Monday, June 10, 2013

NARS Light Reflecting Loose Powder & Desert Loose Powder

I certainly took my sweet time testing and using these two NARS lose powder products before reviewing. It was mostly because I like both and was trying hard to have an answer to readers' often-asked question: which one to choose? Also, right about the time NARS released their Light Reflecting Powder, another illuminating finishing powder appeared on the market, Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder (pressed), adding another excellent option.

NARS regular loose powder has been on the market for some years now and I had mine since before the Light Reflecting powder was announced. I've tried several samples of the powder (thanks to the wonderful staff at the NARS counter in my local Bloomingdale's at The Shops On Riverside) before choosing the one in Desert, a light beige that's low on yellow. The makeup artist at the counter prefers to apply this powder with a Yachiyo brush, and I adopted her method, though I use the large Yachiyo from Hakuhodo more than the NARS Yachiyo because it's softer. The regular loose powder is finely milled and wonderfully soft. It almost melts when touched and disappears on the skin, as long as you make sure not to use too much of it (another reason to apply this powder with a Yachiyo). Which brings us to the one issue with NARS Loose Powder: the packaging. The squarish container has a mesh sifter insert that's about 2mm smaller in perimeter than the box for easy removal. That also means that quite a bit of powder escapes it and creates a terrible mess all over my makeup area (and the felines that help in the process), unless you keep the plastic insert over it at all times (and not lose it the way I did after about a day of use. I suspect said felines).

The results, however, are pretty awesome. This powder adds a little coverage to other base products (making it an excellent companion to a tinted moisturizer), the smoothness and refined texture help the powder becomes one with skin and give it a natural finish.

The new NARS Light Reflecting Powder is offered in two formats- loose and pressed. I haven't tried the pressed one but you can read about it on Cafe Makeup. I got the loose version, a white powder with a translucent effect. The first thing I noticed is the texture- it's different than the regular powder and doesn't have the almost liquid feel when you touch it. However, the powder is still very fine. It smells like steamed rice, which I find very comforting. While the regular powder needs to be applied as a sheer veil, the Light Reflecting LP can and should be buffed into the skin to get the airbrushed appearance. I use a variety of Kabuki and flat top brushes (whichever is clean, really) and highly recommend working with natural hair bristles for this purpose for best results (unless you're vegan. In that case go with the densest Kabuki brush you can find). The Light Reflecting powder can also be used with a round crease brush to set under eye concealer, but since my skin is dry I usually skip this particular step. On the rare occasion I do it I like to use Edward Bess eye brush because it gives a very light and even wash of powder.

One last thing about NARS Light Reflecting Loose Powder is that it's not an all silica product like some HD powders that took the makeup world by storm and left celebrities with noticeable powder stains on their faces in photographs.  While silica is an ingredient in this product, there's quite a bit of other stuff in there (Water, Ascophyllum Nodosum Extract, Barium Sulfate, Titanium Dioxide, Mica, Aluminum, Iron Oxides, Glycerin, Tocopherol) to make a difference, though I didn't test to see just how much powder you can pile on before it starts showing in photos.

So, which one to choose? It depends on what exactly you're after. Both do a great job as a setting/finishing powder hybrid. The regular powder obviously enhances coverage but still looks more natural than photoshopped. The Light Reflecting powder can give an incredible finish that looks, well... finished. It's brilliant when you want to most polished appearance possible, with buffed and smooth skin. It works in a similar way to Hourglass Ambient, though the latter also adds color and/or color correcting to the look and in general shouldn't be buffed all over the face like this NARS powder.

Bottom Line: two excellent products that set the bar very high.

NARS Loose Powder ($35) and NARS Light Reflecting Loose Powder ($34) are available at the counters, Sephora and The Light Reflecting Powder was sent to me by the company while the regular powder was purchased.


  1. One of the things I've noticed about the Nars Light Reflecting Powder is that whenever I've seen blogger FOTD pictures, the powder tends to give them "moon face". That is, the powder tends to cancel out the plains and angels of their faces and casts a homogenous, slightly pale veil over their features. Personally, I like to see a face with some contour to it. Heaven knows, we purchase enough products with that goal in mind!

    The powder looks beautiful in person, but I think it would still be wise to avoid it in flash photography. I know the powder's formulation is supposed to eliminate that flashback problem, but I've seen so many pictures where there is, indeed, flashback although not of the splotchy kind associated with most HD powders. Perhaps the bloggers were being too heavy handed, perhaps the powder wasn't properly applied, who knows! There are just so many excellent soft-focus powders from which to choose that, if I knew there'd be flash photography, I'd definitely give Nars a miss :-(

    1. Eileen, I think that there's a temptation to keep using more and more of the LR powder while applying since the effect as one looks in the mirror is so pretty. You pile it on, buff, buff some more and things look more and more photoshopped. And that's exactly the problem. We lose the depth and that's a huge problem when photographed.

  2. What finishing powder would you recommend for situations where you know there will be flash photography? I'm going to a class reunion this summer and want to look nice in a polished sort of way. My local Sephora directed me to an HD powder but you're saying that isn't the best choice? What should I be looking for? Thank you for any advice you can give!

    1. My usual choice when I go to events is Guerlain Meteorites (any of the less sparkly ones). It gives a very light glow without a white cast. Do note that it doesn't add coverage, so work on the base with that in mind.

    2. Hi Anon,

      Wayne Goss (Gossmakeupartist on YouTube) has a couple of videos where he demonstrates what happens when you use HD powder in flash photography. He's a pro and knows how to use HD products and yet even he gets flashback when using them. Bottom line, if there is flash in your life, don't use HD powder. I strongly second Gaia's recommendation. I'd go exploring at the Guerlain counter. All of the Météorites are light-diffusing and many of them are not too shimmery. Voyage immediately comes to mind. If you don't want to splurge on the compact, you can buy the refill or buy the loose balls.

    3. Thank you both, Eileen and Gaia! I will definitely look at the Guerlain counter. I was thinking of getting one of their lipsticks already. I know to avoid anything glittery, but what is your take on a shiny lip for these type of events where people may be taking flash pictures with their phones or whatnot? I was interested in the Guerlain Shine Automatique but wondered if it might be too shiny. Also, this is my 30th high school reunion, so I am 48 and wanting to look appropriate but also look pretty! I love your blog, Gaia, and have learned so much from reading it.

    4. Oh, Anon! I'm going to be 69 in a couple weeks and I still wear shimmer :-). So long as it is of the more refined micro-shimmer type, there is no reason a woman of your age or mine can't wear it. Just use it with restraint and look to brands like Guerlain that have more mature women as their target demographic. A soft and luminous satin-matte face with a subtle shimmer on the lips would be lovely for your reunion.

    5. Thanks for the boost in confidence, Eileen. I shall wear my shiny lips with pride and boo to anyone who thinks I'm too old!

  3. I own the NARS loose powder and while I like it, I agree that the packaging is not practical at all. Also, sadly the SA who sold this to me matched me to the wrong (darker) shade, so I must be very careful applying it or risk having my face a totally different shade from my neck...


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