I Like NARS Pure Matte Lipstick, as a Matte-er of Fact

Published in: Makeup, Product Reviews

nars pure matte review

You know what they say, right? You can take the girl out of the ’90s, but you can’t take the ’90s out of the girl.


Well, I’ve never actually heard that before…but wouldn’t it make an awesome fortune cookie?

Back in the day matte lipstick was my BFF, and I always had at least one in my little black backpack (gawd, remember those?). I loved the look, but dangnabbit those old school matte formulas made my lips dry and flaky!

After all these years, I still love matte lips, and now with uber-moisturizing formulas like the one in new NARS Pure Matte Lipstick ($25), matte lips can be comfy, too (think spaghetti strap dress/baby-T combo, circa 1995).

Available in six shades with spectacular geographic names — Volga (a deep aubergine), Bangkok (a soft rose), Tonkin (a plum), Tere De Feue (a blackish cherry), Tashkent (a nude beige) and Vesuvio (a bold red) — the unscented, unflavored line conditions lips with hydrating vitamin E, wild mango butter and acai oil.

All four of the ones I’ve kissed so far feel smooth and soft on my lips. The texture’s considerably thicker than the similarly packaged MAC Mattenes (which I happen to like a lot), but isn’t as slick/slippery.

Lipstick Tips from Francois Nars

  • For a modern matte look, choose a lip color close to your natural skin tone, or pair a darker lip color with simple face makeup
  • For full, hard-to-miss lips, go with an audacious color spruced up with a dab of gloss or shimmer applied in the middle
  • Use lip liner to fill the shape of your lips, but make sure you blend out any obvious edges
  • Avoid over-applying your lipstick; the more you wearing, the heavier it looks (and, interestingly, the quicker it wears off)

nars pure matte lipstick swatches review tonkin

nars pure matte lipstick swatches review volga

nars pure matte lipstick swatches review bangkok

nars pure matte lipstick swatches review tashkent

nars pure matte lipstick swatches review bangkok tashkent tonkin volga
Swatches from left on NC35 skin: Bangkok, Tonkin, Tashkent, Volga

nars pure matte lipstick swatches review volga
A few dupes! Swatches from left: NARS Pure Matte Lipstick in Volga, Benefit Lipstick in No Competition, NARS Pure Matte Lipstick in Tonkin, MAC Mattene Lipstick in Flattery, Benefit Lipstick in Lady’s Choice


In terms of coverage, color and hydration, I think the Pure Mattes have a slight advantage over MAC’s Mattenes. Both offer dense, daring color, but the Pure Mattes look a tad more opaque and feel more hydrating to me. I think they’re also, in fact, a little more matte, as the Mattenes seem to have a slight shine.

Wear time’s also pretty good, and I’ve been getting about four real-life (including meals) hours from them. And that’s without a primer or lip liner worn underneath.

Something to think about: Matte textures tend look more natural than glossy ones do in pictures and photograph really well. That, plus their long wear time, should make these great for weddings and other events.

I’d prefer a slightly thinner, slicker texture (and a few dollars slashed off the price), but I think their opacity, wear time and moisturizing formula still make these worth checking out. Makeup and Beauty Blog Rating: B+

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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So far, 47 people have commented on this article. How cool is that?

  1. volga and bangkok look GAWJUS!
    dani@callitbeauty recently posted … Collection Spotlight- Emporio Armani – Fall 2010

  2. Gina says:

    Volga is absolutely STRIKING! I love the look of matte lipstick, but my lips get dry easily. So I might have to give these a shot.

  3. Styrch says:

    I just got into Nars Velvet Matte lip pencils. Now I am going to dive into this! Tonkin will be mine! 🙂
    Styrch recently posted … Ling Skincare Diary – Week 4

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Super excited to try these out! I think the names might be in the wrong order on the second last picture by the way. Can’t be sure, but from the pics it looks like it!

  5. Nina says:

    I fancy taking a gander at Bangkok and maybe Volga. The colors are so pretty! 🙂

  6. tass says:

    These look absolutely gorgeous!
    tass recently posted … Blair Waldorf in Paris

  7. Agnes says:

    Bangkok & Tonkin look amazingggg! Volga looks really good on you too but i cant picture it on me 🙁 but i do like how these arent as drying as matte lippies usually are.. i already have pretty dry lips, so i tend to avoid matte lippies.. but these look like something i should try! 😀 thanks!
    Agnes recently posted … Glitter NOTD & Tutorial

  8. Crystal says:

    I hope they expand the color range because I’m a lipstick person, I don’t like gloss. I would love a really good matte shade that didn’t instantly dry my lips. I’m all about matte, no shimmer, no frost, so these are right up my ally!

  9. TJ says:

    Volga and tonkin are truly beautiful to me.
    TJ recently posted … I could do this with a jacket

  10. Joey Chong says:

    Tonkin looks so pretty!!

  11. Kate & Zena says:

    Hm, the colors are so pretty, but I would them even more if they were, say, semi-matte. Matte just looks so blaaaaaaaaah. It’s like someone forget to put in lovely sparkliness of gloss.

    TGIF! Well, kind of. I’m still recovering from two hospital visits and the first week (well, day, if you were me) of school. I managed to sleep in until 4 PM today. Ha ha ha ha ha, oops.

  12. Rae says:

    HUGE love for Volga — it looks so pretty! But I don’t know… I think with the texture in mind, I’d have to go with that awesome Benefit dupe that you found.
    Rae recently posted … theBalm continues to impress with Stainiac

  13. Dee says:

    Yay! I’ve been waiting for this review all week :)))) I need Tashkent for sure :)))Thanks for the info Karen:)))
    Dee recently posted … Personal Fashion Styling and Make up Consultations

  14. blovetbeauty says:

    i think these would look a little too drying on my lips 🙁
    blovetbeauty recently posted … Soft Purple &amp Gold EOTD &amp SKII

  15. Karen B says:

    I think that Bangkok will come home with me as soon as I can get my paws on it.
    Too bad it only comes out in september or I could’ve brought it with me last week. I did go on a spree this week as well: caravaggio duo and iceland duo and various bits and bobs. Lovely 🙂
    Karen B recently posted … Friday Fame- Liv Tyler

  16. gio says:

    Volga looks gorgeous!!
    gio recently posted … Blogs We Love- Temptalia

  17. MAUI says:

    Tonkin is amazing!

  18. Ariel says:

    do you think glossy lips are going out of style? lately i haven’t been wanting to wear any lipgloss because i think it looks dated– i’m loving matte lipstick these days. tinted lip balm too.

  19. phuongk says:

    Hi, can you please compare the color of Volga to Scarlet Empress? Do you think they are close enough to be a dupe? 🙂

  20. Chris says:

    Did you check out the new gloss that is meant to go over the mattes? Luxor is a cool violet once you put it on. Sort of transforms the shades apparently. I had a sneak peek at Nordstrom last month.

  21. knownever says:

    Love it! Matte lipsticks have always been my favorite lipstick finish. it’s very classic or retro depending on the color.
    knownever recently posted … Put the Lime in the Coconut- Laura Mercier Body Scrub

  22. The BB says:

    I really love NARS! I’ve been waiting for the new matte lipsticks to come out. I’m probably going to be adding Tashkent to my stash, such a pretty nude color. I’m glad to hear they aren’t drying and last a fair amount of time.
    The BB recently posted … Going Nude

  23. Trisha says:

    Those look GREAT on you. I’ve never even considered wearing a matte lipstick, but these actually look better than the non-matte variety. My world has been rocked to the very core. 🙂
    Trisha recently posted … New Ebook- The 30 Day Ultimate Beauty Makeover!

  24. amy says:

    I saw these at my Nars counter on Friday and Tonkin and Bangkok are my favourites. I love how neutral Tonkin looks and Bangkok adds a bang of colour. Volga is very pretty too but Tashkent looks a bit drying.
    amy recently posted … Ode to the Honeydew NOTD OPI Nail Lacquer Hey Get in Lime!

  25. Marie says:

    I don’t think I can choose between Tonkin and Bangkok. ^^

  26. Molly says:

    i would wear volga in a hearbeat! loveee it.

  27. Vesna says:

    These are really nice looking! I like Volga! <3
    I also prefer matte lipsticks and true, they look more natural and photograph perfectly 🙂
    Vesna recently posted … Beauty Blog Link Love! 28-08-2010!

  28. Vero says:

    VOlga is fantastic!

  29. HanaBerlin says:

    I’m gonna have to try this on!!!

  30. Advah says:

    That Volga one is gorgeous! I’m obsessed with berry coloured lipsticks, although I’m never sure how to wear them. (think the old Stila’s Natalie, sigh)

  31. Michele DiCola says:


  32. Melessa says:

    oooo im excited! im ALWAYS on the hunt for a good matte, nude-pink lipstick. interestingly you said bangkok is your favorite and that was my immediate first choice but now im also looking at tonkin and tashkent. cant wait to try these, i hope one of them is “the one”!

    suggestion (that i would like) :
    love that you do swatches on your skin and lips (when you do 2 skin tones thats a treat), but i think you should also include (not replace) a regular face shot to see how it works with your whole face and does the pigment come out more opaque or translucent from farther away, what will it look like from someone elses point of view, etc.

    just a thought, have a great day 🙂

  33. Ari says:

    love the cute title! 🙂 I was wondering, do you find these really drying? Because it seems like it would be, and I have super dry lips! thanks

  34. Hi Karen,
    Love the shades, I want them all! I am a huge fan of the Nars Velvet Matte Lip pencils, Sex Machine being my favourite, and I wondered how you found these compared. If you had to choose, which product out of the 2 do you prefer?

    Keep up the fantastic blog, it is always the first thing I read when I come online in the morning!

  35. Summer says:

    Thanks for this Karen! What lipliner did you/would you pair with Volga? I am loving it!!!

  36. i just bought the volga and love it!

    Chantal Hughes recently posted … Come to Me My Pretty

  37. Pluie says:

    Hi beauty! I intend to buy a NARS velvet matte pencil or a pure matte. Which one do you think better?

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