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How does color changing makeup work? Episode 158

How does color changing makeup work?url-6

Julia asks…I’m a make up artist and my question is how does color adjusting makeup work? I’ve tried a few and they didn’t adjust very well. Also, what are both of your favorite ingredients to use on your own skin?

Thanks for bringing this up Julia! Color changing makeup has never come up on the podcast before but we’ve written about it a couple of times. On our website someone once asked “People have called self-adjusting makeup the mood ring of makeup, does it actually change with your mood?” Great way to rephrase Julia’s question…So, Perry, what say you?

The idea is great! But this is one of those amazing beauty products that don’t really exist.

Right. in fact, back in Episode 51 we talked about 10 amazing beauty products that don’t exist and true mood ring lipstick was one of them.

Yeah, the notion that these products change color with mood is a myth. But color changing makeup, or self-adjusting makeup as some people call it, does change a LITTLE bit.

Yes, in fact, there are two different ways that these products can work.

Color change by pH

The first way involves color that changes with pH and 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 in your skin or even just the humidity in the air. Red 27 can be used in powdered cosmetics, waxy sticks, and gels.

We’ll list a couple of examples in the show notes including Smashbox O-Glow Blush, Stila Custom Color Blush, and DuWop Personal Color Changing Lipstick.

Color change by encapsulation

The second way to make a product change color is to use pigments which are encapsulated. In this case the colorant is coated with a waxy or gel-like ingredient 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, although they can be used in water-based lotions with the right kind of encapsulating agent. Some examples of products that uses encapsulated colors include Wet n’ Wild’s Intuitive Blend Shade Adjusting Foundation , The Body Shop’s All in One BB Cream, and Carmindy and Company’s Diamond Fusion Powder.

I want to quickly mention a third type of color changing product. It’s not quite the same thing but consider products that provide a “natural tan glow.” These may use a different name but they’re just self-tanners and they 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. Jergen’s Natural Glow is an example.

Finally, here are a few tips if you’re planning on using any self-adjusting makeup. If you’re using the pressure sensitive type you may have to play around with it a bit to find out how much you need to rub it in to match your particular skin tone. (Or at least to get it as close as possible.)

You should also keep in mind that color change has little to do with you individual skin chemistry. However, the color of your 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 change color much because it doesn’t tan.

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. If you find a product that gives you the color you like, then fine. But don’t be fooled into buying these products because you expect them to magically adjust to your skin tone.

Does lipstick make bubbly drinks go flat?

Jessica asks…I heard an interview on NPR that said if you have lipstick and you drink something out of the glass the lipstick interacts with the champaign and makes it go flat. Is that correct?

Very interesting question. I had never heard this before but we tracked down the interview which was with a chemist by the name of “Richard Zane” who said that “any greasy thing like chips, fries, or lipstick will actually break up the bubbles. So will leaving too much soap in the glass.”

This makes sense – at least for the part of the liquid that actually touches the lipstick. especially if you’ve just put on a fresh coat of lipstick and you leave a large smear of it on the inside of the glass then there may be enough left over to continue to break up the bubbles. It most cases it doesn’t sound like wearing lipstick will make the entire glass of champagne (or beer or soda or whatever) go flat.

The ingredients that are causing the problems are the primarily the oils and the silicones in the lipstick. Certain silicones are actually used as anti-foaming agents which are specifically designed to break up bubbles. You could certainly avoid silicone containing the lip products to maximize bubbles. You could also look for lipsticks that are higher in wax content since those are less likely to transfer to the glass.

Do high ph shaving creams work better?

Christopher asks… Many shaving creams seem to have very high pH’s. Some assert that alkaline shaving cream opens up the cuticle of the hair, which makes the oils and conditioners enter the strands more effectively and therefore making cutting it easier. This seems like a well-marketed excuse. Is there merit to the idea that opening the cuticle of the hair with a pH cream better accepts the conditioning agents and makes it easier to cut? If so, is it worth the high pH trade-off?

Shaving creams traditionally are formulated from true soaps which mean they inherently have a high pH. It is true that very high pH can swell the hair shaft which would soften and weaken the hair. (This is one of the tricks used in hair coloring products and to some degree relaxers.) It’s not really about opening the cuticle but about swelling the hair shaft.

However, I’ve never seen any data showing that shaving cream works that way, possibly because the pH isn’t as high as the other products we mentioned and it’s not left on the hair/skin for very long. But at least it’s theoretically possible.

The “trade off” that Christopher mentioned is that high pH soaps can deplete the natural acid mantle of your skin which protects your skin. If any slight improvement in the ease of hair cutting worth a potential compromise of your skin barrier? I guess that depends on how hard it is for you to shave…

Will salt ruin your hair straightening treatment?

Liz says…”After using a hair straightening treatment, I’ve heard that it’s not only sulfates one should avoid but also (and perhaps more importantly) sodium chloride. Is it true that sodium chloride is the so-called Kryptonite of these treatments?”

We’ve never seen any evidence that the level of salt that one would encounter during normal shampooing would have any impact what so ever on the longevity of hair straightening treatments. I can’t even think of a plausible mechanism for this effect, can you?

Nope. Of course it depends on what kind of straightening treatment you’re talking about. Some straighteners do actually modify the chemical bonds in hair. I can’t think of anyway that those would be effected by quick contact with salt. Others products straighten temporarily by coating the hair with silicone or something – but any shampoo will reverse that effect, not just ones that contain sodium chloride. I think the whole “salt is bad for your hair” thing is highly exaggerated.

I can see how people would think this, though. They’ve seen their hair be damaged by swimming in the ocean, so they assume salt water is bad for hair. But being in the ocean (or even the pool) exposes you to multiple sources of damage: extra UV radiation, multiple wet and dry cycles of your hair, chlorine, etc. The exposure time to the saltwater is also a lot greater.

Yeah, there’s a big difference between salt exposure from being in the ocean or in a pool and simply washing and conditioning your hair. And besides, just about every shampoo has salt in it anyway even if it’s not listed on the label. That’s because sodium chloride is a byproduct in the production of many surfactants.

Beauty science news

Alarm clock wakes you up with scents


During the holiday season I was in the market for a new alarm clock. Mostly, I wanted to get one in which I could plug in my phone and listen to podcasts while I go to sleep. Anyway, while looking for one I stumble on this product called the Sensorwake alarm clock. It’s an alarm clock that wakes you up by diffusing a burst scent in the room. You can wake yourself up to the smell of coffee, bacon, the forest, waves, grass and 10 other scents. Each scent blasts last about 30 uses and it costs $5 for each cartridge. I suppose if it takes off famous fragrance companies might get onboard. This product seems a bit ridiculous to me. Who would wake up just from a strong odor? Does that happen? Well, they also have a backup traditional alarm just in case the odor isn’t enough to wake you up. Anyway, if you’re curious about the product you can go to their website https://sensorwake.com/ to learn more.

St Ives face scrub may be dangerous


Remember when the company we worked for bought the St. Ives brand? When was that…late 90s? At the time St. Ives had shampoo and conditioner as well as skin care. Do you remember one of the most popular skin products? 
St. Ives Apricot Scrub! In fact, at one point it was the number one facial scrub in the country. Well, it’s back in the news but not for a good reason – the current owner of the brand is being sued because the product is “”unfit to be sold or used as a facial scrub”.

There’s a class action lawsuit that argues the particles in the scrub can cause the skin to tear. Interesting sidenote contrary to what you might think the scrubbing particles are not Africa pieces but actually walnut pieces. 
the article mentions a couple of dermatologists who say that this kind of product can be too abrasive. Unilever, naturally, says their product is safe.

So what’s the truth? I expect both sides are right to some extent. I’ve personally use this product and I know there are tens of thousands hundreds of thousands of consumers with used it with no problem. If you miss use for either use a product like this I wouldn’t be surprised if you could cause some skin abrasion. I don’t expect this problem will go away but I wouldn’t be surprised if you leave her and some extra warning statements to their label.

On an ironic endnote there is an ingredient that they could substitute for the walnut shells that would completely solve this problem. That’s right – plastic microbeads. Unfortunately they’re being banned world wide because they contribute to pollution.

iTunes reviews

Oznuck from Austraila says…Mansplaining — 1 star. I’ve tried to like this podcast because I love science and skincare. But this is the epitome of mansplaining. I’m tired of the condescension and the sexual comments. I’m tired of hearing the hosts’ mocking comments about what their listeners must be watching on tv (the Bachelor? Really?). I’m tired of their “humor” and the snide remarks made to put others down, including the other host. It could be so much better.

Smelliness says…5 stars
 “As a science student I quickly developed an interest in the chemistry of beauty products. Imagine my disappointment in trying to find podcasts to further my understanding, I found a veritable drought of science focused cosmetic podcasts. Then lo and behold, beauty brains popped up on my phone and at last I had the scientifically backed podcasts of my makeup dreams.”

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Miki February 20, 2017, 11:10 am

    Oh my gosh, that alarm clock is genius. I may need that in my life 😀 Thanks for another great post!

  • Mika February 20, 2017, 12:10 pm

    About the alarm clock, I don’t think it would work. I don’t really have a source, but I remember that in a biology class book it said that smell is (I think) the only sense that goes off while you sleep, and that’s why fire detectors are important, because you can’t wake up from smelling smoke.

    • amy February 21, 2017, 6:43 pm

      not me, LOL! I used to have a roommate who would cook pungent herbal treatments once a week at about 5am. the smell would fill my room and wake me, much to my chagrin.

      are you sure your lesson wasn’t regarding carbon monoxide alarms? that stuff smells really subtle, and can make a person sleep even deeper and potentially never wake up.

  • Carly February 22, 2017, 2:09 pm

    “The “trade off” that Christopher mentioned is that high pH soaps can deplete the natural acid mantle of your skin which protects your skin. If any slight improvement in the ease of hair cutting worth a potential compromise of your skin barrier? I guess that depends on how hard it is for you to shave…”

    I might be a bit confused here, but a couple of questions…Are most shaving creams/gels high pH? What are some gentler alternatives?

    • Randy Schueller February 23, 2017, 7:15 am

      Sorry for the confusion. Christopher was referring to using a very high pH shaving cream. (About 11). That’s high enough that it COULD cause some skin issues. If Christopher sees some shaving benefit from using such a high pH cream then he may have to make that trade off between better shave and more skin irritation/damage.

      For most people, I don’t think this is a problem. I think most shave creams are lower (I tested a few and found them to be in the range of 7 to 9.)

      If even that pH is too upsetting for your skin, you could always look for other options that are even lower in pH. But remember the “gentleness” depends on more than pH – you have to look at the type of surfactant used, the kind of fragrance in the product and so on.

      I hope I haven’t confused you further!

      • Carly February 23, 2017, 1:16 pm

        Nope, understood that very well, thank you Randy!

        I’m curious- what’s your thoughts on using coconut oil (or any other oil) as an alternative to shaving cream? Would this have any benefits? What about disadvantages?

        • Randy Schueller February 24, 2017, 9:23 am

          I think shaving with oil is just a matter of personal preference. No disadvantage that I’m aware of as long as you’re not using an oil that’s likely to cause acne breakouts. (Which coconut oil may.)

          • Christopher February 27, 2017, 7:40 am

            Hi Randy (and Carly above) I’m the guy who sent in the question and since sending it in I’ve done some trying different products with various pH levels and have some interesting results. Of course all of these are entirely anecdotal it has been my experience nevertheless:

            Traditional shaving soaps with a brush old-fogey style seem to work the best across the board in terms slickness and cushion from the foam. They take a bit more time to lather up well, but for whatever reason I’ve had the best shaves with them. Also, their pH’s are all over the place from 8 to 11. I don’t know why, but they don’t seem to bother my skin even when taking my time and re-lathering my face for multiple razor passes. In fact, they leave a better post shave feel. Maybe it is the minerals being left over on my face and not getting rinsed down the drain? I’m in NYC, we are known for “good” water…

            Some soaps (that weren’t marketed as shaving soaps) worked really well when I literally put the bar on my face and lathered up that way vs. using a brush. The ones that seemed to work well this way were soaps made using castor oil. My guess is the castor oil was used for “superfatting” and the slickness was this oil. Could be the reason the lather wasn’t great trying to whip it up with a brush. Oddly, syndets like Dove work better right on the face vs. a brush and in general didn’t get as thick in lather, when they did the lather would dissipate quickly and feel tacky.

            Cremo cream shaving creams tended to have a more acidic pH, however never were as slick, or foamy (at all) for me. Could be the isethionates vs. real soap (similar to the Dove).

            All in all, I like traditional shave soaps and a brush after trying many things. The thick lather provides cushion and slickness that I haven’t been able to find matched in anything else including some syndet bars. Maybe it has to do also with the fact that most alkaline liquids in general are naturally slick? Who knows? This kind of goes to show me how certain attributes like the pH boogeyman can be a hyped, but it is really only one factor in a product and other attributes like I noted could totally outweigh a perceived negative.

            As to the coconut oil for shaving comment. I’ve tried it, I hate it personally. I don’t know why, maybe the high saturation, but coconut oil isn’t as slick as other oils like Olive. If I were in a pinch I would choose Olive over coconut personally.

            I think I remember Perry on some episode talking about those like 100% silicone gels for anti-chaffing. Haven’t gone down that road yet, but it wouldn’t be the weirdest thing I’ve done…

  • amy February 24, 2017, 1:55 pm

    LOL regarding St Ives scrub. I honestly don’t agree with the warnings. Why are things like microdermabrasion, microneedling and chemical peels considered a great idea, but somehow scrubs are so terrible?
    Not that anecdotal evidence is solid proof, but I have been using apricot scrub since the 90s with great results. I have extremely sensitive skin (so sensitive that I can’t tolerate most facial sunscreens or many of the “gentle” face washes — even if they’re labeled for sensitive skin.) I’ve also had mild rosacea for 10 years. (I used to use mild AHA lotions but they flare my skin up like crazy.) Yet somehow St Ives has never irritated. I scrub twice a week (more lightly around the cheeks), and not only does my skin look better the next day, that rosacea hasn’t progressed at all. In fact, it seems to control the bumps/acne associated with rosacea. My skin looks much worse without it. At such a low price point, I think it’s an HG product, and I hope St Ives never discontinues it!

  • ShaJane April 5, 2017, 2:51 am

    the Sensorwake alarm clock is really awesome. Thanks for sharing the video like. I really enjoyed it.