Posted on March 15, 2018
Color-changing makeup is in the midst of a rebirth. Much like mood rings, these cosmetics change color based on who’s wearing them. Also, like the mood ring, they had their heyday in the 60s—with a brief reappearance in the 90s. Today, many makeup companies are working on more complex color-changing products, including the indie beauty brand Chaos Makeup, which unveiled its highly anticipated Color-Changing Mood Cream to rave reviews last year.1 This moisture-activated multipurpose makeup transitions all the from dark burgundy to a vibrant turquoise, bringing a bit of magic to the cosmetics industry. And big companies are releasing their own transitioning lines as well; M.A.C. recently rolled out its Hint of Color lip oils, which offer a more transition based on pH balance. 2.
These recent developments are the first whispers of a growing trend and the cosmetics industry is preparing. A key part of that preparation will be spectrophotometric testing of color transitions to calibrate complex formulations that create the most appealing and dramatic changes. Using spectrophotometric technology, we’re capable of quantifying and replicating specific colors—and using that same technology, we’re able to predict what it will look like later. Spectrophotometers offer a chance to look deeper into the color behind the result, allowing us to create more complex transitions in color-changing makeup.
The Science Behind Color-Changing Makeup
While the possibilities for color change are virtually endless, there are really only two kinds of color-changing in makeup. One is simply based on reflection, where micropigments are encapsulated in one overall color, making that color appear to change based on the angle it’s viewed despite no actual material change.3 Then, there is true color-changing makeup, in which the color transitions from one to another. There are primarily four ways this happens, though companies are always discovering new methods of transformation:
- Thermochromic: Thermochromic color change happens as a result of exposure to a heat source, like body heat, or UV exposure.
- Photochromic: Photochromic color change occurs due to UV light exposure, particularly sunlight.
- Hydrochromic: In a hydrochromic color change, a material will change color based on exposure to water. How much water required varies, but some materials can be made so sensitive they change color based on simple humidity.
- pH balance: A product can change color based on a combination of factors, shifting colors from heat and moisture combined. This is often the case with color-changing makeup that uses the body’s pH balance to adjust. As pH change can occur in any liquid material, even minor amounts of perspiration, and is impacted by heat, this makes it a combination method that works well in cosmetics.
While the process of color change can be appealing for purely aesthetic reasons, it can also have practical applications such as monitoring user safety. Consider a nail polish that transforms from pink to red when someone has had too much sun exposure—this gives color-changing makeup a wider range of uses, meaning brands will require a wider range of options for creating these colors.
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