Provocative Red looks nice enough in the tube, doesn't it? But it's neither provocative (unless you count my wanting to slap it upside the head) nor red, and that is annoying, especially when I've noticed a few too many versions of this shade creeping into my collection. Muddy pedestrian pinks are everywhere; MAC has about fifty thousand fucking iterations, as I'm sure you already know. They can be a total facial drag, the equivalent of an ashy rag on the kisser, snuffing out any positive interplay between your native tonalities. While the formula ranks with the nicest of the Velvet Mattes, Provocative Red is a dull, bruised, 8-days-in-the-vase rose that murders the green in my eyes and makes my skin and lips look strangely dingy. Unlike MAC Retro, which may be in a similar vein but is more complex, caramelised, far more flattering and far less sort of... roadkill flat. Gumpy is my personal onomatopoeic summation of PR. It's a gumpy bitch.
I can see it suiting an overtly cool-toned brunette regardless of the depth of their complexion, but neutral to warmies should probably avoid. Which shouldn't be too hard since it was a limited release. Problem solved.
Strangely, this clean and rather brilliant tonality doesn't turn stupidly, scarily loud or Ronald McDonald-nasty on the lip, and even cancels out the annoying peekaboo shit my dark mouth likes to pull under lesser oranges.
One of these things is not like the other. They're both Nars Velvet Matte Pencils, but Iberico is a vibrant burst of vivid visual virtuosity and Provocative Red (LE) is... not. I was disappointed with the latter when I picked it up a while back; it has since found a narrow niche in my lipstick rotation, but I'll probably end up giving it to someone else.
Iberico is another LE shade and that, friends, is a tragedy. I've been getting further into oranges lately and thought I'd hit the ultimate citrusy jackpot with MAC So Chaud, a really delicious clean matte orange. Iberico makes it look almost reserved in the swatches.
If you have trouble with this colour for that reason, So Chaud and Iberico are here for you. The latter is the brighter of the two, but only slightly when in situ, the effect is largely the same and the former is more widely available. Though perhaps similar chromatically to the horrid MAC Morange (I haven't compared them directly) Iberico suffers none of that shade's unpleasant tangy, greasy sourness, perhaps by virtue of its whisper-soft, almost vaseline-filtered matte finish. It possesses the delightful toasted beeswax scent that is typical of this Nars matte pencil range.
Texturally, Iberico is miraculously smooth, totally clump-free and very buildable, which is an unexpected bonus- orange often turns funky if you try to fuck around with it on the lip. This guy is perfectly amenable to a smudgy finger treatment in which case it exhibits a sort of endearing ghostly watercolour quality; not something I thought I'd ever write about a true balls-out orange. It is still floating around online here and there so grab it if you can find it.
Russian Red, Nars Provocative Red, Mehr, Nars Iberico, So Chaud, True Red (LE), Nars Kelly
Across top, L2R: Retro, Lady Danger. natural outdoor light, autumn afternoon.