NARS Sheer Glow Foundation review: a beauty writer tests the iconic formula

Our NARS Sheer Glow Foundation review - is the famous complexion-boosting base really worth the hype?

nars sheer glow foundation review
(Image credit: Canva/Kelle Salle)
Woman & Home Verdict

A weightless, buildable formula that gave my skin natural radiance. It evened out my tone and – with a little help from setting powder – kept oil at bay all day long. Aside from a couple of tiny gripes, it's hard to fault this long-lasting, easy-to-apply base.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    32 shades available

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    Natural looking finish

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    Hydrating

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    Evens out skin tone

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    Skincare benefits

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    Good for oily/combination skin

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Pump sold separately

  • -

    Can settle in fine lines

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When writing this NARS Sheer Glow Foundation review, I decided to put all my worries about glow-enhancing products to one side and rise to the challenge. As someone who has had oily/combination skin since their teens, I've always stayed away from products that have the words glow, illuminating, or radiant on the packaging. 

For me, the best foundation is all about coverage. And from past experience, I know that this is the one thing you are guaranteed with NARS foundations. Through the years, I’ve alternated between foundations but as I get older, I am looking for one that will be my go-to, whatever the occasion, and that is quite hard to find when you have oily/combination skin. 

SPECIFICATIONS

Price: $47/£37

Available shades: 32

Coverage: Sheer buildable 

Finish: Natural, radiant 

Extra features: Hydrating, glycerin, vitamin C and turmeric extract, paraben, alcohol and fragrance-free, non-comedogenic 

NARS is renowned for creating iconic foundation formulas and the Sheer Glow Foundation has cult status among its loyal customer base. This foundation isn’t new, it launched in 2009 and since then, has been a bestseller. So how does it measure up over a decade on?

OUR BEAUTY WRITER’S NARS SHEER GLOW FOUNDATION REVIEW 

NARS SHEER GLOW FOUNDATION PACKAGING

NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in AIguacu and Marquise

NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in AIguacu and Marquise

(Image credit: Kelle Salle)

The foundation comes in a small glass bottle with a matte lid that has a subtly luxurious look. It does feel heavy and premium, although, for this price, I would have hoped for a slightly bigger bottle. 

Something to keep in mind with this foundation is that it doesn’t come with a pump. NARS has always sold pumps separately. As a beauty enthusiast who loves makeup, I know how important it is to be mindful of additional costs you may incur. The fact that NARS always sells pumps separately may put some people off but once you’ve got a pump, you’ll never have to think about it again. 

There’s a lot of base in the bottle, so this dispenser is necessary if you want to avoid pouring out too much. The pump fits on the lid perfectly and dispenses the right amount of product, all you need to do is shake the bottle beforehand. If you want to recycle the foundation when you’ve used it, you just remove the pump to be reused and recycle the glass separately.

THE FOUNDATION FORMULA

I’m no stranger to NARS foundations – their Sheer Matte Foundation was one of the first I ever used and I also own the Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation, so I had an idea of what I would be getting. 

I had two different shades to try, Iguacu (for deep skin with neutral undertones) and Marquise (for medium to deep skin with golden undertones) NARS offers cool, warm, and neutral undertones for medium and deep skin tones, so you’ll be sure to find something that’s right for you. 

My NARS Sheer Glow Foundation review got off to a very good start. When I tested it on the back of my hand, I fell in love with the texture – it was so silky, smooth, and easy to blend. The formula includes skin-loving ingredients vitamin C and turmeric extract to hydrate, brighten and protect the complexion. That hydration factor, courtesy of moisture-boosting glycerin, means that the base will leave your skin feeling moisturized all day long. I was really impressed with the way my skin looked on the first wear. It enhanced my complexion with a ‘lit from within’ glow. 

HOW DOES IT LOOK AND FEEL ON SKIN?

nars sheer glow foundation

How NARS Sheer Glow Foundation looked on its own (left) and with a full face of makeup (right)

(Image credit: Kelle Salle)

For those who are familiar with NARS, you’ll know that the brand’s founder, Francois Nars, recommends using your fingers to apply their foundation. I prefer applying makeup with a brush or beauty blender, so I’m able to determine the coverage. I think this formula works really well when applied with a brush. It looked flawless and I still had that second-skin look NARS advocate for. 

The finish of this foundation is natural and radiant. It evened out my skin tone, which I loved and the coverage is buildable. I found that I was able to achieve the look I wanted with just one application. Although it is glowy, If you are a fan of a matte finish, this can work for you too – just apply a bit of loose powder once your makeup is complete. It felt really nice on my skin and it stayed in place when I applied powder. It also stayed in place when I contoured my cheekbones, which rarely happens.

The foundation felt light – so light that there were a few moments in the day when I forgot I had makeup on, touched my face with my palm and the foundation did not budge. I was pleasantly surprised. NARS is definitely onto something with this gem. 

HOW ABOUT AFTER A DAY OF WEAR?

The best foundation for oily skin in my book offers medium to full coverage and a matte finish. Realistically, my complexion can't be matte 100% of the time, but I do want it to be balanced and for any shine to be minimized. Longevity is also important to me. Once I’ve completed my makeup look with my best setting powder, I don’t want to reapply.

My NARS Sheer Glow Foundation review couldn’t be concluded until I put its longevity to the test. The test being one day running errands and another working from home followed by dinner with friends. On both days, the foundation stayed in place. I still had a second-skin look and the foundation hadn’t budged in the areas I wanted to conceal, which was great. 

If I had one critique, it would be that it settled into my fine lines on one side - the other side was fine so this could have been a blunder on my part. Next time, I’ll let the translucent powder I apply in my under-eye area set for a bit longer. If you want to take your makeup game to the next level, put a bit of setting spray on your brush before applying the product. I got this tip from a makeup masterclass and since then, I’ve been hooked. 

NARS SHEER GLOW FOUNDATION REVIEW: MY VERDICT

My main takeaway from writing this NARS Sheer Glow Foundation review is that I can’t believe I have spent so long avoiding glow-enhancing products. I can see why this has stood the test of time. It’s light, easily buildable, and offers a ‘lit from within’ glow. My skin looked fresh and natural and the foundation stayed in place all day. Of course, I had to do a bit of blotting after a few hours, but it was worth it for the excellent finish and the skin-enhancing benefits.

The shade range is good, however, I wasn’t sure whether Iguacu or Marquise would be right for me. When you consider that many brands have elevated their foundation shade offerings in recent years, I could have done without the uncertainty. It would be nice to see a shade for deep skin with golden undertones as medium-deep and deep skin are not the same thing. In spite of this, it is one of the best premium foundation options out there and I can definitely see it being a go-to, especially on the days when my skin needs a little pick-me-up. Bravo NARS. 

Kelle Salle
Beauty writer

Kelle is a writer and blogger, specializing in beauty, lifestyle and wellbeing related topics. She has twelve years of blogging experience, and launched KS, a lifestyle platform which aims to inform and inspire millennial women in 2017. In 2020, Kelle started writing for digital publications. Her work has been featured in POPSUGAR, Byrdie, Stylist, BeautyTap and Brown Beauty Talk. Kelle's published work ranges from beauty news to women's health and lifestyle-related topics.