An Ingredients Analysis of Colour Changing Lipsticks, Lipglosses, Lipbalms, and Blushes

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ever since Smashbox put out its O-Glow blushes and lipglosses, Dior put out its Dior Lip Glow, and Sephora put out its Color Reveal Lip Balm, it seems like colour-changing lipglosses have been exploding over the blogosphere. There are so many breathless reviews on how it's changing into the "perfect shade of pink", or how it "reacts with the skin's pH" to give you a customized shade, and there are also equally many reviews disliking the pepto bismo pink it changes into on them. And, there are (of course) a lot of comparison swatches between the various types of colour-changing glosses.

I've had a few of these - you can see one that I reviewed here. Back then, I had written that I was suspicious of all those lipglosses claiming to know my body chemistry and pH, and I had written, "in my experience these turn into some generic shade of super-bright pink." So, since all the hype has been going on, I thought I'd do a little bit of the ingredients-analysing that you guys all know and love, and explain just how it is that these glosses/lipsticks/lipbalms/blushes do their work!

With these products, you'll always have a PH-relevant/skin-chemistry-relevant/hocus-pocus-magic-quality relevant shade!

Of course, as the nice little graphic summary I did above shows, we know that these types of lipglosses, lipsticks, and lipbalms have been around for quite awhile. In fact, there are so many of them - in addition to the Dior, Smashbox, and Sephora versions, Mark by Avon, Duwop, Jemma Kidd, and NYX Cosmetics have all jumped on the bandwagon at some point in time. And it's not just US brands that are donig it - Essence Cosmetics and Barry M from Europe have done it too. And even outside the West, other brands have done it - there's Lipice in Asia, and even a strange Morrocan Hare brand from (where else) Morroco! And it's not just lipgloss or lipstick! Cheek products have also been given the special treatment, with Stila, Smashbox and Givenchy all have blush versions to give you that pH-adjusted cheek colour.

So yes, we know everyone loves a colour-changing lipstick/balm/gloss/blush. And who can blame us for loving it? The novelty of seeing the colour change on your lips and cheeks is quite something, I'll admit. The thing is, are they really all that different from one another? How on earth are they even changing colour in the first place? You know that if this post involves some ingredients analysis, there's no better place to start than the ingredients list!

So, for this post, I'm going to look at as many ingredient lists of such colour changing products that I can dig up, including lipbalms, glosses, and lipsticks, and blushes, and see what we can learn from there! In true geek style, there are 10 of them (yes, TEN!), so buckle up!

I'm All Ready! Let's Start!

Glad you're telling me this! Let's start now!

1. Dior Lip Glow

Let's start with the Dior Lip Glow product, since this product's launch earlier this year started all that hoo-ha. Let's take a look at the ingredients list, shall we?

Dior Lip Glow (Source)

[ /-: CI 77891 (TITANIUM DIOXIDE), CI 45380 (RED 21, RED 21 LAKE), CI 45410 (RED 27, RED 27 LAKE, RED 28 LAKE), CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499 (IRON OXIDES), MICA, CI 15850 (RED 6, RED 6 LAKE, RED 7, RED 7 LAKE), CI 75470 (CARMINE)].

Look at the bolded part - Red 27 (also known as CI 45410). That's D&C Red #27, which according to the FDA is safe for use "for drugs generally and cosmetics". The notable thing about Red 27 is that it's colourless when it is dissolved in a waterless base. But once it is exposed to moisture, it turns a bright pink. So the Dior Lip Glow ingredients have an anhydrous base that consist of various oils and silicones so that the Red 27/CI 45410 remains colourless in the tube, but once you apply it on your lips, the moisture in the air and your lips makes the dye turn pink. In fact, it would change to the shade of pink it really is regardless of the pH or chemistry or whatever quality of your skin - and you can verify this really quickly by swiping your Dior Lip Glow on a sheet of white paper. You'll find that it turns the same shade of pink, too. (If you're too lazy, I did that already in my review of a similar lipbalm.)

2. Barry M Touch of Magic

Now that we're all done with high-end, hoity-toity Dior, let's see how it differs from a low-end one. For this, le't use Barry M's Touch of Magic (which I've incidentally swatched before here).

Barry M lipstick

Barry M lipstick (Source Polyvore)

Again, you can see the Red 27/CI45410 dye here. So that's how it changes colour - the exact same way that the Dior Lip Glow does. No surprise, right? And like Dior Lip Glow, Touch of Magic uses an anhydrous base consisting of oils - there are some differences in the oils and waxes used, but basically both are oil or silicone-based, to ensure that there is no water in the stick itself. But yes, both Barry M and Dior use the exact same dye to achieve the colour-changing effect.


3. Sephora Color Reveal Lip Balm

This is next, because in the wake of Dior's launch of Lip Glow, many a blogger was jumping on the Sephora Color Reveal Lip Balm, claiming that it was a dupe for the Dior product.

Sephora Color Reveal Lip Balm (Source)

Sephora itself claims that you can "reveal the natural beauty of your lips with this enhancing, color-revealing balm. This unique formula combines a pH enhancer and a moisture booster to create a pretty hue that's all your own". Does it really? Let's take a look at the ingredients list:

Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Cera Microcristallina (Microcrystalline Wax), C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Octyldodecyl Stearoyl Stearate, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Hexyldecanol, Polyethylene, Copernicia Cerifera Cera (Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax), Vp/Hexadecene Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Ethyl Vanillin, Tocopheryl Acetate, Butylene Glycol, Tribehenin, Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Oil, Menthol, Sorbitan Isostearate, Ci 45410 (Red 27), Ci 45380 (Red 22 Lake), Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Palmitoyl Oligopeptide.

From here, you can see the same ol' good friend, Red 27/CI 45410. That's the same dye! So yes, colour-wise, it is indeed a dupe - you get the same shade of pink from the same dye. So in light of this, it did tickle me a little that there were so many bloggers claiming that one or the other was better. Perhaps they were influenced by the brand (it does happen!), or packaging, or even the rest of the base (the Dior product has a very nice emollient base). So yes, texture-wise, or the way the product moisturizes your lips, one may be different from the other. But colour-wise? They are most likely the same.

4. Essence Tint It Colour Changing Lipgloss

And from Europe, on the other side of the pond, we have Essence. Let's see if colour-changing dye technology is any different there.

Essence Tint It Colour Changing Lipgloss. (source)

Polybutene, Paraffinum Liquidum (Mineral Oil), Isostearyl Isostearate, Diisostearyl Malate, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Octyldodecanol, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Isopropyl Palmitate, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, BHT, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Parfum, Hexylcinnamal, Linalool. May contain: Cl 19140 (Yellow 5 Lake), Cl 42090 (Blue 1 Lake), Cl 45380 (Red 21), Cl 45410 (Red 27), Cl 77742 (Manganese Violet).

Oops, looks like there's Red 27, too. I guess not. The truth is, there isn't much difference one way or another, because dyes (as with other ingredients in cosmetics) tend to be regulated. It seems that Red 27 is one of the few colour-changing dyes that are approved for use by both the US and European authorities, hence its prevalence in all these products on both sides of the Atlantic. Once again, here is an anhydrous base, with Red 27.

5. SMASHBOX O-Gloss Intuitive Lip Gloss

Smashbox was one of the first few to really make a big fuss over its colour changing technology back in the day when it was launch. They had really fantastical marketing when the product was launched - their website claims that it is "the first intuitive lip gloss, this innovative formula goes on clear and then reacts with your personal skin chemistry to instantly transform into your own custom shade of pink."

Smashbox O-Gloss (Source: Smashbox website)

Mmhmm, let's talk after we see the ingredients:

Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Capric/Caprylic Stearic Triglyceride, Ethylene/Propylene/Styrene Copolymer, Butylene/Ethylene/Styrene Copolymer, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Polybutene, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed OiI (Safflower), Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Punica Granatum, Phaeodactylum Tricornotum Extract, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Lycium Barbarum (Goji) Fruit Extract, Capsicum Frutescens (Cayenne) Extract, Glycine Soja Oil (Soybean), Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Oil (Ginger), Methyl Nicotinate, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Oil (Peppermint), Red 27 Lake (CI 45410) (CI 45410)

Oh, there is Red 27 again. So, Smashbox, what is so innovative about your formula exactly? And the bit about "personal skin chemistry" would probably annoy any smart girl with enough chemistry background to know that just sticking gloss on your lips is not going to get any chemical interaction between the product and your body! The Red 27 just changes colour from colourless to pink, and this happens with any contact with moisture. Not personal chemistry, or whatever voodoo the marketing department wants to sell it as. The interesting thing is, for the O-Gloss, Red 27 is the ONLY dye in there. Most of the other ingredients lists have Red 27 among other dyes (because the base is tinted in itself, e.g. in the Barry M Touch of Magic it is tinted green), but not O-Gloss. Pure Red 27, that's all the pigments there are. So when you apply O-Gloss, you know exactly what Red 27 looks like by itself!

On a more snarky note, I noticed that according to the Smashbox website, O-Gloss was "winner of Allure Magazine Reader''s Choice Award for Most Innovative Product, and two-time Best of Sephora Award Nominee for Best Lip Gloss and Best Beauty Innovation." Note to self - beauty magazines and beauty retailers (who carry ads from companies exactly like Smashbox) aren't going to be exactly very truthful about how "innovative" a product is. Either that, or magazine journos may not be as clued-in to cosmetic chemistry technology as we imagine they are. But I'm sure we knew that already.

Wow, so all these colour-changing lip products are really just souped-up oils of Red 27! What about cheek products?

Turns out, cheek products can use Red 27 too!

6. SMASHBOX O-Glow Microcirculating Cheek Color with Goji Berry-C Complex

Those who remember will know that Smashbox actually came out with its O-Glow Cheek Color first, and then the O-Gloss was a spinoff due to O-Glow's popularity. Again, in true Smashbox style, there is mention of that "personal skin chemistry" thing again on their website: "The clear gel in this intuitive formula reacts with your personal skin chemistry to turn cheeks the color you blush in just seconds! O-GLOW works on every skin tone, from the lightest to the darkest, to give everyone a customized flush of color." Oh well. If it ain't broke, why fix it right?

Smashbox O-Glow (Source)

Cyclomethicone, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Isononyl Isononanoate, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed OiI, Punica Granatum, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Polysilicone 11, Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract, Lycium Barbarum (Goji) Fruit Extract, Capric/Caprylic Stearic Triglyceride, Plankton Extract, Red 27 Lake (CI 45410) (CI 45410)

And there we go, Red 27 again. And no other dye. Just like their O-Gloss, Smashbox's O-Glow is just souped up Red 27. Sure the base is going to feel nice and emollient (a mix of silicones and plant-based oils, and some Vitamin C thrown in for good measure) on skin, but this is not particularly innovative, given that it's using the same dye to achieve the same pink shade that all the other brands with colour-changing-Red-27 products are using. Not very innovative, in my book, really. But, of course, this didn't top the product from picking up several accolades from beauty mags and retailers: "Winner of Allure Magazine Best of Beauty Reader''s Choice Award for Most Innovative Product, Glam Beauty Editor's Pick Award, and Best of Sephora Award Nominee for Best Blush and Biggest Beauty Breakthrough." I hate to be cynical since I'm a beauty product love myself, but I guess it really is all about the marketing here.

7. Stila Custom Color Blush

Oh yes, they have Red 27 in powder blushes too. The base is anhydrous because it's a powder, and there is no water in it. The moist-feeling slip you feel when you run your finger over the powder is not any form of moisture, but from the silicones in the formula.

Stila Custom Color Blush in Pink (Source)

Bonus fact: did you know silicones are technically considered a form of oils too? :) Interestingly, Stila claims that each of their Custom Color Blushes is a "perceptive one-shade-fits-all powder blush reacts with your skin's pH to create a one-of-a-kind, customized shade perfect for you!"

Stila Custom Color Blush in Pink

talc, zea mays (corn) starch, dimethicone, zinc stearate, zeolite, dimethiconol, sorbic acid, may contain ( /-) mica, red 27 (ci 45410), red 28 lake (ci 45410)

But what about companies with multiple shades of colour changing products? Don't tell me they all also use Red 27 in all of them?

There's really only one way to find out. To the ingredients lists!

8. Duwop Private Lipstick

Duwop is such a brag. I do like some of their products, but man, the blurb on their website reads like a fantasy novel. Duwop claims that its Private Lipstick is "a color-changing lipstick that morphs into each woman's personal shade, is the first of its kind to transform a single shade of lipstick into an endless variety of hues. Private Lipstick’s proprietary formula includes a blend of three naturally derived pigments - annatto, hibiscus, and henna - and the technology behind the classic “mood lipsticks” of the seventies to provide a shade that adapts to suit each individual's coloring."

Duwop Private Lipsticks (Source: Duwop website)

So anyway, let's detract from the marketing (gasp! Sorry marketing people!) and take a look at the ingredients list. Interestingly, although Duwop has a whole range of Private Lipstick colours - there's Private Pink, Private Coral, Private Plum, Private Nude, and Private Red, ALL of them have the same ingredients list. Like so:

Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Beeswax (Cera Alba), Ozokerite, , Tocopheryl Acetate, Red 21, Caprylyl Glycol, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Polybutene, Fragrance (Parfum), Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Lawsonia Inermis (Henna) Extract, Bixa Orellana (Annatto) Seed Extract, Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis Extract, May contain: Mica (CI 77019), FD&C Yellow No. 5 (CI 19140), Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Bismuth Oxychloride (CI 77163), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Carmine (CI 75470), D&C Red No. 6 (CI 15850), D&C Red No. 7 (CI 15850), Manganese Violet (CI 77742), D&C Red No. 27 (CI 45410), D&C Red No. 28 (CI 45410), D&C Red No. 21 (CI 45380)

Here, all the dyes are labelled as "may contain". My guess is that for different shades, Duwop used different levels of dyes for different colours. A Private Coral or Private Nude shade, for example, would probably use more Yellow 5, while a shade like Private Plum would use more Manganese Violet, and a Private Red probably has Carmine in it. So, for each lipstick, the colour of the anhydrous base would already be modified by these dyes. So a Private Nude and Private Coral will already look peachy and coral-ly, while a Private Red will already look red straight in the tube. But most of these dyes don't do any colour-morphing once you wear them, so what is it that makes the colour change and give you your "Private" shade once you wear it? None other than our dear old Red 27. So this explains how a company like Duwop can use the same Red 27, put it in different coloured anhydrous bases, and still have a colour change once you put it on your lips. But in all cases, the shades would be morphing from whatever the base colour is (nude, coral, red, plum), to a brighter, pinker version of the base (so nude, coral, red, plum, plus Red 27's exposed-to-moisture pink).

In light of that, it makes you want to laugh at Duwop's marketing. "First of its kind"? "Endless variety of hues"? "Proprietary formula"? Dude, you guys are all using Red 27! For what it's worth, annatto, hibiscus, and henna are all interesting dyes, but they don't colour-change the way Red 27 does. So it's not like some exotic henna extract is magically changing its chemical composition on your lips. It's the Red 27. But I guess Red 27 doesn't sound as sexy.

8. Stila Custom Color Blush...Revisited.

Like Duwop, Stila has a range of Custom Color Blushes. They have Custom Color Blushes in Pink, Coral, and Bronze. Let's look at the ingredients list.

All three Stila Custom Color Blushes (Source)

Stila Custom Color Blush in Pink:

talc, zea mays (corn) starch, dimethicone, zinc stearate, zeolite, dimethiconol, sorbic acid, may contain ( /-) mica, red 27 (ci 45410), red 28 lake (ci 45410)

You've seen our good friend Red 27 before. There is also Red 28 Lake, which is also a pink dye, but unfortunately without the colour-changing fanciness. Hence, you have a pink powdery base, and Red 27 to further pink it up once you apply it on your skin!

Let's take a look at the next one:

Stila Custom Color Blush in Self Adjusting Coral:

talc, zea mays (corn) starch, dimethicone, zinc stearate, zeolite, dimethiconol, sorbic acid, may contain (+/-) mica, titanium dioxide (ci 77891), iron oxides (ci 77491, ci 77492, ci 77499), red 27 (ci 45410), red 28 lake (ci 45410), orange 5 (ci 45370).

Obviously it takes more dyes to make a coral blush than it does a pink blush. In addition to Red 28 seen in the Custom Color Pink blush, you also have Orange 5 (orange dye) and a bunch of other iron oxides, which in this case serve as dyes too. So you have a coral blush with Red 27 in an anhydrous base. When you apply this blush, the Red 27 will do its magic and turn pink, and you will get coral + Red 27 on your skin.

And now, for Custom Color Bronze:

Stila Custom Color Bronze
Talc, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Dimethicone, Zinc Stearate, Zeolite, Dimethiconol, Sorbic Acid, May Contain (+/-) Mica, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Iron Oxides (CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499), Red 27 (CI 45410), Red 28 Lake (CI 45410).

Yes, there is Red 27, Red 28, and iron oxides. So this works the same way the other two blushes do - the base is already bronze, and applying the blush will expose the Red 27 pigment to the moisture in the air and your skin, which will give the blush a pinker appearance when you wear it. It's the same technology, again. That said, I do respect Stila for individually listing the colours for each product, rather than a blanket "may contains". It makes ingredients analysis so much easier!

9. NYX Mood Lipgloss

Yes, NYX has these too. And by the old-fashioned name of "mood lipgloss", too! NYX has a few of these, in the shades Romantic Love, Affectionate, Sensual, and Smile Brightening.

NYX Mood Lipgloss (Source: NYX Website)

Strangely enough, when I looked up the ingredients, they all had the same ingredients list:

Polybutene, Mineral Oil, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate/Isononyl Isononanoate, Glyceryl Behenate/Eicosadioate, Polyethylene, Pentaerythrityl Tetraisostearate, Citric Acid, Hydroxystearate Acid, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride/Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, CI 45410:1 (D&C Red 27).

I'm guessing either there was a mistake in the ingredients list, and like Stila and Duwop they are using different dyed bases with Red 27 in them, or else, the various colours are created by taking the same formula and adjusting the levels of Red 27 in the product (presumably, more Red 27 in the product gives you a more intense pink colour). If you look at the company's own swatches of the product, that does seem to be the case. All the lipglosses seem to change to the same shade of Red 27 pink, but with varying levels of intensity. And the Smile Brightening one doesn't seem to have any Red 27 at all (I'm guessing they're using a blue dye to make yellow teeth appear whiter by comparison instead).

10. Mood Magic

Ah, good ol' days, when it was cool to have a colour-changing lipstick. Mood Magic has these in Blue, Green, and Yellow. All of them change to varying forms of pink.

Mood Magic Lipstick in Green(Source)

You'll note that, like Duwop, they've chosen to dump all their pigments under "May Contain" rather than list out all the shades, one by one. But you can pick up on the obvious here. Most of the dyes are non-colour-changing, and they are obviously used to tint the base (Blue 1, Yellow 5, Yellow 10 - all useful for creating your Mood Magic Blue, Green, and Yellow shades, when mixed in varying ratios). Red 27 is in there, of course, and it is what causes the magic changes to your lip colour when you apply it.

Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Petrolatum, Lanolin, Isopropyl Lanolate, Cetyl Acetate, Ozokerite, Propylene Glycol, Fragrance, Propylparaben, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Propyl Gallate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Citric Acid, May Contain (+/-):, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Blue 1 Lake (CI 42090), Yellow 5 Lake (CI 19140), Yellow 10 Lake (CI 47005), Red 27 Lake (CI 45410), Red 21 Lake (CI 45380)

TL; DR: What should I takeaway from all this?

From these, let's get a few facts straight:

1. Most of the marketing for these products is quite exaggerated, because the colour isn't really "personalized", and because the technology isn't new.

There is NO "perceptive one-shade-fits-all" that gives you that made-for-you customized shade. The product does not "reacts with your skin's pH" to give you your perfect colour. There is no such "intuitive formula" that "reacts with your personal skin chemistry" (all skins have water right?), and incorporating Red 27 in an anhydrous base is not an "innovative formula". By and large, the technology behind the Dior Lip Glow is the same as the technology behind the NYX Mood Lipgloss.

The interesting thing is that Red 27/CI45410 actually DOES react to pH - the lower the pH, the pinker and more intense the colour is. It can be used in Hematoxylin and Eosin (H&E) stains to render cells viewable under a microscope. I don't know about you, but back in the day in Science classes we had to scrape out cells from the inside of our cheeks, put them on a slide after some preparation with water, acids, and what not, mount the cells on a slide, and view the cells under a microscope. We used some sort of coloured liquid to stain the cells, since they're rather colourless and difficult to see under the microscope. Red 27, as an Eosin dye, could be used in such applications. In such applications, the lower the pH of the tissue it is staining, the brighter pink the stain is. But that's for the science lab. In cosmetics, the change in pH is not brought about by your lips, or by your skin temperature, or by the composition of your body or skin, but by the simple fact that, when the dye is put in an initially waterless base, and then exposed to moisture (from air, skin, other environmental factors, whatever), the pH of the environment the dye is in changes. And so the dye changes colour. So yes, technically the dye does go through some change in pH that lead to it changing colour, but it's not in the uber-personalized, customized, according-to-personal-chemistry way the marketing messages misleads customers to believe at all. It's really more like - the dye is exposed to water, and thus it changes colour. So yes, those "reacts with skin's pH" claims are technically correct in a legal, can't-sue-me-in-court-'cause-I-got-my-ass-covered kind of way. So yes, it's technically legal, but such claims are deliberately worded to be misleading, too, because they are worded such that consumers do indeed think that there is some special-colour-personalization going on, when there isn't. This is why such claims annoy me to no end. The combination of legally allowable misused scientific jargon and deliberately misleading wording is very duplicitous to me, and I dislike it.

In fact, despite all the high-tech talk these companies tend to employ when they do up the marketing spiel for their products, the truth is, the technology has been around for a long, long time. This is an Avon ad from 1974:

Yes, back then, our friend Red 27 brought its magic to tons of teens! (Source)

And this is a Tangee ad from 1928! Apparently it came in a variety of shades (Natural, Theatrical, and so on), and of course you can see the company's emphasis on how it changes colour to your personal shade (yes, back in 1928). And as a matter of fact, you can still buy the stuff! I'm not sure how Duwop and Smashbox et al have the guts to imply such technology is bleedingly new, when it was already used in a similar manner in 1928!

Vintage Advert for Tangee Lipstick and Rouge - Photoplay Apr 1928
New technology, huh? Strange, I could have sworn I saw it in 1928, waaay before I was born... (Source)

And just for fun, another Tangee ad. Again with the emphasis on "natural" colour, and the blurb states that it "changes from orange in the stick to a lovely blush rose on your lips".

1936 until now...looks like Red 27 is still the driving force behind all these fancy products. (Source)

So now you know. What annoys me is that most consumers are under the impression that the products actually react to your skin's chemistry, when really it's just the water in your skin they're reacting to. Anyway, let's move on to the next conclusion:

2. The colour change is all done through the same Red 27 dye. The end colour is dependent on the other dyes in the product.

We've gone through this quite extensively, so I won't get into this anymore. But you know it in essence - the colour change in all these products is due to a single Red 27 dye, that changes from colourless to pink when exposed to moisture. 'Nuff said.

So that said, if a product has a clear base, essentially all the resultant colours will be the same, just maybe with differing levels of Red 27 concentration. But if a product already has a coloured base, then the final colour will be the base colour, with the Red 27 in it.

3. If you want to choose between colour-changing products, looking at other aspects of formulation might be useful.

Although all these products use Red 27 to get the colour-changing effect, as we've explored the ingredients lists, you'll notice that there are many different ways to formulate an anhydrous base. There are companies that use traditional formulations (mineral oils, petrolatum, etc, primarily the cheaper brands), there are companies that use more fancy-sounding oils (e.g. plant oils, like the Dior product), and there are those that use silicones (e.g. Smashbox). Your preference of base, rather than the colour, might very well be a larger deciding factor, since all of them essentially rely on Red 27 for the colour, anyway.

So there you have it - I just wanted to shed some light on the mystery surrounding all these products, as well as a little of my $0.02 on how to choose such a product. Good luck, and I hope you find the perfect shade of pink for your lips and cheeks (whether it's in a colour-changing product or not)!


  1. Thanks so much for sharing this! It's such an eye opener!!!

    - -

  2. Thank you! this is so informative. I was just wondering about these kinds of lipsticks the other day, whether it is safe or not. Very glad you wrote this :)

  3. That was an interesting read. I'm a sucker for advertising mambo jumbo sometimes I can't help myself. Thanks for bringing me down to earth. :)

  4. Thanks for such an informative post

  5. Really great informative post. I just received my monthly beauty box from Sample Society with Allure (thru and received a sample of Jane Iredale Forever Pink Just Kissed Lip Plumper & Cheek Stain. It's supposed to "self-adjust" to your perfect shade. The product is a lipstick tube and is super pale pink. It turned...bright pink on me. Surprise! NOT! The ingredient list states: May Contain: Red 21 (CI 45380) (Aka 223). You are brilliant! Thanks for the great post. Mystery solved! Keep up the great work.

  6. Immaculate writing and very interesting subject! Thank you for adding brains and intelligence to over- marketed beauty products. I have been stalking each article you post, since reading your article about olive skin and vewing you lovely pics with your friends. Definately, the cleverest blogger ever I came across! Please keep us posted with all this knowledge and research! Xxxx

  7. This post is just awesome. I have no more words.

  8. Just want to say i really appreciate you listing out all the ingredients and claims for us. This was very eye-opening and educational. Makes me realize just how much these companies exaggerate and try to take advantage of our ignorance.

  9. this was so entertaining and interesting to read! thanks for sharing all this information with us. i really enjoy reading your blog!

  10. Fantastic post! I really love how detailed you get in all your posts, and it's a definite must-share!

  11. you're like the Alton Brown of the beauty world. Thanks!

  12. Super clever..I've been in love with korean color-changing liptint but had no idea of the ingredients since it's written in Korean. Have been thinking hard of the 'magic', I was worried it was metal containing molecules got oxidized on my lips. A great relief to learn that it's totally safe classic red 27 dye. Thanks!

  13. Love this post and the detail. Goes to show how we all get suckered due to marketing talk. Keep up the analytical posts!

  14. I remember this color changing lipsticks from the early 90s when I was a kid lol nothing new in that and honestly I havent gone all crazy for this wave of changing colour after all been there done that, but hey it is a clear example that fashion recycles things from the past

  15. If I wanted to make my own mood lipstick, how would I find this red 27?

  16. Thank you. I found red 27 in Fran Wilson's mood-matcher lipsticks as well: it does seem to be a fairly common ingredient.

  17. Whoa! And to think we all fell for the gimmick.
    Nice article!

  18. Wow! That was one interesting read! Love it when someone dissects the "mysteries" or let's just say it - marketing hype!

  19. Dior and Sephora don't achieve the same results, even if they use the same ingredient. They turn into different colours and I have both. Dior's lighter then Sephora, its probably due to concentration.

    Dunno why you call them dupes, srly. Just because they use the same ingredients, they concentrations and the rest of the fluff makes them different, It's the same with nail polish. The pigments are all the same too and yet you end up with an array of different colours, which aren't dupes of each other.

    1. @Anonymous: Thanks for your comment! They aren't 100% dupes, but I was just trying to make the point that they are both essentialy the same type of product that functions the same way, and that they both derive their colour-changing properties from the Red 27 dye. I wrote this blogpost because I saw a lot of other blogs writing about the products without understanding how the products worked, and also some bloggers seemed to buy into the marketing claims. So I thought it would be good to go beyond the marketing claims and explore how the products really work. It is possible that both both products change a different coloue because of the different concentrations of Red 27 dye, but fundamentally both products still work the same way and have the same functionality.

  20. Thank you so much for this information esp for the fran wilson ingredients. I decided to buy it instead of higher brand.

  21. This post is truly an eye-opener! As a biomed student myself, I am surprised by the dedication and details you have got here

    Please keep it up!! We need more of these blogs instead of ignorance beauty bloggers writing about the products without knowing anything about it. x

  22. Hi...

    Thanks for the review.
    I was a bit suspicious about HARE lipstick because it's sooo cheap and yet so phenomenal in my country. I'm glad I found your article.

  23. Great analysis! All red/pink lipsticks turn a neon pink/fuchsia color on me. Maybe I need to avoid lip colors with Red 27 all together.

  24. In fact you are completely incorrect. pH is relecant for staining. Red 27 is attracted to the amine groups of proteins in skin. It is a water-insoluble fluorescein dye like eosin. They are acidic dyes and act like pH indicators. The skin's pH varies depending on a number of factors hence the colour change. You can check the chemistry of this

    1. @Unknown: I'm aware that Red 27 is a dye, but in the context of cosmetics, the pH of our skin doesn't vary too much, and is around pH5.5 in healthy skin most of the time. It really is the water content that triggers the change, not anything inherent in our skin - you can test this out by swiping one of these lipsricks against a sheet of paper, and it will still change colour. The question is, in cosmetics, does any pH or water change trigger a colour change that is actually unique for each individual and can actually be called "personalized" as advertised? The fact that all of these lipsticks turn the same shade of pink (not factoring in base pigment already existing in the lipstick) would be indicative that it doesn't.

  25. pH does affect the staining. Red 27 is an acid dye and works like a pH indicator. It is attracted to the amine groups of proteins in the skin such as collagen and colours it. pH of your skin is a factor in the development of the colour. You can easily check the chemistry behind this

  26. Any idea where to get fran Wilson moodmatcher in Malaysia?

    1. @ambiga ga: I'm afraid not, I'm not familiar with the brand. Sorry!

  27. Thank you for sharing. I learnt a lot and they are definitely not as big a deal or magical as they claim to be.

  28. Wow! That's is crazy. No wonder the sides of my mouth have been res and really irritated

  29. What of bundle of information!

    Clear, clever and exploding with fun language - thank you x 1000s! Love your articles!

  30. I don’t know if you still check comments, but here goes nothing:

    You’re right in saying that magazines and beauty brands aren’t exactly truthful, and many beauty writers aren’t super clued in to chemistry.

    I worked as a beauty writer for one of the biggest magazines in my country — those beauty awards were rigged. Brands paid to be considered for the award, and our editors had to consider client relationships when giving out awards.

    Also, most of the writers around me had a liberal arts education. Science was never our strong suit.


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