Can cosmetics really change color to match your skin?

Products like Smashbox O-Glow Blush and Jemma Kidd Lip Gloss claim to to change color to match your skin tone or even match your mood. Is that really possible? Can cosmetics somehow detect your natural skin tone or even your emotional state and then adjust their color to match?

The answer is no: This beauty myth is quite popular but it’s simply not true. This article explains how color changing products REALLY work.

3 types of color-changing chemistry

1. Ingredients that change color with pH/solubility

Most of the products that we see that make these claims use this approach. The main ingredient that provides the effect is a colorant known as “Red 27,” a red dye which is colorless when dissolved in a waterless base. When it comes in contact with moisture, the change in solubility and pH causes the dye to turn bright pink. The product appears to change with your personal chemistry because the color changes when it comes in contact with moisture can come from your skin, or even just the humidity in the air. Red 27 can be used in powdered cosmetics, waxy sticks, and gels.

Example products that use Red 27:

Stila Custom Color Blush

Smashbox O-Glow Blush

DuWop Personal Color Changing Lipstick

2. Encapsulated colors

Some products use colorants that are coated with waxy or gel-like ingredients and suspended in an uncolored base. When the product is rubbed into your skin the friction breaks open the dye capsules releasing the color. The product appears to change with your personal chemistry because the more your rub in the color, the more is released. Encapsulated colors work best in cream and powder based products.

Example product that uses encapsulated colors:

Intuitive Blend Shade Adjusting Foundation by Wet n’ Wild

3. Skin protein reaction

Products that provide a “natural tan glow” work by using an ingredient called “dihydroxyacetone” or DHA. This chemical reacts with the keratin protein in the upper layers of your skin, staining them a light orangish-brown color. The product appears to change with your personal chemistry because it uses low levels of DHA that provides a very gradual change in skin color. The more you use, the more pronounced the “glow” effect is.

Example product that uses a skin protein reaction:

Jergen’s Natural Glow

Does age, skin color, or other factors affect how they work?

As described above, the chemistry involved in the color change has little to do with the a woman’s individual skin chemistry. However, the color of her skin will have a significant effect on the appearance of the cosmetic color. As your skin color changes (either with age or sun exposure) the color of these cosmetics could look different. This is not an issue for lip products since the skin on your lips doesn’t lip color doesn’t change with age or sun exposure.

Contraindications: Who should not use them?

None of the chemistries we’ve seen used in these product have any special contraindications. Of course, as with any cosmetic, if you may be sensitive to specific ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction. If this occurs you should discontinue using the product as soon as you notice any warning signs such as redness or irritation.

The Beauty Brains bottom line

While it’s true that cosmetics can change color, the idea that they can match your mood is a myth. Don’t be fooled into wasting money on products like this.

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