Here’s Decoding How Colour-Changing Makeup Works

Colour changing makeup

We’ve all seen videos and reels of colour-changing makeup, and you have to admit, it’s riveting! A black blush that turns pink on contact with skin! Or green lipstick that changes colour when applied! How does that happen?! It takes us back to the good ol’ days when as kids we tried mood rings that changed colour when worn.

Like us if you too are wondering how does colour-changing makeup work, then read on because we spoke to renowned Delhi-based dermatologist Dr Kiran Sethi, founder, Isyaderm and author of the book Skin Sense to find out. “pH-activated makeup basically uses a dye or chemical that changes colour according to the skin’s pH. If you’ve seen pH meters or pH sticks like ketosis sticks, these change colour based on pH or on noting a specific compound which is used in these products.”

So, the colour change depends on the acidity (pH) levels in your skin. These makeup products contain dyes that act a bit like litmus paper – remember the acidity indicator we used in school chemistry labs? The makeup contains dyes that have colourless, weak acids and when these come in contact with the skin, say on the lips or cheeks, that have a higher pH than the product, it triggers a chemical reaction that alters the acids into a strongly coloured compound! Now that’s a chemistry experiment right on our faces, who knew!

Also, while there are a few colour-changing foundations and eyeshadows, its typically lipsticks and blushes that are marketed as colour-changing makeup. Dr Kiran points out, “This is because most dyes like this typically turn pinkish when applied onto pH of skin or lips. Shades vary as per one’s skin pH, and the variation in pink isn’t large.” 

While Dr Kiran is not a fan of colour-changing makeup and thinks it’s rather gimmicky, we have to admit that for those who enjoy trying something new in makeup every now and then, it’s definitely fun and the surprise factor of what shade you’re going to get is intriguing. These also work well when you don’t want too much colour and rather want tints that suit your skin tone.

So, if you’re ready to add some pH-activated makeup to your vanity, here are some ideas…

How Colour-Changing Makeup Works

1. Clinique Almost Lipstick In Black Honey


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While this tube has only recently launched in India, it was in fact first introduced by Clinique back in 1971, in a pot! Clinique founder Carol Phillips named it ‘Black Honey’ because the texture of the gloss looked like a gooey pot of honey. Black Honey got a second wind in 1989, when it debuted as what it is now: Almost Lipstick in Black Honey. Movie stars like Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore and Meg Ryan all flaunted this shade in the 90s. So, what’s so special about it? Not quite a lipstick and not a gloss, it’s a balm-like texture and looks extremely dark, almost black, in the tube but when applied it gives a sheer berry tint that’s buildable. It tends to look a little different on everyone and flatters all skin tones. The lipstick’s even gone viral last year after countless videos showed people applying it to their lips. More recently celebs like Emilia Clarke and Troian Bellisario have also worn this shade on and off screen!

2. Wet N Wild Rebel Rose Color Icon Cream Blush-Rose In Peace

A black blush?! No, we’re not cray-cray. Another product that went viral, this subtly rose-scented, dark-looking cream blush changes colour right before your eyes into a flushed custom tone berry shade when applied to the cheeks. A blend of murumuru seed butter, shea butter, vitamin E, sunflower seed oil, and argan oil gives this formula its smooth texture that allows it to blend effectively on the skin. A little goes a long way with this buildable formula, so start by applying it to the apples of the cheeks and create a flushed look to your liking. Adventurous enough to give it a try?

3. EspressOh Glassy Blush


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Believe it or not, this transparent gel blush also turns pinkish on contact with skin. Clear in the pot, it transforms into a dewy blushing tint with intensity and colour depending on your skin tone and pH. Like all of EspressOh’s products, this blush also contains a dose of caffeine for that extra boost of circulation and hydration for the skin. Dab a very tiny amount onto cheeks and blend it; you can also layer it for an intense blush look.

4. Youthforia BYO Blush Color Changing Blush Oil


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This colour-changing blush oil, which is green in the tube, turns pink on the skin giving you a flattering glow. The unique formula works for all skin types and skin tones including acne-prone skin, textured skin, oily, dry, and sensitive skin. Formulated like skincare, it is packed with 20 plant-based antioxidant-dense oils that provide a targeted treatment for your cheeks.

5. Lipstick Queen Frog Prince Lipstick

Would you ever dare to put on green lipstick? These days with blues, greys and black being all the rage, yeah, probably not a big deal. But you’ll be surprised as you swipe it on and it turns…yep, no prizes for guessing, pink. This cult product, produced by hip brand Lipstick Queen has been quite the rage. Founded by Australian native, NY-based entrepreneur Poppy King, the brand is most well-known for this green colour-changing lipstick aptly named ‘Frog Prince’. Gotta love that name! Its glossy, wet formula morphs into a flattering and long-lasting pink tint unique to every individual based on one’s pH. Brb, adding to cart.

6. MyGlamm LIT PH Lip Balm


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Offering subtly pigmented tints in a fruity lip balm form, this reacts to your pH levels and delivers a sheer wash of custom colour that’s unique to you. The balm tint comes in six variants with different fruity fragrances ranging from berry to citrus. It is also PETA-approved cruelty-free and vegan.

7. Givenchy Blush Noir Révélateur

This limited-edition liquid blush in the brand’s iconic ‘magic’ black shade reacts to the skin’s pH, creating a unique colour on every face. It features an ultra-soft powder-gel texture that glides on effortlessly and creates a tailor-made rosy tint that mimics the appearance of your natural flush. Formulated with a mattifying complex and oils, the blush lends a fresh, healthy glow to the cheeks.

8. Milani Rose Transforming Lip Balm

Enriched with rose oil, coconut oil and vitamin E, this lip balm deeply nourishes, conditions and protects lips from environmental damage. Its pH-reacting polymers respond to your skin to create a personalised and flattering deep rose shade. The product is free from parabens and preservatives.


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