, even though I've had it for ages. 

I have a few reasons for taking so long to review it: I don't wear it that much because it's more of a night product for me and less of an everyday one; the shadows reek of chemicals and always have, and the smell turns me off whenever I open the compact; and I've also been desperately trying to love the product because so many people do, but sadly I don't (more on why below).

I bought four Nars duos over a year ago now, when I was just getting into eyeshadow. 

I've always steered clear of fancy eyeshadows because I have hooded eyes and in the past I've preferred to stick to cheaper matte products because I don't wear strong eye looks so you don't need high-end stuff when you can't really see what you've applied (if you ever 'need' high-end stuff at all). But over the past couple of years I've become better at wearing eyeshadow in a way that reduces the look of my eye puff and I started with Nars when it came to making a few purchases.

I started with Nars because of all the hype surrounding its powders, but I'm wishing now that I'd bought only one duo before exploring other brands: Nars doesn't make the most consistent eyeshadows and I don't love the hard texture and sheer application you get from most Nars products (at least the ones I've tried). Again, more on all that below.

Nars claims/product details:
  • Modern, unique, sometimes unexpected colour combinations
  • All duos feature micro-fine powders that are highly pigmented, long-wearing and crease resistant
  • Colour glides on smoothly, evenly and blends effortlessly
  • The effects can be subtle or smouldering 
  • True colour application
  • Can be applied dry or with a dampened brush for stronger intensity
  • Multi-function use for shading, lining and highlighting the eyes
  • Classic, neutral, and fashion-forward shade pairings
  • 'Isolde' is described as 'frosted ginger and shimmering copper'
  • RRP $55 AUD for 4g, but do shop around

Above I've photographed the compact in direct sunlight, and below in natural light. 

The colours are warm and gorgeous, which is why I bought it - even though I knew I'd be limited to using them on the lids because I keep shimmering products away from my crease and hooded eye area so I don't accentuate my eye puff.

Photo taken in direct sunlight:

And in natural light:

Swatched heavily and lightly, direct sunlight:

And in natural light:

And oh dear, look how badly they perform on my eyes without a primer. I applied both on my eyelids and took this photo only twenty minutes after I'd applied the shadows:

The darker colour especially has shifted and creased, and you can barely see it. The lighter colour fared better, but that transferred within a minute of application. Not what you'd hope for from a high-end shadow!

Below I've used a primer and taken the shot outdoors (indirect sunlight). The darker colour is on the outer third of my lids and the lighter one is along the rest of the mobile lid - you can see that, even with a primer, the colour payoff isn't great.

And in the shade (I've used a matte shadow in the crease and above that in an attempt to retract my eye-puff):

Below I tried applying these with my finger, in the hope that the colour payoff would be a little better (it is, but not much):


Sadly, this product just doesn't work for me. I don't know why because I've seen so many people rave about this particular duo, but there are others like myself who just don't understand the hype. Maybe it works better for some than it does for others, depending on your skin and how oily your eyelids are etc.

First, I want to mention the smell. I've seen another reviewer mention the stench of Isolde, so I'm glad I'm not the only one! It's the only Nars product I own that reeks strongly of chemicals and I've no idea why, but it's so strong that I can smell it from the other side of the room when the compact is open, and the stench hasn't faded over time. Makes me worry what's in it.

Second, this is one of those products that swatches really well and delivers huge pigment on your arm, but when it comes to applying it to your eyes, it fades into nothing. This happens for me whether I use a brush or my fingers, and I guess I could apply it wet but I don't think I should have to do that for a product that costs this much.

Third, this transfers in a heartbeat on my hooded eyes - more than any other eyeshadow I own (even the budget ones). Granted, the shadows perform better with a primer, but at this price point, I don't think you should need one - at least if you're only going out for dinner for a couple of hours and don't need them to last all day.

Fourth, unhappily these colours can make me look like I've had an allergic reaction around my eye area if I'm not careful with them. This is the same for the Nars duo I own in St Paul De Vence (which also doesn't deliver on pigment), so I would definitely test this on the eye area and in different lights before committing to the purchase. Don't just swatch it on your arm and fall in love with it like I did, because like me you might take it home and be disappointed.

Fifth, I've come to realise that I don't like the texture of Nars powders. They're quite hard and sheer, and I prefer my expensive products to feel luxe: creamy, soft and gorgeous. These don't. They do soften a little once you get through the top layer, but the texture isn't something that adds to the experience of using them, unlike other high-end eyeshadows I own, which make me feel good when I apply them - one of the reasons I like fancy products.

In sum, I can't recommend this product and I've given it a 'disappointing products' tag. Yes I'm in the minority here, but I do urge you to give Nars shadows a good test run before handing over your cash.

Do you own any Nars duos? Let me know your favourites : )

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