Color-Changing Lipsticks Are Trending Now—Here’s How They Work

Plus the best products you’ll want to get your lips on.


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IMO, no makeup look is complete without lipstick—whether that’s a nude, pink, red, or something bolder. Most makeup brands carry a collection of lipstick and lip gloss shades to choose from, but a currently trending category has customers buying before knowing what color they’re going to get. How? The color of the lipstick changes depending on the person who uses it.

Mystery color cosmetics isn’t totally novel—you may have heard of color-changing nail polish before—but color-changing lipstick is a bit different when it comes to how it’s activated. We tapped professional makeup artists to get the latest information on color-changing lipstick (and figure out exactly how this intriguing makeup tech works).

How do Color-Changing Lipsticks Work? 

While some marketing may lead you to believe that color-changing technology works based on your mood, that’s actually not the case. According to Lex Smith, Tarte’s Global MUA, color-changing lipsticks have everything to do with your lips' pH. 

“Color-changing lipstick reacts with your skin’s pH to create a custom color that’s different from the original lipstick shade,” Smith says. “It’s unique to every person who uses it because all of us have a unique pH.”

At baseline, the optimal pH of skin on our face and bodies typically rests between 4.7 and 5.5 — however, this varies from person to person and on the part of the body. On the pH scale of 1 (acidic) to 14 (basic) with 7 as the neutral point, skin generally leans more toward the acidic side. 

According to celebrity makeup artist Ashlee Ann, our lips have a higher pH than lipstick, which is what ultimately triggers the chemical reaction that causes the color change. “Red 27 is the main ingredient in these products, which has been tested to be safe for everyone to use,” she says. When this dye comes into contact with moisture, it changes in solubility and pH, creating a brighter color. 

Now this is where it gets pretty cool: Since your skin’s pH is unique, your final look will be slightly different (be it lighter or darker) from someone else’s. It won’t be a huge difference, but your lipstick will be somewhat bespoke. Hormone fluctuations and physical activity can also cause a change in the skin’s pH, so your lipstick will look different at various points of the day too.

Where to Buy Color-Changing Lipsticks

Intrigued? Shop some of our favorite color-changing lipsticks below. Just a heads up: The color you see in the tube may look a bit funky, but they’ll change to different shades of reds and pinks when applied.

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Milani Green Goddess Transforming Lip Balm

color-changing-lipstick-Milani Green Goddess Transforming Lip Balm

Ann personally recommends Milani’s color-changing lipsticks—in addition to some impressive pigment, they’re infused with cannabis sativa seed oil, coconut oil, vitamin E, and aloe leaf extract to moisturize the lips. For a fun application moment, the product goes on green and changes to pink.

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Essence Electric Glow Coloring Lipstick

color-changing-lipstick-Essence Electric Glow Coloring Lipstick

Formulated without microplastics and animal by-products, this color-changing lipstick utilizes your body’s natural pH to create a personal shade of pink. According to reviewers, it can even moonlight as an effective blush.

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Tarte Maracuja Juicy Lip & Cheek Shift

color-changing-lipstick-Tarte Maracuja Juicy Lip & Cheek Shift

Made with a hyaluronic acid superfruit complex, this color-changing lipstick and cheek is what the brand calls a “mood ring for your makeup.” Available in six shades, the pH-powered lipsticks shift to an ideal nude shade that matches your skin tone.

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Ciaté London Christine Quinn Ca$h Fetish Heat Transforming Lip Cream

color-changing-lipstick-Ciaté London Christine Quinn Ca$h Fetish Heat Transforming Lip Cream

Unlike the other lipsticks in this list, this color-changing lipstick is dependent on temperature. This heat-reactive lipstick boasts a long-lasting formula that rests on top of the lips and changes colors upon a drop in temperature.

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Winky Lux Amethyst pH Lip Balm

color-changing-lipstick-Winky Lux Amethyst pH Lip Balm

While this lipstick may look like an intimidating purple in the packaging, it provides your lips with a super-wearable pink based on your skin’s pH. Flecks of shimmer add a feminine touch.

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