The story of my love for Nars Lipstick in the shade Heat Wave goes like this: I was an intern for Time Out New York's Shopping & Style section during the summer of 2011. I had just graduated college and was attempting to navigate that in-between phase of pre-adulthood—mostly drowning but dog-paddling somewhere near the surface. I was holding down a job for the first time (I worked seven days a week to afford rent and my unpaid internship) when my then-boss asked me to cover a fashion show during NYFW. At the time, I couldn't believe she would pass up such an incredible opportunity to me—that's how green I was in the industry. But nonetheless, I accepted her offer, giddy, and went on my way.
It wasn't until I stepped out of the subway (my budget certainly didn't cover cabs) that I realized I looked like an intern. I didn't feel cool enough or like I'd fit in anywhere where style and beauty choices were marketed like currency. So I stopped into Sephora. Maybe I'd be able to add a few gleaming, fresh-looking products to up my confidence. I certainly didn't have the time or money to buy a new outfit. And even then, there was something about beauty that enchanted me.
I walked through the glossy aisles at Sephora and stopped at the Nars counter. There, right before me, was the perfect red lipstick. I'd never felt I could pull off red lipstick before—I lived somewhere in between the nudes and the light pinks of the world—but it practically grabbed me and wouldn't let me move on without trying it on. I swatched a section of my hand with the orange-red formula, perfectly semi-matte yet still luscious and creamy, and swiped it on my lips. There, I thought, now you belong here.
I practically sashayed out the door and to the show, feeling confidence I'm not sure I'd owned previous to that moment. I went on to become a beauty editor (clearly) and have worn this very lipstick through job interviews, big meetings, beach vacations, first dates, and late nights ever since.
Pros + Cons
- Long-wearing, creamy formula
- Bold, pigmented shades
- Formulation includes moringa and passion fruit seed oils
- Doesn't meet Byrdie's Clean Pledge
The Bottom Line: Bold and bright
Nars Lipstick in Heat Wave is a blazing orange-red matte shade that wears beautifully on the lips. With oils that nourish and hydrate, it lasts without drying out, cracking, or pilling.
Best for: A bold lip
Star Rating: 4/5
Active ingredients: Moringa and passion fruit seed oils, shea butter
Clean?: No—contains hydrogenated polyisobutene, BHT, dyes
Potential allergens: Yes—linalool, limonene, citronellol
Shade Range: 12 shades, including corals, berries, beiges, and pinks
What's Included: Product only
About the brand: The namesake beauty line of famed French photographer François Nars is equally wearable backstage at a runway show and on the streets. Think pigmented, high-performance products that are built to last.
About My Lipstick MO
Now, my bright, bold lipstick days aren't entirely behind me, but I do wear it less and less. I've entered a new phase in my life, one that settles for a bare lip (save for lip balm or something of the unfussy variety), and I've gotten into a more minimal makeup look. Nars Orgasm Afterglow Lip Balm ($28) is perfect for my new set of needs.
That being said, I'll never give up on Heat Wave, and I'll never stop wearing it. It's my perfect match, the product Clyde to my Bonnie. It still offers the same unbelievable confidence each time I slick it on and garners the same amount of compliments.
How to Apply
Swipe it on straight from the tube, devil-may-care style, or for more precision, apply using a lip brush. Blend with your fingers or a brush, or blot with a tissue for a muted effect.
The Results: A plush, siren-red pout
The genius is in the formula, as Nars lipsticks are enriched with vitamin E to increase their wearability and keep the true color locked in place. The finish is velvety with that elusive siren effect, full-bodied, and classic. Yet you can move your lips with it on—no dryness, cracks, or weird-looking fading.
The shade is incredibly flattering, brightens up my entire face, and allows for an almost entirely undetectable fade. Reapplying is never a must, which makes life all the easier to enjoy, and it lasts all day.
The Value: Par for the course
Honestly, luxury lipsticks don't come cheap, but this option isn't the most expensive I've seen at $26 for 0.12 oz. Given that the shades are so pigmented, a tube should last you a long, long time—even if you wear it nearly every day like I do.
Similar Products: You have options
Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Mysterious Red: Comparatively priced at $27, this is the perfect blue-red shade that's slightly darker than Heat Wave. It's matte, yet velvety, like Nars Lipstick, and because it's a pencil, it's really easy to apply precisely.
MAC Matte Lipstick in Lady Danger: A traffic-stopping red at a cheaper price point ($19). With a creamy finish, it's a dupe for Nars Heat Wave.
Our Verdict: A flattering, wearable coral red
You can't go wrong with a classic Nars lipstick, and Heat Wave is no exception. The creamy color payoff in bold orange-red flatters an array of skin tones and wears comfortably all day.