The story 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. The lipstick? It was Nars Lipstick in Heat Wave ($28), and I haven't stopped wearing it since. 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.
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.
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 just launched an Orgasm Afterglow Lip Balm ($28) 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.
Below, find my other Nars favorites (because at my core, I'm a brand loyalist to the end).
Nars's new lip balm offers a sheer wash of the iconic peachy-pink and gold-shimmer hue that we all know and love—Orgasm. Delivering an "after-glow" effect, the formula features Monoï oil to hydrate and smooth and antioxidants to protect your lips from environmental factors (like wind and sun). Essentially, it'll make you look flushed in all the best ways and keep your lips supple in the process.
This body oil smells like a coconut-scented tropical vacation, but it's sophisticated. If I had the money to bathe it in, I would. The oil itself is authentic Monoï de Tahiti oil (the result of macerating the native tiare flower in refined coconut extract for at least 10 days). The process slowly infuses the oil with nutrients as well as that delicate, natural fragrance. There's even an original tiare flower in each bottle. And it keeps bugs away.
This is perfect blue-red shade, and trust me, I've done the research. It's slightly darker than Heat Wave but a true, gorgeous, velvety red that envelops your lips in the most classic of ways. The formula is matte but not entirely drying (sometimes I'll apply a bit of balm on top to keep things moisturized if I want it to stay on especially long), and because it's a pencil, it's really easy to apply precisely. Is there anything more incredible than an immaculately applied red lip? In my world, the answer to that is no.
It's subtle, but it shines. Nars's Highlighting Blush in Hot Sand ($30) is my go-to powder highlighter when I want to keep things glowy but not over-the-top.