2020 Lipstick Chronology #1: NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita (New Formula)

Product: NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita

Date Purchased: January 4, 2020

Grade: B+

I started this blog in early 2014 with a series called Lipstick Chronology, in which I set out to review all of my lipsticks in chronological order of purchase, musing on the circumstances in which I bought them and the feelings and memories they evoked. I kept up the series for thirty-four posts; it’s astonishing what you can accomplish when you’re putting off writing your dissertation. Because thirteen new lipsticks came into my life in 2020 and I failed to review any of them on the blog, I’ve decided to revive Lipstick Chronology with a brief installment every Friday, circumstances permitting. That will take eleven weeks, since I’ll be reviewing three shades from the same formula in a single post.

It’s fitting that I should begin my revamped chronology with the revamped version of a lipstick that has been in my life since the original Lipstick Chronology days. NARS Sheer Lipstick in Dolce Vita has been my go-to “purse lipstick,” the one that lives in my makeup bag and accompanies me throughout the day, ever since I bought my first tube in the spring of 2013. It goes with every outfit and makeup look, can be applied without a mirror, and feels as comfortable as a balm…that is, the original version did. In 2019, NARS celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary by reformulating its matte, satin, and sheer (i.e. non-Audacious) lipstick formulas. The brand eliminated several shades and introduced dozens of new ones, but kept most of its truly iconic colors, such as Schiap, Heat Wave, andto my great reliefDolce Vita. But would the new Dolce Vita be as indispensable to me as its predecessor? I had to find out.

On the fourth day of 2020, I bought Dolce Vita at the Sephora in Stonestown Galleria, the mall down the street from my high school in San Francisco. (I also bought a swirled matcha/hōjicha soft-serve cone from Matcha Cafe Maiko; the Stonestown food court has become a lot less basic since the mid-’00s.) This post thus contains four nested layers of nostalgia: 1) nostalgia for visiting San Francisco before the pandemic; 2) nostalgia for my teenage years; 3) nostalgia for wearing the old version of Dolce Vita in grad school; 4) nostalgia for the early days of my blog.

I’ve given up sugar for the month of January and looking at this photo is literal torture.
The reformulated NARS lipsticks contain the same amount of product that the originals did (0.12 oz, or 3.4 g), but the packaging is a bit longer and wider. The old NARS tubes, which I prefer, have slightly rounded edges, while a cross-section of a new tube would be perfectly square. The new tubes have the classic black-and-white color scheme and lint-attracting rubbery finish, but the white “NARS” is printed on the bottom half of the tube instead of on the lid. Here’s an old tube next to Dolce Vita:
And Dolce Vita in my hand for scale:

The lipstick itself, in all its brand-new splendor:

The OG Dolce Vita was a fairly neutral-toned pink, exactly the “dusty rose” of NARS’s description. It had a slightly waxy formula that didn’t deposit much pigment on my lips but somehow made them look much prettier than usual. In my original review (strong warning for potato-quality photos), I wrote that I considered Dolce Vita “more of a lip-glow product than a full-on lipstick.” However, this delicate sheerness was what kept me coming back to Dolce Vita year after year, tube after tube.

The new Dolce Vita is warmer-toned than the original, more peachy than mauvey, and the formula is significantly wetter-looking and more pigmented. It also feels more moist and balmy on my lips, and it lasts slightly longer, simply because it deposits more product per swipe. The characteristic NARS herbal-tea scent is almost undetectable in the new formula, though it’s still there if you really sniff. Here’s a swatch:

With some lipsticks in roughly the same color family:

L-R: Urban Decay Lawbreaker, Dolce Vita, MAC Smoked Almond, Revlon Shameless.
I almost never plan a look around Dolce Vita; I’m much more likely to wear it on an otherwise bare face. (In pre-pandemic days, I’d put it on if a fussier lipstick had faded while I was out and I had no time for an intensive refresh, but I haven’t found myself in that situation for over a year now.) So I don’t actually have a lot of photos of myself wearing Dolce Vita, and most of the ones I do have are uninteresting and/or unflattering because, again, no other makeup. Here’s a rare exception from last January; I believe I’m also wearing Glossier Lidstar in Slip and Cloud Paint in Puff.
And here’s Dolce Vita worn with just some concealer and damp hair, on a road trip shortly before that:
Does anyone else feel like their face aged significantly in 2020? I swear I look so much more tired now than I did in these photos taken a year ago.

Unfortunately, I don’t love the new version of Dolce Vita quite as much as I loved its predecessor: I wish it were a little cooler-toned and a little less pigmented. These quibbles ring a bit hollow when you consider that I’ve used up almost half the tube in the past year…

…but once I’ve finished Dolce Vita, I might look for a replacement that’s closer to the original. (I think the new NARS Cruising could actually be a match for the old Dolce Vita; pity it’s named after a notoriously lurid film that was picketed by gay activists on its release in 1980.) Or maybe I’ll just repurchase Dolce Vita and accept that, like so many aspects of our lives post-2020, it’s good enough but not quite what it was.

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