NARS vs. Nee Cara vs. O.TWO.O: A comparison of almost identical liquid blushes

I’ve been an avid fan and collector of liquid blushes since NARS released their version in 2017. I’ve tried a bunch of options from Glossier, Inglot, and Peri Pera, but I always come back to NARS for its longevity and luxe feel. Imagine my surprise to find ads of Nee Cara Liquid Blush (P260 for 15g, at Shopee) that look so much like the NARS blushes, down to the shade range. Now imagine the electric charge in the air when my editor proposed to compare the two, plus the liquid blushes from O.TWO.O (P300 for 15g at Shopee), a Chinese company that also sells liquid blushes in the same packaging and shade range! And so I tested the three formulas to investigate how similar they are and why the Nee Cara and O.TWO.O blushes look the same.

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First, the elephant in the room

I’ll wager that the Nee Cara (NC) and O.TWO.O (OTO) liquid blushes are the same exact products with different labels. The components, boxes, fonts, and even ingredients lists are all the same; just the logos and box literature are different. Based on the brand’s Instagram posts, OTO first teased its liquid blushes in August 2018 and started selling in October 2018, while NC’s liquid blushes made its first appearance around September 2018 (based on Facebook posts).

Can you guess which is which?

Can you guess which is which?

The OTO website states that it offers Original Design Manufacturing (ODM), which includes “design of outer packing, the formula, raw materials, packaging materials, then producing and packing;” Original Equipment Manufacturing (OEM), which includes “formula, raw materials, packaging materials, then producing and packing… the design of outer packing and product quality standard offered by customers;” and Semi-processed, which includes “formula, raw materials, injecting and packing for the packages offered by customers.” This means that the Chinese company’s products are available for private labeling, and is explicitly indicated on each product page.

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Nee Cara is a Thai cosmetics brand that carries a wide range of color cosmetics, and was founded in May 2015. Some NC products can also be found in OTO’s product offerings, but the rosters of the two brands aren’t exactly the same. OTO seems to dupe a lot of other brands’ products such as Urban Decay’s Naked line, Huda Beauty eyeshadow palettes, and many more. On the other hand, NC seems to focus on copies of trendy Korean products like that of Laneige’s lip duos and Etude House’s water tints.

You can draw your own conclusions, but for the purposes of this test, they look, feel, and wear exactly the same too.

You can draw your own conclusions, but for the purposes of this test, they look, feel, and wear exactly the same too.

Formula

NARS released their liquid blush in May 2017, beginning with their iconic shade, Orgasm. The NARS liquid blushes are thinner in consistency than the NC and OTO. Both NC and OTO are thick creams, which make product dispensing hard to do with its stiff pumps. NARS dispenses actual liquid products that can harden when unused for a long time, but its pumps allow for better control. NC and OTO dispense the same amount as a liquid foundation, which is way more than what you’d need just to cover your cheeks.

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Both NC and OTO need to be shaken well before dispensing, as oil separation happens after some time. They also have a very distinct perfume scent that dissipates after drying, while NARS has a very faint perfume scent which you can’t really smell unless you try.

NARS Dolce Vita and #4

NARS Dolce Vita and #4

How much product is left after blending

How much product is left after blending

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NC and OTO blushes are easy to blend on the cheeks, but they can be quite intimidating at first because the formulas look so opaque and full on. To manage the pigmentation better, I suggest dispensing the blush on the back of the hand and blending out small dots to slowly build up to the desired color. The pigmentation may seem impressive, but coupled with the too-generous pump, it’s easy to make the mistake of over-applying. Since the NARS pump is easier to control, less product is wasted and the color doesn’t really need to be super diffused before application.

Nee Cara and O.TWO.O #1 on the cheeks

Nee Cara and O.TWO.O #1 on the cheeks

None of the liquid blushes disturb foundation underneath. Darker shades like NARS Dolce Vita, NC #4, and OTO #4 (yes, even the shades are named the same) last at least 6 hours on the cheek, while lighter shades like NARS Orgasm, NC #1, and OTO #1 last at least 4 hours. I also tried lip application for NC and OTO, and found both to be comfortable to wear on the lips. Don’t do this if you have sensitivities, though - I felt my lips tingle on first application. Maybe the feeling was psychosomatic?

NARS Orgasm and #1

NARS Orgasm and #1

Are they actual dupes? 

Dolce Vita and both #4 are virtually indistinguishable on the cheeks, even though Dolce Vita appears warmer and brick-ier with a super fine shimmer compared to the pink-ier no-shimmer formula of the #4. Dolce Vita gives a more mature vibe, but that’s already nitpicking. Dolce Vita also looks deeper on the lips while #4 looks more like an MLBB.

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Orgasm and both #1 are more different. Orgasm has that signature fine gold shimmer that makes the cheeks look dewy, while #1 surprisingly has no shimmer when blended even though you can see particles in the bottle. #1 is really great for sporting a fresh, youthful look, while Orgasm is best for creating a healthy skin effect.

I’d still choose the OG NARS liquid blushes (P1,800 for 15ml at Rustan’s The Beauty Source) for its more controllable liquid texture and less prominent scent. I don’t have a problem with duping although this is an obvious case of…inspiration. The OTO and NC blushes are a formidable alternative if you want cheaper options but since you can only buy them online, you can’t be totally sure that what you’re buying are the real dupes or counterfeit dupes. We purchased ours from the official OTO Shopee Mall store and thewhitefairyph.

Duping? Counterfeiting?

Should you be wary of OTO since there’s a pre-conceived notion of “dangerous” Chinese cosmetics? As far as I can tell, the liquid blushes are made for private labeling rather than as a counterfeit of NARS products. 

Testing the products on my somewhat sensitive skin thankfully showed no negative reaction. The fragrance and silicone content can be a problem for some, but NARS also has silicones and fragrance. Note that it looks like OTO used the same first ingredients as the NARS blush, although this doesn’t make the OTO and NC the same product as NARS.

Learning about the existence of Nee Cara and O.TWO.O was a real eye opener, and calls into question the creative ethics of the situation. Do you think it’s okay that brands are blatantly duping premium brands? How do you feel about private labeling? Let’s discuss.


Nee Cara and O.TWO. O Liquid Blush ingredients:

Dimethicone, Water, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol Crosspolymer, Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Boron Nitride, Propanediol, Peg-10 Dimethicone, Isostearic Acid, Vanilla Tahitensis Fruit Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Gardenia Taitensis Flower Extract


NARS Liquid Blush ingredients:

Dimethicone, Water/Aqua/Eau, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Adipic Acid/Neopentyl Glycol Crosspolymer, Vinyl Dimethicone/Methicone Silsesquioxane Crosspolymer, Boron Nitride, Propanediol, PEG-10 Dimethicone, Isostearic Acid, Vanilla Tahitensis Fruit Extract, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Gardenia Taitensis Flower Extract, Tocopherol, Calophyllum Inophyllum Seed Oil, Isopropyl Titanium Triisostearate, Bis-Hydroxyethoxypropyl Dimethicone/PEG-2 Soyamine/IPDI Copolymer, Disteardimonium Hectorite, Butylene Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol. [+/- (May Contain/ Peut Contenir): Mica, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491), Iron Oxides (CI 77492), Iron Oxides (CI 77499), Carmine (CI 75470)].