The Resurgence of (and Truth About) Color-Adjusting Lipsticks

Rachel Krause

color changing lipstick The Resurgence of (and Truth About) Color Adjusting Lipsticks

If you, like us, were all but convinced that color-adjusting lipsticks had gone the way of the mood ring, you’ve got another thing coming. Sometimes marketed as “mood” lipsticks, these throwback formulas use special pigments that interact with your body temperature and the pH level of your skin to create a tint that’s all your own.

At least that’s how they claim to work—in reality, it probably has less to do with your pH and more to do with Red 27, a colorless dye that turns bright pink when exposed to moisture regardless of your skin’s chemistry (which most of these purported “customizable” lipsticks have in common). But still, who wants to live in a world wherein magic color-changing lipstick does not exist?

Back in the ’70s, Avon was responsible for bringing the first iteration of color-changing lip products to the mainstream with its Color Magic Lipsticks. The colors were alarming in the tube—bright yellow, grassy green, bold blue—but turned to pleasant pinkish shades once on the lips. The trend largely disappeared for a while, but then returned in full force with the release of Dior Addict Lip Glow a few years back. This was the official revival of color-adjusting lipsticks: If anyone can make a mostly forgotten retro product legit, it’s Dior.

Then came Smashbox O-Gloss Intuitive Lip Gloss, which took a page out of NARS’s book by implying that the resultant color mimicked a post-orgasm flush. Tarte Lipsurgence Skintuitive Lip Tint calls the single color a “customized shade of pink.” The also cleverly named Lipstick Queen Frog Prince comes in a truly frightening shade of bright green, but transforms into a wildly flattering rosy pink once on lips. These formulas are all frequently sheer, which makes them easy to wear, and all they’re really doing is imparting a wash of color and letting your natural lip color do the rest. Them’s the facts; “mood lipsticks” are a lie.

But now, just about 40 years after color-changing lipsticks’ original inception, Dior is bringing them back once again. The brand has added two new colors to its Lip Glow lineup, which means you can now get a slight variation in shade rather than a singular choice. Just in time for Spring 2016, it’ll also be offering a brand new Lip Glow Liner, a “contour color reviver and filler” with a universal tint that enhances the shape of lips and works brilliantly either on its own or with lip color layered over top. The “oil-gel” Lip Glow Pomade is a super-comfortable balm that hydrates without stickiness—something we’d use even if it didn’t guarantee that natural flush.

Are these color-adjusting formulas actually personalized? Do they really react based on your body’s pH? Hard no. But the reason they’re getting another chance in the beauty mainstream as a bona fide trend is because the “no makeup” makeup look is what everyone is after right this second, and there’s nothing that suits the phenomenon better than a lipstick that tricks you into thinking you’re not wearing lipstick.