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The Beauty Classic: NARS's Beloved Orgasm Blush Turns 20 This Year

By Guan Tan

In the foreground, the NARS Orgasm blush was first launched in 1999 and it has since spawned an entire range of its own.
 
NARS/ Felicia Yap
In the foreground, the NARS Orgasm blush was first launched in 1999 and it has since spawned an entire range of its own.

Although NARS's Orgasm blush turns 20 this year, it's not showing any sign of letting up. 

In 2017 alone, there were 1 million users across the globe using the Orgasm blush. As a matter of fact, the brand stated that two of these blushes were sold every minute. Last year, the Orgasm umbrella of products expanded, introducing four new formulas to the line — a lip balm, a loose powder, a lip lacquer, and an extra-large version of the Orgasm blush. Till date, there are 14 products under the Orgasm line, all a rift off the success of the original Orgasm blush. 

The beauty favourite was first released in 1999 under the Frenchman, François Nars's eponymous brand, NARS. "We launched Orgasm in 1999 and I never expected it to be so successful," wrote Nars in an interview released by the brand. 

Nars didn't calculate nor strategise the success. According to accounts from members of the current NARS team, Nars was most preoccupied with the formulation of the blush than anything else. 

NARS/ Felicia YapFrom left, the mini Orgasm highlighter and blush duo (S$36 at Sephora), the Orgasm multi-purpose stick (S$60), the new Orgasm Afterglow lip balm (S$40), and the Orgasm nail polish.
From left, the mini Orgasm highlighter and blush duo (S$36 at Sephora), the Orgasm multi-purpose stick (S$60), the new Orgasm Afterglow lip balm (S$40), and the Orgasm nail polish.

"Developing a product typically takes anywhere from 12 to 18 months," the current product development team recounts to T. They describe Nars as a perfectionist who "worked directly with chemists with references of colour chips, pearls and powders" in formulating the Orgasm blush. 

The result was a compact powder blush with hues of warm and cool pinks, warm peachy tones, and a gold shimmer. It was meant to be a universal blush, one which could flatter both warm and cool skin tones — given the mix of "warm and cool shades of pink and peach," explains Jenny Smith, global makeup artist at NARS.

It gave its wearers rosy cheeks with an intense glow — a blush which Nars wanted to resemble a post-coital, or post-orgasm flush. "I actually first created the name, then the shade — I wanted something shocking," says Nars.

NARS/ Felicia Yap"I want to give products a character and an identity," says François Nars. "I want people to remember the names and you can't forget this one."
"I want to give products a character and an identity," says François Nars. "I want people to remember the names and you can't forget this one."

"François Nars has always said that he created this blush to create an 'afterglow effect'. No one had a shade like it," says Jenny Smith, the global makeup artist at NARS. "He named it Orgasm blush with the intention of having some fun."  

Naming a beauty product after orgasms was quite unheard of back in the late '90s. It was controversial, almost-scandalous, but sex sells — and it worked to Nars's advantage. "When I named it, I always felt like it was a good way to actually get an orgasm by just buying a blush, so why not? I wanted something a bit audacious," he told Byrdie in an interview. 

To Nars, the Orgasm blush owes its success to its name and the universality of its shade. From 1999 till date, the powder blush has been kept true to its original, having been reformulated only once — a move that is quite contrary to the beauty industry at large, where products are constantly reformulated in an average of three to five-year cycles in a bid to command consumers' attention. 

Instead, the brand kept its consumers' attention by building a line of point makeup products with the very shade —  amongst them, a lip gloss in 2005, a nail polish in 2008, a highlighter in 2010, a lipstick in 2017, and most recently, a highlighting loose powder in 2018 — little wonder why the Orgasm lasted for so long. 

While that contributed to the Orgasm blush's beauty classic status, Jenny Smith thinks that the continual accolades awarded by beauty insiders played a part too. "Orgasm blush eventually became a beauty classic by winning continuous beauty awards and always remaining as a staple in every makeup artist's kit," says Smith. "Orgasm blush [is] a product that could have been a trend, but has evolved into a cult classic." 

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